Film Shorts

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Posted May 16, 2012 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
Battleship opens Friday.Battleship opens Friday.

OPENING:

Battleship (PG-13) Based on the popular board game, Peter Berg’s thriller is about a fleet of ships dealing with the threat posed by space aliens who rise from the ocean and launch an attack on the world’s cities. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano, Brooklyn Decker, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNicol, and Liam Neeson. (Opens Friday)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13) Based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, this film directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) is about a group of British seniors who decide to retire to a restored hotel in India. Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Penelope Wilton, and Dev Patel. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)

Crooked Arrows (PG-13) A lacrosse movie! Brandon Routh stars in this drama as the coach of a Native American reservation’s lacrosse team trying to advance through a state tournament against privileged prep schools. Also with Gil Birmingham, Chelsea Ricketts, Tyler Hill, Cree Cathers, Michael Hudson, Jack Vandervelde, Aaron Printup, Crystal Allen, and Dennis Ambriz. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Elles (NC-17) Juliette Binoche stars in Malgorzata Szumowska’s drama as a French journalist who becomes ensnared while reporting on a prostitution ring run by university students. Also with Anaïs Demoustier, Joanna Kulig, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Ali Marhyar, François Civil, Pablo Beugnet, Krystyna Janda, and Jean-Marie Binoche. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Mansome (NR) The latest documentary by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) explores the industry of beauty products and cosmetic services for men. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

My Way (R) This epic by Kang Je-gyu is about a Korean farmer (Jang Dong-gun) and a Japanese landlord (Jô Odagiri) whose lives become entangled while they fight in World War II. Also with Fan Bingbing, Kim In-kwon, Do Ji-han, Han Seung-hyun, Kim Hee-won, and Michael Arnold. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

NOW PLAYING:

The Avengers (PG-13) A payoff worth waiting four years and sitting through five movies for. Marvel Comics superheroes Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, and Thor (Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth) team up with two new assassins (Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner) to battle a fallen Norse god (Tom Hiddleston) with plans to invade the Earth. Writer-director Joss Whedon manages to give everyone enough to do, fill in intriguing character details, and pull off a couple of mind-bogglingly complex action sequences without any strain and without making the movie feel overstuffed. A few bobbles along the way notwithstanding, this surpasses all the other Marvel films while somehow making them all seem worthier in retrospect. Also with Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Alexis Denisof, Jerzy Skolimowski, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Harry Dean Stanton, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Bernie (PG-13) Jack Black’s quietly mesmerizing performance as a gentle, gay, God-fearing, emotionally needy East Texas man anchors this drama based on a real life murder case. He portrays a mortician involved with a wealthy old widow (Shirley MacLaine) who becomes so mean and possessive of him that he snaps. So great is Black, you wish director/co-writer Richard Linklater would stop distracting you with fake interview footage of townspeople (portrayed by actors) testifying to Bernie’s character. Still, the movie draws an absorbing portrait of a man whose niceness and burning desire for friends proves to be both his downfall and his salvation. Watch for the diner customer giving a hilarious explanation of Texas’ cultural geography. Also with Matthew McConaughey, Brady Coleman, Richard Robichaux, Merrilee McCommas, Brandon Smith, Matthew Greer, and the late Rick Dial.

The Cabin in the Woods (R) The funniest slasher movie ever. Five heavily stereotyped college kids (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams) spend a weekend at a cabin, not knowing that they’re being remotely observed by three scientists (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, and Amy Acker) in a military-style bunker, manipulating events at the cabin to make sure the characters are killed. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s snappy script will leave you helpless with laughter, but they’ve got more on the agenda than just gags or sending up slasher-movie conventions. The twisty plot conceals existential and theological implications that are downright Pirandellian. It’s about nine different kinds of awesome. Also with Brian White, Tom Lenk, Jodelle Ferland, and Sigourney Weaver.

Chimpanzee (G) Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield’s kid-friendly documentary tries to humanize its simian subjects when it would have been better off treating them as chimps. The story hinges on a three-year-old orphaned chimp who’s adopted by an alpha male. The movie is beautifully shot, but the baby is bad at everything (which makes him hard to sympathize with), and the pack of rival chimps are cast uncomfortably as the villains. A less cutesy approach would have done a world of good. Narrated by Tim Allen. — Steve Steward

Sound of My Voice now playing in Dallas.

Dark Shadows (PG-13) Tim Burton tries to turn the oddball 1960s soap opera into a vehicle for his macabre sense of humor, a great idea that should have resulted in a funnier movie. Johnny Depp plays an 18th-century man turned into a vampire by a curse and awakened in 1972, when he must save his descendants. The production design is glorious, screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith comes up with some funny one-liners, and Depp plays the vampire’s misery straight while remembering to make him into a figure of fun. Still, the panoply of supporting characters proves too much for Burton, and the pacing is so slack that even though the story is stuffed with developments, it still moves glacially. This film has too much on its plate. Also with Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Christopher Lee, and Alice Cooper.

