Oscar-winning filmmaker Damien Chazelle wants to have it both ways. He wants “Babylon” to be a celebration of the decadent excesses of Old Hollywood as well as a condemnation of the era. It doesn’t work. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie are fine in this overly ambitious epic that focuses on the awkward period of transition from silent film to talkies. It plays like a lewd and salacious re-invention of “Singing in the Rain.” The last scenes go completely off the rails. “Babylon” is way too much and not enough at the same time.
A strong performance from Naomi Ackie and a killer soundtrack elevate the otherwise standard showbiz biopic, “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” The singer’s tragic life story should have been much more compelling, but thanks to that voice and those songs, it’s still an entertaining tribute to the pop music diva.
The animated sequel “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is exactly what you’d expect. Antonio Banderas is back as the voice of the swashbuckling feline but this time, he realizes that he’s used up eight of his nine lives. It’s a pleasant enough time-waster for undiscerning kids.
Impressive performances from Brendan Fraser and a solid supporting cast make the stagey drama “The Whale” worth a look. Fraser plays Charlie, a morbidly obese gay man who struggles to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Frasier is getting most of the attention, but Sadie Sink is one of the best young actors working today and all her scenes work. Hong Chau is fine as Charlie’s nurse and Samantha Morton impresses in the brief role of Charlie’s ex-wife. Thanks to the cast, “The Whale” manages to mine some pathos despite its dispiriting story.