Film capsules, Aug. 8, 2013

Film capsules, Aug. 8, 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

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957). 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.

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. SAV.

ELYSIUM. (Opens Friday) Neil Blomkamp's sci-fi social commentary takes place in the future where the ultra-rich have abandoned our polluted planet to live in an Eden that orbits in space. The rest of us are left to scrape by on the wasteland that has become our home. However, one man with nothing to lose (Matt Damon) decides to travel to this space colony to set things right. While Blomkamp has worthwhile issues to discuss, including illegal immigration, the disparity in health care coverage and the unequal distribution of wealth, his adherence to standard action tropes obscures them. Not as smart as it thinks or as I hoped it would be. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 109 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

ERIC CLAPTON'S CROSSROADS GUITAR FESTIVAL 2013. (Tuesday) Pre-recorded over two nights at Madison Square Garden in April, cinema audiences will be treated to backstage access and some of the best performances from the sold-out festival, featuring the Allman Brothers Band, Blake Mills, Booker T., Buddy Guy, Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Eric Clapton, Gary Clark Jr., Gregg Allman, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Keith Richards, Keith Urban, Los Lobos, Robert Cray, Sonny Landreth, Vince Gill and Warren Haynes. SAV.

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. PRI, 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.

THE HUNT. (Opens Friday) Mads Mikkelsen delivers a powerful performance as a kindergarten teacher who is falsely accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with one of his students, the daughter of his best friend. The way sane judgment is clouded by fear slowly builds a sense of dread that leaves you shaken by how easily one's sense of self and place in a community can be so quickly destroyed. Director Thomas Vinterberg masterfully delivers a frightening look at group hysteria, resulting in one of the most wrenching films of the year. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 115 minutes. Rated R. ART.

MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979). (Starts Friday) The English comedy group's best film follows the misadventures of Brian (Graham Chapman), who just happened to be born in the manger next door to Jesus on Christmas Day and is mistaken for the Messiah throughout his life. While the film contains the troupe's silly, irreverent brand of humor, it's also sharply written with pointed social satire that still resonates. Not just hilarious but thought-provoking as well. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 94 minutes. Rated R. ART.

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS.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.

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS. (Opens Friday) The home of Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and the other young demigods is threatened, and the only thing that will save it is the mythical Golden Fleece. The only problem is that our hero and his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) must travel to the treacherous Sea of Monsters to recover it. 106 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, SAV.

PLANES. (Opens Friday) This animated film from the Disney Studio tells the tale of a crop-dusting plane named Dusty who has ambitions to compete in an aerial race. The problem is, he's afraid of heights. If this sounds familiar, you've seen "Turbo." With the voice talents of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Val Kilmer and Brad Garrett. 92 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, HAR, ONA, 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, while Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones are added to the mix. 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. SAV.

RIFFTRAX LIVE: STARSHIP TROOPERS. (Thursday, Aug. 15). The stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are back in select cinemas nationwide for only one night in a hilarious, never-before-seen take on the king of modern campy sci-fi epics: "Starship Troopers." Join Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett of RiffTrax.com for their riff on this masterpiece of alien slaughter propaganda! 120 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

THE SMURFS 2. 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.

SURF'S UP. (Saturday) This CGI-animated mockumentary about a would-be surfing champion penguin (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) manages to overcome its trite plot and pointless subplots with its techniques and its engaging characters to make a fun film for the whole family. The fake hand-held footage, the incredibly real-looking wave and surf effects, and the convincing but not slavishly realistic character designs make this a fascinating film to watch. 3 stars (Richard J. Leskosky). 85 minutes. Rated PG. PRI.

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. SAV.

2 GUNS. 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.

WASTE LAND (2010). An uplifting documentary on the power of art and the beauty of the human spirit. Artist Vik Muniz goes to the world's largest landfill, near Rio de Janeiro. Vik collaborates with the garbage pickers to create amazing art and change lives. A 2011 Oscar nominee for best documentary. 99 minutes. Not rated. NOR.

WE'RE THE MILLERS. Jason Sudeikis stars as a drug dealer who gets roped into going to Mexico to bring back a huge shipment of marijuana. To help avoid suspicion, he hires a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), an awkward teenage boy (Will Poulter) and a homeless girl (Emma Roberts) to pose as his family. There are some laughs — some of them huge — throughout, but the movie runs out of steam long before it ends, resulting in a frustrating exercise that winds up spinning its wheels. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 110 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

WHAT MAISIE KNEW. (Opens Friday) This ponderous update of the Henry James short story examines a pointless custody battle between two self-absorbed parents (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan) who fight over their daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile) as a matter of pride rather than concern for the young girl. Bloated and frustrating in the way it executes its premise, the film winds up being a little girl's fairy tale vision rather than a biting social drama. 1 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 99 minutes. Rated R. ART.

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. SAV.

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