Film capsules, March 7

Film capsules, March 7

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

DEAD MAN DOWN. (Opens Friday). A professional killer seeking to avenge the murder of his wife and daughter is seduced and blackmailed by a woman also seeking retribution. With Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace and Terence Howard. Written by J.H. Wyman. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. 118 minutes. Rated R.  SAV. DEAR ANCESTOR (2011). (Sunday).  Double feature with “The Other Town.” All the way from Astoria N.Y., Theodoros Kolokotronis, a second-generation Greek-American, returns to Greece, seeking the historical traces of his namesake, the glorious general of the War of Greek Independence (1821). This search becomes a concise guide to the multifaceted identity of the Greeks. Greek Film Festival. ( 59 minutes. Not rated. ART. 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. SAV. FISH ‘N CHIPS (2011). (Saturday).  Andy, a hard-working Cypriot immigrant in London who deep-fries his way into oblivion, decides to return to Cyprus. Having slaved away his entire life, he finally opens his very own chip shop. But his dream turns into a nightmare, as he seems to have overlooked a small detail: Cyprus just isn’t London! Greek Film Festival. ( 102 minutes. Rated PG-13. ART. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984). (Starts Friday). Bloated and overrated, this comedy about three parapsychology professors — slacker Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), opportunist Raymond Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) and brainy Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) — set out to rid New York City of ghosts and become reluctant celebrities in the process. However, their mettle is tested when they go toe-to-toe with a demon bent on taking over the world. The pace is leaden, the story flimsy and the gags predictable. The passage of time has not been kind where this film is concerned. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 105 minutes. Rated PG. ART. 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. PRI, SAV. THE HOUSE I LIVE IN. (Monday)  Eugene Jarecki’s examination of America’s war on drugs appears to be a noble undertaking. However, upon further examination, it devolves into a self-serving exercise in which the filmmaker vainly tries to connect this epidemic of the poor to his own privileged upbringing, while his simplistic view of the role of the races involved does a disservice to everyone. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 108 minutes. Not rated. SAV. HYDE PARK ON HUDSON. 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. ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT. (Starts Saturday). Manny, Diego and Sid (voices by Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo) return yet again for this tale of geographical and emotional upheaval. When the three buddies are separated from their herd and trapped on a rapidly melting iceberg, they must band together to reach a land bridge where their loved ones are waiting. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 93 minutes. Rated PG. SAV. 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, SAV. IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. (Opens Monday). Art-house superstar Isabelle Huppert teams with prolific auteur Hong Sang Soo for this deceptively mischievous comic roundelay. Huppert stars as three French tourists named Anne, whose visits to the same South Korean beach resort in quick succession create a cinematic rhyming game that is quintessential Hong. Pleasantly loose yet beguiling enough to chew on for days! ( 89 minutes. Not rated. ART. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER. 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. JERKS (2011). (Saturday). It’s August in Athens. Three friends, during their last night before they leave for Berlin and a new life, come face to face with unpredictable events that reveal aspects of their characters, which they have kept hidden from each other. Greek Film Festival. ( 77 minutes. Not rated. ART. KISSES TO THE CHILDREN (2011). (Saturday) Five Greek-Jewish children saved by Christians in German-occupied Greece. Childhood was their Garden of Eden, even though they spent it in hiding — even though they lost it in the shadow of the Holocaust. Greek Film Festival. ( 115 minutes. ART. THE LAST EXORCISM PART II. Dull and unimaginative, this lackluster sequel fails at nearly every turn as it lacks the inspiration of its predecessor, containing a plot devoid of originality. Ashley Bell returns as Nell, trying to build a new life after the horrendous events of the first film but finds herself hounded by supernatural forces. This film moves at a snail’s pace, building far more tedium than suspense. 1 star (Chuck Koplinski). 88 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV. THE OTHER TOWN (2011). (Sunday). Double feature, with “Dear Ancestor.” “The Other Town” (2011) examines the key issues of why peace is sometimes so difficult to achieve, and why hate is constantly reproduced in public life. While visiting the two towns and talking with the inhabitants during the span of a year, the documentary’s makers come to understand why bad relations between the nations exist. Greek Film Festival. ( 45 minutes. Not rated. ART. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. (Opens Friday). Sam Raimi’s prequel to the 1939 classic suffers from some questionable casting choices but survives to tell the tale of Oscar Diggs (a very good James Franco), a con man who is swept away to the land of Oz, where he’s told he has been fated to save its citizens from a wicked witch. At times visually stunning, the film’s strong suit lies in its humor and conviction of all involved to make a film worthy to stand alongside the Judy Garland vehicle. For the most part, they succeed as Franco carries the film with his charm while its theme is a worthy one worth repeating. 