New movies showing in Minneapolis

By Wendy Schadewald (Rating system: 4=Don’t miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)

“Ben Is Back” (R) (3.5) [language throughout and some drug use.] — When her drug-dealing, addicted son (Lucas Hedges) returns home during the Christmas holidays after leaving his sober living house early against advice and then a break in occurs at the house that threatens his family in this gripping, well-acted, intense, down-to-earth, 103-minute film, his concerned, frustrated mother (Julia Roberts), who has a husband (Courtney B. Vance) and three other children (Katherine Newton, Mia Fowler, and Jakari Fraser), tries to keep him on the straight and narrow and then spends the next terrifying hours accompanying her son while he searches for the dangerous culprits who broke in and also kidnapped the beloved family dog.


“Mary Poppins Returns” (PG) (3) [Some mild thematic elements and brief action.] — When an artistic, widowed bank employee (Ben Whishaw) faces foreclosure on his London home during the Depression in 1935 in this colorful, energetic, entertaining, star-studded (Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Emily Mortimer, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, David Warner, Dick Van Dyke, Jeremy Swift, Jim Norton, and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith), 130-minute musical based on P.L. Travers’s classic novel, a magical, British nanny (Emily Blunt) shows up to help with his three children (Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson, and Nathanael Saleh) through the hard times and is joined by a kindhearted lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda).


“The Mule” (R) (3.5) [Language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity.] — While a feisty, gutsy, and tenacious 90-year-old horticulturist and WWII veteran (Clint Eastwood), who is estranged from his ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) and adult daughter (Alison Eastwood), begins working for a ruthless Mexican drug lord (Andy Garcia) and his henchmen (Clifton Collins Jr., Ignacio Serricchio, Robert LaSardo, et al.) to earn money to get his Illinois home out of foreclosure, to pay for the open bar at the wedding of his granddaughter (Taissa Farmiga), and to help his local, financially troubled VFW in this entertaining, amusing, original, well-acted, low-key, evenly-paced, 116-minute film inspired by Sam Dolnick’s New York Times Magazine article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year Old Drug Mule,” stumped DEA agents (Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Peña) try to figure out the identity of the drug runner who is transporting cocaine from Illinois to Texas.


“Mortal Engines” (PG-13) (2.5) [Sequences of futuristic violence and action.] — A wacky, action-packed, violent, fast-paced, 3D, post-apocalyptic, 128-minute, sci-fi thriller based on Philip Reeve’s novel in which a disfigured teenager (Hera Hilmar) seeks revenge against a power-hungry archaeologist (Hugh Weaving) who murdered her mother (Caren Pistorius) by gaining access to a gargantuan, rolling “predator” city on wheels that envelops smaller communities, but her plan is thwarted by a London city historian (Robert Sheehan) and eventually they join forces with others (Jihae, Leifur Sigurdarson, Regé-Jean Page, et al.) to stop the madman from using the Medusa doomsday weapon to destroy a wall to a protected city while she is hunted down by a mysterious cyborg stalker (Stephen Lang).


“Roma” (R) (3.5) [Graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language.] [Subtitled] — Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white, engaging, Oscar-nominated, well-acted, bittersweet, down-to-earth, slice-of-life, 135-minute film that centers around a young maid (Yalitza Aparicio) working for an adulterous doctor (Fernando Grediaga), his biochemist wife (Marina de Tavira), their four children (Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Diego Cortina Autrey, and Carlos Peralta), and a grandmother (Verónica García) in Mexico City in 1970 and then she finds herself pregnant by a martial-arts slacker (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) who has disappeared and trying to figure out what direction her life will take next.


