Movie Previews by Diana Beechener
New the Week of December 6, 2013
Out of the Furnace
Russell (Christian Bale: The Dark Knight Rises) is not living the American Dream. He works long hours for small pay at a steel mill and takes care of his ill father. When little brother Rodney (Casey Affleck: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) comes home from Iraq, Russell’s hopeful for a better life.
It doesn’t happen. When Rodney disappears, the only clues to his whereabouts lead Russell to a crime ring. The police do nothing, so Russell heads into the woods after the criminals and, he hopes, his brother.
With a cast that boasts great actors like Bale, Affleck, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe and Woody Harrelson, Out of the Furnace promises good drama.
Prospects: Bright • R • 116 mins.
New the Week of November 28, 2013
Baltimore teen Langston (Jacob Latimore) is sent to New York by his mother (Jennifer Hudson) to spend Christmas with relatives. Langston bristles in the home of the Rev. Cobbs (Forest Whitaker), who is a harsh disciplinarian. Mrs. Cobbs (Angela Bassett) is more welcoming, but Langston flees.
Traveling from New York to Baltimore, he needs a little divine help in discovering the truth about his family.
A musical adaptation of Langston Hughes’ play, The Black Nativity features a magnificent cast and a compelling story. With a soaring soundtrack to set the scene, the film could be an instant holiday classic.
Prospects: Bright • PG • 93 mins.
The kingdom of Arendelle has been locked in perpetual winter thanks to the frosty enchantment of Elsa (Idina Menzel). With powers growing fearfully beyond her control, she withdraws from the world.
Arendelle’s hope for a warm front is sister Anna (Kristen Bell), who seeks to find Elsa and end her icy reign. Joined by mountaineer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a snowman and a reindeer, Anna journeys across the treacherous winter landscape.
The latest animated offering from Disney may entertain the kiddies but it’s likely to leave parents feeling cold.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 108 mins.
Phil Booker (Jason Statham) left the DEA to give his family a normal life. But even in a quiet little town, he runs afoul of the local drug lord (James Franco) who specializes in making meth and killing people.
A B-Movie with bad accents, ludicrous storylines and silly acting, Homefront has all the marks of cinema best enjoyed with alcoholic beverages and heckling friends. As both are disapproved in our area, skip this one.
Prospects: Southern-fried Silly • R • 100 mins.
In 1950’s Ireland, Philomena (Judi Dench) is unmarried and pregnant, a huge sin in her conservative Catholic town. Her son is taken from her by the church to be adopted by an American family. Forced to sign a contract saying she will never seek her boy, Philomena must live with guilt.
Though she marries and has a family, Philomena wonders about the boy she never knew. Then she meets BBC investigative journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), and the pair take on decades of government and church red tape to reunite lost mother and son.
Based on Sixsmith’s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, this film is a true story. Dench is getting raves for her performance as the fierce and funny Philomena and Coogan as her stuffy foil. The film fought the MPAA to win a PG-13 rating, despite its language.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 98 mins.
New the Week of November 22, 2013
David (Vince Vaughn: The Internship) is a schlub. Working for his dad in a menial job, directionless and not appreciating his girlfriend, he would be in a midlife crisis if his life had started. Given the ultimatum to grow up, David looks for something to give his life meaning.
Meaning finds David when he learns that, due to a fertility clinic mix up, he’s fathered 533 children. Given that he donated to the clinic over 20 years ago, he’s understandably upset to discover this alarming growth of his family tree. When 142 of his kids file a lawsuit in hopes of learning the identity of their father, he must decide whether to come forward.
Can David be a father to hundreds of children? Will he ever grow up?
A remake of a French Canadian comedy, Delivery Man looks to have heart. David’s struggles make him relatable. As for the scores of children, don’t you want to know how that works out?
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 103 mins.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence: Silver Linings Playbook) has become a symbol of rebellion. President Snow (Donald Sutherland: Crossing Lines) blames his slipping power on Everdeen.
To destroy her challenge without causing a rebellion, Snow orchestrates the 75th Hunger Games as a Quarter Quell, pitting past winners against each other for supremacy.
Faced with a group of even more dangerous killers, Katniss and her faithful partner Peeta once again battle for their lives. Their fight also fuels the talk of rebellion, which is breaking out all over the dystopian nation of Panem.
The second in the wildly successful Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire features a tight plot and memorable characters.
There’s no doubt this film will be a success. Buy your tickets and prepare for legions of screaming teens.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 146 mins.
New the Week of November 15, 2013
The Best Man Holiday
Fifteen years after a near-disastrous wedding, college friends decide to meet for a Christmas celebration. Their joyous reconnection goes fraught with tension over old rivalries, romances and betrayals.
The sequel to the popular Best Man, The Best Man Holiday is a light holiday break from shopping. The script is filled with romantic comedy clichés, and the story becomes silly.
Still, it’s rare to find a mass-market romantic comedy featuring a black ensemble cast that doesn’t include Madea. This film might outdo the white-washed fare typical this time of year. With Nia Long, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut and Taye Diggs it’s sure to charm even with a weak script.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 122 mins.
The Dallas Buyer’s Club
Bull rider Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey: Mud) is all about sex, drugs and danger. His lifestyle catches up to him when he’s diagnosed with HIV. A committed racist and homophobe, Ron takes some time to adjust suffering from a “gay disease.”
As his health declines and hospital visits become more frequent, he reconsiders both the disease and the people he used to shun. Outraged that the government is restricting he use of drugs available across the border in Mexico, Ron vows to die fighting. He organizes a network of AIDS patients, all desperate for effective medicine, and crosses the border to procure AZT, a drug that might save Dallas’ growing population of infected people.
McConaughey is making great strides to convince the world he’s a credible actor. This is the latest in a line of films that shows the fit Texan is more than a chiseled jaw and six-pack abs. Films like this tend to preach, but it’s impressive to see McConaughey’s transformation from a Hollywood joke into a respected actor.
Prospects: Bright • R • 117 mins.
New the Week of November 8, 2013
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulo: I Used to Be Darker) is a girl of 15 who is hoping to find a true love. She dates a few boys, but she first finds romance in a blue-haired girl named Emma (Léa Seydoux: Grand Central).
Exploring her burgeoning sexuality, Adele dives into a relationship with Emma. Like most young love, theirs is intense, passionate and hard to maintain.
A darling of the Cannes Film Festival, Blue Is the Warmest Color is a beautifully shot and written love story. It isn’t, however, a story without controversy. The sex scenes are so provocative that the film earned an NC-17 rating. The real controversy is that the lead actresses say that director Abdellatif Kechiche (Black Venus) exploited them and their bodies for the film. Only you can decide whether great art excuses such transgressions.
Prospects: Bright • NC-17 • 179 mins.
Thor: The Dark World
It’s been two years since Thor (Chris Hemsworth: Rush) last saw his love Jane (Natalie Portman: Thor). He’s been desperate to return to Earth and continue their romance, but his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins: Red 2) refuses to let him leave Asgard.
When Jane goes missing, Thor is driven to action. He returns to Earth, locates Jane and whisks her off to Asgard.
