Summaries and mini-reviews of movies playing now, from e3 magazine:
BAD GRANDPA. Johnny Knoxville stars as Irving Zisman, an 86-year-old traveling across the country with his 8-year-old grandson and getting into one awkward situation after another. In the manner of the "Jackass" films, they interact with unsuspecting nonactors to create "Candid Camera-like" moments. 92 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.
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. SAV.
CARRIE. Chloe Grace Moretz takes on 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. This proves to be a worthy update of the 1976 original as modern special effects make Carrie's telekinetic powers more distinctive and memorable. More importantly, the performances from the two leads are grounded and never veer toward the melodramatic, giving the film a humane perspective that makes for a genuinely emotional climax. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 98 minutes. Rated R. 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. SAV.
THE COUNSELOR. An eager and rather naive lawyer (Michael Fassbender) sees his career spiral down the drain when he unwittingly gets involved with a drug cartel. Director Ridley Scott's high-sheen aesthetic is at play here, and no one keeps a film moving as well as he does. However, the script by novelist Cormac McCarthy is too literate and smart for this medium, while its main character is far too naive, and at times stupid, to garner any sympathy from the audience. With Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 117 minutes. Rated R. AMC, 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 porn. The film is quite smart in the way it deals with how media of various sorts shape 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.
ENDER'S GAME. (Opens Friday) This adaptation of the classic science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card follows the efforts of the International Military to find a defense against an impending alien invasion. They discover a prodigy (Asa Butterfield) who may have the skills to fend off the attack, but the moral cost may be too great to consider. With Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin and Viola Davis. Rated PG-13. 114 minutes. AMC, SAV.
ESCAPE PLAN. 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. There's nothing really new here as this is a B-movie with an A-list budget. However, Stallone and Schwarzenegger are fun together, and if you like either of them, this is your cup of tea. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 116 minutes. Rated R. SAV.
FREE BIRDS. (Opens Friday) This animated feature focuses on two very different turkeys (voices of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) that set out to go back in time to change the course of history. Seems they don't want themselves or their brethren to be the main course every last Thursday in November. Rated PG. 91 minutes. AMC, SAV.
GOMORRAH. (Starts Friday) This import from Italy presents a no-holds-barred look at modern crime as it examines the far reach of the Camorra syndicate. With a nod toward the Italian neo-realism brand of cinema, the film presents as realistic a look at crime as you're likely to see, running counter to the Hollywood myths we've come to accept. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 137 minutes. Not rated. 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 explored are as pedestrian as the visuals are groundbreaking. 3-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 90 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, PRI, SAV.
THE GREAT GATSBY. (Starts Tuesday) Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of the seminal American classic is an ambitious, flawed marvel that adheres closely to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, though the director's grandiose style sometimes tramples on the author's subtle tone. Leonardo DiCaprio takes on the title role of the mysterious millionaire who transforms himself in order to win back Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). There's an undeniable energy to the film and the cast, in particular Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, is impressive. Unfortunately, Luhrmann's overwrought style trumps the substance of Fitzgerald's work at times, making for an uneven but still watchable effort. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 143 minutes. VIR.
LAST VEGAS. (Opens Friday) Five Oscar winners get together for a pseudo-comedy that won't be mentioned as a highlight in any of their filmographies. Four childhood best friends (Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline) reunite in Las Vegas when one of them decides to marry a much younger woman. Old resentments bubble to the surface, and things become complicated when they meet a lounge singer (Mary Steenburgen) that two of them try to woo. The script is as tired as the cast looks, the jokes are woefully predictable, and the story begs for our tears rather than earns them. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 105 minutes. AMC, SAV.
SALINGER. (Opens Thursday, Nov. 7) Who hasn't heard of "The Catcher in the Rye"? This documentary plays out like a mystery about the troubled author. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13. NOR.
SELECTIONS FROM THE 2013 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: LET THE FIRE BURN. (Monday) Jason Osder makes an impressive feature film debut through his unbiased and thorough account of the incidents leading up to and during the 1985 standoff between the extremist African-American organization MOVE and Philadelphia authorities. SAV.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990). (Starts Friday) Dime store pets metamorphosed after being dropped down a sewer manhole and falling into radioactive slime. An evil ninja warrior is recruiting youths for an ever-growing crime spree. Not bad for what it is, and youngsters seem to enjoy it. (Richard Leskosky.) Rated PG. ART.
THE TOOTH FAIRY. (Starts Saturday) A bitter hockey player (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is punished by fairies for disillusioning children and sentenced to perform the duties of the "real" tooth fairy. The Rock is at home playing exaggerated sports figures and is willing to act and dress as silly as he needs to be to get a laugh. That pays off here in an otherwise predictable plot. 2 stars (Richard J. Leskosky). 101 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.
WADJDA. (Opens Friday) This import from Saudi Arabia tells the story of Wadjda (Waad Mohammed), a young girl who longs to buy a bike, though the society she lives in restricts women from riding them. This simple tale speaks to larger concerns as it puts a spotlight on the oppression that women in some parts of the world must still contend with while giving us a plucky young heroine who serves as a beacon of hope and change for future generations. Quietly moving, young Mohammed delivers a performance that immediately has us in her character's corner. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 98 minutes. ART.
WELCOME (2009). (Saturday) A different road picture — a 17-year-old Kurdish refugee travels across Europe in hopes of reuniting with his girlfriend in England. A French film, directed by Philippe Lioret. 110 minutes. Rated PG. Subtitled. Part of the ISU European Film Festival. NOR.
WINDOW TO PARIS (1994). (Sunday) Recently fired, a music teacher moves in to the home of a friend. In it, there is a room that contains a window through which one can find Paris, France. 87 minutes. Rated PG-13. Subtitled. Part of the ISU European Film Festival. NOR.