Summaries and mini-reviews of movies playing now, from e3 magazine:
AT ANY PRICE. Shot in DeKalb County, this story centers around a farm family and their troubles, from a son's youthful rebellion to a hybrid corn lawsuit and everything in between. Stars Dennis Quaid. 105 minutes. Rated R. A Beyond Normal Films choice. NOR.
THE BELLBOY (1960). (Starts Thursday, Aug. 29) In Miami Beach, the mute bellboy Stanley works at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel. In spite of being a serviceable and friendly employee, the clumsy Stanley gets successively into trouble with his mistakes. Stars Jerry Lewis, Alex Gerry, Bob Clayton. (Internet Movie Database) 72 minutes. Rated G. NOR.
BLUE JASMINE. (Opens Friday) Cate Blanchett delivers a stunning performance as a New York socialite forced to move in with her sister (Sally Hawkins) after her husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for embezzlement and fraud. This update of "A Streetcar Named Desire," as written and directed by Woody Allen, is uneven in execution as the film's humor rings hollow when juxtaposed against the protagonist's plight. However, Blanchett fully invests herself here, giving us a warts-and-all portrayal of a woman on the edge, in danger of slipping into insanity. Baldwin, Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay, who provides a surprising turn as a disgruntled workingman, ably support her. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 98 minutes. Rated PG-13. ART.
CLOSED CIRCUIT. (Opens Wednesday) In this international suspense thriller, a high-profile terrorism case unexpectedly binds together two ex-lovers (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall) on the defense team — testing the limits of their loyalties and placing their lives in jeopardy. (FocusFeatures.com) SAV.
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. HAR, 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. HAR, SAV.
DISTRICT 9 (2009). (Starts Friday) This mockumentary about an accidental alien invasion in which a massive ship becomes stalled over Johannesburg, South Africa, leaving millions of outsiders stranded, is a gripping tale of social injustice as well as a wonder to behold cinematically. Inserting computer-generated aliens into documentary footage gives the film a "you are there" feel that makes it unique and moving. Too bad it reverts to standard action fare in its prolonged third act. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 112 minutes. Rated R. ART.
ELYSIUM.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.
GETAWAY. (Opens Thursday, Aug. 29). Brent Magna must get behind the wheel and follow the orders of a mysterious man to save his kidnapped wife. Starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight. Rated PG-13. SAV.
JOBS. Ashton Kutcher stars as tech innovator Steve Jobs in this biopic that charts the entrepreneur's rise from high school dropout to visionary inventor whose Apple Inc. devices radically changed the face of the media world in the late 20th century. The film does a fine job recreating key moments in the making of Apple Inc. and crafting of Jobs' image but never really digs deeply into his motivations. We never find out what makes this guy tick, as this is a quick overview of the man's life rather than a probing examination of his character. 11/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 122 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
KICK-ASS 2. Aaron Taylor-Johnson returns as the teenage vigilante Kick-Ass whose exploits inspire other concerned citizens to follow suit. However, his archenemy (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has hatched a plan that will bring him and his new allies down. While the film is far too violent, what it has to say about finding one's true self in today's society elevates it above the usual superhero fare. Far better than the first entry in the series; fine performances from Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl make this one worthwhile. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 103 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.
LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER. This fact-based film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, who served as a White House butler under seven different presidents, during which time he witnessed great social change. 132 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES. (Opens Friday) Lily Collins stars as Clary Fray, a New York City teenager who finds out she's a half-angel warrior after evil spirits kidnap her mother (Lena Headey). She sets out to save her mother, who has been taken to an alternate world and discovers that many monsters of legend do exist. 130 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
THE MUPPETS. (Saturday). Jason Segal stars as a small-town rube who sets out with his girlfriend (Amy Adams) and puppet brother for Hollywood and ends up on a quest to reunite the Muppets so that they might save their soon-to-be demolished movie studio. This walk down memory lane will please old fans of Jim Henson's creations and will bring a new generation into the fold with this charming and constantly entertaining comedy. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 98 minutes. Rated PG. PRI.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US. (Thursday, Aug. 29) Concert movie. Fly-on-the-wall documentary following the young boy band's rise to fame. 92 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, SAV.
PARANOIA. Adam (Liam Hemsworth) is eager to climb the corporate ladder but questions the price he's willing to pay for success when his boss (Gary Oldman) forces him to spy on his old mentor (Harrison Ford) in order to steal corporate secrets. Bland, dull and amateurish, no one in the film seems convinced that the story they're telling is vital or in the least bit entertaining. Ford and Oldman, pros that they are, do what they can, but Hemsworth proves once and for all he's no movie star as he contains all the charisma of a leaf of iceberg lettuce. 1 star (Chuck Koplinski). 106 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS. 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. The film cannot escape the long shadow of the "Harry Potter" films and other movies of its ilk, as everything feels derivative and a bit stale. That it's slow going and utterly predictable doesn't help its cause either. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 106 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, SAV.
PLANES. 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, SAV.
RED 2. (Opens Friday) The explosive adventures of retired spies Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malcovich never get old. Just a little formulaic in this sequel. (profanity, violence, drugs). 2 stars (David Hiltbrand, The Philadelphia Inquirer). 116 minutes. Rated PG-13. HAR, PRI.
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. ONA, 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. SAV.
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.
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.
THE WORLD'S END. (Opens Friday). Five friends reunite and decide to recreate a legendary pub crawl from 20 years earlier and along the way discover that they hold the fate of the world in their hands as Armageddon approaches. From the folks that gave you "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." 109 minutes. Rated R. SAV.
YOU'RE NEXT. (Opens Friday) A family reunion becomes a deadly affair when the Davison clan find themselves under attack by a gang of killers. However, things take a turn when one of the victims turns the table on the home invaders. 96 minutes. Rated R. SAV.