Film Shorts

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Posted September 25, 2013 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
Enough Said opens Friday in Dallas.Enough Said opens Friday in Dallas.

OPENING:

Enough Said (PG-13) Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Lovely & Amazing) directs this comedy about a middle-aged divorcée (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who discovers that her new boyfriend (the late James Gandolfini) is the ex-husband of her new friend (Catherine Keener). Also with Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Philip Brock, Jessica St. Clair, and Michaela Watkins. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Alone Yet Not Alone (PG-13) Ray Bengston and George Escobar’s drama about two German sisters who survive hardships while settling in America during the French and Indian war. Starring Kelly Greyson, Natalie Racoosin, Clay Walker, Jenn Gotzon, Ozzie Torres, Tony Wade, Robert Pierce, and Joanie Stewart. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Baggage Claim (PG-13) Rampagingly mediocre comedy about a flight attendant (Paula Patton, too well-mannered for this doormat of a role) who becomes desperate to show up at her sister’s wedding with a man and enlists her fellow airline employees to help track down her exes over the holiday season. The funniest business comes from Adam Brody and R&B singer Jill Scott as the heroine’s best friends and fellow flight attendants, but a talented cast is wasted in cliché parts. David E. Talbert (adapting this movie from his own novel) also has no idea how to pace this thing or set up a gag. An airplane is probably the best place to watch this. Also with Derek Luke, Jenifer Lewis, Boris Kodjoe, Trey Songz, Taye Diggs, Lauren London, Affion Crockett, La La Anthony, Tia Mowry, and Djimon Hounsou. (Opens Friday)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (PG) Much like the 2009 original, this animated sequel is imaginative and clever in terms of visuals and utterly forgettable in terms of story. Bill Hader returns as the wacky inventor who goes to work for a fascist Steve Jobs-type tech mogul (voiced by Will Forte) and has to prevent his old food invention from overrunning the world. The movie has funny gags in the background of the frame and a whole bestiary’s worth of animals made out of food that will enthrall the small kids. The bigger kids will notice that the human characters are boring and the attempts at satire off the mark. It’s all yummy, empty calories. Additional voices by Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, and Neil Patrick Harris.

Inequality for All (PG) Jacob Kornbluth’s documentary follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he raises awareness of America’s growing economic gap. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Metallica: Through the Never (R) Nimród Antal directs this film that is part concert documentary of the heavy metal band and part surreal fantasy about a roadie (Dane DeHaan) who encounters strange things while working for the band. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)

On the Job (NR) Erik Matti directs this Filipino thriller based on real life about a group of prisoners who work as hit men for the rich and powerful while on a work-release program. Starring Piolo Pascual, Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre, Joey Marquez, Angel Aquino, Michael de Mesa, and William Martinez. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Secret Lives of Dorks (PG-13) Gaelan Connell (Bandslam) stars in this comedy as a high-school comic-book geek who gets into a complicated romantic situation with a cheerleader (Riley Voelkel) and a football star (Beau Mirchoff). Also with Vanessa Marano, Seymour Cassel, William Katt, Kay Lenz, Mike Ditka, Jennifer Tilly, and Jim Belushi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Spy (NR) Kim Myeong-min stars in this Korean comic thriller as a secret agent posing as a dull family man in Seoul. Also with Yeom Jeong-ah, Yoo Hae-jin, Jeong Kyeo-woon, Jeong Man-sik, and Byeon Hee-bong. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

 

NOW PLAYING:

Austenland (PG-13) This satire goes in for all the obvious jokes and misses its chance to be better. Keri Russell plays a Pride & Prejudice-obsessed American who visits a Jane Austen theme park in Britain to find love. Working from a novel by Shannon Hale, director/co-writer Jerusha Hess fails to satirize the Jane Austen industrial complex or explain the appeal of the cult of Jane. Instead, she stages slapstick gags and inflates the characters to cartoonish dimensions. Russell’s way too levelheaded to play a woman who has wooden blocks in her bedroom that read “Darcy Rocks,” and the movie gives the airheaded heroine a happy ending because she buys into the whole fantasy of love in Regency England. The real Jane Austen would have torn this movie to pieces. Also with JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, James Callis, Ricky Whittle, and Jane Seymour.

Battle of the Year (PG-13) A hip-hop mogul (Laz Alonso) hires a burned-out former friend (the charmless and one-note Josh Holloway, who’s about as inspiring as a colonoscopy) to gather a dream team of b-boys to compete for USA in an international hip-hop dance competition. Director Benson Lee adapts this dance flick from his own documentary Planet B-Boy, managing to incorporate an extended commercial for the original film into the new one. All this and the hackneyed characterization of the b-boys would be fine if the movie just had some good dance sequences, but we don’t even get a sense of how good USA or any of the other teams are. You’d be better off spending 90 minutes watching dance clips on YouTube. Also with Josh Peck, Caity Lotz, Ivan “Flipz” Velez, Jon “Do Knock” Cruz, Anis Cheurfa, and Chris Brown.

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.

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.

The Family (R) Confusing. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star in Luc Besson’s comic thriller as a Mafia boss and his wife who are relocated to the south of France along with their teenage children (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) by the American federal witness protection program. Besson has been on this turf before (La Femme Nikita), but he can’t seem to decide whether this is an action thriller, a high-school drama, a fish-out-of-water comedy, or a movie about a murderous mob boss writing his memoirs out of boredom. As a result, none of these characters make any sense, and Besson rides the “rude French people” stereotype into the ground whenever he runs out of ideas. There was probably a viable movie in here somewhere. Also with Jimmy Palumbo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Stan Carp, Jon Freda, Vincent Pastore, Dominic Chianese, and Tommy Lee Jones.

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.

Generation Iron (PG-13) Vlad Yudin’s documentary follows seven bodybuilders competing in the Mr. Olympia competition.

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 hazy longueurs, 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.

In a World … (R) I like the idea of this movie better than the movie itself. Lake Bell writes, directs, and stars in this comedy as a struggling L.A. vocal coach who tries to break into the male-dominated field of voiceover announcers for movie trailers and commercials, a field in which her big self-centered baby of a father (Fred Melamed) happens to be a legend. Some scenes and bits of business are very funny, and the movie usefully points out that sexism in Hollywood goes beyond what we see on the screen. Still, Bell is an indifferent presence as a lead actress, and the movie isn’t consistently funny. I’m still interested to see what Bell does next as a filmmaker. Also with Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Michaela Watkins, Alexandra Holden, Tig Notaro, Jason O’Mara, Nick Offerman, Eva Longoria, Geena Davis, and an uncredited Cameron Diaz.


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