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Movie Reviews: Meryl Streep’s taps into musical side, steals the show in ‘Ricki and the Flash’

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By Jay Bobbin

Starting this week

Ricki and the Flash

Meryl Streep effects another image change superbly by tapping into her musical side again in director Jonathan Demme’s (“The Silence of the Lambs”) and writer Diablo Cody’s (“Juno”) comedy-drama, casting her as a would-be rock star summoned back to the family she left behind to seek fame. Her daughter (played one of by Streep’s actual daughters, Mamie Gummer) is having an emotional meltdown, but the question remains of how much help Mom can be. Another revelation is actor-musician Rick Springfield, who holds his own with Streep as the current man in her character’s life. Kevin Kline also stars as her ex-husband. DVD extras: two “making-of” documentaries. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

American Ultra

A very unexpected CIA operative, played by Jesse Eisenberg, fuels this humor-tinged adventure that has bountiful action … much of it involving Eisenberg’s supposed-slacker character, who’s actually a sleeper agent targeted for elimination, with deeply implanted spy skills. He and his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart, reteamed from “Adventureland” with Eisenberg), go on the run, but he ultimately stands and delivers with the skills deeply embedded in him. Connie Britton (“Nashville”) is fun as another agent who lends assistance; the cast also includes Topher Grace, Walton Goggins (“Justified”), John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman and Tony Hale (“Veep”). DVD extras: two “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by director Nima Nourizadeh; outtakes. *** (R: AS, P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

No Escape

Moving abroad for work – and taking is family with him – proves to be a really bad idea for the businessman played by Owen Wilson in this frequently violent melodrama. Upon arriving in Southeast Asia with his wife (Lake Bell) and children, he finds himself enmeshed in a political rebellion – and his professional position makes him a particular target. Pierce Brosnan also appears as a mystery man who may be of help. DVD extras: audio commentary by writer-director John Erick Dowdle and writer-producer Drew Dowdle; deleted scenes; photo gallery. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Shaun the Sheep Movie

The character devised by the team behind “Wallace & Gromit” offers a feature-length version of his exploits, as Shaun decides to leave the farm and runs into complications in the city. All he wants to do is get back home, but that takes ingenuity and help from his friends to accomplish. Justin Fletcher voices the title character, with John Sparkes, Omid Djalili and Kate Harbour also in the vocal cast. DVD extras: four “making-of” documentaries; poster gallery. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Inside Amy Schumer: Season Three

Shown during a year when the comedian’s popularity exploded – encompassing her movie hit “Trainwreck” – this latest round of her Comedy Central series includes a much-praised takeoff on the classic trial drama “12 Angry Men,” with Paul Giamatti and Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”) among those as the jurors debating whether Schumer has a place on television. Another episode that got a lot of attention (and coined a certain phrase that can’t be repeated here) finds her having a meeting of the minds with Tina Fey, Julia Louise-Dreyfus, Patricia Arquette and others. *** (Not rated: AS, P)

Northpole: Open for Christmas

Coming to video just after its Hallmark Channel premiere, this sequel to last year’s fantasy returns Bailee Madison (`The Good Witch”) to her role as elf Clementine. Upon inheriting a relative’s rundown hotel, a woman (“Full House” alum Loughlin) decides to restore and sell it, but Clementine and some other elves – on a direct mission from Santa – try to inspire her to reconsider and save the jobs of the site’s staff, including the handyman (Dermot Mulroney) who’s helping her get the place back in shape. *** (Not rated)

Coming soon

Zoo: Season One (Dec. 1)

CBS’ miniseries, based on a novel co-written by James Patterson, puts animals on the warpath around the world; James Wolk and Kristen Connolly star. (Not rated: AS, P, V)

Ant-Man (Dec. 8)

A thief (Paul Rudd) becomes a scientist’s (Michael Douglas) test vehicle for a size-shrinking technology in this Marvel fantasy. (PG-13: AS, P, V)

Knock Knock (Dec. 8)

A family man (Keanu Reeves) comes to regret answering a knock at his door by two apparently stranded women. (R: AS, N, P, V)

Minions (Dec. 8)

The animated “Despicable Me” characters get their own movie, taking them to 1960s-era New York and London; voices include Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm. (PG: AS)

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Dec. 15)

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is an agent without an agency after the CIA shuts down his team. (PG-13: AS, P, V)

Ted 2 (Dec. 15)

The talking teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) runs into trouble in becoming an adoptive parent; Mark Wahlberg also returns. (R and unrated versions: AS, P)


FAMILY-VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.
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