Film capsules, June 26, 2014

Film capsules, June 26, 2014

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

  • AMC = AMC Village Mall, Danville.
  • ART = The Art Theater, Champaign
  • CAR = Carmike, 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

DEAR MR. WATTERSON. This documentary looks at the impact of the comic strip "Calvin & Hobbes" while providing a look at its creator, Bill Watterson, who stopped the strip at the height of its popularity, leaving millions in merchandising on the table yet a solid legacy behind. Rated PG-13. 89 minutes. NOR.

EDGE OF TOMORROW. Tom Cruise is 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 film 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, SAV.

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, as 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). Rated PG-13. 125 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964). (Starts Thursday, July 3). The year is 1964 and four young lads from Liverpool are about to change the world — if only the madcap world will let them out of their hotel room. Not rated. 91 minutes. NOR.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. 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, SAV.

IDA (2013). (Starts Friday). Set in the early 1960s, director Pawel Pawlikowski's haunting tale of Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young woman who is about to take her final vows to become a nun, only to find out that she is Jewish, is a powerful story about not only this character's existential crisis, but that of her native land, Poland, as well. With her bitter aunt (Agata Kulesza) in tow, these two set out to find out where Ida's parents are buried, and revelations along the way force both of them to re-evaluate their lives. Spare and stark in appearance, the film delves into the psyche of post-World War II Poland through the title character, revealing a nation struggling to find its feet in a newly uncertain world. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 80 minutes. ART.

THE IMMIGRANT. (Starts Friday). Marion Cotillard stars in the title role as a Polish immigrant who comes to the United States in 1921 to build a new life for herself. However, circumstances put her under the sway of Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a pimp who falls for her, a situation that becomes more complicated when she develops feelings for his cousin, Emil (Jeremy Renner). Though at times the plot flirts with being as melodramatic as something from the silent age, the three leads bring such sincerity to their roles, we're willing to forgive the script its sins. Director James Gray's depiction of turn-of-the-century New York helps as well, as it powerfully depicts the poverty that led to the sorts of moral compromises the characters contend with. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 120 minutes. ART.

JERSEY BOYS. (Starts Friday). In this big-screen adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical, director Clint Eastwood gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the formation and rise to fame of the 1960s rock quartet The Four Seasons. The story is familiar — group makes it big, infighting threatens to tear it apart, etc. — but Eastwood's choice to have the characters narrate the story directly to the audience makes it immediate and fresh. This engaging approach and the group's incredible musical legacy, on full display here, make this a winner. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 134 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. (Opens Friday). A transcendently goofy boy's own adventure tale, with young Josh Hutcherson and his mom's boyfriend (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) rescuing his grandfather (Michael Caine) from a lost island in the South Pacific, after teaming up with a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his sultry daughter (Vanessa Hudgens). With elephants as small as dogs, lizards the size of dinosaurs, bees so big you can ride them bareback, an exploding volcano, the lost city of Atlantis, Captain Nemo's submarine Nautilus, and The Rock performing "It's a Wonderful World" with a ukulele. Fun in the 1950s Disney adventure movie way. 21/2 stars (Roger Ebert). Rated PG. 94 minutes. SAV.

JURASSIC PARK (1993). (Starts Friday). In "Jurassic Park," adapted from Michael Crichton's 1990 best-seller, the dinosaurs — some benign, some terrifying, all wondrous — tap into the giddiest science-class daydreams you had as a kid. Created through a blend of computer-generated animation and electronically controlled models, they are so marvelous, and Spielberg choreographs their scenes with such wit, tension and verve, that it's easy to overlook the film's obvious weaknesses: a plot that's at once busy and thin, characters you like without caring about, a coy layer of blockbuster self-consciousness. (Entertainment Weekly review by Owen Gleiberman). Rated PG-13. 126 minutes. ART.

THE LEGO MOVIE. (Starts Monday). 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. SAV.

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. CAR, SAV.

PINOCCHIO. (Saturday). Walt Disney's second animated feature, "Pinocchio," widely is held to be his most technically perfect. This glistening reissue of the 1940 classic sure adds to that reputation. Cleaned up and restored with painstaking care, it bristles with visual audacity and imagination on a par with the studio's lavishly praised cartoons of half a century later. (The Los Angeles Daily News). Rated G. 88 minutes. PRI.

TAMMY. (Opens Tuesday). After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother. Stars include Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon and Dan Aykroyd. (Internet Movie Database). Rated R. 96 minutes. SAV.

THINK LIKE A MAN TOO. (Starts Friday). In this sequel to the surprise 2012 hit, the four couples from the previous movie reunite in Las Vegas for a wedding. However, the ceremony is put in jeopardy when misunderstandings abound. This had the potential to be an effective, comedic look at the problems young couples face, but it's ruined by the overpowering, spastic presence of comedian Kevin Hart, whose shrill, childish performance ruins every scene he's in. 11/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 106 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION. (Starts Friday). Mechanic Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) stumbles upon a Transformer that's in hiding and goes out of his way to bring it back to life. Unfortunately, this makes him and his family the focus of not only paranoid government officials but the Autobots and Decepticons as well. Rated PG-13. 165 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, ONA, PRI, SAV.

22 JUMP STREET. 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. Clever and very funny, this is a worthy follow-up to the first film as it never takes itself seriously and benefits greatly from the chemistry of its two leads. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 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. CAR, SAV.

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