‘Kidnap’: Abductors are no match for Halle Berry

‘’Kidnap,’’ in which a working-class single mom chases down her little boy’s abductors, is the latest B-movie vehicle for Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry. It’s a serviceable thriller: nothing more, nothing less.

In many ways, the setup is more preposterous than all the mayhem that follows the child snatching. Berry plays Karla, an impossibly beautiful and wonderful mother who works as a waitress at a tacky diner. She seems buoyant as ever as she drives her impossibly cute kid, Frankie (Sage Correa), to a fair.

Then comes the phone call. Karla’s ex has decided he wants full custody of Frankie, and a distracted Karla loses sight of her boy, who of course likes to hide from her. The redneck kidnappers, who would raise eyebrows at even an NRA convention, need only a millisecond to abduct Frankie in front of hundreds of people, and there are no witnesses.

Fortunately for Karla, the knucklehead kidnappers are frightfully slow in their getaway, and she spots them in the parking lot. Inconveniently — or conveniently, if you are the screenwriter — Karla drops her phone as she begins her pursuit, eliminating the possibility of 911 calls.

Despite the pileup of implausibility at the beginning, the film rallies by quickly cutting to the chase, and within minutes, Karla finds herself in a frantic race on the freeways of Louisiana. The entire police force of the state seems to be at Mardi Gras, but otherwise, the frenetic set-pieces are reasonably realistic, and it’s refreshing to see true stunt work rather than an over-reliance on computer-generated imagery.

The kidnappers, who clearly missed Berry’s 2013 thriller, ‘’The Call,’’ are not the sharpest tools in the shed, and we know from the get-go that they will be no match for Karla when she gets her hands on them. This contributes to an aura of predictability that hangs over the proceedings, though there are a few clever turns during some of the chase sequences.

Director Luis Prieto is wise to keep the camera fixated on Berry, who delivers a sturdy performance in which she is under extreme duress for almost the entire film. This is pulpy material, but Berry gives it her all. The only time she falters is when she talks to herself in the car, becoming an on-the-nose narrator more than a character. It’s too bad that Hollywood has still not figured out how to use this actress better.

Like ‘’Taken,’’ which this movie most closely resembles, ‘’Kidnap’’ derives much of its power from our natural instincts to protect children at all costs, and many in the audience are likely to respond to it on that level. This is a film that keeps it simple: Don’t cross a mother, or she’ll hunt you down.

‘Kidnap’

**

Rated R: For violence and peril.

Starring: Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn.

Director: Luis Prieto.

Running time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Playing: Areawide.

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‘Brigsby Bear’ is a funny, strange ode to creativity and healing

At least James Pope was kidnapped by a couple who thought ahead.

While being raised from baby to man inside a survivalist bunker in the Utah desert, James’ intellect and imagination were constantly stimulated by the adventures of “Brigsby Bear,” a big cuddly teddy who taught life lessons and advanced calculus while battling space villains in a cheesy sci-fi TV series that, unbeknownst to James, was never seen by anyone else but him. James’ loving, abducting “dad” produced the show with minimal means at a nearby warehouse.

That’s the setup for the melancholy comic drama also called “Brigsby Bear,” which takes a simultaneously serious and deadpan facetious look at post-hostage trauma and is somehow also a heartwarming delight.

“Saturday Night Live’s” Kyle Mooney strikes a perfect pitch of bemused geekiness as James, who, after being rescued from the happy captivity he’s always known and reunited with his unfamiliar real family (Matt Walsh’s concerned father, Michaela Watkins’ emotional mother, Ryan Simpkins’ teen sister, who’s mortified to suddenly have this awkward adult brother), really only wants to see the next episode of his favorite program.

Of course, that’s also James’ defense mechanism against this big, new outer world full of terrifying strangeness — and the occasional pleasing discovery of friendly party buddies and friendlier girls intrigued by his potentially sexy damage. But he’s also dedicated his life to poring over the internal logic and deep inner meaning of the “Brigsby” episodes, and like a hopeless “Star Trek” or “Doctor Who” addict, he’s not about to give up his religion (it’s instructive that James’ “real dad” is played by Mark Hamill). So when he finally understands the reality behind what he’s watched all his life, James sets about doing what any true believer would feel they had to: Making his own “Brigsby Bear” movie.