The Five-Year Engagement (R) This fairly by-the-numbers Judd Apatow-produced comedy turns out to be good for some laughs. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt play a normal couple whose planned marriage keeps being put off thanks to accidents and diverging career paths. A supporting cast full of newcomers to Apatow’s stable gives this a jolt, and the script (by Segel and director/co-writer Nicholas Stoller) is pretty good at treating the strains of a long-term relationship. Also with Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, David Paymer, Mimi Kennedy, Chris Parnell, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Hart, and Mindy Kaling. — Zack Shlacter

Girl in Progress (PG-13) Patricia Riggen’s comedy stars newcomer Cierra Ramirez as a 16-year-old girl who tries to grow up although it’s her 33-year-old mother (Eva Mendes) who’s more in need of maturity. Riggen gets off to a brisk start detailing the unsettled lives of this pair, but the movie puts too much weight on the girl’s plan to leave her childhood behind, and the melodrama piles up in an unfortunate way late in the film. Ramirez is an interesting screen presence, and the movie has a mother-daughter story that most other films don’t bother with, but it’s still easily disposable. Also with Matthew Modine, Raini Rodriguez, Landon Liboiron, Eugenio Derbez, Russell Peters, and Patricia Arquette.

The Hunger Games (PG-13) Gary Ross’ adaptation doesn’t accomplish nearly all the things that Suzanne Collins’ brilliant novels do, but it is a pretty good sci-fi action thriller. Jennifer Lawrence plays the teenage heroine in a future dystopian society who reluctantly volunteers to take part in a televised fight to the death with 23 other teens. The ruling city’s gaudy luxury in the middle section doesn’t come off, and the script loses many of the novel’s richer aspects, especially the commentary on reality TV. Yet the sun-dappled, indie-film look of the outer sections gives the movie a distinctive feel, and Ross turns the screws of suspense expertly. Lawrence’s dexterous and deeply felt performance keeps the movie on track. It’s not the most imaginative version, but it’s smart and reasonably well-made. Also with Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Liam Hemsworth, Amandla Stenberg, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Willow Shields, and Donald Sutherland.

The Lucky One (PG-13) Just like all the other Nicholas Sparks adaptations, only worse. Zac Efron portrays a psychologically traumatized Marine veteran who seeks out a woman in a photograph that he credits with saving his life and finds her a divorced mom (Taylor Schilling) in Louisiana living in fear of her drunken abusive ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson). Efron is tragically miscast as a damaged case, but his charisma still outshines almost everyone else in this personality-free cast. Scott Hicks contributes torpid direction, and all the complicated issues in the story are reduced to pablum, with a heavy infusion of syrup. This isn’t to be confused with The Lucky Ones, a 2008 comedy that’s also about war veterans on leave, which happens to be a much better movie. Also with Riley Thomas Stewart, Adam LeFevre, and Blythe Danner.

Mirror Mirror (PG) This comic take on the Snow White fable stars Lily Collins as the princess who’s exiled to a forest by a wicked queen (Julia Roberts). The script is deliberately silly without being funny, and the only thing that saves the early going from banality is director Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell) and his flamboyant visual style. His approach doesn’t fit the jokey material, but his sets and costumes are a joy to look at. Collins only looks authoritative at the end, when she leads a Bollywood dance number, a bit of foolery that comes off well and helps make this into a pleasant minor diversion. Also with Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Danny Woodburn, Martin Klebba, Joe Gnoffo, Sebastian Saraceno, Ronald Lee Clark, Michael Lerner, Mare Winningham, and Sean Bean.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (G) Aardman Animation’s big-screen version of Gideon Defoe’s novels is a total smash. Hugh Grant provides the voice of a 19th-century pirate captain looking to win a pirate of the year award while Charles Darwin (voiced by David Tennant) tries to get the captain’s parrot, who is actually the world’s last remaining dodo. The action moves at a brisk clip, and Aardman’s soft and fuzzy treatment fits the material exceptionally well. The wry wit and smart silliness on display helps it all go down smoothly. Additional voices by Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson, Lenny Henry, Brian Blessed, and Anton Yelchin. — Anthony Mariani

The Raven (R) This thriller posits what would happen if Edgar Allan Poe himself (John Cusack) had to play detective to stop a serial killer inspired by the writer’s own macabre stories. However, like a bad copycat, the movie can’t compare to Poe’s original works. From the first murder on, the movie fails to thrill or scare and feels like any generic serial killer flick with a half-assed dash of Poe painted on. The handsome and charismatic Cusack is a poor fit for the infamously tortured Poe, and Alice Eve feels unnecessarily shoehorned in as Poe’s fictionalized and endangered fiancée. Luke Evans, as the police officer in charge of the investigation, is the one engaging presence in the movie, which considering its subject matter is a damning sign. You’re better off staying at home and cracking open a good book instead. Also with Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jimmy Yuill, Pam Ferris, and Michael Kelly. — Cole Williams