3½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 130 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, ONA, SAV. PALEYFEST FEATURING THE CAST OF THE BIG BANG THEORY. (Wednesday, March 13). Bazinga! Live interactive experience with the stars of TV’s hit comedy series “The Big Bang Theory.” In addition to offering exclusive never-before-seen footage, this event will also provide the unique ability to interact with the cast. 120 minutes. SAV. PARADISE (2011). (Saturday). Adam and Eve, exotic birds, creepy crawly snakes and juicy red apples dancing to samba and techno: four interlocking stories about people desperately trying to rescue or escape their relationships during the Patras Mardi Gras’ intoxicating atmosphere. Greek Film Festival. ( 105 minutes. Not rated. ART. A ROYAL AFFAIR. (Opens Friday). Director Nikolaj Arcel’s historical epic about the mad Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Foelsgaard), his radical physician Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) and the Queen (Alicia Vikander) who helps bring about radical reform is an engaging, sweeping epic that is far more a political statement than a bodice-ripping melodrama as the title would suggest. Gripping from the start and brisk in execution, this export is surprisingly timely in what it has to say about government and those who would dictate our lives. 3½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 137 minutes. Rated R. ART. 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. 1½ stars (Chuck Koplinski). 115 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, PRI, SAV. SAYOME (2010). (Friday). Happily married to a handsome Greek sailor in the island of Crete, Sayome hears news of her mother’s death and returns to Japan to reunite with her estranged family after 35 years. Orpheus Award for best documentary and audience award at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival 2012. ( Greek Film Festival. 56 minutes. ART. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952). (Starts Thursday, March 14). A silent film star (Gene Kelly) successfully adapts to sound as a singer/dancer, but his leading lady’s (Jean Hagen) shrill voice threatens a box-office disaster until his pianist (Donald O’Connor) suggests that a talented ingenue (Debbie Reynolds) supply her singing and speaking voice secretly. Generally considered the greatest musical ever and superior in every way to recent Oscar winner “The Artist,” set in the same period. 4 stars (Richard J. Leskosky). 103 minutes. Rated G. NOR. SISTER. (Opens Friday). Ursula Meier, Switzerland’s most celebrated young filmmaker, was awarded the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlinale for her stunning and moving drama, “Sister.” “Haunting and sad. And absolutely worth seeing.” (Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer). ( 97 minutes. Not rated. ART. 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. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 112 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV. SUPER DEMETRIOS (2011). (Sunday). In a surreal, parallel universe, Thessaloniki has its very own superhero: Super Demetrius. Posing as Dimitris Christoforides, journalist for the Golden Jerusalem magazine, he fights for truth, justice and the “Greco-Christian” ideal! Greek Film Festival. ( 109 minutes. Not rated. ART. TARZAN (1999). (Saturday). Disney’s rousing version of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs story benefits from its adherence to the source material as well as the tone set by directors Chris Buck and Kevin Lima as they tell the tale of the orphaned and marooned Lord Greystoke in a serious and straightforward manner. While the film has its share of Disney humor, inserting needless comic sidekicks along the way, the tale of the man torn between two worlds is told in a poignant, vibrant manner. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 88 minutes. Rated G. PRI. 21 & OVER. Not many surprises in this “Hangover” for the younger set as med student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) foolishly decides to celebrate his 21st birthday with two pals (Miles Teller and Skylar Astin) the night before his medical exams. Drunken high jinks ensue as do a few inspired moments where Chang unknowingly finds himself in peril, but there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. 2 stars  (Chuck Koplinski). 95 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV. WELCOME PLUS GREEK SHORTS. (Saturday). An introduction by Stefanos Katsikas, director of the Modern Greek Studies Program at the University of Illinois, and Nikos Franghias, a founding member and chair of the Film Hellenes, followed by three shorts: “The Visit” (24 minutes); “Foreigner” (16 minutes) and “Playing with the Shadows” (52 minutes). ( 110 minutes. ART. WELCOME TO ALL SAINTS (2011). (Sunday). A young medical intern begins his career at All Saints Hospital. It is here that he discovers that everyone who works in the Greek public sector is part of an absurd tragicomedy. He finds out how a system, designed for the well-being of everyone, has become an insane instrument of torture that grinds people down, whether they’re a saint or not. Greek Film Festival. ( 88 minutes. Not rated. ART. 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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