Film capsules, March 19, 2015

Film capsules, March 19, 2015

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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The Birdcage

★★★1/2

(1996). (Starts Monday). Robin Williams and Nathan Lane star as Armand and Albert, in this Mick Nichols-directed remake of the French comedy classic "La Cage aux Folles," as two gay men who try to hide their sexuality when Albert's son brings his fiancee and her parents (Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest) home to meet them. Needless to say, comic mayhem ensues. Williams is quite good here, but what makes the film interesting is that he must play against type, toning down his manic persona in the face of Lane's hilarious over-the-top turn. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 117 minutes. VIR.

The Book of Life

★★★1/2

(Starts Saturday). This animated feature follows the adventures of a young man named Manolo (voice by Diego Luna) who is forced to travel through three fantastic worlds in order to prove his love to Maria (Zoe Saldana). Vibrant and romantic, the film is a visual delight suffused with lively colors and imaginatively rendered characters, all of whom we can sympathize with at one point or another. Lively and smart, this is a perfect family movie. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 95 minutes. SAV.

Braveheart

★★★★

(1995). (Starts Friday). Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning epic recounts the life of 13th-century Scottish revolutionary William Wallace who became one of the leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The battle scenes are spectacular, but what elevates the film is the sense of passion in Gibson's performance as Wallace as well as the romantic tone he creates, not simply with his two love interests (Catherine McCormack and Sophie Marceau) but in the nobility of the Scot's fight. Great, big-screen entertainment. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 177 minutes. NOR.

Breakfast Club 30th Anniversary

(Starts Thursday, March 26). Fathom Events, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and BY Experience invite you to join the Brat Pack for the 30th Anniversary Celebration of "The Breakfast Club." This beloved classic returns to the big screen for a special two-day event. Newly restored and including a bonus featurette with personal insights from the cast and filmmakers, this event is a must-see for all Rebels, Princesses, Outcasts, Brains and Jocks. (gqti.com). Rated R. 130 minutes. SAV.

Chappie

In the near future, an oppressive robotic police force keeps the populace at bay. However, when a group of rebels steals one of these droids and reprograms it to help them in their fight, the seeds of a revolution are sown. Rated R. 120 minutes. CAR.

Cinderella

★★★1/2

Director Kenneth Branagh takes a traditional approach to the classic fairy tale, with "Downton Abbey's" Lily James in the title role, Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother. Branagh manages to find new life in the classic fairy tale by resisting the temptation to tell the story with a bit of sarcasm. The realistic tone makes the tragedy that much more meaningful and the fantasy elements more wondrous. James is completely winning in the title role, creating a genuinely good character without ever coming off as naive or insincere. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 112 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, ONA, SAV.

Dead Poets Society

★★1/2

(1989). (Starts Thursday, March 26). 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 see him in a different light. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 128 minutes. VIR.

Do You Believe?

(Starts Friday). When a pastor is shaken by the visible faith of a street-corner preacher, he is reminded that true belief always requires action. His response ignites a journey that impacts everyone it touches in ways that only God could orchestrate. Rated PG-13. 110 minutes. CAR, SAV.

The DUFF

★★1/2

When high school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) finds out that her better-looking friends keep her around just so they can look better, she goes about trying to upend the social order, finding her confidence in the process. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 90 minutes. AMC.

Fifty Shades of Grey

★★

The best-selling racy romance by E.L. James comes to the big screen for all to witness innocent Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) enter the kinky world of tormented billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 125 minutes. CAR.

The Fisher King

★★1/2

(1991). (Starts Wednesday). Jeff Bridges stars as a radio deejay who is at the end of his rope as he feels that comments he made on the air are responsible for a horrific act of violence. While searching for redemption, he decides to help a homeless man (Robin Williams) who has a connection to him he does not realize. As directed by Terry Gilliam, the film attempts to combine various disparate tones with mixed results, while Williams is allowed to run riot, indulging in his most manic tendencies. This is a noble attempt at dramedy but a mixed bag in the end. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 137 minutes. VIR.

Focus

★★★

Will Smith stars as Nicky Spurgeon and Margot Robbie is his protegee Jess Barrett, two con artists who fall for one another but find themselves on the opposite side of a job involving a greedy Formula One driver (Rodrigo Santoro). The film plays fast and loose with some of the logic surrounding the jobs Nicky and his crew pull, but directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa inject the film with a sense of fun that helps us brush any of these concerns aside. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 104 minutes. CAR, SAV.

Four Blood Moons

(Starts Monday). Based on The New York Times Bestseller by Pastor John Hagee. Fathom Events, Working Title Agency, Reelworks Studios, Inpop Records and Goose Creek Productions invite you to explore a supernatural phenomenon in which science, history and scripture all align again. Something is about to change (gq.ti.com). Rated PG. 150 minutes. SAV.

Get Hard

(Starts Thursday, March 26). When millionaire James King is nailed for fraud and bound for San Quentin, he turns to Darnell Lewis to prep him to go behind bars. (Internet Movie Database). Rated R. 100 minutes. SAV.

Good Morning, Vietnam

★★★

(1987). (Starts Tuesday). Robin Williams received his first Oscar nomination as Adrian Cronauer, a deejay brought in to liven things up at the U.S. Armed Forces Radio unit in Vietnam. However, he gets in hot water with the brass there when his irreverent humor threatens their authority while his on-air antics begin to question the war effort. A bit too long, the film is saved by Williams' energetic turn. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 121 minutes. VIR.

