Film Shorts

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Posted August 6, 2014 by Kristian Lin in Film
Calvary opens Friday.Calvary opens Friday.

OPENING:

Calvary (R) John Michael McDonagh (The Guard) writes and directs this thriller about an Irish Catholic priest (Brendan Gleeson) who hears in confession that one of his parishioners plans revenge for his sexual abuse at the hands of another priest. Also with Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach de Bankolé, Marie-Josée Croze, M. Emmet Walsh, and Domhnall Gleeson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Deepsea Challenge 3D (PG) In this documentary, James Cameron gathers footage of life at the bottom of the ocean. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG) Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) adapts Richard Morais’ novel about an Indian family who opens a restaurant in the French countryside, across the street from a Michelin-starred traditional restaurant. Starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, and Rohan Chand. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Into the Storm (PG-13) Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) directs this thriller about a group of storm chasers who descend on a small town for an unprecedented convergence of tornadoes. Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon, Alycia Debnam Carey, and Jeremy Sumpter. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Step Up All In (PG-13) The fifth installment of the series takes place at a dance competition in Las Vegas. Starring Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan, Adam Sevani, Misha Gabriel, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Stephen “Stevo” Jones, Mari Koda, Izabella Miko, and Alyson Stoner. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13) This live-action film traces the origins of the adolescent genetically altered fighting reptiles. Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Abby Elliott, and Whoopi Goldberg. Voices by Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING:

America (PG-13) Just before making this movie, Dinesh D’Souza was convicted of felony campaign finance violations. Judging by his latest documentary, the experience seems to have made him even more paranoid, if you can imagine that. The conservative would-be thinker caricatures liberals as malcontents who want to destroy America and then dismisses them with specious arguments, waving away African-American slavery and the genocide of Native Americans as things that were bad, but don’t really affect us today. That’s just prelude to his real agenda of bashing President Obama as an ineffectual bumbler who’s also somehow a ruthless dictator. D’Souza knows how to cloak his opinions in pseudo-scholarly jargon and cherry-picked research, but he’s just a ranting intellectual poseur.

And So It Goes (PG-13) Michael Douglas stars in this comedy as a self-centered man who enlists the help of his neighbor (Diane Keaton) when his estranged granddaughter (Sterling Jerins) is left on his doorstep. Also with Annie Parisse, Austin Lysy, Yaya DaCosta, Frances Sternhagen, and Frankie Valli.

Begin Again (R) Like his previous movie Once, John Carney’s new film is pulsating with music and unrequited love, and it’s awfully hard to resist. Keira Knightley plays a British musician recently dumped by her rock-star boyfriend (Adam Levine) whose songs inspire a burned-out record producer (Mark Ruffalo) to produce her first album. The larger scale of the story doesn’t suit Carney, and the songs (most of them by Gregg Alexander) include too much filler. Still, the filmmaker has a finely honed sense of comedy, and the actors are pleasingly uncorked here. Knightley has never been more charming or relatable as she sings “Lost Stars,” a ballad that also gets a more anguished and piercingly beautiful take by Levine. Unabashedly romantic and full of belief in the power of music, this is a great summer treat. Also with Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, CeeLo Green, and Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey.

Boyhood (R) Richard Linklater’s most radical experiment yet stars Ellar Coltrane as a boy who experiences life between the ages of 6 and 18. The director filmed the same group of actors for a few days each year over the course of 12 years to tell his story, and the passage of time proves to be a dazzling special effect. Instead of focusing on the usual tropes of coming-of-age films, Linklater finds resonance in the boy’s smaller moments. The performances by Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette (as the boy’s parents) are remarkably consistent over time. Despite its small scale and clearly marked time periods, this movie still manages to feel epic and infinite. The movie was filmed throughout Texas, so watch for familiar locations. Also with Marco Perella, Lorelei Linklater, Zoe Graham, Brad Hawkins, Jenni Tooley, and Steven Prince.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13) This science-fiction thriller is really a Western in disguise. Andy Serkis plays the leader of a community of super-intelligent apes who tries to make peace with a colony of humans who have survived the plague that created the apes. The coexistence is riven by cultural misunderstandings and troublemakers on both sides, and it’s awfully clever the way the apes and humans switch off the roles of the conquering cowboys and the oppressed natives. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) brings a light virtuoso touch to this thing, but the film works only intellectually, not emotionally. This sequel points toward a smarter direction for the series. It just doesn’t get it there. Also with Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Judy Greer.

The Fluffy Movie (PG-13) Gabriel Iglesias stars in this partially staged concert film devoted to his stand-up comedy act. Also with Jacqueline Obradors, Rick Gutierrez, Ron White, and Tommy Chong.

