Film capsules, Aug. 28, 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
As Above, So Below
(Starts Friday). A group of young explorers venture into the catacombs that lie beneath Paris and find an ancient evil that's better left undiscovered. Rated R. 93 minutes. This film was not screened in time to be reviewed. AMC, SAV.
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. ART, SAV.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ★★1/2
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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 130 minutes. PRI.
Dead Poets Society ★★1/2
(1989) (Starts Monday). Robin Williams stars as an unorthodox English teacher at a prep school who, through poetry, encourages his students to be individuals in the face of conformity and to "seize the day" in approaching life. While the film is ably directed by Peter Weir and garnered four Oscar nominations, the tone is a bit too heavy-handed for my taste, as all concerned seem intent on one thing and one thing only — making the audience cry. This shameless approach undercuts the film's good intentions, though Williams' performance is quite good and helped viewers to see him in a different light. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 128 minutes. ART.
The Expendables 3 ★★1/2
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. ONA, SAV.
(1984) Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson star as guys who start a ghost-extermination business — with hilarious results. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.
The Giver ★★★1/2
This adaptation of the Lois Lowry novel takes place in a futuristic society that's free of pain, war and suffering where Jonas (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. Though there are differences between the novel and the film, the core of the story remains as the relationship between Jonas and the Giver keeps us emotionally anchored, making this far better than the YA productions that have come before. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 94 minutes. AMC, SAV.
Good Will Hunting ★★★
(1997) Matt Damon is vulnerable and effective as a Boston janitor who is also a natural mathematical genius. A professor (Stellan Skarsgard) spots his talent and tries to help him. So does a counselor (Robin Williams), a British student at Harvard who loves him (Minnie Driver) and his old neighborhood buddy (Ben Affleck). But can they break through his insecurity and old defense mechanisms? Smart and very involving. (Roger Ebert). Rated R. 125 minutes. HAR.
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, HAR, SAV.
Retelling of the Peter Pan myth, brought into a more modern era, starring Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams and Julia Roberts. Director Steven Spielberg has elaborated on the look of Never Never Land in the Disney version. Hoffman and Williams are delightful. There are too many shots of Julia Roberts laughing her trademark "Pretty Woman" laugh. (Richard Leskosky). Rated PG. HAR.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 ★★★1/2
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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 102 minutes. SAV.
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. SAV.
If I Stay ★1/2
Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) reaches a personal crossroads when she's thrown into a coma after a car accident and has an out-of-body experience in which she must decide whether she should return to live her life or go on to the afterlife. Trite and simplistic, this is a film aimed directly at 'tweens who respond to melodramatic situations. Heavy-handed and clumsily directed, Moretz, though very talented, is forced to utter inane dialogue and look frantic throughout. This is a waste of her talent and your time. (Chuck Koplinski) Rated PG-13. 106 minutes. 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. The special effects are quite good, but there's little substance. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 89 minutes. SAV.
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman narrates the IMAX 3D documentary 'Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,' the incredible true story of nature's greatest explorers — lemurs. Rated G. SAV.
Let's Be Cops ★★1/2
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. While this comes off as a low-rent "21 Jump Street" and doesn't mine its full comic potential, there are some genuinely hilarious moments sprinkled throughout, while the chemistry and comic timing between Johnson and Wayans Jr. is good enough that I hope they're reunited with a better script in hand. (Chuck Koplinski). For a complete review, go to http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping Rated R. 104 minutes. AMC, SAV.
A Most-Wanted Man ★★★1/2
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. Tautly rendered, the movie delivers its timely message in an intriguing and engaging manner while Hoffman's remarkable performance reminds us of the void left by his early death. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 122 minutes. For a complete review, go to http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping" target="_blank">http://http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping" target="_blank">http://http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/cinema-scoping. SAV.
The November Man ★★1/2
(Opens Friday). Pierce Brosnan stars as Devereaux, an ex-CIA agent brought out of retirement for a mission that he thought had been resolved. What he doesn't realize is that he'll have to go up against an ex-protege (Luke Bracey) who is out to prove that he can best his one-time teacher. The film's complex part sometimes gets in its own way; however, the action sequences are well-done, and Brosnan proves he can still bring the goods as a man of action. Unfortunately, he's working with a script that's far from fresh. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 108 minutes. AMC, SAV.
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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 83 minutes. HAR.
(Starts Thursday, Sept. 4). A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home. Not Rated. 96 minutes. NOR.
(2003) When "The Room" was released, it was labeled "the worst movie ever made," "the epitome of wretchedness" and even "the Citizen Kane of bad films." Originally promoted by the slogan "A film with the passion of Tennessee Williams," the movie tells the story of Johnny, a San Francisco banker whose fiancee Lisa has an affair with his best friend Mark. (Nick Allen in Los Angeles, The Telegraph). 99 minutes. Rated R. ART.
Royal Wedding ★★★1/2
(Starts Tuesday). This Stanley Donen musical stars Fred Astaire and Jane Powell as the brother-and-sister dancing team Tom and Ellen Bowen who are booked for a show in London and get into all sorts of shenanigans on the ship carrying them to Great Britain. As you would expect, the story is of little consequence, but the dancing routines are a delight, particularly the famous sequence in which Astaire finds himself prancing up and down the walls and ceiling of his room, as well as a scene in which the great hoofer tears things up with a hat rack. An absolute delight. (Chuck Koplinski). Not Rated. 93 minutes. ART.
Sin City: A Dame to Die For ★★
In this sequel to the 2005 hit, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller throw us once more onto the rain-soaked, dirty, evil streets of Sin City where the men are hard, the women loose and daylight doesn't exist, for three different stories that converge for a dark climax. Though the movie is visually arresting, the film noir tropes it contains are as pedestrian as they come. Each of the three stories follows the same pattern — someone's wronged, they seek revenge, they get it in the bloodiest manner possible. This becomes tedious, while the violence becomes more and more graphic as the film wears on, ultimately bordering on the offensive. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 102 minutes. AMC, 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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 101 minutes. AMC, SAV.
When the Game Stands Tall ★★
Based on a true story, this film charts the experiences of high school football coach Bob Ladouceur, who led his team, the De La Salle Spartans, to 151 consecutive wins and how the community responded when defeat finally darkened their door. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 115 minutes. SAV.
Words and Pictures ★★★
Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star as teachers who work at an upscale prep school who couldn't be more different, but of course find themselves attracted to one another. The film takes some unexpected turns and for the most part does a fine job of balancing its dramatic and comedic moments. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 111 minutes. NOR.
X-Men: Days of Future Past ★★★1/2
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. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 131 minutes. SAV.