Film capsules, June 12, 2014

Film capsules, June 12, 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

BEARS. (Starts Friday). 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. PRI.

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998). (Starts Saturday). The Coen brothers' comic film noir follows the misadventures of Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), a lay-about who, due to a case of mistaken identity, becomes embroiled in a nasty bit of business with pornographers, nihilists and kidnappers. Sardonic and sporting the Coens' trademark sense of dark humor and bitter irony, the movie has achieved cult status due to Jeff Bridges' endearing performance as well as its many quotable pieces of dialogue. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 117 minutes. NOR.

THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN (2013). (Starts Thursday, June 19). At times harrowing, at others joyous, this Belgian import follows the relationship of Didier (Johan Heldenbergh), a bluegrass musician, and his love, tattoo artist Elise (Veerle Baetens), who meet, fall in love and have a daughter who is eventually diagnosed with cancer. The story is presented in a nonlinear fashion, and while it borders on being a bit too melodramatic at times, the sincerity in the performances by the two leads saves it in the end. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Not rated. 111 minutes. Subtitles. NOR.

EDGE OF TOMORROW. Tom Cruise stars as a cowardly military officer who is forced into combat against a deadly alien race. He's killed almost immediately but finds himself caught in a time loop in which he's forced to relive the same day again and again until he attains the skills necessary to defeat the enemy. This "Groundhog Day" premise is done with wit and intelligence as the movie weaves a complex narrative revolving around the themes of fate and destiny. This is top-notch filmmaking that's undercut by a ludicrous ending that makes no sense, trumping the movie's internal logic. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 113 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, SAV.

FARGO (1996). One of the Coen brothers' best, this darkly comic tale follows the misadventures of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), who hires a pair of criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife and then collect the ransom that would be paid by his father-in-law (Harve Presnell). It all goes horribly wrong and soon pregnant, tenacious detective Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is on the case. The film's noir conventions are given a fresh spin in the story's frozen, far Northern environment while everyone in the cast creates characters that make a distinct impression. An American classic. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 98 minutes. NOR.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort star as Hazel and Gus, two teens who meet in a cancer support group, fall in love and are eventually forced to face their own mortality. Not as cloying and sentimental as you might expect, director Josh Boone wisely lets the story play out without going out of his way to yank at our heartstrings. That being said, there wouldn't be much here without Woodley's strong performance. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 125 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, CAR, SAV.

FED UP. (Monday). Compelling and troubling in equal measure, "Fed Up" is an advocacy documentary that earns its outrage. For the past 30 years, everything we thought we knew about food and exercise is dead wrong. "Fed Up" is the film the food industry doesn't want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar-winning producer of "An Inconvenient Truth") and director Stephanie Soechtig, "Fed Up" will change the way you eat forever. (arttheater.coop). Rated PG. 92 minutes. ART.

GODZILLA. Director Gareth Edwards successfully brings everyone's favorite prehistoric hero back to the big screen as the Big G goes toe to toe with two giant flying creatures that are on opposite sides of the world and intent on mating, causing mayhem and destruction in their effort to meet. Cleverly written and smarter than you might expect, only glimpses of Godzilla are seen through most of the film, which may frustrate some diehard fans, until the final showdown. Still, there's enough spectacular destruction to satisfy the most jaded viewer, and in the end, it's just good to see this icon back on the big screen, rendered with the reverence he deserves. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 123 minutes. CAR, SAV.

HAPPY FEET TWO.(Starts Monday). Sequel to the Oscar-winning 2006 film, with the Penguin Nation now trapped at the bottom of a giant ice bowl. It has much choreography, many musical numbers ranging from Queen to Puccini, a subplot involving krill, and too many penguins standing around looking too interchangeable for characters in a 3-D animated movie. 21/2 stars (Roger Ebert). 99 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. (Opens Friday). This impressive follow-up takes a far more serious approach than its predecessor as it ushers its hero Hiccup (voice by Jay Baruchel) into adulthood when his community is forced to go to war against a despot named Drago (Djimon Hounsou). Visually stunning and genuinely exciting, this film pulls no punches as we witness Hiccup's tumultuous journey toward becoming a man. An effective family film that will prompt discussion afterward and will stick with you after the credits roll. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 102 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, ONA, SAV.

I'M A LESBIAN, MONTREAL/OUT IN SUBURBIA. (Tuesday). "I am a lesbian" is what the 22 Montreal women proudly and eloquently affirm in Tina Fichter's documentary. Behind the statement lie their experiences, their perspectives and their unique lives. Bold, upbeat and powerful, this 28-minute video spotlights 11 suburban women, ranging in age from 25 to 67, who speak easily and frankly about their families, friends and loves. Part of UP Center's fifth annual Reel It UP Film Festival. (arttheater.coop). Not rated. ART.

LEADING LADY. (Tuesday). The Camparis are a family of women in which everyone knows her place. Sheri is the larger-than-life, overbearing stage mom. Once a young and beautiful ballroom champion, Sheri now lives vicariously through her youngest daughter Tasi, the darling of the local amateur ballroom circuit. Sheri's oldest daughter, Toni, is Tasi's practice partner, the wallflower who must quietly support them all. The only consistent man in the life of the Campari women is Cedric, Tasi's dance partner and Toni's best friend. Find out what happens to each as they re-examine their roles in modern life and on the dance floor. Part of UP Center's fifth annual Reel It UP Film Festival. (arttheater.coop). Not rated. ART.

