Film Shorts

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Posted August 29, 2014 by Kristian Lin in Film
Frank opens Friday.Frank opens Friday.

OPENING:

Frank (R) Michael Fassbender stars in this black comedy as a troubled musician who struggles to cope with his band’s newfound fame, which is somewhat related to the fact that he wears a giant papier-mâché head all the time. Also with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson, François Civil, Carla Azar, and Scoot McNairy. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

As Above, So Below (R) John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) directs this found-footage horror film about a team of archeologists who encounter bad things in the catacombs below the city of Paris. Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, and Hamid Djavadan. (Opens Friday)

Begin Again (R) Like his previous movie Once, John Carney’s new film pulsates 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). Her 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. (Re-opens Friday)

The Calling (R) Susan Sarandon stars in this thriller as a small-town police detective who finds a serial killer operating in her jurisdiction. Also with Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, and Donald Sutherland. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Cantinflas (PG) Óscar Jaenada stars in this biography of the Mexican comedian who became a global film star in the 1950s. Also with Michael Imperioli, Ilse Salas, Bárbara Mori, Ana Layevska, and Joaquín Cosio. (Opens Friday)

Chef (R) In a not-so-veiled comment on his own filmmaking career, Jon Favreau stars as a star chef who restarts his career with a food truck after being fired from a job at an upscale L.A. restaurant. The filmmaker takes way too long to tell his story and doesn’t do well by the women, but he does capture the chaos and sweat and adrenaline of a high-end restaurant kitchen, and the subplot with him finally connecting with his young son (Emjay Anthony) is nicely done. The movie also boasts scrumptious food photography (the dishes were created by Roy Choi), and Favreau obviously holds great respect for the care and attention to detail that chefs give to their work. It’s how the movie’s hero finds himself again, and possibly the filmmaker does too. Also with John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey Jr. (Re-opens Friday)

The Congress (NR) Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir) directs this animated film about an aging actress (Robin Wright) who agrees to have her image and facial expressions digitally preserved so that her avatar can keep acting while maintaining its youthful appearance. Also with Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Sami Gayle, Danny Huston, and Paul Giamatti. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Discoverers (NR) Griffin Dunne stars in this comedy as a professor who takes his alienated teenage kids (Devon Graye and Madeleine Martin) on a cross-country road trip. Also with John C. McGinley, Ann Dowd, Cara Buono, Dreama Walker, David Rasche, and Stuart Margolin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Ghostbusters (PG) I ain’t afraid of no ghost. This re-release marks the 30th anniversary of Ivan Reitman’s comedy about four scientists (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and the late Harold Ramis) who use their skills to capture ghosts. Also with Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Slavitza Jovan, and William Atherton. (Opens Friday)

The November Man (R) Pierce Brosnan stars in this thriller as an ex-CIA hit man who finds himself in a life-or-death battle with his former pupil (Luke Bracey). Also with Olga Kurylenko, Bill Smitrovich, Amila Terzimehic, Mediha Musliovic, Caterina Scorsone, and Will Patton. (Opens Wednesday)

To Be Takei (NR) Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary profile of the actor and gay-rights activist George Takei. Also with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Lea Salonga, and John Cho. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Trip to Italy (NR) Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, and director Michael Winterbottom reunite for this sequel to their 2010 film The Trip, as the two actors joke their way through a tour of Italy’s finest restaurants. Also with Rosie Fellner, Claire Keelan, Marta Barrio, Timothy Leach, and Rebecca Johnson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING: 

The Admiral: Roaring Currents (NR) This historical epic is the most financially successful South Korean film of all time, and you can easily see why. Choi Min-sik stars as Admiral Yi Sun-shin, the Korean naval hero who came back from disgrace in 1597 to repel an invasion fleet of 300 Japanese ships with only 12 ships of his own. Director Kim Han-min spares no expense in re-creating period detail, but he also delivers some terrific combat sequences. The deep-voiced Ryu Seung-ryong makes a formidable nemesis as a Japanese pirate and mercenary, and he’s a great foil to Choi, who gets to do everything he does best here, radiating steely authority while also indulging in Lear-like raving at his colleagues’ ghosts. It adds up to a rousing war movie, whether you’re Korean or not. Also with Lee Jeong-hyong, Cho Jin-woong, Jin Gu, Kwon Yeol, Kim Myung-gon, No Min-woo, Kim Tae-hoon, Park Bo-gyeom, and Ryohei Otani.

