Exclusive to the Westside Observer
Don Lee Miller
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Eight of the Marvel comic super heroes have gathered together to fight off gigantic powerful metal monsters from the planet Ultron. Tony Stark/Iron Man: Robert Downey, Jr., Bruce Banner/Hulk: Mark Ruffalo, Thor: Chris Hemsworth, Steve Rogers/Captain America: Chris Evans, Natasha/Black Widow: Scarlett Johanssen, Clint Barton/Hawkeye: Jeremy Renner, James Rhodes/War Machine: Don Cheadle, and head honcho Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson battle Ultron: James Spader. Director/writer Joss Whedon has based his screenplay on the Marvel comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Fortunately, they have managed pretty well to spread the action time fairly equally and it rarely slows down or stops. Well worth seeing for a good time ride. The big budget all shows up on screen. Sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction. Some suggestive scenes.
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA
Actress Maria Enders: Juliette Binoche is chosen to honor her mentor, the director who gave her her first hit. When barely 20 she played Sigrid, a sexy youth who drove her employer Helena to suicide. Her personal assistant Valentine: Kristian Stewart keeps Maria on schedule, reminding her of names and appointments as they journey to Sils Maria, a remote Alps location with few comforts. Irresponsible young actress Jo-Ann Ellis: Chloe Grace Moretz has been selected to play Sigrid with Maria cast as the older Helena, but Enders doesn’t think of herself as a Helena. She finds it an unsettling notion but goes ahead with the play. Maria is also wanted for a film where she would play a mutant. After some arguments, Valentine resigns and is replaced. The film ends with Maria becoming more comfortable with her role of Helena by opening night. Director/writer Olivier Assayas handles both Binoche and Stewart in some of their finest performances. Moretz, while good, isn’t quite at the A-level of her leads. Brief graphic female nudity. Profanity.
DIOR AND I
New fashion director at the Dior fashion house in Paris takes the viewer inside the final two months of preparation for introduction of a new line. Seeing decisions being made re fabrics and how designs are altered on the models is fascinating. Director-writer-photographer Frédéric Tcheng observes the cutters, seamstresses and stylists on a daily basis, showing what happens behind the scenes. Christian Dior opens the Paris doors as fashions are developed. Innovations abound! Attending the first public showing are Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Lawrence, Sigourney Weaver and Sharon Stone.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
In Victorian Dorset, southern England, the independent, headstrong Bathsheba: Carey Mulligan attracts three very different suitors: wealthy landowner William Boldwood: Michael Sheen; rascal Sgt. Francis Troy; Tom Sturridge, who has gotten a local girl pregnant and deserted her; and a steady farmer Gabriel Oak: Matthias Schoenaerts who has the worst luck. Which one will she choose? Filmed in Dorset. Director Thomas Vinterberg has the screenplay by David Nicholls based on Thomas Hardy’s popular novel and the rolling natural rural countryside for inspiration. Some sexuality and violence.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Max Rockatansky: Tom Hardy finds he’s the ally of Imperator Furiosa: Charlize Theron who has liberated the five “brides” of the ugly warlord Immortan Joe: Hugh Keays-Byrne, who just happens to be “Mad Max’s” Toecutter. Aussie director-writer George Miller has an epic without character development or plot. He has ripped away all but a road tale filled with extreme violence. His heroine has a one-inch cut of dirty hair, no makeup, an artificial leg and an amputated arm, but she can drive a six-wheeler wid da best of da guys. Your inner 12-year-old will giggle gleefully at the two hours of deafening thunder, appreciating the last 30 years that Miller has labored on this high-octane flick, sequel to the film to which Mel Gibson owes his stardom. Intense sequences of violence throughout. Profanity. Some disturbing images.
Disney’s latest True Life Adventure has Tina Fey for its narrator. The natural born entertainers steal scenes from each other as one monkey slaps another, swings on the hanging vines, falls, gets back on, and they wrestle. When their natural habitat is endangered and a mother and baby are separated temporarily, their story becomes more interesting. The photography and sound recording are extraordinary. G rating.
Eric Bowden: Sam Rockwell and Amy: Rosemary DeWitt have moved into a new tract house, not knowing it’s built over a graveyard of angry tenants who soon show their displeasure. Initially, the clown dolls move in the night, then Madison, the youngest: Kennedi Clements is swallowed by her closet and speaks from the inside of her TV. The son Griffin: Kyle Catlett is scared of his shadow to begin with, then terrorized by a tree that pulls him through a window. The feisty teen Kendra: Saxon Sharbino has her own battles. The parents have moving furniture. Director Gil Kenan and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire give story credit to Steven Spielberg. Along the way this remake has lost the freshness and pizzazz of the original. Brief suggestive material. Some profanity.
A twelve-year old boy presents his “in progress” rocket suit to Nix: Hugh Laurie, who turns it down as not ready yet. His daughter Athena: Raffey Cassidy, also 12, forms a helpful attachment to young Frank Walker, who as an adult is George Clooney. The structure of the script has Frank disappearing after a few minutes at the beginning until midway through the film when the daughter of Eddie Newton: Tim McGraw, a teen scientific genius, Casey: Britt Robertson has discovered the magic Tomorrowland transporter left by Athena for Casey. Together they have a road trek looking for Frank. When Casey finds him, they escape from space patrolmen wanting to destroy them. Their only escape is to travel through time. Theme park sequences were filmed in Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Florida. Sequences of sci-fi action and peril. Thematic elements. Profanity.
The title character is a has-been movie star and pop rocker: Al Pacino with an about-to-be ex-wife whom he treats more than fairly. He relocates to a Florida hotel with management by Mary Sinclair: Annette Bening. He looks up his son Tom: Bobby Cannavale and his wife Samantha: Jennifer Garner. Danny’s manager Frank: Christopher Plummer uncovers a letter from the Seventies written by John Lennon that was never delivered. It starts Danny in a new direction, changing his old ways. Directed and screenplay by Dan Fogelman with some surprises and rich characterizations. Drug use. Some nudity. Profanity.
After a hacker is kidnapped, a mysterious government official Mr. Nobody: Kurt Russell enlists Dominic: Vin Diesel, Brian: Paul Walker, and the crew to get the God’s Eye program back. Deckard: Jason Statham is out for vengeance for the killing of his brother in Furious 6. Despite the nonsense plot, this latest installment does provide a great send-off to both Brian and the late Mr. Walker. Scenes where his brothers were used with CGI of Paul’s face are seamlessly inserted and cannot be distinguished. Fans will be satisfied with each of the stars having their moments in the spotlight as they endure extreme danger: Hobbs: Dwayne Johnson, Tej: Ludacris, and Letty: Michelle Rodriguez. Brian’s wife Mia: Jordana Brewster has enough screen-time to satisfy her fans. If interested, mark your calendar for the opening of F&F8: April 14, 2017. Brief profanity. Prolonged sequences of action, mayhem, and violence. Suggestive content.
When a 19-year-old girl, Jay: Maika Monroe sleeps with an older man, Hugh: Jake Weary, she begins to be followed by some monster that’s passed during intercourse from one person to the other like a supernatural venereal disease. This indie horror tale directed and written by David Robert Mitchell claws its way into your body with a grimness that is deadly serious, smart and also stylish. Paul: Keir Gilchrist consoles her when she sees threatening visions. Disturbing violent and sexual content, including graphic nudity. Profanity.
A boy nicknamed Little Boy/Pepper: Jakob Salvati loves his father James: Michael Rapaport so strongly he practically wills him to return from serving in WWII. His mother Emma: Emily Watson and older brother London: David Henrie look on in amazement as Pepper develops defensive powers when he is growing slower than is normal. His priest, Fr. Oliver: Tom Wilkinson seems to be the only one who supports Little Boy’s friendship with the sole Japanese senior in town, Hashimoto: Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The widowed Dr. Fox: Kevin James tries to come on to Emma. Fox’s son is one of the bullies who make life miserable for Little Boy. Pepper’s comic book hero Ben Eagle: Ben Chapin also narrates. Smithsonian Institute Award winning director Alejandro Monteverde directed and co-wrote this lifting tale about an eight-year old imbued with magic abilities after being on stage with a touring magician. Some thematic material including violence.
This tale is told entirely on a computer screen with various people logging on, some unwanted. The plot is a Ten Little Indians story as one after another dies horribly. Sometimes it’s mesmerizing, sometimes dull. The cast consists of unknowns: Laura: Heather Sossaman, whose suicide follows the malicious posting of an expose of her on the Internet, and Matt: Matthew Bohrer and Val: Courtney Halverson also star. Director Levan Gabriadze won Most Innovative Film and Special Mention at the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival. At least it’s short. Pervasive profanity. Violent content. Fantasy action and peril. Some sexuality. Teen drug and alcohol use.
WOMAN IN GOLD
Maria Altman’s story starts in the 1980s with the fabulous Helen Mirren learning when her sister dies that the Klimt painting of their beloved Aunt Adele is on exhibition at a gallery near their childhood home in Vienna. It is valued at $1.5-million. Octogenarian Maria, with the help of her friend Frances Fisher: Barbara Schoenberg’s son, Randol: Ryan Reynolds, an attorney, begins to get back what is hers. Having just found employment with Sherman: Charles Dance’s legal firm, Randol is staying up nights prepping their case, neglecting his wife Pam: Katie Holmes and their two daughters. It puts a strain on his office when Randol and Maria must go to Vienna for a week to present their case against the Nazis raiding her home of its artworks at the outbreak of WWII. They are given invaluable free help from Hubertus: Daniel Brüel in Vienna. It would spoil the fun of you seeing the best film so far in 2015 if I were to reveal more. Director Simon Curtis uses Alexi Kaye Campbell’s screenplay based on the life stories of Randol and Maria to cleverly blend past with the present. Thematic elements. Brief profanity.
This film made in South Africa on the cheap does not deserve your time or money. The police force is being made up of robots. Deon: Dev Patel works at the factory creating the robots. From discarded scrap he constructs, without permission, a robot he calls Chappie: voice of Sharlto Copley. The villain opposing Deon is Vincent: Hugh Jackman in a 5-minute role. It is stupid, quite violent and cutesy simultaneously. Director Neill Blomkamp steals bits and pieces from several Grade C movies and TV series. Violence. Brief nudity. Profanity.
Lonely writer, recently widowed, Ella’s father: Ben Chaplin takes a second wife who becomes Ella’s stepmother: Cate Blanchett, frequently gowned in puke green. She comes with the baggage of two bratty narcissistic daughters, Drisella and Anastasia of marriageable age. He suddenly dies, leaving Ella: Lily James (Lady Rose: Downton Abbey since 2012) reduced to serving the ingrates and being treated like dirt. While strolling in the woods one day, Ella meets a handsome young man, little realizing when he says his father is a cook at the castle, that he is lying, he’s really the prince: Richard Madden. The King: Derek Jacobi, is a dotty sweet soul who arranges a ball for young marriageable women to meet the Prince. Ella’s fairy godmother/Narrator: Helena Bonham Carter puts the spell on the mice, lizards and pumpkin to get Cinderella to the ball, reminding all what happens at midnight. Cindy’s slippers are the best crystal, fashioned specifically for her feet. In her hasty flight, one is left behind. The Prince searches the land for the foot to fill the slipper. Of course, her home is the last one for the test. Joyful ending. Director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz give a fresh coat of paint to the film for all ages. Mild thematic elements.
DO YOU BELIEVE?
A dozen parishioners of a New Jersey church find themselves interacting during the couple of weeks that the story takes place before a pileup on a bridge. The cast could almost be called a Who Was Who in Movies/TV? Tom: John McGinley runs the parish; a long-married couple (without character names): Lee Majors and Cybill Sheperd; the mother of a six year old daughter living in her car, Samantha: Mira Sorvino; a cynical emergency room Dr. Farrell: Sean Astin; an elderly street-corner preacher who lugs a wooden cross while spouting his Biblical message, Malachi: Delroy Lindo; a muscular, good-hearted guy in failing health, Joe: Brian Bosworth and two street thugs, Pretty Boy: Shwayze and Kriminal: Senyo Amoaku. Director Jonathan M. Gunn takes the script by Chuck Conzelman and Cary Soloman and makes it a two-handkerchief sermon that everyone can relate to. Thematic elements. An accident sequence. Some violence.
Professional con man, Nicky: Will Smith takes an amateur pickpocket Jess: Margot Robbie under his wing and into his bed. In a race track sequence, Liyuan: B.D. Wong cons Nicky into betting too much. After teaching Jess fully, Nicky suddenly concludes that love and deception don’t mix well and dumps her. Three years later, Nicky and Jess collide. Is it worth another try? His mark, wealthy Owens: Gerald McRaney proves canny, not the pushover Nicky expected. Co-directors/writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa give a big budget gloss to a seamy racket. Profanity. Some sexual content. Brief violence.
The first hour provides exciting thrills and globe-trotting before it fizzles to a bore. Sniper Terrier: Sean Penn seems more interested in showing off his fit six-pack than in the tale he co-wrote. He’s shirtless more than necessary. Much of the time, he’s on the run after killing the Congo’s minister of mines. In Spain, he reconnects with the girl friend Annie: Jasmine Trinka he deserted suddenly in the Congo. That she is now married to Felix: Javier Bardem doesn’t stop him from bedding her. A hit team has found Terrier; but he believes he’ll find safety in seeking out the surviving members of his old assassination team: Stanley: Ray Winstone, DuPont: Idras Elba and Cox: Mark Rylance. Thinking years later he has been forgotten, he unwisely returns to the Congo. Director: Pierre Morel (Taken), writer Don MacPherson, novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette with screenplay writers Penn and Pete Travis who lost interest midway. Strong violence. Profanity throughout. Some sexuality.
The further adventures of Tris: Shailene Woodley and Four: Theo James are chronicled in this mid-chapter between what was in Divergent and what is forthcoming in the next episode. Mostly, they are on the run, with some exciting stunts provided, as Tris (under drugs administered by Jeanine, the ruthless leader of the Erudite elite: Kate Winslet) leaps to save her mother, Natalie: Ashley Judd from a floating burning building. A male leaps in front of a speeding train. Get the picture? Caleb: Ansel Elgort, Peter: Miles Teller, Johanna: Octavia Spencer, and Andrew: Tony Goldwyn aid in their escape. Peter turns to a trusted position next to Jeanine. As their ideologies grow more intense, war seems imminent between the factions. Tris must fully embrace her Divergence without knowing what she may lose by doing so. Director Robert Schwentke, screenwriters Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback work from Veronica Roth’s novel. Intense violence and action throughout. Some sensuality. Thematic elements. Brief profanity.
High school athletic coach Jim White: Kevin Costner thinks he’s hit the bottom rung until he decides to put together a winning team of runners from the Latino grape-pickers he’s teaching. He lost the last job after throwing his shoe which bounced, hitting the player in the face with whom he was arguing. Putting together a championship team isn’t as easy as White thought. Wife Cheryl: Maria Bello and blond daughters, Julie: Morgan Saylor and Jaime: Elsie Fisher are cheering for the home team. Palo Alto figures prominently in the heart-warming plotline. With Jim as coach, the team goes on to win nine state titles over 14 years, even running in international meets. This true tale is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Grant Thompson with story and written by Chris Cleveland and Bettina Gilois. Some violence. Thematic materials. Profanity.
RUN ALL NIGHT
Former Brooklyn mob hit-man Jimmy Conlon: Liam Neesom finds himself at odds with best friend-former boss Shawn Maguire: Ed Harris when he learns of a contract on his son Mike Conlon: Joel Kinnaman. All night long they are fighting for their lives against corrupt cops, mobsters and contract killers. The large cast includes Danny Maguire: Boyd Holbrook, Pat: Bruce Magill, Detective Harding: Vincent D’Onofrio, Andrew Price: Common, wife Gabriela Conlon: Genesis Rodriguez, and mother Margaret Conlon: Lois Smith. Director Jaume Collet-Serra oozes all the tension from writer Brad Ingelsby’s high action script. Strong violence. Profanity including sexual references, drug use.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
Muriel: Maggie Smith keeps the books for Sonny: Dev Patel so that the hotel runs smoothly. However, they could use a second hotel since the original is now full nearly all the time. Long-married couple, Douglas: Bill Nighy and Jean: Penelope Winton have drifted apart. Norman: Ronald Pickup is in a new relationship.
Madge: Celia Imrie has two wealthy suitors. Evelyn: Judi Dench, a recent widow, is engaging in a successful fabric business. Eight months later, the sequel finds Sonny and Muriel cruising along in a convertible on Route 66 in Arizona to meet an investor Ty Burley: David Strathairn who’ll help finance Sonny’s dream of expansion. Once back in Jaipur, they are expecting an inspector sent by Burley. Guy Chambers, 65: Richard Gere says he’s there to work on a novel, but instead falls for Sonny’s mother, Mrs. Kapoor: Lillette Dubey. Sonny marries Sunania: Tina Desae in an elaborate ceremony. Life goes on. John Madden directs the rich screenplay by Ol Parker. Some profanity.
BLACK OR WHITE
Corporate attorney Elliott Anderson: Kevin Costner mourns the passing of his wife Jennifer Ehle by hitting the bottle hard. He forgets to have his biracial granddaughter Eloise: Jillian Estell brush her teeth. He nearly drowns in his pool when he tangles with the pool cover. Grandma Rowena aka Wee Wee: Octavia Spencer lives in South Central LA. Her drunken/drugged son Andre Holland, Eloise’s father, could care less whether she gets to spend more time with her granddaughter. With 20 kids in tow, Wee Wee accepts Elliot’s insincere invitation to use his pool, turning up one a.m. when he’s still in his underwear, half-asleep with a hangover. Costner approaches his pinnacle in Dances With Wolves with a solid performance. Director Mike Binder seems to be leaning more toward a white siding. Thematic material involving drug use and drinking. A fight. Brief profanity.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY IMAX
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson from Kelly Marcel’s soft porn novel disappoints on most levels. The R-rating cries for an X. The handsome billionaire Christian Grey: Jamie Dornan shows his six-pack chest and for a couple of quick shots, his bare butt. When her roommate Kate is ill, awkward Anastasia: Dakota Johnson has to sub for an interview with Grey for the college paper. He is a major donor to the school and is the upcoming commencement speaker. He’s also 27, flies his own helicopter, sports a garage full of high-end cars and numerous homes around the country. When Ana finds Grey is attracted to her, she also learns his idea of sex is S&M totally. He likes her running around topless so she obliges, allowing the filmmakers to save a bundle on her wardrobe while waiting in his red torture chamber filled with every imaginable S&M toy. In real-life, Dakota is the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson; Grandma is Tippi Hedren, the blond that turned Hitchcock on for two films: Marnie and The Birds set in SF and Marin. Ana takes her time signing his exclusivity contract, making demands of her own. His society mother, Grace: Marcia Gay Harden has two brief scenes. Strong sexual content. Profanity throughout.
Sometime in the future, Jupiter Jones: Mila Kunis, a Chicago housecleaner for the wealthy, specializing in toilets, dwells in a crowded apartment with Russian immigrants. She suddenly learns her mother is Russian royalty. She is the recipient of a huge inheritance. In this space opera sci-fi fantasy from 13 young adult novels, the new queen falls in love with an extraterrestrial wolf-human hybrid ex-soldier named Caine Wise: Channing Tatum, whose anti-gravity boots permit him to fly. Caine has been sent by Titus: Douglas Booth. The villain and brother of Titus, a petulant Balem: Eddie Redmayne makes it quite clear he was snarling all the way to the bank, unlike his brilliant Oscar-winning turn. (The eight-minute chase sequence above Chicago took six months of daily filming!)
An old comrade of Caine’s, who is half-honeybee/half-human, Stinger Apini: Sean Bean, agrees to help protect Jupiter. The overstuffed plot could have been simplified to make sense. Jupiter has inherited Earth, which infuriates Balem’s siblings who want to hang onto their planetary inheritances. Bounty hunter Caine has his hands full trying to protect Jupiter when not caressing her. The magnificent set pieces overshadow the befuddled story from here on. Get a load of her wedding outfit! It would have turned heads on the red carpet. Even though sibling directors Andy and Lana Wachowski started with a $175-million budget, they ran over by a few bills, but Warner Bros. still couldn’t spare $2 for a cohesive script. All of the budget shows up on screen and is indeed spellbindingly beautiful, if only it didn’t stretch credulity or credibility so thin. Rent the DVD so the sound can be shut off. Some violence. Fantasy action and peril. Some suggestive material. Partial nudity.
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
SS agent Harry Hart: Colin Firth comes to the rescue of South London troublemaker Gary Eggsy Unwin: Taron Egerton, recruiting him for the secret service. Simultaneously, wealthy villain/twisted technical genius Richmond Valentine: Samuel L. Jackson sets forth on his diabolical scheme to control the world’s climate, which involves mass murders. The supporting cast includes Merlin: Mark Strong, Arthur: Michael Caine and Gazelle: Sofia Boutella. Eggsy catches on fast, which is necessary under the circumstances. The unusual weapons, ranging from pens to umbrellas, are fascinating. Director/cowriter Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Joan Goldman borrow a lot from James Bond films and the Secret Service comic book creators, Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Filmed in England, Canada and Australia. Sequences of strong violence. Profanity. Some sexual content.
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
Standard Heating Oil owner, Abel Morales: Oscar Issac chases a gunman from his Westchester mansion, incurring wrath from wife Anna: Jessica Chastain. She’s the daughter of the Brooklyn hood who sold him the business, plus she has an inflatable temper. The 1981 turf wars culminate in a shootout on the Queensborough Bridge so awkward that it reveals that it is not the Mafia behind the full truck-hijackings but just guys who competitively are trying to make a living. Abel’s lawyer, Andrew Walsh: Albert Brooks has to contend with an ambitious asst. district attorney Lawrence: David Oyelowo who forces Abel’s bank to pull their money from his purchase of a bayfront terminal that would establish Abel as a major player. He has less than a week to gather the $1.5-million to close the deal. Director J.C. Chandor’s work has been compared to Sidney Lumet. Profanity. Some violence.
Awards: National Board of Review: won Best Picture, Actor: Isaac, and Supporting Actress: Chastain. Also numerous film society awards for Pic and Sup. Actress.
It is just possible this early in the year that Seventh Son will be the worst movie of the year! Master Gregory: Jeff Bridges portrays a spook grand master of the supernatural, saddled with a phony accent he never quite masters. Mother Malkin: Julianne Moore was surely praying that none of the Academy voters saw this film before Still Alice and cancelled their vote. [This being her fifth Oscar nomination, she is known for much better performances. She won!] MM is an interchangeable witch-dragon. Radu: Djimon Hounsou is a shape-shifting evil body. Tomorrow’s hopeful stars: Tom Ward: Ben Barnes as Gregory’s apprentice; Billy: Kit Harrington was the apprentice for a very short time; and Alice: Alicia Vikander is a half-witch who woos Tom, getting him to steal MM’s trinket that is the source of her powers. This mess was directed without much thought by Sergei Bodrov with screenplay by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight from a story by Matt Greenberg based on a novel by Joseph Delaney. Brief strong profanity. Intense fantasy violence and action. Frightening images.
Renown linguistics professor Alice Howland: Julianne Moore suddenly starts forgetting words and consults a specialist, learning the worst: that she has early onset Alzheimer’s. She is happily married to John: Alec Baldwin with three grown children. The youngest, Lydia: Kristen Stewart, is deciding whether acting is the right career for her. Julianne has won the Best Actress Oscar and numerous other awards for her brilliant portrayal as the Alzheimer’s progresses, capturing all the nuances along the way. The family has to learn to cope. Emotionally gripping, never afraid to show her vulnerability, Moore’s performance doesn’t bloviate but requires handkerchiefs. Directors/co-writers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland based their screenplay on the novel by Lisa Genova. Mature thematic material. Brief profanity including a sexual reference.
Awards: Winner: Best Actress: AA, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA + 32 other wins!!
Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle: Bradley Cooper distinguishes himself with 160 confirmed kills in his four tours of duty in Iran. He’s home for the conceptions with his wife Taya: Sienna Miller but not the births. His close combatants are Mark Lee: Luke Grimes and youthful Goat-Winston: Kyle Gallner. Director Clint Eastwood gets to the nitty-gritty from writer Jason Hall and the book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and James Defelice. DIA Agent Snead: Eric Close (Without a Trace, 2002-09) has a ten-minute cameo midway. Strong and disturbing war violence. Profanity throughout including some sexual references.
Awards: 6 Academy Awards (AA) nominations: Best Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing. Won AFI Award: Movie of the Year. Won Broadcast Film Critic Assn. Award: Best Actor in an Action Movie: Cooper; nom. Best Action Movie. Won Natl. Board of Review: Best Director: Eastwood, and Top Ten Films. + 11 other noms.
Burton and his screenwriters take on the true life of Margaret Keane: Amy Adams and her tumultuous marriage with Walter Keane: Christoph Waltz. Her paintings of big-eyed children were widely popular from the late 1950s for years. Margaret’s problem was she was not given credit for having painted them; Walter saw to that as he promoted and sold them…taking full credit himself.
Dick Nolan: Danny Huston and Enrico Banducci: Jon Polito provide support. Director Tim Burton rarely delves beneath the surface of what could have been more interesting, particularly if his reigns on Waltz hadn’t snapped so early on. Adams acts circles around his haminess. Even when angry, she maintains her control. She leaves their luxurious Woodside home, the SF gallery behind her and moves to Hawaii where she continues painting and sues Walter for divorce. The court gives them an hour paint-off to prove who is the real Keane painter. Adams evolves from mousey to gutsy and Margaret develops a movement, leading women to find their inner power. Thematic elements. Brief profanity.
Awards: Academy Awards (AA) nominations: GG win: Best Actress, Comedy: Adams. Won Capri Actress Award: Adams. Women Film Critics Circle Awards – noms. Amy Adams: Karen Morley Award, Invisible Woman Award, Worst Male Images in a Movie.
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS
Moses: Christian Bale leads 600,000 Egyptians, slaves and prisoners on foot across the Red Sea to escape the tyrannical reign of Seti: John Turturro. On Seti’s death, Moses’s half-brother becomes Pharoah Rameses: Joel Edgerton. Moses leads his people in their flight from the terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. If Bales’ British accent isn’t enough, God appears as a 10-year old boy with the thickest British accent this side of Liverpool. The spectacle of the statues, buildings, etc. being built under the whip of Viceroy Hegep: Ben Mendelsohn becomes disconcerting. Nun: Ben Kingsley offers spiritual guidance to Moses. Tuya: Sigourney Weaver appears briefly. The hard work of director Ridley Scott and writers Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, and Steven Zaillian has produced some memorable images. Profanity throughout. Some sexual content. Violence including battle sequences and intense images.
The 1988 U.S. Olympic wrestling team is sponsored by wealthy John DuPont: Steve Carell with huge putty nose. The stars are the brothers team of Mark Schultz: Channing Tatum and David: Mark Ruffalo, a family-man. Mother Jean DuPont: Vanessa Redgrave has three short scenes; one actually has dialog! The wrestling scenes are quite good, Director Bennett Miller used only two writers: E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. Some drug use. A scene of violence.
Awards: 5 AA noms.: Actor: Carell, Sup. Actor: Ruffalo, Dir., Orig. Scrnplay., Makeup/hair styling. Cannes: Best Dir. Won Gotham Awards: Best Ensemble.
THE IMITATION GAME
Teen Alan Turing: Alex Lawther ages to mathematician Benedict Cumberbatch who builds the first computer to solve the Nazi Enigma code with a team of British mathematicians including Hugh: Matthew Goode and Joan: Kiera Knightley. The group reports to Stewart: Mark Strong who is under an impatient CDR Denniston: Charles Dance. Well played by the cast as they slowly get through WWII. Some sexual references. Mature thematic material. Historical smoking.
Awards: 8 AA noms.: Pic, Actor: Cumberbatch, Sup. Actress: Knightley, Director: Tyldum, Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore, Orig. Score: A. Desplat, Film Editing, Prod’n. Des. 3 SAG noms.: Best Ensemble, Cast; SAG Best Male Actor in a Leading Role, Film: Cumberbatch. Producers Guild nom.: Best Pic, winner: Zanuck Producer of Year Award. Directors Guild nom.: Best Dir.
INTO THE WOODS
There are multiple storylines which culminate with a curse by the Witch: Meryl Streep. First, there’s Cinderella: Anna Kendrick (who has a fine voice). Her wicked stepmother: Christine Baranski and stepsisters: Florinda: Tammy Blanchard and Lucinda: Lucy Punch keep her working their bidding. Her Prince: Chris Pine uses the crystal slipper to find her. The Baker: James Corden and his wife: Emily Blunt are having problems becoming parents so the Witch tells them the four items she needs to make her furtile. They proceed to seek the missing links. Little Red Riding Hood: Lilla Crawford encounters the Wolf: Johnny Depp on her way to Granny’s: Annette Crosbie. Jack: Daniel Huddlestone and his mother: Tracey Ullmann must deal with the female Giant: Frances de la Tour when the planted beans instantly grow a tree to the heavens. Then there’s Rapunzel with the long hair: Mackenzie Mauzy with her handsome Prince: Billy Magnussen. Everybody is singing Stephen Sondheim’s score. Some have better voices than others. Act One is followed fairly faithfully; but Act Two suffers from cuts…when the Witch sings her Still Midnight song, where are the three Midnight songs that preceded it? It lacks power though Streep is melodious. Thematic elements. Fantasy action and peril. Some suggestive material.
Awards: 5 AA noms.: Sup. Actress: Streep (has 3 AA’s), Prod’n. Des., Costume Des.,
This story of Martin Luther King’s march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama falls short, as if it’s missing a spark plug. There are numerous walk-outs. Several people told me they found it boring. Personally, I didn’t; I just kept expecting it to come alive but it didn’t. I don’t fault David Oyelowo, who is actually quite good as King; I only wish the film could have been made while Paul Winfield was still living…he would have been terrific! Familiar faces populate the cameos: Pres. LBJohnson: Tom Wilkinson, Annie Lee Cooper: Oprah Winfrey (also Producer), Gov. George Wallace: Tim Roth, James Bevel: Common (who co-wrote Glory), Lee White: Giovanni Ribisi, J. Edgar Hoover: Dylan Baker, and Fred Gray: Cuba Gooding, Jr. Brief Strong Profanity. Disturbing thematic material including violence. A suggestive moment.
Awards: AA noms.: Pic, Song: Glory. GG nom. Best Director: (lst African – Am. woman: Ava DuVernay) + win: Song. Critics Choice Awards: Song.
Ex-government operative Bryan Mills: Liam Neesom is accused of the murder of his ex-wife, Lenore St. John: Famke Janssen. She is found with her throat slit in his apartment. Her husband Dougray Scott had asked her not to see Bryan, even though they share a teen daughter, Kim Mills: Maggie Grace. Kim is very devoted to her dad. When the cops, headed by Franck Dotzler: Forest Whitaker, close in on Bryan, he ducks under a vehicle and drops into the sewer below. He meets with Kim in a place where he never expects cops to find him. By back-tracking Lenore’s last few hours, he sees a tattoo that leads him to a culprit. He has an intricate network of friends who aid him in eluding Dotzler and other officers. The tension is as taut as in the first two Takens. Bryan brings his unique sense of justice to the killers. Intense sequences of action and violence. Brief profanity.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Cambridge student Stephen Hawking: Eddie Redmayne meets Jane Wilde: Felicity Jones and they start dating. He soon learns about his illness and is given only two years to live. Still they marry and his determination gets him his doctoral degree. He turns his interest to cosmological physics. Jane stands by him as his illness progresses, impairing his speech, swallowing, locomotion, and balance. They produce two children as his work begins receiving recognition. When Jane begins to drift, her mother suggests joining the church choir.
The choir leader, Jonathan, takes an interest in Jane and vice versa. They are together at the same opera as Stephen when he has a seizure, resulting in Jane having to give permission for a tracheotomy, knowing with his atrophied muscles it could save his life. It will also make him difficult to understand. The children are Robert Hawking, age 17: Tom Prior, Lucy Hawking, age 14: Sophie Perry, and Timothy Hawking, age 8: Finlay Wright–Stephens. Supporting players include Dennis Sciama: David Thewlis. Director James Marsh brilliantly presents this biography of Anthony McCarten’s screenplay based on Jane’s book.
Awards: 5 Academy Awards (AA) nominations: Pic, Actor, Actress, Adpt. Scrn. Original Score. GG wins: Actor Drama: Redmayne, Original Score. SAG Best Male Actor in a Leading Role, Film: Redmayne. Another 15 wins and 78 nominations!
Record-breaking runner at the 1938 Berlin Olympics, Louis Zamperini: Jack O’Connell later joins the armed forces in WWII and finds himself flying over the Pacific. The plane crashes and some of the men survive for 47 days until they are ‘rescued’ by the Japanese navy. They are thrown into a Japanese prison camp and tortured on an almost daily basis for more than two years. The battle is just to survive. Louis’s torturer Watanabe: Takamasa Ishihara was also an Olympic runner in Berlin who must have invented the term ‘sore loser’. Other prisoners are: Phil: Domhnail Gleeson (About Time), Fitzgerald: Garrett Hedlund, and Mac: Finn Wittrock (Noah). Director Angelina Jolie brings it all together with an uncanny knack. War violence including intense brutality. Brief Profanity.
Awards: 3 AA noms.: Cinematography, Sound editing, Sound mixing. SAG win: Action performance by a stunt ensemble in a motion picture. AFI movie of the year award. AAFCA: won 7th place in Top Ten Films of 2014. National Board of Review, New York Film Critics: Breakthrough Performer: Jack O’Connell. Heartland Film: won Truly Moving Picture Award: Angelina Jolie, Director. Another 10 wins and 22 noms.
Tyrannical orchestral prof Terence Fletcher: T.K. Simmons browbeats his students, especially 19-year old drummer Andrew Neiman: Miles Teller, who practices until his hands bleed. He wants to be the best; that means not only studying with Fletcher but being a member of his jazz ensemble, which represents the conservatory at jazz festivals. This means enduring Fletcher’s provocations and artistic torment. His dad Jim Neimann: Paul Reiser is a failed teacher. Director/writer Damien Chazelle presents his character study with warts and all, no holds barred. Strong profanity. Sexual references.
Awards: 5 AA nom.: Pic, Sup. Actor: Simmons, Adpt. Scrn., Editing, Sound Mixing. GG win: Sup. Actor: Simmons. SAG Best Male Actor in a Sup. Role, Film: Simmons. Another 52 wins and 72 noms.
Cheryl Srayed: Reese Witherspoon, an ex-heroin addict with zero-hiking experience sets off on the Pacific Crest Trail from the desert northward 1,100 miles to Oregon. Her drama is based on her autobiography of the experience. Although her difficult solo trek will interest most viewers, some may be unmoved by the excellent narration and interesting scenery along the way. Witherspoon’s comprehension of her role is beyond reproach, flawlessly acted. The tale is enlivened by her memories of her mother, Bobbi: Laura Dern, as well as the men Cheryl encounters along the trail, Paul: Thomas Sadoski, Leif: Keene McRae, Jonathan: Michiel Huisman, and Frank: W. Earl Brown. Director Jean-Marc Vallée and writers Nick Horby and Cheryl Strayed respectfully attack Cheryl’s trek on film. Sexual content, Nudity, Drug use. Profanity.
Awards: Academy Awards (AA) nominations: Best Actress: Witherspoon, Sup. Actress: Dern.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY
Alexander’s: Ed Oxenbould 12th birthday couldn’t be more fouled up if he tried. His dad Ben: Steve Carell, his working mom Kelly: Jennifer Garner, brother Anthony: Dylan Minnette, and sister Emily: Kerris Dorsey all have their worst day. Judith Viorst’s children’s book provides humor, often broad, in this crowd-pleaser for the entire family. Rude humor. Some reckless behavior. Profanity.
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP
Housewife Nicole Kidman is anything but ordinary. Husband Ben: Colin Firth must hide photos of her best friend and their nine-year old son who died of an illness. She awakens each morning almost frantic with no memory of anything, including her near-fatal accident! She is shocked to see a woman of 40 staring back from her mirror; where did the years go? Christine thinks Dr. Nasch: Mark Strong is her confidante, but she learns he is a doctor with the institution she was in. This mysterious yarn was directed and written by Rowan Joffe from S.J. Watson‘s novel. Despite the efforts of the fine cast, somehow Joffe doesn’t seem to have the ability to make the pieces fit coherently
Riggan Thomson: Michael Keaton, a screen actor beloved for his action hero Birdman of 20 years ago is opening in a Broadway drama. His assistant/daughter Sam: Emma Stone, and Riggan’s best friend/manager/play producer Zach Galifianakis are on his team. Also performing in the play are Lesley: Namoi Watts and Laura: Andrea Riseborough. Lesley has the ‘perfect’ replacement for the fired actor, her b.f./actor Mike: Edward Norton who is arrogant, difficult and way over their budget. Riggan’s ex-wife Sylvia: Amy Ryan and the one theatre critic who matters Tabitha: Lindsay Duncan round out the cast. Director/co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu with co-writers Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo present this complex tale of Riggan’s attempt to return to the fame he once enjoyed. Excellent performances aid the cause. Profanity throughout. Some sexual content. Brief violence.
THE BOOK OF LIFE--3D
In this animated feature, tour guide Mary Beth: Christina Applegate introduces the love story of feisty Maria: voice of Zoe Saldana and bullfighter Manolo: v.o. Diego Luna, complicated by his military rival Joaquin: v.o. Channing Tatum. Joaquin is protected from injury and death by the medal bestowed upon him by Xibalba: Ron Perlman, the ruler of the dreary Land of the Forgotten. The digital creations are greatly enhanced by looking like wooden dolls with exquisite, colorful backgrounds and foregrounds. Having Guillermo del Toro as producer assured the Mexican tale of romance, rivalry, bullfighting, gods and the life beyond has a realistic tone, enlivened by the 3D. Director/co-writer Jorge R. Gutiérrez with co-writer Douglas Langdale make the animation come to life.