MALEFICENT. A new take on the "Sleeping Beauty" tale finds an innocent young woman named Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) who's forced to compromise herself in order to protect her homeland from an invading army. When she's betrayed and casts a curse on the invading king's daughter, she finds herself changing in ways she never imagined. This is one of the most visually stunning films of the year as the creatures it contains and the sets it utilizes are innovative and fresh. However, the thin story is stretched past its breaking point, and while Jolie is great fun to watch, in the end the movie ends up overstaying its welcome. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 97 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, SAV.

MEET THE ROBINSONS. (Saturday). When a mysterious man with a robot hat sabotages orphaned genius Lewis' latest invention, an equally mysterious boy takes him on a journey to the future to set things right. Just when Lewis thinks he may have found a future in the future, the bowler-hatted man and some family secrets make that impossible. This Disney 3-D computer-generated animation presents a 1930s view of the future, complete with a 1930s vintage eccentric family. The family is almost too large to keep track of, though, and the film's momentum falters during the villain's extended explanation of the plot, but it's still charming. 3 stars (Richard J. Leskosky). 96 minutes. Rated G. PRI.

THE MET: LIVE IN HD SUMMER 2014 ENCORE: RIGOLETTO. (Wednesday). Michael Mayer's acclaimed production, the talk of the opera world when it premiered in 2013, sets the action of Verdi's masterpiece in 1960 Las Vegas — a neon-lit world ruled by money and ruthless, powerful men. In this bold new vision, Piotr Beczala is the Duke, a popular entertainer and casino owner. Zeljko Lucic sings Rigoletto, a comedian and the Duke's sidekick, and Diana Damrau is Rigoletto's innocent daughter, Gilda. Not rated. 150 minutes. SAV.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. Albert (Seth MacFarlane), a tenderfoot in the violent Old West, finds his love for a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) threatened when her gun-slinging husband (Liam Neeson) comes to town. Simplistic, unimaginative and borderline offensive, this is a comedy aimed squarely at adolescents who glory in scatological humor, of which the film has plenty. There's a mean-spirited tone to the entire affair that reeks of desperation. Only Neil Patrick Harris is able to generate any sort of humor in this morass of misguided gags. 1 star (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 116 minutes. CAR, SAV.

NEIGHBORS. Young couple Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) find themselves at war with their neighbors when a college fraternity moves in next door and turns their lives upside down. The film is funny in fits and starts as it fails to build a relentless comedic pace that's necessary for a movie like this to succeed. But the cast, including Zac Efron and Dave Franco as two frat brothers who are perhaps a bit too close, keep this from being a total waste of time. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 96 minutes. CAR, PRI, SAV.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE. (Opens Friday). Director Jim Jarmusch's adult vampire tale is long on atmosphere and benefits greatly from performances by Tilda Swinton as the 1,000-year-old Eve and Tom Hiddleston as her younger bloodsucking husband Adam. He's depressed, she tries to get him out of his funk, and this is all played out against the background of the dead city, Detroit. The film's metaphors are obvious and at times heavy-handed, while the slow pace, though deliberate to emphasize the eternity these characters must contend with, prevents the movie from establishing any narrative urgency. If Jarmusch had something new to bring to the genre, this might have been a worthwhile endeavor; as it is, it ends up being a self-indulgent exercise. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 123 minutes. ART.

PARTICLE FEVER. (Sunday). In the words of NPR critic Trey Graham, "Particle Fever" is "a chronicle of the launch of the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the fabled Higgs boson, a subatomic particle long theorized but never located. The film takes a skinny 99 minutes to cover a five-year span and a territory as huge as the universe — bigger, actually, once you learn that some theorists think ours might be just one of many. It's jaw-droppingly cool stuff, explained with admirable clarity by an affable physicist tour guide, David E. Kaplan, and wedded to the tale of a massive technological undertaking like nothing in history. And it's flat-out thrilling." Not rated. 99 minutes. ART.

SERENITY (2005). (Starts Friday). Joss Whedon's continuation of his cult TV series "Firefly" follows the further adventures of the crew of the ship Serenity. An assassin is on their tail, and Captain Mal (Nathan Fillion) comes to realize that someone on board is his target. Briskly paced and sporting solid action sequences on a limited budget, the film plays like an interstellar Western with Whedon's usual jaunty tone getting us over any rough spots. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 119 minutes. ART.

22 JUMP STREET. (Opens Friday). Undercover cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back in action when they're assigned to enroll in a local community college to root out yet another drug dealer. However, their friendship is put in jeopardy when they both make new friends and develop new interests. Rated R. 112 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, SAV.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. This fifth entry in the series finds Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) being sent back in time to alter history in order to save humans and mutants alike from a cataclysmic event. Complex in structure and containing a worthwhile message of tolerance, Bryan Singer creates one of the most visually engaging and emotionally poignant movies in the series. Though a bit too long, there's no denying the film's lofty ambition or grand execution. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 131 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

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