Film Shorts

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Posted September 19, 2012 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
Compliance opens Friday.Compliance opens Friday.

OPENING:

Compliance (R) This film by Craig Zobel (Great World of Sound) is about a mysterious prank caller who induces a fast-food outlet manager (Ann Dowd) to inflict a series of humiliations on her employee (Dreama Walker). Also with Pat Healy, Bill Camp, and Philip Ettinger. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Dredd (R) The second attempt to make a film out of the comic book character created by Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner, this one stars Karl Urban as a policeman and judge in a dystopian future society who tries to defeat a gang of drug dealers. Also with Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, and Domhnall Gleeson. (Opens Friday)

Hello I Must Be Going (R) Melanie Lynskey stars in this drama as a 35-year-old woman who copes with her divorce by moving back in with her parents and having an affair with a teenager (Christopher Abbott). Also with Blythe Danner, John Rubinstein, Dan Futterman, Jimmi Simpson, and Julie White. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

House at the End of the Street (PG-13) Jennifer Lawrence stars in this supernatural thriller as a girl who falls for a boy with a haunted past (Max Thieriot) after moving to a new neighborhood. Also with Elisabeth Shue, Eva Link, Nolan Gerard Funk, Allie MacDonald, and Gil Bellows. (Opens Friday)

Occupy Unmasked (NR) Stephen K. Bannon (The Undefeated) directs this right-wing documentary exposing the evil of the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Trouble With the Curve (PG-13) The curve isn’t the only thing troubling this flat, rhythmless, mawkish, badly written baseball drama. Clint Eastwood stars as an aging scout with failing eyesight who tries to repair his strained relationship with his attorney daughter (Amy Adams) while she helps him scout one last prospect. The flaws in this script could have been papered over, but first-time director Robert Lorenz (a longtime assistant director under Eastwood) has no idea how to build momentum within a scene or get to the next one. As a former player-turned-rival scout who falls for the daughter, Justin Timberlake isn’t the most convincing ex-jock, but he snags all the best laugh lines and walks home with the movie. Also with John Goodman, Matthew Lillard, Joe Massingill, Bob Gunton, Ed Lauter, Jack Gilpin, Jay Galloway, and Robert Patrick. (Opens Friday)

Unconditional (PG-13) Lynn Collins stars in this drama as a woman who must decide between taking revenge on her husband’s killer or helping her childhood friend (Michael Ealy) achieve his dream. Also with Bruce McGill, Kwesi Boakye, Diego Klattenhoff, and Cedric Pendleton. (Opens Friday)

NOW PLAYING:

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.

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.

The Cold Light of Day (PG-13) Henry Cavill gives a charmless performance headlining this incomprehensible action thriller about an American tourist whose family is kidnapped in Spain over information wanted by the CIA. Bruce Willis’ presence as the hero’s combative dad is misleading; his character is killed off early on. Belgian director Mabrouk El Mechri (JCVD) knows how to stage a car chase but can’t make any sense of a plot that involves Arab terrorists, Israeli vigilantes, a second family, and a CIA section chief turned traitor (Sigourney Weaver). Shrink into the darkness, away from The Cold Light of Day. Also with Verónica Echegui, Caroline Goodall, Rafi Gavron, Emma Hamilton, Joseph Mawle, Roschdy Zem, and Jackie Earle Haley.

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.

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.

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.

Killer Joe (NC-17) Matthew McConaughey gives one of the year’s scariest performances as a gentlemanly, sociopathic, sexually violent Dallas cop who moonlights as a killer for hire in William Friedkin’s adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play. Emile Hirsch stars as a small-time drug dealer who hires Joe to murder his mom for her insurance money and pimps out his willing sister (Juno Temple) in exchange for advance payment. Friedkin and Letts make hash out of the murder plot, but Temple’s angelic-demonic baby doll and McConaughey’s orderly, well-spoken, depraved killer will burn themselves into your memory. All those bland romantic comedies that McConaughey starred in in the past look different now. Also with Gina Gershon, Marc Macaulay, and Thomas Haden Church.

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.

Lawless (R) Based on Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County in the World, this Prohibition-era thriller stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke as three brothers in backwoods Virginia who go to war with a crooked Chicago deputy (Guy Pearce) who wants to take over their moonshine business. Director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave do justice to the extreme levels of violence here and prevent the momentum from flagging, but they mishandle some dull romantic subplots and stack the deck against a cardboard bad guy. Better stuff comes from the actors, especially Hardy, playing a laconic guy whose grunts express a whole rainbow of emotions. Also with Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Dane DeHaan, Bill Camp, Noah Taylor, and Gary Oldman.


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