** Five months after the thrillingly daft Cats trailer set the internet aflame, giving critics the opportunity to invent new ways to skin a doomed blockbuster, the CGI-enhanced, live-action rendering of modern Broadway's spectacle arrives as just another mediocrity. Nobody among the A-list clowder (Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo) embarrasses themselves, and a few bewhiskered stars claw their way toward respectability. Idris Elba lends a sly carnality to mystical antagonist Macavity, Ian McKellen blesses Gus the Theatre Cat with a louche twinkle, and Jennifer Hudson's feral diva Grizabella is transcendent during her "Memory" showstopper. Beyond a few standout performances, the film languishes as a patently inoffensive, drearily pedestrian take on a still-bonkers mega-musical based on a collection of poems T.S. Eliot wrote for his godchildren. In what is little more than an extended introduction of our fanciful felines tied together with a wisp of narrative concerning the rebirth awarded to one lucky kitty during their annual ball, director Tom Hooper (Les Misérables) barely adapts the source material yet steadily erodes the play's choreography. The ADD flurry of glamour close-ups shoved into weaponized burlesque atop perspective-damage sets feels uncomfortably K-pop, while poorly framed shots best resemble a commercial for some local production. For all of the star power on display, this is an indoor Cats: spayed, defanged and thoroughly domesticated. PG. JAY HORTON. AMC DINE-IN Progress Ridge 13, AMC Mill Plain 8, AMC Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius Cinemas, Eastport, Oak Grove, Regal Bridgeport Village ScreenX & IMAX, Regal Cascade IMAX & RPX, Regal Cinema 99, Regal City Center, Regal Division Street, Regal Evergreen Parkway & RPX, Regal Fox Tower, Regal Lloyd Center & IMAX, Regal Movies On TV, Regal Sherwood, Regal Tigard, Regal Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose Cinema 7, Studio One Theaters.
To say Louisa May Alcott's iconic 1868 novel Little Women has been well-trodden by Hollywood over the decades would be an understatement. The story has been told seven times on film, including two silent versions, so when Greta Gerwig announced her follow-up to the fantastic Lady Bird would be yet another adaptation, more than a few of her fans felt underwhelmed. Any apprehension is, thankfully, unnecessary. Gerwig has called Little Women's protagonist, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), her "North Star," and the director's deft touch breathes exciting new life into familiar material—Gerwig rearranges the chronology of the story, for instance—while retaining a reverence for characters that have been beloved for well over a century. The dream cast carries its weight throughout, as well. Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh (as Meg, Beth and Amy, respectively) all bring depth to the rest of the March sisters. Beyond the strength of the performances of the little women, Meryl Streep (hilarious), Chris Cooper (haunted, haunting) and Timothée Chalamet (exuberant, charmingly aimless) each steal scenes in very different, but crucial, ways. Sweet without being saccharine, Gerwig's Little Women, is, simply put, a lovely experience. It's also one that propels Gerwig to the fore of any discussion of modern cinema's best young directors. PG. DONOVAN FARLEY. AMC DINE-IN Progress Ridge 13, AMC Mill Plain 8, AMC Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, Clackamas, Cornelius Cinemas, Eastport, Hollywood, Laurelhurst, Regal Bridgeport Village ScreenX & IMAX, Regal Cascade IMAX & RPX, Regal Cinema 99, Regal City Center, Regal Division Street, Regal Evergreen Parkway & RPX, Regal Fox Tower, Regal Lloyd Center & IMAX, Regal Movies On TV, Regal Sherwood, Regal Tigard, Regal Vancouver Plaza, Studio One Theaters.
Some films are described as "white-knuckle." Uncut Gems is plenty tense, all right, but it's much whiter around the nostrils. It's not a drug movie, per se, but everything in writer-directors the Safdie brothers' economic tragicomedy, from the overlapping dialogue to the whiplash pacing, is adrenalized by a jittery energy typically found in a nightclub restroom stall, and your enjoyment will largely depend on whether spending two hours in that sort of environment sounds exhilarating or simply exhausting. Also, how do you feel about Adam Sandler? He stars as a New York jeweler with severe risk addiction who's already deep in several dangerous debts when the movie starts, and adds a few more as it goes on. Sandler does career-best work here, mostly because he doesn't play down his comedic tendencies as he often does in dramatic roles but instead rolls them into a character who's every bit the obnoxious man-child he's used to playing, only freighted by insecurity he disguises behind a con man's perpetual grin. It's a terrific performance in a movie often too noisy for its own good. Critics have praised Uncut Gems as a feature-length panic attack, and indeed, the Safdies' great strength is getting the audience to tie their stomachs into knots over a guy who's not really worth rooting for. But once it reaches its climax—a blunt-force ending that's at once obvious and unsatisfying—you wonder why you'd ever willingly put yourself through that kind of trauma. R. MATTHEW SINGER. AMC DINE-IN Progress Ridge 13, AMC Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, Clackamas, Cornelius Cinemas, Eastport, Hollywood, Kiggins, Laurelhurst, Living Room Theaters, Regal Bridgeport Village ScreenX & IMAX, Regal Cascade IMAX & RPX, Regal Cinema 99, Regal City Center, Regal Division Street, Regal Evergreen Parkway & RPX, Regal Fox Tower, Regal Movies On TV, Regal Sherwood, Regal Tigard.