What to watch from the couch
CATS (Musical fantasy, PG, 109 m., 2019). Despite the elaborate production design and the earnest efforts of Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen and the rest of the big-name talent — transformed into singing felines with creepy “digital fur technology” — this adaptation of the stage musical is a slick and tedious and weird-looking exercise in self-indulgence. Rating: One and a half stars.
DOLITTLE (Fantasy adventure, PG, 101 m., 2020). Robert Downey Jr.’s eyes seem to glaze over with boredom as he plays the widowed doctor who brings his animal friends on a seafaring quest to find a mysterious curative fruit. By the time the doc operates on a flatulent dragon, “Dolittle” has solidified its standing as a spectacularly terrible multivehicle pileup. Rating: One star.
LITTLE WOMEN (Drama, PG, 135 m., 2019). Through the prism of the blazingly talented writer-director Greta Gerwig, it’s as if we’re meeting the March sisters for the very first time, and we’re immediately swept away in a gorgeously filmed, wickedly funny, deeply moving and, yes, empowering story. This is one of my absolute favorite movies of 2019. Rating: Four stars.
THE CURRENT WAR (Biography, PG-13, 107 minutes). Here’s an overwrought yet curiously flat fictionalization of the late-19th-century battle between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) over whether alternating current or direct current will light up the country. Rating: Two and a half stars.
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (Fantasy adventure, PG-13, 141 minutes). Action-filled and plot-packed, Episode IX of the space opera saga features a twist and turn and surprise around nearly every corner. It rarely comes close to touching greatness, but it’s a solid, visually dazzling and warm-hearted victory for the Force of quality filmmaking. Rating: Three stars.
1917 (War action, R, 119 m., 2019). With brilliant, claustrophobically effective directing choices by Sam Mendes and strong, raw performances from young leads Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, this heart-stopping World War I drama is a unique viewing experience you won’t soon shake off. Rating: Four stars.
A HIDDEN LIFE (Historical drama, PG-13, 180 m., 2019). In 1940s Austria, a farmer is jailed for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to Hitler, as his wife and children suffer without him. This is a Terrence Malick film, so you can count on feeling dazzled by spectacular shots of heaven on Earth, and impatient at the sheer overpowering deliberateness of it all. Rating: Three stars.
RICHARD JEWELL (Historical drama, R, 130 m., 2019). The latest economically filmed, well-crafted gem from Clint Eastwood recalls the cop wannabe who was proven innocent after being named as the prime suspect in the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta. Paul Walter Hauser delivers screen-commanding work as the title character. Rating: Three and a half stars.
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Yefim Bronfman coaxed an ear-caressing range of tone from the Steinway grand piano on the stage of the Benedict Music Tent Tuesday evening.