Summaries and mini-reviews of movies playing now, from e3 magazine:
BAD WORDS. Jason Bateman, in his directorial debut, stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old man who finds a loophole in the rules of a national spelling bee and enters it for an unknown reason. Immature, foul-mouthed and boorish, he unexpectedly bonds with Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), a fellow contestant whose youth forces Guy to re-examine his own life. The film is not for all tastes as the targets of many of its cruel gags are children, while Bateman takes great glee in his character's reprehensible behavior. However, there's no denying the movie takes interesting narrative risks and must be commended for living on the edge as it does. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 89 minutes. SAV.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. (Opens Friday). Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) struggle to fit into the modern world is made all the more difficult when he encounters a new nemesis, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who has ties to his past. However, he has a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who attempts to help him battle not only his new enemy but also a threat that's developing within the covert operation he belongs to, S.H.I.E.L.D. Ambitious in the way it grapples with modern geopolitical issues through the propaganda symbol that anchors it, this is a smartly done, exciting and timely tale that transcends its genre as it does not shrink away from examining the complex issues of national and international security as well as what America stands for today. With Samuel L. Jackson. Scarlett Johansson and Robert Redford. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 136 minutes. AMC, HAR, ONA, SAV.
DIVERGENT. Based on the best-seller by Veronica Roth, the film takes place in a dystopian future where members of society are separated into five different factions. However, Tris (Shailene Woodley), a young teenager with a rebellious streak, refuses to be pigeonholed into one group, an act that sets off a chain of events that threatens the very foundation of her community. Though it's far too similar to "The Hunger Games" and other tween stories to be truly distinctive, Woodley's performance and a powerful message about the vagaries of ethnic cleansing make this passable escapist fare. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 139 minutes. AMC, HAR, SAV.
GOD'S NOT DEAD. College student Josh Wheaton's faith is challenged by his philosophy professor, who believes God does not exist. (Internet Movie Database). With Willie Robertson, David A.R. White and Shane Harper. Rated PG. 113 minutes. SAV.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Director Wes Anderson's latest feature focuses on M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), Europe's greatest concierge, who becomes embroiled in a dispute over the estate of Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), one of his elderly lovers who leaves him a priceless painting, much to the chagrin of her family. As with most of Anderson's films, this is gorgeous to look at as each scene is meticulously rendered with the sets, clothes and characters working in unison to create a pristine, storybook world inhabited by cultured individuals. This is all gloriously disrupted by the characters' baser emotions and behavior, effectively underscoring the director's recurring theme that while mankind may be able to create things of great beauty, we never fail to disrupt and sometimes destroy them with our flawed behavior. Charming and unique, this is an Anderson classic that will please his fans and befuddle newcomers. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 100 minutes. ART.
THE GREAT BEAUTY (LA GRANDE BELLEZZA). (Starts Thursday, April 10). Paolo Sorrentino's film focuses on Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a writer who has lived on the reputation of a single novel he wrote decades ago and is prompted to look back on his life after his 65th birthday. His search for the truth about himself and the world around him reveals hypocrisy at every turn, while his sudden adherence to being honest is unappreciated by his friends. Funny, poignant and beautiful, the film is driven by Servillo's masterful performance. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 2014 Oscar winner, best foreign language film. Not rated. 142 minutes. NOR.
THE LEGO MOVIE. Moving back and forth between the various sets of Lego worlds, construction worker Emmitt (voice by Chris Pratt) attempts to break into the headquarters of President Business (Will Ferrell) to stop a plot that will permanently change every dimension in the toy universe. While the film is a bit manic at times, the visuals are inventive and very clever. However, the most satisfying thing about the movie is the surprise ending, which lends the story an unexpected poignancy. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 100 minutes. ART, SAV.
METROPOLITAN OPERA: LA BOHEME. (Opens Saturday, April 5). Presented live on Saturday, with an encore performance Wednesday. Puccini's moving story of young love is the most-performed opera in Met history — and with good reason. Anita Hartig stars as the frail Mim in Franco Zeffirelli's classic production, with Vittorio Grigolo as her passionate lover, Rodolfo. 205 minutes. SAV.