The resulting production process is hilarious, and a nourishing mutual bonding experience with those who choose to help this naïve, would-be Gene Roddenberry. Of course, there are genuine obstacles, both societal and mental, to be overcome every step of the way. First-time feature director Dave McCary, an “SNL” colleague of Mooney’s, does an impressive job of keeping us on James’ side while worrying about his stability from start to finish. McCary also knows how to quietly stage devastating encounters; the diner scene is a thing of aching beauty, underplayed with gut-wrenching commitment by Mooney and Kate Lyn Sheil.

“Brigsby Bear” is a cockeyed valentine to creativity, obsession, healing and acceptance. I know that makes it sound terrible, but it’s too raucously funny and subconsciously disturbing to feel as sappy as it probably is. It’s a show that will no doubt reward multiple viewings.

‘Brigsby Bear’

/*/*/*1/2

Rated PG-13: For sex, drug use, language

Starring: Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Ryan Simpkins, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, Kate Lyn Sheil

Director: Dave McCary

Running time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Playing: Areawide

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Besson’s ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ more fun than flawed

Few cinephiles would accuse Luc Besson of being a master storyteller.

The French auteur’s greatest strength is visuals, his films — the most recent being 2014’s uneven “Lucy,” starring Scarlett Johansson — generally look very cool and slick even if they don’t always draw you into what’s going on in them or keep you enthralled for the duration. A good example of this is 1997’s “The Fifth Element,” a work of sci-fi that has its share of admirers due to the over-the-top goings-on that dazzle the eyes.

Besson’s latest work is another slice of science-fiction, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” based on the decades-old French comic series “Valérian and Laureline.” Its story isn’t always coherent, but “Valerian” is, for the most part, an enjoyable adventure with, yes, some nifty visuals.

Written and directed by Besson and set centuries in the future, “Valerian” defies at least one expectation in a very appealing way when it comes to its attractive lead characters, space operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). While the former predictably pursues his professional partner romantically in an aggressive way and she fends him off because she doesn’t believe he’s ready to eschew his freewheeling bachelor ways for a serious, committed relationship, both of them — not just him — are recklessly fly-by-the-seat-of-their-spacepants types when it comes to the job. He didn’t read a briefing before a big mission? Does this anger her? Heck no — neither did she!

That shared thirst for adventure, along with an endearing and fierce loyalty to one another on the job, goes a long way in powering “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

Although the film begins with a lengthy prologue that takes us through a centuries-long history of a space station built by earth but eventually sent into space when its weight threatened to cause it to fall out of orbit, the adventure largely concerns a mysterious race of bald, thin and elegant humanoids who first appear to Valerian in a dream. These beautiful people and their lovely, energy-rich world understandably fascinate him.

But one of his and Laureline’s superiors, Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen), seems to be invested in keeping as many people in the dark as possible when it comes to this race, including the two agents. Nonetheless, their adventure brings them closer and closer to this people and their princess, who seems to be linked to Valerian in some way.

At one point, Laureline will have to risk much to rescue her partner, and later the situation is reversed. Seemingly nothing will keep these two apart, so we can’t help but wonder how long Laureline will be able to keep things strictly professional — even if she doesn’t like Valerian dreaming of some bald alien babe.

Like many other modern action movies, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a slice of attention-deficit theater. Our heroes seldom do anything for more than, say, five minutes, Besson stacking mini adventure on top of mini adventure for most of the film. But, unlike some other movies that do this — hey, “Transformers: The Last Knight,” we’re looking in your general direction — the action isn’t so bombastic and mind-numbing that you tune out. It manages to be continually fun.

All that said, it does run low on fuel by the final stretch. In fact, about three-fourths of the way through “Valerian,” the movie’s namesake enjoys a one-woman/multiple-outfit burlesque show by a shape-shifting alien portrayed by popstar/actress Rihanna, and it never reaches its previous highs after that. Hey, maybe there’s just nowhere to go but down after Rihanna.

DeHaan (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “A Cure for Wellness”) continues to impress with this effort, even if he’s probably too often low-key here. He seemingly can’t help but be interesting on screen, which helps lift his character to something at least slightly above-average. And Delevingne, who’s also a model, gets a better showcase for her talents than 2016’s messy “Suicide Squad,” in which she portrayed the Enchantress. Like DeHaan, she brings something a little interesting to “Valerian.” Most importantly, they are enjoyable as a package deal.

