Film Shorts

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Posted April 23, 2014 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
Only Lovers Left Alive opens Friday in Dallas.Only Lovers Left Alive opens Friday in Dallas.

OPENING:

Only Lovers Left Alive (R) Jim Jarmusch’s latest film stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as two vampires whose centuries-long love affair is disrupted by her out-of-control sister (Mia Wasikowska). Also with Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, and Jeffrey Wright. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Alan Partridge (R) Steve Coogan revives his British TV sitcom character as the vacuous celebrity journalist who this time must work with police to defuse a violent siege of his TV station. Also with Colm Meaney, Anna Maxwell Martin, Karl Theobald, Sean Pertwee, Monica Dolan, and Simon Delaney. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Brick Mansions (PG-13) The late Paul Walker stars in this remake of the 2004 French martial-arts film District B13 as a Detroit cop who teams with a criminal (David Belle) to take down a crime lord (RZA). Also with Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis, Ayisha Issa, Carlo Rota, Andreas Apergis, and Richard Zeman. (Opens Friday)

Flex Is Kings (NR) Michael Beach Nichols and Deidre Schoo’s documentary follows the “flexing” dance craze from its origins in east Brooklyn. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Gambit (PG-13) Colin Firth stars in this comedy as an art curator who teams with a Texas rodeo queen (Cameron Diaz) to con his boss into buying a fake Monet. Also with Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Togo Igawa, and Clorish Leachman. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 (NR) The second half of Lars von Trier’s highly explicit drama starring Charlotte Gainsbourg as a woman telling the story of her sexual exploits. Also with Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth, Jean-Marc Barr, Kate Ashfield, and Caroline Goodall. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Other Woman (PG-13) Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann star in this comedy as a mistress and wife who team up to punish the husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who’s cheating on both of them. Also with Kate Upton, Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney, David Thornton, and Nicki Minaj. (Opens Friday)

The Quiet Ones (PG-13) Jared Harris stars in this period horror film as a 1970s psychology professor who uncovers supernatural terrors when he and his students try to treat a mentally disturbed young woman (Olivia Cooke). Also with Sam Claflin, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne, Laurie Calvert, and Aldo Maland. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING:

Antboy (PG) This unexpectedly charming Danish superhero movie stars Oscar Dietz as a 12-year-old boy who acquires super strength and the ability to walk up walls after being bitten by a genetically enhanced ant. What the movie lacks in special-effects budget, it makes up for with some visual wit and a point of view that convincingly mimics that of a prepubescent kid. It’s not groundbreaking in any way, but it’s better than many Hollywood entertainments put out for children. The version playing here is dubbed into English. I suspect that the original Danish-language soundtrack would be even better. Also with Nicolas Bro, Samuel Ting Graf, Amalie Kruse Jensen, and Cecilie Alstrup Tarp.

Bad Words (R) Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut and stars in this foul-mouthed comedy as a 40-year-old man who takes advantage of a loophole in the rules to compete against middle-school children in a national spelling bee. The character is a real bastard, too, and the movie comes up with the perfect instrument to torture him in a 10-year-old boy (Rohan Chand) who keeps popping up in his way and never loses his good cheer no matter how many times the guy curses him out or insults him racially. The plotting is carried out reasonably well. The main problem with this is that it didn’t make me laugh once. Bateman needs to get hold of better material for his second effort. Also with Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Ben Falcone, Steve Witting, Beth Grant, and Philip Baker Hall.

Bears (G) Shouldn’t a documentary about bears actually teach me something about bears? The latest Disneynature film by Alastair Fothergill follows the same cutesy-wootsy template of his previous movies: lots of animal hijinks and nothing that the little ones will find remotely upsetting. Footage of different bears has been spliced into one story about a mama brown bear leading her two cubs out of hibernation and through a season in the Alaskan wilderness. The movie and narrator John C. Reilly prod us at every turn to find the cubs adorable, and the studio’s old gender stereotypes rear up again in the way the male and female cubs are depicted. This is only good for keeping very small children entertained in front of the TV.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (PG-13) Definitely better than Captain America’s first outing. Chris Evans returns as the superhero trying to deal with a coup inside SHIELD. The movie’s critique of the contemporary surveillance state doesn’t quite hold together, nor does the flirtatious turn in the character of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) make much sense. Yet directors Anthony and Joe Russo do lots of things well, including an assassination attempt on the road against Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the chilling casting of Robert Redford as a SHIELD executive with his own agenda. Captain America is still more interesting as a foil to the other Avengers than on his own, but this is a worthy excursion. Also with Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Frank Grillo, and Hayley Atwell.