THE HUNGER GAMES—MOCKINGJAY, PART ONE
Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence goes to District 13 when District 12 is destroyed by Pres. Snow‘s: Donald Sutherland forces to report to Pres. Coin: Julianne Moore to become the symbol of the revolution. She has become closer to Gale: Liam Hemsworth (They’re engaged in real life.) during this taut period when she doesn’t know the fate of her mother and sister. Peeta: Josh Hutcherson is being held by Snow and forced to produce propaganda for the masses favorable to Snow and Caesar: Stanley Tucci. Haymitch: Woody Harrelson and Beetee: Jeffrey Wright join the Coin team. Plutarch: Philip Seymour Hoffman (his final role; the film is dedicated to him) counsels Coin in her actions. There’s about 30 minutes of padding to keep it the length for the franchise. Anxious fans have to wait until next November for Part Two. Intense sequences of violence/action. Some disturbing images and thematic material.
When Earth’s food supply is running out and devastating sand storms are destroying the crops, famine looms in the near future. The answer lies in space travel on the Endurance to a recently discovered wormhole where possibly there is a planet where humans could exist. Pilot Coop: Matthew McConaughey must leave his 10-year old daughter Murph and son Tom, 15, behind to find it. NASA astrophysicist Prof. Brand: Michael Caine sends his daughter Amelia: Anne Hathaway on the voyage. The team travels to the wormhole, aware that their days are years on Earth and that when they come back, their children will be elderly. Adult Murph: Jessica Chastain assists Brand in his labwork. By their return, Murph: Ellen Burstyn (in old age make-up) is elderly. Director/co-writer Christopher Nolan with his son has fashioned an intelligent, thoughtful adventure story with top actors in all the key roles. Some intense perilous action. Mild profanity.
John Wick: Keanu Reeves, a recent widower whose beloved wife died suddenly, has a reputation (as a feared former mob hit man) for being able to defend his turf. A coupla days later, a dog is delivered to him as a present from his wife to keep him company. He must battle Russian Mafia chieftan Vigo Tarasov: Michael Nyqvist and his mob when his punk son Iosef Tarasov: Alfie Allen steals Wick’s vintage Mustang, beats him up and kills the pup. Marcus: Willem Dafoe is a mystery man who keeps one guessing which side he’s on. Wick’s vengeance supplies the high action in this adventure. Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch with writer Derek Kolstad keep the up the speedy pace. Reeves commands attention for the 101 minutes. Strong bloody violence throughout (the death toll approaches 101 killed in close combat!). Profanity. Brief drug use.
Hank Palmer: Robert Downey, Jr. returns to his Southern home for his mother’s funeral. His father Judge Joseph Palmer: Robert Duvall seems to be losing it. Hank’s ex-wife waitress Samantha: Vera Farmiga and brothers Glen: Vincent D’Onofrio and Dale: Jeremy Strong welcome him back. C.P.: Dax Shepard figures in on the hit-run with which the judge is being charged. In the trial scenes, opposing counsel Dwight Dickham: Billy Bob Thornton and Judge Warren: Ken Howard prominently appear. There’s Oscar buzz for Duvall and Downey, who also produced with his wife.
KILL THE MESSENGER
San Jose Mercury journalist Gary Webb: Jeremy Renner exposes the CIA involvement in Nicaragua’s cocaine syndication. Many don’t believe him; others think maybe he’s snorting himself. This true story is most compelling! Renner is getting Oscar talk for his role. His life, his family and his integrity are threatened by heavy pressure applied by the CIA. His involvement with Ronald Quail: Robert Patrick and his girl friend: Gena Sims are key to the plot. Webb’s book and Nick Schou’s Kill the Messenger provide the facts for Peter Landesman’s screenplay, directed by Michael Cuesta with all the complicated twists forcing Webb to his final act. Profanity. Drug content.
Louis Bloom: Jake Gyllenhaal (gaunt from losing 40 lbs. for the role) finds himself learning to be a photo journalist for accidents. He follows the police calls and upgrades his camera equipment as Joe Loder: Bill Paxton suggested if he wants to be successful. Nina: Renee Russo buys his work for her TV station. Bloom makes no secret of his infatuation with her. Sharon Tay, Kent Shockneck and Pat Harvey play themselves in this competitive devil chase, fast action thriller. Director-writer Dan Gilroy delivers the gruesomeness of what Bloom finds as his nightcrawler business progresses. Performances are riveting! Violence including graphic images. Profanity.
Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari: Gael Garcia Bernal leaves his pregnant wife in the U.K. to chronicle the controversial 2009 presidential elections in Tehran. Arrested as a CIA-Zionist spy after his video revealed police violence, Maz’s insecure, angry interrogator Javadi: Kim Bodnia tortures and berates Maz during his 118 days of blindfolded imprisonment in Evin Prison. His only identifying trait is the strong scent of rosewater. Writer-director Jon Stewart (host of The Daily Show) debuts as the filmmaker. Maziar’s mother: Shohreh Aghdashloo mounts the campaign for his release. Rosewater becomes an unexpectedly thrilling knockout smash for Stewart and Bernal. Stewart based his screenplay on the memoir by Bahari and Aimee Molloy. Some crude references. Violent content.
In this animated feature, a feral 11-year old boy Eggs: voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright has been raised by the underground boxtrolls. Roughshod, he isn’t very civilized. When he goes above ground to seek his surrogate father-friend Fish: v.b. Dee Baker who has not returned from his food foray. He meets Winnie: v.b. Elle Fanning, the lone child of wealthy Lord and Lady Portley-Rind, who helps him in his quest which leads them to the lair of Archibald Snatcher: v.b. Ben Kingsley. Action. Some peril. Mild rude humor.
Much of the movie is shot at night, centering in the late night coffee shop that greets the sleepless. Regulars are Robert McCall: Denzel Washington, a quiet man who has surpressed a violent past until he finds his friend, young prostitute Teri: Chloë Grace Moritz being brutalized by the Russian thug pimps controlled by Teddy: Marton Csokas. Antoine Fuqua directs the screenplay by Richard Wenk based on the TV series written by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. Strong bloody violence and Profanity throughout. Some sexual references.
Norman Ellison: Logan Lerman finds himself assigned as a rookie replacement tank crew member trained in eight weeks to type 60 wpm. Hell, he’s never been inside a tank before. In Germany in April 1945, everything happens in 24 hours. The tank (named Fury) commander Don “Wardaddy” Collier: Brad Pitt and the three surviving men trek back to their base bruised, battered and grieving their dead comrade. The three are religious gunner Boyd Swan: Shia LaBeouf; reliable driver Trini Garcia: Michael Peña; and the almost feral foul-mouthed Grady Trravis: Jon Bernthal. Norman’s first duty is to clean up the blood and a large hunk of the face of the previous assistant driver. Pitt does get his shirt off for the obligatory pec exposure when he and Norman spend some tame moments with two German cousins, Irma: Anamaria Marinca and the younger Emma: Alicia von Rittberg over dinner in their apartment. But writer-director David Ayer interrupts this for more bombings and revealing Grady’s crudeness. Norman toughens up with the audience. Strong sequences of war violence. Some grisly images. Profanity throughout.
A housewife Amy: Rosamund Pike goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. Eventually, her tale is presented as well as her husband Nick’s: Ben Affleck. She turns to a former love, Desi Collings: Neil Patrick Harris but he surprises her. For the best mystery you’ll see for months, it’s Gone Girl. Director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room) presents Gillian Flynn’s screenplay based on her best-selling novel. Some violence. Profanity. Thematic elements. Brief sensuality.
MY OLD LADY
Paris residents Mathilde Girard: Maggie Smith and her spinster daughter, Chloe Girard: Kristen Scott Thomas share a large house which Mathias Gold: Kevin Kline has inherited. The American arrives unexpectedly and soon learns that Mathilde has a tenancy for her lifetime agreement with her late lover, Mathias’ father. Gold moves into an empty bedroom and is charged rent by Mathilde! Chloe is near his age and – surprise – a romance develops. Director Israel Horovitz has based his unique screenplay on his play. Maggie charms despite her abrasive moments. Kline is easy going and resourceful. Profanity. Thematic material. Some sexual references.
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
Tracing the Philosopher’s Stone to the Paris catacombs, young archaeologist Scarlett: Perdita Weeks believes the rumor related to the artifact that it is capable of turning metal into gold. Others on the team include George: Ben Feldman, Benji: Edwin Hodge and Pappilon: François Civil. They crawl over skeleton remains below ground. This often incoherent found-footage tale also adds a little Freud into the combo of alchemy, Dante, Egyptology and Satanism. Director, co-screenwriter John Erick Dowdle, with Drew Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil), fashion this psychological thriller that delves into terror and madness. Bloody violence/terror with pervasive Profanity throughout.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY—THEM
A couple, Eleanor: Jessica Chastain and Conor: James McAvoy, are dealing with a family tragedy, together and separately, longing to understand each other in the Now of their lives. The tremendous supporting cast populates the compelling tale: her instructor, Prof. Friedman: Viola Davis; her father, Julian: William Hurt; her French mother, Mary: Isabelle Huppert; Conor’s dad-employer, restaurant-owner Spencer: Ciarán Hinds; and his chef, Stuart, Bill Hader. Director-writer Ned Benson unfolds his tale sporadically over 122 minutes, never rushing the natural rhythm. Sly old foxes, the producers, the Weinsteins, are re-editing the same footage in October for two other versions of this film for HIM and HER, presenting the point of view of Eleanor and Conor separately, totaling 162 minutes. Them, wistful and quiet, stands firmly on its own merits. Profanity.
Director Philip Noyce (Salt; the pilot for the ABC hit, Revenge), with a career of strange tales and unusual choices, adds another one, this story of a society without pain or suffering, war or choices, set in the near future. When youths reach their eighteenth birthday, they have a ceremony which thrusts them into a career chosen for them. When Jonas: Brendon Thwaites celebrates, he is given special training by The Giver: Jeff Bridges, an old man who remembers the way it was before and conveys this to Jonas. The Chief Elder: Meryl Streep makes the announcement to his parents, Father: Alexander Skarsgård and Mother: Katie Holmes, and all the graduates and families gathered. Rosemary: Taylor Swift (with black hair) is barely recognizable in a supporting part. Co-writers Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide have adapted Lois Lowry’s book to the screen. Most of the movie is in black-and-white but by the end turns to color as the plot evolves. Mature thematic image. Some sci-fi action-violence.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
A famous French chef, Madame Mallory: Helen Mirren and daughter Marguerite: Charlotte L Bon meet and are charmed by the Indian family whose van has broken down roadside near their French village and requires overnight repairs. Papa: Om Puri and his young culinary talent, Hassan: Manish Dayal find the house for rent across the street from Mallory’s Michelin-rated French restaurant and decide to turn it into an Indian restaurant. Madame’s attitude soon changes as she tries to sabotage their plans. By the time Hassan attends the Paris culinary academy, he has matured into a bearded adult. Papa has five kids but the story concentrates on Hassan. Mirren is smashing as always despite her two-note character. Director Lasse Hallstrom and screenplay writer Steven Knight with novelist Richard C. Morais could have done a better job of keeping things moving in what should have been a simpler story. Maybe they put too much faith in the exuberant score by A.R. Rahman. Some violence. Profanity. Thematic elements. Brief sensuality.
LOVE IS STRANGE
New York City residents, Ben: John Lithgow and George: Alfred Molina, wed in a ceremony attended by friends and relatives after a 39-year relationship. When the Catholic school where George teaches disapproves and fires him, they are forced to sell their flat. Ben moves in with his nephew Elliott: Darren E. Burrows, his wife Kate: Marisa Tomei, and shares a bunk bed with their temperamental 16-year old son Joey: Charlie Tahan. George finds shelter with two cops who live downstairs, Ted: Cheyenne Jackson and Roberto: Manny Perez. The story is very much about how people take care of each other while confronting marriage inequality and religious discrimination. Co-writer/director Ira Sachs and his co-writer Mauricio Zacharias present a modern day love story about the consistent flow of the seasons of our lives; their previous collaboration, Keep the Lights On, premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Profanity.
THE MAZE RUNNER
Once his memory is erased, Thomas: Dylan O’Brien awakens on an elevator with this month’s supplies to an encampment of teenage boys. They are living in a walled-in area with very tall concrete walls that move at night. Six-foot scorpions, called Greivers, prowl at night killing any youths who remain overnight in the Maze. Runners are tasked with keeping map-track of the changes and routes, always seeking the way out. The original bunch, who have been there for 24 months, are called The Glade. Their leader, Gally: Will Pouter, makes life difficult for anyone who threatens his rule. Just when they think they know the system, a comatose girl, Teresa: Kaya Scodelario arrives with the new month’s supplies. She remembers Thomas which upsets Gally. Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin wrote the screenplay from James Dashner‘s novel for Wes Ball’s direction. Sci-fi action/violence. Some disturbing images.
A MOST WANTED MAN
German counterterrorism agent, Günther Bachmann: the late Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a posthumous Oscar nomination-worthy performance. His stomach hangs over his belt; chain-smoking, there’s always a half-burned cigarette in his hand or dangling from his lips. US embassy official Rachel Sullivan: Robin Wright tracks a half-Chechen, half-Russian fugitive, Grigoriy: Issa Karpov, through Hamburg’s Islamic community. Director Anton Corbijn (The American) builds the John le Carré novel with a strong supporting cast including banker Tommy Brue: Willem Dafoe and cyclist Annabel: Rachel McAdams who tries to aid Grigoriy. Profanity.
AND SO IT GOES
Lounge singer Leah: Diane Keaton starts dating curmudgeonly real estate agent Oren Little: Michael Douglas. He finally sells the large mansion he lived in while married. He romances her in his unique manner. She proceeds cautiously, sort of a senior Annie Hall. Everything gets disrupted by a ten-year old granddaughter, Sarah: Sterling Jeris that Oren never knew about who is dropped into his care by his son when he’s on the way to serve a six-month jail sentence. Knowing very little about girls, Oren turns to his neighbor Leah for support. Directed by Rob Reiner and written by Mark Andrus, this senior comedy is actually fun, thanks to the rapport of its stars. By her final number, Leah’s singing has improved enough to be interesting. [Ms. Keaton began her career singing in the original Broadway production of Hair.] Sexual references. Profanity. Drug elements.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
San Francisco and Marin in this futuristic sci-fi drama are taken over by bands of apes, the not-too-friendly variety. Led by Malcolm: Jason Clarke and Dreyfus: Gary Oldham, the few human survivors try to get giant generators to function despite the interference of the apes. The tentative peace is held by Andy Serkis, leader of the apes, Caesar. Malcolm’s mate, Ellie: Keri Russell treats the wounded Caesar. Director Matt Reeves and his writers, Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa +4, provide a compelling tale. Intense sci-fi action and violence. Brief profanity.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – 3-D
Adult Peter Quill: Chris Pratt steals a mysterious orb on the planet Moraq. He has to battle Korath: Djimon Hounsou and his men who report to Ronan the Accuser: Lee Pace that he failed to get the orb from Peter. Gamora: Zoe Saldana tries to take the orb from Peter, but Groot: voice of Vin Diesel and Rocket, a rodent: v.o. Bradley Cooper see that Peter is a wanted man and try to capture him for the bounty. When the foursome are arrested by Nova HQ and imprisoned in the Klyn, Drax: David Bautista, Groot and Rocket have a drunken brawl. The Collector: Benecio Del Toro separates the orb into two halves and reveals its powerful contents. Corpsman Dey: John C. Reilly and Nova Prime: Glenn Close round out the large supporting cast. If this sounds plot-heavy, there’s lots of non-stop action with a large cast in the 121-minute film. Director/Head Writer James Gunn shares Marvel writing credit with Nicole Perlman + 2. Sci-fi action/violence. Some profanity.
Lucy: Scarlett Johansson doesn’t know what she’s in for when she accepts delivering drugs for Mr. Jang: Min Sik Choi. The plastic bag sewn inside her stomach leaks and her ability to utilize 100% full brain potential suddenly occurs, plus she gets the strength to bend metal and leap fathoms. With the aid of the foremost brain authority, Professor Norman: Morgan Freeman and the sympathetic French police captain Pierre Del Rio: Amr Waked, she tackles Mr. Jang and his deadly hoods. What a way to see Paris! Lucy fits Scarlet like a glove! Writer-director Luc Besson and Johannson have a real action-packed winner. Strong violence. Disturbing images. Sexuality.
PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE
Internationally known aerial ace Dusty: voice of Dane Cook learns he has a damaged engine and may never race again. His alternative is to become a firefighting plane, joining the fire and rescue team (known as the Smokejumpers) headed by helicopter Blade Ranger: v.o. Ed Harris. When the team, including Lil’ Dipper: v.o. Julie Bowen and Maru: v.o. Curtis Armstrong, must tackle an out-of-control forest fire, Dusty gets a taste of what it’s like to be a real hero in this animated tale for kids of all ages. Director Roberts Gannaway and writer (characters): Jeffrey M. Howard have done an admirable job with their bright colored feature. Action. Some peril.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA
Fearless TV reporter April: Megan Fox and her cameraman Vernon: Will Arnett, tired of doing puff pieces, run afoul of Eric Sacks: William Fichtner, founder of the mighty conglomerate, Sacks Group, and the evil Shredder: Tohoru Masamune, leader of the Foot Clan which is terrorizing Manhattan. Seems April’s late father headed up Project Renaissance for Sachs when they zapped four baby turtles with mutagen and created the mighty foursome who rarely come out of their sewer hideout. Rat sensei Master Splinter: Danny Woodburn supervises them there, teaching them ninjitsu. Leader Leonardo: Pete Plozek (voiced by Johnny Knoxville), witty Donatello: Jeremy Howard, rebellious Raphael: Alan Ritchson and goofy Michaelangelo: Noel Fisher comprise the title characters. At work, April reports to Bernadette: Whoopi Goldberg (in a serious role). The Foot Soldiers battle the Turtles. Guess who wins. Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec + 3 wrote the dark tale for Jonathan Liebesman’s direction. Sci-fi action violence.
Don Lee Miller is at the Movies most of the time!
