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Only the Brave,

directed by Joseph Kosinski

(PG-13, 2 hours, 14 minutes)

Only the Brave is a clunky, large-hearted Hollywood movie that a lot of people love. That's because the true story of the doomed Granite Mountain Hotshots -- elite firefighters who engage wildfires at their front lines --connects on a deeper level than almost any other movie of 2017.

When the film opens in 2005, the Prescott, Ariz.-based team led by Eric Marsh (a terrific Josh Brolin) is only an aspiring Hotshot crew; while awaiting certification. This causes them recruiting problems and is frustrating to Marsh. So he seeks out the fire chief (Jeff Bridges, also excellent) to help the team negotiate the politics and gives a second chance to recovering junkie and petty criminal Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), who, saddled with the nickname Donut, is added to the crew. Certification is achieved, and the battle is on.

It seems a quibble to mention the movie's pacing problems -- we get one too many speeches, Donut makes one too many diaper-delivering trips to his baby mama's front door. Jennifer Connelly, as Marsh's long-suffering wife, is lit a little too carefully, and the beautiful cinematography (fire is beautiful and terrible, Marsh muses more than once, and director of photography Claudio Miranda took the note and ran with it) is marred by a CGI shot of a burning mountain at night. And a singularly distinctive image of a bear on fire charging through the wilderness is overused.

So maybe there's 10 percent too much here. But Joseph Kosinski isn't going for subtle. The filmmakers wanted an American Sniper without the political divisiveness, a movie that genuinely honors the virtue of the rough men who made up the Granite Mountain crew. And that's what they deliver.

Victor Crowley (not rated, 1 hour, 33 minutes) A low-budget slasher comedy -- the fourth in the Slasher series -- that delivers on the promise of being blood-soaked yet hilarious. Named after the deformed, axe-wielding and totally merciless Hatchet villain, it features a return to the Louisiana swamps where a voodoo curse means bad news for a documentary film crew. With Laura Ortiz, Kane Hodder, Dave Sheridan, Parry Shen, Brian Quinn; directed by Adam Green.

A Bad Moms Christmas (R, 1 hour, 44 minutes) A dud of a sequel to 2016's Bad Moms that's repetitive, dull, and poorly written, this clunky comedy concerns three women (Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Mila Kunis) who, along with their evident lack of parenting skills, must endure visits from their own wretched mothers (Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski) during the holidays. Bad attitudes and smarty-pants sniping dominate, but aren't all that amusing. With Peter Gallagher, Jay Hernandez; directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas.

Tom of Finland (not rated, 1 hour, 55 minutes) A stylish yet curiously unsexy biographical drama about decorated Finnish officer Touko Laaksonen who, after heroically serving his country in World War II, returns to find Helsinki is persecuting homosexual men. So he finds refuge in art, specializing in homoerotic drawings of muscular men. His signature, Tom of Finland, becomes a symbol of gay revolution. With Pekka Strang, Werner Daehn, Lauri Tilkanen, Jessica Grabowsky; directed by Dome Karukoski.

LBJ (R, 1 hour, 38 minutes) Woody Harrelson is powerful and persuasive in the role of Lyndon Johnson, who serves as vice president to John F. Kennedy then becomes president when Kennedy is assassinated in 1963. The political, social and cultural era that follows -- marked by civil rights standoffs, the creation of Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid, and the escalation of the Vietnam War, is nothing short of tumultuous. With Bill Pullman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey Donovan; directed by Rob Reiner.

All I See Is You (R, 1 hour, 49 minutes) An interesting yet ultimately ambiguous erotic thriller in which a blind woman (Blake Lively) and her husband (Jason Clarke) are thriving in a passionate and co-dependent relationship that changes abruptly when she receives a corneal transplant that provides her with an unexpected degree of independence. With Danny Huston, Yvonne Strahovski; directed by Marc Forster.

MovieStyle on 02/09/2018

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