Get On Up (PG-13) Underneath the formal tricks, this is just the same boilerplate musician biopic we’ve seen over and over. Chadwick Boseman portrays James Brown during his rise to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s and then his fall from grace in the ’80s. Tate Taylor’s direction has improved since The Help, and screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth skip around in time and have James occasionally turn to the camera and narrate parts of his story. Still, the reason to see this is Boseman’s performance — the lead actor only lip-syncs to recordings of Brown’s songs, but he captures the Godfather of Soul’s famous swagger and stage presence and does an exceptional imitation of his dance moves. He looks like a star in the making. Also with Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Jill Scott, Lennie James, Craig Robinson, Brandon Smith, Fred Melamed, Tika Sumpter, Aunjanue Ellis, Aloe Blacc, and Octavia Spencer.

Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13) The funniest Marvel Comics movie so far. Chris Pratt stars as an intergalactic thief who has to team up with a green-skinned assassin (Zoë Saldana), a revenge-minded alien (Dave Bautista), an insanely angry talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and his walking tree sidekick (voiced by Vin Diesel) to stop a blue-skinned overlord (Lee Pace) from doing bad things to the universe. The five main characters make a terrific comedy team, with Pratt anchoring the proceedings well and the raccoon stealing lots of scenes. Director/co-writer James Gunn (Slither) festoons the soundtrack with splendidly cheesy 1970s and ’80s rock anthems. Most superhero movies treat their characters with earnest reverence, and Gunn gleefully throws a pie in the face of it all. Also with Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Ophelia Lovibond, Wyatt Oleff, Benicio del Toro, and Glenn Close.

Hercules Not terrible, just tedious. Brett Ratner’s take on the legendary hero tries to balance Dwayne Johnson’s comic tendencies with action scenes that have his titular character alternating between mid-melee yelling and lukewarm inspirational speechifying. After being chased out of Athens for allegedly murdering his family, Hercules and his band of plucky mercenaries clobber waves of enemies with Whedonesque aplomb. Though Ratner’s set designers and costume department make things interesting to look at it, he can’t achieve the imaginative world-building of, say, Conan the Barbarian –– his characters simply aren’t that interesting. Chock-full of clichés, the movie still has cohesive, rollicking action sequences that have the juddering impact of an NFL highlight film. Also with John Hurt, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Joe Anderson, Reece Ritchie, Peter Mullan, and Rufus Sewell. — Steve Steward

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG) Just like the original, this sequel is awe-inspiring on a visual level and irritating on a story level. With the Vikings now at peace with the dragons, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his trusty mount Toothless must protect their community against a warlord (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) commanding an army of dragons. The flying reptiles in different shapes, sizes, and colors are rendered gloriously, as are the sequences with the humans riding them. Yet the script isn’t funny and the whole subplot involving Hiccup’s long-lost mother (voiced by Cate Blanchett) is dealt with way too easily. This could have been the best animated movie of the year if only the filmmakers had taken a little more care with the story. Additional voices by Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kit Harington, Jonah Hill, and Kristen Wiig.

Lucy (R) Scarlett Johansson once again shows off her dynamism as an action heroine starring in this incredibly stupid thriller as an American student who becomes an unwilling drug mule for Korean gangsters in Taipei and then a super-intelligent reality-warping being when the drug accidentally gets into her system. Writer-director Luc Besson gets all manner of history and science wrong, but Johansson does an uncanny turn as a woman who seems to be hearing frequencies that nobody else can hear and can drop a corridor full of cops with a wave of her fingers. This movie is like Transcendence, except it’s actually fun at times. Also with Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Analeigh Tipton.

Maleficent (PG) Angelina Jolie gives her best performance in years in this re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story, playing a fairy who’s jilted by a prince (Sharlto Copley) and responds by cursing his daughter (Elle Fanning) into falling into a death-like sleep. It’s good that she’s so powerful, because the rest of the movie is crap. Special-effects artist Robert Stromberg steps into the director’s chair for the first time. He makes the CGI look great, but the storytelling has no flow, the non-Maleficent characters are incomprehensible, and the dramatic parts, comic relief, and lyrical interludes all come willy-nilly on each other’s heels. It’s good to see movies about women and girls defy industry wisdom and sell lots of tickets, but we need better ones than this. Also with Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, and Kenneth Cranham.

