Film Shorts

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Posted July 17, 2013 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
Fruitvale Station opens Friday in Arlington.Fruitvale Station opens Friday in Arlington.

OPENING:

Fruitvale Station (R) Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) stars in Ryan Coogler’s dramatic re-creation of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a real-life Oakland man whose shooting at the hands of police caused an internet sensation. Also with Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand, Ahna O’Reilly, Ariana Neal, and Chad Michael Murray. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)

Evidence (NR) Stephen Moyer (TV’s True Blood) stars in Olatunde Osunsami’s thriller as a detective who tries to solve a massacre at an abandoned gas station through video footage recorded by the victims. Also with Radha Mitchell, Caitlin Stasey, Torrey DeVitto, Nolan Gerard Funk, Dale Dickey, and Harry Lennix. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Girl Most Likely (PG-13) Kristen Wiig stars in this comedy as a once-famous playwright who moves back in with her mother (Annette Bening) after a mental breakdown. Also with Darren Criss, Natasha Lyonne, June Diane Raphael, Nate Corddry, Mickey Sumner, and Matt Dillon. (Opens Friday)

I’m So Excited! (R) And I just can’t hide it! Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film stars Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo, and Javier Cámara as three gay flight attendants who try to keep passengers entertained when their plane encounters serious mechanical trouble in mid-flight. Also with Lola Dueñas, Hugo Silva, Antonio de la Torre, Cecilia Roth, José María Yazpik, Blanca Suárez, Paz Vega, Penélope Cruz, and Antonio Banderas. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Only God Forgives (R) Ryan Gosling re-teams with director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) as a drug smuggler in Thailand who searches for his brother’s killer. Also with Kristin Scott Thomas, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Vithaya Pansringarm, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Tom Burke, and Byron Gibson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Red 2 (PG-13) Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren return for this sequel to the 2011 hit. Also with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lee Byung-hun, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, and Anthony Hopkins. (Opens Friday)

R.I.P.D. (PG-13) Ryan Reynolds stars in this science-fiction comedy as a murdered policeman who becomes part of a celestial police force protecting living humans from the undead. Also with Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller, Mike O’Malley, and Kevin Bacon. (Opens Friday)

The Rooftop (NR) Jay Chou directs and stars in this Chinese musical about a slum-dweller who rescues a famous actress (Lin Xinai). Also with Eric Tsang, Alan Ko, Wang Xueqi, and Xu Fan. (Opens Friday in Frisco)

Secretly and Greatly (NR) Jang Chul-soo’s comedy about a bunch of North Korean sleeper agents in Seoul who spend years waiting for orders to carry out  their mission. Starring Kim Soo-hyun, Park Ki-woong, Lee Hyun-woo, Son Hyun-joo, Park Hye-sook, Hong Kyoung-in, Ko Chang-seok, and Park Eun-bin. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Turbo (PG) This animated comedy is about a garden snail (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who dreams of becoming a race car driver. Additional voices by Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Kurtwood Smith, Ben Schwartz, Snoop Dogg, and Samuel L. Jackson. (Opens Wednesday)

V/H/S/2 (NR) The sequel to last year’s anthology horror film contains segments directed by Gareth Huw Evans, Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, and Timo Tjahjanto. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Ways to Live Forever (PG-13) Robbie Kay stars in this British drama as a 12-year-old boy with leukemia who seeks to learn as much as he can. Also with Ben Chaplin, Emilia Fox, Alex Etel, Natalia Tena, and Phyllida Law. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING:

Despicable Me 2 (PG) Like the original, this animated movie’s most creative touches can be found at its margins. The former supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is sent undercover into the local shopping mall to foil the latest plot to take over the world. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud have gotten very good at inventing and crafting gags, especially regarding Gru’s army of yellow minions, but they throw too many subplots into what should be a neat spy thriller for kids. If only these visually talented filmmakers could find a good story, they’d really be onto something. Additional voices by Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Steve Coogan, Moises Arias, Nasim Pedrad, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, and Russell Brand.

