Here is another episode in Dan Brown's trilogy (so far) about symbologist Robert Langdon, again played by Tom Hanks, as he takes on a nefarious plot to wipe out half of the world's population (to save mankind). The statistics are compelling but I don't remember the other two movies being quite so hectic.

Oscar winner Ron Howard ("In the Heart of the Sea") returns again to directing duties, using another script by David Koepp ("Indiana Jones 5"!) as they follow a familiar story arc. Once again we visit picturesque locales (Florence, Venice and Istanbul) and meet new faces. We watch as Langdon is injected with a hallucinogenic in a crowd, shot at by the police in a hospital, chased by a drone through city parks, and hunted by dogs, cops and mysterious Men in Black in streets, museums, and airline/train terminals. Whew!

This time, Howard casts these folks:
  • Tom Hanks ("Sully") is back as Robert Langdon, the familiar face of rational thinking in the face of impossible odds, but this time he has been inoculated with something that impairs his mental processes (he can't remember the word "coffee"). The story begins...
  • Felicity Jones ("The Theory of Everything") is Sienna Brooks, a woman who has known him since she was eight. She is a doctor, a scientist, and an expert on Dante. She also can explain Langdon's amnesia.
  • Omar Sy ("The Intouchables") is Christoph Bouchard, the fellow who does a great job of second-guessing our hero.
  • Irfan Khan ("The Lunchbox") Harry Sims plans to (maybe) help the World Health Organization, or (maybe) help Langdon, or (maybe) protect the helpless. I couldn't make out the dialogue, so it's anyone's guess.
  • Ben Foster ("Hell or High Water") Bertrand Zobrist can foresee a time in the near future when the human population will reach an unsustainable number. This will trigger our extinction. He also has a solution.
  • Sidse Babett Knudsen ("Borgen") is Elizabeth Sinskey, a World Health Organization operative, intent on derailing Zobrist's "solution." She is an old friend of Langdon's.
In my experience, if a person is called a symbologist, I know right away I'm gonna feel stupid. Sure enough, much of what was said was esoteric and scholarly: Lots about Dante's Inferno and all those circles of Hell. I'll leave it to the experts to pick apart the minutiae, I will focus on all the nuances I can get in one viewing (closed captions would have been appreciated). Many will opt for a second screening just because the story is so complex.

This PG-13 movie runs a touch over two hours; it feels longer because it's so chaotic and intense. Expect bloody wounds, gun battles, bodies falling from great heights, stabbings and drowning, but little or no profanity, only implied sex and one lone episode with blowie uppie stuff (which may be a hallucination). When a franchise like this is such a dependable money maker, it's a challenge to find new ways to imperil our hero. Rest assured, these evil movie makers have managed to do it! The screening audience was enthusiastic; on the other hand, I felt overwhelmed.
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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

If you have read any of Lee Child's books, you know Jack Reacher is a giant of a man. I guess if you look at Tom Cruise and his international stardom, he too is a giant, just not in the physical sense. I can see why this character appeals to Cruise: these books aren't seedy, the hero is decent, smart and virtually unbeatable in a fair fight, plus he makes and keeps friends even as he lives off the grid.

This time, director Edward Zwick ("Pawn Sacrifice") has collaborated with Richard Wenk ("The Magnificent Seven") to bring us another chapter with this larger-than-life hero. Our retired Army Intelligence officer has found a blot on his record. He tries to rectify it and discovers that the officer who replaced him is in a similar dilemma. Something is being concealed. Therein lies our tale.

The cast:
  • Tom Cruise ("Mission Impossible") Jack Reacher is whip-smart and wasn't born yesterday. When the powers that be seem to have him in their sights, they just don't understand that they are still out numbered!
  • Cobie Smulders ("Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") Susan Turner has Jack's old office. She also seems to have inherited some other aspects of his life (she has been accused of espionage), but make no mistake, Major Turner doesn't cut herself any slack.
  • Danika Yarosh (Lots of TV) Samantha might be Reacher's daughter. He's stunned but not willing to reject her out of hand. Then the bad guys try to get her because they have no doubt that she really IS his daughter!
  • Madalyn Horcher ("Curve") Sgt. Leach is Reacher's secret weapon. He can ALWAYS rely on sergeants!
  • Aldus Hodge ("Leverage") Espin has been known to jump to conclusions. Maybe it's time to do it again...
  • Patrick Heusinger (Lots of TV) The Hunter is like Reacher: former military, well trained and ruthless.
This satisfying PG-13 actioner runs just under two hours. As is the custom with Cruise films (Cruise is the producer and it's clear he isn't afraid to spend money on a high-quality product), we hear very little profanity, there is no sex, the fights are well choreographed, the action is non-stop, and we have people to root for. Expect gunfire, some blowie uppie stuff and lots of fisticuffs. The tagline is: Never give in, never give up, never go back.
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Keeping Up With the Joneses

Here we have the standard competition in suburbia, a couple attempting to measure up as a new couple moves into their cul-de-sac. They look like perfect neighbors, but what if they are government spies and there is international espionage afoot?

This PG-13 Action/Comedy is directed by Greg Mottola ("The Newsroom") based on a script by Michael LeSieur ("Glory Daze"). Expect action, vehicular mayhem, lots of gunfire and some profanity; the comedy is pretty broad (Galifianakis is in it!) but LeSieur's heart is in the right place.

