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Copyright Paramount 2016

Copyright Paramount 2016

Tom Cruise is back in a second “Jack Reacher” movie, based on the hard-boiled series by Lee Child. Jack Reacher is a quintessential and perfectly named fantasy action hero — former military but resistant to authority, capable of instant assessment of threats and options, crackerjack fighting skills, and no strings of any kind. He has no home, no family, no ID other than an expired military card, no car, no bank account, no possessions, just a passion for justice and a knack for getting into and out of trouble. And the equally perfectly named Cruise, capable of challenging himself as an actor but apparently not at the moment very interested in it, except maybe physically, is just right for Reacher, a bit world-weary but ever-righteous. He still runs very fast and looks good with his shirt off.

We first see Reacher in a diner with his hands cuffed behind his back, a bit scuffed up but characteristically steely. A sheriff informs him he is about to be arrested and charged with felony assault of the men lying injured on the ground. He coolly informs the officers that the pay phone is about to ring and that it is the sheriff who will soon be wearing the cuffs. The officer’s derisive snort is barely over before the phone rings, and sure enough, Reacher is right again.

He has solved a problem for the military (we won’t worry about the various laws — and bones — he broke on the way), and thanking him is his successor as overseer of an investigative unit, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders of “How I Met Your Mother” and “Avengers”). They do a little phone flirting, and he decides to go see her in DC, only to find she has just been arrested for espionage. So, now Reacher has what he loves best, an injustice that only he can make right, of such an order of magnitude that it is certain to provide many opportunities for mayhem. But there is one problem that is, for a change, entirely outside of his ability to shoot, punch, or evade. Turner’s military attorney conveniently agrees to meet with Reacher (in an officer’s club, surrounded by pretty much everyone who might be interested), and he conveniently happens to have Reacher’s file with him as well, and helpfully shows Reacher the paperwork showing that a woman had filed a child support request with the military because she said the father of her teenage daughter was Jack Reacher. The same bad guys who are after Maj. Turner are after the girl, so Reacher ends up on the run with both Turner and his possible daughter Sam (Danika Yarosh).

Pairing up again with Edward Zwick (“The Last Samurai”) and with a script by Zwick and his “thirtysomething” partner Marshall Herskovitz (with Richard Wenk), Cruise stays right in his “Mission Impossible” action hero sweet spot. The interplay with Sam gives a little balance and emotional weight to the various fight scenes and shoot-outs, without diminishing the appeal of the ever-able hero with no strings.

Parents should know that the violence in this film is borderline R with very intense action and fight scenes, chases, fights, shoot-outs and explosions, torture, hired killers, corruption, many characters injured and killed, threat of rape, some strong language.

Family discussion: How was military training and experience reflected in the choices made by both the good and bad guys in this movie? What did Jack want the answer to be about Sam?

If you like this, try: the earlier “Jack Reacher” film and the “Bourne” series

The movie awards season officially begins with the announcement of the nominations for the Gotham awards. While not all of the awards contenders are out yet (I’m expecting to see “La La Land” and “Fences” do well), this is a good indicator of the direction we are likely to see this year. I was especially happy to see one of my favorites of the year, “Everybody Wants Some!!” on the list, and the special ensemble award for the extraordinary cast of “Moonlight.”

Best Feature

Certain Women
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (IFC Films)

Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater, director; Megan Ellison, Ginger Sledge, Richard Linklater, producers (Paramount Pictures)

Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan, director; Kimberly Steward, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin J. Walsh, producers (Amazon Studios)

Barry Jenkins, director; Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, producers (A24)

Jim Jarmusch, director; Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan, producers (Amazon Studios)

Best Documentary

Kirsten Johnson, director; Marilyn Ness, producer (Janus Films)

I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck, director; Rémi Grellety, Raoul Peck, Hébert Peck, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

O.J.: Made in America
Ezra Edelman, director; Caroline Waterlow, Ezra Edelman, Tamara Rosenberg, Nina Krstic, Deirdre Fenton, Erin Leyden, producers (ESPN Films)

Keith Maitland, director; Keith Maitland, Megan Gilbride, Susan Thomson, producers (Kino Lorber, Independent Lens)

Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg, directors and producers (Sundance Selects and Showtime Documentary Films)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Robert Eggers for The Witch (A24)

Anna Rose Holmer for The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert for Swiss Army Man (A24)

Trey Edward Shults for Krisha (A24)

Richard Tanne for Southside with You (Roadside Attractions and Miramax)

Best Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan (CBS Films)

Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman (Amazon Studios)

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Screenplay by Barry Jenkins (A24)

Paterson, Jim Jarmusch (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (CBS Films)

Adam Driver in Paterson (Amazon Studios)

Joel Edgerton in Loving (Focus Features)

Craig Robinson in Morris from America (A24)

Best Actress

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship (Amazon Studios)

Annette Bening in 20th Century Women (A24)

Isabelle Huppert in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Ruth Negga in Loving (Focus Features)

Natalie Portman in Jackie (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor

Lily Gladstone in Certain Women (IFC Films)

Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Royalty Hightower in The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Sasha Lane in American Honey (A24)

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch (A24)

How long until next summer?

Michael Cavna, who covers comics, graphic novels, and animation for the Washington Post writes about Peanuts’ classic Halloween special, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” The family favorite celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Cavna writes:

Their swift narrative certainty for “Great Pumpkin” freed [Bill] Melendez (who also voiced Snoopy) and his crew — including gifted animator Bill Littlejohn — to create stunning watercolor skies and rich autumn hues that provide every scene with its own mood, apart from the characters. Melendez brilliantly painted both motion and emotion.

“It is by far the most colorful of the shows,” Mendelson says, “as Bill and his team captured the vibrancy of the fall season.”

And the camera, often so static in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” zooms in for facial close-ups in the follow-up that provide the viewer with a poignant intimacy.

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