Film Shorts

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Posted April 3, 2013 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
"The Place Beyond the Pines" opens Friday in Dallas."The Place Beyond the Pines" opens Friday in Dallas.

OPENING:

The Place Beyond the Pines (R) This drama written and directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) stars Ryan Gosling as a bank robber on a collision course with an ambitious young police officer (Bradley Cooper). Also with Eva Mendes, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan, Rose Byrne, Harris Yulin, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Mendelsohn, Mahershala Ali, and Ray Liotta. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Evil Dead (R) Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez star in this remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 camp horror film, directed by Fede Álvarez. Also with Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, and Jim McLarty. (Opens Friday)

Jurassic Park (PG-13) Steven Spielberg’s 1993 dinosaur blockbuster holds up better than you might think in this 20th-anniversary 3D re-release. The script’s characters are poorly drawn (the kids especially, but the adults too), which is the biggest reason why the movie doesn’t rank with the director’s best work. Still, Spielberg’s ingenuity and flair for action sequences are on good display here — check the T. rex’s artfully stage-managed entrance or the scene with the van stuck in a tree. For a movie whose success was based on special effects that were cutting edge 20 years ago, this has aged rather well. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Bob Peck, Wayne Knight, and Samuel L. Jackson. (Re-opens Friday)

The Sapphires (PG-13) Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) stars in this musical based on a true story about an Irishman who manages an Australian Aboriginal girl group singing Motown songs for U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968. Also with Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell, Eka Darville, and Tory Kittles. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

6 Souls (R) Julianne Moore stars in this supernatural thriller as a psychotherapist who discovers that a patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has adopted multiple personalities who are all murder victims. Also with Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Conroy, Nate Corddry, Brooklyn Proulx, and Brian A. Wilson. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING:

Admission (PG-13) Tina Fey’s new movie is being sold as a standard-issue romantic comedy, but it’s much heavier and more interesting than that. Adapted from Jean Hanff Korelitz’ novel, this stars Fey as a Princeton admissions officer who learns from a nontraditional school founder (Paul Rudd) that one of his students (Nat Wolff) is the baby she gave up for adoption 17 years ago. Besides tart observations on the university admissions process, the movie packs intriguing characters, including Lily Tomlin as Fey’s feminist-scholar mother. Yet the chemistry between Fey and Rudd doesn’t take, and the movie comes to think of the boy’s acceptance to Princeton as a matter of life or death for some reason. Despite its flaws, this is still the best Tina Fey movie to date. Also with Michael Sheen, Gloria Reuben, Christopher Evan Welch, Travaris Spears, Olek Krupa, Sonya Walger, and Wallace Shawn.

The Call (R) Halle Berry stars in this thoroughly sadistic little thriller as a traumatized 911 operator who involves herself with the case of a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) who is abducted by a serial killer and places a call from the trunk of his car. We learn much about how 911 operators do their jobs and how they might respond in a situation such as this. Yet the heroine’s actions make absolutely no sense in the last 15 minutes of this thing, and the movie overall is histrionic and tawdry. Director Brad Anderson used to make such great romantic comedies; What’s he doing wasting his time on something like this? Also with Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, José Zúñiga, Justina Machado, Roma Maffia, and Michael Imperioli.

The Croods (PG) This fitfully inspired animated comedy is about a family of prehistoric cavepeople headed by an overprotective, risk-averse dad (voiced by Nicolas Cage) until their home is destroyed and they’re forced to journey many miles to find a new place. The movie’s fanciful prehistoric landscape is nice to see, and terrific voice work from both Cage and Emma Stone as his adventurous daughter gives the movie some personality. However, the movie never really hits any memorable highs or sustains any sort of momentum and is populated by bizarre creatures. Check out the graceful flock of cute, murderous little red birds. Additional voices by Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders, and Cloris Leachman.

Emperor (PG-13) For World War II buffs and Japanophiles only. This tasteful, polite, boring drama stars Matthew Fox as an American general who searches for the girl he once loved (Eriko Hatsune) while trying to carry out a politically loaded task in devastated postwar Japan. The material needed a director comfortable with procedurals, but Peter Webber (Girl With a Pearl Earring) is more interested in lyricism, romance, and pictorialism. He loses all sense of momentum and dramatic thrust. Tommy Lee Jones cuts an entertaining figure as Douglas MacArthur, capturing the man’s conscientiousness and his vanity, but he isn’t nearly enough to redeem this exercise. Also with Masayoshi Haneda, Kaori Momoi, Toshiyuki Nishida, Isao Natsuyagi, Masatoshi Nakamura, Masatô Ibu, Shôhei Hino, and Colin Moy.

