Film capsules, May 1, 2014

Film capsules, May 1, 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

AFTER DARK. (Opens Wednesday). Set at an international school in Jakarta, where a philosophy teacher challenges his class of 20 students to a final thought experiment. Faced with an impending nuclear apocalypse, they must determine which 10 of them would take shelter underground and reboot the human race. The decision quickly becomes deadly as each in the group turns against each other in a desperate fight for survival that blurs the lines between theory and reality. Rated R. 107 minutes. ART.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. (Opens Friday). Manic, loud and with a tone that's turned up to 11 throughout, this adventure finds the title hero (Andrew Garfield) going toe to toe with Electro (Jamie Foxx), the Green Goblin (Denis DeHaan) and the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) all the while trying to manage his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The web-slinger has never looked as good as he does here as the action sequences are rendered with a slickness that elicits gasps. However, from the first moment on, the movie never stops to take a breath, let alone devote itself to character development, with the end result being a hollow exercise in spastic filmmaking. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 142 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, ONA, SAV.

BEARS. The latest documentary from Disney's nature films division follows the adventures of an Alaskan bear family and the young cubs in its fold, which are taught and learn important lessons in order to survive. The photography is beautiful, and while there are some tense moments, nothing too tragic happens that would upset young viewers. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated G. 77 minutes. CAR, SAV.

BLUE RUIN. (Opens Friday). Having dropped out of society after the brutal murder of his parents, Dwight (Macon Blair) finds himself returning to his hometown when he finds out that their killer has been released from prison. This revenge tale is as far from "Death Wish" as you can get as Dwight finds his quest for vengeance is far more difficult to carry out than he expected both physically and morally. A gritty, worthwhile tale that presents a realistic look at the wages of revenge and its true cost. Blair's devastating turn is worth the price of admission. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 90 minutes. ART.

BRICK MANSIONS. A Detroit police officer (Paul Walker) and an ex-con (David Belle) are forced to work together to take down a crime lord (RZA) who controls a dangerous part of the city that's been walled off from the rest of the crumbling metropolis. While the action is exceptional, especially the martial arts sequences by Belle, and Walker's incredulous reactions to them are entertaining, this is pretty standard action fare. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 90 minutes. CAR, SAV.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. 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. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 136 minutes. AMC, CAR, PRI, SAV.

CHARADE. (Starts Thursday, May 8). Audrey Hepburn stars as a widow who finds herself in the middle of international intrigue when a group of her husband's late partners come looking for a large amount of cash they're sure she has. Fortunately, she crosses paths with a mysterious man (Cary Grant) who may be able to help her out of this jam. With an abundance of charm and wit, this film will have you longing for a time when movies were able to entertain us with clever writing and subtle filmmaking techniques while being bolstered by genuinely charismatic stars. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Not rated. 113 minutes. NOR.

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. CAR, SAV.

DRAFT DAY. 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) Rated PG-13. 109 minutes. SAV.

ENEMY. (Opens Friday). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a depressed college professor who, having spotted his doppelganger in a film, tracks down his exact opposite, which causes him to question his very existence. Deliberate in its construction, the film as directed by Denis Villeneuve ("Prisoners"), sports an intriguing premise yet spins its wheels at times due to its tepid pacing. However, Gyllenhaal is a wonder to behold and the screenplay by Jose Saramago doles out just enough questions to keep us hooked. As for the final scene ... you've been warned. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 90 minutes. ART.

FIFTH ANNUAL FEMINIST FILM FESTIVAL. (Thursday, May 8). The festival at the University of Illinois is a student film festival and a grass-roots event that utilizes art and alternative media to bring social issues into the fore. The goal of the festival is to showcase independent film spanning documentary, narrative and experimental genres to explore perspectives often missing from mainstream media and culture. Now in its fifth year, the festival strives to serve as an inclusive public space for under-represented artists and filmmakers — particularly women and people of color — to raise consciousness about issues related to gender, race, class, sexuality and other dimensions of social inequality. Presented by UI Women's Resources Center. Not rated. All films between 5 and 15 minutes. ART.