Divergent (PG-13) Ideal viewing if you’re a teenager. For everyone else, not so much. Shailene Woodley stars in this science-fiction adventure as a girl making her way through a dystopian future society divided into factions. This is based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling novel, which makes a neat little metaphor about how teenagers choose cliques to sort themselves out. Too bad neither the book nor the film makes more of it. Director Neil Burger and his writers make hash out of introducing this future world and show little humor or phantasmagoric power. Woodley makes alert little choices, but the whole thing lacks rhythm, and the action sequences aren’t nearly good enough to make up for the flat tone. Also with Theo James, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Ray Stevenson, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Christian Madsen, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, and Kate Winslet.

Draft Day (PG-13) Better than Moneyball. Kevin Costner stars in this throwback movie as an embattled Cleveland Browns GM who makes a flurry of trades to get the player he wants during the NFL draft. The NFL trappings make a nice backdrop for a huge cast of sharply written characters who are well-played by both the famous and unknown actors, even if the GM’s personal life is noticeably weaker than the rest of the movie. The film is much better at depicting the behind-the-scenes dealings, and though Costner misses the desperation of a man who knows his dream job is on the line, his underlying coolness helps with a character who keeps his head amid the pressure. His struggle to get the best out of a losing situation is what makes this movie’s end so exhilarating. Also with Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Pence, Frank Langella, Griffin Newman, Brad Henke, W. Earl Brown, Arian Foster, Terry Crews, Tom Welling, Sam Elliott, Sean Combs, Rosanna Arquette, and Ellen Burstyn.

God’s Not Dead (PG) But if He’s watching this movie, He’s surely weeping. Shane Harper stars in this Christian drama as a college student who’s challenged to prove the existence of God by a big, bad atheist professor (Kevin Sorbo). If this is how these filmmakers imagine that reputable universities operate, they really need to get out more. Besides the main story, this movie is also filled with subplots that give kickings to liberal journalists, Muslims, and the Chinese government. (Actually, I don’t care so much about that last one.) It also holds up Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson as a beacon of Christian wisdom. I feel unclean discussing this movie. Let’s move on. Also with David A.R. White, Lisa Arnold, Jim Gleason, Trisha LaFache, Benjamin Ochieng, Hadeel Sittu, and Dean Cain.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (R) Wes Anderson’s strikes new depths in his latest film that stars Tony Revolori as an orphaned war refugee working as a “lobby boy” in a ritzy Alpine resort hotel for a legendary concierge (Ralph Fiennes). Anderson’s familiar cinematic vocabulary is here, but the current of pathos is brought unusually close to the surface by the pre-World War II setting, which we know will sweep away the hotel and the country that it’s in. The pathos is cut with Anderson’s bathetic and sometimes outrageous humor, and Fiennes gives the finest performance of his career as he plays this Old World romantic with a hard-headed practical streak. Also with Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Mathieu Amalric, F. Murray Abraham, Léa Seydoux, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Jude Law.

A Haunted House 2 (R) “There’s something wrong with my house,” Marlon Wayans’ character says. Yeah, you’re making a movie in it. Having barely survived the events of the last movie, Wayans marries a new woman (Jaime Pressly) and moves into her house with her kids. The problem? It’s haunted by unfunny parodies of recent horror films. There are maybe three chuckle-worthy jokes in an hour and a half of unfunny, unyielding torture. Wayans murders every laugh by pathetically mugging and screaming. The gags go on and on, as funny as a slowly dying hospice patient. There’s a five-minute scene of Wayans having sex with the doll from The Conjuring. The “found footage” conceit isn’t even consistently employed. Gabriel Iglesias is wasted. It’s just plain awful. For the love of God, watch something else. Also with Essence Atkins, Missi Pyle, Ashley Rickards, Affion Crockett, and Cedric the Entertainer. — Cole Williams

Heaven Is for Real (PG) In this adaptation of Todd Burpo’s memoir, Greg Kinnear portrays a Nebraska pastor and volunteer fireman whose 4-year-old son (Connor Corum) has a near-death experience and comes back talking about seeing heaven. Two things are wrong here: First, Corum is a standard-issue cute Hollywood kid without the weird edge that would have made his revelation as unsettling as it should be. Second, director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) brings zero inventiveness or sense of wonder to the boy’s vision of heaven. The resulting movie works fairly well as an account of the day-to-day life of a small-town pastor, but it comes up fatally short as a vision of the afterlife. Also with Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, Lane Styles, Jacob Vargas, and Margo Martindale.

The Lego Movie (PG) The funniest movie so far this year is this animated spectacular about a Lego construction worker (voiced by Chris Pratt) who becomes the only figure capable of stopping a tyrant (voiced by Will Ferrell) from supergluing the universe into place. The movie isn’t short of action sequences, but filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street) prefer to generate their frenetic pace with the sheer number of exquisitely timed gags that they throw at us. With its subversive wit taking shots at consumer culture, this movie is almost avant-garde. The climactic live-action sequence goes on too long, but the enviable voice cast more than makes up for it. Listen for Tegan & Sara’s earworm of a techno jam “Everything Is Awesome.” Additional voices by Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Jake Johnson, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Billy Dee Williams, Cobie Smulders, Shaquille O’Neal, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill.