The Gunman

(Starts Friday). Sean Penn stars as a former mercenary who returns to the Congo after years in hiding in order to make amends for past wrongs. However, he finds a target on his own back when enemies from his past come looking for him. Rated R. 115 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

Insurgent

★★★1/2

(Starts Friday). Smart, slick and superior to its predecessor, this rousing sequel finds budding revolutionary Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her partner Four (Theo James) trying to unite various factions to overthrow the ruling class as led by Jeanine (Kate Winslet). The usual action sequences are present but handled with panache while the relationships between the key characters are effectively expanded upon, giving further weight to a story that's far more terrifying than "Divergent" in terms of governments taking our civil liberties. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 119 minutes. AMC, CAR, HAR, SAV.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

★★★

Mark Millar's comic book about a veteran British spy organization that recruits a young street thug (Taron Egerton) for their ranks is bolstered by the presence of Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Mark Strong as senior members of the group and Samuel L. Jackson as the villain of the piece bent on global domination. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 129 minutes. CAR, SAV.

The Lazarus Effect

★★

A group of young scientists discovers a way to bring the dead back to life and foolishly begins to apply the process to a recently deceased human. Do I have to tell you that it all goes wrong from there? (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 83 minutes. AMC.

McFarland, USA

★★★

Another entry in Disney's inspirational true-life sports stories, the film focuses on a veteran cross-country coach (Kevin Costner) who transforms a team of new runners into champions. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 128 minutes. CAR, SAV.

Mean Girls

★★★1/2

(2004). (Starts Sunday). It would be incorrect to say this is the only good movie Lindsey Lohan has made, but it's certainly the best as her character Cady finds herself a stranger in a strange land when she goes to a public high school after being home-schooled her entire life. She finds that cliques are impenetrable, the opportunities for embarrassment are many and hell hath no fury like a teenage girl scorned. Tina Fey provides a screenplay that makes this far funnier and smarter than the usual teen fare. With Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, Amy Poehler and Fey. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG-13. 97 minutes. NOR.

Pitch Perfect

★★

(2012) (Starts Saturday). Anna Kendrick stars as a college student who reluctantly auditions for a competitive a cappella singing group and soon finds herself dealing with an ego-driven leader as they compete for the national championship. Predictable, uninspired and far too long, the movie occasionally catches fire during some of the musical sequences, but it's not enough to make this anything but a rote exercise. (Chuck Koplinski). 112 minutes. Rated PG-13. NOR.

Run All Night

Mob hit man Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he's forced to choose between his estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), and his good friend and mob boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), who wants to kill Mike for slaying his own son. Rated R. 114 minutes. AMC, CAR, SAV.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

★★1/2

This follow-up to the 2011 hit finds hotel proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) wanting to open a second location with the wise but acerbic Muriel's help (Maggie Smith), ignoring his lovely fiancee (Tina Desai) in the process. Meanwhile, the rest of the residents are dealing with health issues as well as instances of unrequited love. Much the same as the first film, this movie genially ambles through its predictable plot, aided by the skill of its veteran cast. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated PG. 122 minutes. CAR, SAV.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

SpongeBob Squarepants, Patrick Star and Squidward Tentacles are forced to cross over to the real world to help Mr. Crabbs get his crabby-patty recipe back from the nefarious Burger-Beard (Antonio Banderas). Rated PG. 90 minutes. AMC, SAV.

Strange Magic

(Starts Saturday). This animated musical, based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream," follows the misadventures of goblins, elves, fairies and imps as they all try to recover a magical potion. Rated PG. 99 minutes. PRI.

TCM Presents: Rear Window

(Starts Sunday). Presented by Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, this classic 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film stars Hollywood legends James Stewart and Grace Kelly and is digitally re-mastered for premium picture and sound quality. In addition to the film, movie buffs will also be treated to a specially produced introduction by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. Not rated. 125 minutes. SAV.

What We Do in the Shadows

★★★1/2

(Starts Friday). This mockumentary from New Zealand follows the night-to-night existence of four vampires who share an apartment and allow a camera crew to document their interactions. Clever, quick and very, very funny, the film manages to send up horror conventions while humanizing its characters. Fights over doing the dishes and complaints about how your roommate won't spread towels before bleeding a victim dry will do that. Great fun and quite smart. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 86 minutes. ART.

Wild Tales

★★★1/2

(Starts Friday). An Academy-Award nominee for best foreign language film, this feature from Argentina comprises six different stories, each of which hinge on coincidence, buoyed by black humor and suffused with bitter irony. Of the six stories, only one of them is a pedestrian affair as the others brim with inventiveness and daring. This is a clever examination of our human fragilities as jealousy and anger prove the downfall of many of the characters, something many in the audience will be able to relate to. (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 115 minutes. ART.

Whiplash

★★★★

(Starts Thursday, March 26). Damien Chazelle's impressive directorial debut looks at a promising young drummer (Miles Teller, who literally bleeds for his art here) and the dictatorial instructor (a blistering J.K. Simmons) who may or may not guide him to greatness. This primal scream against mediocrity grabs you from the start as the back-and-forth between student and teacher evolves into something far more than simply learning how to play the drums properly. Simmons steals every scene he's in, but Teller's function is just as critical as he gains our sympathy without begging for it. This indictment of complacency and entitlement looks at the fine line between commitment and obsession and posits that it must be crossed if true greatness is to be achieved, though to do so is to court self-destruction. This is truly one of the best films of the year. 4 stars (Chuck Koplinski). Rated R. 107 minutes. NOR.

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