Film capsules, April 10, 2014

Film capsules, April 10, 2014

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

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.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2. (Saturday). 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). Rated PG. 95 minutes. PRI.

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, SAV.

DRAFT DAY. (Opens Friday). Kevin Costner stars as Sonny Weaver, the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Having traded for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, he's facing enormous pressure from the team's owner (Frank Langella) and coach (Denis Leary) to choose a player they can rebuild the team around, a process that requires a degree of finesse and timing that Weaver may not be able to control. When the film concentrates on the ins and outs of running a professional football team, it's quite engaging. However, its various subplots involving Weaver's personal life nearly sink it, though Costner's fine work saves it in the end. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski) 109 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, 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). 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.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2. (Opens Thursday, April 17). Having exorcised the demons of his ex, Malcolm is starting fresh with his new girlfriend and her two children. After moving into their dream home, however, Malcolm is once again plagued by bizarre paranormal events. (Internet Movie Database). Starring Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Cedric the Entertainer. Rated R. 87 minutes. AMC.

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. (Opens Wednesday). A small-town father must find the courage and conviction to share his son's extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. (Internet Movie Database). Starring Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor Corum. Rated PG. 100 minutes. AMC.

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. AV.

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, SAV.

NEW ART FILM FESTIVAL. (Sunday). For the fifth year running, C-U Confidential and the Art Theater Co-op present the best in creative filmmaking our community has to offer. A signature showcase of downstate Illinois cinema made by our friends and neighbors. Mix of shorts, features and live presentations. (arttheater.coop). Not rated. ART.

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, PRI, SAV.

NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. I. (Opens Friday). Director Lars von Trier 's latest examination of aberrant behavior focuses on Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who, after being found beaten in an alleyway, recounts her various sexual escapades to her rescuer Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard). Less titillating than you might expect, this is at once a serious examination of one woman's confusion over her sexuality as well as a manipulative exercise as von Trier undercuts the viewer's expectations while leading us down one deceptive narrative path after another. Intriguing enough to have me curious about what volume two has in store. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 118 minutes. Not rated. ART.

OCULUS. (Opens Friday). Convicted of the brutal murder of his parents, Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is set to be released from custody and is intent on getting on with his life. However, his sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) sets out to prove to him and the authorities that a supernatural force committed the crime. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.

RANGO. (Saturday and Sunday). Gore Verbinski's animated tribute to the films of Sergio Leone ("The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," etc.) finds a lost lizard (voice of Johnny Depp) reinventing himself in a Western town as a gunslinger. Trouble in the form of a corrupt politician (Ned Beatty) and a hired gun (Bill Nighy) come calling. While the story is dragged out a bit, the visuals are simply arresting and lovingly rendered. A must for fans of spaghetti Westerns. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 107 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

RIO 2. The rare macaws Blu and Jewel (voices by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway) return, this time with three baby birds to raise and the news that they may not be the only surviving members of their breed after all. A trip down the Amazon puts them in contact with a hidden group of their brethren, which complicates their peaceful lives. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 101 minutes. Rated G. AMC, HAR, SAV.

SPICE WORLD. (Wednesday). Sing along to this '90s pop phenomenon. Climb aboard the double-decker Spice Bus and get ready for a madcap musical movie adventure with that irresistible 1990s pop phenomenon — the Spice Girls. An encounter with extraterrestrials, a night in a haunted castle, and a moment of truth in a maternity ward are just a few of the escapades you'll experience as the girls gear up for their first live concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Emma, Victoria, Mel B., Geri and Mel C. star with George Wendt, Richard E. Grant, Roger Moore, Elvis Costello, Elton John and Meatloaf in this sassy movie. (arttheater.coop). Rated PG. 92 minutes. ART.

WALKING THE CAMINO. (Opens Thursday, April 17). This documentary charts the progress of six people on their journey over the Camino, a 500-mile path across Spain that is undertaken by those seeking spiritual enlightenment as seen in Emilio Estevez's "The Way." 90 minutes. Rated PG. NOR.

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