Film capsules, Nov. 7, 2013

Summaries and mini-reviews of movies playing now, from e3 magazine:

  • AMC = AMC Village Mall, Danville.
  • ART = The Art Theater, Champaign
  • NOR = The Normal Theater, Normal
  • ONA = The Onarga Theater, Onarga
  • PRI = Princess Theatre, LeRoy
  • SAV = Savy 16, Savoy
  • VIR = Virginia Theatre, Champaign

ALL ABOUT EVE (1950). (Saturday) Middle-age stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) comes to realize that her biggest fan and new assistant Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is really just using her as a steppingstone to her own goal of stardom. Joseph L. Mankiewicz's tale of strong women and theatrical ambition earned 14 Oscar nominations and revived Davis' career with this iconic role. Superb acting and a literate script highlight a Hollywood classic with unexpected dark depths. 4 stars (Richard J. Leskosky). 138 minutes. Not rated. VIR.

ALL IS LOST. (Opens Friday) Robert Redford stars as a man faced with imminent death when a large hole is gouged out of the side of the small yacht he's sailing across the Indian Ocean. This is an ambitious film as the veteran actor is the only person on screen, and there's very little dialogue throughout. Meditative and challenging, yet never less than engaging, the film works on many levels as it addresses not only existential issues, but also today's problems as well, with the character being seen as adrift in a sea of troubles that threaten to overcome him at any moment. Smart and well-directed, Redford puts on a master acting class with his subdued yet moving performance. 3-1/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 106 minutes. ART.

BAD GRANDPA. Johnny Knoxville stars as Irving Zisman, an 86-year-old traveling across the country with his 8-year-old grandson, getting into one awkward situation after another. Shot in a similar manner as the "Jackass" films, the characters interact with unsuspecting non-actors to create "Candid Camera-like" moments. You know exactly what you're getting with a film of this sort as the level of crudity steadily increases throughout, and some of the gags work, while others fall flat. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 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.

A CENTURY OF CINEMA: THE ART TURNS 100. (Tuesday) Act I: "From Nickel to Pixel." Documentary premiere, book premiere, costume contest, food and drinks. Act II: "Time Trip" with the Andrew Alden Ensemble. Live music and short films. ART.

ENDER'S GAME. 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. Far more intelligent than "The Hunger Games" and other teen literature, the film proves to be a powerful indictment of governments that would willingly strip a select few of their rights to serve the "greater good." Solid performances from Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis make this thought-provoking movie far more vital than you might suspect. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 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.

FREAKS (1932). (Starts Friday) Director Tod Browning's infamous horror film features real-life sideshow performers in this tale of jealousy, greed, alienation and gruesome revenge. Banned for decades in many European countries, the movie was rediscovered in the late 1960s and has become a cult classic, now recognized as a landmark work of the horror genre. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Not rated. 64 minutes. ART.

FREE BIRDS. 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.

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. SAV.

THE GREAT GATSBY. 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. 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.

LORE. (Opens Thursday, Nov. 14) A German girl gets help from a mysterious refugee in this striking World War II-era drama. Subtitled. 109 minutes. Rated R. NOR.

METROPOLITAN OPERA: TOSCA. (Live Saturday, encore Wednesday) Puccini's timeless verismo score is well served by an exceptional cast, led by Patricia Racette in the title role of the jealous diva, opposite Roberto Alagna as her lover, Cavaradossi. George Gagnidze is the villainous Scarpia. 215 minutes. SAV.

REUNION 108. (Opens Friday) Two generations of professional baseball players return for a reunion game at one of their minor league stops en route to the big leagues. The owner of the club arranges an inducement to get the players to reveal novel anecdotes from their past baseball lives, "on and off the field." The only apparent commonality between the two groups is their success on the ball field. 188 minutes. Rated R. PRI.

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. PRI.

SALINGER. Who hasn't heard of "The Catcher in the Rye"? This documentary plays out like a mystery about the troubled author. (http://www.normaltheater.com). 120 minutes. Rated PG-13. NOR.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD. (Opens Friday) Chris Hemsworth returns as the God of Thunder who must do battle with an ancient enemy (the Dark Elves), grapple with his love for an earthling (the luminous Jane Foster) and take an untrustworthy foe as an ally (his half brother Loki). Following the Marvel Films' formula to the letter, the film has the proper amount of spectacle, pathos and humor to deliver a rousing entertainment that will satisfy loyal fans and perhaps convert those who have been on the fence where superhero films are concerned. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 120 minutes. AMC, SAV.

12 YEARS A SLAVE. (Opens Friday). Steve McQueen's lacerating look at America's Peculiar Institution is unflinching in its portrayal of American slavery in the 19th century as it recounts the tragic misadventures of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a black man born free but then abducted and sold into slavery in the South. The film pulls no punches in its depiction of the physical and psychological cruelty meted out to the characters in question nor in the way it indicts those who stand idly by as moral atrocities occur. A film long overdue that, while difficult to watch, should be required viewing for all. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 134 minutes. SAV.

VAMPYR (1932). (Wednesday) Carl Dreyer's progressive horror film defies easy explanation as it tells a disjointed tale of a traveler who encounters supernatural forces during a surreal journey that may or may not be within our reality. Odd but engaging throughout, the film was influenced by the work of Luis Bunuel and serves as a precursor to the nonlinear but fascinating and disturbing work of David Lynch. The Andrew Alden Ensemble will be performing an original score during the screening of the film, making this a unique opportunity to see one of the oddest cinematic works from the first half-century of filmmaking. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Not rated. 75 minutes. ART.

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