Film Shorts

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Posted September 11, 2013 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
"The Family" opens Friday."The Family" opens Friday.

OPENING:

The Family (R) Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star in Luc Besson’s comic thriller as the heads of a Mafia family who are relocated to the south of France by the U.S. federal witness protection program. Also with Dianna Agron, John D’Leo, Dominic Chianese, Vincent Pastore, Domenick Lombardozzi, and Tommy Lee Jones. (Opens Friday)

In a World … (R) Lake Bell writes, directs, and stars in her own comedy as a voice coach who tries to break into the male-dominated world of voiceover announcers. Also with Rob Corddry, Fred Melamed, Nick Offerman, Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Alexandra Holden, Ken Marino, Tig Notaro, Michaela Watkins, Eva Longoria, and Geena Davis. (Opens Friday at West 7th Movie Tavern)

Insidious: Chapter 2 (PG-13) Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne return for this sequel to the 2010 horror hit as parents who find their family still haunted by spirits from another world. Also with Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, and Lin Shaye. (Opens Friday)

Mademoiselle C (NR) Fabien Constant’s documentary follows former French Vogue editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld as she prepares to move to New York and launch her own fashion magazine. Also with Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, and Donatella Versace. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Museum Hours (NR) Jem Cohen’s film stars Bobby Sommer as an Austrian art museum security guard who befriends a mysterious Canadian visitor (Mary Margaret O’Hara). (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Patience Stone (R) Atiq Rahimi adapts his own novel about a Middle Eastern woman (Golshifteh Farahani) who reveals her deepest secrets to her husband, a paralyzed former jihadi (Hamidreza Javdan). Also with Hassina Burgan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Plush (R) Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) directs this thriller about a married rock singer (Emily Browning) who becomes dangerously involved with her band’s new guitarist (Xavier Samuel). Also with Cam Gigandet, Thomas Dekker, Dawn Olivieri, James Kyson, and Frances Fisher. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Populaire (R) Romain Duris stars in this French comedy as a boss in 1958 who resolves to turn his new secretary (Déborah François) into the world’s fastest typist. Also with Bérénice Bejo, Shaun Benson, Mélanie Bernier, Nicolas Bedos, and Miou-Miou. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Sample This (NR) Dan Forrer’s documentary explores the role of an obscure record by The Incredible Bongo Band in the development of hip-hop music. Narrated by Gene Simmons. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

NOW PLAYING:

Blue Jasmine (R) One of the greatest performances of Cate Blanchett’s career enlivens Woody Allen’s weak rewriting of A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanchett plays a Wall Street trophy wife who moves in with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco after losing all her money in the wake of her husband’s imprisonment and suicide. The working-class characters here don’t ring true (a function of Allen being a celebrity for 40 years), and Louis C.K. is wasted in a straightforward role. However, this pales next to the furious energy brought by Blanchett, who dominates every scene by popping pills, drinking too much, and ignoring the sources of her problems. She draws a compelling portrait of a woman driven insane by her belief that she was destined for a better life. Also with Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alden Ehrenreich, and Andrew Dice Clay.

Closed Circuit (R) Some neat ideas are wrapped in an un-neat package in this British political thriller that stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as ex-lovers and lawyers who find themselves under government surveillance as they defend an accused terrorist (Denis Moschitto). There’s a delicious plot revelation about their client halfway through, and the movie boasts some tasty supporting performances from Jim Broadbent as a sinister high-ranking attorney and Riz Ahmed as an MI6 hit man. Still, director John Crowley never builds up a satisfying lather, the bad guys are either omnipotent or incompetent depending on what the plot requires, and the movie’s ideas about government surveillance are outdated in the Edward Snowden era. We’ll get better paranoid thrillers than this one. Also with Ciarán Hinds, Kenneth Cranham, Anne-Marie Duff, Hasancan Cifci, Isaac Hempstead Wright, and Julia Stiles.

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.

Elysium (R) Neill Blomkamp’s first Hollywood effort loses the weirdness and the African point of view that made District 9 such a hit, giving this science-fiction movie a disconcerting resemblance to last year’s Total Recall remake. Matt Damon stars as a mid-22nd century factory worker who’s poisoned in an accident and must break into a space station reserved exclusively for the wealthy to save his life. Despite his ambitions, Blomkamp doesn’t comment meaningfully on income inequality, mishandles the story’s time element, fails to generate any emotional gravity here. He does come up with some inventive visual touches, but overall he seems tentative working with this kind of budget and talent. Hope this is just a case of first-time jitters. Also with Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura, Faran Tahir, and Diego Luna.

