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A Simple Favor,

directed by Paul Feig

(R, 1 hour, 57 minutes)

Funny, conniving and gleefully vicious, A Simple Favor focuses on the astounding depths to which some will sink to take advantage of others -- as long as there's a hefty payoff.

It centers around youngish suburban widow Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), a too-perky mommy blogger whose enthusiasm for volunteering and being cheerfully bossy does not endear her to other parents at her young son's school. So she's flattered and delighted to catch the attention of newcomer Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), a stylish, sophisticated knockout with a career in fashion, a devil-may-care attitude, a gorgeous contemporary house, a talent for cursing, and a handsome, sexy novelist husband (Henry Golding).

The women, despite appearing to be an odd couple, bond over afternoon martinis. They share nasty little secrets about themselves. They become each other's support group.

So when Emily, also a mother of a little boy (but not nearly as helicopter-ish as Stephanie) asks Stephanie to keep an eye on her little guy after play dates, Stephanie gladly agrees, cooking the children healthy suppers and creating original and educational entertainments to keep them amused.

Then, following one such play date, Emily disappears. And Stephanie slowly discovers that Emily isn't who she appears to be. But, it turns out, neither is Stephanie. That's when the film, already ridiculous but intriguing, takes off at a spectacular pace into a tornado of twists, betrayals, lies, revelations, criminal behaviors and revenge.

None of it makes any sense, but that doesn't mean the suspense and surprises aren't worth watching.

With Linda Cardellini, Eric Johnson, Rupert Friend, Jean Smart. Blu-ray and DVD special features include three audio commentaries with the cast and crew, eight featurettes, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and a flash mob.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls (PG, 1 hour, 45 minutes) A fantasy that's likely to appeal to preteen boys (and maybe a few others), this sometimes funny, sometimes frightening tale from Eli Roth (Hostel) concerns young orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) who aids his magical uncle in locating a clock with the power to bring about the end of the world. With Roth, Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan, Jack Black, Colleen Camp.

Air Strike (R, 1 hour, 37 minutes) Watch this cliche-ridden actioner for its extravagant fighting sequences, but don't expect any brilliant storytelling. Bruce Willis stars as a U.S. Army colonel who, during World War II, trains Chinese aviators to take on Japanese fighters. With Ye Liu, William Wai-Ting Chan, Adrien Brody, Rumer Willis; directed by Xiao Feng.

Assassination Nation (R, 1 hour, 48 minutes) High school seniors demonstrate how too much electronic messaging, hacking, taking of selfies, and online chats can lead to mass destruction. That's when four unlikely would-be heroines rise to the occasion. Female vengeance just might save the day! With Bill Skarsgard, Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse; written and directed by Sam Levinson.

Transformer (not rated, 1 hour, 18 minutes) No, not Transformers. This is a finely executed, highly watchable observational documentary about former U.S Marine and world record weightlifter Matt "Kroc" Kroczaleski, who in 2015 was publicly outed as being transgender. After she changed her name to Janae, the world she knew ran the other way: sponsors left, parents disowned her, and she was banned from competing. How to cope? Watch and see how all that strength pays off in unexpected ways. Written and directed by Michael Del Monte.

A Simple Favor

MovieStyle on 12/21/2018

Print Headline: Home Movies

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