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Bird Box 

Malorie (Sandra Bullock), a pregnant artist, is shocked when her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson), comes home with news of terrible happenings in Europe and Siberia. People are going crazy and spontaneously committing suicide or killing others, resulting in chaos and mass hysteria everywhere. Soon the mysterious force, or “presence,” attacks the United States and then inhabits their town and terrorizes its citizens. Malorie flees and takes refuge with several others in the home of Douglas (John Malkovich) and Greg (BD Wong). They cover the windows because this unseen “presence” takes possession of them through their eyes. Malorie and Tom (Trevante Rhodes) are drawn to each other. 

When food runs low, they make a blindfolded foray to an abandoned supermarket, leaving the pregnant Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) behind. Most of the group wants to stay in the store with its food supply but decide to return to be with those they left behind. Olympia allows a desperate and creepy man named Gary (Tom Hollander) to enter the house, despite the rules Douglas has laid down for their safety. Both Malorie and Olympia go into labor 

Tom, Malorie, and the two children survive and live in the house for five years. Malorie promised to care for Olympia’s daughter just before the young mom died, but Malorie has never given either child a name. Malorie has little hope for the future, so the children are named Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) because she thinks names are superfluous. Malorie blindfolds the children and they escape by boat down the river, headed for what they hope is a safe place. 

This dystopian thriller, directed by Susanne Bier, is based on a 2014 novel by Josh Malerman. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer creates genuine fear and terror that dwells within the characters and compels them to commit acts of violence. It’s never really clear why the “presence” shows up in the first place. Still, Bullock is excellent as a mother who teaches the children the rules of survival with steely anguish. Though Bird Box is not a religious film per se, Malorie leads by faith and not by sight. This film prompts a deep conversation exploring the meaning of interior, spiritual, and physical freedom. 

Not yet rated, R • Pervasive violence, peril. 


A Dog's Way Home

A Dog’s Way Home 

Medical student Lucas (Barry Watson) and his girlfriend, Molly (Alexandra Shipp), work at the local veterans’ hospital. After work, they rescue stray cats who live under an abandoned house that is about to be razed. It is across the street from where Lucas and his mom (Ashley Judd), a veteran with PTSD, live. They call animal control to retrieve the cats, but some are left behind.  

Among them is an orphaned puppy that the mother cat nursed with her kittens. Lucas takes the puppy home and names her Bella. But the owner of the house dislikes Lucas for stalling his construction work and calls animal control, erroneously claiming that Bella is part pit bull, a violation within Denver city limits. It only takes three employees to profile a dog by its features and agree that it is a pit bull to put down. 

Meanwhile, to save Bella from the dogcatcher, Lucas sneaks her into work where the veterans in therapy fall in love with her and she with them. To be safe, Molly’s aunt and uncle in New Mexico agree to house Bella until Lucas and his mom can move outside city limits. But Bella escapes when she hears someone say, “Go home,” a command that Lucas taught her. Off she goes on a 400-mile journey from New Mexico to Denver that will take two years.  

This heartwarming film is based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron; he and Cathryn Michon cowrote the script. Charles Martin Smith ably directs, creating a touching story about the unconditional love of dogs for people, especially with those healing from the injuries of war. This is a disarmingly relevant film below the surface. But to appreciate it, one must suspend disbelief. 

Not yet rated, PG • Peril, some mature themes. 


 

ViceVice 

In the run-up to George W. Bush’s (Sam Rockwell) campaign for the White House in 2000, he taps Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) for vice president. Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) agrees with her husband that the office of vice president is a job with nothing to do but sit around and wait for something to happen to the president. But Cheney, by this time, has gone from a troublemaking young man, to the White House chief of staff under President Gerald Ford, to a member of Congress, to a successful businessman. He accepts Bush’s invitation as long as he can be in charge of several things, including foreign policy. Cheney, as vice president, also discovers loopholes in how the three branches of government work together and exploits and manipulates them to fulfill his powerful position. 

This brilliant film explores what writer and director Adam McKay was able to uncover about Cheney’s life through drama and considerable satire. Christian Bale is sure to win awards for his comprehensive and sometimes chilling impersonation of the vice president.   

L, R • Some language and graphic images. 


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