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Review: 'Jack Reacher' sequel not as good as 2012 original

The first film, "Jack Reacher," established the title character as a brilliant, brutal loner dedicated to justice. He's a former military officer turned drifter, unfettered by emotional ties, motivated purely by exacting righteousness.

What makes an archetypal character like this fun to watch is an unpredictable story, where the audience and protagonist together uncover the mystery. The 2012 film achieved this beautifully, packing action into a compelling thriller that developed the villains as much as the hero.

In "Never Go Back," the bad guys are one-dimensional caricatures and the lone wolf is driven by protecting a teenager whom he insists from the start isn't his daughter. This leaves the film riding on its action sequences and the charm of its central characters, played by Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders. And while they're incredibly appealing, they can't do more than the story allows.

Cruise, who has made himself this generation's ultimate action star, is perfect as Jack Reacher. He's steely, strong and almost accidentally handsome. The ageless actor does most of his own stunts and effectively uses his eyes to convey his character's guarded sensitivity.

Smulders, who's played a small role in the "Avengers" films, proves herself an action star and leading lady as Susan Turner, an Army major who has taken over Reacher's post in the military police force. Turner is investigating the murders of two soldiers in Afghanistan when she's removed from her office and jailed on espionage charges.

Reacher comes to her aid, but another official warns him off, taunting him with a pending paternity lawsuit that claims Reacher fathered a now 15-year-old girl. Reacher denies it, but goes after the girl (Danika Yarosh) anyway. Suddenly, he'll do anything to protect her.

This contrivance undoes the suspension of disbelief. Nothing about Reacher's character suggests he's yearning for fatherhood, and yet she becomes his main motivation.

"Never Go Back" is based on Lee Child's 18th Reacher novel. The 2012 film was adapted from a much earlier work in the series, so perhaps Reacher's desire to be a dad is covered in the volumes in between.

The teenager is the pawn in this story as Reacher and Turner try to uncover corruption high in the military ranks. They find that beyond a cover-up of the soldiers' murders, crooked officials may be supplying weapons to insurgents in the Middle East. The villain appears to be a white guy in a suit with an American flag pin on his lapel, but he isn't named and doesn't speak until the film's third act.

Meanwhile, a trenchcoated heavy (Patrick Heusinger) is tailing Reacher, Turner and the teen. He's the catalyst for the chases and fight scenes, which director Edward Zwick cuts together so quickly, their grace is hard to appreciate.

Still, there are some breathtaking action sequences, including a chase through New Orleans' French Quarter that sees Reacher scaling wrought-iron balconies above a bustling Halloween parade on Bourbon Street.

Smulders handles her share of the action and holds her own with Cruise, which is great to see. Turner may be female, but her character's depth and strength matches Reacher's. With Smulders and Yarosh on camera almost as much as Cruise, "Never Go Back" doubles the number of key women from the 2012 film. If only the story was as good.

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements." Running time: 118 minutes. Two stars out of four.


MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at .

Actress pleads not guilty in North Dakota pipeline protest

Actress Shailene Woodley has pleaded not guilty in a North Dakota court to criminal trespass and riot charges after her arrest in a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Court records show the "Divergent" star entered her pleas on Tuesday through her attorney Alexander Reichert.

Woodley and 26 other activists were arrested Oct. 10. She livestreamed her protest on Facebook.

The Standing Rock Sioux want construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline halted, saying it could taint the water supply and encroach on tribal burial sites. Protests supporting the tribe have been going on for months.

Woodley could face 60 days in jail and $3,000 in fines if she is convicted of criminal trespass and engaging in a riot.

Michael Moore debuts film on Trump weeks before vote

Michael Moore has premiered a surprise film discussing the presidential election just three weeks before Americans head to the polls.

Moore debuted "Michael Moore in TrumpLand" in New York on Tuesday night in front of an audience of his fans.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film features Moore speaking about both Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on stage earlier this month in Wilmington, Ohio, a hotbed of Trump support.

The liberal documentarian urged the crowd at Tuesday's premiere to vote for Clinton next month.

The Hollywood Reporter says the film will screen for one week at the IFC Center in Manhattan beginning Wednesday. It will also be shown at a theater in Encino, California.

Moore says he hopes more theaters will be announced soon.

'TrumpLand': Michael Moore releases surprise Donald Trump documentary

Yet another October surprise has dropped, this time courtesy of filmmaker and Donald Trump critic Michael Moore.

>> Is Trump TV coming soon to a screen near you?

According to Time, "Michael Moore in TrumpLand," a documentary about the Republican presidential nominee, debuted Tuesday with a free screening at IFC Center in New York. 

>> Read more trending stories

Mashable reports that the film "is said to be an extension of a one-man play that Moore had planned to perform in Newark, Ohio." Moore said the community board at the theater there "banned" him from performing – a claim officials denied, saying they didn't approve the contract with Moore because of a rushed time frame and questions about the show, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

According to The New York Times, the documentary will hit the big screen in New York and Los Angeles for a week. Fans also can buy the film on iTunes starting Wednesday, Mashable reports.

Read more here.

Review: 'The Joneses' is another studio comedy misfire

It's now been more than 10 years since "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and five since "Bridesmaids." (Feel old yet?) There have, undoubtedly, been good comedies since, namely things with Melissa McCarthy in them, Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" and anything Wes Anderson is putting out. But there has been perhaps no greater casualty to the constrictions of blockbuster-centric Hollywood than comedy. The freedom necessary for comedy to thrive is mostly found on television; the action is with "Broad City," ''Atlanta," ''Inside Amy Schumer" and others.

Mottola, the director of "Adventureland" and "Superbad," has been at the center of comedy on both the big screen and on TV ("Arrested Development," the underrated "Clear History"), but "Keeping Up With the Joneses," written by Michael LeSieur ("You, Me and Dupree") doesn't have much of the naturalism that has distinguished his best.

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play Jeff and Karen Gaffney, a regular suburbanite couple experiencing an empty nest for the first time with their kids away at summer camp. An impossibly stylish and accomplished couple moves in next door, the Joneses (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot, taking a break from her Wonder Woman duties). He's a travel writer who can blow his own glass; she writes a cooking blog and wears cocktail dresses to neighborhood barbeques.

But what makes the Joneses most jealous of them is their easy affection with one another. Though its name is taken from the status-obsessed phrase first made famous by a 1913 comic strip and coopted by the Kardashians, this "Keeping Up With the Joneses" is a comedy about marital passion rekindled.

That the Joneses are putting up a facade is evident from the start, but the movie cleverly subverts the nature of their secret identities. They are elite government spies of some sort, but not as far removed from the normal squabbles and challenges of marriage as you might think.

The collision of international espionage thrills and quiet suburban life has become familiar by now thanks to the likes of "The Matador," ''Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "The Americans." When the bullets start flying, "Keeping Up With the Jones" has some moves of its own, thanks to the talents of Galifianakis (here playing a naive, aw-shucks character that limits him) and the always game Fisher. Only Hamm manages to create a three-dimensional character: a James Bond secretly yearning to be a regular guy.

But whatever is cramping the style of "Keeping Up With Joneses" — whether it's the PG-13 rating, the stock characters or a thin script — the feeling never leaves that everyone here could do better if they were really let loose. Alas, it's going to take more than Wonder Woman to save the studio comedy.

"Keeping Up With the Joneses," a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language." Running time: 101 minutes. Two stars out of four.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:

Emma Stone, Jane Curtin join Bill Murray tribute in DC

Emma Stone and Jane Curtin are late additions to the lineup of performers who'll celebrate Bill Murray when he receives the nation's top prize for humor.

The Kennedy Center announced Tuesday that Stone and Curtin will take the stage in honor of Murray on Sunday night. Murray is this year's recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Curtin performed alongside Murray on "Saturday Night Live." Stone co-starred with him in the little-seen movie "Aloha."

Also new to the lineup are musician Rhiannon Giddens and Ivan Reitman, who directed Murray in "Ghostbusters." Murray's co-star in that movie, Dan Aykroyd, has dropped out of the event. The Kennedy Center says he has a scheduling conflict.

Previously announced performers include David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver and Aziz Ansari.

5 Things to Know about the Smithsonian's ruby slippers

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has launched a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter to preserve the ruby slippers from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz." The museum hopes to raise $300,000 in a month. Here are five things to know about the famous relic:

— THEY'RE NOT THE ONLY PAIR: At least seven pairs of slippers were made for the movie, and four pairs are known to exist. The Smithsonian's pair was donated anonymously in 1979 after being sold at auction in 1970. Two other pairs are owned by private collectors, including a pair purchased by Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg for display at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opens next year in Los Angeles. A fourth pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005, and remains at large.

— THEY'RE MISMATCHED: One shoe is wider than the other, and there are other subtle differences in their shape and construction. Each has Garland's name scrawled on the inside. One is marked as "#1," the other as "#6."

— NO RUBIES: The shoes are made from about a dozen different materials, including wood pulp, silk thread, gelatin, plastic and glass. Most of the ruby color comes from sequins, but the bows of the shoes contain red glass beads. They began as ordinary shoes that were dyed red, and a netting with the sequins was fitted for them and sewn on. They have felt on the soles to muffle their sound for dance sequences.

— NOT MADE TO LAST: The shoes are nearly 80 years old, and like most movie props, they weren't built to last. During their time at the museum, the color has faded significantly from exposure to light and moisture. Some of the sequins have no red plastic coating left and are no longer translucent.

— COSTLY PRESERVATION: If the Smithsonian successfully raises $300,000, most of the money will go toward scientific research and construction of a special case that will keep them from deteriorating further. The shoes will also be cleaned, but nothing will be done to enhance their color or repair them with newer materials.

Review: A boy comes of age in achingly powerful 'Moonlight'

child, teenager and young adult.

This is no "Boyhood," however. There are three actors portraying Chiron (surely to be a Sophie's Choice come awards season), and although it takes a bit of imagination to accept the three as the same person, "Moonlight" feels somehow even more poignant than that 12-year experiment. That's no small feat, and perhaps that's because of the power of the subject and its exploration of the gayness of an African American man.

But Jenkins has also accomplished something truly extraordinary in that "Moonlight" feels as real and raw and vague and specific as a memory. That this all coalesces into a coherent and impactful story is a testament to his singular talent — not to mention how wildly different it is from his debut, "Medicine for Melancholy."

Jenkins adapted "Moonlight" from Tarell Alvin McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue." The subject, Chiron (played first by the promising newcomer Alex Hibbert) is introduced as a wisp of a boy in a rough, sunny neighborhood. He's being chased by some kids when he finds refuge in a blighted apartment. An adult on the streets notices the scene and comes to Chiron's aid, coaxing him out of hiding and back into the world.

Something is not right with this quiet little boy and this man, Juan (a powerful standout Mahershala Ali), and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe) are generous and well off enough to help. We soon find out that Chiron is indeed from an unstable home. His mother, Paula (Naomie Harris, showing grit and substance) is fiercely protective of her little boy when she's alert, but she's also a full blown addict. It's a condition that only worsens with time.

Thus, Chiron bumbles back and forth between the nurturing hominess of basic strangers, the coldness of school and the ugliness of his mother's place. There's also the uncomfortable truth that Paula buys her drugs from Juan's men. His savoir is the reason he needs saving.

The raw edges of his life are even more frayed when we meet up with him again as a teenager. Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders) has shot up like a reed, but not yet out. His stature and quietude make him even more of a target for the hulking, clique-y boys around him, who bully and taunt him with glee.

It's only Kevin (played by Jaden Piner as a child, Jharrel Jerome as a teen and André Holland as an adult) who provides any sort of friendship throughout his life. In the teenage section, the two share an intense and passionately physical connection one night on the beach — an interaction that, however fleeting, will follow him for years.

A moment of rage stemming from the newly awakened Chiron will define the next chapter of his life, too. But I'll refrain from describing this third part. It's a transformation that's best experienced, and it's one that left my heart in pieces.

"Moonlight" is not propelled by story so much as atmosphere — a melancholy blend of music, careful imagery and colors and repeating motifs that will linger in your mind long after the credits roll. It's one of the most exciting character studies in recent memory and one that will endure beyond the politics and impermanence of awards season.

Hopefully it doesn't take Jenkins another eight years to make a film. But we can take comfort in the very strong likelihood that, even if it does, it will be well worth the wait.

"Moonlight," an A24 release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout." Running time: 110 minutes. Four stars out of four.


MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter:

The top 10 movies on the iTunes Store

iTunes Movies US Charts:

1. Ghostbusters (2016)

2. The Infiltrator

3. The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

4. Central Intelligence

5. X-Men: Apocalypse

6. Star Trek Beyond

7. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

8. Ice Age: Collision Course

9. Dirty Grandpa (Unrated)

10. Jack Reacher

iTunes Movies US Charts - Independent:

1. The Infiltrator

2. Hello, My Name Is Doris

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

4. Blue Jay

5. Captain Fantastic

6. Our Kind of Traitor

7. Blood Father

8. The Fourth Phase

9. Swiss Army Man

10. A Most Wanted Man


(copyright) 2016 Apple Inc.

Tom Cruise accompanies Jack Reacher to Tennessee for charity

A screening of Tom Cruise's new film brought the actor to Knoxville, Tennessee, where it raised $600,000 for the Children's Charity of Eastern Tennessee.

Media outlets report the fundraiser was held Monday night at the Pinnacle 18 theater in Turkey Creek. The event included live music, a catered meal, some time for attendees to interact with Cruise on the carpet outside the theater and an advance screening of Cruise's new film, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back."

About a thousand people attended the event, which raised $600,000 for the Children's Charity of Eastern Tennessee. Also known as Variety of Eastern Tennessee, the organization raises money for numerous organizations that serve at-risk children.

The movie is a sequel to the 2012 film "Jack Reacher." It hits theaters on Friday.

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