EDGE OF TOMORROW – IMAX 3-D
Major William Cane: Tom Cruise reports to Gen. Brigham: Brendan Gleeson only to learn that his cushy job as TV commentator has ended. His attempt to blackmail the general backfires and he wakes up stripped of the brass from his uniform, with no training and on the front lines fighting hand-to-“hand” with deadly VW-sized alien spiders called Mimics from outer space. On the battlefield, he meets Rita Vrataski, the Special Forces “Angel from Verdun”: Emily Blunt, who is practically a one-woman army. She takes a liking to the handsome guy and starts providing him training. That he is killed only minutes into the battle doesn’t matter, because he relives the events day after day, improving his odds for survival as he learns rapidly what’s needed from her previous experience with a similar time loop. Groundhog Day meets Terminator! Master Sgt. Farell: Bill Paxton is his short-tempered immediate superior. The tagline: Live, Die, Repeat is an accurate summation. The nonstop violent action from director Doug Limon is recognizable from his past outings (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith). Sci-fi action/violence. Profanity. Brief suggestive material.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Hazel: Shailene Woodley and Gus: Ansel Elgort play young lovers who know their clock is ticking … rapidly. She has TB and is attached to an inhaler; he has recently lost a leg and wears an artificial limb. His cancer could spread at any time. His best bud is Isaac: Nat Wolff. Her parents, Frannie: Laura Dern and Michael: Sam Trammell provide support for Hazel, with caution. Gus reads a great book by Dutch author, Van Houten: Willem Dafoe, whom they set out to visit after e-mail encouragement. He turns out to be an SOB, but his wife follows them as they leave the upscale home to offer her own sympathy. Woodley and Elgort have chemistry together and both should have great careers. Dern delivers in her most mature role. Dafoe is excellent as an unlikeable writer. Four handkerchiefs! Profanity. Some sexual content. Brief nudity.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 – 3-D
This is one animated sequel that is as entertaining as the original. Hiccup: voice of Jay Baruchel and Astrid: v.o. America Ferrera explore new worlds and unmapped territories. They accidentally find the ice cave where the villainous Dragon Rider: v.o. Djimon Hounsou is raising hundreds of wild dragons to conquer the Norseland. On one exploration, Hiccup and his dragon Toothless discover his mother Valka: v.o. Cate Blanchett is alive. Ivan the Stoick: v.o. Gerald Butler tries to get Hiccup to succeed him ruling their Viking clan, but the youth is hesitant. How could he know that war is imminent? Director Dean DeBlois also co-wrote with Cressida Cowell, author of the book series. Adventure action. Mild rude humor.
New Jersey youths Frankie Valli: John Lloyd Young, Tommy: Vincent Piazza, Bob: Erich Bergen, and Nick: Michael Lomenda after several name changes, false starts and a couple of six-month prison terms form a singing quartet, eventually named the Four Seasons. Frankie’s godfather is gangster Gyp DeCarlo: Christopher Walken (probably the only recognizable star name in the cast). The gritty behind-the-scenes tale is perhaps even more interesting than seeing the performances of Valli and the Four Seasons as they rise to fame, with appearances on Sullivan’s Toast of the Town. Tommy’s gambling debts are a major obstacle to the survival of the group. Directed by Clint Eastwood, he employed writers of the screenplay and musical book, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Profanity throughout. Moderate sexual content. Mild violence.
MALEFICENT – 3D
This is the animated Cinderella story with the central character now the woman wronged. After young love develops between Maleficent and Prince Stefan, he clips her wings and marries another. Stefan: Sharlto Copley becomes king upon the death of his father. Grown Maleficent: Anjelina Jolie shows up at the christening of his first born, Aurora, and bestows a curse to occur on Aurora’s 16th birthday. Three fairies: Flittle: Lesley Manville, Knotgrass: Imelda Staunton, and Thistletwit: Juno Temple raise Aurora in a cabin in the woods. Maleficent has a bird assistant who turns into a hunk, Diaval: Sam Riley. Adult Aurora: Elle Fanning is a lovely naive princess. When Stefan sends his army against Maleficent, she has a few tricks to her advantage. The animation provides an attractive backdrop and great special effects. Director Robert Stromberg uses 11 writers! Fantasy action/violence. Frightening images.
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
In Arizona in 1882, farmer Albert: Seth MacFarlane is dumped by stick-in-the-mud Louise: Amanda Siedfried. He rescues from a barroom brawl a new arrival in town, hot Anna: Charlize Theron, who neglects to mention that she’s married to dangerous gun slinger Clinch: Liam Neesom. Albert’s best friend Edward: Giovanni Ribisi has a between-customers arrangement with prostitute Ruth: Sarah Silverman whom he plans to marry. Seth’s rival for Louise, businessman Foy: Neil Patrick Harris proves to be an amusing guy. Some of the comedy gets pretty raunchy; look for the daisy. Directed and co-written by Seth MacFarlane with Alec Sulkin and Wellsley Wild. Pervasive profanity. Strong crude and sexual content. Graphic nudity. Some violence. Drug use throughout.
22 JUMP STREET
Schmidt: Jonah Hill and Jenko: Channing Tatum star in this funny bromance sequel. The Ghost: Peter Stormare is the villain of the drug ring they are to crack. On their undercover assignment on a college campus to find drug usage, they report to Capt. Dickson: Ice-Cube. Jenko is invited to a frat where Zook: Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) is a member. The frat shuns Schmidt who gets into an art student circle with Maya. When Maya: Amber Stevens sleeps with Schmidt she gets the disapproval of her roommate, Mercedes: Jillian Bell. The deeper they get into their appointment, the funnier it gets. Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller keep things moving fast. Michael Bacall who co-wrote the screenplay with Oren Uziel plus 5 supplies a hilarious treat at the end worth waiting for: the next 40 undercover assignments for S&J, including a women’s hair salon and a library. Profanity throughout. Sexual content. Drug material. Brief nudity. Some violence.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 — IMAX
Spider-Man/Peter Parker: Andrew Garfield tries to comfort his old friend, Harry Osborn/Green Goblin: Dane DeHaan when he loses his dad. Peter and Gwen: Emma Stone renew their friendship as she helps him infiltrate Oscorp, where he assumes all the villainy against New York City is centered. The large supporting cast includes: Max Dillon / Electro: Jamie Foxx, Donald Menken: Colm Feore, Aleksei: Paul Giamatti, and Felicia: Felicity Jones. Aunt May: Sally Field gets furious when Peter launders his suit and the rest of the wash has red and blue stains; he blames it on washing his American flag. If big pictures are your bag, see it on the big screen. Directed by Marc Webb, with a lots of action screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner Sequences of sci-fi action/ violence.
Fiorovante: John Turturro (who also wrote and directed FG) finds his friend Murray: Woody Allen is right: there is money in sex. Dermatologist Dr. Parker: Sharon Stone isn't satisfied with her husband and seeks outside gratification. She has a penthouse and money to burn. Fiorovante can now pay his bills and then some. Her girl friend, sexy Selima: Sofia Vergara, likes threesomes. Amish Dovi: Liev Schreiber feels he's responsible for the neighborhood morals and follows Fiorovante, creating problems. This very funny film could easily have been a Woody Allen product. Profanity. Some sexual content. Brief nudity.
In 1999 in the Philippines, scientists Dr. Serizawa: Ken Watanabe and his assistant Vivienne Graham: Sally Hawkins get the distress call for a nuclear plant meltdown, incorrectly diagnosed, really a Godzilla-beast robbing a rural power plant of all its power. The focus is on a married pair of nuclear power facility workers, David: Bryan Cranston and his wife, Sandra: Juliette Binoche (could she have been that desperate for one-day's work?), with a pre-pubescent son. Years later, the grown son, U.S. Navy explosives expert, Ford Brody: Aaron Taylor-Johnson is married to Elle: Elizabeth Olsen with their own son, Sam. Ford gets the call for help when an electrical failure occurs. Elle is a San Francisco nurse who watches the skyline being rearranged. Admiral William Stenz: David Straitharn takes charge of the mess. By the time Godzilla reaches Las Vegas, he's recharged to 300 feet high! Gareth Edwards directs his $160-million budget with more flair for the destruction than for the quiet family-in-peril dramatics written by Max Borenstein. Had A T-J been handsome or more interesting, it would have helped greatly; he's really dull. The monsters do make up for the basically silly tale about rampaging critters. Intense scenes of massive destruction, mayhem and creature violence.
A Polish immigrant in Jan. 1921 at Ellis Island, Ewa: Marion Cotillard has her sister Magda kept in confinement for six months to see if her cold turns to TB. Bruno Weiss: Joaquin Phoenix presents a female pageant of several costumed women who are actually being pimped to the highest male bidder for their services. Bruno has rescued Ewa and is now her "employer" and demands she follow his bidding to the tee as he forces her into prostitution. She is found by his cousin, Orlando, the Magician: Jeremy Renner, this time. He and Bruno are enemies who want to kill each other. James Gray directs and shares writing credit with Ric Menello. Marion turns in another Oscar-worthy performance as a character of many emotions. Sexual content. Nudity, Profanity.
It's a tense 85 minutes accompanying Ivan Locke: Tom Hardy as he drives to London while on his phone trying to solve his personal problems as well as all those re the cement-pouring on the construction job. There's the scared lover Bethan: voice of Olivia Colman, who's in hospital about to have his child; his wife, Katrina: v.o. Ruth Wilson with whom he decides it's time to tell about his indiscretion; and his two sons. Then there's the business: the furious boss and the overwhelmed assistant, Donald, he deserted to take care of the family crisis. Steven Knight's direction and Hardy's intensity make for a riveting film experience. Profanity throughout.
Sports agent J.B.: Jon Hamm has lost a major client as the stack of bills-due mounts. He rents his cottage to Brenda: Lake Bell. He stages an unusual campaign for pro-baseball recruits … in India. Baseball pro, Ray: Alan Arkin, hired to assist J.B. would rather sleep than work. After a lengthy selection process touring India, the two finalists are Rinku: Saraj Sharma and Dinesh: Madhur Mittal. The second half, back in the States, is the training, then the show-off for a selection of pro-teams. Tom House: Bill Paxton, with the Pittsburg Pirates makes the final choice. Along the way, J.B. and Brenda get cozy. Director Craig Gillespie presents this true story from Thomas McCarthy's enjoyable screenplay. Mild language. Some sexual content.
New parents, Mac: Seth Rogen and Kelly: Rose Byrne, find the house next door has been purchased by a beer-guzzling, party-throwing fraternity. The senior president, Teddy: Zac Efron and his right hand Pete: Dave Franco believe in a never-ending bacchanal. Scoonie: Christopher Mintz-Plaase even has sex in the bushes. Some of the one-too-many jokes are funny; some just dirty. It gets rough when Teddy loses his sense-of-humor: used condoms on the front lawn. Dean Gladstone: Lisa Kudrow puts the frat on thin ice warning. Take your ear-plugs for this one; the noise here will annoy the audience as much as it does the Radner family. How much can one expect of a movie with a character named Assjuice? Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendhan O'Brien. Pervasive profanity. Strong crude and sexual content. Graphic nudity. Drug use throughout.
UNDER THE SKIN
Set in Scotland, this is a weird tale of a young seductress, Scarlett Johanssen, who has one-night (or shorter) stands with men she preys upon. She takes them into a sort-of warehouse where they walk behind her, both disrobing along the path, with occasional arousing kisses until finally the men are walking into water that gets increasingly deeper. About this time, the audience realizes it is a sci fi adventure, but there is much to learn about her character. Her handler, Paul Brannigan, rides a black motorcycle and wears black leather, finishes anything she reluctantly doesn't conclude. Expect a haunting cinema experience. For moviegoers who complain there's never anything different on screen! Under the Skin is directed by Jonathan Glazer who co-wrote the screenplay with Walter Campbell, based on Michel Faber's novel. Full frontal male and female nudity. Men with erections. Sexual content. Some violence. Profanity.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST –- 3D
In a dystopian future with only a few remaining mutants, Kitty Pryde: Ellen Page leads those trying to hold off the Sentinels, giant, mutant-hunting robots created by the evil Dr. Bolivar Trask: Peter Dinklage. Thanks to the DNA derived from shapeshifter Mystique: Jennifer Lawrence, the Sentinels can adapt to the individual powers of the surviving mutants. Magneto: Ian McKellan, Professor Xavier: Patrick Stewart, Wolverine: Hugh Jackman, and Storm: Halle Berry decide their best odds for surviving are for Kitty to send Wolverine back to 1973 before Mystique killed Trask at the Paris Peace Accords. This had rallied the public to rise against mutants and to capture Mystique and experiment on her. Wolverine's challenge is to convince the younger Xavier: James McAvoy and Magneto: Michael Fassbinder to work together when they hate each other. First, Magneto must be rescued from a prison 100 stories beneath the Pentagon. To tell more would spoil surprise after surprise in this clever screenplay by Simon Kinberg directed brilliantly by Bryan Singer. Obviously, with such a huge cast some have less screen-time than others. Sequences of intense sci-fi violence/action. Some suggestive material. Nudity. Profanity.
In his final role, Paul Walker plays an undercover Detroit cop, Damien. He fits the part like a glove as he infiltrates a gang holed up in the walled-in area known as Brick Mansions. His partner, after a rocky start, is ex-con Lino: David Belle, the founder of the martial art, Parkour. The crime lord who runs B.M., Tremaine: RZA is holding the city hostage with a nuclear bomb set to go off in hours unless he gets $150-million ransom. He also holds prisoner Damien's g.f., Lola: Catalina Denis, being guarded by a lesbian witch from hell, Rayzah: Ayisha Issa. This action thriller has a lot of bone-crunching gymnastics when the guys never know who's going to be around the next corner as they progress toward the bomb. Frenetic gunplay. Violence and action throughout. Profanity. Sexual menace. Drug material.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER IMAX
Captain America: Chris Evans, following a deep freeze for decades, is now 95 years old but hasn't aged a bit. Anger-fueled Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson with eye-patch now reports to Alexander Pierce: Robert Redford. The fight for right frenetic hand-to-hand combat involves Natasha/the Black Widow: Scarlett Johansson, Captain A, Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier: Sebastian Stan, Sam Wilson/Falcon: Anthony Mackie, and Brock Rumlow: Frank Grillo. Look for a Smithsonian Guard: Stan Lee, the Marvel creator. Should Loud!! be bothersome, make sure to take earplugs. Avengers: Age of Ultron arrives next May. Intense violence and action! Some profanity, sensuality and drug references.
General Manager Sonny Weaver Jr.: Kevin Costner on the NFL Draft Day, must decide what it's worth to the Cleveland Brown team to have the No. 1 Pick. Too much time is devoted to the machinations re the Browns' pick with the team's owner Molina: Frank Langella and new Coach Penn: Denis Leary putting in their thoughts about the pick. Sonny also has to deal with his pregnant girlfriend Ali: Jennifer Garner and his interfering mom, Barb: Ellen Burstyn; add Vivi Delay: Amber Heard to the mix. In the final moments, they finally get around to the draft pick. Some sexual references. Brief profanity.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
As the legendary concierge, Monsieur Gustave H., Ralph Fiennes leads a large cast of players in cameos through a fast-paced romp hurtling across a mythical European country, Zubrowka, between the world wars. He explains that he actually prefers sex with the elderly women who patronize the Grand Budapest Hotel for their spas. The owner of the hotel is ancient Madame D.: Tilda Swinton, barely recognizable as the 84-year old countess in all the old age make-up, who wills it to her lover, Gustave H, in the event of her demise. Many relatives fight over her will, led by Dmitri: Adrien Brody. Gustave takes a painting, Boy with Apple, of incredible value and hops a train with his protégé, Zero: Tony Revolori. They are chased by hit-man Jopling: Willem Dafoe, but are aided by Zero's girl friend, Agatha, their bakery girl: Saoirse Ronan. Gustave's naughty use of profanity is jarring. Fiennes' florid gigolo scoundrel is the first Oscar-worthy performance of 2014. A blink or a nod-off could make one miss any of the dozen quirky guest appearances. In older years Zero is portrayed by F. Murray Abraham. Director Wes Anderson wrote the screenplay and co-wrote with Hugo Guinness the story inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig. Alexandre Desplat's score provides the momentum he did in Fantastic Mr. Fox for Anderson. Profanity. Sexual content. Some violence.
Noah: Russell Crowe is chosen to build a huge multi-story ark to house male-female pairs of all the world's animals before forty days of rain flood and cleanse the wicked from the world. Giant black rock monsters are tasked with controlling the animalistic populace who want to board the ark. His wife Naameh: Jennifer Connolley and adult sons, Ham: Logan Lerman and Shem: Douglas Booth, stepdaughter Ila: Emma Watson are tasked with repopulating the world after the storm. Tubal-Cain: Ray Winstone, Shamyaza: Nick Nolte and Noah's dad, Methusala: Anthony Hopkins round out the supporting cast. The rain seems endless. Director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky can take credit/blame for this Bible-inspired tale. Violence. Disturbing images. Brief suggestive content.
THE OTHER WOMAN
Successful NYC attorney Carly: Cameron Diaz has a hot affair for two months with Mark King: Nicolaj Coster-Waldau before seeing he's married to insecure Kate: Leslie Mann. The gals learn they have a lot in common and bond together plotting revenge on the lying, cheating SOB. Kate's Shetland-sized pet dog supplies its share of scatological laughs. In their spying on Mark, they discover the sexy 44DD bimbette he's now bedding is Amber: Kate Upton, a model-turned-actress. Her initial beach run is a steal from Blake Edwards'1979 comedy, 10 with Bo Derek. The trio determines to make Mark's life hell with shampoo laced with hair remover, estrogen and laxatives, etc. This hilarious comedy gets even funnier, thanks in no small part to the fine supporting cast: there's Carly's dad Frank: Don Johnson; Kate's affable brother Phil: Taylor Kinney (to prove not all men are heels); and Carly's wisecracking secretary Lydia: Nicki Minaj, rapper-turned-actress. Kate finds that the papers Mark has had her sign have put a Bahamas bank account in the millions solely in her name. This is Mann's most diverse role ever and could put Mrs. Judd Apatow in the running for Supporting Actress awards at year end. Director Nick Cassavetes and writer Melissa Stack have a hit on their hands. Mature thematic material. Sexual references. Profanity.
THE RAILWAY MAN
Brit Eric Lomax: Jeremy Irvine is captured during WWII by Japanese occupation forces in Thailand and forced to help build the Burma bridge on the River Kwai. Tortured after confessing to building a contraband radio to give his fellow prisoners a glimmer of hope, Lomax is introduced to the WWII version of water boarding and severe beatings. He blames the Japanese translator, Takashi: Tanroh Ishida, as probably the active instigator. Years later in England, middle-aged Lomax: Colin Firth with damaged psyche and jumpy, is obsessed with train schedules. On a train ride he meets his wife-to-be, Patti: Nicole Kidman who admits he's a mess. His POW buddy, Finlay: Stellan Skarsgard, wears his duck feathers well with nothing affecting him until a sudden turn. When Patti learns Eric's tormentor is alive, she faces the decision of having Eric confront him or not. Will it cure Eric of his demons? The ending comes as disappointing and anticlimactic. Director Jonathan Teplitzky and writers Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson do strive and adapt Lomax's book fairly faithfully. Disturbing prisoner of war violence.
