Movie Reviews: The Rise of Skywalker, Cats, Bombshell, A Hidden Life | Buzz Blog
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Movie Reviews: The Rise of Skywalker, Cats, Bombshell, A Hidden Life

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Taylor Swift in Cats - UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Universal Pictures
  • Taylor Swift in Cats
Bombshell **
See feature review. Opens Dec. 20 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Cats *1/2
Cats was already one of the more ridiculous conceits ever to become a cultural phenomenon: A bunch of performers dressed in cat costumes, in a show inspired by a book of poetry, where the central dramatic premise is “which of our main characters gets to die and be reincarnated?” Director Tom Hooper’s film adaptation only takes that ridiculousness to the next level, as abandoned kitty Victoria (ballerina Francesca Hayward) learns about the weird annual ritual of the cats known as Jellicles, led by Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench). That’s pretty much all there is to it, with the various cats each getting a solo number before being kidnapped by the villainous Macavity (Idris Elba). And it’s evidence that the only reason Cats works on stage, despite being a bad musical with only one memorable song—the ubiquitous “Memory”—is the spectacle of its stagecraft. On a movie screen, those mostly blah songs are in the mouths of people with CGI fur, which never stops looking creepy. Some lively dancing and the eye-catching ingénue presence of Hayward (who actually understands how to move with feline grace, unlike her celebrity co-stars) are part of something that at least deserves credit for batshit craziness, and more fitting for a stoned midnight movie audience than a blockbuster holiday release. Opens Dec. 20 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—Scott Renshaw

A Hidden Life ****
Maybe it’s because Taika Waititi’s so-called satire Jojo Rabbit left a bad taste in my mouth that I find Terrence Malick’s latest opus to be a far more appealing account of living amongst the Nazis during World War II. Mostly set in an overwhelmingly idyllic village in Austria, the movie follows Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), a real-life peasant farmer who chose not to fight with the Nazis, even if that meant spending a huge chunk of wartime incarcerated. As always with Malick, there is a love story at its core—this time, it’s between Jägerstatter and his loyal, supportive wife (Valerie Pachner), who goes through just as much pain and drama as he does. As usual, Malick creates what seems like an endlessly emotional dream, as he and cinematographer Jorg Widmer constantly come up with beauteous, sensuous shots and images that are just as vital to the story as the actual narrative. Even though I’m sure people are gonna complain about the three-hour length, when you’re engulfed in a world that’s as moving and beautiful as the one Malick assembles, time doesn’t mean a damn thing. Opens Dec. 20 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—Craig D. Lindsey

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker **
See feature review. Opens Dec. 20 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)