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THE MARKSMAN (2021)

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Trying to save his Arizona ranch, the last thing loner and ex-Marine Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) needs is more trouble. When he encounters migrants Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and her 11-year-old son Miguel (Jacob Perez) running from drug cartel assassins, more trouble comes his way. Promising Rosa he will get Miguel to relatives in Chicago, the hardened Hanson and the young fugitive reluctantly take a dangerous road trip. An unlikely friendship develops as the killers, led by relentless Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), get closer. With Liam Neeson the main attraction, a full-blown action thriller is expected. But this latest attempt at making a modern western is surprisingly short on action and thrills. Director Robert Lorenz, who helmed the Clint Eastwood baseball drama "Trouble with the Curve", spends most of this film's length on drama and emotion. Mr. Neeson is up to the task, but this is not what the fans look forward to with a title like "The Marksman". The screenplay by

WONDER WOMAN 1984

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Alive and well in 1984, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) works at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and in her spare time saves lives and fights crime as Wonder Woman. Foiling a robbery at a mall shop, she is responsible for stolen artifacts being recovered. One of the ancient pieces, a wishing stone, ends up at the Institute. Diana and mousy new co-worker Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) unknowingly have their deepest desires granted while researching the relic. Driven businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) wants the stone for his own endgame. Against all odds, the formidable female warrior must battle new enemies with the fate of the world at stake. In grand fashion, Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins recapture some of the magic of their 2017 cinematic epic. This time around, Jenkins also handles writing chores with help from Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham. The story may not be unique, but there is much fun from beginning to end and a moral. A flashback to young Diana, again play

SOUL (2020)

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Band teacher Joe Gardner (the voice of Jamie Foxx) is offered a full-time position at his school and also gets a dream opportunity: the chance to play at a popular jazz club. But after an accident on a New York City street, Joe ends up in The Great Before where new souls get their personalities formed prior to going to Earth. Desperately wanting to return home, he is paired with difficult soul 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), who is reluctant to become human. Together, they may just find their purpose in life. Leaving sequels behind, Disney/Pixar strikes gold with an imaginative and fanciful animated original. Like their "Onward" earlier this year, interesting characters and fresh storytelling captivate the audience. Director Pete Docter, with help from co-director Kemp Powers ("One Night in Miami" screenplay), goes out-of-body for an experience that has some similarities to his inner body "Inside Out". But the story/screenplay by Docter, Powers and Mike Jones has

NEWS OF THE WORLD

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Veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) is making a living traveling from town to town reading newspaper stories to paying crowds five years after the Civil War. Coming across 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), who had been captured and raised by a Kiowa tribe, Kidd agrees to return the reluctant girl to her biological aunt and uncle. As they traverse hundreds of miles through rugged territory, the unlikely pair begins to bond while facing many dangers. This enthralling adventure is easily one of the year's best films. A great new oater in the tradition of John Ford's "The Searchers", there's enough action to please fans of the genre. Paul Greengrass, who helmed Tom Hanks' "Captain Phillips", directs this epic based on the novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Luke Davies. Dealing with loss and redemption, the film focuses almost entirely on Kidd and Johanna. Strong lead performances were needed to s

THE CROODS: A NEW AGE

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In prehistoric times, Grug Crood (the voice of Nicolas Cage) and his family go in search of a better place to live. Leaving their cave, they journey to a land beyond a great wall. This paradise is lush, has plentiful food and something unexpected: the evolved Bettermans. Grug feels threatened by the modern family and their tree house with advanced inventions. A reluctant friendship develops and grows stronger when a menacing force outside their safe habitat becomes a problem. The future is at stake. Fans of 2013's "The Croods" won't be disappointed with this fun journey. First-time feature film director Joel Crawford (TV short "Trolls Holiday") finds a comfortable mix of action and humor within visually stunning animation. Children will be amused, but a couple of scary moments may frighten smaller kids. There's not much for adults beyond a harmless tongue-in-cheek joke or two (one involving a toilet). A marvelous voice cast brings the characters to life.

