THE HATE U GIVE: When a black parent(s) has “the talk” with their child, the subject is how to avoid a potentially deadly confrontation with a police officer. We learn this troubling fact in the opening scene of a thought-provoking movie centered around a black teenage girl (Amandla Stenberg) named Starr whose life rotates between being a non-threatening minority student at a predominantly white college prep school and a resident of a low income neighborhood where parties come with equal amounts of hip-hop music and gunfire. Her two worlds collide head-on when she witnesses the shooting of a childhood friend (Algee Smith) by a white police officer (Drew Starkey). Adapted from Angie Thomas’ best-selling young adult novel, the film narrative lays out all of the mounting pressure on Starr from the community and her family to stand up for what’s right. There’s a much needed even-handedness in the screenplay from the late Audrey Wells who lays out the arguments for and the wrongful lack of restraint from both sides embroiled in a racially divisive issue. While nearly all of the characters are created with depth and layers of complexity, there are a couple that are drawn up to represent voices for a point of view like the “she’s so white” schoolmate (Sabrina Carpenter) who “just doesn’t get black people” and Common’s (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2) Uncle Carlos who gives a very eloquent description of what goes through a cop’s mind when he makes even the routinest of traffic stops. Stenberg (THE HUNGER GAMES) gives a crucial breakthrough performance and her transformation into activism is totally believable since we’ve seen her character be her own person throughout the film. Strong support comes from Regina Hall (GIRLS TRIP) and Russell Hornsby (FENCES) as Starr’s strong-minded parents who’ve worked past and overcome the rough patches of their backgrounds to become the kind of adults willing to make sacrifices for their children. Even if the conclusion felt overly optimistic in light of the current mainstreaming of overt racism in our culture, it makes a telling point that one can be both pro black and pro cop without having to choose one side or the other. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+

DOUBLE FEATURE: Robert Redford’s (THE STING) charisma is in full bloom as a charming senior citizen bank robber who really enjoys his work in THE OLD MAN & THE GUN. Caught up in his handiwork is a Dallas detective (Casey Affleck) out to capture him and a widowed rancher (Sissy Spacek) that he develops a fondness for. Director/writer David Lowery maintains a genial, lighthearted amiable tone in such a way that allows you to overlook some of the plot holes like the sporadic appearances of Redford’s co-workers (Danny Glover, Tom Waits) who turn up and then vanish without any explanation or why he kept being let out of prison despite being a career criminal. But watching Redford’s ease of performance and his chemistry with Spacek (COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER) make this a fitting cinematic curtain call for an actor who’s lost none of his skills. CRITIC’S GRADE: B