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 Expendables 3 (PG-13) Sylvester Stallone’s all-star omnibus thrillers are like Valentine’s Day, except with a lot more explosions. He sends his gang into retirement, only to call on them again when his newer, younger crew is captured by his former partner-turned-bad guy (Mel Gibson). The villain casting is inspired, Wesley Snipes provides some of his old swagger, and Antonio Banderas drops in as an emotionally needy chatterbox of a killer. Despite their contributions, they can’t paper over how tired this whole gimmick has become. Also with Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Kelsey Grammer, Jet Li, and Harrison Ford.

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.

The Giver (PG-13) Lois Lowry’s novel took 20 years to reach the big screen, and the result is a big fat “meh.” Brenton Thwaites stars as an 18-year-old in a highly regimented dystopian future society who’s called upon to receive the community’s memories of war, pain, disease, color, music, and love so that everybody else can go about their business without feeling anything. The Australian newcomer Thwaites isn’t up to the challenge of playing someone feeling everything for the first time, and the more seasoned actors around him aren’t much better. Director Phillip Noyce uses colors in cheesily metaphoric ways to depict the hero’s awakening emotions, and misses the horror and tragedy in the story. This is supposed to be a celebration of emotions, but it feels like a drone. Also with Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Emma Tremblay, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, and Taylor Swift.

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 (PG 13)  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

The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG) Yet another way-too-tasteful literary adaptation by Lasse Hallström. This one is adapted from Richard Morais’ novel about an Indian patriarch (Om Puri) who opens a family restaurant in the French countryside, incurring the wrath of the traditional chef (Helen Mirren) who owns the Michelin-starred restaurant across the street. One of the few actors who can stand up to Mirren, the sepulchral-voiced Puri walks away with the movie, though Manish Dayal (as Indian restaurant’s cooking savant who’s caught in the middle) does well just to hold his own in such company. All this talent should have come to more. Also with Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michel Blanc, and Rohan Chand.

If I Stay (PG-13) For once, Chloë Grace Moretz plays an ordinary teen who’s not going to kill anyone, and, well, she’s kinda boring in the role, but this weeper doesn’t give her much to work with. She plays a classical cello prodigy who’s in a car accident that kills the rest of her family, and her spirit wanders the halls of the hospital to observe her friends’ reactions while her body clings to life. Bad dialogue leads to one of the worst sex scenes I’ve seen in a while, R.J. Cutler botches his first attempt at directing a fiction film, and Moretz is fundamentally miscast as a shy girl who thinks everyone is cooler than her. The soundtrack has good cello music (played by Alisha Bauer) and a nice turn by British newcomer Jamie Blackley as the boyfriend. Still, this movie collapses into a pool of treacle. Also with Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Liana Liberato, Jakob Davies, Ali Milner, Aisha Hinds, Lauren Lee Smith, and Stacy Keach.

Into the Storm (PG-13) The natural-disaster movie goes the found-footage route in this film that features two tornadoes converging on a small town in Middle America during a high-school graduation. Some people are in this thing, but they don’t do or say anything of any interest whatsoever. The special effects here are good, but they’re nothing we haven’t already seen before. Let’s face it: This thing is just Twister shot with smartphones. Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon, Alycia Debnam Carey, and Jeremy Sumpter.

Let’s Be Cops (R) A bad movie that comes out at a spectacularly bad time, this comedy stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as two L.A. losers who decide to impersonate police officers full-time after they’re mistaken for cops on their way to a costume party. The set pieces don’t work, and the two leads have astonishingly poor chemistry considering that they’ve worked together for more than a year on TV’s New Girl. This movie would be unfunny even if the events of Ferguson, Mo., hadn’t happened, but since they have, it’s really hard to laugh at a movie that gets laughs out of idiots in cop uniforms acting irresponsibly. Also with Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev, James D’Arcy, Keegan-Michael Key, and Andy Garcia.

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.

Magic in the Moonlight (PG-13) One of the most inept comedies of Woody Allen’s career, and that’s saying something. An overacting Colin Firth plays a 1930s spiritual debunker who sets out to discredit a pretty young American (Emma Stone) who claims to be a medium in the south of France. Allen tries to balance light farce with a disquisition on the purpose of spirituality in a godless universe, and he fails miserably in every phase. Stone is the only remotely palatable element here; let’s hope Allen makes better use of her in his next movie. Also with Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Shamos, Erica Leerhsen, and Jacki Weaver.

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.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (R) Eva Green is naked a lot in this movie, which is pretty much the best thing I can say about the long-delayed sequel to Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’ 2005 hit. Here, various characters old and new (Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Mickey Rourke) form a loose alliance to take down the depraved U.S. senator (Powers Boothe) at the heart of the city’s corruption. The directors’ distinctive visual style was startling nine years ago, but now it’s old hat, as is the doom-laden tone and Miller’s pulp-poetic narration. If this movie had come out in 2007, it would have been a huge hit. Also with Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Haysbert, Stacy Keach, Jaime King, Lady Gaga, Ray Liotta, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Juno Temple, and Bruce Willis.

Step Up All In (PG-13) The dance numbers are considerably lower in quality in this fifth installment of the series, which is trouble because the numbers are the only reason to watch these movies. Ryan Guzman (Step Up Revolution) and Briana Evigan (Step Up 2 the Streets) get together to form a new dance crew and win a contest in Vegas. The film was thrown together hastily, and it shows. The highlight is a weird mad scientist-themed number, but director Trish Sie ruins the finale by overcutting, and there’s way too much plot. Adam Sevani shows up once again as a second banana; why doesn’t the series make this longtime stalwart into the lead? He’s got way more charisma than most of the dancing actors here. Also with Misha Gabriel, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Stephen “Stevo” Jones, Mari Koda, Izabella Miko, Luis Rosado, and Alyson Stoner.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13) This might be the worst movie of the summer, and this is a summer that includes Hercules and the fourth Transformers movie. Never mind your nostalgia for the TMNT of the ’80s — this movie fails because it just isn’t fun. Director Jonathan Liebesman is so in love with a joke about the ridiculousness of the turtles’ backstory that that’s pretty much all there is. (For the record, it’s funny exactly twice in the course of 101 minutes.) Like a lie that has spun out of control, the new twists on the TMNT mythos require more exposition, which requires more talking, and talking in movies doesn’t play to the strong suits of star Megan Fox, cast here as the turtles’ reporter-friend April O’Neil. Fox is icily beautiful, but her acting can be summed up by a single facial expression: open-mouthed confusion. It’s a role that would be perfect for a talking doll, but, unfortunately, April is supposed to be a person. Of course, this movie is also supposed to be about crime-fighting turtles, but they’re just painful to watch and annoying. Also with Will Arnett, William Fitchner, and the voices of Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub. –– S.S.

When the Game Stands Tall (PG) The ungrammatical title is forgivable; the rest of the movie isn’t. Jim Caviezel stars in this completely unoriginal sports drama based on the story of Bob LaDouceur, the coach of the football team at California’s De La Salle High School, which had to cope with a player’s murder, LaDouceur’s heart attack, and the snapping of the team’s historic 151-game winning streak all at the same time. Michael Chiklis steals this thing away as a bespectacled, goateed assistant coach who steps in for his ailing boss, but he can’t begin to compensate for this movie that contains just about every cliché of football movies that there is. You’re better off watching Friday Night Lights, the movie or the TV show. Also with Laura Dern, Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown, Ser’Darius Blain, Jessie Usher, Matthew Daddario, Stephan James, and Maurice Jones-Drew.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

Alive Inside (NR) Michael Rossato-Bennett’s documentary profiles Dan Cohen and his attempts to have music therapy incorporated into healthcare programs.

Are You Here (R) The creator of TV’s Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, makes his filmmaking debut with this comedy about a man (Zach Galifianakis) who brings his friend (Owen Wilson) on a road trip to collect an inheritance from his recently deceased father. Also with Amy Poehler, Laura Ramsey, Joel Gretsch, Dave Schulze, Dov Tiefenbach, Peter Bogdanovich, and Jenna Fischer.

Dinosaur 13 (PG) Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary about the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found.

Land Ho! (R) Aaron Katz (Cold Weather) and Martha Stephens co-direct this comedy about two elderly ex-brothers-in-law (Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhorn) who take a road trip through Iceland.

The One I Love (R) Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss star in this comedy about a couple who discover unforeseen complications when they take a getaway trip to save their marriage. Also with Ted Danson, Kaitlyn Dodson, and Marlee Matlin.

The Possession of Michael King (R) Shane Johnson stars in this horror film as a spiritual debunker who dares practitioners of the occult to cast their worst spells on him. Also with Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko, Tomas Arana, Tobias Jelinek, and Dale Dickey.


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