RIO 2 3D
Blu: voice of Jesse Eisenberg and Jewel: v.o. Anne Hathaway and their three kids go from Rio to the Amazon jungle. Linda: v.o. Leslie Mann and Tulio: v.o. Rodrigo Santoro lead the fight against the loggers, destroying the rain forest where the blue birds habitat, led by Big Boss: v.o. Miguel Ferrer, who must be stopped.. New characters to the musical franchise are: Gabi: v.o. Kristin Chenoweth; Blu's father-in-law, Eduardo: v.o. Andy Garcia; Aunt Mimi: v.o. Rita Moreno; and Jewel's childhood friend, Roberto: v.o. Bruno Mars. Returning characters from Rio include Nico: v.o. Jaime Foxx; a non-flying father bird, Rafael: v.o. George Lopez; bulldog Luiz: v.o. Tracy Morgan; and the antagonist cockatoo, Nigel: v.o. Jemaine Clement. Director Carlos Saldanha also co-wrote the story and created the characters; Don Rhymer co-wrote the story while the screenplay credit is shared by Jenny Bicks, Yoni Brenner and Carlos Kotkin. Colorfully filmed and well worth seeing. The musical score is enchanting.
Berkeley's foremost scientist of Artificial Intelligence, Will Caster: Johnny Depp is experimenting with keeping the brain alive after death. His intelligent wife Evelyn Caster: Rebecca Hall, the love of his life, and his best friend Max Waters: Paul Bettany are fellow researchers. Agent Buchanan: Cillian Murphy, Bree: Kate Mara, Col. Stevens: Cole Hauser, and Joseph: Morgan Freeman head the supporting cast. When Will is shot by a rioter, his theories are put to the test. Evelyn rallies the troops to keep Will from dying in vain. Soon they have more opposition from anti-technology extremists and social unrest. The unique tale is directed by Wally Pfister with writer Jack Paglen providing unexpected twists with special effects constantly surprising. Sci-fi action and violence. Some bloody images. Brief profanity. Sensuality.
Courageous, fearless Tris: Shailene Woodley lives in dystopian sci-fi Chicago, ravaged postwar, but divided into five factions by personality traits. Tris’s family is in the Abnegation faction (selfless, dressing like 19th century Amish). On her Choosing Day (the 16th birthday when survivors divide into one of five factions when they are ripped from their families), Tris envies her mentor, Four: Theo James, a tattooed torso Dauntless. (The other three factions are Amity, Erudite and Candor.) Her mother Natalie: Ashley Judd and father Andrew: Tony Goldwyn head the supporting cast which includes Tris’s nemesis: erudite politician Jeanine Matthews: Kate Winslet and wise Tori, who administers Tris’s personality test: Maggie Q. Eric: Jai Courtney, Marcus: Ray Stevenson and Christina: Zoë Kravitz play fellow initiates in Dauntless, the faction based on bravery. [Since Season One of Downton Abbey, James has been known as The Turk who thrusted too much of his sex with Lady Mary and gave his life.] Tris projects sincerity. In love scenes, Tris looks at her feet or the wall, but when the lips part and the spit thins, she and Four gaze at each other lovelorn. Tris discovers a conspiracy against those who don’t mesh exactly within the boundaries of only one faction. Despite scaling to the top of a Ferris wheel, the story remains grounded. Four explains her thrill to Tris: “Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up.” Divergent owes a lot to 2013’s top-grosser The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Veronica Roth’s young adult trilogy, including the two upcoming sequels. Director Neil Burger and the screenplay by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor provide the film with charismatic leads for a young audience. Intense violence and action. Some unsettling images of blood and gore. Some sensuality.
3 DAYS TO KILL
Voluptuous Vivi Delay: Amber Heard approaches dying FBI agent Ethan Renner: Kevin Costner with the offer of a drug that may save his life in exchange for one last hit on an international terrorist. Ex-wife Christine Renner: Connie Nielsen has gone out of town and has left teen daughter Zoey: Hailee Steinfeld in the care of her eccentric ex-husband. Zoey slips out one night and gets drunk in a nightclub. The Paris seen here is the neighborhoods rather than the tourist areas. Director McG presents both sides of the coin: the fast and furious underworld and the slower home life. The screenplay by Adi Hasak with story and screenplay by Luc Besson, with some humor, involves the viewer in caring for Ethan and Zoey as they risk their lives in the criminal environment. Intense scenes of action violence. Some sexuality. Profanity.
During an Atlantic crossing flight from London, the air marshal Bill: Liam Neesom starts receiving text messages on his cell phone that every 20 minutes a passenger will die unless an offshore bank account is credited with a deposit of $150-million. His seatmate Jen: Julianne Moore, pilot Tom: Scoot McNairy and Chief Stewardess Nancy: Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary on PBS’s Downton Abbey) get very involved in helping Bill. Stewardess Gwen: Lupita Nyong’o has less than ten minutes of screen time and does not get to show the talent range for which she received the Supporting Actress Oscar for Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. Director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriting-story by John W. Richardson and Christopher Roach, plus Ryan Engle, keep the tension taut with nails digging into the arms of the viewer’s seat. Intense violence and action. Some profanity, sensuality and drug references.
Alex Murphy: Joel Kinnaman, a cop in 2028 Detroit suffers severe wounds but is pieced together by Dr. Dennett Norton: Gary Oldman and the corporation OmniCorp run by Raymond Sellars: Michael Keaton. Wife Clara Murphy: Abbie Cornish and son don’t realize how much of Alex is machine and how little is the man they loved. He has become a killing machine. OmniCorp considers Alex the prototype of their new half-cop/half-machine line they want to manufacture. Director Jose Padilha, screenwriter Joshua Zetumer and the 1987 screenplay writers: Eduard Neumeier and Michael Miner are credited with this sci-fi action flick. The strong supporting cast includes Police Chief Karen Dean: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Rick Mattox: Jackie Earle Haley, Liz Kline: Jennifer Ehle, and Pat Novak: Samuel L. Jackson. Intense action with frenetic gun violence throughout. Brief profanity, sensuality and some drug material.
SON OF GOD
After a twenty-minute summation of the entire Old Testament, the story gets to the manger. The cast stars Adult Jesus: Diogo Morgado, Mary Magdalene: Amber Rose Revah, John: Sebastian Knapp and Mary, Mother of Jesus: Roma Downey, who doubles as producer with her husband, Mark Burnett. Filmed in Morocco, Christ’s story hits all the highlights throughout his life culminating in tear-inducing empathy. The costumes and settings look authentically period. Director-writer Christopher Spencer is supported by other writers: Richard Bedser, Colin Swash and Nic Young. Some unsettling images and sequences of violence, including spikes being driven into Christ’s limbs. Intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion. Unsettling images through the holes in Christ’s hands in the Resurrection scenes. Superbly filmed and well worth seeing.
Blue-collar valet David Elliot: Alex Pettyfer (Adam: Magic Mike) contrives to meet his dream-girl, blond Jade Butterfield: Gabriella Wilde (Carrie), both graduating high school seniors. They date despite the opposition of her snobbish dad, Dr. Hugh B.: Bruce Greenwood (who's obsessed on the recent death of his son). Jade's mother, Anne: Joely Richardson, remembers what it is to be in love and provides secretive support. Upstanding David gets some help from his dad, Harry: Robert Patrick, owner of an auto repair shop. Poor and rich make for a messy romantic brew by director/co-writer Shana Fest. Top-notch performances all around. Sexual content. Brief partial nudity. Some profanity. Teen partying.
Our hero, obedient likeable construction worker Emmett: voice of Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) lives and works in Bricksburg. He is mistaken for MasterBuilder, the leader of resistance forces against nefarious President Business: v.o. Will Farrell. Bad Cop/Good Cop: well voiced by Liam Neesom tries to capture Emmett and terminate Bricksburg. Vitruvius: v.o. Morgan Freeman leads the good guys. Screenwriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller liven up the animation. Action. Mild rude humor.
Depressed, unglamorous mother Adele: Kate Winslet tries to watch over her teen son Henry: Gattlin Griffith when they are forced to shelter an escaped convict Frank: Josh Brolin who is running from the police. He proves surprisingly resourceful in making needed repairs around their home in the woods over a Labor Day weekend. As Adele's trust increases, so does her love. Tobey Maguire makes a cameo in the final scenes as the adult Henry. Jason Reitman directs his screenplay. Brief violence. Sexuality.
In 1944, Harvard art historian Frank Stokes: George Clooney (who does double duty as director) is tasked by FDR with putting together a platoon of art experts to save the world's masterpieces from winding up in the collection of Hitler. He receives resistance from the French archivist Claire: Cate Blanchett who initially doesn't believe the American group is trying to return the paintings and sculptures to their original owners. Finally, James: Matt Damon wins her over. Those recruited include: Jean Claude: Jean Dujardin (Oscar-winner for The Artist), Richard: Bill Murray, Walter: John Goodman, Donald: Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), and Preston: Bob Balaban. Fifty years ago, Burt Lancaster fought Nazi general Paul Scofield on The Train for the same artworks; Frankenheimer of The Train pulled more tension and excitement from the similar situation. Some images of war, violence, and smoking.
SAVING MR. BANKS
Author P.L. Travers: Emma Thompson arrives in Hollywood to work with Walt Disney: Tom Hanks on their filming of her Mary Poppins. Unbearably obstinate, inflexible and negative, she doesn't get along with her chauffeur, Ralph: Paul Giamatti or the assigned composers, the Sherman Brothers. Disney makes every effort to be pleasant to the disagreeable spinster. Some unsettling images.
Akiva Goldman, co-producer, writer and director (Oscar-winner for A Beautiful Mind) presents a magical tale set in an alternate-universe Manhattan. After a brief prolog in 1916, it skips to the love story of 1924, concluding in 2014. The central characters who never age are burglar Peter: Colin Farrell and his nemesis, Pearly: Russell Crowe, the hammiest villain in decades, bashing in a waiter's head for a minor mistake. Imagine what he wants to do to Peter, a former employee of his Short Tails Gang, who went independent. Pearly puts up a big bounty for the runner who escapes with rescues by his flying white Andalusian, Anthasor [also Peter's helpful spirit guide], who whisks Peter to safety. He finds shelter with Beverly Penn: Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) in the mansion of her father, wealthy newspaper owner, Isaac Penn: William Hurt. In the final stages of tuberculosis, Beverly could benefit from Peter's power of reincarnation. Unfortunately after only one night of bliss, she dies in his arms. Peter returns in 2014 to complete his destiny, meeting Virginia: Jennifer Connelly and Adult Willa: Eva Marie Saint. But he must also deal with Pearly. Farrell makes a smooth transition from bad boy roles to romantic leading man.
ALL IS LOST
Unnamed “Our Man” alone: Robert Redford is sleeping on his 39-foot yacht adrift in the Indian Ocean when he awakens to find water two feet deep in the cabin. Going on deck, he sees what caused the gash where water has been washing in. His repairs seem futile. How the sailor copes with his inoperable radio and navigation equipment and a horrendous storm is the substance of his weathered, brilliant, nearly silent performance with the camera staring into every furrow on his face and neck as the summer sun beats down. Brief profanity.
A conman with the world’s worst comb-over, Irving Rosenfeld: Christian Bale; a redhead sharp con artist sans-bra who pretends to be British royalty, Sydney Prosser: Amy Adams; an FBI agent with a loose screw and hair curled with tiny pink rollers, Richie DiMaso: Bradley Cooper; crooked New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito: Jeremy Renner; a sexy blonde without common sense = a loose cannon with a lit fuse, Rosalyn Rosenfeld: Jennifer Lawrence; and Stoddard: Louis C.K. comprise the varied cast members. Director and screenplay co-writer David O. Russell with Eric Singer keep the activity moving fast and loose. This 1970’s tale of N.J. con artists is full of surprises. Pervasive profanity. Brief violence. Mature thematic material. Some sexuality.
Awards: Winner: 3 Golden Globes: Best Comedy Film, Best Performance by an Actress: Adams, Sup. Actress: Lawrence + 4 noms. + 40 awards; 10 Oscar nominations + 83 other noms.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
Bev Weston: Sam Shepard has been unhappily married his adult life to Violet (the non-shrinking variety): Meryl Streep, who smokes, drinks and has quite a mouth, putting down most everything. They live in Osage County, Oklahoma with family nearby. When Bev drowns, the family gathers for his funeral. One daughter, Barbara: Julia Roberts, lives in Colorado with daughter Jean: Abigail Breslin and arrives in a separate vehicle from separated husband Bill Fordham: Ewan McGregor. The rest of Barb’s siblings, Mattie Fae: Margo Martindale, married to Charlie: Chris Cooper, with son Little Charles: Benedict Cumberbatch (PBS’s Sherlock); Ivy: Julianne Nicholson; Karen: Juliette Lewis and husband, Steve: Dermot Mulroney move back into their old bedrooms for the week. Secrets spew out amid the dirty linen. The long-running Broadway drama has been well adapted for the screen by its playwright Tracy Letts and directed by John Wells. Shot on actual location, they forgot to fake a single Oklahoma accent. Shame on Streep especially, who has won two Oscars for her European femme roles. Roberts, as a Georgia native, should have had no trouble.
Awards: Winner: 7 awards, 2 Oscar nominations + 34 other noms.: most for Streep and Roberts.
THE BOOK THIEF
Hans: Geoffrey Rush and Rosa: Emily Watson adopt orphaned teen Liesel: Sophie Nélisse in 1940. They hide a Jewish youth in their basement, despite the frequent house searches of their German village by uniformed Nazis. Leisel’s young pal Rudy: Nico Liersch comes to hate the Nazis. Frau Heinrich: Kirsten Block, wife of Buergermeister Hermann: Rainer Bock (War Horse), shares their library with courageous Liesel, who is eager to learn. Hans tutors Liesel in the basement. Director Brian Persival and writer Michael Petroni, who adapted Markus Zusak’s novel, keep their focus on the villagers and not the War, even the Nazis are incidental. Some violence. Intense depiction of thematic material.
This musical tale of two Scandinavian sisters is the latest hit for Disney. Viewers can easily see how the faults and loves of Princesses Anna: voice of Kristen Bell and Elsa: v.o. Idina Menzel could be transformed into the next Broadway stage success to replace Beauty and the Beast. Christoff: Jonathan Groff and Olaf: Josh Gof are the men in young Anna’s life. Queen Elsa is cursed with a freezing touch that changes the climate and freezes the fjords so the fishing industry is kaput. Action. Mild rude humor.
Awards: Winner: 18 Best Animated Feature + 34 nominations. Oscar noms.: B.A.F. and Best Song: “Let It Go.”
Lonely hearts letter writer Theodore: Joaquin Phoenix is almost divorced from Catherine: Rooney Mara. He purchases an OS1, advertised as “not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness.”.Samantha: voice of Scarlett Johansson, the voice of his OS1 and Theodore become acquainted and spend more and more time together. They find they are in love. She helps him deal with some of his problems but can’t assist him with being in love with his OS.
Awards: 37 wins + 53 noms. Five Oscar noms. incl Best Pic, Orig. Screenplay, Score.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG IMAX 3D
Bilbo Baggins: Martin Freeman with his ring of magical powers reaches the human village Lake-town to keep his contract with the dwarves. Thorin: Richard Armitage and friends transverse the Misty Mountains, then tackle the Milkwood Forest. Bilbo has an exciting chase with Smaug, the dragon, over hills of gold coins within his lair. Director Peter Jackson never disappoints his fans of the spectacle. Intense fantasy action violence. Frightening images.
JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT: IMAX
A young CIA covert security analyst Jack Ryan: Chris Pine discovers a Russian plot designed to coincide an attack on the U.S. economy with a planned terrorist attack by Russian KGB Viktor Cerevin: Kenneth Branagh [who does double duty as director, excelling at both]. Ryan’s handler, Thomas Harper: Kevin Costner checks on him regularly, coordinating the intrigue that Viktor must not know about. Jack’s bride and his former physical therapist, Cathy: Keira Knightley turns up unexpectedly in his Moscow hotel room which he just trashed defending himself from an assassin. Writers Adam Cozad and David Koepp add even more breathtaking activity for Tom Clancy’s hero. Expect Pine to be around awhile as Ryan; he does an admirable job. Violent intense action. Brief profanity.
Marcus Luttrell: Mark Wahlberg and his team, Michael: Taylor Kitsch, Danny: Emile Hirsch and Matt: Ben Foster, are dropped by helicopter into the mountains of Afghanistan to kill an al Qaeda leader in June 2005. Their radio base contact, Erik: Eric Bana, is awakened to learn they are having problems. Director Peter Berg presents three days in the brutal and bloody lives and deaths of the four-man Seal team. Strong bloody war violence. Profanity.
Woody Grant: Bruce Dern and his son David: Will Forte drive from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska so Woody can cash in his “winning” million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing ticket. Brilliantly, Alexander Payne directs in black-and-white Bob Nelson’s character study screenplay as the men tangle, explaining their years-long estrangement. Woody’s spunky wife Kate: June Squibb rounds out the trio. They get sidetracked in the small town where Woody grew up and left some unsettled issues with his former neighbors, including Ed: Stacy Keach. All the performances are extraordinary without any gloss. Mild profanity.
Awards: 6 Oscar noms. incl. Best Pic, Actor, Sup. Actress, Dir., Orig. Scrn.
Irish girl Philomena Lee: Sophie Kennedy Clark had a son out of wedlock which she brings up in a Catholic nunnery until he’s about four and suddenly given to an American couple for adoption. A BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith: Steve Coogan [also co-producer] talks Lee: now aged to Judi Dench, into tracking down her son, who would be in his late 30’s. They fly to Washington, D.C., to find he has been close to The President. Sister Hildegarde: British actress Barbara Jefford is the close-mouthed villainess. Some violence. Thematic elements. Profanity. Sexual references.
Awards: 17 Wins: incl. 9 awards: Venice Film Festival. 4 Oscar noms.: Pic, Actress: Dench, Adapted Scrn., Orig. Music Score + 37 other noms.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Jordan Belfort: Leonardo DiCaprio learns how to make big money as a Wall St. broker from his first stock broker hero Mark: Matthew McConaughey. He’s living the good life when a crash forces him to reinvent himself. From a garage, he starts with penny stocks and soon has a staff. His best pal/No. Two man at work, Donnie: Jonah Hill revels in their success. Soon, Jordan has his second Mrs. B./voluptuous fashion designer Naomi: Margot Robbie and two kids. Manny: Jon Favreau, his dad Max: Rob Reiner and a huge staff have him making frequent deposits with Swiss banker Jean: Jean Dujardin (Oscar-winner for The Artist). Perseverant FBI Agent Patrick: Kyle Chandler gets on his trail and upsets the gold cart. Based on Belfort’s book, director Martin Scorcese presents the excessive parties with 50 hookers, drugs and booze flowing like water. Pervasive profanity (if you count the 506 F-bombs in the 3-hour running time). Is Scorcese or writer Terence Winter trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records? Drug usage! Nudity. Frequent sexual content.
Awards: Winner: 15 + Golden Globe: Best Actor, Comedy or Musical: DiCaprio. Noms.: 5 Oscar noms.: Best Pic, Actor: DiCaprio, Sup. Actor: Hill, Dir., Adpt. Scrn. + 44 noms.