Make Your Move (PG-13) The best hip-hop/taiko drumming/tap-dancing movie you’ll see this spring. Derek Hough plays a dancer who falls in love with a Korean-Japanese dancer and percussionist (played by K-pop music star BoA), only to have their romance to become entangled in a business feud between their respective brothers (Wesley Jonathan and Will Yun Lee). The collision of musical cultures should have come to more, and Hough is a terrible actor. Still, he’s a dynamic dancer (like his sister Julianne) and the movie comes up with a few creative dance sequences. Also with Izabella Miko, Jefferson Brown, Miki Ishikawa, Dan Lauria, and Rick Gonzalez.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (PG) In adapting Jay Ward’s series of cartoon shorts, the filmmakers turn the erudite, hyperintelligent, time-traveling dog (voiced by Ty Burrell) into a befuddled, emotionally distant, somewhat overwhelmed adoptive dad to Sherman (voiced by Max Charles). It works surprisingly well until the last 20 minutes or so. The script features surprisingly literate references amid the ear-meltingly bad puns that Peabody is given to. Additional points for a nifty 300 parody and some child-rearing advice from Leonardo da Vinci (voiced by Stanley Tucci): “But Peabody, a child is not a machine! I should know. I tried to build one once. Oh boy, it was-a creepy.” Additional voices by Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Tobolowsky, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, and Mel Brooks.

Muppets Most Wanted (PG) The plucky troupe is flailing for direction after their triumphant return to the big screen three years ago. The plot revolves around Kermit the Frog’s resemblance to a criminal mastermind who busts out of prison, has Kermit tossed in there in his place, and takes over the Muppets. Jason Segel is not involved here, and he’s sorely missed as an actor and writer. The new material (by director James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller) isn’t up to scratch, and the human talent falls down. This sequel features more songs than the original, and while some of them score (like the evil frog’s disco number wooing Miss Piggy), others fall flat (like Miss Piggy’s duet with Céline Dion). The troupe either needs new blood or Segel to return. Also with Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Christoph Waltz, Salma Hayek, Lady Gaga, Sean Combs, Tom Hiddlestone, Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Frank Langella, Toby Jones, Ross Lynch, Saoirse Ronan, Chloë Grace Moretz, James McAvoy, Usher, Miranda Richardson, Stanley Tucci, and Zach Galifianakis.

Noah (PG-13) Darren Aronofsky’s Lord of the Rings movie. The Black Swan director’s reimagining of the biblical story stars Russell Crowe as an oddly unlikable Noah, who builds an ark to protect against a flood that will wash away the murderous descendants of Cain. This Noah becomes willing to kill members of his own family to carry out God’s will, which is weirdly at odds with the character as presented at the movie’s beginning. Even so, the movie has a lot to enjoy, such as the imaginative look (no robes!) that Aronofsky gives this story and the battle between the wicked king’s army and fallen angels made of stone. Literalists may take issue with this, but hey, it’s not as if they were there when the Flood happened. Also with Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth, Mark Margolis, Kevin Durand, Nick Nolte, and Anthony Hopkins. — Steve Steward

Non-Stop (PG-13) Slightly less implausible than Snakes on a Plane, though better made. Liam Neeson plays an alcoholic air marshal who tries to thwart a plot to kill the passengers on his transatlantic flight one by one. This thriller is smoothly directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, and it plays like one of those 1970s Airport movies without the big stars, which is both a good and a bad thing. It might have gone over better if Neeson hadn’t turned into Mr. Crappy Action Thriller during the last few years, but he’s gone to this well once too often. It’s good enough to kill 100 minutes on a long flight. Also with Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Scoot McNairy, Omar Metwally, Linus Roache, Shea Whigham, Anson Mount, and Lupita Nyong’o.

Oculus (R) This intriguing but ultimately frustrating horror flick stars Karen Gillan as a young woman who joins with her brother (Brenton Thwaites) shortly after he’s freed from a mental institution to prove that a cursed mirror was actually responsible for the deaths of their parents. Director/co-writer Mike Flanagan plays tantalizingly with the notion that the sister is actually the one who has gone insane, and for a while the movie unwinds like a half-decent psychological thriller before it starts showing its hand and the characters start to behave in stupid ways for the plot’s convenience. This could have been something magnificent with a little more planning. Also with Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, and Miguel Sandoval.

