Film Shorts

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Posted June 13, 2012 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
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OPENING:

The Girl From the Naked Eye (R) Jason Yee stars in this martial-arts flick as a man who takes revenge when the prostitute he was hired to look after is murdered. Also with Samantha Streets, Gary Stretch, Dominique Swain, Ron Yuan, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, and Sasha Grey. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Lola Versus (R) Greta Gerwig stars in Daryl Wein’s comedy as a 29-year-old woman trying to cope after her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman) abandons her at the altar. Also with Zoe Lister Jones, Hamish Linklater, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Jay Pharoah, Cheyenne Jackson, Bill Pullman, and Debra Winger. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Safety Not Guaranteed (R) Colin Trevorrow’s science-fiction comedy stars Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, and Karan Soni as Seattle journalists who interview a supermarket clerk (Mark Duplass) after he advertises for a time-traveling companion. Also with Jenica Bergere, Lynn Shelton, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kristen Bell, and Jeff Garlin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap (R) Ice-T and Andy Baybutt’s documentary about the history of rap music. Also with Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Common, Nas, Chuck D, Q-Tip, Afrika Bambaataa, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Raekwon, Redman, Xzibit, and Eminem. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)

That’s My Boy (R) Adam Sandler stars as a man who reunites with his son (Andy Samberg), whom he fathered at age 13, after years of estrangement. Also with Leighton Meester, James Caan, Milo Ventimiglia, Eva Amurri Martino, Meagen Fay, Tony Orlando, Will Forte, Rachel Dratch, Nick Swardson, Ana Gasteyer, Ciara, Vanilla Ice, and Susan Sarandon. (Opens Friday)

 

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.

Battleship (PG-13) Are you kidding me with this crap? Taylor Kitsch stars in this cold, inhuman, pleasure-free thriller as a Navy officer who’s forced to take charge when alien spaceships land in the ocean off Hawaii and prepare to launch an invasion. Though the movie has little to do with the board game on which it’s supposedly based, it pays tribute to its source by having each of its characters show as much personality as a Battleship peg. The script’s handling of the alien invasion is stupid, and the action sequences are bereft of any invention. Director Peter Berg has turned into Michael Bay. That’s really bad news. Also with Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano, Brooklyn Decker, Hamish Linklater, John Tui, Jesse Plemons, Gregory D. Gadson, Peter MacNicol, and Liam Neeson.

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 Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13) A gasp-inducing lineup of veteran British actors makes some watchable moments but doesn’t elevate this slight comedy to anything more. Based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, the movie concerns seven British seniors who retire to the city of Jaipur, India to a faded old hotel repurposed as an old-age home for British seniors by a young entrepreneur (Dev Patel). Judi Dench underplays nicely as a widow on her own for the first time in her life, while Tom Wilkinson demonstrates similarly easy mastery as a man harboring a long-held shameful secret. Yet director John Madden doesn’t go much deeper into the Indian setting than a travelogue, and the plotlines’ resolutions pile up near the end. For all its talent, this movie comes out like bland, over-processed curry. Also with Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Tena Desae, Lillete Dubey, Seema Azmi, Vishnu Sharma, and Diana Hardcastle.

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 Dictator (R) Sacha Baron Cohen is a bad fit headlining this conventional scripted comedy as a supreme leader of a fictitious North African petroleum state who’s deposed and cast adrift in New York City. Reunited with his Borat and Brüno director, Larry Charles, Baron Cohen seems hamstrung by the traditional format and doesn’t have enough charisma to paper over the project’s shortcomings. He misjudges what’s funny about dictators (resulting in a lot of rape and pedophilia jokes that land with a thud), and his political gibes aim for the softest and easiest targets. Baron Cohen’s still a funny guy whose skills ensure that he won’t disappear. The same can’t be said for this movie. Also with Anna Faris, Jason Mantzoukas, Ben Kingsley, Bobby Lee, Kathryn Hahn, Fred Armisen, Megan Fox, and uncredited cameos by Edward Norton and John C. Reilly.

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

For Greater Glory (R) Dean Wright’s ambitious directorial debut depicts the oft-overlooked Cristeros War, a bloody chapter in Mexican history that pitted the nation’s devout Catholics against an oppressive secular government in the mid-1920s. The whole narrative fizzles under its own emotional weight, further burdened by a TV-miniseries treatment that piles on too many characters and subplots. The film’s earnestness also flirts with self-righteousness. Writer Michael Love’s one-dimensional approach almost turns this into a Catholic propaganda piece. The film’s acting stands out here, though, as lead man Andy Garcia nails the role of a conflicted agnostic rebel leader. Oscar Isaac’s depiction of the hotheaded Victoriano Ramirez also lends much-needed gravitas to this otherwise sappy flick, and an early appearance by Peter O’Toole as a martyred priest is a pleasant touch. Also with Eva Longoria, Bruce Greenwood, Bruce McGill, Nestor Carbonell, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Santiago Cabrera, Eduardo Verástegui, and Rubén Blades. — Matthew McGowan


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