While the lovers reconnect, an old threat looms over Asgard. The Dark Elves have found their leader and power and return to threaten both Earth and Asgard. Survival may come from an unlikely source: Thor’s duplicitous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston: Deep Blue Sea). Can they save the worlds? Can they trust Loki? Can Marvel generate any interest for its least popular hero?
The sequel to Thor has a cleverly built-in audience. Like all Marvel movies, they interconnect, so if you haven’t seen all the Iron Man, Captain America and Thor movies, you won’t understand The Avengers films. The problem with this system is that it puts no pressure on Marvel and the studios to make these films good. So even if Thor: The Dark World is a mess of storylines that needed massive reshoots from a different director, it’s likely that you’ll end up seeing it anyway. The bright spot in The Dark World: Hiddelston’s Loki has found more popularity than the hero of the movies, and he’s devilish fun to watch whenever he’s on screen.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 112 mins.
New the Week of November 1, 2013
All Is Lost
An unnamed man (Robert Redford: The Company You Keep) is enjoying the solitude of the open water on a solo voyage across the Indian Ocean. His pleasure cruise turns into a nightmare when he wakes to water in his cabin. After bashing into a floating shipping container, his small yacht is taking on water that’s damaging his radio equipment.
Unable to navigate without computers or to call for help, he must abandon his ship and hope that his knowledge of currents will get him and a raft into a shipping lane, where he can be rescued.
A film about our will to survive in spite of overwhelming circumstances, All Is Lost is a movie about one man versus the sea. Director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) takes a big risk by making this film a one-man-show. Like Gravity, it derives most of its tension from the idea of a person alone against overwhelming elements. It has already become a darling of the festival circuit.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 106 mins.
Seventy years after a race of aliens took over the Earth, humanity is having a hard time. Edging to annihilation, the human military force recruits children to lead battles. Perhaps kids have a different thought process up to outsmarting the technologically superior threat.
The savior of the human race might be Ender (Asa Butterfield: Hugo), a brilliant boy who scores high on aptitude tests and is taken from his family to an orbiting military school to begin training.
Vying to be the next Hunger Games, Ender’s Game is sci-fi for adolescents, adapted from a popular series of books.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 114 mins.
Two Tom turkeys (voiced by Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson) team up to change history and remove turkeys from the first Thanksgiving menu by traveling back in time.
An animated film with a fun voice cast that includes Amy Poehler and George Takei, Free Birds is an easy choice for families, although adults might wish they could baste these turkeys after an onslaught of birdbrained jokes.
When children realize that one of these turkey pals is trussed up next to the mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving could turn tearful.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 91 mins.
When 60-something Billy (Michael Douglas) finally decides to tie the knot, he plans a wild weekend in Vegas, assembling the gang for two days of debauchery.
But Vegas and his friends have changed. Instead of the Sinatra-style ’60s strip, there’s a new generation, loud music and odd entertainment. On top of that, Billy’s buddy Paddy (Robert De Niro) is still nursing a decades-old grudge. Can they heal old wounds? Can they acclimate to a new Vegas? Can they stay up past 10pm?
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 105 mins.
New the Week of October 25, 2013
A squeaky-clean lawyer (Michael Fassbender: 12 Years a Slave) seeking a fast buck agrees to aid drug trafficking. The supposed one-time deal turns into a tangled web of illegal activities. The counselor’s dilemma: how to get out without blood on his hands or handcuffs on his wrists.
Based on a script written by legendary novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), The Counselor is sure to be bleak, bloody and packed with seedy characters. Director Ridley Scott (Prometheus) is wonderful at lifting up rocks to show the slithering underbelly of the crime world. He works best exploring a cast of deeply flawed characters, so he should excel with a McCarthy story.
The Counselor can also rely on its all-star cast. With Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt and Dean Norris, the film should be a master class in acting.
Prospects: Bright • R • 117 mins.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville: Jackass) celebrates his 86th year on earth in a trek across America with his eight-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll). Along the way, the duo causes enough property damage and enrages enough people to make Borat look dull.
Playing hidden-camera pranks on mostly unsuspecting Americans has been a tradition of the Jackass franchise, and Knoxville and his crew of troglodytes thrive on making Americans clutch their pearls in shock. Most pranks are physical, crude and humorless.They seem to be up to their old tricks in Bad Grandpa, with young Billy performing a semi-striptease at a child beauty pageant; Irving smashing motorcycles at a biker bar; and the pair ruining a funeral.
Prospects: Dim • R • 93 mins.
12 Years a Slave
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor: Dancing on the Edge) is a free, well-educated and well-traveled black man living with his family in pre-Civil War New York. Until he is kidnapped, sold into slavery and must learn to survive.
In a new world of pain and suffering, he finds kindness and kinship among fellow slaves. Yet despair threatens.
Inspired by the true story of Solomon Northup’s struggle to regain his freedom, 12 Years a Slave is already winning rave reviews on the festival circuits and earning Oscar buzz.
Long overlooked for excellent work, Ejiofor could become a household name with this breakout role. Director Steve McQueen (Shame) — who is known for his character studies — supports Ejiofor with a cast featuring Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt.
Prospects: Bright • R • 133 mins.
New the Week of October 18, 2013
New the Week of October 11, 2013
In 2009 the Alabama, a U.S. container ship in international waters, was hijacked by Somali pirates. To save his crew from harm, captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) allows himself to be taken hostage by Muse (Barkhad Abdi), the leader of the outlaws.
In a standoff, with each other and the Navy SEALS, the two men examine how they got themselves into this situation. They form a tentative understanding as the American learns what motivates the Somali pirates.
As the movie is based on a real incident, a quick Google search will give you spoilers on what happened to both Phillips and Muse.
Hanks has won two Academy Awards, but in recent years his non-Toy Story work has been questionable. Here, his New England accent sounds overdone. Will this Hollywood superstar recover his on-screen magic?
Directed by shaky-cam aficionado Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips is sure to be a taut action-thriller filmed with wildly jarring hand-held shots. If you can stomach Greengrass’ unsteady action aesthetic, the story should be a compelling examination of how desperation drives people to crime.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 134 mins.
A crazy arms dealer (Mel Gibson) plans to launch a missile into America, spreading war and anarchy. The desperate president (Charlie Sheen) calls in the only man that can stop the disaster: Machete (Danny Trejo). Machete must murder his way through a bevy of beautiful assassins, crazed killers and Mexicans.
A sequel to an unnecessary movie, Machete Kills promises a non-stop cacophony of breasts, bullets and explosions. The cast is an interesting mix of pop-culture personalities, crazy people and legitimate actors. You’ll find Michelle Rodriguez, Demian Bichir, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Tom Savini, Cuba Gooding Jr., Sheen and Gibson under the same marquee.
The problem is Machete, who turns out to be a dull blade. Trejo is an intimidating presence on screen, but he doesn’t carry the movie. His delivery is wooden, his fight scenes are slow and creaky and the idea that nubile, barely clad women are cat-fighting for him is ridiculous.
Still, director Robert Rodriguez is experienced at crafting male power fantasies. If you’re interested in sexy babes who fire gun bras, you’ll find no better movie this year.
Prospects: Dim • R • 107 mins.
Romeo & Juliet
In a time before sexting, dramatic Facebook posts and Taylor Swift albums, teenagers resorted to suicide pacts to deal with oppressive parents and surging hormones. Such is the case for Romeo (Douglas Booth) and Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld), two teens who meet at a party, fall instantly in love and decide they must be together forever. But a feud between their families makes their union impossible.
Screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) and director Carlos Carlei (The Flight of the Innocent) take the traditional tack with this Shakespeare play. That’s just as well as I’m loathe to see Romeo texting, “wt lite thru yonder window br8ks?”
Oscar-nominee Steinfeld is a strong Juliet. Booth has less prestige but offers passion as the other half of the star-crossed lovers in the ultimate tale of teen love gone wrong. Still, adaptations of Shakespeare can be tricky, as modern actors find iambic pentameter difficult.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 118 mins.
New the Week of October 4, 2013
Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock: The Heat) joins an elite team of astronauts for her first shuttle mission. She and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney: The Descendants) are on a space-walk when an explosion sends them hurtling through space.
No gravity, no way of stopping, no shuttle and no hope of immediate help, Kowalski and Stone are held together by a tenuous radio connection. Will they find a way to save themselves? Or are they doomed to float ever further into the abyss of space?
A terrifying premise that plays on our worst fears of death and isolation, Gravity has been earning rave reviews around the world. Director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) has a knack for building tension, so expect Gravity to be gut-wrenching. As with many movies that feature minimal casts who spend long periods alone (127 Hours, Castaway), the film’s success will hinge on the performances of the leads. Cuaron has cast a pair of Oscar winners to act out this nightmare.
This film looks like a contender in awards season, so check it out if you want to stay up-to-date. For a literary version of similar themes, check out Ray Bradbury’s short story Kaleidoscope.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 91 mins.
President John Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, threw Dallas into turmoil as secret service agents attempted to make sense of the unimaginable and doctors struggled to save the life of the most powerful man in the world.
Parkland is the story of how a few ordinary people were drawn into that day. The film follows the staff at the Parkland Hospital, the secret service, the family of Lee Harvey Oswald and Abraham Zapruder.
With an all-star cast that includes Marcia Gay-Harden, Paul Giamatti and Billy Bob Thorton, Parkland could be fascinating. The addition of Zac Efron as a doctor tasked with saving JFK worries me that some of the actors are not up to the material.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 93 mins.
Grad student Richie (Justin Timberlake) has a gift for numbers that allows him to earn his tuition via offshore online gambling. When he’s cleaned out, the whiz kid believes he’s been robbed by a technical glitch.
Richie takes his suspicions to the source: Online gambling entrepreneur Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Instead of demanding a refund, Richie concludes that the big money of Ivan’s criminal lifestyle sounds pretty good. Soon, he’s Ivan’s right-hand man, enjoying the women and toys that come with having all the money in the world.
Somehow, Richie is shocked to discover that Ivan isn’t a nice guy. Thus he must find a way to avoid the long arm of the law and the longer arm of Ivan while trying to keep his ill-gotten gains.
For a movie that seems like a summer thriller left on the shelf too long, Runner Runner has one positive: Affleck’s delightfully unhinged performance. There’s something enjoyable about a ham, especially one adding levity to an otherwise dull movie.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 91 mins.
New the Week of September 27, 2013
Gorgeous flight attendant Montana (Paula Patton: 2 Guns) is miserable. Poor Montana doesn’t have a date to her little sister’s wedding. She uses her job to meet as many eligible bachelors as she can, hoping to find Mr. Right and earn her MRS degree before the big day.
It’s truly depressing that in 2013, Hollywood still thinks a woman is incomplete without a man. Send a message: Boycott this movie.
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 96 mins.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Inventor Flint (Bill Hader: The To Do List) made a machine that turned weather systems into delicious food. It was fun until meatball storms and ice cream snow forced the residents of Flint’s tiny island home to flee.
When Flint and a cleanup crew return, they find that sentient food has taken over. Can they combat tacodiles and shrimpanzees?
Though the humor skews young, the graphics and voice acting should be entertaining for even the most sophisticated viewers. Who doesn’t like a good food pun?
Prospects: Bright • PG • 95 mins.
Jersey boy Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Lincoln) is happy with his simple life. He works out, he hangs out with his pals, he hooks up with girls on Saturday night and he goes to church with his family on Sunday morning. In his spare time, he cultivates an impressive pornography obsession.
His life changes when he meets a beautiful girl (Scarlett Johansson) who demands that he give up the porn and commit to her.
Gordon-Levitt — who writes and directs as well as acts — seems to be revising last year’s Shame, a searing sex-addiction film, by adding a little humor and a lot more Jersey accents. Can he walk the line between silly and serious in his character study? He’s certainly stacked the deck in his favor, casting impressive performers like Johansson, Glenne Headly, Tony Danza and Julianne Moore.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 90 mins.
Masseuse Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Veep) is content with her single status but isn’t looking forward to sending her daughter off to college. Fighting empty nest loneliness with an improved social life, she meets Albert (James Gandolfini: Zero Dark Thirty) another soon-to-be empty nester.
There’s one fly in the ointment. Albert complains incessantly about her ex-husband. Is the relationship worth the flow of negativity?
Gandolfini's last screen performance, Enough Said looks at the price of relationships. Louis-Dreyfus is a skilled comedian whose natural timing and inherent charm will carry her well. Gandolfini gets the rare opportunity to play against type as a funny man not involved in the waste management business. Eva isn’t desperate, and it’s refreshing to see a romantic comedy star over the age of 30.
A charming comedy could be a great way to say goodbye to a fantastic actor.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 93 mins.
Formula 1 racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth: Thor) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl: Seven Days in Havana) are polar opposites. James believes in sex, alcohol and reckless driving. Niki worships practice, science and precision. The two rivals electrify the racing circuit until a horrific accident sidelines Niki.
Faced with his own mortality, James considers whether to change his reckless ways or continue pursuing racing greatness. Niki faces his own challenges, trying to get back to racing while dealing with debilitating injuries.
The story of a real life competition that excited the racing circuit in the 1970s, Rush is about the power of rivalry. It’s also a story that speaks more to men than women, as you’ll see ladies are merely sexual conquests in this macho flick.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 123 mins.
New the Week of September 20, 2013
Battle of the Year
For 15 years, the Americans have lost the competition for Best Dance Battlers. Tired of disgrace on native turf, a hip-hop mogul strives to reclaim the title, hiring former championship basketball coach Blake (Josh Holloway: Lost). Blake has three months to assemble a Dream Team.
Movies about dance crews shimmying their way to supremacy are popular. Who needs a plot or well-rounded characters when you’ve got rhythm?
Prospects: Rhythmic • PG-13 • 109 mins.
The Dover and the Birch families share the Thanksgiving celebration. While the adults prepare dinner, both six-year-old daughters go outside on an adventure. When the girls haven’t returned by turkey time, a desperate search begins.
Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal: End of Watch) soon finds a likely suspect: Alex Jones (Paul Dano: Looper) a creepy young man driving a beat-up RV in the neighborhood on Thanksgiving. But there’s no proof, so he’s released.
The horrified families conclude that interrogating Alex themselves might be their last chance.
A tense drama with a plot that is the stuff of nightmares with questions of morality, justice and family duties to add depth, Prisoners looks promising. It also features a knockout cast including Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis and Maria Bello. On the downside, the subject matter is grim and the running time nearly three hours.