The Raid 2 (R) The best and most brutal martial-arts movies being made right now are these Indonesian extravaganzas. Iko Uwais reprises his role as a silat-fighting Jakarta cop who goes undercover to infiltrate the city’s biggest gang. This 150-minute movie has 19 fight sequences, and director Gareth Huw Evans knows how to stage them in different settings so that they don’t wear out the viewer. Not only that, but he gives nice turns to secondary villains like a knife-wielding assassin (Cecep Ali Rahman) a brother and sister (Very Tri Yulisman and Julie Estelle) who fight with a baseball bat and two hammers. He even stages a massively complicated car chase with aplomb. With funding available for a much larger scale than The Raid: Redemption afforded, the talent fills the new scope. Also with Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Cok Simbara, Kenichi Endô, Ryûhei Matsuda, Kazuki Kitamura, and Yayan Ruhian.

Rio 2 (G) I watched this whole thing without once being clear on exactly what was going on or why it needed to go on. Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway reprise their roles as rare blue macaws who discover the existence of a flock of more of their species living deep in the Brazilian jungle. The parrots’ old nemeses (voiced by Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenoweth), three parrot chicks, and a bunch of ranchers bent on deforestation all pop up here, as do even more musical numbers. The sloppiness of this loud, overstuffed sequel only underscores the cynicism of this movie designed to cash in on parents whose kids liked the original. Additional voices by Jamie Foxx, Andy Garcia, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Miguel Ferrer, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Amandla Stenberg, Bebel Gilberto, Sergio Mendes, Janelle Monáe, Bruno Mars, and Rita Moreno.

Son of God (PG-13) This two-hour biography of Jesus was cut down from a 10-hour TV miniseries, which is probably why it plays like Jesus Christ’s Greatest Hits. Diogo Morgado stars here, and he has the prophet’s gentleness and magnanimity without his ferocity or his gravitas. Director Christopher Spencer looks hamstrung by his budget when it comes to evoking the wondrousness of Jesus’ miracles. This is strictly for those who already believe. Also with Sebastian Knapp, David Rintoul, Gary Oliver, William Houston, Nonso Anozie, Langley Kirkwood, Darwin Shaw, and Amber Rose Revah.

Transcendence (PG-13) Great news if you were looking for an extended, unfunny parody of Christopher Nolan’s films. Johnny Depp plays a crunchy, nature-loving tech mogul whose attempts to build a sentient, superintelligent computer get him mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet, which makes his desperate wife (Rebecca Hall) upload his mind to a software system. First-time director Wally Pfister (who is Nolan’s longtime cinematographer) and screenwriter Jack Paglen underthink the implications in their script, which is fatal to their aim of making a grand statement about technology. Pfister does try to cut the philosophy with action sequences, but he’s got no flair for them, and his actors look lost. This movie talks at tedious length without saying anything. Also with Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., and Morgan Freeman.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

Authors Anonymous (PG-13) This comedy is about a support group for unpulished authors that’s thrown into chaos when their newest member (Kaley Cuoco) suddenly finds success. Also with Tricia Helfer, Jonathan Banks, Teri Polo, Jonathan Bennett, Chris Klein, Dylan Walsh, and the late Dennis Farina.

Cuban Fury (R) Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End) stars in this comedy as a fat Englishman who rediscovers his zest for life as a Latin dancer. Also with Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Olivia Colman, Rory Kinnear, Alexandra Roach, Steve Oram, and Ian McShane.

Dom Hemingway (R) Jude Law stars in this comedy as a London safe-cracker who looks to collect on an old debt after doing 12 years in prison. Also with Richard E. Grant, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, and Demián Bichir.

Finding Vivian Maier (NR) John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s documentary profiles a nanny who earned posthumous fame for her street photographs.

Jodorowsky’s Dune (PG-13) Frank Pavich’s documentary profiles the 85-year-old Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and details his ambitious, doomed efforts to film Frank Herbert’s Dune in the 1970s.

Joe (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this film by David Gordon Green as a Mississippi lumberjack and ex-convict who becomes an unlikely mentor to a troubled 15-year-old boy (Mud’s Tye Sheridan). Also with Gary Poulter, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Adriene Mishler, and Brian Mays.

Le Week-End (PG-13) Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star in this drama as a British couple who find their decades-long marriage coming to a head as they go to Paris to revisit the locale of their honeymoon. Also with Jeff Goldblum.

The Lunchbox (PG) A runaway critical and commercial hit in India, Ritesh Batra’s drama stars Irrfan Khan as a Mumbai widower who starts to correspond with a young housewife (Nimrat Kaur) after someone else’s lunchbox is accidentally delivered to him. Also with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey, Nakul Vaid, Bharati Achrekar, Yashvi Puneet Nagar, and Denzil Smith.

The Railway Man (R) Colin Firth stars in this drama based on Eric Lowe’s novel about a former British World War II POW who vows to hunt down the Japanese officer (Hiroyuki Sanada) who tortured him in prison. Also with Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine, Tanroh Ishida, Michael McKenzie, and Sam Reid.


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