Summaries and mini-reviews of movies playing now, from e3 magazine:
- AMC = AMC Village Mall, Danville.
- ART = The Art Theater, Champaign
- NOR = The Normal Theater, Normal
- ONA = The Onarga Theater, Onarga
- PRI = Princess Theatre, LeRoy
- SAV = Savoy 16, Savoy
ADMISSION. Tina Fey stars as a Princeton admissions officer who has to come to terms with newfound maternal feelings when a school teacher (Paul Rudd) introduces her to a young man who may be the son she gave up for adoption years ago. It comes as no surprise that the two principals pull off the film's comedic moments, but the real surprise is the serious tone the movie takes as it examines the joys and frustration of parenthood. Not what you might expect, but worth checking out. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 100 minutes. Rated PG-13. PRI.
THE BIG WEDDING. (Opens Friday). A long-divorced couple are forced to pretend otherwise for the sake of their adopted son's wedding when his ultra-conservative biological mother unexpectedly decides to fly halfway around the world to attend. With Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams. Written and directed by Justin Zackham. (Los Angeles Times). 90 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.
CALIFORNIA SOLO. (Opens Monday). From the Best of Key West Film Festival. A former Britpop rocker who now works on a farm gets caught driving drunk and faces deportation after living in Los Angeles for many years. His efforts to stay in the U.S. force him to confront the past and current demon in his life. SAV.
THE CROODS. This surprising animated feature follows the trials of Eep (voice by Emma Stone), a teenage cave girl who's trying to free herself from her overprotective father (Nicolas Cage). She gets the chance when their home is destroyed in an earthquake and the family is forced to trust a newcomer (Ryan Reynolds) who can lead them to safety. Though the film could use some trimming, its 3-D visuals are among some of the best yet done and its focus on the importance of being able to adapt in order to survive is well-told and poignant. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 98 minutes. Rated PG. AMC, SAV.
DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX. (Saturday, Sunday). This adaptation of Dr. Seuss' cautionary tale about the environment gets a vibrant and powerful treatment from the makers of "Despicable Me." An inventor with tunnel vision (voice by Ed Helms) wipes out the trees in a valley, despite the intervention of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), who cautions him of the dire results of his actions. But a boy named Ted (Zac Efron) sets out to right this wrong and bring the trees back. Though the film lags because of a silly subplot involving a corporate tycoon (Rob Riggle) out to keep the trees banished, the film's songs and the story's vital message make this one a winner. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 94 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.
EVIL DEAD. Director Fede Alvarez's remake of the Sam Raimi cult classic is an unrelenting exercise in gore as he pushes this tale of five people terrorized by evil spirits in a remote cabin in the woods to the extreme. Thankfully, the filmmaker knows what he's doing as he expertly builds the tension throughout and is able to bring a fresh new take on Raimi's film. Special mention must be made of Jane Levy's performance as the actress succeeds in delivering a great performance despite the punishment she's put through. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski) 91 minutes. Rated R. SAV.
42. Writer-director Brian Helgeland's noble biography of baseball great Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is a bit uneven structurally, but there's no denying that this is a moving and heartfelt tribute to the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Though the film does contain its share of corny moments, Helgeland doesn't let them eclipse the movie's theme. Boseman is quite good as is Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 120 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
FOURTH ANNUAL FEMINIST FILM FESTIVAL. (Thursday, May 2). Hosted by the campus Women's Resources Center, with the support of a variety of campus units anddepartments including the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. The goal of the festival is to showcase independent film spanning documentary, narrative, and experimental genres in order to explore perspectives often missing from mainstream media and culture.Question-and-answer session with filmmakers to follow the screening. Not rated. ART.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION. The elite military group of the title is set up and presumably killed by the nefarious terrorist group Cobra bent on taking over the world. Nonsensical, unoriginal and edited to cause seizures instead of thrills, this is a film for teens who love to play with guns and no one else. 1 star (Chuck Koplinski). 110 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, SAV.
HOME RUN.Home Run. Full of good intentions but clumsily executed, this faith-based drama focuses on the trials of an alcoholic major league baseball player (Scott Elrod) and his attempts to follow a 12-step program to recovery when he returns to his home town. Predictable and heavy-handed, the film's only saving grace is Elrod who has a likable screen presence. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 113 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.
IRON MAN 3. (Opens Thursday, May 2). When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution. (Internet Movie Database). 130 minutes. Rated PG-13. ONA.
JURASSIC PARK 3D. Though this re-release is hardly a convincing argument for converting old films into the new 3-D format, there's no question that Steven Spielberg's dinosaur epic still delivers and that it's one of those movies that demands to be seen on a big screen for maximum effect. The performances by Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum still hold up as do the dinosaurs, despite the fact that the film's computer-generated effects are now 20 years old. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 127 minutes. Rated PG-13. SAV.
