Film capsules, Oct. 17, 2013

Film capsules, Oct. 17, 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

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. Tom Hanks takes on the title role in this true story about a cargo ship captain taken hostage by four desperate Somali pirates in 2009 and held for ransom over a five-day period. Director Paul Greengrass uses 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.

CARRIE. (Opens Friday). Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the title role of this remake of the Stephen King novel about a bullied teenage girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers. Julianne Moore is her religious mother who comes to see her daughter as the spawn of Satan. 98 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

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, PRI, SAV.

THE CRAFT (1996). (Wednesday). Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) is a newcomer at a Catholic high school who, in an effort to get in good with the popular girls (Neve Campbell, Fariuza Balk and Rachel True), joins a coven. Though a bit dated, the film's dark humor helps sustain it even when the premise runs its course. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 101 minutes. Rated R. ART.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS. (Starts Saturday). Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is out of school for the summer and finds himself trying to catch the eye of his crush Holly (Peyton List) as well as to impress his father (Steve Zahn). A passable entertainment, this will please fans of the past two entries in the series. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 94 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

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 the 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 done 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.

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW. (Opens Friday). Made on the cheap and without the permission of the Disney Corp., this independent movie chronicles one father's trip to Disney World that turns out being far from a magical day. Like a slowly unfolding waking nightmare, the film does a fine job capturing the sort of middle-class angst that comes from trying to live the good life but not having the money to do so. Quick shifts in tone and a story that's too ambitious for a movie this size doesn't prevent it from being a curious, entertaining and unique film. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 90 minutes. Not rated. ART.

ESCAPE PLAN. (Opens Friday). Sylvester Stallone is Ray Breslin, an authority on the structural security of prisons who finds himself framed for a crime he never committed and locked away in a penitentiary of his own design. If his plan to escape is to work, he needs help from Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a lifer with his own agenda. 116 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.

THE FIFTH ESTATE. (Opens Friday). Partly truth, partly fiction, this thriller focuses on the rise of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his controversial website WikiLeaks as well as the U.S. government's response to it. 128 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

G.B.F. (Sunday). It's fashionable to have a "GBF" — "Gay Best Friend" after a student is outed by his classmates. 92 minutes. Rated PG-13. LGBT Fest. NOR.

GEOGRAPHY CLUB. (Saturday). Based on a best-selling teen novel. A group of LGBT students form an after-school club to share their feelings and thoughts. Stars Scott Bakula. Exclusive Illinois screening. 83 minutes. Rated PG-13. LGBT Fest.  NOR.

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947). (Starts Thursday, Oct. 24). Widow Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) moves into a British seaside cottage and find it haunted by its former owner, a crusty sea captain (Rex Harrison). This unique love story benefits from a witty script and genuine chemistry between its two leads. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 104 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.

HAXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES (1922). (Saturday). This pseudo-documentary is a recounting of the history of witchcraft told in various styles over the course of seven different episodes. Banned in various countries for years after its initial release, the movie still retains the power to shock with its depiction of pagan rites as well as graphic nudity and violence. A film far ahead of its time, it may not pack the punch it once did, but as a cinematic artifact, it is never less than fascinating. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 87 minutes. Not rated. ART.

IAN HARVIE SUPERHERO. (Saturday). Documentary on stand-up transgendered comic, who uses his gender change story in his comedy routine. 75 minutes. Rated R. LGBT Fest. NOR.

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.

MACHETE KILLS. 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 United States to take down an arms dealer (Mel Gibson) intent on launching a weapon into space. You know what you're getting when a film casts Charlie Sheen as the president of the United States, and for those seeking dark humor, ridiculous action and a nonsensical plot, all of which are executed tongue-in-cheek, you could do far worse. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 107 minutes. Rated R. SAV.

MOTHER OF GEORGE. (Opens Saturday). A visually sumptuous and brilliantly directed drama about a Nigerian couple in Brooklyn. Acclaimed director Andrew Dosumnu ("Restless City") captures the nuances of this unique and fascinating culture by creating a beautiful, vibrant, and moving portrait of a couple whose joys and struggles are at once intimate and universal. Stars Danai Gurira ("The Walking Dead") and Isaach De Bankole. Best cinematography, Sundance Film Festival 2013. ( Rated R. ART.

OTHELLO. (Opens Sunday). The National Theatre presents a major new production of William Shakespeare's celebrated play about the destructive power of jealousy. Olivier Award-winning actor Adrian Lester takes the title role. Playing opposite him as the duplicitous Iago is fellow Olivier winner Rory Kinnear, who is reunited with director Nicholas Hytner following their acclaimed collaboration on the National Theatre's recent production of "Hamlet." ( Not rated. ART.

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. SAV.

REACHING FOR THE MOON. (Friday). Biopic of the relationship between American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. 118 minutes. Rated R. LGBT Fest. Subtitled. NOR.

RIFFTRAX LIVE: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. (Thursday). The stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are back for only one night in a hilarious never-before-seen take on the zombie movie that started it all: "Night of the Living Dead." Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett of RiffTrax offer their wisecracking commentary. SAV.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). (Starts Friday). This musical parody was saved from obscurity when it became a cult movie sensation after college audiences turned it into a bawdy interactive experience. The story is a comic riff on the creaky horror premise that deals with an innocent couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) whose car breaks down on a dark and stormy night and who are forced to stay at an old dark house owned by the transvestite mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 100 minutes. Rated R. ART.

ROMEO AND JULIET. 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. This is a very traditional rendition of the oft-told tale that's refreshing in the way it avoids the usual melodramatic approach. Steinfeld brings innocence yet strength to Juliet, but Booth is a bit of a stiff. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 118 minutes. Rated PG-13. 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. 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: WHAT RICHARD DID. (Monday). Newcomer Jack Reynor and Roisin Murphy star alongside Sam Keeley and Lars Mikkelsen in this striking portrait adapted from Kevin Powers' award-winning book "Bad Day in Blackrock." The world is bright and everything seems possible for Richard Karlsen, the golden boy of his privileged set of Dublin teens, until he does something that destroys it all and shatters the lives of those closest to him. Featuring extraordinary performances from its largely young cast, the film is a quietly devastating study of a boy confronting the gap between who he thought he was and who he proves to be. SAV.

SHORT TERM 12. (Opens Friday). Grace (Brie Larson), a conflicted supervisor at a foster care facility, attempts to juggle the emotional trials she must contend with at work as well as the confusion she's experiencing with her boyfriend. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton's film has taken various American film festivals by storm, and it's easy to see why. Moving but never calculated, the movie gets under the viewer's skin as we witness its damaged teens struggle through their emotional trials while Larson grounds the affair with a nuanced, poignant performance. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 96 minutes. Rated R. ART.

STEPHEN SONDHEIM'S MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG — FROM LONDON'S WEST END. (Wednesday). Set over three decades in the entertainment business, "Merrily We Roll Along" charts the relationship between three friends: Franklin, Mary and Charley. Traveling backward in time, this powerful and moving story features some of Sondheim's most beautiful songs, including "Good Thing Going" and "Not a Day Goes By." 180 minutes. SAV.

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