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PRESENTS IRREPLACEABLE. (Tuesday). Join host Tim Sisarich (executive director of Focus on the Family New Zealand) as he seeks to find out whether the adage "If family fails, society fails" is true. He meets with experts around the globe to determine whether the concept of the traditional family is meaningful, or in fact outmoded. And if it is meaningful, is family worth preserving, even fighting for? Explore the origins and history of the family structure through an array of lenses and cultures. (gqti.com). Rated PG. 150 minutes. SAV.

GLORIA. This dramedy from Chile focuses on a middle-age woman (Paulina Garcia) who follows the beat of her own drum, yet has to come to terms with a casual relationship with a former naval officer. Quiet and introspective, the film is an effective and at times moving portrayal of one woman's struggle to find happiness that's made distinctive through Garcia's dynamic and powerful performance. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 110 minutes. Subtitled. NOR.

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.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2. More horror high jinks from Marlon Wayans as he spoofs the "Paranormal Activity" and "Insidious" films and myriad others with this tale of a young couple and their two children who move into a house with a dark past. Rated R. 86 minutes. CAR.

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. The best-selling book by Todd Burpo is adapted to the big screen and recounts his family's trail of faith after his youngest son has a near-death experience and contends that he has been to and seen heaven. Ponderously plotted and failing to fully examine the faith-based questions it poses, the intent of the film is to preach to the choir rather than examine the issues of religious faith at its center. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 100 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, SAV.

LE WEEK-END. (Opens Friday). Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as an English married couple who go to Paris for the weekend to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. However, it is far from being a romantic excursion as both have differing views as to the state of their union. The film takes a while to find its footing, but it ultimately rights itself and proves to be a moving reflection on love and the toll it exacts. As usual, Jeff Goldblum as a pompous intellectual steals every scene he's in. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 93 minutes. ART.

MAYWEATHER VS. MAIDANA. (Saturday). Broadcast live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Boxing fans can watch WBC welterweight world champion Floyd "Money" Mayweather as he faces WBA welterweight world champion Marcos "El Chino" Maidana. In addition to the 12-round world championship bout, the action-packed undercard will match Amir "King" Khan against Luis Collazoin, Adrien "The Problem" Broner against Carlos Molina, and J'Leon Love against Marco Antonio Periban. SAV.

NOAH. Russell Crowe stars 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. With Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Nick Nolte, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ray Winstone. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 138 minutes. SAV.

OCULUS. 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. But his sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) sets out to prove to him and the authorities that a supernatural force committed the crime. Though it overstays its welcome, this is an inspired little creeper that sports an intriguing narrative approach that keeps us guessing. To give away any specifics would ruin the viewer's sense of discovery, but suffice it to say, this haunted house exercise exceeds expectations. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 105 minutes. CAR.

THE OTHER WOMAN. When Kate (Leslie Man) finds out that her husband has a girlfriend (Cameron Diaz) and they discover he has another lover (Kate Upton), the three women get together to bring down the man (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that done them wrong. Though the core trio is appealing and the middle section of the movie in which they enact their revenge is effective, the film overstays its welcome as it marches toward its inevitable end. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 109 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

THE QUIET ONES. A psychological experiment conducted by a university professor and his students on a young girl goes horribly wrong when they set free powerful, unseen forces. The film is long on setup and short on payoff. The pace is slow and the big reveal will have you cursing yourself for having wasted your time on this forgettable effort. 11/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 98 minutes. CAR, 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). Rated G. 101 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

TRANSCENDENCE. Seeking to stretch the bounds of human intelligence, a terminally ill doctor (Johnny Depp) devises a way to upload his consciousness to a supercomputing network that expands his mind in ways he could not anticipate. For its first hour, the film is a fascinating look at a future in which the positives seem to outweigh the negatives where advances in supercomputing are concerned. However, as Depp's character devolves into a mad scientist figure, the movie's intelligence wanes as well, leaving us with a film that, like its protagonist, wastes its great potential. With Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy and Kate Mara. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 119 minutes. CAR, SAV.

THE UNKNOWN KNOWN. (Opens Monday). Errol Morris' latest documentary consists of a series of conversations between the filmmaker and Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush. As Rumsfeld discusses the preparations for the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, his disregard for the true cost of the war becomes evident while his constant double-talk concerning his and the government's motivation for this conflict is infuriating. While the movie is vital, in the end it really doesn't reveal anything new about the Bush II administration, at least for those who have been paying attention. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 103 minutes. ART.

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