Movie Previews by Diana Beechener
Operning May 24, 2013
Teenage MK (Amanda Seyfried: The Big Wedding) magically shrinks while in the woods. Though her diminutive size won’t help her find her way home, it does open up a whole new world. She’s introduced to the protectors of the forest, leaf-sized warriors on the side of nature’s balance. These guardians are in the midst of a battle to save their beloved woods from the forces of destruction.
Can MK help? Will she ever find a way home?
An eco-conscious cartoon that can reach both adults and kids is a wonderful approach to a family movie. Writing seems humorous and contains a great message, but what will hold viewers are the impressive animated visuals.
With an all-star voice cast featuring Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Beyonce, Aziz Ansari and Josh Hutcherson, Epic has a chance to earn its name.
Prospects: Bright • PG • 102 mins.
Fast & Furious 6
Hardworking federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson: GI Joe Retaliation) is desperate to bring down an evil car theft ring that terrorized Europe before setting sights on America. The thieves are brutal, efficient and nearly impossible to catch. Hobbs is going to need an expert.
He recruits his favorite illegal street racers/fugitives Dom (Vin Diesel: Fast Five) and Brian (Paul Walker: Fast Five). If they succeed, they and their crew will earn full pardons and a chance to help a friend they believed dead.
Fast & Furious movies will continue to be made until moviegoers tire of flashy cars, explosions and women in skimpy outfits. Fast & Furious 7 is already in development. I have no doubt I’ll be writing a preview for Fast & Furious 13: Cars Go Vroom! in just a few years.
There is something to be said for knowing what works and giving it to your audience. So if you buy a ticket for this flick, you know you’re in for two hours of oiled-bicep flexing, tough-guy one-liners and beautiful cars.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 130 mins.
The Hangover Part III
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, and I’m as stupid as the characters in this sequel to The Hangover.
Phil (Bradley Cooper: Silver Linings Playbook), Alan (Zach Galifianakis: The Campaign) and Stu (Ed Helms: The Office) find themselves back in Vegas, where they fall into yet another night of debauchery. Sex will be had, drugs will be done, animals either abducted or abused and all of their lives will be threatened.
Why do these men continue to hang out together? How is it possible that none is in prison?
The Hangover was a great and gross comedy. Hangover Part II was simply a pale imitation: the same jokes, the same plot points and, infuriatingly, the same characters. What makes these films so egregious is that no one ever learns anything. The Wolfpack should have learned at the least to avoid life-threatening situations.
Prospects: Dim • R • 100 mins.
Opening May 17, 2013
How far would you go to prove you were right? In 1947, explorer Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen: I Travel Alone) believed that pre-Columbian South Americans crossed the Pacific in rafts.
To prove his thesis, he assembled a team of five men and set out for the Polynesian islands on a balsa wood raft. During 101 days of searing sun, privation and danger, Heyerdahl documented the journey. Heyerdahl’s footage was turned into an Oscar-winning documentary about the harrowing trip.
Kon-Tiki is a reenactment of Heyerdahl’s voyage across the pacific. Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg insisted they film on the open ocean to make it feel as authentic as Heyerdahl’s trip. Graphics and acting both appear to be top-notch.
Kon-Tiki is a fascinating story about one of the 20th centuries most determined adventurers. So buy a ticket, or Netflix the documentary to experience a true seafaring tale.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 118 mins.
Star Trek Into Darkness
When a man with a dark Star Fleet history (Benedict Cumberbatch: Sherlock) turns to destruction, stopping him is up to Captain Kirk (Chris Pine: Rise of the Guardians) and the intrepid crew of the Enterprise.
Can Kirk find his inner leader? Will he save Earth from the wrath of a former ally? How many complaints about minutia will Trekkies post online after they screen the film?
The second film in the J.J. Abrams (Super 8) Star Trek series will undoubtedly rule the box office this weekend. Abrams is a good director with a sense of humor and action pacing that benefits the Star Trek universe. However, Pine’s Kirk is still all smug smile and no substance, little more than a frat boy captain of a space ship. I need more depth to my fearless leaders, like Captain Picard.
