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Quickie Reviews: Ben Is Back; Bumblebee; Vice

I know – these are three very different films. But I’m playing catch-up with my reviews! So I’ll start with my favorite of the three (though Bumblebee comes in a surprisingly close second!).

Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download (2018)

Despite a few (hotel reservation and RSVP) potholes on the road to this year’s Middleburg Film Festival, all’s well that ends well! And what an ending it was. The closing film was my favorite film – by far – securing my only four-star ballot after four days of movie madness in the Virginia countryside.

So, without further ado, here’s what I saw, and how I ranked ‘em:

Quickie Review: Wonder

Wonder is simply a wonderful film for the whole family to watch and enjoy – and sniffle through – as we enter the holiday season. Based on the New York Times best-seller by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the inspiring story of August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy with a rare facial deformity whose parents enroll him in school at the start of fifth grade so he can be around other kids and live a more normal life. It’s not an easy transition. Kids will be kids. But Auggie is smart, funny, empathetic and endearing, and he has a close-knit, supportive family that always has his back.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Money Monster; A Bigger Splash; High-Rise

Money Monster is a satisfying crowd-pleaser that definitely benefits from the established rapport between lead actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts and the solid direction of Jodie Foster. Clooney plays an outlandish, self-centered, Jim-Cramer-Mad-Money-type financial TV host named Lee Gates who shares stock tips with what he thinks is an adoring public. Roberts plays his producer/director Patty. She’s the one who keeps Gates and the show on track from her seat in the Control Room. Their usual routine is disrupted on live television when a disgruntled investor named Kyle (British actor Jack O’Connell looking and sounding as American as apple pie) gets into the studio, straps an explosive vest on Lee, and demands to know the source of a so-called ‘glitch’ that caused a particular stock – and his investment- to implode. The result is a tense conspiracy thriller with enough light moments peppered throughout (including some funky dance moves from Clooney) to boost the overall entertainment factor. Money Monster doesn’t really need to be seen on the big screen, but it’s the best of the week’s new offerings for anyone just looking for a solid, well-paced drama with star power.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Keanu; Mother’s Day; The Meddler; Dough; Papa: Hemingway in Cuba; Ratchet and Clank

Keanu: I never saw the television series featuring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (aka comedy duo Key & Peele) so I wasn’t familiar with their shtick heading into this flick. But I understand their appeal. Keanu is an absurd but entertaining R-rated action comedy that pokes brilliant fun at the action genre. Here’s the premise: Key and Peele play Clarence and Rell, straight-laced cousins who must impersonate ruthless killers in an effort to retrieve Rell’s adorable kitten, Keanu, after he’s cat-napped by members of the Blips gang (rejects from LA’s notorious Bloods and Crips). The kitten is a scene-stealing feline, and there’s a hilarious homage to George Michael’s ‘80s pop icon status. The movie isn’t for everyone, but Key and Peele fans won’t be disappointed, and the duo will likely gain some new fans as well.

August: Osage County

In the battle of Meryl vs Julia, who will chew more scenery? August: Osage County pits them against each other as the drug addicted Mom versus the only person in her large extended family capable of taking her on. Based on a stage play of the same name, it is a star-studded dramedy about what must be the most dysfunctional family in the state of Oklahoma all coming together after a tragedy. None of them want to be there, and I started to feel the same way, but stuck with it because it’s one of those acting slugfests you just have to see through.

Larry Crowne

Even if you really like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, you’re still going to have a hard time liking this movie. It just falls flat – as does the chemistry between these two powerhouse actors. What a disappointment.

EAT PRAY LOVE

Okay, full disclosure. I didn’t read the best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. So perhaps if I had, I might have enjoyed EAT PRAY LOVE more than I did. Unfortunately, despite some excellent performances, exotic locales, and inspirational messages, I found this movie to be quite boring.

Valentine’s Day

Garry Marshall is brilliant. He made a mildly entertaining movie with an A-List cast and a name that virtually guarantees it a place in holiday rerun history. Valentine’s Day is like Crash-light. Really, really, really light. It follows a bunch of folks whose lives intersect in various ways as they break up, make up, find love or survive singledom on Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles.