Film capsules, Aug. 14, 2014

Film capsules, Aug. 14, 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

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Alien

★★★1/2

(Starts Tuesday). Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi classic is nothing more than a haunted house film set in space, but the atmosphere that's created and the distinctive production design and horrific creature at its core provide a fresh take on the movie's basic premise. As the crew of the spaceship Nostromo, which has answered a distress call, falls victim to the constantly changing creature that lurks in the shadows, crew member Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) emerges as the only one who can keep her wits about her to combat the threat. The film's effects and sets still look fresh and vibrant today, while the movie continues to shock new viewers. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 117 minutes. VIR.

Belle

★★★1/2

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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 104 minutes. NOR.

Boyhood

★★★★

(Opens Friday). Richard Linklater's dynamic chronicle charts the maturity of a small boy to manhood in an innovative and ultimately poignant manner as the director cast Ellar Coltrane as Mason at the age of 7 and then filmed each summer until he was 18 years old, so that we can watch this young man grow up before our eyes. Not much in the way of plot happens — we simply see him experience the sorts of events we all encounter on our way to adulthood — but it's all done in such a matter-of-fact way that we feel as though we're eavesdropping on the character's most intimate, formative moments. With Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason's parents, the cumulative, emotional effect of the film is profoundly moving and sincere, making this one of the best films of the year. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 165 minutes. SAV.

Calvary

★★★★

(Opens Friday). Brendan Gleeson gives a profoundly moving performance as Father James, the only man of faith in an Irish village who is told by one of his parishioners during confession that he will kill him in a week's time. The film covers the ensuing seven days, and as James gets his house in order, we come to realize that almost everyone in his flock is corrupt, without faith and immune to his sound advice, yet the man-of-the-cloth remains true to his beliefs regardless. A blistering diatribe leveled toward the Catholic Church, writer/director John Michael McDonagh delivers a thought-provoking, engaging story that stays true to its intentions in presenting a portrait of a truly heroic man who refuses to compromise even in the most dire circumstances. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 100 minutes. ART.

Despicable Me 2

★★★

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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 98 minutes. SAV.

Earth to Echo

★★

This well-meaning but derivative entertainment follows the adventures of three boys who find a stranded alien creature and try to help him get back to his native planet. An obvious homage (rip-off?) of "E.T." and "Super 8," the movie is far too predictable to be engaging, though kids under 8 years old will probably enjoy it. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 89 minutes. PRI.

The Expendables 3

★★1/2

(Opens Friday). Sylvester Stallone and his geriatric band of mercenaries are back, this time to take down an arms dealer (Mel Gibson) who happens to be a former member of the group. This is standard macho mayhem, but Gibson, with the old twinkle back in his eye, is quite good as the villain, while Harrison Ford's quiet, tough-guy persona is put to good use as a CIA operative. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 126 minutes. For a complete review, go to http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. AMC, CAR, SAV.

50 to 1

 

(Starts Thursday, Aug. 21). This fact-based film follows the unexpected rise of the horse "Mine that Bird," a stallion found and trained by cowboys from New Mexico who fight the odds to get their animal entered into the Kentucky Derby. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes. NOR.

The Giver

(Opens Friday). This adaptation of the Lois Lowry novel takes place in a futuristic society that's free of pain, war and suffering, where a young man (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen to take the place of the elderly Giver (Jeff Bridges), who shoulders the emotional burdens of the populace by retaining all of their memories. Rated PG-13. 94 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

Guardians of the Galaxy

★★★1/2

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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 120 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, SAV.

Hercules

★★★1/2

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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 98 minutes. CAR.

The Hundred-Foot Journey

★★1/2

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 up across the street from her. An expected love story develops between her and her older Indian competitor (Om Puri), while sparks fly between his son Hassan (Manish Dayal), who is a brilliant chef, and a comely young woman (Charlotte Le Bon) who competes with him in the kitchen. Pleasant enough, there are few surprises as fine cuisine helps set the stage for love to triumph. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 122 minutes. CAR, SAV.

Into the Storm

★★

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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 89 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

Let's Be Cops

Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) are two buddies who, when they dress up as cops for a costume party, are mistaken for the real thing. Comedic mayhem ensues. Rated R. 104 minutes. For a complete review, go to http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping Rated R. 104 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

Lucy

★★★1/2

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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 90 minutes. CAR, SAV.

A Most-Wanted Man

(Opens Friday). This adaptation of the John le Carre novel follows the international turmoil caused when a half-Russian, half-Chechen immigrant shows up in Hamburg to claim a vast fortune left to him by his father. Questions about his identity arise, and it's up to Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to determine if this stranger intends to use the money for terrorist activities and if he can stop him from getting it. Rated R. 122 minutes. For a complete review, go to http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. SAV.

The Neverending Story

(Starts Friday). This 1984 magical journey about the power of a young boy's imagination to save a dying fantasy land. Wolfgang Petersen adapted Michael Ende's children's story for this charming fantasy film that spawned several sequels. (arttheater.coop). Rated PG. 94 minutes. ART.

Rifftrax Live: Godzilla

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.

Rio 2

★★1/2

(Thursday, Aug. 21). 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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated G. 101 minutes. CAR.

Sharknado 2: The Second One

(Thursday, Aug. 21). Once again produced by The Asylum, this is the story of a freak weather system that turns its deadly fury on New York City, unleashing a Sharknado on the population and its most cherished, iconic sites — and only Fin (Ian Ziering) and April (Tara Reid) can save the Big Apple. SAV.

Slugterra: Return of the Elementals

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.

Step Up: All In

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

★★1/2

This big budget ($125 million!) reboot provides an origin story for the hardshell, pizza-eating warriors who are forced to go toe-to-toe with their archenemy Shredder while the fate of New York City hangs in the balance. Though the story is what you expect, there's no question that the turtles have never appeared so tangible as they do this time around. The motion-capture effects and animation are top-notch, and Megan Fox is good in a thankless role. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 101 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, ONA, SAV.

What If

(Opens Friday). Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan star as two aimless young people who decide to be best friends, though they're obviously aware of the physical and emotional connection between them. More annoying than appealing, these two performers are forced to recite lines that sound like witty dialogue, not genuine conversation. Neither is skilled enough to bring any life or a different perspective to this material, which ends up being a long haul to an inevitable conclusion. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 102 minutes. For a complete review, go to http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. CAR, SAV.

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