Fortunately, the supporting cast includes Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Peter Weller, which means that there should be plenty to enjoy. If you’re in the mood to watch space battles, hear witty one-liners or just watch a bunch of pretty people in futuristic clothes, Star Trek Into Darkness is a safe bet for Preakness weekend. Live long and prosper.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 132 mins.
Opening May 10, 2013
When’s the last time you went anywhere without a cell phone? You could be reading this from your mobile. Disconnect warns of the perils of this always-connected life. The film tells four interwoven stories about how technology affects our lives and hampers our ability to make human connections.
This timely tale about the effects of our technology-obsessed society should be a must-see for anyone who owns a smart phone. Just make sure that you don’t use the phone during the movie.
Prospects: Bright • R • 115 mins.
The Great Gatsby
Based on the classic novel we all read in high school, The Great Gatsby is the story of Jazz Age excess and the people who revel in it. Midwestern writer Nick (Tobey McGuire: The Details) is drawn into this world of lavish parties and small social intrigue and is dazzled by a newcomer to the scene: Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio: Django Unchained), a war-hero millionaire.
Nick becomes devoted to Gatsby, who longs for love and acceptance in the upper echelons. When Gatsby begins an affair with married socialite Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan: Shame) secrets and violence threaten the glossy veneer of New York society.
Director Baz Luhrmann (Australia) is known for his glitter- and music-filled productions. The man has never met a sequin he didn’t love, which explains his better film efforts Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom. This obsession makes him exceptionally qualified to capture the excess of Fitzgerald’s Long Island. Still, Luhrmann has a tendency to revel in visuals while forgetting plot and pacing.
The Great Gatsby will no doubt be filled with glorious Jazz-interpretations and shiny visuals. Whether Luhrmann can create a film that lives up to the novel is yet to be seen.
Prospects: Sparkly • PG-13 • 143 mins.
Wade Walker (Craig Robinson: The Office) has fallen for the beautiful Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington: Scandal) and hopes to propose. To kill two birds with one stone, he decides to pop the question when he meets her family at their annual Hamptons reunion.
Both Robinson and Washington are big-screen talent who found their fame on television. While I have faith in both stars’ abilities, I’m not thrilled that the plot resembles Ben Stiller’s opus Meet the Parents. Still, with a cast that also features S. Epatha Merkerson, Diahann Carroll and Melvin Van Peebles, there’s a chance that the actors can elevate their hackneyed material.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 95 mins.
Opening May 3, 2013
Iron Man 3
When last we saw Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.: The Avengers), he was enjoying some shawarma with his fellow Avengers. Since he saved New York City from an alien takeover, Tony wants to return to his California home for a little R&R with his best girl Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow: The Avengers).
Unfortunately, there is no rest for the man in the iron super suit. A man called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley: The Dictator) has decided to destroy everything Stark loves. That means Pepper, Stark Industries and Tony’s very life are all in peril. Now he must not only rely on his inventions but his inner strength to triumph.
Can Tony save himself and his love from a madman with a seemingly unlimited reach? Probably, since the Iron Man franchise is the most successful of all Marvel’s superhero movies.
Still, Downey is an amazing force, exuding charm whenever he’s on screen. There’s no doubt he can carry a movie by himself —there’s a reason no other movie is premiering this weekend. So the only question is whether Kingsley is up to the super villain task. Either way, it should be pretty amusing to watch Iron Man battle Gandhi for two hours.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 130 mins.
Opening April 26, 2013
Have you ever wanted to make a change? Wallace Avery (Colin Firth: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is stuck in a dead-end job, divorced and depressed. Deciding he doesn’t have to live like that, Wallace walks away from his life to start again as Arthur Newman, a golf pro.
On the road to a new life, Arthur is waylaid by Mike (Emily Blunt: Looper), a troubled woman who could use a life change, too. Now a dynamic duo with new identities, Mike and Arthur traverse the country to create new and better lives.
Firth and Blunt are great performers and likely can carry this quirky comedy. But I’m concerned that the story might be a little too cute to bear. Many writers mistake quirkiness for character development, leaving the viewer to watch an endless parade of odd behavior without creating who these people are.
If Arthur Newman can keep the quirk to a minimum, Firth and Blunt could shine as lost souls.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 101 mins.
The Big Wedding
Don (Robert De Niro: The Silver Linings Playbook) and Ellie (Diane Keaton: Darling Companion) have been divorced for years. After Don married Ellie’s best friend (Susan Sarandon), the rift grew deeper and more acrimonious. They’re willing to put aside their feud and play nice, however, to give their adopted son Alejandro the wedding of his dreams.
How far would you go to ensure your child’s happiness? Don and Ellie are about to find out. Turns out Alejandro invited his super-conservative biological mother, who will create a scene if she discovers the people who raised her baby boy are divorced.
Don and Ellie must pretend to be a happy couple again, throwing their family and the wedding into turmoil.
Why hasn’t Alejandro’s mom kept better tabs on the people raising her son if she’s so darned concerned about his morality? Why must women in these movies act like shrews to get laughs? How is it possible that so many great actors could be in a movie that looks this dismal?
Whether The Big Wedding rips off La Cage aux Folles or an old episode of The Golden Girls, it looks like a paycheck movie. De Niro has spent the better part of a decade destroying his legacy and selling Ben Stiller what’s left of his soul; I expected more from Keaton and Sarandon, who usually have better quality control.
It’s possible that these powerhouse actresses can elevate this lazily written farce, but I doubt it.
Prospects: Dim • R • 89 mins.
Pain and Gain
Three meathead gym rats are tired of always getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop. They decide to make it through hard work and determination.
Just kidding. They kidnap and torture a millionaire until he signs over all his assets to them. But it’s okay you guys, because the gym rats are Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, and the bad guy is like totally sleazy or something. Think of it as Occupy Wall Street with steroids instead of sleep-ins.
Pain and Gain is based on a true story about a loathsome group of men who tortured a businessman for weeks, set him on fire and left him for dead. This brain trust also managed to murder and dismember two people. It’s not cute, it’s not funny and it’s certainly not a story that should be lionized by director Michael Bay.
By making this crime spree look like a rap video, Bay is essentially making the Sun Gym Gang into modern-day Robin Hoods whose crimes just happen to be horrific.
Prospects: Pitch Black • R • 129 mins.
Opening April 19, 2013
Abused foster child Eli gets a reprieve from his horrible life each year at a camp sponsored by the state. There, Eli is paired with Ken, a camp counselor who cares more about his phone than about Eli.
Slowly, the unlikely duo bond and teach each other important lessons about life, love and faith.
Camp seems like a pretty straight-forward inspirational film. The cast of unknown actors is a potential weakness. Still, a movie about the power of human connectivity could be a nice break from sex, lies and violence.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 111 mins.
The Company You Keep
Jim Grant (Robert Redford) has been looking over his shoulder for years. A member of the radical Weather Underground, Jim has been on the lam for decades while living a quiet life in suburbia. That all changes when a reporter (Shia LaBeouf) digs through his past. On the run again, Jim must find a way to save himself and his new life.
The Company You Keep is based on Neil Gordon’s novel and directed by Redford. While Redford is always reliable in a good political thriller, I’m not sold on the idea that LaBeouf can carry a film. Perhaps a cast that features Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper and Nick Nolte can overcome LaBeouf’s overly affected acting style.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 125 mins.
After a devastating alien attack wiped out Earth, survivors fled to a lunar colony. Jack (Tom Cruise: Jack Reacher) is one of the few drone repairmen allowed to visit the planet. While exploring overgrown buildings, Jack makes a troubling discovery. The history of the war, what happened to Earth and the fate of humanity could all be a lie.
Tom Cruise needs to reestablish himself as a box office star. Oblivion may be the action hit he needs to regain his status in Hollywood. Still, the plot seems inspired by a SyFy Channel film. The movie hinges on whether Cruise can manage a winning performance.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 126 mins.
The Lords of Salem
Salem radio DJ Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto) receives a mysterious package in the mail. Labeled only From the Lords, the box contains a recording that triggers bizarre and violent visions in Heidi. Convinced the recording is a message from an evil force, Heidi tries to stop the Lords of Salem from bringing the town’s violent history back from the grave.
Directed by Rob Zombie (Sheri’s husband), The Lords of Salem promises to be a gory, brutal, underwritten horror flick. While both Zombies have a flare for blood and guts, they frequently drop the ball when it comes to dialog, plot and cinematography.
Prospects: Dim • R • 101 mins.
Opening April 12, 2013
Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman: The Kill Hole) was not the first black man to break into Major League Baseball. That honor belongs to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played for the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884.
Robinson may not have been the first to break the color barrier, but he was the man who made integration stick.
42 tells the story of Robinson’s career, chronicling the physical threats, verbal abuse and outright violence from both fans and teammates he had to overcome.
While I’m thrilled that Robinson is getting a second movie celebrating his life — the first starred the actual Robinson — I’m fearful that 42 will succumb to the common problem of movies about racial issues written and directed by white people. I don’t want another film that follows in the footsteps of The Help, which focused on how benevolent white people uplifted oppressed African Americans.
I’m interested in Robinson and his struggle. If the film can keep its focus on this brave and talented player, 42 might hit it out of the park.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 88 mins.
Scary Movie 5
Has there been a dearth of fart jokes in your life? Not enough crude sex humor to get you through the day? Then rejoice, for there is a new lazy parody film from the producers that have brought you such classics as Scary Movie IV and Superhero Movie.
This film follows a couple who notice their house has taken on a life of its own since they brought their newborn home from the hospital. They set up surveillance cameras, call in exorcists and hope that they can stop the haunting.
The brilliance of these movies is that they make millions of dollars by poorly parodying interesting films such as Paranormal Activity, Mama, Sinister and Black Swan. They don’t do it well, but they don’t need to: All they have to do is make a lead character fall down, lose bowel control, botch a sex act or a combination thereof.
We need to demand better from our filmmakers. If you absolutely must see horror movie comedy this weekend, Netflix offers a host of options that don’t reward bad filmmaking.
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 85 mins.
Opening April 5, 2013
Five attractive 20-somethings spend the weekend in a remote cabin in the woods. They find a creepy old book with disturbing sketches and unsettling incantations. So of course they read the incantations aloud.
What could go wrong?
In the grand tradition of attractive people vacationing in remote areas, the group unwittingly unleashes a great evil that slaughters them with extreme prejudice.
A remake of Sam Raimi’s classic horror film, Evil Dead features better effects and a higher budget. I’m not sure that more money makes for a better movie, however. The brilliance of Raimi’s original was its wry wit mixed with horrific gore.
Also, I’m not sure any actor could fill the void left by Bruce Campbell, who became a cult idol in the original and whose deft physical comedy helped make Evil Dead an instant classic.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 91 mins.
Jurassic Park 3D
A billionaire sins against nature by cloning dinosaurs. He funds an island theme park populated by long-extinct thunder lizards, then invites a group of paleontologists, scientists and children to preview the park.
All seems well until a catastrophic event frees the dinos from their pens and traps the humans on the island. Now bottom of the food chain, they must try to survive — and contain — these multi-ton predators.
With this film, Steven Spielberg inspired interest in paleontology in a generation of children. Paleontology novices also tuned into the wonders of raptors.
The classic film featured state-of-the-art graphics, amazing practical effects and some wonderful performances. It’s still an excellent fantasy film, but I’m not sure we need a 3D update. When 3D effects are added to films shot in 2D, images often darken and deteriorate. But the studio can recycle old material and charge new higher prices.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 127 mins.
Four Aboriginal sisters have a talent for singing, but their skin tone limits opportunities. In 1968, indigenous Australians had just won the right to vote but were not accepted as equals.
A talent scout takes the group, named The Sapphires, to Vietnam to perform for the troops. As the sisters experience the thrill of fame, they also see the horrors of war. The movie develops a new theme. Will the girls make it out of Vietnam? If they do, will their dreams of fame thrive in their native land?
Based on a true story, The Sapphires has a lot on its plate: unrest in Australia, protests of Vietnam, oppression of a race of people and the difficulties of making in into the music industry. Walking the balance between oppression and comedy is a difficult task. But genuine warmth and humor are on its side.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 103 mins.
Opening March 29, 2013
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
The military’s elite G.I. Joe unit is almost annihilated in a strike ordered by the president. That’s the first clue that something is rotten in the White House. It turns out the Cobra Organization has kidnapped the president and replaced him with a doppelganger.
What’s left of the Joes must come together to defeat the Cobra threat and save the free world from destruction. Success depends on digging up retired Joe leader General Colton (Bruce Willis). With a cast that also boasts Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Channing ‘No Pants’ Tatum, the film has plenty of star power. As for plot and character development, who expects to find any in a G.I. Joe film?
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 110 mins.
Need a sparkly vampire in your life? Twilight scribe Stephanie Meyer has you covered with a new story of nubile young love and long-suffering sexual longing.
Instead of supernatural threats, we have the Hosts, an alien parasite that infects human consciousness and controls most of the world’s population.
Rebel Melanie (Saoirse Ronan: Hanna) is captured and infected. She fights off her parasite and returns to her people, but must convince them that she’s not a traitor in their midst.
It’s nice that Meyer is expanding her horizons to ruin other genres, but I’m not convinced that this teen-romance take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers will achieve the popularity of Twilight.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 125 mins.
Tyler Perry’s Temptation
Ambitious executive Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell: True Blood) is happy in her career but bored with her marriage. When a sexy billionaire client romances her, she makes decisions that will shake the foundation of her marriage and possibly ruin her life.
Tyler Perry has a bad habit of preaching to women about how they should act. Women should support and appreciate their man. Women should trust in God and do what the Bible tells them.
There is never any grey area for his characters. They’re either sinners or redeemers; maternal teachers or smart-mouthed witches who need a lesson. Occasionally part of this lesson is physical violence.
The formula has worked for Perry, who is one of the most successful directors and writers working today. I’m uncomfortable with his preaching and condescension. Then again, I’m a woman and need to be taught a lesson.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 112 mins.
Opening March 22, 2013
Tough and fair, Princeton admission officer Portia (Tina Fey: 30 Rock) has never caved to bribes, begging or threats. Now up for a big promotion, she’s thrown a curveball. The dean of an alternative high school (Paul Rudd) asks Portia to look at a student. The boy is not standout Princeton material, but he might just be the child she gave up for adoption 18 years ago.
Admission is a fairly standard romantic comedy that compensates for predictability with a decent cast. Together, Rudd and Fey might transcend the clichés of the genre, but odds are this is a film worth saving for cable.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 117 mins.
Grug Crood (voiced by Nicholas Cage: Stolen) knows the dangers of the outside world. He protects his cavemen clan by keeping them at home while he ventures out to find sustenance. But Grug’s rebellious daughter Eep wants freedom.
When a freak accident destroys the family’s cave, Eep gets her wish: Looking for a new home, they discover that while life can be dangerous, the world outside the cave is beautiful.
Cage hasn’t been a mark of quality for a while. But rising talents like Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds could infuse The Croods with energy and excitement. Animators have also gone out of their way to create a colorful if not entirely accurate portrait of prehistoric life. The Croods looks like a great option for younger moviegoers, but the humor and slapstick will likely fall flat on older audiences.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 98 mins.
Olympus Has Fallen
If one season of 24 could be reduced to a two-hour film, this is what you’d get.
Bad choices by Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler: Movie 43) led to the death of the first lady.
Luckily for him, terrorists take over the White House and hold the president hostage. Mike is the president’s only chance — which must make them both a bit anxious.
Olympus Down plays like it was dreamt up over a three-martini lunch. Producers imagined that Die Hard in the White House would draw in big box office numbers with its mix of dumb action and sensationalism. What makes this film unique, therefore, is not the script or the direction but the cast of legitimate actors.
If you’d like to know how Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo — as well as nominees Angela Basset and Aaron Eckhart — make their mortgage payments, this film is the answer.
Prospects: Dim • R • 100 mins.
Four girlfriends are tired of their boring, goody-two-shoes lives. They cast caution — and most of their clothes — to the wind and embark on a wild drug- and booze-filled spring break. Along the way, they flee the cops, tangle with a sleazy rapper and discover the joys of partying until they’re blackout drunk.
Spring Breakers is comedy for boys. Please don’t take impressionable girls to this Disney Girls Gone Wild production. They might love Selena Gomez, but I doubt you’ll want them repeating her behavior.
Prospects: Dim • R • 94 mins.
Opening March 15, 2013
Traumatized by a call from a murder victim she was unable to help, emergency operator Jordan (Halle Berry: Movie 43) vows to do better the next time.
She gets her chance with Casey (Abigail Breslin: Perfect Partners). Jordan realizes the monster behind the 911 call is the same killer from that earlier victim.
Now, as they say, it’s personal. As this is a thriller and not a horror movie, odds are Jordan will kick butt and take names in her quest to stop the psycho and save the girl.
The premise looks a bit silly, but I’m always in favor of thrillers featuring female leads who can solve their own problems. Can Berry’s Jordan join Ripley and Sarah Connor in the pantheon? If Berry stays out of the Catwoman costume, she has a fighting chance.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 95 mins.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Old-school illusionists Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell: Hope Springs) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi: 30 Rock) once packed Las Vegas theaters. Lately, they’re playing to empty rooms, upstaged by daring stunt magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey: 30 Rock).
To save their stage show and show up Gray, Wonderstone and Marvelton must update their acts and win a magic competition. Along the way, Wonderstone is supposed to rediscover his passion for the art of illusion.
A slapstick comedy of magic and marvels, the only surprising aspect of this movie is that Will Ferrell didn’t grab a starring role. But the combination of Carell, a proven comic, and Carrey, who needs a hit, could be a winning formula.
Still, silly gags and goofy costumes don’t make a magical movie. The trick will be pulling fantastic performances out of this hat.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 100 mins.
Quiet India (Mia Wasikowska: Lawless) further withdraws when her father dies. Left with her cruel mother (Nicole Kidman: The Paperboy), India is surprised by the appearance of her long-lost uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode: The Poison Tree).
But dear uncle Charlie proves more sinister than sincere. Can India find out her uncle’s secret without ending up dead, like her father?
Seemingly a riff on this reviewer’s favorite Hitchcock film, the brilliant Shadow of a Doubt, Stoker could be an excellent tribute. Or not. Chan-wook Park (Thirst) is an expert at setting a mood and teasing out the quirks of character, so his English debut may follow in Hitchcock’s footsteps.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 98 mins.
Opening March 8, 2013
Dead Man Down
Victor (Colin Farrell: Seven Psychopaths) is a man bent on death and destruction. The target of his ire is gangster Alphonse (Terrence Howard: Movie 43), who massacred Victor’s family. When a mysterious woman joins Victor’s scheme for vengeance, the duo tears apart Alphonse’s crime syndicate, body by body.
A fairly standard-looking crime thriller, Dead Man Down depends entirely on Farrell’s ability to do a convincing Charles Bronson impression. Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, should be a welcome addition to the cast, as she’s proven time and again that she can kick butt and take names.
Still, this film seems more late-night cable fare than Hollywood blockbuster. It might be better to wait a few months for it’s inevitable arrival on Cinemax.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 110 mins.
Directly after the surrender of the Japanese forces to end World War II, General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones: Lincoln) is put in charge of the enemy nation. He must decide whether emperor Hirohito should be tried and hanged as a war criminal or given a reprieve.
MacArthur turns to Japanese expert General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox: Alex Cross) to navigate this delicate situation.
An interesting look at a tough time in U.S. and Japanese history, Emperor could be a stirring drama about the heavy responsibilities of powerful men. The romantic story woven into the plot seems unnecessary, but it might offer relief for those who don’t enjoy political and historic drama.
Fox has yet to prove he can carry a film, but perhaps putting him back on an island will remind this Lost alum that he can emote. Jones should be an excellent — and likely scene-stealing — MacArthur. History lovers should line up to see this film, though WWII laymen might find it a little too scholarly.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 98 mins.
Oz the Great and Powerful
Circus magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco: General Hospital) is sick of hustling Kansas rubes and longs for a life of wonder and luxury. He gets his wish when a twister takes him over the rainbow to the land of Oz.
Diggs realizes he’s landed in the middle of a power struggle among three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams). He must use illusion and a bit of magic of his own to help the people of Oz. Can he become the wizard they’ve been waiting for?
If you ever watched the epic story of Dorothy and wondered about the man behind the curtain, Oz the Great and Powerful is the film for you. Directed by comic-horror master Sam Rami (Drag Me to Hell), the effects and action should be exciting. Still, I’m not sure this candy-colored tale can live up to its 1930s’ techno-color inspiration.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 130 mins.
Opening March 1, 2013
Jack the Giant Slayer
After years of bitter fighting, giants and humans reached a peace accord. The treaty is shattered, however, when farmhand Jack (Nicholas Hoult: Warm Bodies) unwittingly opens a gateway between their dimensions with a magical beanstalk.
Now, giants are stomping through the countryside, and Jack must find a way to fix his mistake.
An interesting take on a classic fairytale, Jack the Giant Slayer looks like a fun film for smaller moviegoers and a bit mind-numbing for older ones. Big special effects and hokey writing don’t offer much hope for a nuanced story. Do giants really need to yell Bring the Thunder when they attack? Isn’t their size intimidating enough without catchphrases?
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 114 mins.
The Last Exorcism Part II
Nell (Ashley Bell: Chasing Shakespeare) finally rid her body of an evil spirit and fled her rural surroundings to start a new life. Now it seems that her devilish imaginary friend has found her in the big city, forcing her to once more fight to keep her body and mind free from evil.
It doesn’t say much about the power of the first exorcism if a part two is needed. It also doesn’t say much about the competence of the studio to have approved a project with such a weak premise and lazy title.
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 88 mins.
Soviet sub captain Demi (Ed Harris: Sweetwater) is called back to duty to escort a group of shady men on a secret mission. It isn’t long before Demi realizes that these men and his government are bent on igniting World War III.
I’m not convinced this story is anything more than an over-long Twilight Zone episode, but perhaps it’s a really good Twilight Zone episode. Phantom’s cast certainly has pedigree, boasting Harris, William Fitchner and Lance Henriksen.
If you long for the days of Red Dawn, Rocky IV or The Hunt for Red October, this Soviet-steeped drama may be just the ticket this weekend.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 97 mins.
21 and Over
Jeff Chang is an overachiever who walks the straight and narrow. On the eve of his 21st birthday, his two best friends invite him out for the traditional drinking binge. Jeff demurs, citing an important medical school interview the next day.
But peer pressure and idiocy win the day, and Jeff agrees to go out for one beer.
As with all these movies, one beer turns into two and before you know it, Jeff and company are running from cops, crashing cars and causing general mayhem wherever their drunken staggering takes them. Think of it as The Hangover, college years.
If you enjoy boobs, drunken humor and whacky destruction, 21 and Over might be a great way to spend an hour and a half. But the only way most moviegoers will make it through this film is with a flask. Chug! Chug! Chug!
Prospects: Dim • R • 93 mins.
Opening February 22, 2013
The Barret family is enjoying a typical suburban life when things turn odd. They lose hours in their day, objects are moved around the house and strange markings appear on their bodies.
They’ve been marked for abduction by aliens.
Dark Skies looks like it might be creepy, but the problem with these tales is that audiences are usually familiar with the genre. So instead of experiencing suspense, you anticipate the events. Let’s hope the movie finds a creative way to expel those pesky aliens from the Barrets’ lives.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 95 mins.
You’ll experience the journeys of several species struggling to thrive in their natural habitat in One Life, which focuses on the cyclical nature of life for all animals on Earth.
The documentary, narrated by James Bond himself Daniel Craig, takes you touring exotic locales and teaches you about the lives of different animals.
The film should be low on gore and sadness, so you shouldn’t worry about bringing the little ones to the screening to learn about nature.
Prospects: Bright • PG • 85 mins.