Movie Preview “Cocaine Bear”

Inspired by a true story, because in the 80s, even bears got into the nose candy.

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Movie Review: An Empress Turns 40, and loses it — “Corsage”

In “Corsage,” the unhappy Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary impulsively grasps at all sorts of privileged distractions in 1877 Vienna and environs, a supposedly all-powerful woman hemmed in by her circumstances and position.

She horseback rides, diets and flips-out quietly over turning 40 and thus becoming “old,” something most of the men in her life, including the Emperor Franz Joseph, her husband, never tire of cattily remarking upon. She sits for a portrait and he remarks on how young it makes her look.

“It will remind me of you when you’re gone,” he sighs, and we wonder why she wasn’t able to get this chap canceled, or at least kicked to the curb for his tactlessness.

At some point, she starts to carry on with her English riding instructor, who dances with her as his house fiddler strums his instrument and sings, in Austrian-accented English, “Take the Ribbon from your hair.” Later, a harpist plucks away and covers “As Tears Go By,” by The Rolling Stones.

And then there’s the member of the court who wants her to perform for him — walking or jogging — as he sets out to test and demonstrate “making pictures that move,” inventing the film camera over a decade before Thomas Edison got the first working model patented.

Writer-director Marie Kreutzer of “The Ground Beneath My Feet” goes all-in on anachronisms in this faintly fantastical and satiric period piece about gender roles, then and now, imagining a mercurial woman, one of the most famous of the Hapsburgs, as perhaps forced into the behavior she adapts by her dismay, heartbreak and fury at “a woman’s place.”

Vicky Krieps of “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” and “The Last Vermeer” is luminous and lost as one of Europe’s most famous beauties hits “a certain age.”

“At the age of 40,” she muses in voice-over (in German with English subtitles), life begins “darkening like a cloud.”

She obsesses about her weight and her waist line, and has been the object of gossip for fainting in public, something she might be faking or could simply be the result of her diets and impossibly tight corsets.

She all but grimaces through a court birthday party, impulsively wakens her little girl for a chilly evening ride that makes the child sick and deals with an emperor (Florian Teichtmeister) who seems to like her…when she’s in her place.

Her duties as empress were to produce heirs — which she did — and “represent” the newish dual monarchy. That’s trickier, as the emperor won’t talk about strife in Serbia and elsewhere as the newly-merged Austria -ungary bides its time before leading Europe heedlessly into World War I.

She spends too much time with her riding “friend” (Colin Morgan) and is chastised by her teen son, the crown prince (Aaron Friesz) for that. She backs away from that relationship only to spy her husband stepping out with another woman for her troubles. The woman cannot get a break.

It’s no wonder she solemnly rises from one of the many state dinners she must soldier through, leaving as she flips the bird at all those gathered there.

“Her soul is like a chaotic museum,” one lady in waiting writes in her diary.

Krieps keeps this “chaotic” woman’s state of mind just buttoned-down enough to suggest it is merely her deviance from the social “norm” that made her seem so highly strung and impulsive. She’d lost an earlier daughter young, we are reminded. Her morbid curiosity about mental illness suggests her own state of mind as she repeatedly visits a mental hospital to supposedly console the patients.

It’s a layered performance lacking much in the way of histrionics. The film is set well after much of “Sisi’s” public reputation had been established, supposedly smeared by a conniving mother-in-law who labeled her sickly and “a silly young mother,” and that gives Krieps less to play, but a more focused and narrower set of circumstances explaining Sisi’s victimhood.

The anachronisms Kreutzer includes are neither here nor there, underscoring a sort of proto-feminist connection to women coming out from under men’s thumbs in the ’60s. But it is Krieps’ performance that carries “Corsage,” a woman in all her many moods, shadings, fears and desires, treated as abnormal and gossiped about and controlled by insults from pretty much every male in her life. And more than a little annoyed about it.

Rating: unrated, nudity, sex, smoking

Cast: Vicky Krieps, Florian Teichtmeister, Aaron Friesz and Colin Morgan.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Marie Kreutzer. An IFC release.

