1. Movies

What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

Saoirse Ronan in "Lady Bird." MUST CREDIT: Merie Wallace, A24
Published Nov. 25, 2017

Disney-Pixar's animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico's annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn't as good as its intentions.

Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) defies his family and runs away to be a musician after one abandoned his great-great-grandmother. The boy's quest leads to the afterlife, where his late singing idol (Benjamin Bratt) and a skeletal peasant (Gael García Bernal) pull the plot strings.

Click here to read a review (Grade C).

Richard Linklater does another "spiritual sequel," this time to Hal Ashby's 1973 classic The Last Detail based on Darryl Ponicsan's novel. Ponicsan's followup Last Flag Flying (R) inspires a movie trying too hard to dodge its past.

Bryan Cranston, right, does a mean Jack Nicholson impression as a man who's reunited with his Navy buddies (Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne). One's son was killed in Iraq and needs company on a road trip to Arlington and beyond.

Click here to read a review (Grade B-).

Don't miss Christopher Plummer's turn as Ebenezer Scrooge in The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG), now or every year on home video. This fanciful notion of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol is bound to become a holiday perennial.

Dan Stevens, above, makes a charming Dickens, struggling with debt and writer's block when the idea of a Christmas novel comes to him. In 1843, the holiday wasn't a big deal. His book made it so.

Click here to read a review (Grade B).

Denzel Washington, below left, stars as Roman J. Israel, Esq., (R) an old-school civil rights lawyer facing an ethical crisis. Colin Farrell co-stars in a courtrooom character study written and directed by Dan Gilroy, whose 2014 debut Nightcrawler was a nasty piece of business.

Click here to read a review (Grade C).

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is where Mildred Hayes vents grief over her daughter's rape and murder, and anger toward a police chief who hasn't solved the case. Ten words on stark canvases setting off a powder keg of poetic cruelty and unexpected redemption.

The setting and Martin McDonagh's movie are no country for weak women. No problem. As played ferociously by Frances McDormand, Mildred is no one to underestimate, not for her callousness or ease of violence when necessary, which is for her alone to decide.

Click here to read a review (Grade A).

Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird (R) is a different sort of delightful, like its first-time director in her day job as an indie cinema darling. Initially considered an acting and writing muse, Gerwig finds her own in Saoirse Ronan playing a version of the filmmaker's Sacramento youth.

Ronan's portrayal of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson has the makings of a Gen-Z hero, a rebel whose weapon of choice is stubborn irony. She gave herself the nickname, part of growing up spunky with parents who aren't. Lady Bird is bright, not book smart, a better person than those she won't hang around.

Lady Bird is determined to leave the family nest for a New York college without the grades or the blessing of her alpha mother (Laurie Metcalf). Her father (Tracy Letts) has been downsized at work and home. The McPherson family dynamics elicit the best of Gerwig's writing, bitter and sweet. The trio's bond is acrid yet unquestioned.

As assured as Lady Bird seems, she's still immature enough to allow a crush (Timothée Chalamet) to pull her away from a true friend (Beanie Feldstein) and impose a poseur (Odeya Rush). The right guy for her (Manchester by the Sea's Lucas Hedges) will get trampled in Lady Bird's rush to discover who she is and if that's enough.

Gerwig's movie doesn't say much new about growing up cool with parents who aren't. But it says plenty about Gerwig's talent, another channel for a distinctive voice of her generation. B+

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: One of 2017's best films. Review, Page 16

2 The Florida Project: Homeless children make their own magic in Disney World's shadow.

3 Lady Bird: Saoirse Ronan shines in Greta Gerwig's directing debut.

4 The Man Who Invented Christmas: Christopher Plummer isn't humbug as Ebenezer Scrooge.

5 Last Flag Flying: Richard Linklater's sequel of sorts to The Last Detail.


(Dates subject to change)

Dec. 1: He's Out There

Dec. 8: The Shape of Water; The Disaster Artist

Dec. 15: Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Ferdinand

Dec. 22: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; Pitch Perfect 3; Downsizing

Dec. 29: The Greatest Showman; Molly's Game


  1. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, shown here in the 1978 film "Grease," will make a Dec. 14 appearance in Tampa for a film sing-along and meet and greet with fans. AP
    The actors, who both have ties to the Tampa Bay area, will also do a question and answer session and meet some fans.
  2. Screenwriter Andy Warrener shows off a copy of his film "The Black String" available at a local Walmart. Andy Warrener
    Andy Warrener went from Civil War reenactor to screenwriter. ‘The Black String’ has two local screenings next week.
  3. Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times (2012)
    The expansion ‘fundamentally changes our business model,’ said the not-for-profit theater’s CEO.
  4. From left: Zoey Deutch, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in "Zombieland 2: Double Tap." JESSICA MIGLIO  |  Sony Pictures
    Plus, the ‘Jay & Silent Bob Reboot,’ Tampa Bay Latin Film Festival and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Western Stars.’
  5. Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in "Gemini Man." BEN ROTHSTEIN  |  Paramount Pictures
    ‘Jexi’ and ‘Mister America’ also open, plus you can also catch a trio of documentary screenings.
  6. In "Joker," Joaquin Phoenix plays an Arthur Fleck who has nothing to smile, let alone chuckle, about. Niko Tavernise
    And the portrait of madness is both bleak and glib. | Review
  7. Graham Kropp, 9 and his father Steve Kropp, both of Seminole, shop for Star Wars items at the Clearwater Target, 2747 Gulf To Bay Blvd, Friday, October 4, 2019 in the Disney Store section. Friday was the release of this year's Force Friday Star Wars products. Target sales associate Kat McCauley, right, offers them some Star Wars themed cup cakes.  SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    The “shop-in-shop” location is one of only 25 in the country and two in the state of Florida.
  8. In "Straight Up," Todd (director-actor James Sweeney) wants to try being straight with Rory (Katie Findlay). Not because Todd thinks being gay is bad. He just thinks he is bad at being gay. Courtesy of the Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    Wondering what to watch at the 30th annual festival? Let these reviews help.
  9. Set in the Philippines in the mid 1990s, "Billie & Emma" (2018) follows how smart, popular and pregnant Emma (Gabby Padilla, right) falls in love with Billie (Zar Donato), the new girl at her Catholic school. Courtesy of the Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    “Queer film, especially, is a really perfect time capsule," says an official of the festival starting Friday.
  10. Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in "Joker." Niko Tavernise
    The Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival opens, plus the Carrollwood Cultural Center pays homage to popular flicks through song.