Safe (R) By now, Jason Statham fans won’t think to ask why he’s playing an ex-NYPD cop with an English accent, but they might think to ask some other questions of his latest thriller, in which he has to protect a Chinese girl (Catherine Chan) in possession of a secret that half the criminal underworld is willing to kill for. Writer-director Boaz Yakin takes some care with the plotting as the hero plays Chinese gangsters, Russian gangsters, and crooked cops off one another, but the action is so over-the-top and uninventive that the work goes all for naught. Also with Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount, Reggie Lee, Sándor Técsy, Joseph Sikora, and Chris Sarandon.

Think Like a Man (PG-13) The overqualified actors are the best reason to see this ensemble comedy based on Steve Harvey’s dating advice book, in which various characters follow Harvey’s advice. The advice isn’t original, and everything gets squashed into the mold of a conventional romantic comedy, but it’s worth it to see the cast. The diminutive Kevin Hart reliably scores laughs in even the most unpromising circumstances, while Romany Malco brings fascinating stuff to the cliché role of a player trying to settle down. Michael Ealy and Taraji P. Henson strike all manner of sparks off each other. Seeing these good-looking, wildly talented, suavely charming actors at work, you wish they had better material to work with. Also with Meagan Good, Jerry Ferrara, Regina Hall, Gabrielle Union, Terrence J, Gary Owen, Jenifer Lewis, Gary Owen, La La Anthony, Wendy Williams, Sherri Shepherd, Chris Brown, and Steve Harvey.

The Three Stooges (PG) This bizarre exercise tries to copy the Stooges’ old movies in every respect, with Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso giving dutiful impressions of Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard, respectively. Director/co-writers the Farrelly brothers have the Stooges trying to save the orphanage where they grew up and getting sucked into a murder-for-hire plot. The slapstick is uninspired, and the overqualified supporting cast doesn’t add much, except for the brilliant stroke of Larry David as a crabby nun. The movie gains points for being precisely what it appears to be, but it doesn’t amount to all that much in the end. Also with Jennifer Hudson, Jane Lynch, Sofía Vergara, Craig Bierko, Stephen Collins, Kirby Hayborne, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Kate Upton.

Titanic (PG-13) James Cameron’s $200-million epic offers impressively lavish production values, a satisfying taste of period flavor, and — once the great ship starts taking on water — some genuinely awesome displays of terror, destruction, and special-effects wizardry. What the movie doesn’t offer, however, is a compelling story. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet simply aren’t substantial enough as the romantic leads. And it doesn’t help at all that Cameron, who directed his own screenplay, gives his actors great wads of cliché-heavy dialogue that fall from their mouths and onto the floor with a singular lack of grace. — Joe Leydon

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

Darling Companion (PG-13) The latest film by Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill) stars Diane Keaton as a woman who overreacts after her husband (Kevin Kline) loses their dog. Also with Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest, Elisabeth Moss, Ayelet Zurer, Mark Duplass, Lindsay Sloane, and Sam Shepard.

Headhunters (R) Based on a mystery novel by Jo Nesbø, this Norwegian thriller stars Aksel Hennie as a corporate headhunter who gets into lethal trouble pursuing his sidelight in burgling the homes of his wealthy clients. Also with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnøve Macody Lund, Julie Ølgaard, Kyrre Haugen Sydness, and Reidar Sørensen.

A Little Bit of Heaven (PG-13) Kate Hudson stars in this dramedy as a woman who falls in love with her doctor (Gael García Bernal) while being treated for terminal cancer. Also with Kathy Bates, Peter Dinklage, Rosemarie DeWitt, Lucy Punch, Romany Malco, Treat Williams, Steven Weber, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Marley (PG-13) Not a sequel to Marley & Me, this documentary by Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void) profiles the life and music of Bob Marley.

Monsieur Lazhar (PG-13) Philippe Falardeau’s Oscar-nominated dramedy stars Mohamed Fellag as an Algerian immigrant who’s hired to replace a popular Montreal schoolteacher who killed himself in his classroom. Also with Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron, Marie-Ève Beauregard, Vincent Millard, Seddik Benslimane, and Danielle Proulx.

Sound of My Voice (R) Brit Marling co-writes and stars in Zat Batmanglij’s thriller as a religious cult leader who places an investigative journalist (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend (Nicole Vicius) under her spell. Also with Davenia McFadden, Kandice Stroh, Richard Wharton, Christy Meyers, and James Urbaniak.


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