In 2015, Jack Black portrayed real-life author R.L. Stein in the eponymous cinematic adaptation of Stein’s phenomenally popular “Goosebumps” series of horror tales for kids.
Religion in general and Catholicism in particular are central to writer-director Drew Goddard’s intense, challenging drama “Bad Times at the El Royale” (Fox).
By turns the intimate portrait of its elusive subject’s inner life and a lavish look back at the sometimes tragic, ultimately triumphant race to the Moon, “First Man” (Universal), director Damien Chazelle’s multidimensional profile of astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012), is a splendid piece of moviemaking.
The third remake of that sturdy warhorse “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.) pays occasional homage to its forebears, particularly the 1954 version starring Judy Garland and James Mason, which only serves to indicate that its formulaic “stand by your man” story is somewhat tattered and dog-eared.
The purpose of director Malcolm D. Lee’s fitfully funny comedy “Night School” (Universal) is to allow its stars, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, to trade barbs. A few of their exchanges work.
Turning the legend of Bigfoot on its head with plenty of laughs along the way comes the animated musical comedy “Smallfoot” (Warner Bros.).
For all its spells and incantations, the witchcraft-themed fantasy “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” (Universal) lacks magic. Though some of the humor works, the film makes little impression and registers as only passable entertainment.
“A Simple Favor” (Lionsgate), director Paul Feig’s glossy screen version of Darcey Bell’s 2017 novel, is undeniably ingenious.
A crisis of faith can certainly serve as the basis for a compelling drama. In the case of the Evangelical film “God Bless the Broken Road” (Freestyle), though, the cards feel stacked, albeit for the right outcome, with the result that the protagonist’s doubts themselves seem unconvincing.
Remember the proverbial admonition not to take candy from strangers? Well, that warning applies in spades to director Pierre Morel as he tries to hand out “Peppermint” (STX), a gory, over-the-top revenge fantasy that sets Jennifer Garner on the rampage.