Here are reviews of three films opening in theaters or on streaming apps Christmas Day:
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Carey Mulligan takes a stab at best actress Oscar contention in this dark, twisting thriller, which is opening in theaters. She plays a medical school dropout who leads a double life in a quest for vengeance against dude-bros who troll night clubs to take advantage of drunk and incapacitated women. She lures them into vulnerable positions before she exacts sadistic revenge. Adam Brody, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bo Burnham make up a strong supporting cast.
Mulligan simmers in the role, bubbling with restrained angst she allows to rise to the top at key moments. Director Emerald Fennell's film starts off with a fresh, brutally uncompromising voice, but the plot paints itself into a corner and has nowhere to go in the third act, sputtering to an unsatisfying conclusion that betrays its own premise. Still, Mulligan's performance and a blistering soundtrack make it a must-see.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
Much of the Pixar team that delivered "Inside Out" (2015) is back for a deep and complex look at the afterlife, ambition and the human condition as a whole. Jamie Foxx lends his voice to struggling musician Joe Gardner, who dies just as he's on the verge of his big break. Drifting through a spirit realm that he's struggling to understand, he longs for a second shot at his dreams.
As he floats in and out of the reality he knows and one he's discovered, Joe develops an appreciation for what he took for granted, as well as those who are worse off than him.
With stunning animation and an airtight script that gives you plenty to chew on, "Soul" is a moving think piece that will stick with you long after the credits roll. Daveed Diggs and Tina Fey round out the voice cast of one of my favorites of the year. It's available on Disney+.
RATING: 4 stars out of 4.
WONDER WOMAN 1984
After a slow and convoluted start, in which director Patty Jenkins seems intent on cramming as many 1980s cliches as possible onto the screen, the sequel to 2017's surprise blockbuster manages to find its footing.
Just like last time, Gal Gadot rocks the lead role with authority, while funnywoman Kristen Wiig shows off action movie skills she's never even hinted at as her rival, Cheetah. Pedro Pascal of "The Mandalorian" fame turns in a circa-1980s Donald Trump impersonation as megalomaniacal oil baron Max Lord, and Chris Pine is back as Wonder Woman's flame, Steve Trevor.
Once the leg warmers and shoulder pads get out of the way, the movie finally begins to take flight, with stellar action sequences and a surprisingly moving core story that makes the film seem more grounded and emotionally provocative than most comic book flicks. With another successful outing, Wonder Woman firmly establishes her spot alongside Superman and Batman in the DC Cinematic Universe. You can find this one on HBO Max, as well as theaters.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
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