At nearly two hours and 20 minutes, Besson lets “Valerian” run a little long, but he does deliver on the promises of strong visuals — at least strong enough, especially in the optional 3-D. In this future, humanity has the ability to operate in multiple dimensions in the same place, allowing for a very inventive sequence early in the movie where Valerian infiltrates a huge marketplace on a planet that can be accessed in a parallel dimension. While he is there, Laureline and other member of a strike force coordinate with him nearby but, in a sense, another universe away. It’s pretty heady stuff, and it’s well-executed by Besson.

Ultimately, we wouldn’t mind further adventures with Valerian and Laureline. That could be a tall order, however. Besson has stated that for a sequel to be green-lit, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” will have to make roughly twice what it cost to make — and its budget of about $180 million is said to be the biggest ever for a French film.

Hmmm, wonder how much of that went to Rihanna. Possibly not enough.

‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

**1/2

Rated PG-13: For  sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language.

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen.

Director: Luc Besson.

Running time: 2 hours, 17 min.

Playing: Areawide.

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Movies in theaters June 16-22

Film guide for box-office releases and ongoing movies

From news services

NEW THIS WEEK

“The Book of Henry” (PG-13) (for thematic elements and brief strong language) This appealing, quirky tale of a single mother’s loving relationship with her two young sons goes off the rails when it turns into a vigilante thriller. (The New Times) 1 hour, 45 minutes. Grade: **

“Cars 3” (G) Aging race car Lightning McQueen faces a midlife crisis in a sequel that is fun and dazzlingly animated but lacks the magic of Pixar’s more tender touchstones. (The Associated Press) 1 hour, 49 minutes. Grade: **

“Rough Night” (R) (for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images) Despite its funny moments, this comedy about four women on a wild bachelorette weekend who accidentally kill someone and try to get away with it is too dark to stomach. (The Associated Press) 1 hour, 49 minutes: Grade: **

CONTINUING

‘3 Idiotas’: (PG-13) (for some rude humor and brief strong language) A group of friends embark on a fun adventure determined to find a college roommate who disappeared without a trace on graduation day. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 46 minutes.

‘Alien: Covenant’: (R) (for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity) What was once a slithery straightforward monster movie in space has mutated into an impressively ambitious but overly ornate saga with a general sense of deja vu. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 2 minutes. Grade: ** 1/2

‘Baywatch’: (R) (for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity) This raunchy spoof of the ‘90s TV show about a group of buff and beautiful crime-solving lifeguards is unwieldy, derivative and mostly unfunny. (The Associated Press) 1 hour, 56 minutes. Grade: * 1/2

‘Beauty and the Beast’: (PG) (for some action violence, peril and frightening images) Live-action adaptation of the animated classic is equal parts dispiriting and enchanting: overflowing in handsome craft, but missing a spirit inside. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 9 minutes. Grade: ** 1/2

‘The Boss Baby’: (PG) (for some mild rude humor) Animated comedy about how a new baby’s arrival can upend a family, told from the viewpoint of an older sibling, is sabotaged by pointless side plots. (The San Francisco Chronicle) 1 hour, 37 minutes. Grade: **

‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’: (PG) (for mild rude humor throughout) Animated feature about students hypnotizing their principal into thinking he’s a superhero is a little too dark, a little too nihilistic and not quite funny enough to forgive its weaknesses. (The New York Times) 1 hour, 29 minutes. Grade: *

‘Churchill’: (PG) (for thematic elements, brief war images, historical smoking throughout, and some language) Historical saga that follows the British prime minister over the course of several days leading up to the D-Day invasion is neither insightful nor entertaining. (The New York Times) 1 hour, 38 minutes. Grade: * 1/2

‘Dean’: (PG-13) (for language and some suggestive material) A comedy about loss, grief and the redemptive power of love, Dean is an NY illustrator who falls hard for an LA woman while trying to prevent his father from selling the family home in the wake of his mother’s death. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 27 minutes.

‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul’ (PG) (for some rude humor) In addition to endlessly annoying, barely sympathetic characters, this deeply unfunny family road trip film has gross-out jokes to rival the R-rated “Vacation” remake. (The Associated Press) 1 hour, 31 minutes. Grade: 1/2

‘Everything, Everything’: (PG-13) (for thematic elements and brief sensuality) A teenager who’s lived a sheltered life because she’s allergic to everything, falls for the boy who moves in next door. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 36 minutes.