Flu (NR) The rankest sentimentality and cheap patriotism turn a potentially good killer virus movie into something malignant. When a speeded-up version of bird flu is brought into South Korea by an illegal immigrant from Thailand, a rescue worker (Jang Hyuk) and an epidemiologist (Ae Soo) have to stop the pandemic before it spreads beyond the suburb of Bundang. Even though the plague affects 500,000 people, the same five or six characters keep cropping up, tied together by unbelievable coincidences and the search for the doctor’s unbearably cute daughter (Park Min-ha) who becomes infected and holds the key to the cure. This is like the Korean version of Olympus Has Fallen. We didn’t need that. Also with Yoo Hae-jin, Ma Dong-seok, Lee Hee-joon, Cha In-Pyo, and Andrew William Brand.

Getaway (PG-13) As soon as an impeccably made-up Selena Gomez popped up as a hoodie-wearing carjacker waving a gun in Ethan Hawke’s face, I said to myself, “Naaaah!” She’s not even the most implausible element in this abysmally bad thriller that stars Hawke as a former race car driver who’s forced to commit a series of crimes in Sofia, Bulgaria, after his wife is kidnapped. The movie is structured as one long car chase, allowing for some impressive stunt driving on display here. The driver repeatedly barrels through crowded public spaces without hitting a single pedestrian, and the plot is full of holes big enough to drive the hero’s armored car through. Get away from this movie. Also with Rebecca Budig and Jon Voight.

The Grandmaster (PG-13) Wong Kar-Wai’s kung fu movie is surprisingly similar to his romantic films like Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love. Tony Leung stars as Ip Man, the real-life kung fu master who lived through turbulent times and wound up teaching Bruce Lee. The impetus for the plot comes not from Ip Man’s fights, but from his unrequited love for another master’s daughter (Zhang Ziyi). The movie turns Ip Man into a typical Wong romantic hero, stoically pining away for a love that can never be. If you’re expecting a slam-bang action thriller, you may be frustrated by Wong’s tedious passages, but everything is gorgeously photographed and the fights offer up some treats, most notably a deadly confrontation at a snowy train station that plays like a kung fu version of Doctor Zhivago. Also with Wang Qingxiang, Zhang Jin, Song Hye-kyo, Zhao Benshan, Cung Le, and Chang Chen.

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.

Instructions Not Included (PG-13) Eugenio Derbez is a terrific comic actor, but his work as the director and co-writer of this soppy Spanish-language comedy yields much less happy results. He stars as an Acapulco playboy who’s forced to settle down after his American hookup (Jessica Lindsey) literally abandons their baby on his doorstep. The movie comes up with some sly satire on the movie business after our hero gets a job as a Hollywood stuntman, but when the child’s mother re-enters the picture and tries to claim custody of the now-7-year-old girl (Loreto Peralta), the proceedings become intolerably weepy. Derbez gives a fine performance despite his own self-inflicted script; he needs to stay in front of the camera. Also with Daniel Raymont, Alessandra Rosaldo, Sammy Pérez, Agustín Bernal, and Hugo Stiglitz.

Jobs (PG-13) Like being trapped in a room and yelled at by a brilliant, short-tempered, egomaniacal control freak. Ashton Kutcher stars in this biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The comic chemistry between Kutcher and Josh Gad (as co-founder Steve Wozniak) carries things for a while, but the movie’s so bent on canonizing Jobs’ entrepreneurial spirit that basic storytelling elements are crowded out. Instead, director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Mark Whiteley subject us the same scene over and over of Steve exhorting his employees to be awesome and summarily firing anyone who can’t. This movie wants to be a tribute to a great innovator, but it fails to think different. Also with Dermot Mulroney, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Ron Eldard, Ahna O’Reilly, Victor Rasuk, John Getz, Kevin Dunn, Masi Oka, Lesley Ann Warren, and James Woods.

Kick-Ass 2 (R) As much as this sequel to the 2010 film has going for it, it should be more fun than it is. Kick-Ass and Hit Girl (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz) must don their superhero capes again when their old nemesis (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) tries to avenge his dad. The sequel delivers clarity on some issues raised by the original, the action sequences are well-executed by new director Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf), and the lead performances are strong. Yet the multiple storylines never coalesce, and the original’s gleeful anarchic wit is gone, despite Jim Carrey coming on board as a combat fatigues-wearing, born-again Christian who creates a league of costumed superheroes. This movie may be too grown-up for its own good. Also with Clark Duke, Morris Chestnut, Donald Faison, Lindy Booth, Augustus Prew, Garrett M. Brown, Claudia Lee, Matt Steinberg, Steven Mackintosh, Monica Dolan, Lyndsy Fonseca, Yancy Butler, Iain Glen, and John Leguizamo.


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