Film capsules, Feb. 28

From e3 magazine

  • AMC = AMC Village Mall, Danville.
  • ART = The Art Theater, Champaign
  • NOR = The Normal Theater, Normal
  • ONA = The Onarga Theater, Onarga
  • PRI = Princess Theatre, LeRoy
  • SAV = Savoy 16, Savoy

THE ACCIDENTAL MISSIONARY. (Opens Sunday) When Hollywood “Big Wig” D.J. Miller heads out on a luxury vacation, his plans “accidentally” go terribly awry. He ends up on the other end of the Earth and out of his element, but he learns that there are no accidents. Along the way, D.J. meets a cast of characters who touch his heart, make him laugh and cause him to rethink everything that he has ever known and thought was true. PRI.

AMOUR. The Palme d’Or winner from Cannes 2012 is a masterpiece from Michael Haneke (“Cache,” “The White Ribbon”) about the closing days of a great romance. The French legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva co-star as a couple who have lived in love together for decades, but now, in their 80s, their time together begins to end. Such a story is not melodrama. Nor is it tragedy. It is just about the way things are. A profound and uplifting masterpiece. 4 stars (Roger Ebert). 127 minutes. Rated PG-13. ART.

ANY DAY NOW. Solid performances by Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt flesh out the bare-bones script of this period piece about gay lovers who petition for custody of a Down syndrome teen while his mother serves time for drugs. 3 stars (Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer). 101 minutes. Rated R. NOR.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. This adaptation of the best-selling teen novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl focuses on Lena (Alice Englert), a teenage witch whose power will radically increase on her upcoming 16th birthday, something that garners the interest of her evil Aunt Sarfine (Emma Thompson). Of course, adding to the complications is the love she feels for the human Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), who unwittingly plays a role in an ancient curse. This is the standard modern tween romance, but the two leads and fun performances from Thompson and Jeremy Irons make for an entertaining time. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 124 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

DARK SKIES. Director Scott Stewart’s tale of a family under siege by a group of aliens contains a sound premise that’s poorly executed. While Keri Russell is very good as the beleaguered mother of the family, the director’s pacing is far too slow to build any suspense. Had Stewart adopted a first-person, found-footage approach, a la “Paranormal Activity,” it would have been far more effective.  2½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 95 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS. (Saturday, Sunday). Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is out of school for the summer and finds himself trying to catch the eye of his crush Holly (Peyton List) as well as to impress his father (Steve Zahn). A passable entertainment, this will please fans of the past two entries in the series. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 94 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

DJANGO UNCHAINED. Writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s homage to the spaghetti Western is as bloody and derivative as his previous efforts. However, what makes this film fascinating is the relationship between the title character, a freed slave turned gunslinger (expertly played by Jamie Foxx) who is searching for his wife, and the German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), his mentor and liberator. The internal journey these two take in realizing their true characters makes the excessive bloodshed and bloated running time worth enduring. 3½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 165 minutes. Rated R. AMC.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH. This bland animated feature follows the adventures of alien Scorch Supernova (voice by Brendan Fraser), whose brother Gary (Rob Corddry) must come and rescue him after he has been captured on Earth. The story contains few surprises, and the visuals are nothing special, making for a movie that will amuse the tykes and bore their parents. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 89 minutes. Rated PG. In 3-D. AMC, SAV.

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. This soulless entry in the lucrative action series finds John McClane (Bruce Willis) in Russia trying to help out his son (Jai Courtney) who is a CIA agent. The action is nonsensical, the plot inconsequential and our hero has been reduced to a caricature in this disastrous effort. Irresponsible and simply no fun, this is the sort of film that kills franchises. 1 star (Chuck Koplinski). 97 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON. (Starts Thursday, March 7). Bill Murray’s fine performance as FDR is the only thing of note in this misfire of a movie that attempts to examine the president’s intimate relationship with a distant cousin (Laura Linney) as well as his 1939 summit with the king and queen of England. Neither storyline is done very well, while the impression we are left with of Roosevelt is one-sided and less than complimentary. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 94 minutes. Rated R. NOR.
 
IDENTITY THIEF. Jason Bateman stars as a financial manager who has to travel to Florida to track down a sociopath (Melissa McCarthy) who has stolen his identity and run up a mountain of debt in his name. Meandering and unfocused, this feature can’t figure out if it wants to be a comedy, a buddy movie or a low-rent action movie. The film’s lack of tone is bad, but what’s worse is the shameless bit of pathos it tries to tack on the end. A misguided effort for all involved. 1½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 112 minutes. Rated R. AMC, PRI, SAV.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER. (Opens Friday). Director Bryan Singer delivers a rousing, romantic adventure in this retelling of the tale of an adventure-seeking boy, some magic beans and a stalk in need of trimming. Told with humor and sincerity, the film moves at a brisk pace, employs solid special effects (the giants are a scary crew) and benefits from a veteran cast, including Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci and Ian McShane, and two vibrant young leads in Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson. Far better than you might expect. 3½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 114 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.