‘The Fate of the Furious’: (PG-13) (for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language) The action in this sequel satisfies, even if the lines veer past campy into full-on cheese territory and the story is hazier than the smoke from a broken tailpipe. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 16 minutes. Grade: ** 1/2

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’: (PG-13) (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content) Powered by dazzling visuals and irreverent humor, this sequel to Marvel’s swashbuckling space Western is even wilder and more inspired than its predecessor. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 16 minutes. Grade: ***

‘How to be a Latin Lover’: (PG-13) (for crude humor, sexual references and gestures, and for brief nudity) Finding himself dumped after 25 years of marriage, a man who made a career of seducing rich older women must move in with his estranged sister, where he begins to learn the value of family. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 55 minutes.

‘It Comes At Night’: (R) (for violence, disturbing images, and language) A well-crafted psychological thriller about an isolated family of survivalists who fall victim to doubt and paranoia when their protected fortress is threatened. (The Associated Press) 1 hour, 37 minutes. Grade: ***

‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’: (PG-13) (for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language) Director Guy Ritchie reimagines the Excalibur myth for a modern “Game of Thrones” audience in this reasonably entertaining if somewhat forgettable CGI-laden offering. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 6 minutes. Grade: **

‘The Lovers’: (R) (for sexuality and language) A long-married, dispassionate couple who are both in the midst of serious affairs are on the brink of calling it quits, before a spark between them suddenly reignites, leading them into an impulsive romance. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 34 minutes.

‘Lowriders’: (PG-13) (for language, some violence, sensuality, thematic elements and brief drug use) A young street artist in East Los Angeles is caught between his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture, his ex-felon brother and his need for self-expression. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 39 minutes.

‘Megan Leavey’: (PG-13) (for war violence, language, suggestive material, and thematic elements) This true story of a Marine and her combat dog is really about love — the real, actual, soul-nurturing, life-expanding kind that can happen between a human and an animal. (The New York Times) 1 hour, 56 minutes. Grade: ***

‘The Mummy’: (PG-13) (for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity) Tom Cruise is a poor fit as a soldier of fortune who battles an ancient evil princess released from her crypt in this convoluted mishmash. (The Associated Press) 1 hour, 50 minutes. Grade: * 1/2

‘My Cousin Rachel’: (PG-13) (for some sexuality and brief strong language) A young Englishman plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin, believing that she murdered his guardian. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 46 minutes.

‘Paris Can Wait’: (PG) (for thematic elements, smoking and some language) A woman takes a car trip from Cannes to Paris with a business associate of her husband. What should be a seven-hour drive turns into a carefree two-day adventure replete with diversions. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 32 minutes.

‘Past Life’: (Not rated) Tracks the daring late 1970s odyssey of two sisters – an introverted classical musician and a rambunctious scandal sheet journalist – as they unravel a shocking wartime mystery that has cast a dark shadow on their entire lives. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 49 minutes.

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’: (PG-13) (for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content) This weary, battered fifth chapter in the franchise is high on CGI tricks but has a hopelessly muddled plot and recurring characters basically running on fumes. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 9 minutes. Grade: *

‘Radio Dreams’: (Not rated) A brilliant and misunderstood Iranian writer struggles to pursue his ambitious goal of bringing together Metallica and Kabul Dreams, Afghanistan’s first rock band. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 33 minutes.

‘Snatched’: (R) (for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout) When her boyfriend dumps her before their exotic vacation, a young woman persuades her ultra-cautious mother to travel with her to paradise, with unexpected results. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 30 minutes.

‘The Wedding Plan’: (PG) (for thematic elements) When her fiancé bows out on the eve of her wedding, Michal refuses to cancel the wedding arrangements. An Orthodox Jew, she insists that God will supply her a husband, as the clock ticks down. (imdb.com) 1 hour, 50 minutes.

‘Wonder Woman’: (PG-13) (for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content) This coming-of-age story about how a naive Amazonian princess becomes Wonder Woman isn’t perfect, but it’s often good, sometimes great and exceptionally re-watchable. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 21 minutes. Grade: ***

‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’: (PG-13) (for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking) A riveting and inspiring real-life story about a zookeeper and his wife who saved hundreds of Jews in Poland during World War II by secretly giving them refuge on zoo grounds. (The Associated Press) 2 hours, 4 minutes. Grade: ***

Rating system

G: All ages admitted

PG: Parental guidance suggested. All ages admitted

PG-13: Parental guidance suggested; not recommended for younger than 13

R: Restricted. Those younger than 17 not admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian

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