Film Shorts

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Posted July 24, 2013 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
The Wolverine opens Friday.The Wolverine opens Friday.

OPENING:

The Wolverine (PG-13) Hugh Jackman returns as the superhero, who’s summoned to Japan and offered a chance to lose his immortality. Also with Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen, and uncredited cameos by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. (Opens Friday)

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (PG-13) Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori’s documentary about the glorious and short-lived 1970s power-pop band. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Still Mine (PG-13) James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold star in this drama as an elderly Canadian couple who fight local authorities for the right to build their last home in rural New Brunswick. Also with Campbell Scott, Rick Roberts, Julie Stewart, Jonathan Potts, George R. Robertson, Barbara Gordon, and Zachary Bennett. (Opens Friday in Dallas)


NOW PLAYING:

The Conjuring (PG-13) James Wan’s latest horror flick isn’t perfect, but it’ll turn your hair white. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star as a pair of real-life paranormal investigators who investigate a fictional New England haunted house. There’s nothing new here, and the movie gets less compelling as Wan starts to reveal its secrets. Yet he does know how to ratchet up tension, his long shots give the movie a dreamy quality, and there’s a hair-raising sequence with the family’s daughter (Joey King) peering under her bed. For sheer spooky value, this is tough to beat. Also with Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, and Mackenzie Foy. — Steve Steward

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.

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.

Girl Most Likely (PG-13) Seriously, what the hell? Kristen Wiig stars in this all-over-the-place comedy as a struggling New York playwright who moves back in with her mother (Annette Bening) after a mental breakdown. That’s the setup, but the plot winds up taking so many left turns that it runs frantically in circles, and only the main character’s romance with a much-younger man (Darren Criss, portraying the only functional adult in the whole movie) generates any spark. Wiig gives a fine performance — she apparently fell in love with the Michelle Morgan play on which this movie is based. Sadly, the whole affair only proves that she should go back to writing her own material. Also with Christopher Fitzgerald, Matt Dillon, Natasha Lyonne, June Diane Raphael, Nate Corddry, Mickey Sumner, Bob Balaban, Julia Stiles, Andrea Martin, and Cynthia Nixon.

Grown Ups 2 (PG-13) Slightly better organized than the original, but then that’s like saying that tornado wreckage is better organized than hurricane wreckage. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade return for this sequel — was Rob Schneider busy? — to trade more lame jokes about getting older, having kids, and keeping their marriages spicy. A whole lot of talented performers get dragged into this, but everyone involved is still half-assing it. Also with Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi, Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows, Jon Lovitz, Shaquille O’Neal, Oliver Hudson, Allen Covert, Steve Austin, Milo Ventimiglia, Cheri Oteri, Ellen Cleghorne, Melanie Hutsell, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Shaffer, Taran Killam, 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) In which Guillermo del Toro tries to rewrite the Robotech saga, with mild results. Charlie Hunnam stars as a pilot of giant robots who defends the human race against an invasion of Godzilla-sized space aliens from underneath the sea. Because this is a del Toro film, there are nifty visual touches and funny gags (as well as Ron Perlman) amid all the giant monsters, but the movie notably falls down when trying to establish the relationships between the humans. The movie is watchable, but it’s still well short of the Hellboy movies when it comes to del Toro’s popcorn pictures. Also with Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Diego Klattenhoff, and Clifton Collins Jr.

Red 2 (PG-13) Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and most of the rest of the gang reunite for this much sillier and more scattered sequel to the 2011 hit. The spy plot emerges as completely incomprehensible, but Parker is a more active participant in the action, which almost makes up for her character turning into a jealous bitch queen in the presence of her boyfriend’s ex (an orange-looking Catherine Zeta-Jones). Elsewhere, we get Lee Byung-hun as a Korean hit man fighting off a roomful of Russian cops while handcuffed to a refrigerator and a brief scene between Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins that’ll be catnip for Hannibal Lecter fans. Yet these and the movie’s other best stretches are just isolated bits in search of a story. Also with John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, and an uncredited Titus Welliver.

R.I.P.D. (PG-13) If it walks like a Men in Black rip-off and quacks like a Men in Black rip-off, well …. Ryan Reynolds stars in this crappy-looking science-fiction comedy as a murdered Boston cop who winds up in purgatory serving in a supernatural police force protecting the living from the undead. The whole conceit is handled without a trace of wit or imagination, director Robert Schwentke (Red) seems to have given up halfway through, and Jeff Bridges (as a 19th-century Western sheriff who becomes the cop’s partner) seems to have cobbled his performance together from True Grit outtakes. Move along, there’s nothing to see here. Also with Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller, Mike O’Malley, and Kevin Bacon.

Secretly and Greatly (NR) Kim Soo-hyun gives a terrific performance in this strange bird of an action comedy as a North Korean sleeper agent who disguises himself as a mentally challenged handyman in a South Korean backwater town while awaiting his orders. Kim turns out to be as adept at physical comedy as he is at martial arts, but the Thelma and Louise ending of Jang Chul-soo’s movie doesn’t fit with the jocular tone of what has come before. Perhaps this works for Korean audiences, but to Western eyes, this movie’s attempts at tragedy are just wrongheaded. Also with Park Ki-woong, Lee Hyun-woo, Son Hyun-joo, Park Hye-sook, Hong Kyoung-in, Ko Chang-seok, and Park Eun-bin.

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.

The Way, Way Back (PG-13) This agreeable comedy is the directing debut of writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants), who also appear on screen. Liam James plays a 14-year-old boy who spends a hellish summer with his mom’s awful new boyfriend (Steve Carell) and gets away by hanging out at the water park with the slacker manager (Sam Rockwell). The eternally underappreciated Rockwell gives his role gentle resilience, while AnnaSophia Robb provides the movie with a welcome shot of acid that distracts us from the weak supporting characters and the protagonist coming off like a stick in the mud for too much of the movie. It’s flawed, but it’s charming and funny, rarer qualities at the multiplex than they should be. Also with Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Robert Capron, Zoe Levin, River Alexander, and Maya Rudolph.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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