Big-screen musical adaptation is both strange and magical.
“Cats” is based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running musical of the same name (which, in turn, was based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry). The story takes place all in one night as a tribe of cats called the Jellicles gather together for a ball and celebration. While there’s no overt violence, sexual content or strong language, a conniving cat does tie up other cats and threatens them, characters speak suggestively at times, and the “digital fur” technology used for the film results in humanlike bodies appearing sensuously feline-like. Plus, some of the cats wear clothes while others don’t, so some are technically naked. But themes include compassion, empathy and courage, and the all-star cast — including Taylor Swift, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Jason Derulo, Francesca Hayward, Idris Elba and Judi Dench — are committed to their performances. Tween and teen musical theater fans will likely be quite entertained. (109 minutes)
Little Women (PG)
Poignant, beautifully made take on beloved sisterhood tale.
“Little Women” is all-star adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel, directed and written by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, Emma Watson as Meg March, and Timothée Chalamet as Laurie. Set in Civil War-era Massachusetts, the tween-friendly period drama is a tribute to sisterhood, generosity, the creative spirit and the importance of community. Although the film provides a nonstandard framing device for the story, it mostly stays true to the source material. There are some sad/tense moments, particularly when one sister falls through the ice and (spoiler alert) when another one gets ill and dies in a tearjerking sequence. Mr. March is injured during the Civil War. The romantic story lines don’t always follow the predictable route, but you can expect some kisses and longing looks and a cleavage-enhancing dress. Some characters drink — one far more than he should — and there’s a reference to a “cathouse.” Although the story is set in a time when gender roles were more narrowly defined, the March sisters are all worthy role models, and their journeys demonstrate the core values they were taught by their parents. This touching adaptation could become a classic for a new generation. (135 minutes)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PG-13)
Action-packed end of iconic series falls short of greatness.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is the ninth and final film in the four-decade-long Skywalker Saga (and the third installment in the current trilogy). Following the events of “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi,” the film focuses on the battle between the villainous First Order, led by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and the virtuous Resistance fighters, embodied by the last Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley). Everything is on the line in this installment, which means the sci-fi action violence is ratcheted up a notch: You can expect even more major space battles, high-stakes destruction, tense chases/crashes, peril, injury and fierce lightsaber duels (plus blasters, arrows, cannons and other weapons). This movie feels a little more intense/darker than the previous two in this trilogy, with creepy villains/locations and a few explicit (but not bloody) deaths, including a beheading, a point-blank execution and a body crumbling to bits. Spoiler alert: Several primary and supporting characters are killed, and a few of those deaths will be extra emotional for audiences. There are also some scenes with lots of flashing lights, which could be difficult for those with photosensitivity. While there’s not a lot of romance, the film does include some longing looks, embraces and a couple of kisses. Language isn’t frequent, but you will hear “a--,” “hell” and “damn.” Women continue to hold strong positions in the Resistance, and there are strong messages of courage, teamwork, hope, and loyalty. (155 minutes)
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