Film capsules, Aug. 1, 2013

Film capsules, Aug. 1, 2013

Summaries and mini-reviews of movies playing now, from e3 magazine:

  • AMC = AMC Village Mall, Danville.
  • ART = The Art Theater, Champaign
  • HAR = Harvest Moon drive-in, Gibson City
  • NOR = The Normal Theater, Normal
  • ONA = The Onarga Theater, Onarga
  • PRI = Princess Theatre, LeRoy
  • SAV = Savy 16, Savoy
  • VIR = Virginia Theatre, Champaign

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985). (Starts Saturday) Robert Zemeckis' brilliant sci-fi comedy finds young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) accidentally sent back in time 30 years, where he disrupts the courtship of his mother and father, thus endangering his own existence. The film moves along at a breakneck pace, is smartly executed and features a great comedic performance from Christopher Lloyd as the slightly mad scientist Doc Brown. The movie has endured since its initial release with some of its elements entering the national lexicon (how about that "flux capacitor"?) and while it remains a comic delight, beneath its surface is a sly critique of Reagan-era America. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 116 minutes. Rated PG. NOR.

BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO. (Opens Friday). A sensation at numerous film festivals, this mind-blowing meta-horror film centers on a primly professional British sound engineer (Toby Jones) who gets more than he bargained for when he is summoned to Rome to supervise the soundtrack for a 1970s exploitation horror film. "Utterly distinctive and all but unclassifiable, a musique concrete nightmare, a psycho-metaphysical implosion of anxiety, with strange-tasting traces of black comedy and movie-buff riffs. It is seriously weird and seriously good." (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian). Not rated. ART.

BLACKFISH. (Opens Friday). Gabriela Cowperthwaite's riveting documentary focuses on the treatment of the animals at SeaWorld parks around the world, particularly on that of the killer whale Tilikum, whose history of aggressive behavior was ignored until tragedy struck. Gripping and fearless, the film takes on the corporate entity and by extension the practices of zoos and other wildlife parks that put profit above the care of the animals they exploit. The result is a powerful and poignant documentary. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 83 minutes. Rated PG-13. ART.

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957). (Starts Thursday, Aug. 8). David Lean's classic about the futility of war stars Alec Guinness giving an Oscar-winning performance as ramrod Colonel Nicholson, a British officer intent on giving the men under his command at a prisoner of war camp purpose by having them build a bridge for their enemies. All the while, he is oblivious of plans to destroy it, a mission undertaken by the reluctant American, Shears (William Holden). An epic tale not just in a visual sense, but also in the way it examines honor, war, patriotism and self-preservation. One of the great films, meant to be seen on a big screen. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 161 minutes. Rated PG. NOR.

THE CONJURING. Based on a true story, this ghost tale follows the efforts of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who try to help a family rid their home of a malevolent spirit. James Wan does a fine job creating a genuinely eerie atmosphere and delivering the requisite scares; however, the movie is far too similar to "Insidious," the director's far superior effort from 2010, to be considered anything special. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 112 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

DCI'S BIG, LOUD & LIVE 10. (Thursday, Aug. 8). NCM Fathom Events and Drum Corps International present a one-night marching music event: the 2013 DCI World Championship Prelims, live from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. SAV.

DESPICABLE ME 2. The evil genius Gru (voice by Steve Carell) returns, this time enlisted by a secret agency to help track down a dangerous formula that's fallen into the wrong hands. Less ambitious than the first film in scope and sporting a fairly flimsy story, the movie still proves to be an entertaining affair, primarily because of the appeal of its unique characters (gotta love those Minions) and the inspired sense of lunacy that prevails throughout. Fans will love this follow-up, though this sequel will more than likely not win over any new followers. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski) 98 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, PRI, ONA, SAV.

FIELD OF DREAMS (1989). Shamelessly sentimental, this romantic look at baseball, America and the inherent power in a game of catch between father and son revolves around an Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner) who digs up part of his crop to build a baseball field after hearing voices imploring him to do so. Though the film acknowledges the plight of the modern farmer and by extension anyone in the middle class or below, it still clings to the notion that working at something you believe in will ensure success in America. To be sure, the film and its premise are easy to scoff at, but it must be said that it sticks to its convictions and in doing so proves effective. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including best picture. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 107 minutes. Rated PG. NOR.

FRUITVALE STATION. Director Ryan Coogler's debut feature looks at the final day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a young African-American man who was tragically shot to death by an Oakland cop on New Year's Day 2009, an incident that spurred race riots and calls for reform in the city's police department. The film has the best of intentions as it attempts to portray Grant as an imperfect man, struggling to turn his life around. However, it errs in presenting him as too much of a saint, which undercuts the undeniably powerful climax, as does its deliberate pace. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 90 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

GROWN UPS 2. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock return as old high school friends who find that they are older than they think when they must contend with all of the issues that spring up with their own children. Fart and vomit jokes abound in this pointless exercise that is neither original nor funny. This is just another excuse for Sandler and his friends to hang out together and get paid for their trouble. 1 star (Chuck Koplinski). 101 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.

