Film capsules, Sept. 26, 2013

Film capsules, Sept. 26, 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 ACT OF KILLING. (Opens Friday). Joshua Oppenheimer's powerful documentary focuses on Anwar Congo, an Indonesian grandfather who once served as an executioner and singlehandedly killed more than 1,000 people during a bloody coup in 1965. He's asked to recount and re-enact some of these heinous acts, and over the course of the film, he goes from being a callous braggart to a man wracked with guilt and remorse over his actions. This is a bracing experience as it examines the evil that men do and the price it exacts on their soul in such an unflinching manner that it leaves the viewer shaken. 3-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 115 minutes. Not rated. ART.

ALIEN (1979). Ridley Scott's melding of the modern horror and science-fiction genres is, on the surface, nothing more than a big-budget haunted-house story set in outer space. However, the themes (birth anxiety, inversion of traditional gender roles) examined as the crew of the Nostromo gets picked off one by one by a vicious shape-shifting alien help elevate this above the typical terror film. Equally impressive is the set design by H.R. Giger (note the constant visual allusions to wombs and uterine-like passageways) as well as the genuine sense of suspense that Scott creates through suggestive lighting, aggressive camera movements and sharp editing. The film still packs a punch, the special effects hold up and it's best seen with a crowd. 3-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 117 minutes. Rated R. ART.

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? MARATHON. (Wednesday). Kicking off our Shocktober Month of Horror. Not rated. ( ART.

BAGGAGE CLAIM. (Opens Friday). Paula Patton stars as a single flight attendant who is thrown into a panic when her younger sister announces her impending marriage, and she realizes that she has very few romantic prospects on the horizon. However, her friends convince her to look up some old flames to see if a spark can be rekindled with one of them. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.

BATTLE OF THE YEAR. An international dance competition is the backdrop for this modern musical that focuses on the members of the U.S. team trying to bring the championship trophy back home for the first time in 15 years. 109 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2. (Opens Friday). This disappointing sequel to the 2009 hit finds scientist Flint Lockwood (voice by Bill Hader) returning to his home in search of his food-making machine which is now creating monstrous food hybrids. The movie plods along at a deliberate pace that's exacerbated by a script that has very few moments of inspiration and tired jokes that weren't all that funny the first time you heard them. Kids will like this while the adults will be able to get a nice 90-minute nap. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 95 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

THE CROODS. This surprising animated feature follows the trials of Eep (voice by Emma Stone), a teenage cave girl who's trying to free herself from her overprotective father (Nicolas Cage). She gets the chance when their home is destroyed in an earthquake and the family is forced to trust a newcomer (Ryan Reynolds) who can lead them to safety. Though the film could use some trimming, its 3-D visuals are among some of the best yet done and its focus on the importance of being able to adapt to survive is well-told and poignant. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 98 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

DEF LEPPARD VIVA! HYSTERIA. (Wednesday). This all-out, no-holds-barred event was captured live over nine nights during the band's spring residency at The Joint located in the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas and includes a set list from Britain's greatest arena rock band that contains the top-selling album Hysteria performed in its entirety, plus many of the band's greatest hits, "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph" among them. 120 minutes. 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.

DON JON. (Opens Friday). Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars in this comedy about a young man from New Jersey who finds the girl of his dreams (Scarlett Johansson) but has a hard time maintaining a relationship with her due to intimacy issues and an addiction to pornography. 90 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

THE FAMILY. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star as the heads of the Manzoni family who, after entering a witness protection program, relocate to Normandy, France. Needless to say, their old bad habits die hard, and they wind up having a hard time fitting in. While not necessarily a good film, it certainly is fun as De Niro is obviously having a great time sending up his gangster image. With Tommy Lee Jones, who stars as the CIA agent who does his best to keep the family from blowing their cover. 2-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 111 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

FAST & FURIOUS 6. Vin Diesel returns as high-octane thief Dominic Toretto, who gets his crew together one more time to stop an arms dealer who is creating havoc in Europe. Photos proving that his old flame Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still alive prompt him to do what he thought he would never do — work with the authorities, as represented by federal agent Luck Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). The story is nothing new, and there's a sense the film is spinning its wheels, recycling many of the same stunts. A step down from the previous entry as the action becomes too ridiculous to be believed, even by this franchise's standards. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 130 minutes. Rated PG-13. HAR.

THE FOX AND THE HOUND (1981). (Saturday). A young fox named Tod is taken in by an old woman after his mother is killed by a hunter. Full of mischief, Young Tod befriends Copper, a hound dog pup. As they grow up, however, their friendship becomes endangered by what they have become; Copper is a hunting dog, and Tod is his prey. (Internet Movie Database). 83 minutes. Rated G. PRI.

