Film capsules, Aug. 7, 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
And So It Goes
Michael Douglas is a bitter real estate agent who can't get over the death of his wife who's forced to care for a granddaughter he never knew when his wayward son dumps her on him on his way to jail. Fortunately, his single neighbor's (Diane Keaton) motherly instincts kick in to save the day. This predictable, flat film features the two stars coasting through a production they know is beneath them. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 94 minutes. SAV.
(Saturday). The classic Disney cartoon feature. The story of a young deer growing up in the forest after his mother is shot by hunters. (Internet Movie Database). Rated G. 70 minutes. PRI.
(Starts Thursday, Aug. 14). This story of bigotry in 18th-century England focuses on the title character (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a young biracial woman who is brought up in the home of the country's lord chief justice (Tom Wilkinson). Yet despite her social rank, she's not accorded the rights and privileges of her peers, a situation that comes to a head when a case involving the slave trade heads to the country's highest court. Beautifully rendered and surprisingly engaging, the film benefits greatly by eschewing melodrama and the strong performance from Mbatha-Raw. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 104 minutes. NOR.
(Starts Monday). This 2013 documentary, which was supposed to air on PBS but was cancelled due to pressure from rich sponsors who are criticized in it, focuses on billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and their efforts to influence elections through massive campaign contributions and the far-reaching effect this has on unions and their workers' rights as well as the ever-devolving current political climate. 90 minutes. Not Rated. ART.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
This sequel to "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" picks up 10 years later and finds simian Caesar (Andy Serkis) leading a community of apes longing to live in peace. But this dream is dashed when humans stumble upon their enclave and war ensues. The visual effects and motion-capture images remain impressive, and there are some effectively poignant moments. However, the film gets bogged down in its second hour with repetitious action scenes and needless narrative complications. 21/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 130 minutes. CAR, SAV.
Despicable Me 2
(Starts Monday). The evil genius Gru (voice by Steve Carell) returns, this time enlisted by a secret agency to help track down a dangerous formula that's fallen into the wrong hands. Less ambitious than the first film in scope and sporting a fairly flimsy story, the movie still proves to be an entertaining affair, primarily because of the appeal of its unique characters (gotta love those Minions) and the inspired sense of lunacy that prevails throughout. Fans will love this follow-up, though this sequel will more than likely not win over any new followers. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 98 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.
Get On Up
Chadwick Boseman stars as James Brown in this chronicle of his life that follows him from extreme poverty to super stardom. The nonlinear structure director Tate Taylor ("The Help") adopts proves far too distracting to give us any insight into the singer, but Boseman saves the movies as he's absolutely electrifying, while being reminded of how deep Brown's musical catalogue was is a delight. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 138 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The latest film from Marvel Studios is "Star Wars" for this generation as this rollicking space adventure, focusing on a ragtag group of aliens, led by half-earthling, half-alien Peter Quill (Chris Pratt in a star-making performance), who are forced to work together to save the universe. Director James Gunn maintains a lighthearted tone throughout while rendering this tale on a grand, epic scale. A true crowd-pleaser with likable characters, plenty of humor and imaginative derring-do, this is the popcorn movie we've been waiting for. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 120 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, ONA, SAV.
Dwayne Johnson takes on the title character in this surprisingly smart reimagining of the famous myth that finds the hero as the leader of a band of mercenaries who hire out to a king (John Hurt) beleaguered by an invading force. Director Brett Ratner keeps the action moving at a brisk, entertaining pace while the script is surprisingly smart as it portrays Hercules not as a demigod but a man whose reputation has grown past the point of reason. Great chemistry between Johnson, Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell as members of his band of warriors helps considerably. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 98 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
(Opens Friday). A case of culture clash is at the center of this adaptation of the Richard Morais novel about the owner of a French restaurant (Helen Mirren) who is threatened by an Indian eatery that opens across the street from her. Rated PG. 122 minutes. CAR, SAV.
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. 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 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. NOR.
(Opens Friday). A molecular biologist (Michael Pitt) and his lab partner (Brit Marling) make a discovery that, if proved correct, could change the way we look at our lives. Rated R. 107 minutes. SAV.
Into the Storm
(Opens Friday). This "Twister" on steroids focuses on a group of storm-trackers who follow a series of storms headed for a Midwestern town and get more than they bargained for as the tornadoes that result act in an unpredictable manner. More an amusement park ride than a movie, character development and intricate plotting are thrown out the window in favor of putting the viewer in the middle of the wholesale destruction depicted on screen. The special effects are quite good, but there's little substance to ground this spectacle. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 89 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.
Let's Be Cops
(Opens Tuesday). Two struggling pals dress as police officers for a costume party and become neighborhood sensations. But when these newly minted "heroes" get tangled in a real life web of mobsters and dirty detectives, they must put their fake badges on the line. (Internet Movie Database). Rated R. 104 minutes. AMC.
Scarlett Johansson takes on the title role as a woman who, after her mind is manipulated, finds she's able to use parts of her brain that turn her into a deadly weapon. While it would be easy to dismiss this as a ridiculous action movie, the speculative science fiction writer/director Luc Besson employs sparks our curiosity. Johansson runs the emotional gamut here and is ably supported by Morgan Freeman in this intriguing, thought-provoking bit of science fiction. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 90 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.
Nosferatu: The Vampyre (1979)
(Starts Friday). Werner Herzog's haunting remake of the silent German horror classic stars his longtime collaborator Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula and the stunning Isabelle Adjani as Lucy, the woman who lures him from the safety of his castle toward certain doom. Atmospheric and realistically rendered, this is the sort of film that creates a sense of dread that seeps into your bones, as the world created before us is one in which despair, overtaking everything in its path is seen to be an unstoppable force in a corrupt world. Beautiful and striking throughout, the narrative takes a backseat to the sense of place Herzog creates. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 107 minutes. For a complete review, go to news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. ART.
(Starts Wednesday). Writer/director Gillian Robespierre takes a daring approach to the issue of abortion as this film, about an insecure stand-up comic (Jenny Slate) who must deal with an unwanted pregnancy, approaches this subject from a pragmatic, slightly comic angle. Not for all tastes, this is a refreshing exercise buoyed by the likability of its characters and its realistic take on a controversial issue. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 84 minutes. ART.
Planes: Fire and Rescue
In this sequel to Disney's surprise 2013 hit, air racer Dusty (voice by Dane Cook) finds out that he can no longer compete so he decides to join The Smokejumpers, aerial firefighters who do all they can to fight forest fires. Aimed squarely at anyone under 10 years old, there's nothing particularly dynamic or original about this tale about believing in yourself. The kids will love it; you'll be able to catch a quick nap. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 83 minutes. SAV.
The Purge: Anarchy
This sequel to last year's horror hit focuses on five people who find themselves on the streets of Los Angeles during the annual purge, a 12-hour period when citizens can break any law with impunity. While the film is flawed, its message of rage and dissatisfaction with the gulf between the haves and have-nots hits a chord that will resonate with the audience, making this an effective genre exercise with a purpose. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 103 minutes. CAR, SAV.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
(Starts Tuesday). A roller-coaster ride of a movie, rekindling the spirit of Saturday matinee serials but outdoing them for genuine thrills and chills. Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones, an archaeologist-adventurer who goes globe-trotting in search of a unique religious artifact and runs into blood-curdling danger every step of the way. Perhaps a bit too much at times, but why carp? 4 stars (Leonard Maltin). 120 minutes. Rated PG. VIR.
Rifftrax Live: Godzilla
(Opens Thursday, Aug. 14). The Rifftrax crew — Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett (best known for the groundbreaking "Mystery Science Theater 3000" — are back with a never-before-seen take on a 90s creature feature. Presented by Fathom Events, RiffTrax and IGN, "RiffTrax Live: Godzilla," will be broadcast live from the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, Tenn. SAV.
Slugterra: Return of the Elementals
(Starts Saturday). A new member joins the Shane Gang. Junjie is a master of the mysterious slugslinging art of Slug Fu. But even with the power of five slugslingers working together, the Shane Gang find themselves in over their heads as they race to protect the ancient Elemental Slugs from an evil alliance set on using them to destroy the 99 caverns. (Shout! Factory). Not rated. 72 minutes. CAR.
Director Joon-ho Bong's dynamic sci-fi epic takes place in a dystopian future in which the only remaining humans perpetually circle the globe in a massive train after a modern ice age occurs. A class system is used to assign passengers to specific cars, and the social commentary Bong makes through this plot device is as biting as the cold buffeting the title train. Good performances from the cast, which includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris and John Hurt, dynamic production design and a gripping narrative make this a worthy entry in the sci-fi genre. 31/2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 126 minutes. ART.
Step Up: All In
(Opens Friday.) In this fifth installment of the dance movie franchise, winners from the past films compete in Las Vegas to, according to the press notes, "battle for a victory that could define their dreams and their careers." Rated PG-13. 112 minutes. CAR, SAV.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
(Opens Friday). This big-budget ($125 million!) reboot provides us an origin story for the hardshell, pizza-eating warriors who are forced to go toe-to-toe with their archenemy Shredder with the fate of New York City hanging in the balance. Rated PG-13. 101 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, SAV.
Touch of Evil (1958)
(Starts Friday). Orson Welles' classic film noir features the writer/director as a corrupt police captain who reluctantly investigates a murder with a Mexican detective (Charlton Heston), a case that's far more complex than it appears to be. Moody, perverse and ironic, this is Welles' last great film as he creates a nightmare world suffused with regret, depravity and nihilism in which no one is beyond compromise. As engaging and smart as the mystery at the film's core is, it's the dark, dirty atmosphere that sucks you in and refuses to let you go until its memorable climax. This precursor to "Blue Velvet" also stars Janet Leigh, Dennis Weaver and Akim Tamiroff while Joseph Cotton, Marlene Dietrich, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Mercedes McCambridge provide cameos. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 95 minutes. For a complete review, go to news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. ART.
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. PRI.
Venus in Fur
(Starts Friday). The latest from director Roman Polanski is an adaptation of the David Ives play dealing with a beleaguered director who comes across an actress who goes to great lengths to convince him she's perfect for the lead role in his new production. Not rated. 96 minutes. For a complete review, go to news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. ART.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
This Paramount Pictures release is an adaptation of the novel "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl. A poor boy (Peter Ostrum) wins the opportunity to tour the most eccentric and wonderful candy factory of all with four other children from around the world. Gene Wilder stars as Willy Wonka. (Internet Movie Database). Rated PG. 100 minutes. SAV.