Capsule reviews of recent movie releases for Feb. 14

Capsule reviews of recent movie releases for Feb. 14

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This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Margot Robbie in a scene from "Birds of Prey." (Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

‘1917’ ★★★★

R • 1:59 • Director Sam Mendes gives a compelling look at World War I through the eyes of two ordinary soldiers asked to perform an extraordinary task. Associated Press

‘2020 Oscar Shorts’

NR • A survey of short films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. Animated (1:25); live action (1:44); documentary: (2:40). Not reviewed. Los Angeles Times

‘Abominable’ ★★★½

PG • 1:37 • A Yeti grapples with grief, family and identity in Dreamworks’ latest animated feature in which plucky kids bond with strange, exotic creatures. Written and co-directed by Jill Culton. Tribune News Service

‘The Assistant’ ★★★

R • 1:25 • Starring Julia Garner in a subtle, painstaking performance full of small details that pack a punch, it’s a soul-crushing account of one day in the life of a recent college grad who’s just landed a dream job as an assistant at a film production company. Associated Press

‘Bad Boys for Life’ ★★★

R • 2:03 • Belgian filmmaking duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s first major American feature outing is a loving and skillful tribute to pure 1990s action cinema, and it’s a hoot for fans of Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys” franchise. Tribune News Service

‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ ★★★½

PG • 1:48 • Director Marielle Heller frames this film as though it were an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Fred Rogers, played with clear-eyed purpose by Tom Hanks, introduces the audience to the film’s protagonist, journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), but this is not a children’s story at all. Based loosely on a 1998 Esquire profile of Rogers by Tom Junod. Associated Press

‘Birds of Prey’ ★★★

R • 1:49 • The best part of 2016’s DC antihero team-up “Suicide Squad” was Margot Robbie’s inspired take on Harley Quinn. The quirky chaos clown is back, sans Joker, in director Cathy Yan’s stylish sophomore feature. Tribune News Service

‘Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island’

PG-13 • 1:50 • Visitors to a magical island see their fantasies turn into nightmares in this horror flick based on the classic TV series. With Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Portia Doubleday, Michael Pena, Michael Rooker, Kim Coates. Written by Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach, Jeff Wadlow. Directed by Wadlow. Not reviewed. Los Angeles Times

‘Cats’ ★★½

PG • 1:50 • Director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit Broadway musical is a confusing spectacle that presents more questions than answers. Stars — cloaked in digital fur — include Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Idris Elba and Jason Derulo. Tribune News Service

‘Citizen K’ ★★★

NR • 2:06 • Alex Gibney’s accessible, informative and horrifying film is built around interviews with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch-turned-dissident who has already been the subject of two documentaries and a play. Washington Post

‘Clemency’ ★★★

R • 1:53 • Alfre Woodard plays a longtime prison warden who begins to question the morality of capital punishment after a botched execution. She makes viewers feel something while burying her own character’s emotions so deeply that they become like toxic waste. Washington Post

‘Color Out of Space’ ★★½

NR • 1:51 • Fans of Nicolas Cage will love his portrayal of Nathan Gardner, alpaca farmer and patriarch of a family of five trying to adjust to a move. Things really begin to go awry when a meteorite lands in the front yard and the family must contend with what comes with it. Washington Post

‘Dark Waters’ ★★★

PG-13 • 2:06 • Todd Haynes’ sober and ominous docudrama plunges into the prolonged (and ongoing) legal fight to uncover the environmental damage of cancer-inducing “forever chemicals” and hold their corporate makers accountable. With Mark Ruffalo, Bill Camp, Tim Robbins. Associated Press

‘Dolittle’ ★

PG • 1:46 • The only appropriate adjective for director Stephen Gaghan’s “Dolittle” remake is “hasty.” Everything feels slapdash and half-rendered, especially Robert Downey Jr. as the frazzle-dazzled doctor. Tribune News Service

‘Ford v Ferrari’ ★★★½

PG-13 • 2:32 • You don’t need to be a motorhead to enjoy Matt Damon and Christian Bale as a pair of rebels risking it all for purity and glory. Directed by James Mangold. Associated Press

‘Frozen II’ ★★½

PG • 1:43 • Disney’s sequel doesn’t represent some giant leap forward for the “Frozen” universe; it merely keeps the franchise on track, drifting pleasantly in and out of our consciousness, with some great tunes and lovely snowy landscapes to ogle. With voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad. Tribune News Service

‘The Gentlemen’ ★★½

R • 1:53 • Guy Ritchie’s latest British gangster yarn, clouded by alpha male toxicity, expands his horizons to England’s upper crust. Matthew McConaughey plays an American Rhodes scholar-turned-weed dealer who works out a land deal with the gentry. Tribune News Service

‘Gretel & Hansel’

PG-13 • 1:27 • A young girl and her little brother find terror in the deep woods in this reimagining of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. With Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, Jessica De Gouw, Alice Krige. Written by Rob Hayes. Directed by Oz Perkins. Not reviewed. Los Angeles Times

‘The Grudge’

R • 1:34 • A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death. Directed by Nicolas Pesce. Not reviewed.

