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Reel Time

Instant Family 

Forty-somethings Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife, Ellie (Rose Byrne), flip houses for a living.  Friends wonder what they will do with a five-bedroom house since they’ll probably never have children. Pete jokingly tells Ellie that they should adopt a child to jump-start their family. Ellie takes him seriously and goes online, where she discovers foster care and adoption possibilities. 

They meet with two social workers, wonderfully played by Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro, who invite them to attend pre-foster placement classes. While there, Pete and Ellie meet others who are thinking about fostering or adopting. 

At orientation day, Pete and Ellie meet available children, including Lizzie (Isabela Moner), a teen with a chip on her shoulder. Later, the social workers show Pete and Ellie pictures of a cute brother and sister, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz), and then discover that Lizzie is their older sister. Lizzie scares them, but they move forward and bring the children into their home where the adventures begin. 

Things get complicated because the younger children are used to Lizzie taking care of them, and a power struggle ensues. Pete sees photos on Lizzie’s phone that show she is involved with a young man at school. The revelation of who he is puts everyone’s plans in jeopardy. When the children’s mom reenters the picture, Pete and Ellie’s hopes for an instant family are threatened. 

This film may sound like a serious one, but it is actually quite funny and sweet with a dose of real-life problems. Wahlberg and Byrne have great chemistry and excellent comedic timing. Moner is thoroughly believable as the smart, vulnerable, and conflicted older sister who accuses Ellie of being a fake mom and Pete of being a white savior. Writer/director Sean Anders based the film on the experiences he and his wife had when they first fostered and adopted siblings. Spencer and Notaro add their own brand of humor and play overworked social workers who are seldom recognized for their good work. 

A-3, PG-13 • Strong language.


Gosnell
Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer

In 2010, the DEA, FBI, and Philadelphia police search the abortion clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell (Earl Billings). They find evidence of an Asian immigrant mother who died while having an abortion, as well as drug prescriptions issued illegally. They also find horrifying scenes of filth, the smell of urine everywhere, underage and untrained clinical staff, and countless aborted fetuses stored in refrigerators and freezers. When Dr. Gosnell appears, he is oblivious to the shock of law enforcement officers who discover babies aborted after the 24-week gestation limit, and some who were born alive and then killed by the doctor.  

Gosnell quickly loses his medical license. Detectives Wood (Dean Cain) and Stark (Alfonzo Rachel) seek a warrant to search Gosnell’s home, but the judge warns them to focus on Gosnell’s illegal activities and to not make the case about abortion. District Attorney Dan Molinari (Michael Beach) brings the case to the grand jury in 2011. It indicts Gosnell on the murder of the mother and seven babies who were born alive and killed when Gosnell cut their spinal cords. Molinari tells Assistant District Attorney Alexis McGuire (Sarah Jane Morris), a pro-choice mother of five, to make this case about illegal activities. 

Gosnell’s defense lawyer, played by the film’s director, Nick Searcy, is meant to preach the evils of abortion to the audience, and he surely does this when he demonstrates to the audience exactly how abortions are carried out. 

The film does not show actual procedures, but the audience can easily fill in the blanks by seeing the evidence. This investigative crime story is a chillingly true tale of unimaginable horrors. Cain’s performance as a Catholic cop is believable. The film may be preaching to the people who already believe that abortion is the taking of the most innocent of human lives, but perhaps it will inform and change some hearts. 

A-3, PG-13 • Graphic images throughout.


Creed 2 

Creed II

In this sequel to 2015’s Creed, heavyweight boxing champion Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan), becomes engaged to his singer-girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Soon they discover they are expecting a baby. They live in Philadelphia where Donnie trains with his mentor, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). Life has become intense as the young man prepares to take on Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) in a prizefight. He is the son of Ivan (Dolph Lungren), a steroid-infused champion who killed Donnie’s father, Apollo, in the ring years before. Rocky refuses to coach Creed because the risks are too great. The fight is called in Donnie’s favor and he retains his title, but this only raises the stakes for Viktor and Donnie to fight again. 

Creed II is the eighth installment of the Rocky franchise. It is cowritten by Stallone and Juel Taylor, and directed by Steven Caple Jr. Themes of personal growth and reconciliation abound. But the boxing sequences are brutal, no matter how much people want to turn boxing into a metaphor for inner growth and building character. The message is that family matters above all.   

Not Yet Rated, PG-13 • Extensive violence throughout.


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