Grown Ups 2 (PG-13) Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade reunite for this sequel. Also with Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello, Steve Buscemi, Nick Swardson, Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows, Jon Lovitz, Allen Covert, Milo Ventimiglia, Shaquille O’Neal, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Akiva Schaffer, Paul Brittain, and uncredited cameos by Will Forte and Taylor Lautner.

The Heat (R) The chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy sustains this action-comedy through its many wobbly bits. They play an uptight FBI agent and a foul-mouthed Boston cop, respectively, who have to team up to take down a drug lord. Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) has a lot of trouble switching between the comedy set pieces and the detective plot (which makes no sense anyway), but McCarthy’s toughness and brassy shtick has a salutary effect on Bullock, who responds in kind with a spunk we haven’t seen from her in a while. Get these two a sequel or at least a better vehicle. Also with Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Dan Bakkedahl, Tom Wilson, Taran Killam, Michael McDonald, Kaitlin Olson, Tony Hale, Joey McIntyre, Spoken Reasons, Nate Corddry, and Jane Curtin.

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (R) In his latest concert film, the diminutive stand-up comic cracks up a crowd at Madison Square Garden by taking the usual comedy tropes down absurdist routes — one joke about excuses for being late to work winds up with a baby-sized man riding a made-up animal called a deerbra. The opening scripted sketch is weak, and some of Hart’s routines about bro codes and psychotic women go stale despite the comic’s physicality onstage. Yet the theme of “how big is Kevin Hart?” and the precision of his delivery are enough to carry his flatter material into the stuff that really kicks. He seems grateful for his success, so it’s gratifying that his routine is really funny, too. — Steve Steward

The Lone Ranger (PG-13) The summer’s most fascinating bad movie revives the characters as an unbalanced Comanche warrior (Johnny Depp) and a lawyer-turned-masked lawman (Armie Hammer) who team up to bring down an outlaw (William Fichtner) in post-Civil War Texas. The movie wants to be a rip-snorting Western adventure yarn while also acknowledging the genocide of Native Americans upon which our nation’s prosperity was founded. Unfortunately, director Gore Verbinski isn’t nearly up to the task. He gets the tone all wrong, with the serious material jarring with the director’s penchant for silly gags and acid-trippy interludes. Despite some Buster Keaton-like hijinks in the finale, the movie spills its ideas willy-nilly. Also with Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson, James Badge Dale, Bryant Prince, Saginaw Grant, Stephen Root, and Barry Pepper.

Man of Steel (PG-13) Zack Snyder doesn’t succeed in making Superman interesting, but he does succeed in making this familiar story feel rough, strange, and new. Henry Cavill plays the refugee from the planet Krypton who gradually discovers his superpowers while hiding them from the world. Snyder’s nonsequential storytelling invigorates this movie for the first hour or so, but he does a poor job of introducing the characters. The destruction visited on Metropolis is cohesively managed, but because he hasn’t set up what the city is like, the climax has no resonance. The movie opens some promising avenues for the future (and it’s way better than Superman Returns), but it still leaves lots of room for improvement. Also with Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Ayelet Zurer, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, and Laurence Fishburne.

Monsters University (PG) The best Pixar movie since Toy Story 3 and one of the better movies about college ever made. Billy Crystal and John Goodman reunite for this prequel that follows Mike and Sulley through their freshman year at college, as they take an instant dislike to each other, run afoul of a hardass dean (voiced by Helen Mirren), and have to win a school-wide scaring challenge to get back in their major program. The comedy is gratifyingly back on point here, especially when Mike and Sulley are forced to join a rinky-dink frat full of outcasts. However, the story also takes some surprising twists that give further layers to these familiar characters. It’s so good to have the Pixar of old back. Additional voices by Steve Buscemi, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, Tyler Labine, Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan, Julia Sweeney, Bonnie Hunt, John Krasinski, Bill Hader, Beth Behrs, and John Ratzenberger.