LAST EXORCISM: PART II. (Opens Friday) A young woman tries to start a new life after a harrowing ordeal, only to once again encounter a demonic presence. With Ashley Bell, Julia Garner and Spencer Treat Clark. Written by Ed Gass-Donnelly and Damien Chazelle. Directed by Gass-Donnelly. (Los Angeles Times). 88 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

LEWIS & CLARK: GREAT JOURNEY WEST. (Tuesday). This film chronicles a group of explorers — the Corps of Discovery — led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark into uncharted territory to find a water passageway to the Pacific Ocean and describe for science the wonders of the West. 45 minutes. Not rated. SAV.

MEAN GIRLS (2004). (Starts Friday) Lindsay Lohan is home-schooled in Africa by her parents, who are anthropologists, and so she is a fish out of water when she lands in Evanston High School. She makes friends with two smart geeks (Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Franzese), who egg her on to become close to the most popular girl in school (Rachel McAdams) so they can sabotage her. But Lindsay is almost seduced by popularity, in a smart screenplay written by “Saturday Night Live’s” Tina Fey, who plays a teacher friendly with the principal, SNL’s Tim Meadows. Sidesteps a lot of cliches, goes for real humor instead of gags, and even contains some wisdom. 3 stars (Roger Ebert). 93 minutes. Rated PG-13. ART.

METROPOLITAN OPERA: VERDI’S RIGOLETTO. (Wednesday and Thursday) Encore presentation of the Feb. 16 performance. Director Michael Mayer has placed his new production of Verdi’s towering tragedy in Las Vegas in 1960. Piotr Beczala is the womanizing Duke of Mantua, Zeljko Lucic is his tragic sidekick, Rigoletto, and Diana Damrau is Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda. 215 minutes. SAV.

METROPOLITAN OPERA: WAGNER’S PARSIFAL. (Saturday) New production. Jonas Kaufmann stars in the title role of the innocent who finds wisdom in François Girard’s new vision for Wagner’s final masterpiece. His fellow Wagnerian luminaries include Katarina Dalayman as the mysterious Kundry, Peter Mattei as the ailing Amfortas, Evgeny Nikitin as the wicked Klingsor, and Rene Pape as the noble knight Gurnemanz. Daniele Gatti conducts. 345 minutes. SAV.

NOSFERATU (1922). (Thursday, March 7) The first screen adaptation of “Dracula” is in some ways still the best. Directed by F.W. Murneau, the film plays like an extended nightmare as Count Orlok (Max Schreck) leaves his Transylvanian castle to track down his true love in England. Dark and mysterious, the director used radical special effects for that time to give Orlok’s castle an other-worldly feel that still packs a punch. Of particular note are the scenes in which he is preparing for his trip overseas and his slaughtering of the crew on board the ship that takes him there. 81 minutes of sheer terror, this screening will be accompanied by an original score by the Andrew Alden Ensemble. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski) 81 minutes. Not rated. ART.

PALEYFEST FEATURING THE WALKING DEAD. (Thursday, March 7) The stars of TV’s drama “The Walking Dead” are coming to select movie theaters nationwide to kick off the ultimate TV fan festival — PaleyFest. Captured live from the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, Calif. on March 1, this event provides the opportunity to join the cast as they screen never-before-seen footage and take part in a Q&A. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company as they battle for survival against not just the relentless titular flesh-eating zombies, but also fellow human survivors in the show based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels. (www.gqti.com). 150 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

SAFE HAVEN. Yet another Nicholas Sparks novel comes to the big screen, sporting a formulaic plot that ends up insulting the viewer. Battered wife Katie (Julianne Hough) is on the run and ends up in a seaside North Carolina town where she falls in love with the owner of the general store (Josh Duhamel) there. You can see what’s going to happen a mile away, but what’s disconcerting are the shameless lengths the film goes to in trumping up unneeded drama. Ultimately, the film treats viewers as fools by expecting us to fall for this tattered collection of cliches. 1½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 115 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, ONA, PRI, SAV.

SNITCH. Dwayne Johnson stars as John Matthews, a father who infiltrates a Mexican drug cartel so that he may curry favor from a ruthless district attorney (Susan Sarandon) and earn leniency for his son who is in jail on a drug charge.  This surprisingly engaging crime story contains far less action than the usual Johnson fare as director Ric Roman Waugh focuses instead on the human factor and the emotional toll the situation has on Matthews and his family. Johnson is very good here, as is Jon Berthal (“The Walking Dead”) as an ex-con and Barry Pepper as a DEA agent who knows Matthews is in over his head. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 112 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.

21 & OVER. (Opens Friday) When his two best friends pay him a surprise visit for his 21st birthday, a straight-A college student throws caution to the wind for a wild night, despite having an important medical school interview the next morning. With Miles Teller, Justin Chon and Skylar Astin. Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. (Los Angeles Times). 93 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

WARM BODIES. Better than you might expect, this zombie love story follows the efforts of a teenage zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) to regain his humanity and connect with Julie (Teresa Palmer), whose father (John Malkovich) happens to be the militant leader of the remaining humans. Using “Romeo and Juliet” as its template, the film zips along at a nice pace and speaks to what truly makes us human in an entertaining and vital way. 3½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 97 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.
 

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