Summaries and mini-reviews of movies playing now, from e3 magazine:
BAGGAGE CLAIM. 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. But 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. SAV.
BREAK THROUGH (2012). (Wednesday). LGBT fest kicks off with a clever documentary about straight drama students performing gay roles, teaching about the stigmas and the importance of self-acceptance within the gay community. Presented with a Q&A after film. Free showing. (http://www.normaltheater.com) 61 minutes. Not rated. NOR.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. (Starts Friday). Fanboy favorite Joss Whedon produced and co-wrote this postmodern take on the horror genre that focuses on five teens who go to a cabin in the woods and you think you know the rest of the story. While the film does explore and deconstruct typical situations inherent to films such as these, the reasons they exist in this movie defy convention. Grisly and darkly humorous, the film nearly overstays its welcome but rights itself with a smart conclusion and a climax revolving around a monster mash that needs to be seen to be believed. Wear your raincoat, sit back and have fun. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 95 minutes. Rated R. ART.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. Tom Hanks takes on the title role in this true story about the captain of a cargo ship who was taken hostage by four desperate Somali pirates in 2009 and held for ransom over a five-day period. Director Paul Greengrass employs the same you-are-there aesthetic that made "United 93" so effective, but it's the raw acting by Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi as the pirate leader that keeps us intrigued, long after the film has overstayed its welcome. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 134 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962). (Starts Friday). Made on a shoestring budget of $30,000, director Herk Harvey's only full-length feature is long on atmosphere and innovation as it follows the misadventures of a young woman (Candace Hilligoss), who miraculously survives a catastrophic car wreck only to find herself in a small town where she's followed by a mysterious figure. Though you might be able to predict the film's ending, you can still appreciate Harvey's skill at achieving genuinely creepy moments with only the most basic cinematic tools at his disposal. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 78 minutes. Not rated. ART.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2. 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. AMC, SAV.
THE CROODS. (Saturday). 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 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. PRI.
DON JON. 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 their relationship due to intimacy issues and an addiction to pornography. The film is quite smart in the way it deals with how media of various sorts shapes our perception of sex, love and romance as the two damaged protagonists try to meet the other's unrealistic expectations. It's all executed in a witty and sharp manner; but there are too many problems in the third act, which is far too calculated and convenient to be wholly satisfying. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski) 90 minutes. Rated R. SAV.
ENOUGH SAID. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini star as two middle-age singles who embark on a romance, having already taken their lumps with past relationships. However, things hit a snag when his ex (Catherine Keener) enters the picture in a most unusual manner. There's a melancholy that hangs over the film, not simply because of Gandolfini's unexpected death, but because it cuts so deeply where matters of the heart and errors in judgment are concerned. Beautifully acted and wonderfully paced, this is a film for adults who have loved neither wisely nor well. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 93 minutes. Rated PG-13. ART.
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. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 111 minutes. Rated R. PRI.
GOOD OL' FREDA. Freda was the Beatles' secretary and talks about it in this fab documentary. Clips with John, Paul, George and Ringo. (http://www.normaltheater.com) 86 minutes. Rated PG. NOR.
GRAVITY. An astronaut (George Clooney) and an engineer (Sandra Bullock) must keep their wits about them as they find themselves adrift in space after the telescope they're repairing is bombarded with debris. Director Alfonso Cuaron delivers one of the most visually spectacular films ever made, capturing the beauty and danger of space by immersing us completely in this treacherous environment. Seeing this in IMAX is required. Too bad the story isn't nearly as ambitious as it becomes obvious early on that the themes being explored are as pedestrian as the visuals are groundbreaking. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 90 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
I'M SO EXCITED. (Thursday, Oct. 17). This broad comedy from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar focuses on a flight headed to Mexico City that appears to be doomed because of technical difficulties. As a result, all on board begin to act impulsively and reveal deep, dark secrets as death stares them in the face. Done as a lark, this farce is executed with enthusiasm and harkens to Almodovar's earlier work. While its ribald sensibility may not appeal to everyone, fans of the director's films will be well-pleased. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 90 minutes. Rated R. NOR.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (2012). Manny, Diego and Sid (Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo) return 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.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2. The Lambert family, led by Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), find themselves under siege again as 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 frighten but fail to deliver. Still, the final half-hour is quite strong and nearly saves the film. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 105 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
JOURNEY FROM ZANSKAR. (Saturday). Zanskar is the last remaining original Tibetan Buddhist society with a continuous untainted lineage dating back thousands of years. Ringed by high Himalayan mountains in northwest India, it's one of the most remote places on the planet. But in three to five years, a road connecting Padum, the heart of Zanskar, with Leh, the heart of neighboring Ladakh, will be finished. Will the native language, culture and religious practice be able to survive? (http://www.arttheater.coop). 90 minutes. Not rated. With director Frederick Marx in person for a question-and-answer session. ART.
MACHETE KILLS. (Opens Friday). Robert Rodriguez's sequel to his 2010 homage to drive-in exploitation flicks has Danny Trejo returning in the title role as the ruthless Mexican assassin, who this time out is commissioned by the U.S. to take down an arms dealer (Mel Gibson) intent on launching a weapon into space. 107 minutes. Rated R. 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. Jake Gyllenhaal is 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. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 146 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.
ROMEO AND JULIET. (Opens Friday). Yet another big screen adaptation of Shakespeare's tragic tale of star-crossed lovers, this time brought to life by Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") and Douglas Booth. 118 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.
THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE BALLET SERIES: DON QUIXOTE. (Wednesday). Carlos Acosta presents his first work for The Royal Ballet — a dance adaptation of the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Acosta has danced the virtuoso role of Basilio many times, and now brings his unique and vibrant vision to the story; with music by Ludwig Minkus, full of Spanish flair and atmosphere. (http://www.gqti.com) 180 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.
RUNNER RUNNER. The world of online poker is the focus of this thriller that finds a college student (Justin Timberlake), who thinks he has figured out how to beat an Internet gaming site, see all his winnings go down the drain. He sets out to meet the owner of the company (Ben Affleck) and soon falls under his sway. It feels as though the first draft of the script was filmed as so many of the characters and situations are underdeveloped. The result is a disjointed film that frustrates rather than entertains. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 91 minutes.Rated R. AMC, SAV.
RUSH. 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, 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 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: THE ENGLISH TEACHER. (Monday) An English teacher's life is disrupted when a former student returns to her small town after failing as a playwright in New York. Stars Julianne Moore, Michael Angarano, Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane. (Internet Movie Database). 93 minutes. Rated R. 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. SAV.
WHITE ZOMBIE (1932). (Starts Friday). This ultra-low-budget shocker has garnered a cult following over the years, and it's easy to see why. Bela Lugosi is effectively creepy as Legendre, an amoral mill owner in Haiti who creates zombies to use as workers and uses his powers on a young woman (Madge Bellamy) when a fellow plantation owner (Robert Frazer) asks him to help in getting her to leave her fiance. Rumored to have been directed in large part by Lugosi himself. The atmosphere and tone of the film as well as its sordid subject matter make this an effective thriller and interesting relic from a bygone era. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 69 minutes. Not rated. ART.