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Film reviews: new for January 14

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Beautiful ***1/2

See feature review. Available January 14 in theaters. (PG)

Bright Star: Trevor Southey’s Reconciliation ***
Artist Nathan Florence dodges at least some of the perils of inserting himself into his own film, allowing for something that acknowledges a unique artistic moment that doesn’t really concern him. Co-directed with Matt Black, Florence tells the story of artist Trevor Southey, a Mormon convert whose winding life journey has taken him from famed creator of church-approved works to excommunicated gay apostate, and maybe home later in life. The narrative spends a lot of time with Southey’s contemporaries in Utah’s “Art and Belief” movement – Gary Smith, Neil Hadlock and Dennis Smith – with plenty of historical context and first-person accounts of the complexity of navigating on the ground between being a creative, independent-minded person and doing work that fits the agenda of the LDS church. This material provides Bright Star with much of its bite, though it also results in less time being spent on Southey’s own thornier story. And it feels like Florence isn’t quite comfortable with the importance of including her own part in Southey’s story, as the two artists become friends and collaborators over the 10 years. creation of this film. Ultimately, however, this constitutes a unique record of a particular artistic moment in Utah history, which struggles with the difficulty of expressing faith through art in a way that does not render not the faithful a little uncomfortable. Available January 14 in theaters. (NR)

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania **1/2
See feature review. Available January 14 via Amazon Prime. (PG)

[not screened for press]
Another decade, another Ghostface. Available January 14 in theaters. (R)

Broken *1/2
It’s a tricky business you get into when you hire a great actor to be in your otherwise silly and forgettable movie. For one thing, there’s at least something reviewers can praise if you want a DVD quote; on the other hand, this actor can make everything else so bad. Soon-to-be-divorced tech millionaire Chris (Cameron Monaghan), now living alone in a secluded mountain mansion, meets a beautiful young woman named Sky (Lilly Krug), whose meeting Chris may not have been entirely coincidental. The ensuing sex-thriller twists and turns in genre specialist David Loughery’s script should be fairly obvious even if you come in cold, and director Luis Prieto creates real tension between the bump and the torture of the electric drill at times. At least there’s John Malkovich, who presents himself far too briefly as Sky’s horny, crazed owner, struggling with enough weirdness in his few scenes to at least prove entertaining. And that distraction is necessary, because between Monaghan and Krug, they can’t generate enough screen presence to punch up the story; Krug in particular is like a ceramic doll into which someone tried to insert the string recording of a femme fatale. 11am’s attempt to make Sky complicated and likable is just a reminder that maybe you should consider casting real actors – like John Malkovich – for the key roles, and not just the glorified cameos. Available January 14 in theaters and on VOD. (R)