Prospects: Bright • R • 153 mins.
J. D. Salinger wrote one of literature’s most beloved books before disappearing from the public eye. A notorious hermit, he kept writing but never sought to publish another book.
This documentary looks into the psyche of one of America’s most enigmatic authors, exploring Salinger’s time in World War II and experiences that could have inspired Catcher in the Rye.
If you spent high school cursing Holden Caufield, this might make you re-open the book and give it another try.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 120 mins.
Thanks for Sharing
When Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltro) meets Adam (Mark Ruffalo), she thinks she’s hit the jackpot. Adam is funny, successful and available; he’s also a recovering sex addict. Phoebe pursuing the relationship, soon meets Adam’s support group: reformed family man Mike (Tim Robbins), new-to-recovery Neil (Josh Gad) and compulsive Dede (Alicia Moore).
Soon, Phoebe is battling her own compulsions, trying to deal with her fear of Adam’s relapsing without following him 24/7. Can a relationship survive when one partner is a sexual compulsive?
Though the film seems to take a light tone, it deals with a serious subject. Can it strike the right balance between funny and dramatic? With an excellent cast and a script from Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are Alright), Thanks for Sharing could win over audiences and critics alike.
Prospects: Bright • R • 112 mins.
Opening September 13, 2013
After mob boss Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) snitches on his fellow gangsters, he and his family join the Witness Protection Program. In Normandy, the Manzoni family has some trouble fitting in with the French neighbors.
The Manzonis’ reversion to old behaviors attracts attention. Now the mob has flooded the sleepy French village with trained killers.
Director Luc Besson does know his way around an action sequence, but his recent films are action heavy and plot poor.
The Family looks like a paycheck movie, albeit one that sinks De Niro’s acting legacy into cement shoes.
Prospects: Grim • R • 112 mins.
The Lambert family thought they had escaped the supernatural forces set on destroying them and stealing their son. Yet in a new house with a new baby, familiar and disturbing phenomena are still with them.
Considering how Insidious ended, I’m curious to see how the Lamberts got to a bright new beginning. Two seems like an unnecessary sequel to a good single-shot horror film. Still, director James Wan has proven to be a deft hand at suspense, and perhaps he can make this sequel chilling.
If want to spend your weekend checking closets and peering under the bed, you could do worse than Insidious 2. Rather than pay the box office prices, however, I recommend you rent Wan’s other work, The Conjuring.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 105 mins.
The Ultimate Life
Jason Stevens is having a tough time with his money. As the head of his late grandfather’s charitable foundation, Jason is being sued by his extended family, who want dear old grandpa’s money for themselves.
Jason turns to his grandfather for help. It seems grandpa left a diary of his life just after the Great Depression. Jason is so engrossed in the story that he’s actually transported back in time to 1941. Now, as he bears witness to his grandfather’s amazing rags-to-riches story, he finds the inspiration to do the right thing.
A sequel to 2007’s The Ultimate Gift, The Ultimate Life is another well-intentioned drama meant to offer us moral choices and inspiration. While seeing Peter Fonda on screen is a treat, The Ultimate Gift plays regularly on the Hallmark Channel. Perhaps its sequel is also best left to basic cable television, since box office tickets are so expensive these days.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 105 mins.
Opening September 6, 2013
Instructions Not Included
Playboy Valentin (Eugenio Derbez: La familia P. Luche) is enjoying the single life in Acapulco. His conquests are put on hold, however, when someone leaves baby Maggie at his door with a note explaining it is his.
Now Valentin must journey to Los Angeles, looking for the mother and a way to get back to his former carefree life. Six years later, Valentin still hasn’t found the mom but has enjoyed raising Maggie. So it comes as a surprise to him when Maggie’s mother shows up demanding the child back.
This Mexican comedy looks like a typical genre piece, but it can be fun to watch a new parent fumble while learning the ropes. The jokes will probably be rote, but this type of movie usually relies on the performances of its leads to elevate the material.
Whether Derbez can deliver a stellar performance is yet to be seen, but this could be a welcome relief from summer’s abundance of dumb action movies.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 100 mins.
Escaped murderer Riddick (Vin Diesel: Fast and Furious) is still being tracked by bounty hunters eager to earn the price on his head. Abandoned to die on a desert planet, Riddick discovers that this place isn’t lifeless when the sun goes down. He’s battling alien predators for survival, and his only way off the planet is to activate his emergency beacon — which will bring every bounty hunter in the galaxy straight to him.
After the disastrous Chronicles of Riddick, producers waited nine years to attempt another sequel. Dark, moody and brutal, the Riddick franchise would make for great genre filmmaking, if only they cast a compelling lead. Diesel’s monotonous delivery is equivalent to Ambien for moviegoers.
If you absolutely must see this movie, I suggest buying a cup of coffee at the concession stand to help you stay awake through Diesel’s lurching, mumbling performance.
Prospects: Dim • R • 119 mins.
Opening August 30, 2013
Lawyers and ex-lovers Martin (Eric Bana: Deadfall) and Claudia (Rebecca Hall: Iron Man 3) are brought back together for the case of their lives. They must defend the only suspect from a bombing in London.
Pressured to botch the case in the name of justice, Martin and Claudia suspect there is something more to the bombing. Once they begin to dig, they uncover a conspiracy that will endanger their lives.
A paranoia thriller that examines the perils of always being on camera in big cities, Closed Circuit features a well-worn plot and an excellent cast. Global government conspiracies tend to seem implausible when examined closely. But with Bana, Hall, Jim Broadbent and Ciaran Hinds playing pivotal roles, this hackneyed genre could get new life.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 96 mins.
Ex-race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke: Before Midnight) is having a bad day. His wife is kidnapped by a madman who demands Brent complete a series of tasks to gain her return.
Stealing a Shelby Mustang to complete his tasks, Brent must evade the law and race through increasing dangers. His only help in his mission is The Kid (Selena Gomez: Aftershock), a mysterious hacker who tags along for the ride.
Can Brent get his wife back? Will he find out the story behind his pint-sized passenger? Does anyone care about this movie?
An action movie whose stars look bored, Getaway stalls before opening. Hawke, who has made a living staring in B-horror movies, seems particularly embarrassed with his racecar driver role. For Gomez, this is obviously an opportunity to branch out from her squeaky-clean Disney image. But she doesn’t look believable as a hacker street kid.
If you’re looking for a race car film to get your adrenaline pumping, go see the latest Fast and Furious. At least those actors are having fun with their plotless flick.
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 90 mins.
One Direction: This Is Us
If you loved Katy Perry’s documentary or felt that Justin Bieber was robbed when his biographical film Never Say Never was overlooked at Oscar season, here’s the movie for you.
Learn about the popular teen band One Direction, which rose to fame in Britain while competing on The X-Factor. Explore the boys’ backgrounds, see rare behind-the-scenes footage, and watch them perform at sold-out concerts.
If you — or more likely your tween — are a big fan of Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis, One Direction: This Is Us will be a great investment. Otherwise steer clear of the theater, lest your eardrums be perforated by the screams of tween girls.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 93 mins.
Opening August 23, 2013
In a World …
Vocal coach Carol (Lake Bell: Children’s Hospital) is living in the shadow of her father, Sam (Fred Melamed: The Dictator), a famous voice-over artist. Told repeatedly that the movies don’t want a “female sound” for their trailers, Carol is determined to make it in the industry.
Written and directed by Bell, In a World is a passion project that tackles the sexism and nepotism of Hollywood through an original lens. Bell has a great supporting cast, featuring Eva Longoria, Geena Davis, Nick Offerman and Rob Corddry.
With witty writing and some great performances, Bell’s passion project should be a treat for cinephiles.
Prospects: Bright • R • 93 mins.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Clary Fray (Lily Collins: Mirror, Mirror) is a New York teen with a seemingly ordinary life. When her mother disappears, Clary learns that she is descended from a long line of Shadowhunters — half-angel warriors who battle demons for control of the human world. With the help of the mysterious but totally hot angel Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower: The Twilight Saga), Clary seeks her mother, fights a great evil and maybe falls in love.
Gosh, I hope she finished her homework.
Now that the studios have exhausted their supply of sparkly vampire movies, they’re looking for the next big thing. The lusty story of a seemingly ordinary teen who catches the eye of an impossibly sexy yet completely respectful angel isn’t a new one. The film is based on a bestselling young-adult novel series, which must be more imaginative than this bland-looking movie.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 130 mins.
The Spectacular Now
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller: Project X) is a high schooler who believes in the now. He’s happy as a popular student, content to work at a men’s clothing store, date his hot girlfriend and binge drink. He’s content to let others worry about the future.
When he’s dumped, Sutter goes on a bender and wakes up on the lawn of Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley: The Descendants). He forms a bond with this idealistic, kind girl, who’s making big plans for her future.
A darling of the independent film circuit, The Spectacular Now is being heralded as one of the most touching and realistic portrayals of a teen relationship ever captured on film. Both Woodley and Teller have earned raves for their unflinchingly
Prospects: Bright • R • 95 mins.
The World’s End
As young men, Gary King (Simon Pegg: Star Trek) and his friends failed to complete an elaborate pub-crawl. Twenty years later, Gary reunites the gang to try again. The plan is to start at the top of the bar row and drink their way to The World’s End.
The guys have respectable jobs and lives, but they feel sorry for their perpetually adolescent friend.
In a haze of suds and brews, the guys are slow to notice something different about townsfolk. An invasion is under way, and the only hope humanity has is a bunch of booze-soaked, middle-aged men. Uh-oh.
Will they make it to The World’s End? Or see the end of the world?
The final movie in Pegg and director Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, The World’s End promises violence, gore and hilarity. Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz before it, it’s a clever send up filled with wonderful character actors embellishing a whip-smart script.
Prospects: Bright • R • 109 mins.
The Davidson Family reunion is interrupted by an unpleasant scene. No, granny didn’t get into the schnapps; the problem is a gang of masked killers.
Luckily, the Davidsons have a secret weapon: One of the girlfriends comes between them and the sharp end of an axe.
It’s a rarity for women in such films to kick butt, so I’m hoping this one can rack up some carnage in the name of feminism and equality.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 96 mins.
Opening August 16, 2013
Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher: Two and a Half Men) was a college dropout with a business dream. With fellow tech-obsessed nerds, he took Apple computers from a garage-based business to a billion-dollar global empire.
Jobs tell the story of one of the greatest tech-minds of our time, but it doesn’t seem interested in the controversial aspects of Jobs’ life.
I’m also not sure that the man who became famous for dating Demi Moore is up to the challenge of portraying Steve Jobs. When your greatest acting credit thus far is Dude, Where’s My Car? it may be a stretch to carry a dramatic lead.
Still, if you have an iPhone, you have to see this film. Seriously, check your contract; I’m pretty sure you’re required to buy a ticket.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 122 mins.
Teen vigilante Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Anna Karenina) has inspired a slew of like-minded crime fighters to take to the streets in masks. These do-gooders aim to violently stop criminal enterprises.
Not content to be beaten into submission by a bunch of Spandex-clad civilians, the criminals decide to make the streets safe for crime once again. Led by a villain so evil his name isn’t fit for print (it starts with Mother), the baddies wage war on masked vigilantes.
Can Kick-Ass save the city? Are armed vigilantes the solution to crime? Why must superheroes wear so much Spandex?
The first Kick-Ass was a fun, foul-mouthed romp that explored themes of violence, revenge and personal identity. Kick-Ass 2 could be more of the same, but its writing seems to have weakened.
If you’re in the market for a blood and guts action movie so violent that Jim Carrey (who stars in the film) renounced it, Kick-Ass 2 is a great choice.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 103 mins.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Southern servant Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker: The Last Stand) gets a job as a White House butler. There, he attends to the most powerful people in the free world: the president and his family. He’s a silent observer to policy decisions that affect the world at large as well as his nation.
Though Cecil’s wife (Oprah) is proud of him, his civil rights activist son is ashamed of his father’s subservient career. Can Cecil teach his son the lessons he’s learned observing the working of politics, or are they destined to never reconcile?
The writing seems hokey — can Cecil truly change everyone’s heart that he meets? — but it is a true story and a chance to look behind the scenes of history.
Whitaker is an Oscar-caliber actor; I’m hoping The Butler gives him opportunity to show off his amazing range. With supporting performances from Vanessa Redgrave, Lenny Kravitz and Jane Fonda, The Butler should be beautifully acted, if overwrought.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 132 mins.
A young tech genius Adam (Liam Hemsworth) needs a break. He’s talented, but he lacks the smooth appeal and Ivy League credentials of his peers.
His big break comes with a price: Tech wizard Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) hires him to be a corporate spy, gleaning secrets from Wyatt’s biggest rival Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford).
Can Adam commit industrial espionage without getting caught? Can he survive between two warring giants?
Imagine you’re seeing a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates battle royale.
Paranoia is a pretty standard-looking thriller with a stellar cast. Watching Ford and Oldman chew scenery and snarl at each other is well worth the price of admission, whether or not you pay attention to Hemsworth and the tech-stealing storyline.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 106 mins.
Opening August 9, 2013
By 2154, the one percent have risen even higher above the 99 percent. The rich luxuriate on Elysium, a space station equipped with the greatest luxuries and technologies, while the rest of humanity slaves away on environmentally bankrupt Earth.
Earth dwellers are desperate to ascend to Elysium so Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), has devised anti-immigration laws to keep the grubby masses out. Earth dweller Max (Matt Damon) challenges the laws and Elysium itself.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Elysium could be one of the more intelligent blockbusters of the summer. His District 9 offered social commentary and great practical effects. With a bigger budget and big-name stars, his biggest challenge will be to stay true to his indie roots.
Prospects: Bright • R • 109 mins.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon and a demi-god — not a full-blooded god but with great powers and strength unknown to humans. When last we saw Percy, he had saved the Olympians from an usurper.
This time around, gods and demi-gods are threatened by the resurrection of the Titans. To stop this massive evil, Percy and his friends must venture into the Sea of Monsters to retrieve the Golden Fleece.
The sequel to a film no one saw, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is what happens when a studio is desperate for a franchise that will bring in money. Nonetheless, it’s a good introduction to Greek mythology and might pique kids’ interests in the classics.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 106 mins.
Crop-duster Dusty aspires to compete in an aerial race. He’s got the speed. He’s got the heart. But he’s afraid of heights.
Can Dusty get over his phobia to break into the world of jet racing?
Think of this film as Cars with more altitude. Like most Pixar films not based on people, Planes will probably be a big disappointment to fans of human stories. There will be a few ethnic stereotypes, lots of laughs and plenty of entertaining aeronautic acrobatics.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 92 mins.
We’re the Millers
To travel to Mexico to smuggle marijuana across the border, pot dealer David needs the perfect cover: an all-American family on an RV vacation. He recruits a stripper to play his devoted wife, a punk kid to play his wholesome daughter and a weird neighbor boy to play his son.
As a stripper, Jennifer Aniston plays against her good girl image. Let’s hope she has found a vehicle to jumpstart her stalling film career.
A crude comedy that looks equal parts hilarious and disgusting, We’re the Millers is selling cheap laughs. If you find spider bites to the groin, drug humor and physical comedy funny, this is the flick for you.
Prospects: Bright • R • 110 mins.
Opening August 2, 2013
DEA agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington: Flight) is tasked with infiltrating a drug cartel. The price of admission is robbing a bank with drug cartel member Stig (Mark Wahlberg: Pain and Gain). When the job goes bad, Bobby gets another shock: Stig is a Naval intelligence officer infiltrating the cartel.
Set up, the two men unwittingly robbed the CIA. Now, they must avoid the angry spy agency and figure out who framed them.
A straight-forward looking shoot-em-up, 2 Guns could be a refreshing spin on buddy-heist movies or another hackneyed paycheck project for Washington and Wahlberg. Big arms and scowling line delivery is pretty much the sum total of Wahlberg’s acting style, so he should be right at home in this shallow-looking caper. Washington’s charisma and seemingly ageless face suit him to action-movie roles. He must view them as stylish vacations from his in-depth performances in films like Flight.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 109 mins.
Opening July 31, 2013
When Gargamel (Hank Azaria: The Simpsons) kidnaps Smurfette (Katy Perry) and whisks her away to Paris, the Smurf population falls into a panic. With good reason too, as Smurfette is the only female in the village and therefore, I assume, their only hope of species propagation.
Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy and Vanity Smurf travel to the City of Lights to reclaim their only female. With help from their human pals, the Smurfs seek Smurfette — whose name, you’ll notice, gives her no personality trait besides gender. The team must defeat Gargamel and overcome the Naughties, a breed of evil Smurfs conjured by the evil wizard.
I could tell you more, but it’s all pretty smurfin’ stupid.
The only acceptable reason to see this tripe is an especially insistent child. I recommend enduring tantrums rather than giving in. The only thing worse than the plot is the obvious embarrassment of the live-action actors, who clearly need a paycheck.
Prospects: Bleak • PG • 105 mins.
Opening July 26, 2013
On New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan: Chronicle) connects with friends and family before going out to watch fireworks. A day of reflection is turned into a night of horror when police officers accost Grant and his friends with deadly consequences.
This is a true story.
Grant’s life, loves and death are specially poignant in the aftermath of the trial of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, another young black man slain under suspect circumstances.
Jordan is already generating Oscar-buzz for his captivating portrayal of Grant.
In the midst of summer movies, Fruitvale Station invites you to exercise your mind. Timely, moving and disturbing, it has bigger ambitions than box office returns.
Prospects: Bright • R • 90 mins.
The To Do List
Nerdy Brandy Clark (Aubrey Plaza: Parks and Recreation) is nervous about going to college. Luckily her big sis is there to assuage her worries, telling Brandy that smarts don’t matter; only sexual prowess counts on campus.
The inexperienced Brandy, a quick study, makes a list of sexual acts and conquests to check off before she heads to campus. Can this one-woman sexual revolution make herself a woman of the world without suffering the consequences?
This modern take on the 1980s sex comedies, The To Do List looks like a great flick for admirers of crude sex humor. Plaza is a fun presence on screen, so her dour deliveries might add a bit of wit.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 103 mins.
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman: Les Miserables), the super-healing X-Men with ripped muscles and funky hair, journeys to Japan when an old acquaintance offers him the gift of mortality. Anxious to shuffle off the immortal coil, Wolverine accepts and finds that for the first time in ages, he doesn’t immediately heal when injured.
Weak for the first time, he must now battle a league of samurai bent on finally killing him. Can Wolverine defeat the threat? Will he eventually embrace his mutant healing powers and accept immortality? Could this movie possibly be worse than X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
The story of Wolverine takes a darker turn in this origin movie styled after the Frank Miller comics. The more dramatic, action-heavy take worked for Batman, but I’m not convinced that Wolverine is interesting without his X-Men friends.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 126 mins.
Opening July 19, 2013
Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are used to things that go bump in the night. As successful paranormal investigators, the Warrens traverse the country looking into and lecturing about hauntings. When a desperate mother begs them to help her and her family with an aggressive spirit, the Warrens take on their most dangerous haunting.
Based on a true story — as such movies always are — The Conjuring opens the door of one of the most violent haunted houses in America. Directed by James Wan (Insidious), the film should be filled with odd set pieces and eerie scares.
Prospects: Bright • R • 112 mins.
Girl Most Likely
Playwright Imogene (Kristen Wiig) is having a tough third act. Her career and love life have had their curtain calls. No longer the toast of the town, Imogene moves back in with her mother (Annette Bening) to rebuild her life.
Wiig loves making movies about women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. While Bridesmaids was a hit with the crude-humor connoisseurs, Girl Most Likely takes a subtler approach. Wiig and Bening play well off each other, and it’s nice to see a movie that’s concerned with women finding their place in the world.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 103 mins.
Frank Moses (Bruce Willis: GI Joe) has been retired from the CIA for years, but he still takes freelance jobs to keep up his deadly skill set.
His golden years are threatened when MI:6 gets erroneous information that Moses is responsible for stealing a nuclear device.
A sequel to the silly but wildly entertaining Red, this film is part of a new genre of action films I’ve begun calling The Golden Oldies. Like The Expendables, Red 2 is a collection of older actors, some of whom have been written off as has-beens, gleefully reclaiming the spotlight in dumb action movies.
Dialog and plotting are less than stellar, but Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins and Brian Cox are having such a good time that it hardly matters.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 116 mins.
When Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is slain in the line of duty, he’s given a second chance to protect and serve as an undead officer in the R.I.P.D. – that’s the Rest in Peace Department. Paired with a wild and wooly sheriff (Jeff Bridges), Nick hunts down undead evildoers.
Nothing about this movie seems like a good idea. The plot is in essence a twist on Men in Black but without a charismatic lead. Special effects did not get the budget they needed to be believable.
I can’t think of a single positive thing in this film. But if Grown Ups 2 can make $42.5 million at the box office, I’m sure there’s an audience for this derivative nonsense as well.
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 96 mins.
A snail with dreams of life in the fast lane, Turbo (Ryan Reynolds again) is granted super speed and becomes the fastest snail — and just maybe the fastest object — in the world.
With the help of some human allies, Turbo competes in the Indie 500. How a little snail will keep from becoming a smear on the pavement is anybody’s guess.
A well-meaning cartoon about following your dreams, Turbo looks like a movie that will be more popular with kids than with parents. There are a few ethnic stereotypes that seem problematic, but if Johnny Depp can run around with a bird on his head in the Lone Ranger, I doubt these characters will raise many eyebrows. Lacking the layered humor of movies from Pixar, this is a kids’ flick, plain and simple.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 96 mins.
Opening July 12, 2013
Grown Ups 2
Lenny (Adam Sandler: Hotel Transylvania) decides that the big city is no place to raise a family, so he moves back to his small hometown. As a bonus, he is now close to all his childhood friends. Soon, however, Lenny learns that small town life is just as crazy as the big city hustle. But what does that matter when you’ve got your best buds to pal around with?
Will Lenny and his pals ever grow up? Will his family adjust to life in a small town? Will Adam Sandler ever make a movie that isn’t derivative, crude and boring?
We moviegoers deserve better than the likes of Sandler. Sure, it’s nice that he keeps his buddies David Spade, Kevin James and Nick Swardson employed, but at what cost to us? If we keep paying to see fart jokes, lazy humor and barely-there plots, he’ll keep delivering just that.
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 101 mins.
In the future, a rift opens deep in the Pacific Ocean, unleashing a host of giant sea monsters bent on the destruction of humanity. The creatures tear down skyscrapers, crush people under their feet and cause mayhem wherever they go.
How do you get rid of a monster infestation? With robots, duh!
Pilots and soldiers are recruited to drive a fleet of building-sized robots to battle the sea monsters for control of Earth.
Director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy II) has a wonderful, dark visual style that is influenced by comedy from Lovecraft to Burton. Del Toro’s artistry might take Pacific Rim from stupid action movie to classic summer blockbuster. Or the film could be a beautiful disaster. He’s certainly stacked the deck in his favor, casting Idris Elba (The Wire), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) and Rinko Kikuchi (The Warped Forest).
But with a plot that sounds as if it were dreamed up by a seven-year-old on a Pixie Stix high, Pacific Rim isn’t exactly high art.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 131 mins.
Opening July 5, 2013
Despicable Me 2
Former super villain Gru (Steve Carell: The Office) has given up most of his evil ways to better raise his three adopted daughters. Though semi-retired, he is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help take down a new evil threatening to take over the world.
A sequel to Dreamworks’ adorable villain-with-a-heart-of-gold film, Despicable Me 2 should be a great option for parents hoping to distract their young ones for a few hours. I’m concerned that Gru as a good guy won’t be as compelling as Gru the super villain falling in love with his three children and choosing good over evil. Time will tell if Gru was meant to play nicely with others.
Prospects: Bright • PG • 98 mins.
Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain
One of the most successful standup comedians today, Kevin Hart invites you to his sold-out Madison Square Garden show. Hart’s brand of comedy covers everything from growing up with a crack-head father to learning how to manage money once he became a success.
If you’re a fan of Hart’s no-holds-barred humor, here’s your way to cool off this summer.
Prospects: Bright • R • 75 mins.
The Lone Ranger
When lawman John Reid (Armie Hammer: Mirror Mirror) is killed in the desert, the bad guys assume they’ve won. They don’t count on Reid’s body being revived by Tonto (Johnny Depp: Dark Shadows), a Native American warrior dedicated to justice.
Based on a classic radio show, The Lone Ranger is a great Western story with some troubling Native American stereotypes. Even more troubling, Disney chose to cast their cash cow Depp in one of the only roles in years that calls for a Native actor. Depp runs around in white war paint and a ridiculous headpiece.
Depp hasn’t had a decent live-action role since 2004. While it looks like he’s trading dreadlocks for a bird headpiece, his quirky comedy shtick remains the same. With director Gore Verbinski (Rango) behind the camera, there’s a good chance you’ll be in for big action sequences and decent humor. Whether that is enough to overcome the troubling portrayal of Tonto remains to be seen.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 149 mins.
Grumpy Arthur (Terence Stamp: The Adjustment Bureau) snipes his way through life’s later years. Angry with his son and surly to the world around him, Arthur connects only with his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave: Political Animals).
When Marion falls ill, she convinces Arthur to reach out to the community by joining a senior choir. As Marion weakens, Arthur must decide whether he has the strength to engage with the world around him.
This British dramedy promises plenty of tears, humor and an exceptionally predictable plot. Still, it’s fun to see Stamp and Redgrave in their golden years with roles that let them play fast and loose. If you’ve got a fondness for British comedies on PBS, Unfinished Song may be your cup of tea.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 93 mins.
Opeinging June 28, 2013
Fastidious federal Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) hopes to earn the respect of her male coworkers by taking down a drug kingpin. Standing in her way is Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy: The Hangover III), a tough-talking, crude Boston cop who wants the collar.
Forced to team up, Sarah and Shannon try to overcome their differences and help each other succeed in a man’s world. Basically, it’s The Odd Couple with women, violence and fart jokes.
Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), The Heat has the potential to be the next big female blockbuster. It’s refreshing to see a movie where women are focused on something other than getting a boyfriend. Still, there’s a limit to how far crude humor can take you even in service of breaking down gender roles.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 117 mins.
White House Down
Cop John Cale (Channing Tatum: G.I. Joe) dreams of joining the Secret Service. On the day of his interview, his skills are put to the test as a heavily armed band of terrorists bent on killing the president (Jamie Foxx: Django Unchained) takes over the White House.
Cale must not only protect the leader of the free world but also keep his daughter out of harm’s way. That’s a pretty tough first day on the job.
White House Down is the second Die Hard in the White House movie to be released this year. The White House hasn’t been this imperiled since the War of 1812.
Still, dumb action is fun, and you could do worse if you’re in the mood to mindlessly eat popcorn and laugh. If you’re into big explosions, nonsensical plots or Channing Tatum, this won’t disappoint.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 131 mins.
Opening June 21, 2013
The Bling Ring
A clique of spoiled high schoolers with fame fixations achieves the glamorous life by theft. The crew breaks into the homes of the rich and famous, stealing the latest fashions, jewelry and more. Now the best-dressed and coolest kids in school, the crew is like totally confused when the cops tell them that stealing is like a crime or whatever.
Unrepentant, bored and like a victim of the system, the kids become a media sensation overnight, the best reward they could imagine.
Based on a true story of the world’s most vapid burglars, The Bling Ring is an honest look at America’s obsession with the rich and famous. Does watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians really turn teens into horrid self-obsessed monsters? Director Sofia Coppola (Somewhere) thinks so. Her take on the criminal enterprise casts the teens as victims of their culture.
Prospects: Bright • R • 90 mins.
Before Mike (Billy Crystal: Parental Guidance) and Sully (John Goodman: The Internship) became the greatest scaring team in Monstropolis, they were just a pair of crazy college kids trying to earn their degree in scaring. At first competitors, Sully and Mike learn to work together to win the university’s Scare Games and graduate on time.
A sequel to Pixar’s beloved Monsters Inc., Monsters University is the kid-friendly version of Animal House. Frat antics, college stereotypes and funny monsters abound in this much-anticipated origin story.
Pixar is a mark of quality, with the notable exception of the Cars movies. Combine the dynamic comic team of Goodman and Crystal with the sharp writing of Robert L. Baird, and Monsters University should be a great movie for kids and their parents.
Prospects: Bright • G • 110 mins.
Much Ado About Nothing
Director Joss Whedon (The Avengers) is on top of the world. Boasting a loyal cult following, the director/writer has broken into the mainstream, directing the biggest superhero movie ever. Now he follows his success with a bold experiment, retelling Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s most popular romantic comedy.
The story follows warring pair Benedick (Alexis Denisof: The Avengers) and Beatrice (Amy Acker: Grimm), who both swear to remain single and at each other’s throats for all eternity. Of course their friends — more regulars from his movies and television shows — enter into a conspiracy to trick the acrimonious duo into falling in love.
The passion project was shot at Whedon’s home to keep the budget down.
Will the experiment succeed? Denisof seems stiff and uncomfortable with his dialog, suggesting that at least one half of the central pairing isn’t up to par.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 107 mins.
World War Z
The zombie apocalypse is upon us, sending U.N. worker Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt: Killing Them Softly) around the world seeking the cause of the outbreak and ways to save humanity from the hordes of the undead.
Based on Max Brooks’ bestselling novel, World War Z bears little resemblance to its source material. The film suffered numerous script rewrites and production problems. Instead of a steady throng of unstoppable menace, zombie attacks are a tumbling mess of CGI monsters. With a PG-13 rating, you won’t even get any decent gore with your zombies.
Unless you’re desperate for the undead or your only requirement for a movie is Pitt’s flowing locks, I recommend the book for a brilliant take on the zombie apocalypse.
Prospects: Shot to the Head • PG-13 • 116 mins.
Opening June 14, 2013
Loquacious lovers Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) return for the final film in Richard Linklater’s relationship trilogy. Now married with young children, the pair still argues, flirts and talks endlessly about every aspect of their lives.
Hawke and Delpy both worked with Linklater to develop and write their characters. This technique enables great, honest performances. The characters have been building for nearly two decades.
For fans of the two previous films (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset), Before Midnight is an excellent way to end the story of Celine and Jesse. The hallmarks of the film are deep character work and long, twisting conversations about life, love and relationships. If that sounds like a fascinating window into modern relationships, this film is for you. If you rolled your eyes reading my description, see another movie.
Prospects: Bright • R • 108 mins.
When a group of eco-terrorists calling themselves The East wages war, Corporate America fights back. Elite operative Sarah (Brit Marling) is hired to infiltrate and take The East down from the inside.
Committment to the job wanes as Sarah sympathizes with the cause and falls for the leader (Alexander Skarsgard). Can she go through with her planned sabotage? Or will she join The East?
An interesting thriller with an accomplished cast, The East is the second offering from writer/star Marling, who penned and starred in last year’s fascinating cult thriller The Sound of My Voice. With a twisting plot and a hard-line eco-message, The East looks well worth the ticket price.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 116 mins.
Man of Steel
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the next superhero franchise!
Helmed by Zack Snyder (Sucker Punch), the film hopes to reboot the Superman franchise. It’s an origin tale of how Clark Kent (Henry Cavill: The Cold Light of Day) went from boy with a secret to the hero America needs.
Clark spends his life concealing his amazing powers and attempting to live a normal life. When General Zod (Michael Shannon: The Ice Man) comes to Earth demanding Clark’s head on a platter, the prodigy must decide whether to fight or kneel.
Snyder is a deft hand with visuals, but he’s proved himself a messy filmmaker when left to his own devices. Man of Steel needs a great editor to retain Snyder’s distinctive style while tightening the plot.
As Superman, Cavill certainly has the look, but the draw is the baddy. Shannon has made a name for himself as a wild-eyed character actor. This is his chance to chew the scenery as the epically evil General Zod. It will be a joy to watch him menace the Man of Steel.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 143 mins.
This Is the End
James Franco hosts a party in his Hollywood home. Featuring celebrities, drugs and sex, the party is in full swing when disaster strikes. No, they don’t run out of drugs; the apocalypse comes.
With half of young Hollywood dead, Franco and his buddies Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride must attempt to survive the end of times with only drugs and a Milky Way bar.
This Is the End skewers the public personas of its stars while making fun of The End of Times. Who doesn’t want to watch a bunch of inept Hollywood types fumble through the last few days on Earth? Written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, this crude comedy is only for moviegoers who can stomach foul language, violence and James Franco.
Prospects: Bright • R • 107 mins.
Opening June 7, 2013
When the economy collapses in the watch sales industry, lifelong buddies Billy (Vince Vaughn: The Watch) and Nick (Owen Wilson: The Big Year) must reinvent themselves. Salesmen by trade, neither man has fully accepted the digital age and as a result both are under-qualified for jobs they want.
They may not be good with computers, but they’re great with people. The duo uses their quick-talking skills to get themselves highly sought after internships at Google. But to compete with brilliant college grads half their age for spots on Google’s staff, Billy and Nick must join the information age before they’re as obsolete as MySpace.
Wilson and Vaughn are both good supporting comedians, but they tend to flail in the spotlight. In the broad comedy of this fish-out-of-water story, there’ll likely be little for the duo to do but act befuddled by smart phones and crack wise about the whippersnappers around them.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 119 mins.
In a dystopian future, America has found a creative solution to crime and overpopulation: All crime is legal for 12 hours one day a year. During The Purge, people are invited to let their darkest impulses out. Emergency services are suspended, and the government wishes their citizens the best of luck.
For those with money, the night is simply a nuisance. Their security systems and gated communities are relatively safe from the mayhem on the streets. The violence is broadcast on television for the enjoyment of the masses.
During this year’s Purge, James Sandin’s family discovers real fear — and how to fight for their lives — when their ample home security is breached.
A horror story with a social message, The Purge could easily tip to overwrought. With a limited setting, the Sandin home, the effectiveness of this movie depends on the actors in the main roles. Luckily, they are Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey.
Prospects: Bright • R • 85 mins.
Opening May 31, 2013
When their spaceship crashes on a wild and dangerous planet, father and son Cypher and Kitai Raige (Will Smith: Men in Black III; and Jaden Smith: The Karate Kid) must learn to survive.
Injured Cypher sends his son to signal for help on an Earth long-abandoned by humans and full of lethal wildlife and plants.
After Earth could be a fun bit of sci-fi action. Visuals look strong, and the evolution of Earth into a bloodthirsty wildlife preserve should be interesting. Still, this father-and-son story looks a bit flat. Smith and son have a sort of robotic delivery in their scenes together that make me wonder whether people in this future have evolved to be emotionless. Maybe the plot twist will reveal they’re Vulcans.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 100 mins.
Now You See Me
The Four Horsemen are a popular magic act, and not because of their ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat. The team of illusionists ends its shows by pulling heists against corrupt businesses and redistributing the wealth amongst their audience.
Sounds worth the price of a ticket, right?
Surprisingly, this Robin Hood trick isn’t exactly legal. The FBI and Interpol would very much like to stop them from robbing billionaire business leaders. But catching master illusionists is challenging even for such big crime busters.
Now You See Me promises an interesting premise backed by a great cast, including Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo and Woody Harrelson. Still, the fact that Freeman fell asleep while answering questions about the movie doesn’t instill confidence. Characters look glib but underdeveloped.
If the movie can manage to find substance under style, that might be a trick worth the ticket price.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 116 mins.
Opening 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.