Escape From Planet Earth (PG) This terrible animated film set among a race of blue aliens is about a hypercautious engineer (voiced by Rob Corddry) who must rescue his reckless, lunkheaded astronaut brother (voiced by Brendan Fraser) after the astronaut travels to Earth and gets captured by an overzealous general (voiced by William Shatner). The animation is visually uninteresting, the characters are downright unlikable, and the jokes are lame pop culture riffs. If you pay the 3D upcharge, you’ll really hate yourself. Additional voices by Sarah Jessica Parker, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Craig Robinson, George Lopez, Jane Lynch, Steve Zahn, Chris Parnell, Jessica Alba, Sofia Vergara, and Ricky Gervais.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (PG-13) In this sequel to the 2010 hit, the commando unit is exterminated except for three soldiers (Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, and D.J. Cotrona), who try to prove that the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce) who ordered them killed is actually an imposter and a terrorist agent. Had the movie focused on that plot, or indeed any other, it might have been all right. Instead, the action scenes (including a swordfight on a zipline high in the mountains) pile on one another in no discernible order and contain so many huge guns and combat vehicles that you wonder who’s compensating for their masculine shortcomings. The movie is nonsensical and not nearly as cool as it thinks it is. Also with Lee Byung-hun, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Luke Bracey, Walton Goggins, Arnold Vosloo, RZA, Channing Tatum, and Bruce Willis.

The Host (PG-13) Spectacularly bad. This thriller is set in an Earth where sparkly, floating alien invaders called “souls” have taken over the bodies of most humans, turning them into peaceful, courteous, loveless automatons with a curious preference for white clothing and silver vehicles. Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) stars a human girl captured at the beginning of the film and implanted with one of the souls, only the implant doesn’t quite take. Her human personality and the soul carry on a running conversation on the voiceover track, and the device is so laughable and hokey that you wonder why no one told writer-director Andrew Niccol that it wasn’t working. This is based on a novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. Somehow, it manages to be worse than any of the Twilight movies. Also with Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Chandler Canterbury, Boyd Holbrook, Frances Fisher, and William Hurt.

Identity Thief (R) Just about everything in this comedy is spectacularly miscalculated. Jason Bateman plays a responsible, repressed milquetoast-y finance guy in Denver who travels to Florida to capture the con artist (Melissa McCarthy) who has stolen his identity. The list of this movie’s failures is long: the depiction of the con artist as an overweight, oversexed caricature; the subsequent attempt to turn her back into a real person; the movie’s left turn into an action flick when one of her victims turns out to be a crime lord who sends his thugs (Tip “T.I.” Harris and Genesis Rodriguez) after her. Bateman and McCarthy struggle valiantly to mine laughs from the material, but it’s all for little effect. Also with Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Ben Falcone, and Eric Stonestreet.

InAPPropriate Comedy (R) Vince Offer directs, co-writes, and co-stars in this anthology comedy about a computer tablet that comes up with comedy sketches. Starring Adrien Brody, Michelle Rodriguez, Rob Schneider, and Lindsay Lohan.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (PG-13) Steve Carell stars in this less-than-incredible comedy as a Las Vegas stage magician who falls from grace because of his complacency and who has lost his audience to a loathsome hack (Jim Carrey). Amid predictable jokes about guys who wear eyeliner and sequins professionally, the movie does find an essential truth about performing, as Burt has to rediscover his love for his craft. Yet despite a number of gags that score, the movie never finds a groove or delivers on any of its set pieces, and Carell is too nice a guy to play the lecherous, diva-like Burt. This act needed polishing before it hit the big stage. Also with Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr, Michael Herbig, Brad Garrett, Gillian Jacobs, and James Gandolfini.

Jack the Giant Slayer (PG-13) Better than any of the other recent films based on children’s fairy tales, this entirely bizarre take on the story of Jack and the beanstalk is an encouraging sign that Bryan Singer’s talent hasn’t entirely gone away. Nicholas Hoult plays the orphaned farmboy who volunteers to accompany a bunch of royal soldiers to rescue a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) who’s trapped in his house after the beanstalk carries it up to the sky. The CGI giants are filthy, repellent, and somehow fascinating to look at, but Singer doesn’t let the effects overwhelm his actors. Hoult comes off best, a mix of swashbuckling and scared out of his mind by the mythical creatures. Though it’s too violent for younger kids, the movie deserves an audience. Also with Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan, Ewen Bremner, and Ian McShane.

The Last Exorcism Part II (PG-13) Interesting thing about this sequel: The filmmakers here completely abandon the found-footage look of the 2010 original, filming this like a much more conventional horror movie. It doesn’t work. Ashley Bell reprises her role as the demonically possessed girl as she flees her backwoods community and lands in a halfway house for at-risk girls in New Orleans. The angular, soft-voiced Bell remains the best thing, convincing as both the sheltered naïf and the evil demon. Yet the movie squanders both her and its potentially fruitful premise in favor of boring scares and some casually racist stuff about black people possessing otherworldly juju. The lead actress deserved better. Also with Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, David Jensen, Tarra Riggs, Louis Herthum, and Muse Watson.


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