FREAKY

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School bullies are the least of Millie's (Kathryn Newton) problems when she comes face-to-face with serial killer The Butcher (Vince Vaughn). During the confrontation, the pair magically swap bodies thanks to an ancient dagger in the maniac's possession. Now in the psychopath's body, Millie discovers she only has 24 hours before the switch becomes permanent. After convincing her friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor), Joshua (Misha Osherovich) and object of her love Booker (Uriah Shelton) of the dire situation, they set out to stop The Butcher and get her female form back before he piles up new victims at Blissfield High. Chills and laughs collide in this fresh take on body-swapping. Although an uncomfortable mix at times, director/co-writer (along with Michael Kennedy) Christopher Landon largely succeeds at blending horror and humor. The son of actor Michael Landon, he honed his directorial skills most recently on "Happy Death Day" and "Happy Death Day 2U" and

LET HIM GO

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A few years after the tragic death of their son, retired sheriff George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) face another change in life. Daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter) remarries and takes their only grandson away from them. The Blackledges leave their Montana ranch and head for the Dakotas to find their grandchild, who now resides with controlling matriarch Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville) and her vicious clan. After the Weboys refuse to let mother and child go, George and Margaret prepare for a deadly confrontation. Striking emotional drama and a powerful cast highlight this intense modern western. Based on Larry Watson's novel of the same name, director/screenwriter Thomas Bezucha ("The Family Stone") has created an imposing portrayal of family, loss and determination. It follows the structure of "High Noon": character-driven, with the bulk of action at the end. The deliberate slow-pacing allows the main characters to develop whi

THE WAR WITH GRANDPA

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Widowed Ed (Robert De Niro) moves in with daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) and son-in-law Arthur (Rob Riggle). While granddaughters Jennifer (Poppy Gagnon) and Mia (Laura Marano) are delighted, grandson Peter (Oakes Fegley) must give up his bedroom to grandpa. Relegated to the creepy attic for living quarters, he wants his room back. With neither side willing to budge, the battle for the bedroom begins. Humor, sight gags and Robert De Niro keep this family comedy moving along. Based on Robert Kimmel Smith's novel of the same name, the screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember dives quickly into "Home Alone" territory. The pranks come fast and furious, with many being malicious. Director Tim Hill ("Hop") does manage to lighten things up around the mayhem while delivering a heartfelt message about relationships. As usual, Robert De Niro is the main attraction. But Oakes Fegley (2016's "Pete's Dragon") is an impressive match for the iconic star. Their

ON THE ROCKS

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Author Laura (Rashida Jones), struggling with writer's block on the next promised book, begins to suspect there's trouble in her marriage. While she stays home taking care of two young daughters, husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is off on many trips with employee Fiona (Jessica Henwick) trying to make his business succeed. Little things, like late nights at the office, lead Laura to fear infidelity. She turns to her retired art dealer father, the debonair playboy Felix (Bill Murray), for advice and help. Together, they set out to find clues and end up bonding. Director/writer Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation") takes us on an enjoyable lightweight romp. Rashida Jones (TV's "Angie Tribeca") carries the lead well as a distraught woman, but it's Bill Murray who runs away with this film. At age 70, the iconic star is still charismatic in his own familiar way. The scenes he's not in are less satisfying. This is not the fault of the cast surrounding him.

KAJILLIONAIRE

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Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) has spent her entire life learning to scam with her con artist parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger). Robbing post office boxes and other low-level illegal efforts highlight their meager existence. With past rent due on their dilapidated office building dwelling, the threesome hit upon a travel insurance scheme. During the trip, they meet the charming Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). Eager to change her lifestyle, she joins the grifters in thieving endeavors. The lives of all involved are affected. Director/writer Miranda July ("Me and You and Everyone We Know") paints a quirky portrait of human foibles and desires. While too slow going at times, the character-driven plot gets a huge boost from some fine performances. Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger and Gina Rodriguez (TV's "Jane the Virgin") are award-worthy indeed. But it's Evan Rachel Wood who is the main attraction. In a subtle turn, she draws focus to Old Dolio