What to watch from the couch
JUST MERCY (Drama, PG-13, 137 m., 2020). An idealistic young lawyer (Michael B. Jordan) pours his heart and soul into exonerating an innocent Alabama man (Jamie Foxx). The fact-based legal thriller is one of the most predictable movies you’ll ever see, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a solid, inspirational, debate-provoking work. Rating: Three stars.
UNDERWATER (Sci-fi horror, PG-13, 95 m., 2020). Playing a resourceful engineer at a research station some 7 miles beneath the surface of the ocean, Kristen Stewart leads the likable cast of this laughably ludicrous sci-fi horror flick. The film is weighed down by muddy visuals and gimmicks stolen from better movies, and ultimately sinks like a half-ton boulder. Rating: One and a half stars.
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.
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Daily rehearsals, hands-on recording labs, lectures from industry giants and public performances packed into two-week intensives in the art and the business of making music: the Jazz Aspen-Snowmass Academy is no leisurely summer camp in the woods.