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Reel Time

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Here’s a new take on a timeless Christmas classic. It is getting to be the worst of times for Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) in 1843 London. His publishers are unhappy since his last three novels failed. His wife, Kate (Morfydd Clark), is renovating their home while debts are piling up. Worst of all, Dickens is beset by a severe case of writer’s block.

When he asks for an advance on his next novel, his publishers want to know what it will be about. Out of nowhere, Dickens says it will be about Christmas. One publisher scoffs at the idea because it is a forgotten holiday. And this becomes the seed for perhaps the most famous Christmas tale ever: A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas.

Dickens listens to the family’s Irish maid, Tara (Anna Murphy), tell stories to his kids. The author also takes in the sight of poor childrenÑand one sickly child in particular. The framework for his story begins to take shape. His parents arrive for a visit, but Charles wants his feckless father, John (Jonathan Pryce), to leave. But the son has a change of heart and, thus, the theme of A Christmas Carol is found.

This timely Christmas release is filled with humor, imagination, and the challenges of being a writer. It tells the story of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), three ghosts, and his dead partner, Marley (Donald Sumpter). Directed by Bharat Nalluri, the film is brilliantly written for the screen by Susan Coyne. Stevens gives a charming performance as Dickens.

Not yet rated, PG ♦ Mature themes.

Coco

Coco

Pixar’s latest begins in the village of Santa Cecilia in Mexico as the people are preparing to celebrate D’a de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). It is the day when each family remembers relatives who have died by preparing a table with photos and mementos. Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is very excited when he finds a guitar that belonged to Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), whom he believes to be his great-great-grand-father. His grandmother (Renee Victor) is upset and smashes the guitar while his elderly bisabuela (great-grandmother), Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murgu’a), rocks in her chairÑlost in her memories.

Miguel doesn’t know why his family no longer sings or plays music, but he knows it has something to do with his ancestors. That night, Miguel goes to the cemetery and takes the guitar from de la Cruz’s resting place. This leads him on a long night’s journey to the Land of the Dead, where family secrets are revealed.

Coco is a beautiful animated film that resonates with Catholic sensibilities, including the images of the cross and Our Lady of Guadalupe in the home. Themes of faith, love, prayer for the dead, and generational forgiveness abound. The ending will surprise you while the gentle, plaintive song “Remember Me ” will stay with you for days after.

Not yet rated, PG • Some scary images.

The Square

The Square

Single father Christian (Claes Bang) is the chief curator of a modern art museum in Sweden. He tries to explain the high-concept art to an American critic, Anne (Elizabeth Moss), but fails. He then hires a marketing company to promote a new social awareness exhibit, “The Square, ” which is supposed to be “a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it, we all share equal rights and obligations. “

But events challenge Christian’s high social morals. After getting robbed on the way to work, he goes to strange and extreme lengths to get his wallet and phone back. The marketing company creates a viral video that has dire consequences for Christian. He sleeps with Anne, who thinks that he cares about her, but he barely remembers who she is.

This slow-starting film picks up speed and action to effectively show the layers of racism in social relationships and the chaos caused by our own inconsistencies in how we see other people. The performance art by Terry Notary imitating a chimpanzee during a formal dinner is revealing.

The Square is in Swedish and English with English subtitles.

Not yet rated, R • Sexuality, mature themes.

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