Now You See Me (PG-13) A much better movie about magicians than The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Of all directors, Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans) pulls off this neat little bit of sleight-of-hand starring Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, and Woody Harrelson as four stage magicians who execute a series of Robin Hood-like robberies of scummy rich people while being chased by a hapless FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo). Not everything here hangs together, but the actors are well-cast in their roles. Both they and the filmmaker seem to be having fun, and you may very well share in that sentiment. Also with Morgan Freeman, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Kelly, Common, and Michael Caine.

Pacific Rim (PG-13) Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) directs this science-fiction thriller about a group of humans who build giant robots to battle alien invaders. Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi, Clifton Collins Jr., Robert Maillet, Robert Kazinsky, Heather Doerksen, and Ron Perlman.

This Is the End (R) Uproarious. Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride all portray themselves as self-absorbed weenies who hole up in Franco’s Hollywood mansion when the apocalypse as described in the Book of Revelation starts to happen. While trying to survive, the boys rag on one another’s career missteps and film a no-budget sequel to Pineapple Express, but they’re all strongly characterized enough that you’ll laugh a lot even if you don’t know who the stars are. Co-directors Rogen and Evan Goldberg toggle nicely between the indoor hijinks and the effects-heavy depiction of the end of days. Also parodying themselves are Emma Watson as a crazed, ax-swinging survivalist and Michael Cera as a disgusting sexist cokehead who meets a satisfyingly hideous death. It’s a bracing return to form for Rogen and company. Also with Mindy Kaling, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Martin Starr, Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Channing Tatum, and an uncredited Jason Segel.

White House Down (PG-13) Bleah! This moronic thriller stars Channing Tatum as a war hero-turned-bodyguard who has to rescue the president (Jamie Foxx) when domestic terrorists take over the White House. You expect a movie like this to pander to patriotism in the basest way possible, but the takeover of the White House is amateurish in the extreme, and there’s a truly unbearable subplot with the hero’s young daughter (Joey King) also being trapped in the White House. As usual, Roland Emmerich directs this like he just suffered a Grade II concussion, and this movie will make you feel like you just had one. Also with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre, Matt Craven, Garcelle Beauvais, and James Woods.

World War Z (PG-13) Given this movie’s troubled production history, it’s somewhat miraculous that it comes out as well as it does. Brad Pitt stars in this extremely loose adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel as a U.N. investigator who has to fly all over the globe to figure out how to stop a worldwide zombie pandemic. Director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and the writers imagine the plague as a fast-acting bug that takes 12 seconds to turn people into a seething wave of ex-humanity that swarms like insects. The small-scale ending doesn’t jive with everything else, but it’s remarkable in its own way. Like its zombie threat, this movie is stupid, but it moves quickly. Also with Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena, Ludi Boeken, David Morse, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Moritz Bleibtreu, and Matthew Fox.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

The Attack (R) Ziad Doueiri’s drama stars Ali Suliman as a prosperous Arab doctor in Tel Aviv who searches for answers after his wife (Reymond Amsalem) carries out a suicide bombing. Also with Evgenia Dodena, Dvir Benedek, Uri Gavriel, and Karim Saleh.

Much Ado About Nothing (PG-13) Joss Whedon (The Avengers) directs this low-budget, modern-dress, black-and-white adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy about two ex-lovers (Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker) who engage in a war of wits while falling back in love. Also with Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson, Tom Lenk, and Nathan Fillion.

20 Feet From Stardom (PG-13) Morgan Neville’s documentary profiles five women (Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, and Tatá Vega) who have spent their careers as backup singers in the music industry. Also with Chris Botti, Sheryl Crow, Mick Jagger, Gloria Jones, Darlene Love, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and Stevie Wonder.

Unfinished Song (PG-13) Terence Stamp stars in this comedy as a grumpy old Englishman whose wife (Vanessa Redgrave) persuades him to join an unconventional local choir. Also with Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Barry Martin, Elizabeth Counsell, and Anne Reid.


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