IN A WORLD (Opens Friday). Lake Bell proves to be a triple threat as she writes, directs and stars in this witty and pointed comedy set in the world of voice-over actors. As Carol, she finds herself as the lone female voice in a profession that has been traditionally populated by men. When the chance arises to become the voice of a new film franchise, she jumps at the chance, alienating a possible boyfriend and her father, who are both in the same field. Funny and pointed in its examination of modern gender roles, this unassuming movie contains a timely message about how young women are seen in society as well as how they view themselves. 3-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 93 minutes. Rated R. ART.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2. The Lambert family, led by Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), find themselves under siege once more as more malevolent spirits return to haunt them. While the film is well-made, the script is lacking as the story spins its wheels with redundant scenes and moments that are supposed to be frightening but fail to deliver. Still, the final half hour is quite strong and nearly saves the movie. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 105 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER. Based on the true story of an African-American who served eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan, in the White House, with Forest Whitaker, full of dignity and humility in the title role, as pivotal events in the history of the civil rights movement swirl all around him. With Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo. 3 stars (Steven Rae, The Philadelphia Inquirer). 132 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

MANHATTAN SHORT FILM FEST. (Opens Oct. 3). You choose the Best of the Fest in this international festival of short films submitted from all over the world. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13 to R. Some subtitles. NOR.

METALLICA: THROUGH THE NEVER AN IMAX EXPERIENCE. (Opens Friday). Trip, a young roadie for Metallica, is sent on an urgent mission during the band's show. But what seems like a simple assignment turns into a surreal adventure. (Internet Movie Database). "Metallica Through The Never" is an exclusive release at IMAX theatres. 93 minutes. Rated R. 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. This film is utterly predictable, but it's not without its charms. Witty humor is present throughout, and the film has a sense of confidence that's engaging. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 92 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

PRISONERS. Hugh Jackman stars as Keller Dover, a desperate father who is at his wits' end when his daughter and her friend are abducted, and the police refuse to take action against someone (Paul Dano) he feels is an obvious suspect in the case. Jake Gyllenhaal also stars as the detective assigned to the case who must not only apprehend the abductor but also keep Dover in check before he takes matters into his own hands. Manipulative but well-made, the film raises certain thematic issues dealing with religion, guilt, sin and redemption that ultimately it fails to develop completely. To be sure, the film works as a gripping mystery, but in the end, you're left with the feeling that this could have been so much more. 2-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 146 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

RENOIR. A young lady is muse to both Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his son, Jean, in this visually striking historical drama set in the world of Impressionism. ( 111 minutes. Rated R. Subtitled. A Beyond Normal Films choice. NOR.

RIDDICK. Vin Diesel ably anchors this old-fashioned B-movie that follows the title character after he has been marooned on a violent planet and is forced to trigger a rescue beacon when he's about to be overrun by a group of nasty aliens. Two ships answer the call, and the tension mounts as the crews are at each other's throats and all wind up trapped in one ship while a terrific storm and the man-eating monsters attack them from without. Writer/director David Twohy charts a very deliberate course, allowing us to get to know the characters as he steadily increases the tension. More a thriller than an action film, this is a welcome respite from the summer's overblown, empty epics. 3-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 119 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

RUSH. (Opens Friday). Ron Howard's examination of the bitter rivalry that existed between Formula One drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) during the mid-1970s is not simply the greatest auto racing film ever made but also a pointed examination of the psyche of these men who willingly put their life on the line for a taste of fleeting glory. While the racing footage is thrilling, it's the relationship between the two men, which grows into one of respect and friendship, that gives the film its heart and soul. Wonderfully acted and containing the sort of cinematic craftsmanship that's all too rare today, this is one of the year's best movies. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 123 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

SELECTIONS FROM THE 2013 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS. (Monday). A shockingly candid examination of how a street dealer can rise to cartel lord with relative ease, "How to Make Money Selling Drugs "is an insider's guide to the violent but extremely lucrative drug industry." Told from the perspective of former drug dealers, and featuring interviews with rights advocates Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon, and David Simon (creator of "The Wire"), the film gives you the lessons you need to start your own drug empire while exposing the corruption behind the "war on drugs. SAV.

UNSTOPPABLE: A LIVE EVENT WITH KIRK CAMERON. (Thursday, Oct. 3). An inspiring investigation into the moral origins of good and evil, their inspirational value and their historical significance to us today. Broadcast live from Liberty University, the evening will begin with special guest appearances plus a special introduction from Cameron.  120 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

WE'RE THE MILLERS. Jason Sudeikis is a drug dealer who gets roped into going to Mexico to bring back a huge shipment of marijuana. To 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), but the film runs out of steam long before it ends. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 110 minutes. Rated R. PRI, SAV.

THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). The seminal classic musical returns to the big screen in the 3-D IMAX format for a one-week engagement to help generate interest in the film's 75th anniversary, which is next year. While you may have seen the film, the prospect of seeing the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys seem to land in your lap may be incentive enough to see it again during this run or maybe not. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 101 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

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