Running time: 1:54

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Next screening? Brendan Fraser completes his comeback with an Oscar buzzed turn in a fat suit as “The Whale”

You could poll critics and entertainment writers to confirm this, but if there’s a sweeter spirit in Hollywood, somebody that most folks in the know could agree on deserves a comeback, it’s Brendan Fraser.

He’s Keanu without the cool cachet, just a pleasant, decent human being who may have never taken himself any more seriously than he did in “George of the Jungle” or those goofy “Mummy” movies he did with future Oscar winner Rachel Weisz.

Give this man his victory lap!

Been dying to see this.

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Movie Review: Anne Heche adds grace notes to her final film, “What Remains”

We’d made up our minds about Anne Heche long before her sad death in an accident last August. Controversy dogged her in life, and mental health issues — and the presence of cocaine in her system — were prominent in coverage of her disturbing final hours.

But she had one last film in the can at the time of her death. And even if her tragedy tends to overshadow “What Remains,” it’s worth recognizing the pathos, professionalism and charisma this final role showcases.

Heche plays a sheriff who rolls up to crime scenes in unkempt hair, cheap Aviator knock-offs and a worn 1970s Cutlass. Maureen is sort of a Texas version of Frances McDormand’s Marge in “Fargo.” She’s sharper than any of her male subordinates. She takes in the burned-out truck where a body was found and does what her Deputy Do Nothings didn’t. She looks at tire tracks. In a flash, she’s changed the nature of what this was.

“This isn’t where it happened.”

It’s the most economical and effective scene in this well-acted but slow and downbeat melodrama of murder, faith and attempted redemption.

Cress Williams of TV’s “Black Lightning” stars as Marshall, a small town preacher who opens the film washing blood off his hands at a convenience store. “What Remains” is mostly about what led to that moment, the murder — five years before — of the preacher’s wife, his ability and willingness to sermonize “Forgive your enemy” from the pulpit of Hope International Baptist Church, and the bitterness of his teen son (Marcus Gladney Jr.) over Dad’s ultimate “turn the other cheek” gesture.

The white murderer (Kellan Lutz) gets out of prison five years later, insists on coming “home,” apologizes to the preacher and ends up taking a part time job with him. Whatever each man is looking for from the other is mostly left-unsaid.

But from that set up, we can guess pretty much how we get to Sheriff Maureen determining somebody died as a product of bad blood, and thanks to the give-away in the opening scene, we know the bloody-handed preacher was involved.

Writer-director Nathan Scoggins is most interested in the father-son dynamic here. The friction over Dad’s forgiveness of Mom’s murderer, with an undercurrent of unequal “Texas” justice (the white killer got five years for murdering a Black preacher’s wife), creates real tension in that relationship, some of it oddly underplayed, some of it pitched more understandably over-the-top.

Truth be told, there isn’t enough here to recommend “What Remains.” The dialogue and faith-being-tested voice-over narration tends towards the trite and cant.

The performances are too subdued for too long to make us invest in the film right away, and you need that in a movie in which this little happens.

But Heche makes her curtain call memorable, not wasting one second of her screen time, a compact performance of canniness and compassion that nicely complements the leads and makes this worth watching, if not really worth “endorsing.”

Rating: unrated, violence

Cast: Cress Williams, Marcus Gladney Jr., Kellan Lutz and Anne Heche.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Nathan Scoggins. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:41

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Netflixable? “Glass Onion” finds the “Knives” still “Out,” but duller

Writer-director Rian Johnson returns to the scene of the triumph with “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” and finds the going a bit slower, the supporting cast less colorful, less venomous and less star-studded and the mystery quite a bit duller than the last time around.

The effortlessness of “Knives Out” is replaced by a sense of trying too hard and leaning into the goofiness, even as Johnson scores points about today’s nouveau riche tycoon “disruptors.”

Daniel Craig still adorably drawls his way through solving a crime that’s happened and fighting off crimes to come.

But Johnson goes much more conventionally Agatha Christie with this outing. Come sir, “twins” as a plot device? The ancient Greeks and almost as ancient Shakespeare would like a word. Another villain who owns “the real” Mona Lisa? Digs at “influencers” and celebrity “products” (Jeremy Renner hot sauce, Jared Leto “Hard Kombucha”)?

I mean, “cute and clever” still apply. But there’s quite a bit of desperate grasping here. The man peppers the picture with famous cameos, partly as an illustration of great wealth and fame as “another culture, another country,” but mostly to jazz up a cast that doesn’t include Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Ana de Armas or Chris Evans.

So if you want to see the last screen appearances by Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim, along with Serena Williams, Ethan Hawke, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hugh Grant and Natasha Lyonne, jump right in.

The plot — old chums have received an ornate, electronic wooden puzzle box that they solve — together , over Zoom, as the pandemic is still raging — a puzzle that summons them to a Greek island owned by their richest and most famous friend, “Alpha” internet billionaire Miles Bron.

He’s played by Oscar winner Edward Norton, and when you consider that the gubernatorial candidate is played by Kathryn Hahn, the gun-crazed men’s movement influencer is Dave Bautista, his “arm candy” is “Outer Banks” bombshell Madelyn Cline, that Leslie Odom Jr. plays Bron’s friend-turned-corporate chemist and Kate Hudson (Remember her?) is a former cover girl turned gaffe-prone influencer, you may think you have this entire mystère de meurtre figured out.

The star-power imbalance and star-baggage — sinister roles Norton’s played before — point us towards a conclusion. But not so fast, writer-director Johnson hisses. Janelle Monáe (“Antebellum”) is here, a glaring, hostile, chillingly standoffish former business partner added to Bron’s guest-list.

Gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc (Craig) is also invited, summoned from his pandemic-long bath, mask in hand and plainly a mite overwhelmed, over-awed and overly solicitous at being included in this exclusive company about to be ensconced in extreme wealth and luxury.

“I lose it between cases,” he confesses, in gratitude.

But if the weekend is to be a “murder mystery” themed affair, with Bron staging his death and having his “disruptors assemble” to solve it, why’d he invite the world’s “pre-definite detective?”

Why indeed? The film’s most hilarious scene is Blanc, after carefully observing, overhearing all and questioning more than one guest or host with “What does that mean?” solves the planned “entertainment” in a flourish that would make Hercule Poirot’s mustache uncurl.

But a “real” death changes everything as intrigues, motives, dangers, rogue actors and backstories come into play to “thicken the plot.”

If “Knives Out” zipped by on the sharply-drawn “motivated” characters given delicious star-turns by the cast, we don’t come in expecting the “mystery” to carry the day, here.

Bron has built this island mansion — renegade artist Banksy designed the transparent (glass) dock — around a literal “Glass Onion,” a giant pleasure dome of glass decorated with art glass within, a puzzle from the outside whose layers must be “peeled away” before the truth emerges.

Only not really. It’s a great set and exists, we assume, for a great set piece which, when it comes, isn’t all that.

The intrigues aren’t terribly intriguing just as the puzzles are more perfunctory than puzzling. It’s also measurably longer and slower.

Johnson scores points deflating F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “the rich are very different from you and me” truism, and skewering the “attention economy” the social media age has invented.

“It’s a dangerous thing to confuse speaking without thought with speaking the truth,” Benoit counsels one influencer — and Ye and Chapelle and Musk and a whole caucus of Congress.

And the movie surrounding that messaging is only sometimes less than amusing, with drunk scenes and name-dropping and genteel (and gay) Benoit losing his cool and his favorite expletive, “FIDDLEsticks,” for the cheaper laugh “S–t balls” as the s–t hits the fan.

But I guess you can only be truly bowled-over once by a brilliant filmmaker offering his updating of the classic Dame Agatha “gather the suspects in the drawing room” murder mystery. Just as I guess Johnson realized he’d have to try and generate more of a genuine mystery this time, seeing as how, player-for-player, he’s substituted less dazzling folk in every role than he managed with “Knives Out.”

Yes, it’s worth Netflixing. But a few lovely exteriors and a James Bond-sized super-rich guy’s lair that looks decorated by Swedish Nazis doesn’t really merit a buy-a-ticket big screen immersion. It’s mostly a movie composed in close-ups, and what is Netflix? Television? And what is television?

“A close-up medium.”

Rating: PG-13 for strong language, some violence, sexual material and drug content

Cast: Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Madelyn Cline, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick and Dave Bautista.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Rian Johnson. A Netflix release.

Running time: 2:20

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Movie Review: Santa Claus vs. the Kidnappers — “Violent Night”

You’d better watch out. You’d better not cry.

And if you’re thinking of a holiday mass murder and kidnapping, you’d better not try. Especially if it’s Christmas Eve.

Because Santa Claus is a jolly elf with — as Liam Neeson and his ilk always boast — “particular skills.” And he will open his magic toy sack of whupass on you if you keep him from his appointed rounds.

“Violent Night” is a Santa’s Slaughterhouse comic thriller, a sadistic, sometimes funny and seriously mean Santa movie for a seriously mean age.

The laughs and horror movie-level killings compete sentimental touches in a lurching, whiplash-inducing holiday “treat” from the Norwegian filmmaker who gave us “Dead Snow” (skiers vs. Nazi zombies) and “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.”

David Harbour stars in this attempt at merry mayhem, a gruesome action comedy that tries to graft machine gunnings, impalings and wood-chippings with “Santa is real, you guys!” sentiment.

It’s kind of bizarre. And it kind of half works. Until you think about it. Until you figure out you’ve had enough.

We meet the not-so-jolly man in a British pub, knocking a few back on Christmas Eve, a sad, weary and cynical gift-giver whose tab is picked up by a fellow “Santa” who “just got off.”

You’re not driving, are ye mate?

“Well, I steer a little.”

This Santa, like so many cinematic Santas, is figuring this is “my last year.” Only his reasons are greedy, spoiled kids, cash-crazed like their parents, and 440 million too many store bought cookies and way too many glasses of soured milk.

But one stop awaits that will give Santa flashbacks to a time before he brought presents to all the good girls and boys via “Christmas magic.” It’s not the “greedy, rich a–holes” of the Lightstone Estate in America who will change his life forever, possibly even end it. It’s the greedy, murderous a-holes who storm the place and threaten one very good believer and “Home Alone” fan, a little girl named Trudy (Leah Brady).

Tommy Wirkola’s movie “lurches” because there are a stunning number of starts and stops. We pause meet the estranged couple (Alex Hassell and Alexis Louder), Trudy’s parents, who re-unite to take her to this gated mansion full of vile one percenters. We meet the shrill sister of the husband (Edi Paterson), her vapid actor-hunk beau (Cam Gigandet, damned funny), her obnoxious rich “influencer” teen (Alexander Elliot).

The film spends time establishing and over-establishing the back-stabbing family dynamic, with most of them taking their queues from ruthless and foul-mouthed patriarch (Beverly D’Angelo, also funny).

But they’ve barely put the “I still believe” Trudy to bed when Santa shows up, complaining about reindeer and when and where they poop, and starts working his magic. He’s barely raided the bar when all hell breaks loose and a team of eight killer commandos slaughter the staff — the armed and the unarmed — and take the place over.

We’ve already lost track of the body count when John Leguizamo makes his entrance as their leader, the “Mr. Scrooge” who code-named his murderous minions Sugar Plum, Krampus and the like.

“Bah humbug, Mother F—–s!”

As Santa tries to “not get involved” and just be on his way, he must face the pangs of conscience that call for him to help the only real “innocent” in all this — Trudy — and his own past and present.

And the viewer has to decide how far down this rabbit hole of grisly “comic” violence we want to go with the fat man and his increasingly blood-spattered white beard.

Leguizamo makes a decent villain, properly pissed-off at having his cunning plan interrupted, absolutely furious that some of those who survive Santa’s first wave of kidnapper purges start to believe in “Christmas magic.”

Harbour summons up a droll, modern-world weariness and grim and violent sense of purpose in this drunk whose origin story involved spilling a lot of blood the ancient Scandinavian way.

The jolly man can take a beating, and a stabbing and strangling or three, and keeps coming back for more.

The “Home Alone” references set up some amusing booby-trapping with terminal blood-letting as its pay-off.

But all this lurching from Trudy’s true belief and her willingness to risk “the naughty list” by lapsing into profanity and helping help Santa creatively slaughter the slaughterers gets to be a bit much. There’s something discomforting about this particular sentiment mixed with senseless violence.

That slows the picture to an action-beat followed by a dead-pause rhythm that kills the pacing and kind of spoils “the fun.”

Because when you pause to pick up what some of the less interesting characters (and blander actors) are doing, one can’t help think of this week’s, or last week’s or the week before’s mass shooting and wonder if it’s just “greed” that has Santa burnt out.

One can join in the chuckleheaded chuckling over “Violent Night” only as long as you don’t think of how repellent it is, and wonder what the hell it is you’re laughing about.

It’s not really a holiday action movie “escape” when you’re not really escaping the gruesome gore and inhumanity the movie is all-too-giddy about showcasing.

Rating: R (Some Sexual References|Language Throughout|Strong Bloody Violence)

Cast: David Harbour, Beverly D’Angelo, Cam Gigandet, Alex Hassell, Edi Patterson, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Leah Brady, Mitra Suri, Stephanie Sy, Alexander Elliot and John Leguizamo.

Credits: Directed by Tommy Wirkola, scripted by Pat Casey and Worm Miller. A Universal release.

Running time: 1:41

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Movie Preview: “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

If you’re old enough to remember the first attempt to put “Mario” in a movie…

Stick around until April 7 to see if this animated take on the timeless video game is a cast improvement.

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Documentary Review: An Artist’s Artist in the Comic Book medium — “Dave Stevens: Drawn to Perfection”

Dave Stevens is one of those names whispered in awe among comic book cognoscenti. Because the people in the know know — his peers, collectors, the most fanatical fans.

He was “a once in a lifetime artist,” an exemplar who showed his corner of art “what a refined comic could look like.”

He’s best known for the exquisitely drawn, inked and colored “The Rocketeer” comics that inspired one of the most charming films that medium has ever produced. But when Dave Stevens took on inking duties for the newspaper comic version of “Star Wars,” you could see Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill’s photo-real faces, vivid in expression, emotional in the eyes.

He drew storyboards for films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and Michael Jackson’s landmark “Thriller” video, stunningly-detailed illustrations that are as beautiful and collectible as Norman Rockwell or Maxfield Parrish. He did pin-ups that brought 1950s icon, model and actress Bettie Page back to life and cultural prominence. And his comics, lovingly re-issued in hardcover collections, are eye-popping, so vivid, playful and full of life, yet exacting down to the tiniest detail, that there’s no mistaking him for anybody else.

“Dave Stevens: Drawn to Perfection,” is an adoring portrait of an artist who gave his medium “more work than comic books deserve,” as his friend and peer Jim Silke puts it. “Comic books are not made to be fine art pieces.”

But that’s how Stevens treated them. Sure, “It’s a trash medium” we hear him relating in an archived audio interview. “Newsprint” is as flimsy as “toilet paper, with watered down color and ink.” Stevens went to extremes, blew deadlines and worked and reworked materials for $150 a page, starvation wages that made him the quintessential “starving artist” in a medium where the real riches didn’t arrive until just before his death in 2008.

Friends, colleagues and collaborators — one of whom, Kelvin Mao, directed this film — grin and laugh at their frustrations in trying to get him to finish something — the final panel in a comic that is simply a seated bulldog, with Stevens obsessing over how one leg looked, a feminine curve here, a shadowy grimace there.

“Dave’s favorite drawing tool was his eraser,” one notes. His pieces that went public were “polished, like a diamond,” another adds. And you “don’t rush” the guy polishing a diamond.

He is humanized, a man who “loved beauty” and the female form — and women. The film tells us about Stevens’ upbringing, early promise and breakthroughs, his inspirations and his mentors and his frustrations with the limitations of comics and the aggravation of dealing with Hollywood.

Disney scrubbed Bettie Page — a real person turned into actual sexpot comic book character — out of the comics in making the film, but otherwise got “The Rocketeer” right. Emerging star director Joe Johnston, screenwriter Danny Bilson and Stevens ensuring that the comics’ “gee whiz” 1930s vibe survived the transition to the screen, and two cast members, Jennifer Connolly and Alan Arkin, later won Oscars. The 1991 movie lacked the action sizzle of the our era’s comic book blockbusters, but lives on as a cult and cosplay favorite.

Of course, it’s all very “inside baseball.” But if you’re into comics, “Drawn to Perfection” will illuminate for you one of the greatest artists the medium has produced. And if you’re not, you’ll still be bowled over by the quality of the work, the life in the drawn figures and the wicked, inviting sparkle in their eyes that made Stevens the standard which every artist since has had to measure herself or himself against.

Rating: unrated, nudity

Cast: Dave Stevens, Bruce Timm, Brinke Stevens, Danny Bilson, James R. Silke, Adam Hughes, William Wray, Joe Johnston, Olivia de Berardinis, Kelvin Mao and Thomas Jane.

Credits: Directed by Kelvin Mao. A Samuel Goldwyn release.

Running time: 1:39

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Movie Review: Bruce’s Farewell Trilogy? “Detective Knight: Redemption”

Sad state of affairs, reviewing any Bruce Willis film these days. You sit with pen poised, waiting to hear if they give him a single line of dialogue.

He’s going out with a quickie “instant” trilogy, most of which won’t make it into a theater near you. Did you miss “Detective Knight: Rogue?” Me, too. But “Detective Knight: Redemption” is now upon us, so let’s accentuate the positive. For a bit, anyway.

Hand it to Aussie writer-director Edward Drake. He made “Gasoline Alley,” “American Siege,” “Cosmic Sin” and these three “Detective Knight” films (“Detective Knight: Independence” is due out next year) with Willis in his fading aphasia years. He’s getting the hang of how to make use of an iconic actor with a serious language disorder.

“Presence” counts for something. So Drake emphasizes that.

Willis, whose LA cop character went “Rogue” in the first film and shot up a lot of folks, is seen in prison at the beginning of this, the middle film of the trilogy. He doesn’t have a line for the film’s first 26 minutes.

His one-liners — when they come — are pithy, short and if necessary, pieced together from different takes.

“I killed bad guys. It was a good day,” he says to the NYPD captain (Miranda Edwards) who comes to ask for his help with a murderous gang of ex-con bank robbers terrorizing The Big Apple over the holidays. “I own what I did.”

He was “inside” and met the leader of that prison gang, the messianic Conlan (Paul Johansson of TV’s “Van Helsing”). Maybe he can…help her and NYPD out? Knight has some thoughts, and Captain Shaye isn’t going to like them.

“You said to ‘do whatever it takes.’ This is what it takes.”

We can see some of the work-arounds and accommodations made to Willis as this film plays out — his character masked so that somebody else can do a stunt or three — tossing a grenade, for instance. Every actor he shares a scene with does almost all of the talking, with Willis’ Knight feigning interest or contempt, depending on the situation.

Spare your “name” star so he’ll have enough in him to threaten to “shove a Christmas tree” just where a Bruce Willis character would shove it.

The movie piled-up around this deference and accommodation? It’s kind of “Die Hard” meets “Dark Knight,” bleak and bloody and political, with some wingnutty cultish craziness, cop worship and corrupt politicians not worth the badge these “desecrate the oath” types wear.

In a story told out-of-order, Johannson plays an ex-con and prison chaplain who busts out scores of inmates that he can dress in Santa suits with blood-stained Santa masks to go on his crime crusade attacking “corporate” Christmas and “the one percent” in New York’s banks, “Where you worship your money,” he preaches at the trapped hostages.

One of the escapees is the guy (Beau Mirchoff) who shot Knight’s partner (Lochlyn Munro) in “Detective Knight: Rogue,” who is now on the case, even though he is still LAPD and even though he’s now in a wheelchair.

Rhodes, the convict who shot him, has a wife and kid, which makes him…sympathetic?

The gangsters are “the Real Saints of Christmas,” murderous goons who kill guards, hostages and bystanders in a comic-book-sized slaughter spree that might bring the city to its knees.

Your move, Knight.

I liked seeing how this film was conjured out of everything Willis can still manage to pull off. The preaching and speechifying around him gets WAY out of hand, but Johansson needed to go over-the-top, to flesh out a movie around a star who is still charismatic but who can’t really deliver the goods or carry a film any more.

But there’s no sugar-coating how much of a comedown these films are, or the fact that Willis has been churning out these godawful B-pictures for 15 years, now.

It’d be nice if his handlers and family had found him something more bittersweet and smart, and not violent and crypto-fascist, for him to use as his curtain calls. That wouldn’t have been on-brand, wouldn’t have been “him” and would not have attracted his aged, shrunken reactionary fan-base.

Ask Mel Gibson how this sort of diminished stature works in an aged-out action star.

One just hopes The Once and Future John McClane was well-compensated, and that his retirement is as comfortable as he’s earned, even if this is nobody’s idea of “Redemption.”

Rating: R for violence, language throughout and a sexual reference

Cast: Bruce Willis, Paul Johansson, Miranda Edwards, Lochlyn Munro, John Cassini and Beau Mirchoff.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Edward Drake. A Lionsgate release.

Running time: 1:38

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Movie Review: Brittany Snow and Justin Long spend “Christmas with the Campbells” in Ketchum

“Christmas with the Campbells” is a soft-and-squishy Christmas rom-com that tries ever-so-hard to be “edgy” when it oh-so-obviously isn’t.

Yes, there’s amusement in seeing that effort. Some. I mean, Justin Long attempting a folksy drawl as the outdoorsy nephew to his randy aunt (Julia Duffy) is cute.

“Gawd, if you were two years younger we’d have to try NOT to get pregnant.”

Duffy, playing up the elderly hair-dresser determined to keep sex on a schedule with her retirement-ready accountant husband (George Wendt) but getting into this banter with the nephew, is just as cute.

“That Wrangler butt’a yours is driving me NUTS!”

The M.O. here is to take your typical sappy snowy holiday romance, park “Pitch Perfect” Brittney Snow in it as put-upon and just-dumped by a vulgarian (“SNL” and “Home Economics” vet Alex Moffat) damsel, and have her pursued by his more down-to-Earth cousin (Long), throw in a lot of off-color remarks and jokes at it to see what sticks.

Vince Vaughn is one of the credited writers here, so the dialogue’s flip and profane when it isn’t being all sad and stiff. But one wonders if, along with the f-bombs dropped for shock value, Moffat’s little out-of-nowhere stunt-fart was in that script.

The set-up — Jesse’s a Chicago photographer and Petco part-timer hooked up with accountant on the make Sean (Moffat) who dumps her right after his mother’s renewed her invitation to Christmas in Ketchum, Idaho. Sean’s ready to move to New York and move on, with his no-big-deal spiel all worked out.

“We kept the fights clean and the sex dirty, and neither one of us were unfaithful — as far as you know…”

But Mrs. Campbell adores her antiquing, cooking and kvetching buddy Jesse and insists she come to Idaho anyway. Her nephew from out of town (Long) shows up, with his pick-up and his adorable Australian shepherd. They’re all set to get tongues to wagging in this gossipy small town when Sean changes plans and shows up as well, not knowing Jesse’s there.

AWK-ward. But not really that funny.

And yet Long, sounding as if he’s improvising a lot of his cornponespeak, goes for it.

“No need to hang your laundry out here in front of me. That’s YOUR Dairy Queen!”

Complimenting Jesse’s sparkly party dress — “You like like a disco ball made sweet love to a shootin’ star.”

Why, it’s enough to make a gal blush.

Everybody here has been around long enough to create personas that they lean into even as they try to mix things up a bit. The twist here is that the oversexed Idahoans are the ones who put the “Ho” into “Ho Ho Ho,” and the city gal and the nephew are the outsiders a tad rattled by that. But it doesn’t really play or pay off with big laughs or light tugs at the heartstrings.

Still, I suppose nothing says “Christmas” like a lot of “small town” folks, including the 70somethings, flirting and propositioning and nagging each other about sex in the most explicit fashion. To some people anyway.

Rating: unrated, lots of profanity and sex talk

Cast: Brittany Snow, Justin Long, Julia Duffy, George Wendt and Alex Moffat.

Credits: Directed by Clare Niederpruem, scripted by Barbara Kymlicka, Dan Lagana and Vince Vaughn. An RLJE release.

Running time: 1:28

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