A Most Wanted Man (R) The late Philip Seymour Hoffman is pretty much the only reason to see this sluggish, mediocre spy thriller. He plays a burned-out German intelligence officer trying to foil a terrorist plot in Hamburg revolving around an illegal Chechen immigrant (Grigori Dobrygin). This is based on yet another John le Carré tale of a spy who comes to grief when he tries to behave decently, but director Anton Corbijn (The American) keeps getting caught in up the spy trade’s minutiae at the expense of momentum and mistakes solemnity for depth. Hoffman’s weary, chain-smoking gravitas gives the film a grounding and layering that it doesn’t deserve. Also with Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss, Homayoun Ershadi, Mehdi Dehbi, Rainer Bock, Martin Wuttke, and Robin Wright.

Planes: Fire & Rescue (PG) I learned more about aerial firefighting from this movie than I ever imagined I would know. Dane Cook reprises his role in this animated sequel as a crop-dusting plane who decides to become a certified firefighter, training under a hardass rescue helicopter (voiced by Ed Harris). Some of the plot developments are highly predictable, and the drama doesn’t uncover anything new with these characters. However, the movie doesn’t drag, and it does have its occasional flashes of wit. On disc, this will be a nice afternoon’s diversion for the kids. Older crowds will relish the CHiPs parody featuring the voice of Erik Estrada. Additional voices by Julie Bowen, Teri Hatcher, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, Wes Studi, Brad Garrett, Barry Corbin, Regina King, Cedric the Entertainer, Patrick Warburton, Steve Schirripa, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Fred Willard, Stacy Keach, Hal Holbrook, and John Ratzenberger.

The Purge: Anarchy (R) The weakest part of last year’s The Purge was its attempts at social commentary, so writer-director James DeMonaco smartly dials it down for the sequel. In a near-future America where murder is legal for one night every year, five strangers stranded outdoors have to stick together to survive: a bickering married couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) with car trouble, a mother and daughter (Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul) abducted from their home, and a vigilante (Frank Grillo) looking to avenge his son’s death. The thing works reasonably well as a B thriller, but there’s better stuff out there. Also with Justina Machado, John Beasley, Judith McConnell, and Michael K. Williams.

Sex Tape (R) Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star in this farce as a longtime married couple who decide to rejuvenate their sex life by filming themselves doing it. Inevitably, the video gets out. The main characters are boring, which is why the stars keep getting upstaged, and there’s some blatant product placement for Apple gadgets and YouPorn.com. Still, director Jake Kasdan does orchestrate some nice set pieces, with Diaz discovering the freaky private side of her new business partner (Rob Lowe) and an uncredited Jack Black popping in as YouPorn’s president. This movie isn’t deep, but it’s funny enough. Also with Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Nat Faxon, Nancy Lenehan, and Jolene Blalock.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (PG) Of course this movie is bad, and to make it worse, it’s almost three hours long. This Transformers is as incomprehensible as it is visually exhausting, but what’s really weird is that you wish director Michael Bay gave his characters even less of a thought, because all they do is occupy space between bouts of giant robots wrestling each other into buildings. Combined with corporate branding that has about as much subtlety as a rectal exam, you wonder why there’s even a story at all, rather than a title card that says, “Thanks for your money. Here are three hours of robots and dubstep noises as promised.” Bright spots: T.J. Miller’s skeezy techie buddy character and Stanley Tucci’s smarmy, conniving billionaire industrialist give you scattered moments of levity within the noxious cloud of CGI chaos, and the movie teases the revelation of the Transformers’ creators, which, despite the typical Bay bombast, is reason alone to sit through the next abysmal attack on the senses. Also with Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer, and the voices of John Goodman and Ken Watanabe. –– Steve Steward

22 Jump Street (R) Despite a lot of effort, the laughs in this sequel are more scattered than the ones in the original. Detectives Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) reunite for a pointedly similar caper, going undercover as college students to bust a drug ring. The filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller rely too heavily on treating Schmidt and Jenko’s relationship as if it were a romance for laughs. They also make too many jokes about sequels — they could have confined those to the terrific closing credits montage imagining sequels all the way past 39 Jump Street. Still, the movie is likable, and it sports a scene-stealing turn by Jillian Bell as a passive-aggressive roommate who’s way more layered than she seems. Also with Amber Stevens, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell, Peter Stormare, Nick Offerman, Dustin Nguyen, Richard Grieco, and uncredited cameos by Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Bill Hader, Queen Latifah, and Seth Rogen.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

Magic in the Moonlight (PG-13) Woody Allen’s latest farce stars Colin Firth as a 1930s spiritual debunker who aims to disprove the psychic claims of a charming young woman (Emma Stone). Also with Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Simon McBurney, Catherine McCormack, and Eileen Atkins.


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