'Little Women'

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in “Little Women.”

LITTLE

WOMEN

“Little Women” offers an endearing family saga especially suited to its Christmas Day release.

After many film versions of Louisa Mae Alcott’s classic novel, screenwriter and director Greta Gerwig retells the story of the March family in a fresh way. We meet the grown-up Jo (Saoirse Ronan) as a fledgling writer in Boston and then we move back (and forth) to her earlier life with her three sisters, Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and their beloved Marmee (Laura Dern).

Gerwig, whose “Lady Bird” won acclaim (and Oscar nominations) in 2017, brings the March girls to life with depth. For instance, Amy comes across as a fully realized character instead of merely as a brat, and Jo represents many aspects of Alcott’s actual life including the author’s belief “that I am a man’s soul put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body.”

The supporting players are well cast. Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, James Norton as John Brook and Bob Odenkirk as Mr. March are accompanied by Oscar winners Chris Cooper as Mr. Laurence and Meryl Streep as Aunt March.

Rated PG  3 and 1/2 Stars

1917

My choice for the best movie of 2019 is director and co-writer Sam Mendes’ remarkable World War I feature titled “1917.” The Best Feature winner of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics annual recent awards also received honors for director, cinematographer Roger Deakins and musical director Thomas Newman.   

During the spring of 1917 in northern France, two soldiers, Schofield (George McKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) embark on a dangerous mission to deliver a message warning of an ambush which would lead the 1600-men of a British battalion into a deadly trap. Traveling through the trenches, through No-Man’s-Land and moving strikingly close to the German-held outposts of the Hindenburg Line, the British pair trudge onward attempting to carry out their perilous mission.

  With its long tracking shots and its “you are there” cinematography, “1917” makes the viewer part of World War I’s bloody trench warfare. This widely praised film qualifies as one of the finest war movies ever made.

    Rated R  4 Stars

UNCUT GEMS

In filmmakers Josh and Bennie Safdie’s masterfully tense and exhausting “Uncut Gems,” Adam Sandler gives the performance of a lifetime as Howard Ratner, a hustling New York City jeweler with a slew of shady friends, a gambling addiction and an omnipresen trio of rabid mob enforcers (including a particularly savage henchman played by Keith Williams Richards) out to  hurt him for nonpayment. But scheming Howard has hatched the perfect plan to strike it rich with the help of Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett (who plays himself) and a rare black opal. If Howard can manage to pull off the tricky deal, the peripatetic protagonist will get out of debt and divorce his wife Dinah (Idina Menzel) in favor of his gorgeous young mistress (Julia Fox).

The film’s pace remains brisk as Howard moves through his ever-complex web of charm and deception. While gross-out moments abound in the often violent scenario, it is impossible to look away from Sandler as Howard as he desperately whizzes through his double life as a family man and a man on the edge.

Rated R  3 and 1/2 Stars

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