Red-headed Brit Tim: Domhnall Gleeson (Oscar-winner Greer Garson was his Great Aunt) learns from his father Bill Nighy on his twenty-first birthday that the men in their family can travel back in time to incidents within their own lives, but not to liaise with Cleopatra or Madame Pompodor. Moving from Cornwall to London, Tim has a rerun of his first meeting with Mary: Rachel McAdams and they hit it off, eventually marrying and having four kids. Mum: Lindsay Duncan (veteran British TV actress) keeps a stiff upper lip as the men fly off. Wacky playwright-author Harry: Tom Hollander opens his London home to share with Tim as he studies law. Writer/director Richard Curtis fails to flush out characters other than Tim. Gleeson scores a bulls-eye in his first lead. Brief nudity. Profanity.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Ron Woodruff: Matthew McConaughey, an AIDs activist from1985, fights the Food and Drug Administration, which refused to approve of potentially life-saving drugs for patients diagnosed as terminally ill. Ron is an electrician who bets on rodeo events, but engages in heterosexual group sex activities, blasting homosexuals. When he collapses on the job, his blood tests reveal he's HIV-Positive. His doctors, including sympathetic Dr. Eve Saks: Jennifer Garner, give him but 30 days to live. He starts researching the drugs that do not have FDA approval in foreign countries; flying there and bringing back quantities for other HIV+ patients whom he charges $400/mo. membership fee with no charge for the drugs, bypassing the legal statutes that would convict him. They battle seizures of drugs by local authorities and doctors, including Dr. Sevard: Denis O'Hare, that are getting rich from approved drugs. Ron's partner-in-crime Rayon: Jared Leto is a transsexual whom we see only once as a man when he has a meeting with his father. Both actors are getting lots of Oscar buzz; rightly so, McConaughey lost 50 lbs. to play Ron and it's his best performance to date. Director Jean-Marc Vallée is inspired by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack's screenplay. Pervasive profanity. Strong sexual content. Nudity. Drug use.
Diana, Princess of Wales: Naomi Watts is here seen to have had a secret two-year relationship not known to many Americans, although ultimately covered by the London tabloids. Her lover was a Pakistani heart surgeon, Dr. Hasnat Khan: Naveen Andrews (The English Patient, Lost). Despite having two guards with her almost 24/7, she goes to Pakistan to meet his family and finds she will never get Mama's approval, being 35 and a divorced Protestant. Di is seen to control some of the paparazzi attention, though much of it she loathes. Both leads deliver spot-on work. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel converts screenwriter Stephen Jeffreys' sumptuous adaptation of the dramatic romantic biography source by Kate Snell Mild profanity. Some sensuality. Smoking.
Brilliant youth Ender Wiggin: Asa Butterfield is recruited by Col. Graff: Harrison Ford of the battle academy. Ender hates leaving his sister Valentine: Abigail Breslin. Ender's leadership abilities surface as Petra: Hailee Steinfeld and other fellow students flock under his wings to conquer the enemy: genocidal 6 ft. ant-like aliens called Formics. Mazar Rackham: Ben Kingsley renders strong support. Screenwriter/director Gavin Hood adapts the Orson Scott Card novels. Violence. Sci-fi action. Thematic material.
Message therapist Eva: Julia Louis Dreyfus meets Albert: the late James Gandolfini at a garden party, as well as a new client, Marianne: Catherine Keener. Both divorced parents prepare for their daughter's impending departure for college. After their relationship develops, Eve learns who her new client is to Albert. Eve's best friend and confidante is Sarah: Toni Collette. Screenwriter/director Nicole Holofcener has a real feel for the woman's p.o.v. Sexual content. Brief profanity. Some thematic material.
The one-note storyline of turkeys returning via space ship to time travel back before the first Thanksgiving to have another bird selected as the holiday sacrifice gets worn out all too quickly. Da boids (voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler) try too hard. The animation doesn't inspire very much. Director/co-writer Jimmy Hayward and his three other writers can shoulder the blame. Some action/peril. Rude humor.
Dickens' famous novel gets yet another screen adaptation. Magwitch: Ralph Fiennes threatens Young Pip: Toby Irvine to get some food and a file for his prison bracelets. When Pip is apprenticed to London he leaves Joe: Jason Flemyng and shrewish Mrs. Joe: Sally Hawkins behind. Pip lives at Miss Havisham's: Helena Bonham Carter rotting mansion. Her ward Estella: Holliday Grainger tells Pip, "You know, Pip, I have no heart." Because of Miss Havershim's wedding day disappointment, she has trained Estella to make men suffer. Pip ages to become Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), who wants more than anything to become a gentleman. When Magwitch returns secretly from Australia, he tells Pip, "I've made a gentl'man of you." Pip had no idea that his sponsor has been Magwitch who made a lot of money Down Under. Director Mike Newell adapts David Nicholls's screenplay from the source novel. Violence. Disturbing images.
HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence and Peeta: Josh Hutcherson return home after winning the 74th games, before embarking on the Victor's Tour of the districts. Pres. Snow: Donald Sutherland begins preparations for the 75th Annual Hunger Games. (Sutherland based his villain on Stalin, Hitler and LBJ!) Katniss discovers much unrest in the district of Paneem, which could be changed forever by the 75th Games. Her hometown b.f. Gale: Liam Hemsworth completes the love triangle. Effie Trinket: Elizabeth Banks, Haymich: Woody Harrelson, and Caesar: Stanley Tucci rejoin the tributes. Director Francis Lawrence introduces new characters who fail to stand out much: Plutarch Heavensbee: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Beetee: Jeffrey Wright, Johanna: Jena Malone, and Wiress: Amanda Plummer. Screenwriters Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (aka the Little Miss Sunshine Oscar winner Michael deBruyn) adapt the source novel by Suzanne Collins at a creeping snail's pace. Though the budget has doubled from the first one, it's gone into the sets, special fx and busy action scenes. Did Lawrence win her Oscar to be fit in a skintight bodysuit so she can wrestle monkeys?? There are an additional two sequels coming, including the two chapter Mockingjay. Intense violence and action. Some frightening images. Thematic elements. A suggestive situation. Profanity.
Three sixty-something buddies (sourpuss Paddy: Robert deNiro, Archie: Morgan Freeman, and Sam: Kevin Kline) throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas at the Adia Hotel for their wealthy friend who's finally marrying, Billy: Michael Douglas. Just about anything you can imagine happening, does. The penthouse with five rooms includes a round bed that revolves. In their slumming around town, they meet forty-something lounge singer, Diana: Mary Steenbergen who steals all of her scenes. All five leads have Oscar credentials and know how to have a good time. Fun for all! Jon Turteltaub directs the Dan Fogelman screenplay. Sexual content. Profanity.
Pool girls in mini-kinis.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Thor: Chris Hemsworth has been gone for two years from Jane Hudson's: Natalie Portman life. It has taken him this long to try to bring peace to the nine realms, one of which is Earth. When she breaks through the energy field when the planets align, Jane becomes infected with the Aether. Thor brings her back to Asgard to heal her. Loki: Tom Hiddleston has been arrested for his evil doings. King Odin: Anthony Hopkins has reason to trust no one. Frigga: Rene Russo is killed. The cast is populated with Malekith: Christopher Eccleston, Dr. Erik Selvig: Stellan Skarsgård, Volstagg: Ray Stevenson, Sif: Jaimie Alexander, and Fandral: Zachary Levi. Darcy: Kat Dennings pops up with her own apprentice. Stick around for the two mid-credit stingers. Alan Taylor and James Gunn direct the fact-filled screenplay by Christopher Yost and Christopher Marcus (+6). The 3-D added precious little. Thor has a shirtless bathing scene. Selvig acts weird while his nudity is blurred. Violence and Gore. Some Profanity. Disturbing scenes.
12 YEARS A SLAVE
A free black man Solomon Northup: Chiwetel Ejiofor is conned into going from his NYC home in 1841 to Washington, D.C. to play piano with two musicians. He is abducted and sold into slavery in New Orleans in this fact-based historical drama. He serves under ruthless, sadistic Southern landowners Edwin Epps: Michael Fassbender and Ford: Benedict Cumberbatch. Mistress Epps: Sarah Paulson is very jealous of her husband's preference for the loving from slave Patsey: Lupito Nyong'o; she rips out an earring and claws her cheek. Solomon's friendship with Canadian carpenter Bass: Brad Pitt (also a co-producer who puts in his ten minutes) starts his road back to his freedom. Ejiofor's work is getting Oscar buzz. Steve McQueen directs from John Ridley's screenplay from Northup's autobiography. Sexual content. Nudity. Profanity. Some disturbing images. Cruelty.
Awards nominations: 7 Spirit Awards: Director: McQueen; Actor: Etifor; Sup. Actor: Fassbender; Sup. Actress: Nyong'o; Screenplay; Cinematography; and Producers.
Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks kisses his loving wife, Andrea: Catherine Keener, goodbye as he flies from Vermont to a Middle East port on the Aden Gulf of Arabia. Within hours of sailing, the unarmed large container ship finds itself under attack by Somali bandits 145 miles off the Somali coast. They only want $10-million cash for the safe return of Capt. Phillips. Hanks’ understated performance is a perfect fit. The Somali actors are from the Minneapolis enclave. Paul Greengrass directs his taut thrill-a-minute screenplay by Billy Ray, based on Richard Phillips’ account of the 2008 incidents with Stephan Talty. Lots of Oscar talk for this pic. Brief violence. Profanity.
Carrie: Chloë Grace Moretz is a high school senior who has been “protected” by her zealously abusive religious mother, Margaret White: Julianne Moore. Pitiful Carrie doesn’t realize what’s happening when she has her first period in gym class. Mother never warned her. Classmate Sue: Gabriella Wilde offers her prom date, athletic hunk-with-attitude Tommy: Ansel Elgort as Carrie’s date. The real witch-on-wheels here is Chris: Portia Doubleday, who gets what’s coming to her and then some, once Carrie releases her telekinetic powers. These provide lots of work for the assigned special fx guys in this redo of Stephen King’s novel. Carrie is directed by Kimberly Peirce with the screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Bloody violence. Mature thematic material. Disturbing images. Some sexuality. Profanity.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
Feed the kids well before this one and take in lots of theatre candy. The screen is filled with food and sweet snacks in abundance with the location in SF and the Silicon Valley. This comedy, primarily for the young with Technicolor food everywhere, is directed by Luc Besson from his screenplay (+2). Mature thematic material. Mild violence. Profanity.
Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is getting Oscar buzz for this film which he has written, directs and stars in. This movie will not be for everyone; our protagonist Jon lives at his computer with one hand on the keyboard and the other below his waist…blissfully pumping. On Sundays, he goes to the confessional booth and confesses how many times a day, in double figures, he has masturbated and how many times a week, also in double figures, he has had sex with willing femmes. With Barbara: Scarlett Johanssen (again voted the Sexiest Woman in the World) among his conquests, he can be forgiven a lot. Can one blame the girl for her dissatisfaction with being abandoned in bed for his porn on his computer? Jon discovers solace with Esther: Julianne Moore, an older woman in one of his night classes. He still finds time for family Sunday dinners with his parents, Jon Sr.: Tony Danza and Angela: Glynne Headly. Nudity. Profanity throughout. Constant sexual content.
The world’s foremost authority on structural security Ray Breslin: Sylvester Stallone finds himself imprisoned in a master facility he designed. He turns to other inmates Emil: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hush: 50 Cent, as well as his prison doc Dr. Kyrie: Sam Neill for help in getting out. Warden Hobbes: Jim Caviezel is a dirty sleaze bag and not to be trusted. His business partner Abigail: Amy Ryan and office accountant Lester Clark: Vincent D’Onofrio have differing viewpoints on his release. Swedish director Mikael Håfström helms the Miles Chapman nail-biting story and screenplay with co-credit on the latter with Jason Keller. Violence and Profanity throughout.
The real problem with the Wikileaks story is that nobody cares. Such a bruhahah over leaked war documents, intelligence identities, and what one female government official thought about another doesn’t command top placement on most What to Worry About lists. If the Australian hacker-turned-activist-turned-exile Julian Assange: Benedict Cumberbatch was more empathetic and less flamboyant maybe one could care more. His assistant Daniel Domschiet-Berg: Daniel Brühl is more interesting (although his performance in Rush is even better) than Julian, the founder of Wikileaks. The use of real news footage increases the sense of reality; the supporting cast of American diplomats is impressive: Sarah Shaw: Laura Linney, James Boswell: Stanley Tucci, and Sam Coulsoon: Anthony Mackie. Bill Condon directs. Daniel Domschiet-Berg wrote one source book; David Leigh and Luke Harding wrote another; and Josh Singer adapted them into a screenplay. Some Violence. Profanity.
Medical engineer Ryan Stone: Sandra Bullock and astronaut Matt Kowalski: George Clooney float around in outer space. Never has there been a more effective use of 3D than here; the awesome trip in space hands down wins the technical awards this year. There is a survival story when an accident leaves them adrift in space, but the visuals are the icing on the cake. It’s even better in IMAX. Ed Harris provides the voice for Mission Control. It is a testament to the acting ability of the two characters that attention is riveted on them. Director Alfonso Cuarón co-wrote the screenplay with his son Jonás Cuarón and Clooney. Disturbing violence. Profanity. Brief drug use.
The negative Mexican known as Machete: Danny Trejo is a survivor. A hanging, a battle with the drug lord Mendez: Demien Bichir, a babe with a double machine gun bra and below, a pop-up pistol, and the assassin called “El Chameleón”: Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Antonio Banderas all attempt to take Machete’s life. La Chameleón: Lady Gaga and industrialist Voz: Mel Gibson have cameos. Noticable among the supporting players are Killjoy: Alexa Vada (now 25; 4 Spy Kids movies: 2001-11) and Mr. President: Charlie Sheen (Carlos Estevez). Nudity and sexual suggestions. Strong disturbing terror and violence. Profanity.
ROMEO AND JULIET
Romeo: Douglas Booth (6 ft., 1”, 20 when he filmed) will gain many new teen fans with his shirtless scenes. Juliet: Hailee Steinfeld (5 ft., 7”, 15 when she filmed). That they are believable in the parts is a bonus. [Historical footnote: The roles in 1936 were filled by MGM with Leslie Howard (43) and Norma Shearer (35).] Their parents who don’t speak to each other are Lord Capulet: Damien Lewis and Lady Capulet: Natascha McElhone; and Lord Montague: Tomas Arana and Lady Capulet: Laura Morante with Friar Laurence: Paul Giamatti. The filming in Verona is a major plus, with sumptuous decors, fountains, and costumes. Director Carlo Carlei here tackles his first feature film after directing mostly TV movies since 1985, and does an outstanding job with Julian Fellows’ (Downton Abbey) screenplay, faithful to his Shakespeare source. Some violence. Thematic elements.
Princeton student Richie Furst: Justin Timberlake runs the on-line poker games until there’s a major loss, costing him his tuition money, $18K. He tracks down the sly, shy guy, Ivan Block: Ben Affleck, that he thinks cheated him, finding him on a Caribbean island. Block’s PR front, Rebecca: Gemma Arterton, doesn’t go unnoticed by Richie. His dad, Harry: John Heard, is also involved in the same game in the U.S. Block makes Richie an offer that he can’t refuse to stay on and be his right hand, which he does. The direction by Brad Furman keeps everything moving at a fast pace in the screenplay by Brian Koppelman and David Levein. Action and intense scenes. Profanity. A few sexual situations.
Austrian racer Niki Lauda: Daniel Brühl is challenged in every race starting in 1970 by British playboy James Hunt: Chris Hemsworth. High fashion model Suzy Miller: Olivia Wilde sets her wide-brimmed hat for Hunt and lands him, with a ring. Initially, she’s there for every race and provides him with the support he needs. That doesn’t last long, before you can say “Oscar de la Renta” she’s in NYC for fashion shoots, while he tools at the track in Europe, Japan, or Iceland in the Formula Three races leading up to the Formula One speedway at Monte Carlo. This happens every year with Niki or James regularly landing in hospital with multiple injuries. Niki finally marries Marlene, too. Ron Howard directs the true screenplay by Peter Morgan that transpires a decade. While the back-story is involving, the action scenes of the races are first-rate. Sexual content. Nudity. Profanity. Some disturbing images. Brief drug use.
Set in the present day London judicial system, defense team members Martin Rose: Eric Bana and Claudia Simmons-Howe: Rebecca Hall must hide their past affair lest they be terminated from their tense high-profile international secrets case. They are defending a suspected terrorist. They deal with attempts on their lives by being good runners. peripheral characters of note are Devlin: Ciaran Hinds and the Attorney General: Jim Broadbent. John Crowley directs the taut thrill-a-minute screenplay by Stephen Knight. Brief violence. profanity.
After snitching on the Mafioso and entering the witness protection plan, Giovanni Manzonni: Robert De Niro is constantly moving his family around Europe. The problem is his uncontrollable temper and old habits that die hard. Moved to Normandy, France from the Riviera, wife Maggie: Michelle pfeiffer and their teenagers, Belle: Dianna Agron and son Warren: John D'Leo, as well as his CIA Agent Stansfield: Tommy Lee Jones plus two watchmen, Di Cicco: Jimmy palumbo and Caputo: Dominick Lombardozzi cope with frequent name changes, like the current one to the Blake family. The denouement occurs in the most unlikely of places. This black humor comedy is directed by Luc Besson from his screenplay (+2). Mature thematic material. Violence. Brief sexuality. profanity.
As Oscar Grant III, Michael B. Jordan is getting Oscar buzz. On Dec. 31, 2008, at the Oakland BART station, he was shot by a dimwit guard who should never have been hired. Director-writer Ryan Coogler brings his camera along on Oscar's last day as he encounters family (including birthday-celebrant mother, Wanda: Octavia Spencer [who co-produced], not-so friendly acquaintances, unknowns. His girl friend Sophina: Melonie Diaz and four-year old daughter Tatiana endure his hours in hospital. Some violence. profanity throughout. Mild drug use.
Set in Southern China, the man who later will train Bruce Lee, Ip Man: Tony Leung leads a peaceful life in Foshan until a Northern Chinese lord, Gong Yutian: Qingxiang Wang seeks a husband for his daughter Gong Er: Zhang Ziyi. Their meeting occurs in the local brothel (which uses more gold leaf in decorating than the Mint). When her father is killed by Ma San, she believes the killer to be Ip Man, so Gong Er challenges him to fight to the death to regain the family's honor. The tale spans several decades as Ip Man and Gong Er go their own ways, exploring and demonstrating all the various kung fu (Wing Chun) skills. With the unique ability to take the viewer inside the oriental thinking, perfectionist Kar Wai Wong directs his own action-filled screenplay (+2), which has 22 minutes cut (subtitles fill in) from the original to 108 minutes. That is, until the longest wrap-up in film history, an unbearable 20 minutes! The planning stage took ten years and editing one year. Sumptuous photography. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Disturbing violence. profanity. Brief drug use. Smoking.
INSIDIOUS: Chapter 2
Josh Lambert: patrick Wilson and wife Renai: Rose Byrne, teen-aged son Dalton: Ty Simpkins, Josh's mother Lorraine: Barbara Hershey again portray the terrorized family in Chapter 2 which starts where that the first film stopped. Josh must go back to his childhood to find the forces that wreak havoc with their lives and home. James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) directs his creepy screenplay co-written with Leigh Whannell. Strong disturbing terror and violence. profanity.