‘Jojo Rabbit’ ★★★

PG-13 • 1:08 • A young boy’s imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler in this boldly, unabashedly quirky movie that attempts to wring humor from the horrors of Nazi Germany. It’s a difficult balancing act at a time when such jokes seem even more potent and dangerous than a few decades ago. Directed by Taika Waititi. Associated Press

‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ ★★½

PG • 2:03 • This sequel offers more jaw-droppingly crazy video-game high jinks and more stars playing personas vastly different from their own. Tribune News Service

‘Just Mercy’ ★★★

PG-13 • 2:17 • Urgent, searing and powerful film tells the real story of a civil rights attorney and his fight to keep an innocent black man from being executed. Starring Michael B. Jordan. Associated Press

‘Knives Out’ ★★★½

PG-13 • 2:10 • It’s hard to imagine having more fun at the movies than with this delectable murder mystery by Rian Johnson. Within the tightly crafted and finely embossed package is deceptively radical and empathetic message of acceptance, tolerance and wealth redistribution. With Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lakeith Stanfield, Chris Evans. Tribune News Service

‘The Last Thing He Wanted’

R • 1:55 • A veteran journalist finds herself in the thick of the Iran-Contra scandal during the 1984 presidential election. With Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Rosie Perez. Written by Dee Rees, Marco Villalobos; based on a novel by Joan Didion. Directed by Rees. Not reviewed. Los Angeles Times

‘Like a Boss’ ★½

R • 1:23 • If there’s one word to describe this girl-power comedy, it’s “incomprehensible.” Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek star as women who are competitors in the cosmetics industry. With Jennifer Coolidge, Billy Porter and Karan Soni. Directed by Miguel Arteta. Tribune News Service

‘Little Women’ ★★★

PG • 2:15 • Christmas with Greta Gerwig’s set of little women is more Merchant Ivory than Charles Dickens. Louisa May Alcott’s novel not only can handle another remake, it still speaks to 21st century audiences of all ages. With Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Meryl Streep and Timothée Chalamet. Jane Henderson

‘Parasite’ ★★★★

R • 2:11 • Co-writer and director Bong Joon-ho’s thriller about South Korean class warfare feeds on themes of societal callousness. Its shift into varying suspense thriller guises, and finally into disarming depths of feeling, works like magic, both inevitable and unpredictable. Chicago Tribune

‘The Photograph’

PG-13 • 1:46 • A woman finds romance with a journalist while exploring the early life of her estranged mother, a famous photographer. With Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield, Chanté Adams, Chelsea Peretti. Written and directed by Stella Meghie. Not reviewed. Los Angeles Times

‘Playing With Fire’ ★½

PG • 1:36 • Firefighters find their lives turned upside down when they rescue three siblings but can’t find the kids’ parents. It’s a harmless, lighthearted romp about tough guys learning to let their guard down, but it relies on tired, low-brow comedy tropes and is executed so poorly that it’s not worth the effort. Tribune News Service

‘Queen & Slim’ ★★★½

R • 2:12 • In Melina Matsoukas’ feature-film directorial debut, a mismatched pair (Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith) connect on Tinder, meet for a going-nowhere date and end up on the lam together. Associated Press

‘The Rhythm Section’ ★★½

R • 1:49 • Third feature film by award-winning director and cinematographer Reed Morano (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) adapts a series of thriller novels by Mark Burnell, who provides the screenplay. A de-glammed Blake Lively plays a heroin-smoking London sex worker who sets out to avenge her family’s death. Tribune News Service

‘The Song of Names’

PG-13 • 1:53 • A British man discovers that his childhood friend, a Polish-Jewish refugee and violin prodigy who disappeared on the eve of his London debut concert in 1951, might still be alive. With Tim Roth, Clive Owen, Catherine McCormack, Magdalena Cielecka, Eddie Izzard, Saul Rubinek, Marina Hambro. Directed by Francois Girard. No star rating provided. Los Angeles Times

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’

PG • 1:40 • The speedy blue critter battles an evil genius in this video game adaptation. With Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Neal McDonough and the voice of Ben Schwartz. Written by Patrick Casey, Josh Miller. Directed by Jeff Fowler. Not reviewed. Los Angeles Times

‘Spies in Disguise’ ★★½

PG • 1:41 • Strange tonal mashup takes the hypermasculine and hyperviolent world of glamorous spies and turns it into kid-friendly family entertainment. With voices of Will Smith, Tom Holland, Reba McEntire, Ben Mendelsohn and Rashida Jones. Tribune Media Service

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ ★★★½

PG-13 • 2:21 • Taken on its own merits, the latest and presumably last adventure of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is at once thrilling, imaginative and surprisingly poignant. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Calvin Wilson

‘Uncut Gems’ ★★★½

R • 2:14 • Adam Sandler delivers one of his best performances, as a New York City jeweler with questionable morals. Associated Press

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