THE METROPOLITAN OPERA: HANDEL'S GIULIO CESARE. (Saturday). The opera that conquered London in Handel's time comes to the Met in David McVicar's lively production. The world's leading countertenor, David Daniels, sings the title role opposite Natalie Dessay as an irresistibly exotic Cleopatra. Baroque specialist Harry Bicket conducts. 4 hours 35 minutes. SAV.
OBLIVION. Though director Joseph Kosinski has fashioned a visually dynamic film, the story at the center of this dystopian epic is nothing more than an amalgam of plot points borrowed from other movies. Tom Cruise plays a futuristic repairman whose job it is to keep an army of drones repaired on Earth, which has been left ravaged by a group of aliens that has been repelled. Nothing is quite as it seems, and as the truth about the aliens is slowly revealed, the film feels less and less dynamic. Cruise and Morgan Freeman as a fellow survivor of the invasion deliver the sort of solid work we've come to expect from them. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 126 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, HAR, ONA, SAV.
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. Sam Raimi's prequel to the 1939 classic suffers from some questionable casting choices but survives to tell the tale of Oscar Diggs (a very good James Franco), a con man who is swept away to the land of Oz, where he's told he has been fated to save its citizens from a wicked witch. At times visually stunning, the film's strong suit lies in its humor and conviction of all involved to make a film worthy to stand alongside the Judy Garland vehicle. For the most part, they succeed as Franco carries the film with his charm while its theme is one worth repeating. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 130 minutes. Rated PG. SAV.
PAIN AND GAIN. (Opens Friday). Michael Bay's account of perhaps the worst kidnapping scheme ever committed is tailor-made for his hyperactive, kinetic style as the film contains characters that are larger than life and situations that dictate they be rendered in a hyper-realistic manner. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie are three dimwitted body builders who abduct a Florida businessman (Anthony Shalhoub) and attempt to extort his riches from him. The ineptitude these three display has to be seen to be believed and though the film gets rather dark, it's such an engaging tale, you have to see it through to the end. 3 Stars (Chuck Koplinski) 129 minutes. Rated R. AMC, SAV.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. Director Derek Cianfrance has grand ambitions where this film of fathers and sons and the ripple effect that one generation's actions have on the next is concerned, and he nearly succeeds in delivering a masterpiece. Ryan Gosling stars as a desperate man who resorts to robbing banks to support his son and her mother (Eva Mendes) while Bradley Cooper is the cop who ultimately brings him down. Add to the mix their sons who meet up 15 years later, and you have all the makings of a modern Greek tragedy. The film is divided into three acts, and the first two are compelling, yet the third stumbles a bit and fails to deliver on the promise of earlier scenes. Still, a solid drama with strong performances by all that deserves to be seen. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 140 minutes. Rated R. ART.
QUARTET. Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut centers on a home for retired English music artists where old rivalries blossom once more amid the production of a revue. As the film's title singing ensemble, screen veterans Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay strike the proper tone in taking a low-key approach to what could easily have become a maudlin exercise. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 98 minutes. Rated PG-13. NOR.
ROOM 237. (Opens Friday). Rodney Ascher's documentary examines five different interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" as presented by a handful of obsessive viewers of the movie. Some of the explanations are obvious, others outlandish but the cumulative effect is that it will have viewers reconsidering Kubrick's film themselves. In the end, you come to realize that the true theme of the documentary is obsession, which dovetails nicely into Kubrick's work. 3 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 102 minutes. Not rated. ART, NOR.
SCARY MOVIE 5. Happily married young parents (a ballet dancer and an ape researcher) have to grapple with a malevolent supernatural presence in this fifth installment of the horror parody series. With Ashley Tisdale, Simon Rex and Erica Ash. (Los Angeles Times). 85 minutes. Rated PG-13. AMC, HAR, SAV.
THE SHINING. (Starts Friday). Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's novel is a ponderous affair as the director's trademark deliberate approach ends up generating far more tedium than terror. Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall star as a Jack and Wendy Torrance, a troubled married couple who, along with their son, hole up in the remote Overlook Hotel to maintain it through a long, hard winter. Problem is, the isolation begins to prey on Jack's mind until he fancies he sees ghosts who want something from him, while his young son begins to develop some inexplicable psychic abilities. Without question, Kubrick establishes a disturbing sense of place and the performances from all are top-notch. However, it takes far too long for the director to deliver the goods. 2 stars (Chuck Koplinski). 146 minutes. Rated R. ART.
WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME! - LIVE. (Thursday, May 2). Broadcast from New York University' Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! - Live" will feature all the fun and games of NPR's popular radio show adapted for the stage and broadcast live on the big screen. Host Peter Sagaland official judge and scorekeeper Carl Kasell will lead this special event, accompanied by panelists Paula Poundstone, Mo Rocca and Tom Bodett as they play the quiz in front of a live audience. SAV.