Film Shorts

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Posted September 12, 2012 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
Stolen opens Friday.Stolen opens Friday.

OPENING:

Stolen (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this thriller as a former thief who frantically searches for his kidnapped daughter. Also with Josh Lucas, Malin Akerman, Sami Gayle, Barry Shabaka Henley, M.C. Gainey, Mark Valley, and Danny Huston. (Opens Friday)

Elena (NR) This thriller by Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Return) stars Nadezhda Markina as a Russian housewife who schemes to make sure her dying husband’s inheritance goes to her instead of her stepdaughter (Elena Lyadova). Also with Alexei Rozin and Andrei Smirnov. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Finding Nemo (G)  Nine years after opening in theaters, Pixar’s film is re-released in 3D. This exhilarating, exhausting film is about a clownfish (voiced by Albert Brooks) who searches the ocean after his young son (voiced by Alexander Gould) is scooped up by a scuba diver. The movie’s delirious comic highs exist alongside ingenious action sequences that place the characters in constant jeopardy, and the hectic pace swirls it all together into one big, disorienting vortex. The cast, led by the inspired pairing of Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres as his bubble-brained sidekick, is skilled comically but plays the material as seriously as needed. This fable about the importance of letting kids grow up strays into dark territory, but it’s the brightest thing out there. Additional voices by Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Brad Garrett, Vicki Lewis, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Barry Humphries, Andrew Stanton, Elizabeth Perkins, Eric Bana, Bruce Spence, John Ratzenberger, and Geoffrey Rush. (Opens Friday)

Last Ounce of Courage (PG) This right-wing drama stars Marshall Teague and Hunter Gomez as a grandfather and grandson who band together to prevent atheists from banning Christmas. Also with Jennifer O’Neill, Jenna Boyd, Rusty Joiner, Darrel Campbell, and Fred Williamson. (Opens Friday)

Little White Lies (NR) This all-star French dramedy by Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) is about a group of school friends who reckon with their buried secrets after one of them (Jean Dujardin) is hospitalized by a serious accident. Also with Marion Cotillard, François Cluzet, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Valérie Bonneton, and Joël Dupuch. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Resident Evil: Retribution (PG-13) Milla Jovovich returns for the fifth film in the series to fight an evil corporation and its zombie army once again. Also with Sienna Guillory, Li Bingbing, Boris Kodjoe, Johann Urb, Kevin Durand, Iain Glen, Thomas Kretschmann, Oded Fehr, Colin Salmon, James Purefoy, Wentworth Miller, Ali Larter, and Michelle Rodriguez. (Opens Friday)

Wild Horse, Wild Ride (PG) Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus’ documentary follows competitors in a contest to tame a wild mustang in 100 days. (Opens Friday at Starplex Hulen)

 

NOW PLAYING:

Bachelorette (R) A thoroughly nasty and highly enjoyable piece of work. Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher play bridesmaids who come together for their friend’s wedding and embark on a frantic cocaine-fueled late-night quest to repair her wedding dress after it gets torn. The three actresses are skilled comedians who commit wholeheartedly to their characters’ awfulness, which is what makes these angry, bitter, phony, stupid, self-loathing women so much fun to be around. Writer-director Leslye Headland manages to sustain the laughs over 87 minutes, not losing her footing when the action slows down and the women confront what makes them so horrible. This is a blast of filthy fresh air. Also with Rebel Wilson, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer, Ann Dowd, Horatio Sanz, and Andrew Rannells.

The Bourne Legacy (PG-13) New director Tony Gilroy and star Jeremy Renner take over the series and turn this installment into a deeply average spy thriller. Renner portrays another agent from the same program as Bourne who teams up with a virologist (Rachel Weisz) so he can get more of the magic pills that make him a superspy. Seriously, that’s the plot. The climactic foot and motorcycle chase through the streets of Manila is well-managed, but elsewhere Gilroy mangles the spy jargon and action sequences into incoherence. Renner is too expressive for what he’s given to do here; surely he has enough money by now to take a break from doing franchise pictures. Also with Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Oscar Isaac, Corey Stoll, Zeljko Ivanek, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, and Albert Finney.

Branded (R) Ed Stoppard stars in this Russian-made science-fiction thriller about a young man who rebels against a dystopian future society controlled by advertising. Also with Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, and Max von Sydow.

The Campaign (R) Will Ferrell stars in this comedy as an unprincipled, skirt-chasing Democratic congressman from North Carolina who’s challenged for re-election by an effeminate, pea-brained Republican (Zach Galifianakis) at the behest of two sinister billionaire brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) looking to line their pockets. The movie’s jabs at focus groups, negative ads, and politicians who wrap themselves in Jesus and the flag don’t land accurately. Still, Galifianakis is more than a capable match for Ferrell and takes his wholesome character to a nicely weird place. We get memorable set pieces, too, like a congressional chief of staff (Jason Sudeikis) acting out the Lord’s Prayer in charades. The political satire doesn’t cut, but the movie is funny. Also with Dylan McDermott, Sarah Baker, Katherine LaNasa, Karen Maruyama, Jack McBrayer, and Brian Cox.