“Second Act” (PG-13) (3) [Some crude sexual references, and language.] — After losing a promotion to a dimwitted MBA graduate (Dan Bucatinsky) despite working at the grocery store for more than fifteen years in this entertaining, funny, unpredictable, star-studded (Treat Williams, Leah Remini, Milo Ventimiglia, Annaleigh Ashford, Larry Miller, Dierdre Friel, and Freddie Stroma), 103-minute, chick-flick comedy, a streetwise, determined woman (Jennifer Lopez) unexpectedly lands an interview at a high-powered cosmetics company due to a fake resume concocted by her godson (Dalton Harrod) and ends up as a corporate consultant competing with an ambitious vice president (Vanessa Hudgens) to develop within three months an all organic cosmetics line with the help of a chemist (Dave Foley) and her kinky assistant (Charlyne Yi).


“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (PG) (4) [Frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.] — After an African-American teenager (voiceover by Shameik Moore) is bitten by a radioactive arachnid, witnesses the murder of spider-man Peter B. Parker (voiceover by Jake Johnson), and struggles to get a handle on his newfound superpowers in this entertaining, colorful, action-packed, wit-filled, family-oriented, star-dotted (voiceovers by Oscar Isaac, Mahershala Ali, Lily Tomlin, Kathryn Hahn, Zoë Kravitz, Lake Bell, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Luna Vélez, and Stan Lee), 3D, 117-minute animated film, he is joined by another Peter Parker look-alike spider-man (voiceover by Chris Pine) and a spider-man Noir (voiceover by Nicolas Cage), two spider-women (voiceovers by Hailee Steinfeld and Kimiko Glenn), and a spider-Ham (voiceover by John Mulaney) from an alternate universe to stop a powerful particle collider in Brooklyn from completely opening a portal to a parallel universe that the grieving, dangerous crime lord (voiceover by Liev Schreiber) has built to once again see his deceased wife and son who were killed in a car accident.


“They Shall Not Grow Old” (R) (3) [Disturbing war images.] [NOTE: A Fathom event shown only on Dec. 27; check online for tickets and show times.] — Peter Jackson’s educational, insightful, eye-opening, gut-wrenching, 3D, 99-minute documentary that depicts the horrific, filthy, dehumanizing, terrifying conditions that WWI British soldiers endured during the Great War between 1914-1918 on the battlefield of Verdun, France, and consists of archival black-and-white photographs and enlistment advertisements, hundreds of hours of monochromatic film footage from the British Imperial War Museum that was condensed and then colorized through modern computer techniques, candid BBC interviews and audio footage snippets with British servicemen who reminisced about their fighting on the western front, and drawings from the “The War Illustrated” magazine.


“Welcome to Marwen” (PG-13) (2.5) [Sequences of fantasy violence, some disturbing images, brief suggestive content, thematic material, and language.] — Robert Zemeckis’s creative, artsy, factually based, well-acted, metaphor-filled, star-dotted (Diane Kruger, Siobhan Williams, Stefanie von Pfetten, Neil Jackson, and Leslie Zemeckis), 116-minute film inspired by Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary “Marwencol” in which PTSD-afflicted photographer and artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), who works odd jobs at a bar in New York and has an odd shoes fetish, uses his artistic skills to build a miniature WWII Belgian town and then escapes into a world of sexy, come-to-life, gut-toting, action-figure dolls that are based on women in his life, including his Russian caregiver (Gwendoline Christie), a new neighbor (Leslie Mann), a coworker (Eiza González), a physical therapist (Janelle Monáe), and a smitten toy store clerk (Merritt Wever), that eventually helps him recover from a brutal, near-fatal beating from five white supremacists.





“Adventures in Wild California” (G) (3) [DVD Only] — Jimmy Smits narrates this beautifully photographed, 40-minute, educational, 2001 IMAX documentary that highlights the natural and man-made wonders of California, including Big Sur, Half Moon Bay, and Maverick Beach; sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium; skydiving over Mission Bay; bald eagles on Catalina Island; snowboarding; the Golden Gate bridge; the landscapes and forests of Yosemite Valley and the Sierra Nevada; and Disneyland.


“Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West” (NR) (3) [DVD Only] — Jeff Bridges narrates the fascinating, 40-minute, 2003 IMAX documentary about explorers Meriwether Lewis (Kelly Boulware) and William Clark (Sonny Surowiec) who lead an expedition to find a northwest passage from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and were helped immensely by an Indian woman, Sacagawea (Alex Rice), and various Indian tribes, including Shoshone, Crow, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Sioux, and Nez Perz, between 1804 and 1806.


“Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience” (G) (2) [DVD Only] — A sporadically muddle soundtrack and screaming, fanatical, sing-along fans dominate this 66-minute, self-indulgent, run-of-the mill, 2009 concert movie intended for diehard teenage girls in which brothers Joe, Nick, and Kevin perform their music at Madison Square Garden along with guests Taylor Swift and Demi Lavato.


“New Boy” (NR) (3.5) [DVD Only] — A 9-year-old African student (Olutunji Ebun-Cole) reminiscences about his father in this 11-minute, Oscar-nominated, 2007 Irish film when he is bullied by two classmates (Simon O’Driscoll and Fionn O’Shea) in his math class at his new school despite the involvement of his teacher (Norma Sheahan) and a sympathetic student (Sinead Maquire).


“On the Line” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] [DVD Only] — The poignant, 30-minute, Oscar-nominated Swiss film in which the life of a German cashier (Catherine Janke) at a bookstore is forever changed due to the jealousy of a department store security guard (Roeland Wiesnekker) when he ignores an attack on the subway.


“The Pig” (NR) (3.5) [Subtitled] [DVD Only] — After a retired tailor (Henning Moritzen) has surgery and then complains to his doctor (Jesper Asholt) and his nurse (Camilla Søeberg) about a missing swine picture in his room to which he has become attached in this funny, quirky, 23-minute, 2008, Oscar-nominated Danish film, he hires his daughter (Trine Pallesen) to mediate with the son (Farshad Kholghi) of his roommate to have the picture reinstalled in his room.


“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” (NR) (4) [Partially subtitled] [DVD Only] — An inspirational, educational, powerful, award-winning, 72-minute, 2008 documentary that shows the power of determined and headstrong Christian and Muslim women, such as Janet Johnson Bryant, Etweda Cooper, Leymah Gbowee, Asatu Bah Kenneth, Etty Weah, and Valiva Flomo, in Liberia who joined together to form the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative, the Women’s Peace Building Network, and the Women of Liberia Mass for Peace to seek peace in war-torn Liberia in 2003 where murderous President Charles Taylor ruled, raining bullets killing thousands, children murdered their parents, and girls were raped since the beginning of the war in 1989.


“Toyland” (NR) (4) [Subtitled] [DVD Only] — A gut-wrenching, powerful, 13-minute, Oscar-winning German film about a frantic mother (Julia Jäger) who desperately searches for her young son (Cedric Eich) in 1942 after he boards a train bound for “toyland” with his longtime Jewish friend (Tamay Bulut Özvatan) and his parents (Torsten Michaelis and Claudia Hübschmann).


“Two Lovers” (R) (3) [Language, some sexuality, and brief drug use.] [DVD Only] — While Jewish owners (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov) of a Brooklyn dry cleaning shop try to hook up their childlike, emotionally damaged son (Joaquin Phoenix) with the daughter (Vinessa Shaw) of a future business partner in this realistic, well-acted, 110-minute, 2008 film, the son becomes hopelessly infatuated with a beautiful, troubled neighbor (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is having an affair with a married lawyer (Elias Koteas).

Film Critic Wendy Schadewald reviewed films in the Twin Cities since 1986, and has been a guest critic on KARE-11’s Showcase Minnesota, WCCO radio, and AMC-950 radio. She reviews more than 250 films annually and has been a film buff for as long as she can remember. To see more of her film reviews, log on to shortredheadreelreviews.com.

©1986 through 2018 by Wendy Schadewald.

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