MOUNTAINFILM ON TOUR. (Tuesday).Presented by Champaign Surplus, "Mountainfilm on Tour" is an inspiring and action-packed evening showcasing some of the best independent films from the world-renowned film festival held annually in Telluride, Colo. The Mountainfilm mission is to educate and inspire audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth preserving, and conversations worth sustaining. One hundred percent of proceeds from this event go to support the programs of Illinois: Operation Military Kids. Not rated. ART.
MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN. This modern adaptation of the classic Jay Ward cartoon finds the genius dog Mr. Peabody (voice by Ty Burrell) and his boy Sherman (Max Charles) causing all sorts of havoc as they trip through time in their WABAC Machine. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 92 minutes. AMC, SAV.
MUPPETS MOST WANTED. While on tour in Europe, the Muppets find themselves embroiled in an international jewelry heist, as the head of the operation looks just like Kermit the Frog. While there are moments of great fun and some memorable songs, including "I'm Number 2," the plot here is rather thin, and with the film running at least 20 minutes longer than it should, you can't help but get the feeling that the felt-clad crew is padding things after the one-hour point. With Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Stanley Tucci, Ray Liotta, Frank Langella, Tom Hiddleston and a bevy of guest stars. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 114 minutes. AMC, PRI, SAV.
NEED FOR SPEED. Aaron Paul, in his first starring role since the conclusion of "Breaking Bad," stars as Tobey Marshall, a high-stakes driver who must travel cross country and win an illegal street race to clear his name of a manslaughter charge. Based on the popular video game, the film has more than its fair share of lapses where logic and common sense are concerned. However, it ends up being far more thrilling than most of the "Fast and Furious" features, and if you're looking for an adrenaline rush, you could do much worse. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 130 minutes. SAV.
NFINITY CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CHEERLEADING EVENT. (Opens Thursday, April 10). Captured live four days earlier from Atlanta, Ga., this exclusive one-night cinema event will showcase 30 of the country's most decorated cheerleading teams as they unite for a competition of epic proportions and fight to be named grand champion. 150 minutes. SAV.
NOAH. Russell Crowe stars in the title role as a man chosen by God to save his family and two of each of Earth's creatures by building a massive ark that will protect them from a flood sent to wipe the planet free of sin. A flawed but ambitious and radical take on the biblical tale casts the title character as a conflicted man who questions his purpose in God's grand plan while alienating his family in the process. It's a distinctly humanistic approach and while the visuals are undeniably spectacular, director Darren Aronofsky makes some narrative choices that will have viewers scratching their heads over their validity as well as how they fit in the overall story. With Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Nick Nolte, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ray Winstone. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 138 minutes. AMC, SAV.
NON-STOP. Liam Neeson stars as an air marshal who must spring into action when he starts receiving texts from a fellow passenger, who promises to start killing others onboard unless his ransom demands are met. Neeson's presence, some slick visuals and an unrelenting pace from director Jaume Collet-Serra nearly save the day, but their fine efforts are undone by a third act that's far too ridiculous to take seriously. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 106 minutes. SAV.
PUSS IN BOOTS. (Saturday and Sunday). Antonio Banderas provides the voice of the title character as everyone's favorite feline from the "Shrek" films gets his own adventure. We find out how he got his boots and why he is constantly on the run to clear his name. All is revealed as he, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and Kitty Soft Paws (Salma Hayek) set out to find three magical beans. Brimming with exciting action sequences, an engaging adventure and genuinely humorous moments, this is a charmer from the first frame to the last. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 90 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.
SABOTAGE. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as "Breacher" Wharton, the leader of a DEA task force whose members start to be killed after they take down a key distribution point that's part of a powerful Mexican drug cartel. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 109 minutes. AMC, SAV.
THE WIND RISES. Legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's final feature is a stylized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed airplanes that were eventually modified as attack planes that would be used in World War II. As you would expect, the images at play here are gorgeous, but what makes the film distinctive is the inner turmoil Horikoshi must contend with as his inventions were meant to make man realize the wonder of flight and not to be used as instruments of destruction. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 126 minutes. NOR.