Film Shorts

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Posted April 30, 2014 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film
Locke opens Friday in Dallas.Locke opens Friday in Dallas.

OPENING:

Locke (R) Tom Hardy stars in this drama as a man whose life comes apart during an 85-minute drive to London. Voices by Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland, and Alice Lowe. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Bad Johnson (NR) Cam Gigandet stars in this comedy as a womanizer whose penis leaves his body and takes human form (Nick Thune). Also with Jamie Chung, Katherine Cunningham, Jessica Joy, Kevin Miller, and Vince Tolentino. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Fading Gigolo (R) John Turturro stars in his own comedy as a middle-aged man who decides to become a prostitute in order to help his friend (Woody Allen) out of financial difficulties. Also with Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Aida Turturro, Bob Balaban, Sharon Stone, and Sofia Vergara. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Friended to Death (R) Ryan Hansen stars in this comedy as a man who conducts a social experiment by spreading fake news of his own death over social media. Also with James Immekus, Zach McGowan, Sarah Smick, Ian Michaels, and Richard Riehle. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

On My Way (NR) Catherine Deneuve stars in this comedy as a Frenchwoman who flees a bad breakup and business troubles by taking a road trip with her grandson (Nemo Schiffman). Also with Gérard Garouste, Claude Gensac, Paul Hamy, Hafsia Herzi, and Mylène Demongeot. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Teenage (R) Matt Wolf’s documentary traces the history of the idea of adolescence as a distinct phase of life. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

NOW PLAYING:

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.

Brick Mansions (PG-13) The 2006 French martial-arts film District B13 had some problematic but still ahead-of-the-curve social commentary about French society at the time. This American remake tries to do the same, but it comes out as just so much gobbledygook. The late Paul Walker stars as a Detroit cop who teams with a good-hearted convict (David Belle) to infiltrate a housing project so crime-ridden that it’s walled off from the rest of the city. Their purpose is to disarm a nuclear bomb in the possession of a kingpin (RZA). Belle, who played the same role in the French original, still has some impressive parkour moves. Without its context, though, this is just another crappy Hollywood thriller. Also with Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis, Ayisha Issa, Carlo Rota, Robert Maillet, and Bruce Ramsey.

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.

From the Rough (PG) Taraji P. Henson stars in this sports drama as Catana Starks, the first African-American woman to coach an NCAA men’s golf team. Also with Tom Felton, Justin Chon, Henry Simmons, and the late Michael Clarke Duncan.

Gambit (PG-13) Colin Firth stars in this comedy as a British art curator who conspires with a Texas rodeo cowgirl (Cameron Diaz) to sell a fake Monet painting to his horrible, superwealthy boss (Alan Rickman). If you’re wondering how such a low-budget affair attracted so much talent, look no further than the script, which was written by the Coen brothers. Unfortunately, in the hands of director Michael Hoffman, the characters become overblown cartoons of British people and Texans, and the farce never takes flight. Months from now when you see this DVD on the shelf, you may tempted to go for it. Resist. Also with Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Togo Igawa, and Cloris Leachman.

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.

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 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

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 Other Woman (PG-13) Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann enact the cheating husband’s worst nightmare as a mistress and a wife who discover each other’s existence at the same time and conspire to punish the husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who’s cheating on both of them. Diaz is miscast as the buttoned-up, cynical, high-powered businesswoman half of this pair, but she does well with the physical comedy that results from the setup, and Mann gives a compelling performance as a wife who comes unhinged when she finds out what her husband has been up to. The movie crashes and burns in the last 30 minutes or so, but up until that point it’s an agreeable comedy. Also with Kate Upton, Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney, David Thornton, and Nicki Minaj.

The Quiet Ones (PG-13) Long on atmosphere and short on story logic, this period horror film stars Jared Harris as a 1970s psychology professor who tries radical methods to cure a girl (Olivia Cooke from TV’s Bates Motel) of her mental illness at a secluded estate in the English countryside. The story is told through the eyes of the cameraman (Sam Claflin) who’s documenting the work, but the combination of found-footage technique and homage to 1970s horror movies doesn’t come off. Neither do most of the scares; the only fright value here comes from Cooke’s performance as a girl who might be manipulating everyone or genuinely demonically possessed. Also with Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne, Laurie Calvert, and Aldo Maland.

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.

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.

Walking With the Enemy (PG-13) This World War II movie is an indifferent piece of filmmaking, though you may be glad to learn about Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum, the Hungarian resistance hero whose life the film is loosely based on. Jonas Armstrong plays a Hungarian Jew who initially takes refuge in the Swiss legation in Budapest but later uses stolen SS uniforms to infiltrate the German ranks and find out what is happening to his fellow Jews. First-time director Mark Schmidt botches the historical background, bogging down in introductions of Hungarian politicians and Nazi officers, but there are some convincing large-scale combat sequences and a nice turn by the Irish leading man. Also with Hannah Tointon, Simon Kunz, Simon Dutton, Burn Gorman, Mark Wells, Simon Hepworth, Charles Hubbell, William Hope, and Ben Kingsley.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

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.

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.

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.

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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