Here is part of the cast:
  • Gal Gadot ("Wonder Woman") Natalie Jones is perfect. Perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect body, perfect house. Ugh! She even has a cooking blog on television. We hate her already!
  • Jon Hamm ("Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie") Tim Jones is the perfect mate for Natalie. Just LOOK at him! And all those fascinating stories from his travels around the world, Too, too much!
  • Isla Fisher ("The Brothers Grimsby") On the other hand, Karen Gaffney is anything but perfect. First of all, she's a snoop. Nothing gets by her and all of a sudden she has a lot to watch!
  • Zach Galifianakis ("Bob's Burgers") Karen's husband Jeff, is a self-effacing guy who works in the Human Resources department doing conflict resolution at a large corporation. He's a big fan of indoor skydiving, and is very accommodating, e.g., everyone borrows his computer to do personal stuff and on top of that, he's a GREAT listener!
  • And then there are the Craverstons, Meg and Dan, played by Maribeth Monroe and Matt Walsh ("Adam Ruins Everything" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"). She's in real estate and he works for the same company as Jeff. They have four children under the age of 12 with braces on their teeth.
  • Patton Oswalt (LOTS of TV) Bruce is the linchpin. See how important a parking space at work can become...
As the plot becomes unhinged, so do our characters. Watch our amateur sleuths bumble around breaking things and trying not to leave clues. Don't embarrass yourself: try not to laugh at the goofy dumb bits. I found the careless slamming of the unconscious body into door frames, etc., to be offensive and the kiss wasn't necessary, but all in all, I'll admit we were entertained... But don't tell anyone, okay?
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Certain Women

This is Art, not Entertainment, interpret this however you like. In my personal opinion, this is a lot like watching paint dry.... One thing is sure: contemporary Montana looks depressing and COLD.

Director Kelly Reichardt ("Wendy and Lucy" - we were warned...), inspired by the short stories by Maile Meloy, has written a screenplay which features the lives of three women trying to make the best of some poor situations.

The cast::
  • Michelle Williams (have you ever seen "Me Without You"? Amazing...) Gina Lewis has spotted some rock from a demolished school house. She wants to reuse it in a house she and her husband are building. Her teenage daughter is surly.
  • Kristen Stewart ("CafĂ© Society") plays Beth Travis, teaching an adult education class but she has to commute four hours each way. She wants to be a lawyer.
  • Lily Gladstone ("Winter in the Blood") Jamie likes Beth, not the class she teaches. Lily raises horses.
  • Laura Dern ("The Fault in Our Stars") Laura Wells can tell her clients the law but they don't believe it until a man says the same thing.  She gets frustrated.
  • Jarad Harris ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") Fuller always knew he had been cheated and now he's reached a breaking point. He wants justice.
  • John Getz ("Trumbo") George knows Laura is the right person for the police to send into a hostage situation...but he does have her wear a bullet-proof vest. Better safe than sorry.
  • Rene Auberjonois ("Madam Secretary") Albert isn't one to over-think a problem and that rock pile has been there for years.
Expect a few adult situations, but a lot of silence. These people don't talk much and when they do, it is terse, mumbled and not very loud. If you really want to try to figure out what is happening and have a hearing problem, be warned: You will need captions. But you will love the Corgi!
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The Accountant

Any accountant worth his salt knows how to "cook the books." Our hero seems to work for marginal businesses, cartels and illegal importers who need help uncooking their books. ...AND he survives! Who is this guy? Problem is, lately the Feds seem to know what's going on and the body count is rising.

This R-rated actioner is helmed by award-winning director Gavin O'Connor ("Tumbleweeds") and is based on a script by Bill Dubuque ("The Judge"). There is implied torture and some profanity, plus lots of creeping in hallways with guns, but we ALL have seen worse! The story and the characters carried the day.

Here is part of O'Connor's cast:
  • Ben Affleck ("Batman") is Christian Wolff, our eponymous hero. Through flashbacks, we see how his career military father dealt with his son's Asperger's syndrome. It isn't easy to watch! The result is, our man cannot leave a project unfinished.
  • Anna Kendrick ("Into the Woods") is Dana Cummings, the bookkeeper at his new employer's firm. She's really good with numbers... hmmm...maybe  a bit too good.
  • J.K. Simmonds ("La La Land") Director Raymond King claims he is nearing the end of a singularly dismal career at Treasury but he has his reputation to uphold, and maybe a tale to tell... There are no mysteries left except one: Who is The Accountant?
  • Cynthia Addai-Robinson (LOTS of TV) Marybeth Medina works as a Treasury agent, but she is being coerced to do more because her talents shouldn't go to waste. Can she discover the identity of The Accountant?
  • John Lithgow ("The Crown") Lamar Black can't undo his decision to hire The Accountant, even though he may want to. His medical devices are revolutionizing the market for prosthetics.
  • Jon Bernthal ("Daredevil") Braxton is there to protect his boss; but what if he understands all the issues?
  • Jean Smart (Lots of TV) This former Seattle actress works all the time, and she's always good. This time she plays Rita Blackburn, an official for Black's medical device company.
This became highly involving, much to my surprise. The cast is uniformly excellent and the casting agents did a brilliant job of matching children to their adult versions, but the plot is convoluted enough that you MUST pay attention! Just ignore teeny slips in continuity and editing. Remember when we buy a movie ticket, we agree to suspend disbelief. Many of the plot twists turned out to be satisfying. Our screening audience left the theater vocal and happy.
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