THE HEAT. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star as two mismatched cops thrown together to track down a drug lord. This material has been gone over numerous times, and this film brings nothing new to the table other than having two women cracking wise instead of two men. Bullock is incredibly generous in the way she gives the film over to McCarthy, whose abrasive act becomes a bit too much to bear as time goes on. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 117 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. Pixar offers its first prequel, and it proves to be a humorous exercise if not an overly moving one. The film tells us how best buddies Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) first met and how their friendship grew as both find themselves outcasts at Monsters University, which they attend in the hopes of learning how to be master scarers. The film is quite funny at times as the characters have to overcome various obstacles to prove themselves. It's serviceable entertainment, though it's lacking in the ability to tug at our heartstrings as the best Pixar films do. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 110 minutes. Rated G. 95 minutes. SAV.

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS. (Starts Monday). Jim Carrey stars in this charming family film as a man whose world is turned upside down when his father wills him six penguins after his death. While predictable, Carrey is great fun as his heartless businessman grows a conscience as he comes to care for his feathered friends and, in turn, his alienated children. The CGI penguins are entertaining, while the film's potentially corny message winds up going down rather easily. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 95 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

PACIFIC RIM. Humans face extinction when a series of alien attacks hit the world's major cities. As a last-ditch effort, gigantic robots are invented that are controlled by human surrogates to combat them. Epic in scope and featuring characters we become invested in, Guillermo del Toro's film is a massively entertaining and ultimately poignant movie that must be seen on the largest screen possible. Far more imaginative than "Avatar," this is the year's biggest surprise and one of the best of 2013. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 131 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

RED 2. Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reunites with his ex-colleagues to track down a portable nuclear device that has gone missing. Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren return for this sequel while Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones are added to the mix this time out. Far better than the first entry in the series, this sequel abandons much of the self-aware humor that hobbled the previous film and tells a grittier, more intriguing spy caper. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 116 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.

RIO. An unexpectedly joyous animated feature, this film follows the adventures of Blu and Jewel (voices by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway), the last two blue macaws who are thrown together for mating purposes but find themselves lost on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The songs are snappy, the interaction between the two principals is sharp and the visuals are vibrant in a love letter to director Carlos Saldanha's native land. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 96 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

R.I.P.D. Ryan Reynolds stars as a recently deceased cop who is recruited to join the Rest In Peace Department, a group of ghostly detectives who attempt to right wrongs on Earth before passing over. Jeff Bridges co-stars as our hero's mentor. Though comparisons to "Men in Black" are inescapable, the film hardly deserves the bad rap it has been getting in the press if only for Bridges' fun performance. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 96 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

THE SMURFS 2. (Opens Friday). The diminutive magical blue beings known as Smurfs reunite with their human pals to rescue one of their kind from the clutches of the evil wizard Gargamel. With Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria and the voices of Katy Perry and Jonathan Winters. Written by J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick and David Ronn. Directed by Raja Gosnell. 102 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, HAR, SAV.

THE TO DO LIST. Aubrey Plaza (TV's "Parks and Recreation") stars as an overachieving high school senior who decides to get some sexual experience before heading off to college. The list of activities she sets out to try leads to more than a few misunderstandings as well as hurt feelings. If you liked the "American Pie" movies, this is right up your alley. If not, stay away from this obvious, uninspired exercise in crudity. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 104 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

TURBO. Ryan Reynolds gives voice to the title character, a snail that longs to win the Indianapolis 500 and may get the chance to do so as he endures a freak accident. This animated film also features the voice talents of Paul Giamatti, Samuel Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph and Snoop Dogg. 96 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, SAV.

20 FEET FROM STARDOM. This documentary from director Morgan Neville looks at the careers of various background singers, many of who have accompanied the biggest acts in rock and pop music in the last 50 years. Features interviews with Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Sheryl Crow among many others. 91 minutes. Rated PG-13. ART.

2 GUNS. (Opens Friday). Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star as two federal agents, unaware of each other's identity, who cross paths as each investigates the same drug cartel. Buoyed by a sense of fun that hearkens back to the "Lethal Weapon" movies and a nice comedic turn form Wahlberg, this film survives on the charm of its two stars and the crisp direction from Baltasar Kormakur ("Collateral"). There's nothing new here, but there's no question this is a well-done action movie that's perfect where summertime viewing is concerned. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 109 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

THE WAY WAY BACK. This coming-of-age story focuses on Duncan (Liam James), an alienated teen who must contend with feelings of abandonment when his mother (Toni Collette) gives all of her attention to her new boyfriend (Steve Carell). Though there's hardly much in the way of originality here, the film is buoyed by a dynamic performance by Sam Rockwell as an eccentric business owner who takes Duncan under his wing and a sense of charm generated by directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. This makes for an overall pleasant time at the movies. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 103 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

WE'RE THE MILLERS. (Opens Tuesday). A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis and Emma Roberts. (Internet Movie Database) 110 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

THE WOLVERINE. Hugh Jackman returns in his signature role as the quick-healing mutant title hero, who goes to Japan at the request of an old acquaintance who promises to help free him from his curse of immortality. Though the film is too long, its emphasis is on its hero and its supporting characters, rather than empty special-effects-driven scenes. Jackman is solid as always as this entry effectively washes away the bad taste left by 2009's "X-Men Secret Origins: Wolverine." 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 126 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, HAR, SAV.

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