Cartas a Elena (PG) Llorent Barajas’ film about a Mexican boy (José Eduardo) who takes over the job, usually performed by the mailman in his small town, of reading letters to illiterate villagers. Also with Jorge Galván, Javier López, Evangelina Sosa, and Catalina Odio.

Celeste and Jesse Forever (R) Not a great comedy but a great vehicle for Rashida Jones, who co-wrote the script. She plays a marketing firm co-founder who remains best friends with her husband (Andy Samberg) while they go through a divorce. When he decides to marry a former one-night stand who’s now pregnant with his child, she’s outraged that the guy she always viewed as a man-child is now moving on effortlessly. Jones is perfectly suited to playing a Type A person who’s coming unraveled and knows how to play it for laughs without stinting on her character’s inner anguish. If you’re a Rashida Jones fan, this is indispensable. If you’re not, this will make you into one. Also with Elijah Wood, Chris Messina, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Rebecca Dayan, Will McCormack, Emma Roberts, and Chris Pine.

The Cold Light of Day (PG-13) Henry Cavill stars in this thriller as a young Wall Street trader who must save his family in Madrid after they’re kidnapped over information wanted by the CIA. Also with Bruce Willis, Verónica Echegui, Caroline Goodall, Rafi Gavron, Emma Hamilton, Joseph Mawle, Roschdy Zem, and Sigourney Weaver.

The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13) A clever tying up of loose ends. Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) coming out of retirement to battle an uprising led by a populist demagogue (Tom Hardy) with concealed motives. The steady, low drumbeat of suspense is familiar from other Nolan films but not so much is the note of delicacy and grace provided by Anne Hathaway as a cat burglar, nor the emotional beats that come as Bruce, his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) are all forced to confront the lies they’ve told and the compromises they’ve made. The movie resolves plotlines that go all the way back to Batman Begins. If that’s not enough, Nolan’s action sequences are improved here, with greater clarity. It’s a hell of a way for the trilogy to go out. Also with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Cillian Murphy, and Liam Neeson.

The Expendables 2 (R) Even more aged action movie stars join Sylvester Stallone in this marginally better sequel to his 2010 hit. This time, Stallone takes his crew to Eastern Europe to thwart a warlord (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who has enslaved the locals so he can steal Soviet plutonium reserves. The script is too heavy on in-jokes, the action sequences are routine, and the picture looks crappy. On the other hand, there are some funny bits about Dolph Lundgren’s real-life background as a chemist, a well-managed cameo by Chuck Norris, and the sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis riding to the rescue in a SmartCar. Just like the original, this is pretty much what it appears to be. Also with Jason Statham, Yu Nan, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Charisma Carpenter, and Jet Li.

Hermano (NR) Just about every cliché of sports movies, gangster films, and Latin domestic dramas gets trotted out in this soppy Venezuelan film about two brothers (Eliú Armas and Fernando Moreno) living in the barrio in Caracas who have to choose between a future as professional soccer players and revenge for their mother’s accidental murder in a gangland shooting. Not a single plot development is at all surprising, and the hackneyed material wastes some fine efforts by the actors here. Also with Beto Benites, Gonzalo Cubero, Marcela Girón, and Alí Rondon.

Hit & Run (PG-13) Dax Shepard bids to prove that he’s more than just the poor man’s Seann William Scott in this caper comedy about a guy living under federal witness protection who risks everything to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to L.A. to interview for her dream job. The movie tries to be a thriller with lots of chase sequences, a comedy with the two meeting various comic types, and a romance in which the woman knows very little about her boyfriend’s background. The romance works best, oddly enough, thanks to the assured banter between real-life spouses Shepard and Bell and some thoughtfully conceived characters. The movie’s not terrible at anything, and Shepard might just break out of his box with some better collaborators. Also with Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Joy Bryant, David Koechner, Ryan Hansen, Jess Rowland, Carly Hatter, Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Chenoweth, and Beau Bridges.

Hope Springs (PG-13) Too few movies address intimacy issues among longtime married couples; I’m glad this one does. Meryl Streep plays an Omaha housewife who tries to rejuvenate her sexless, emotionally barren marriage by dragging her husband of 31 years (Tommy Lee Jones) to Maine for a week of intensive couples therapy with a marriage counselor and self-help author (Steve Carell). The scenes with the therapist are the weak point; Carell’s Carell-ness is tamped down, and Streep and Jones are uncharacteristically flat. The leads are much better by themselves, excelling in two realistically awkward sex scenes and capturing the vibe of a couple who have run out of things to talk about. Hollywood — or, really, anybody else — should try this subject matter more often. Also with Jean Smart, Brett Rice, Mimi Rogers, and Elisabeth Shue.


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