Keller Dover: Hugh Jackman, his wife Grace: Maria Bello with their six-year old daughter, Anna, celebrate Thanksgiving Day with her playmate, Joy, the daughter of Franklin Birch: Terence Howard and wife Nancy: Viola Davis at their nearby home. The girls disappear while playing outside. Alex Jones: Royal Dano had parked his old RV outside the Birch home and falls under suspicion of Detective Loki: Jake Gyllenhaal (in another cop role). When Loki only holds Alex for 48 hours, Dover takes matters into his own hands, erupting violently. Alex's Aunt Grace: Melissa Leo eventually shows her true colors. This film is an extreme example of what could happen when overly-wrought parents take hold of a situation. Denis Villaneuve (Oscar-nominated Incendies) directs the explosive adult-skewing screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski. Strong disturbing violence. Bloody torture. pervasive profanity. Drug material.
Logan: Hugh Jackman's dying wealthy mentor brings him to Japan to care for his teen daughter Yukio: Rila Fukushima. Logan encounters good and bad forces including Mariko: Tao Okamoto and Harada: Wil Yun Lee (whose father is a local Tao Kwon Do Grandmaster). This non-stop action adventure flick was directed by James Mangold with the screenplay by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank. Jackman and cast's thriller does not disappoint, supplying enough tension that the viewer is likely to forget to notice the scenery and sets. Sci-fi action and violence. profanity. Some sexual material.
Lee Daniels' THE BUTLER
This chronicle of the 1957-86 years that Cecil Gaines: Forest Whitaker served eight administrations as a butler in the White House is actually based on the life of Eugene Allen. Gaines' early life is spent on the cotton plantation owned by its matriarch: Vanessa Redgrave. After witnessing the rape of his mother and the brutal shooting of his father, he is moved from cotton-picker to serve in the main house. Once the adult Gaines is taken in by a father figure: Clarence Williams III, he is apprenticed at an upscale hotel, there spotted by the White House Chief of Staff and soon is learning the ropes at the White House. Gaines is serving Eisenhower: Robin Williams when the Little Rock school ruckus occurs. He brings limitless meds to Kennedy: James Marsden, and hands the prune juice to the constipated, obscene Johnson: Liev Schreiber, conducting a state meeting from his toilet. There's Nixon: John Cusack as the house of cards is crumbling. Gaines serves as one of the six butlers, including Carter: Cuba Gooding, Jr. and James: Lenny Kravitz. The Reagans are portrayed by Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda. Throughout his career, Gaines returns home nightly to Gloria: Oprah Winfrey as she deals with problems including a battle with the bottle from feelings of neglect. Their older son becomes personally involved with colored sit-ins and riots during the Civil Rights movement. Strong disturbing violence. Profanity. Thematic elements. Sexual material. Smoking.
Jasmine: Cate Blanchett has lofty roots in Blanche duBois, Tennessee Williams' heroine in A Streetcar Named Desire. Jasmine in her prime glows from within, her ivory skin radiates Life, her smile entrances. Conversely, when she's feeling low, her blotchy and pale epidermis shows it, her eyes become puffy and reddened, her posture convolutes. The silk dress that looked perfect before becomes stained with sweat-soaked pits. Jasmine has been living the high life in Manhattan. Investment broker hubby Hal: Alec Baldwin has been absorbing her bills. Broke, she flies to San Francisco (first-class, with Vuitton matched luggage) to visit her sister Ginger: Sally Hawkins. Who'd thunk her unsophisticated auto mechanic boy-friend Chili: Bobby Cannavale could be the spitting image of Stanley? Film-maker/writer Woody Allen, 77, casts the strong supporting players with Ginger's bitter ex, Augie: Andrew Dice Clay; her current beau, pleasant Al: Louie C.K.; a well-to-do diplomat, Dwight: Peter Sarsgaard; and Dr Flicker: Michael Stuhlbarg (Hitchcock, Lincoln, Hugo). Allen uses flashbacks to fill in Jasmine's earlier life, enriching her present narcissistic slump. Mature thematic material. Sexual content. Profanity.
Set in 2154, where the very wealthy live on a wheel-shaped satellite and the poor scrounge for food on Earth, it's rough-going for the overcrowded Earth-bound humans. When Max takes a deadly assignment on Elysium, he meets cabinet-member Delacourt: Jodie Foster, who's playing life-and-death games with industrialist John Carlyle: William Fichtner. The cast is rounded out by Max's friend, Frey: 20-year old Alice Braga; Julio: Diego Luna (Milk); and Max's sidekick, Kruger: Sharlto Copley. Neil Blomkamp directs his own screenplay. Strong disturbing violence. Profanity.
WE'RE THE MILLERS
When a drug dealer, David: Jason Sudeikis needs a family for a quick trip to Mexico to pick up two tons of weed, he hires them: a broke stripper, Rose: Jennifer Aniston, and two high school kids, Casey: Emma Roberts, and non-athlete Kenny: Wil Poulter. David's boss Brad: Ed Helms is rough on them. This comedy takes them south of the border and back. Rawson Marshall Thurber directs this road-trip adventure with the story/screenplay by Bob Fisher and Steve Faber, plus Sean Anders and John Morris: screenplay only. There's male nudity when Kenny gets bitten by a wasp on a testicle which swells. Crude sexual content. Pervasive profanity. Drug material.
Teen Mary Katherine (M.K.): voice of Amanda Seyfried returns for her annual summer visit to her eccentric inventor-father’s home at the edge of a forest. The voice of Queen Tara: Beyoncé Knowles (who also composed and wrote “Rise Up” which she sings) proves central to the storyline when she reduces M.K. to finger-height. The leader of the protectors of the forest, the Leafmen, Ronin: v.o. Colin Farrell; an armed archer, Mandrake: v.o. Christophe Waltz; and Nod: v.o. Josh Henderson figure prominently in her rescue. William Joyce wrote the screenplay from his book, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Director Chris Wedge also contributed to the story, William Joyce and James V. Hart wrote both story and screenplay, with help on the latter from Daniel Shere, Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. Well worth seeing in 3-D! Interesting scenes of animated Sci-fi action.
This prequel to Monsters, Inc. gives viewers the college background of Mike Wazowski: Billy Crystal and James Sullivan: John Goodman, both returning voices. When the now best-of-friends first met as teenagers it was hate at first sight. This tale explains how the change occurs, as they gradually mature and find their true selves. To liven things up along the way, there are also friends, v.o. Randy: Steve Buscemi, v.o. Dean Hardscrabble: Helen Mirren, v.o. Terri: Sean Hayes, v.o. Terry: Dave Foley, v.o. Prof. Knight: Alfred Molina, v.o. Johnny: Nathan Fillion, v.o. Ms. Squibbles: Julia Sweeney, v.o. Mrs. Graves: Bonnie Hunt, v.o. Frank McCay: Bill Hader, and v.o. Yeti: John Ratzenburger. Dan Scanlon directs this animated adventure, as well as co-writing the story and screenplay with Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gershon. The 3-D is put to good use. Mild action. Some scary images. Brief profanity.
Set in 2022, when for twelve hours one night per year any crime, including murder, robbery and rape, is permitted without punishment as all pent-up frustrations are released. James Sandin: Ethan Hawke and wife Mary: Lena Headey are envied by their neighbors. Their teens, Charlie: Max Buckholder and Zoey: Adelaide Kane, are viewed as spoiled brats. James has sold the neighbors the protective devices they need to withstand The Purge, but now they are envious of his wealth. Zoey’s boy friend, Henry: Tony Oller has snuck into the house before the lockdown begins and plans to use this time to get a blessing from James of their disapproved courtship. Most of the $3-million budget was spent on luxuriating the home, the primary set-piece with many cameras and a central control masterboard. Enter the Bloody Stranger: Edwin Hodge to stir things up as sides are taken. As home invasion films go, this one leaves the viewer breathless only part of the time. Strong disturbing violence. Profanity.
THIS IS THE END
If James Franco’s friends want to make his home movie, definitely a vanity project, they should not expect viewers to pay while they display the vile side of their personalities and endure their teen fantasies as they tackle the apocalypse near his SoCal home. Many do not survive and die horribly. The potty talk and overt sexual dialog confirms how desperate they were to make this “film”. Everyone plays themselves, exposing gutter conversation rather than anything that could approach intellectual content. Why Emma Watson would want to destroy her Harry Potter image with this crap is inconceivable. This is solely for die-hard fans of Franco, Josh Rogen (co-writer/director with Evan Goldberg), Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera (who gets skewered by a falling light pole), and David Krumholtz. Joining Emma are Rihanna and Mindy Kaling. Some of the intended humor does succeed. Viewers are warned: a half-hour post-sudsing of the ears is required. Crude profanity!! Sci-fi violence: people wounded, bleeding and dying. Strong sexual content re organs, masturbation and intercourse! Drinking. Women in undies.
WORLD WAR Z
Zombies are rapidly spreading throughout the world! Can Director Marc Forster, with screenplay and screen story writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard with J. Michael Straczinsky, based on the novel by Max Brooks, build enough interest in a zombie movie set in the current world so it is successful with today’s fickle audiences? A strong opening weekend gets it off to a good start. Grizzled long-haired Gerry Lane: Brad Pitt, wife Karin: Mirielle Enos, sexy Segen: Daniella Kertesz, hunky Captain Speke: James Badge Dale, Parajumper: Matthew Fox and an ex-CIA agent: David Morse head the cast that thinks it can. It’s in 3-D.
THE BIG WEDDING
A film starring four Oscar winners should be better written and infinitely funnier. The plot centers on a big family wedding. Don: Robert DeNiro was married to Ellie: Diane Keaton and had two children, Lyla: Katherine Heigl and Jared: Topher Grace. They also adopted a boy from Colombia, the groom Alejandro: Ben Barnes. Don’s current marriage is to the caterer, Bebe: Susan Sarandon, who has moved out. Lyla has not told her lover that she’s pregnant and starting to show. Alejandro’s Latina mother, Madonna: Patricia Rae attends and complicates matters because the musical bedrooms tale has Ellie and Don sharing a bedroom with Madonna standing guard in the hallway to see that everyone is in the “correct” bedroom. The bride, Missy: Amanda Seyfried finds herself in the midst of the storm. The sometimes charming first wife has a potty mouth. Perhaps the most interesting character in the zoo, Jared is drawn to Nuria: Ana Ayora, Alejandro’s younger sister. The Catholic ceremony is presided over by Fr. Moinighan: Robin Williams. Broadway songstress Christine Ebersole enacts sex-kitten Muffin. The amusing moments could have been more frequent. Profanity. Brief nudity. Sexual content.
THE GREAT GATSBY
On Long Island, Jay Gatsby: Leonardo DiCaprio owns a huge sumptuous estate where unrivaled parties flow each weekend during the Depression; all of NY’s society knows it’s the “in place” to be seen. Next door in a small cottage lives Nick Carraway: Tobey McGuire, Jay’s only invited guest to the parties. Nick happens to have a cousin, Daisy Buchanan: Carey Mulligan married to Tom: Joel Edgerton, whom Gatsby loved several years before. Tom is having a cheap affair with Myrtle Wilson: Isla Fisher, tawdry with a $6.99 red wig and too much makeup. This is unbeknown to her husband gas station owner George Wilson: Jason Clarke. JG calls all males “old boy” often enough, it’s wonder he isn’t punched in the face by one, or more, of them. Dr. Walter Perkins: Jack Thompson is Nick’s shrink as he relates the past and is encouraged to write it down. The first half is the party splash with hundreds of flappers dancing away who have never met their host before BL gets down to the story and the exposition of what Gatsby will do to get Daisy back. What JG sees in this bland blah is incomprehensible. By the end of the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation by Baz Luhrmann, the viewer finds how uncaring and irresponsible the Buchanans really are. There were previous Gatsbys: a silent in 1926; Alan Ladd tackled the role in 1949; Francis Ford Coppola scripted the 1974 Redford film which won Oscars for costumes and musical score; and in 2001, there was a TV movie. The costumes by Mrs. Luhrmann, aka Catherine Martin, who also co-produces, are the most memorable thing about this version. Jay-Z contributes an out-of-place rapper score while co-producing. BL manages to twist scenarios to be highly recognizable with his personal touch. The 3-D is put to good use. Violent images. Sexual content. Smoking. Partying. Profanity.
THE HANGOVER PART III
Buddies Phil: Bradley Cooper, Stu: Ed Helms, Alan: Zach Galifianakis, and Doug: Justin Bartha return to laugh all the way to the bank as they fail to entertain or earn their paychecks by providing laughs. This dismal excuse for a wolf pack sequel has them beaten and abducted by Marshall, a gangster: John Goodman, who orders them to track down Leslie Chow: Ken Jeong who has stolen $21-million in gold bars from him. They venture to Tijuana, Mexico, then Caesar’s Penthouse in Las Vegas while Marshall holds Doug captive (resulting in his getting as little screen time as he got in the original). Directed/co-written by Todd Phillips with a few feeble jokes, the only memorable scene occurs early-on when a giraffe is beheaded. Who on earth finds that humorous? Mean-spirited and obnoxious, this troop lacks freshness or humor. Profanity, including sexual references. Brief graphic nudity. Violence and drug content.
IRON MAN 3
Tony Stark: Robert Downey Jr. and business partner/girlfriend Pepper Potts: Gwyneth Paltrow battle evil scientist Aldrich Killian: Guy Pearce and ruthless terrorist, The Mandarin: Sir Ben Kingsley. Directed by Shane Black (succeeding Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, who is now relegated to acting the part of Security Chief Happy Hogan). Michael Crichton wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay with David Koepp. After 20 years it’s not dated. This is the first film of the year to hit $One-billion in receipts world-wide. The 3D enhances immeasurably by moving viewers into the melee. Profanity. Intense sci-fi action.
An Arkansas drifter hides out on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River. Mud: Matthew McConaughey plans to hook up with his girl friend Juniper: Reese Witherspoon, who is staying at a motel in the nearby town. Two 14-year old teens that come across him and try to aid him, Ellis: Tye Sheridan and Neckbone: Jacob Lofland, obtain help from Mud’s father figure, Tom: Sam Shepard. Juniper is trying to escape from Galen: Michael Shannon; King, his father: Joe Don Baker; and their gang of pistol-packing baddies. Vat a mess! Seems that Mud killed Galen’s sibling while trying to protect Juniper, so even the cops are after him. In his best performance yet, McConaughey maintains the taut tension in director/writer Jeff Nichols’ dramatic action flick. Violence. Sexual references. Profanity. Thematic elements. Smoking.
PAIN & GAIN
Three Florida bodybuilders Daniel Lugo: Mark Wahlberg, Adrian Doorbal: Anthony Mackie and ex-convict Christian, Paul Doyle: Dwayne Johnson devise an extortion and kidnapping scheme. Everything goes awry when the muscles-for-brains trio fails miserably in its pathetic solution to the American dream. Support is lent by Victor: Tony Shalhoub, Ed DuBois: Ed Harris, and Johnny Wu: Ken Jeong. Director Michael Bay with three writers cannot come up with more interest to this true tale filmed in Miami. Bloody action violence. Crude profanity and sexual content throughout. Nudity. Drug use.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
Initially, there’s a lot of infighting and war with the Klingons. Capt. Kirk: Chris Pine battles terrorist John Harrison/Khan: Benedict Cumberbatch (originally Ricardo Montalban in 1982), climaxing in a futuristic chase across San Francisco. Khan takes over The Vengeance before it crashes in the City. Uhura: Zoe Saldana must prevent Spock: Zachary Quinto from killing Khan because his genetically created blood could save the poisoned Kirk. Other Enterprise crewmembers include: Bones: Karl Urban, Scotty: Simon Pegg, Sulu: John Cho, and Chekhov: Anton Yelchin. 3D. Profanity. Sci-fi Violence: people wounded, bleeding and dying. Drinking. Women in undies.
Jackie Robinson: Chadwick Boseman takes his bride Rachel: Nicole Beharie to Florida spring training when he’s signed for Toronto by Dodgers’ president/general manager: Branch Rickey: Harrison Ford. Rickey declares “Dollars aren’t black or white, they’re green.” as he sets out to break the color barrier in place against blacks in baseball. Manager Leo Durocher: Christopher Meloni encounters problems due to his romance with actress Laraine Day. Supporting players include Pee Wee Reese: Lucas Black, the first teammate to accept Jackie; the hateful manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ben Chapman: Alan Tudyk; Dodgers radio commentator Red Barber: John McGinley; plus T.R. Knight and Max Gail. Director/screenwriter Brian Helgeland does a better job of presenting the hero than what makes the man tick. Jackie is hired because he will control his temper and not fight back at the racial slurs. Thematic elements. Drinking. Profanity. Minor sexual content.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION 3D
General Joe Colton: Bruce Willis, for whom the special unit was named, is now led by Roadblock: Dwayne Johnson. Duke: Channing Tatum dodges explosions and is also firing machine guns at villain Zartan: Arnold Vosloo and his forces. The President: Jonathan Pryce foolishly takes the North Korean delegation to the bunker 90 ft. under the White House, to his regret. This was not the time to disband the special unit framed by COBRA. Look for a grown up Mouse: Joseph Mazzello. Directed by Jon M. Chu and co-written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick with lots of action in 3D. Intense combat violence and martial arts action throughout. Sensuality. Profanity.
JURASSIC PARK 3D
Paleontologists Dr. Alan Grant: Sam Neill and Dr. Ellie Sattler: Laura Dern are lured to a Pacific island off the Costa Rica coast owned by billionaire John Hammond: Richard Attenborough. He will fund their digs for three years if they inspect his “amusement park.” Much to their amazement and ultimately to their horror, they find fully grown dinosaurs, etc. behind an electric fence. Computer expert Wayne Knight has dual purposes when he shuts down the electricity. The excellent supporting cast includes: Dr. Ian Malcolm: Jeff Goldblum, and John’s grandchildren: Tim: Joseph Mazzello and Lex: Ariana Richards. Oscars were won in 1993 for Visual Effects, Sound and Sound Effects Editing so viewers can image the thrills supplied by top-notch addition of 3-D, which brings the second half to life…and death as the critters roam the island amok and are no longer vegetarians! The 3-D work is superior to recent films made in 3-D! Spielberg’s masterpiece becomes more so and a Must See. Michael Crichton wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay with David Koepp. After 20 years it’s not dated. Profanity. Intense sci-fi terror.
Chile at the end of its dictatorship adds new meaning to “Just say No!” The upcoming referendum in 1988 to oust Dictator Pinochet is led by advertising executive René Saavedra: Gael Garcia Bernal. Under constant government scrutiny, a plan is conceived to free the country from oppression. His boss, Lucho Guzmán: Alfredo Castro is advisor to Pinochet so René must be especially careful…Pinochet has been known to order murder, violence and intimidation. Director Pablo Larrain keeps the tension taut in Pedro Peirano’s busy screenplay. Spanish with English subtitles. Profanity. War violence. Smoking.
