(PG-13; 121 minutes; Sony): Ron Howard and Tom Hanks return for a third bite of the Dan Brown apple, following up on their collaborative adaptations of Brown’s best-selling “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” with the further adventures of Brown’s iconic protagonist Robert Langdon, expert in religiously based arcana.
Starting with a chase, “Inferno” proceeds at a hyperfrantic pace as Langdon and a helpful young doctor (played by Felicity Jones) are hunted hither and thither through the scenic streets and historic (and scenic) buildings of Florence and Venice by a lady assassin disguised as a cop, by real cops, by members of the World Health Organization, by government security types and assorted thugs, mugs and other shady sorts.
The chase, chase, chase pace is tiring, not least because it’s not clear who many of these people are and what agendas they’re following.
Langdon is called on to use his vast knowledge of symbols to interpret telltales tied to Dante’s “Inferno” that will, he hopes, allow him to thwart a plot by a megalomaniacal tycoon (Ben Foster) to unleash a plague that will depopulate the world.
Langdon’s efforts are complicated by the fact he’s suffering from that old thriller-movie standby: amnesia.
Contains sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality.
‘The Light Between Oceans’
(PG-13; 132 minutes; Dreamworks): With its exquisite scenery, romantic tale of passion and dire misfortune, swelling musical score and leading actors who are one of Hollywood’s most attractive real-life couples, “The Light Between Oceans” has all the markings of a class act.
Adapted by writer-director Derek Cianfrance from M.L. Stedman’s bestselling novel, this unapologetically weepy, handsomely staged melodrama revolves around an almost superhumanly restrained protagonist, lighthouse keeper and traumatized World War I veteran, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender).
But counterbalancing his character’s chiseled stoicism is a willingness to go for broke — in the form of garment-rending scenes of loss and separation, and lots of tear-streaked close-ups — that indicate where the movie’s temperamental heart really lies.
As “The Light Between Oceans” opens, Tom has just fetched up in a coastal Australian town in order to replace the light keeper who’s convalescing, a prologue eerily reminiscent of “The Shining,” with its intimations of death and madness. But where the tale could easily accommodate the moody conventions of gothic horror, Stedman and Cianfrance instead embrace its fable-like lyricism and dewy-eyed tragedy: In time, Tom takes Isabel (Alicia Vikander) — a comely, refreshingly direct local girl — as his wife, and they repair to his little island for an enchanted honeymoon period.
But sadness soon descends, when they’re unable to start a biological family.
That second tale is embodied by Rachel Weisz in a performance that’s as honest and touching as Vikander’s is keening and hysterical. At just over two hours, “The Light Between Oceans” feels lugubrious and too long, but also oddly perfunctory, especially when it comes to Weisz’s story line and the character who emerges as the film’s unlikely moral center.
Contains thematic material and some sexual content.
The Washington Post
(Not rated; 144 minutes): Korean director Park Chan-wook creates a wildly complicated story of love and death, captivity and freedom, seduction and betrayal, honesty and make-believe. Each theme evolves across unpredictable dimensions, leading from humor-flaked decadence to a surprisingly happy ending.
During Japan’s 1930s occupation of Korea, Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), a fetching female pickpocket, is recruited by a handsome con man (Ha Jung-woo). She is ordered to become a servant to Japanese debutante Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) and help convince the mentally fragile heiress to marry him. Then he expects to commit her to a madhouse and take her inheritance. The trio’s interlocked relationships in Hideko’s mansion become increasingly complex. Exactly who is whose suitor, and who is manipulating whom, takes three intricate chapters to decode.
Inspired by Sarah Waters’ world of petty thieves, asylums and surprising passions in her throbbingly sexy Victorian throwback “Fingersmith,” the film riffles that 400-page bestseller into a long, dark, twisted and mesmerizing 144 minutes. Echoing the sociopolitical meme of the moment, it shows that naughty, nasty women are a potent force all their own.
Contains nudity, sex and graphic violence.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Also out Jan. 24
- “Sherlock: Series 4”
- “The Monster”
- “The Vessel”
- “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”
- “I’m Not Ashamed”