Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Starring; The voice talents of Matthew McCounaghey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, and Seth MacFarlane
Synopsis: This is the latest animated feature released in theaters just in time for Christmas. It's about a struggling theater owner (McCounaghey) who launches a singing competition in the hopes of saving his business. He attracts a group of performers who are struggling to find a way to live out their passion for music. This is a film that touches on a lot of themes and offers some fun musical numbers. It stars a little slow, and it's a little dry at times, but the ending is strong, as are the musical numbers. This is a strong family film and one of the more enjoyable animated films I saw this year.
Rating: PG for some rude humor and mild peril.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally, James Franco, Keegan-Michael Key, and Zoey Deutch
Synopsis: There’s a moment that every father dreads from the moment his little girl is born – the invitation to meet the boyfriend. There’s so many potential pitfalls and ways that things can go wrong. Sometimes the boyfriend turns out to be a good guy, and it turns out to be a great match. Other times… well that’s the fodder of Hollywood comedies like “Why Him?” The film, starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco, chronicled just such a meeting of father and boyfriend, with the added touch of being a Christmas film. And, as one might expect, things didn’t go as planned. You pretty much know what to expect from a movie like “Why Him?” There’s going to be awkward moments, fish-out-of-water storylines and a series of misadventures. You don’t go to this kind of movie because of the potential story twists. You go because you’re hoping for some interesting characters and solid laughs. And for the most part, “Why Him?” delivers on that account. Director Jon Hamburg (“I Love You, Man,” “Along Came Polly”) co-wrote the screenplay with Ian Helfer based on a story that Jonah Hill collaborated to create. He has a strong feel for the material and makes the most of his incredibly talented cast. Cranston is great at playing the serious and put upon head of household, and Franco makes an ideal foil. Franco’s character is crazy, but he has the right charm to make it believable and three-dimensional. The film also gets some great supporting performances. Mullally appears to be having a ball a Barb, and really gets a chance to shine in a few scenes. Meanwhile Keegan-Michael Key brings the funny as Gustav, Laird’s estate manager and quasi life-coach. He has some of the best comedic timing and uses it well in this film. “Why Him?” isn’t deep or complicated, and it’s pretty easy to guess where it’s going to end up. It’s not a conventional holiday film, either, but it’s consistently funny and doesn’t wear out its welcome. It’s the ideal kind of mass appeal film released during this time of year.
Rating: R for strong language and sexual material throughout. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Friday, January 6 -- "Hidden Figures," "A Monster Calls," "Underworld: Blood Wars"
Friday, January 13 -- "Live By Night," "Patriot's Day," "Sleepless," "Monster Trucks," "The Bye Bye Man"
Friday, January 20 -- "The Founder," "Split," "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage"
Friday, January 27 -- "Gold," "A Dog's Purpose," "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter"