Film clips / Oct. 12-18

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A SIMPLE FAVOR (R)

A sexy, sophisticated, cynical mother (Blake Lively) who downs her vodka martinis in one gulp asks a newfound friend, also a grade-school kid mother (Anna Kendrick), to pick up her kid from school — the titular favor — and never returns to pick her up. As things spin out of control, "A Simple Favor" teeters between camp and seriousness while the melodrama — incest, adultery, murder, twins! — gets nutty. For the big tonal swings in "A Simple Favor" to work, the characters need to be more plausibly grounded. Lively and Kendrick's early scenes ping-pong nicely with odd-couple chemistry, but "A Simple Favor" loses the thread, and never shakes the feeling of a rushed Gillian Flynn knockoff. With Henry Golding. 1 hour, 56 minutes. BM / NAM

A STAR IS BORN (R)

Simply terrific — a big-scale cinematic delight that will have the masses singing, swooning and sobbing along with it. It's quite a feat from Bradley Cooper, who directed, co-wrote, produced and stars in the film. Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a massively popular singer-songwriter whose path intersects with an unknown and overlooked talent named Ally (a magnificent Lady Gaga) and the two become entangled as his star fades and hers rises. The first hour of "A Star Is Born" is downright electrifying — funny, exciting, sexy and wholly lived-in. But like all good things, the engine of that first hour only gets the film so far, and the second half has its shortcomings. But the actors and the filmmaking hold up "A Star Is Born" where the story cannot. Gaga is a gifted actress, natural, vulnerable and strong as she goes toe-to-toe with Cooper in what might be his best performance — the man truly disappears into Jackson Maine. And as a director, well, he is the real deal and, with this sort of introduction, definitely far from the shallow now. (Bahr, The Associated Press — 10/4). 2 hours, 15 minutes. BC / BM / NAM / TC / TM

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (R)

Several guests arrive to seek shelter at a rundown hotel in Lake Tahoe, Calif., whose main attraction is that it straddles the state line between California and Nevada. The guests include a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm), a wannabe Motown singer (Cynthia Erivo), a priest (Jeff Bridges) and a hippy woman (Dakota Johnson), who have all brought more than just their physical baggage to the hotel. Each guest houses dark secrets about their past, which will all be revealed during one fateful night at the El Royale, a hotel filled with secret passages, cameras, and two-way mirrors, so every guest is under constant surveillance. The unexpected arrival of cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) proves the tipping point. 2 hours, 21 minutes. BC / BM / NAM

COLETTE (Unrated)

French novelist Colette's fight over creative ownership and gender roles drives her to overcome societal constraints, revolutionizing literature, fashion and sexual expression. With Keira Knightley, Dominic West. 1 hour, 51 minutes. IC / TC / TM

FIRST MAN (PG-13)     

The story of NASA's mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. Based on the book by James R. Hansen. With Ryan Gosling. 2 hours, 20 minutes. BC / BM / NAM / TC / TM

GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN (PG)

Just before Halloween, Sonny Quinn (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam Carter (Caleel Harris) discover a decrepit house and decide to explore inside. A hole in one of the walls opens up and inside they find a box that holds a single book: "Haunted Halloween" by R.L. Stine. When the two friends unlock the book, a ventriloquist puppet begins to talk to them, but that's just the beginning of the utter mayhem they've unleashed in the form of all kinds of strange and frightening creatures that run amok through the town. 1 hour, 30 minutes. BC / BM / NAM

NIGHT SCHOOL (PG-13)

A successful salesman's life takes an unexpected turn when he accidentally blows up his place of employment. Forced to attend night school to get his GED, he soon finds himself dealing with a group of misfit students, his former high school nemesis and a feisty teacher who doesn't think he's too bright. "Night School" is at its best in its classroom setting thanks to a freewheeling ensemble. Yet the teacher-student teaming up of Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart goes down as a missed opportunity. Though she makes Carrie easily the film's most human character, Haddish isn't given enough room to let loose; "Night School" is really Hart's film. And, like countless studio comedies of the past few years, "Night School" is a straightforward concept that relies too much on the charisma of its performers to carry a weak script. It didn't do its homework. 1 hour, 51 minutes. BM

PICK OF THE LITTER

Pick of the Litter follows a litter of puppies from the moment they're born and begin their quest to become guide dogs for the blind. Cameras follow these pups through an intense two-year odyssey as they train to become dogs whose ultimate responsibility is to protect their blind partners from harm. Along the way, these remarkable animals rely on a community of dedicated individuals who train them to do amazing, life-changing things in the service of their human. 1 hour, 21 minutes. LC

SMALLFOOT (PG)

A friendly Yeti's world gets turned upside down when he discovers something that he didn't know existed -- a human. He soon faces banishment from his snowy home when the rest of the villagers refuse to believe his fantastic tale. Hoping to prove them wrong, the Yeti, Migo, embarks on an epic journey to find the mysterious creature that can put him back in good graces with his simple community. 1 hour, 36 minutes. BM / NAM

TEA WITH THE DAMES (unrated)

Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, and Dame Joan Plowright are among the most celebrated actresses of our time, with scores of iconic performances, decades of wisdom, and innumerable Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and BAFTAs between them. They are also longtime friends who, over a weekend in the country, catch up with one another, reminisce, and share their candid, delightfully irreverent thoughts on everything from art to aging to love to a life lived in the spotlight. 1 hour, 36 minutes. CT / IC

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (PG)

Ten-year-old Lewis goes to live with his oddball uncle in a creaky old house that contains a mysterious ticktock noise. He soon learns that Uncle Jonathan and his feisty neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, are powerful practitioners of the magic arts. When Lewis accidentally awakens the dead, the town's sleepy facade suddenly springs to life -- revealing a secret and dangerous world of witches, warlocks and deadly curses. Adapted from the 1973 Jiohn Bellairs young adult thriller, the film somehow manages its own witchcraft in finding the perfect un-sweet spot — it's too scary for little kids, not scary enough for older ones, not funny or clever enough for their parents, and too redundant for everyone else. Poof! Watch the audience disappear. With Jack Black, Owen Vaccaro, Cate Blanchett. (Kennedy, The Associated Press). 1 hour, 39 minutes. BM / NAM

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN (PG-13)

Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest's commitment to his craft, and a woman (Sissy Spacek), who loves him in spite of his chosen profession. 1 hour, 33 minutes. TM

VENOM (PG-13)

Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake's experiments, Eddie's body merges with the alien Venom -- leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating. A destabilizing mix of intentional and unintentional comedy that for better or worse returns the superhero movie to its natural state: camp. With Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed. (Coyle, The Associated Press — 10/6). 2 hours, 20 minutes. BC / BM / NAM / TC



Legend

The theaters at which the movies listed in Film Clips are playing are:

BC: Beacon Cinema (57 North St., Pittsfield)

BM: Berkshire Mall 10 (Route 8, Lanesborough)

CT: Crandell Theatre (48 Main St., Chatham, N.Y.)

IC: Images Cinema (50 Spring St.,Williamstown)

LC: Little Cinema (Berkshire Museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield)

NAM: North Adams Movieplex 8 (80 Main St., North Adams)

TC: Triplex Cinema (70 Railroad St., Great Barrington)

TM: The Moviehouse, 48 Main St., Millerton, N.Y.

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