Awards: Won National Board of Review: Top 5 Foreign Language Films, 2012; Cannes Film Festival: C.I.C.A.E. Award; Cinema for Peace Award for Justice; Audience Award: both Sao Paulo and Thessaloniki Film Festivals. Oscar Nominated Best Foreign Language Film.
Jack Harper: Tom Cruise, 50 but doesn’t look a day over 30, appears comfortable in this part and the futuristic setting is most attractive. Jack and Victoria: Andrea Riseborough, 31, are among the few repair people left on Earth after decades of war with the destructive alien Scavs. Most of the population has moved to Titan, a Jupiter moon. When Jack investigates a crashed ship in his sector, he discovers passenger Julia: Olga Kurylenko, 33, who has been haunting his dreams. He comes to learn what she meant to his past. Sally: Melissa Leo is Vic’s computer screen contact for assignments. Beech: Morgan Freeman and Sykes: Nicholas Coster-Waldau at first seem to be Jack’s enemies. Director and co-writer of the screenplay, Joseph Kosinski brings the viewer a rich new sci-fi environment which is a real treat. Sci-fi action violence. Mild profanity. Sensuality. Nudity.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
Luke: Ryan Gosling, a motorcycle stunt performer, returns to upstate New York and finds the waitress Romina: Eva Mendes he left behind has given birth to their son, Jason. Unemployable, he reverts to robbing banks. Police officer Avery: Bradley Cooper builds his career around Luke. The central character shifts to Avery and his rise within a crooked police department. Fifteen years later, the tale concerns the sons of Avery and Luke. Studied performances by the leads are engrossing. Director/co-writer Derek Cianfrance keeps viewers guessing, there is no way to imagine what is coming next. Teen drug and alcohol use. Violence. Profanity.
Emily Taylor: Rooney Mara happily greets husband Martin Taylor: Channing Tatum upon his release from a 2-year prison sentence. Depressed, she goes to see Dr. Jonathan Banks: Jude Law and is given an experimental drug: Ablixa. While “sleepwalking” she kills Martin. With his practice falling off daily, Banks consults Em’s previous psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Siebert: Catherine Zeta-Jones but is not given the full truth. Steven Soderbergh directs the crime thriller from the creepy screenplay by Scott Z. Burns. Canny acting by the leads. Sexuality. Violence. Nudity. Profanity.
Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) scripts this eerie story of Uncle Charlie: Matthew Goode who suddenly appears after the sudden death of his brother Richard Stoker: Dermot Mulroney. Charlie comforts Richard’s wife Evelyn: Nicole Kidman and daughter India: Mia Wasikowska. Both seem on the verge of going nutty. Relationships get complex. Profanity. Violence. Smoking.
Art auctioneer Simon: James MacAvoy has stolen Goya’s Witches in the Air valued at $25-million. But in his getaway, he sustains a head injury causing him to forget where he hid the masterwork. Frank Bright: French actor Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) wants the oil yesterday! Hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb: Rosario Dawson is brought aboard to help Simon remember. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) doesn’t pull any punches in this crime drama. Sexuality. Violence. Nudity. Profanity.
21 and OVER
Actually, this gross film is for the under 21 and anyone whose mature thinking is impaired. When Jeff Chang’s: Justin Chon two best friends take him out drinking for his 21st birthday, it soon becomes senseless debauchery and overindulgence. To find Jeff, students Miller: Miles Teller and Casey: Skylar Astin must compete and pass a test on each floor of a den of iniquity to get to the eighth floor. There are hurdles en route and no sentences without profanities. Miller tries to impress blond bombshell Nicole: Sarah Wright (Mad Love). Nicole and Randy: Jonathan Keltz improve the scenery. On The Hangover series, co-directors/screenwriters Jon Lucas/Scott Moore did much better. Save your money. Drugs and drinking. Pervasive profanity throughout! Crude sexual content/graphic nudity.
High school senior Ethan: Alden Ehrenreich finds it strange that a new arrival in his Southern town, Lena: Alice Englert appears in his Civil War-era nightmares. Her mother, Mrs. Lincoln: Emma Thompson, a caster: one with supernatural abilities, lets loose a tornado within a church meeting! Ethan’s father, Macon: Jeremy Irons is equally powerful. They must have gotten substantial paychecks to have participated in this uninteresting, dull crap. See their Oscar-winning films instead. Amma: Viola Davis is relegated to a small part relating to the secretly recorded history of past casters. Young love is overcast by the senior casters. Directed/co-written by Richard LaGravenese, based on the youth novel by Kami Garcia and Margret Stohl stolen from the Twilight series. Don’t expect a sequel. Scary images. Sexual content. Violence. Profanity.
L.A. 911 switchboard operator, Jordan: Halle Berry, gets a call from a teen female before she is murdered. Jordan’s so upset that she switches to training others to receive calls. Within a few months, a call comes in from kidnapped Casey: Abigail Breslin, held in the trunk of a sedan driven by Michael Foster: Michael Eklund, a loose screwball. Jordan talks Casey through the ways to make her presence known to other drivers. After a few minutes, Jordan realizes Casey’s kidnapper is the murderer from before! The suspense to this point is almost unbearable. Maddy: Roma Maffia and Officer Paul: Morris Chestnut as Jordan’s boss and boyfriend provide her support. Was it really necessary to remove Casey’s blouse? The story by Richard D’Ovidio and his screenplay, with Nicole D’Ovidio and Jon Bokenkamp, falls apart at the seams when Jordan gets personally involved after work by going to the site nearby in Studio City where Richard was last seen. Director Brad Anderson (Boardwalk Empire) could have avoided the clichés. Berry needs a new hairstylist. Violence. Disturbing content. Profanity.
The animated feature is set in the final years of the prehistoric era. The father, Grug: voice of Nicholas Cage, is not only afraid of the dark, but has instilled many fears in his cave-dwelling family. His wife, Ugga: v.o. Catherine Keener, watches over Gran: v.o. Cloris Leachman and their inquisitive daughter, Eep: v.o. Emma Stone who meets Guy: v.o. Ryan Reynolds on one of her adventurous treks beyond the limits of where she’s allowed to go. Guy’s the bright inventive type of hero needed in their stressful situation with earthquakes and carnivorous beasts and vultures. Many life lessons for the young are subtly included. Threatened by many unusual animals during a dangerous move, they find a spectacularly beautiful utopia. Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders co-direct and co-wrote the screenplay and story. Not to be missed. Some scary action.
Once the war with Japan was won, peace with the emperor must be worked out by two American generals, MacArthur: Tommy Lee Jones, whose descendants won’t be pleased by the cranky, foul-mouthed portrayal; and Gen. Fellers: Matthew Fox, who fell in love before the war with Aya, a Japanese exchange student. He is accused of never bombing near the school where she taught. MacArthur’s sins are far worse: he is camera-ready for his upcoming run for the White House. A leading Japanese expert, Fellers must determine if Emperor Hirohito should be tried and hanged as a war criminal. All the while he searches for Aya, hoping she is still living. Peter Webber directs the mixed bag. Profanity. War violence. Smoking.
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE
A comedy about Las Vegas illusionist partners of ten years whose stale act is falling apart should have been funnier. As youths, Burt: Steve Carell and Anton: Steve Buscemi grew up entranced by a Holloway magic kit. Jane: Olivia Wilde joins their act, serving as assistant and love interest. Burt is in love with himself and abusive to Anton. They get competition from a street magician, Steve Gray: Jim Carrey who sleeps on hot coals and drills a hole in his skull. Casino mogul James Gandolfini is ready to fire them when they dissolve the partnership and friendship. Burt’s bookings go downhill until he finds himself playing to entertain seniors in a retirement home. It’s there he meets his idol Holloway: Alan Arkin, who adds life back into the film. Producer/writer of 30 Rock, Don Scardino directs as if he hasn’t learned anything from the hit series. Drug-related material. Dangerous stunts. Sexual content. Profanity.
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
Oz: James Franco doesn’t seem very comfortable in this part and he doesn’t even have to wear red shoes. Powerful Theodora: Rachel Weisz is the sister of spurned Evanora: Mila Kunis, who not only turns wicked, but also green as she loosens her wrath on everyone in sight. Annie/Glinda: Michelle Williams plays the beautiful heroine who falls for Oz. His sidekick Frank/Finley: Zach Braff doesn’t get a lot to do. These two actors have double rolls, also appearing in the non-color early scenes before Oz gets whisked away by the Kansas tornado. Look for Winkie Gait Keeper: Bruce Campbell (Brisco County). The special effects are sometimes spectacular, however the setting is most attractive. Scary action images. Mild profanity.
John Matthews: Dwayne Johnson, a Missouri construction manager, in this modern film noir sets out to rescue his 18 year old son, Jason Collins: Rafi Gavron who was set up in a drug deal gone sour. His remarried mother, Silvie: Melina Kanakaredes and John’s second wife: Nadine Valazquez (the flight attendant in Flight), are concerned when John goes undercover in the DEA in a deal with bearded Agent Cooper: Barry Pepper and Congresswoman Joanne Keeghan: Susan Sarandon to reduce or commute Jason’s 10-year imprisonment. John’s friend Daniel James: Jon Bernthal has been out of the drug business for years, but John drags him back for an introduction to El Topo (The Mole)/Mr. Big: Benjamin Bratt and his violent middleman, Malik: Michael K. Williams. John and Daniel drive a big rig loaded with cocaine in the high action dramatic thriller with lots of vehicle chases and shootouts. Director/co-writer Ric Roman Waugh, who filmed in Shreveport, Louisiana, entertains while raising questions about some of the US drug laws. Drug content. Violence. Profanity.
Ex-cop Billy Taggert: a solid Mark Wahlberg is framed by the crooked Mayor Nicholas Hostetler: Russell Crowe, with bad NY accent, worse hairpiece, and a ridiculous sprayed-on tan. Wahlberg could have used ‘Ted’ here! Hostetler hires private-eye Billy to shadow his wife, Cathleen: Catherine Zeta-Jones whom he suspects of an affair. The dirty graft-ridden urban land deal happens to be where Billy’s parents live. Others involved include Police Chief Carl Fairbanks: Jeffrey Wright, the election opposition Jack Valliant: Barry Pepper, and Paul: Kyle Chandler. This easily forgettable crime thriller drama, filmed in NYC and New Orleans, is directed by Allen Hughes and loosely scripted by Brian Tucker. Profanity. Sexual content. Violence.
HANSEL AND GRETEL 3-D
The siblings have grown into ruthless bounty hunters who seek and kill witches around the world. In Ausberg, Germany, Hansel: Jeremy Renner and Gretel: Gemma Arterton encounter a powerful shape-shifting Muriel: Famke Jannsen as the Feast of the Blood Moon approaches and she is at her maximum power level. This feast requires the sacrifice of six males and six females, each with a different birth month. H&G prevent Sheriff Berringer: Peter Stormare from killing the lovely Mina: Pihla Viitala (she’s Finnish). They acquire a protégé, Ben: Thomas Mann, a local boy. For an interesting twist, Hansel is a diabetic who has to have his daily injection of insulin. We all know they had hypodermics several centuries back!? But wait, they have a
Gatling gun, too. Director-writer Tommy Wirkola has thrown elements from different centuries into the mix, clarifying white witches. The 3-D enhances the witchcraft special FX. Fantasy horror violence and gore. Brief sexuality/nudity. Profanity.
A father Lucas: Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) is fleeing a murder scene with his two daughters, driving too fast on a twisting rural road in the snow, when he crashes near the family cabin. A mysterious ghost, Mama, saves them before the confused dad, with no light at the end of the tunnel, can continue his murderous spree. Five years later, Uncle Jeffrey: also NC-W discovers the feral wild kids who have existed on berries, etc. His hippie tattooed girlfriend Annabel: Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) seems an unlikely sub-mother. Victoria, 8: Megan Charpentier and Lilly, 6: Isabelle Nélisse attempt to adjust to their new surroundings. Director Andrés Muschietti (protégé of Guillermo Del Toro) and co-writer with Neil Cross have woven this horror tale. With its PG-13 rating, it would have been more satisfying had it gone to an anticipated R. Goofs include four nighttime bedroom scenes with sunlight streaming in the window. Violence. Terror. Some scary material involving children. Thematic elements.
When a job is flawed by a senseless killing by his new team, Parker: Jason Statham has no interest in their next heist so they try to kill him, and almost do. A good Samaritan finds him and repairs him. Florida real estate agent Leslie Rodgers: Jennifer Lopez lives at home with her mother Ascension: Patti LuPon. She is fascinated by her new wealthy Texan client Parker. On their tour of available properties, he finds Melander: Michael Chiklis and the rest of his gang. He determines they are going for a $25-million jewelry robbery of the charity auction of a local society matron’s collection. Taylor Hackford’s film details how he stops them with the aid of Leslie. The screenplay by John J. McLaughlin is based on Donald E. Westlake‘s novel. Strong violence, profanity throughout. Brief sexual content/nudity.
When opera diva Jean: Maggie Smith retires to the British home for retired musical talents Cedric: Michael Gambon, director of the annual residents’ gala for Verdi’s birthday has high hopes of reuniting the famous quartet for the occasion. Jean finds stoic tenor Reggie: Tom Courtenay (also her ex-husband), Wilf: Billy Connolly with the hots for the skirts, and alto Cissy: Pauline Collins whose memory is diminishing daily. The proceeds from the gala will keep the musical programs funded for the next year. All four leads create unique characters with tics. Remain seated for the end credits where director Dustin Hoffman embellishes the screenplay/play by Ronald Harwood with Then & Now photos of residents who are real opera/stage retirees prominent during the past bicentennial! Strong sexual content.
Awards: Winner: National Board of Review Award: 2012 Top Ten Independent Films; Hollywood Film Festival: Hollywood Breakthrough Award: Hoffman, Directing; Chicago Int’l. Film Festival: Best Narrative Feature: Hoffman. Nominee: Golden Globes: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy: Maggie Smith.
RUST AND BONE
Alain: Mattias Schoenaertis and his young son, Sam, leave Belgium for Antibes where he becomes fascinated with the local Marineland whale trainer, Stéphanie: Marion Cotillard. When she suffers a horrible accident, she needs him more than ever. What started as a sexual relationship becomes much deeper and complex. Coitilard delivers her most earthy performance since her brilliant Oscar-winning turn as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. Director Jacques Audiard achieves a level of magical visceral experience, aided by Andres Desplat’s background music. Strong sexual content. Graphic nudity. Violence. Profanity.
Awards: Winner: Best Film at 2012 London Film Festival. Nominee: Golden Globes: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture—Drama: Coitilard.
The brain of young fighter Perry: Dave Franco (brother of James) is devoured by walking corpse/narrator R (he can’t remember his full first name): Nicholas Hoult in this post-apocalyptic urban zombies vs. the sparse surviving humans tale. R retains the memory of his meal/victim. He dwells in an airplane that he has converted into his own private home where he can play his collection of records with a leaning toward Springsteen. When R meets Perry’s girlfriend, Julie: Teresa Palmer, he has the urge to protect her; he trains her how to walk dead. She is the daughter of Gen. Grigio: John Malkovich, who leads the military force living in a walled-in city. They believe in shooting first. The R/Julie romance is strained but sweet; it helps that his condition may not be permanent. The “message” is pounded home several times. The love story possesses an endearing sense of humor. Written and directed by Jonathan Levine, this date movie is based on the novel by Isaac Marion. Some profanity. Zombie violence.
CIA operative Jack: Bryan Cranston engages extraction expert Tony Mendez: director Ben Affleck to retrieve six Americans (including Bob: Tate Donovan and Joe: Scoot McNairy) who have escaped the Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. They have found temporary safekeeping in the Canadian embassy, under Canadian Ambassador Ken: Victor Garber. In Hollywood, Tony buys a sci-fi script, Argo, has storyboards made and takes out Variety ads. The studio office is set up with Lester: Alan Arkin and John Chambers: John Goodman. Argo is a cover for the movie they won’t make in Tehran, but will employ all the pretenses for the Iranian Govt. The fugitives become part of the moviemaking crew. This exciting rescue actually took place! For those interested, there are 20 goofs listed at imdb.com. Chris Terrio’s screenplay is based upon an article by Joshuah Bearman. Profanity. Some Violent Images
In the most unique film of the year, six stories are interwoven from beginning to end by an ensemble cast with changes of race and sex: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Donna Bae (6 roles each), Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw (5), Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess (7), Susan Sarandon, Keith David, James D’Arcy (4) and others. An early 1800’s slave trader; a musical composing partnership in 1900’s; flaws in a 1970’s nuclear reactor; a modern day farce with a publisher tricked into a nursing home; clones in love in the deadly far future Neo Seoul (Korea); 100 years hence a priestess saves a tribesman: these are the six storylines cleverly blended. Expect Oscar nominations for Editing and Color Cinematography, as well as acting. Directors/screenwriters Tom Tykwer, Andy Wackowski, and Lana Wackowski deliver from the novel by David Mitchell an experience for moviegoers. A Must See for the complainers who don’t want The Same Old Thing. Be sure to pee first, it’s three hours long! Violence. Profanity. Nudity/Sexuality. Drug use.
After a rough night of drinking and sex with redheaded Nicole: Kelly Reilly, pilot Whip Whitaker: Denzel Washington takes off on schedule into a wild storm. When his plane loses altitude, with the help of stewardess Margaret: Tamara Tunie, he lands the plane in a pasture, with few dead and injured. His co-pilot Ken: Brian Geraghty was unconscious. Despite Whip being hailed a hero and “the only pilot who could have landed the plane safely,” there has to be an investigation, led by Whip’s friend, Charlie: Bruce Greenwood. Director Robert Zemeckis and writer John Gatins supply plenty of action, as well as the soul-searching that Whip brings on himself. Intense action sequence. Drug & alcohol abuse. Nudity/Sexuality. Profanity.
In January 1865, Pres. Lincoln: the phenomenal Daniel Day-Lewis is elected for a second term (little realizing he has but four months of life), facing a House of Representatives battle on the 13th Amendment, the abolition of slavery. Headstrong eldest son, Robert: Joseph Gordon-Levitt returns home and wants to enlist in the military. Not an historical biopic, nor a sour, stodgy costume drama, nor a vampire flick, director Spielberg gives us an amusing, engrossing, entertaining personalization of the man from Illinois who happens to be president. Unstable wife Mary: Sally Field sits in the Senate balcony watching the debate. Craggy, cantankerous Democrat firebrand, Thaddeus Stevens: Tommy Lee Jones (without make-up, unless you count the black wig covering his bald pate) supplies the feisty opposition to the 13th Amendment. Secretary of State Wm. Seward: David Straithairn handles the maneuvering of votes. The large male supporting cast includes Francis P. Blair: Hal Holbrook; W.N. Wilbo: James Spader; Richard Schell: Tim Blake Nelson; Alexander Stephens: Jackie Earle Haley; Alan Stanton: Bruce McGill, and Fernando Wood: Lee Pace. Screenwriters Tony Kushner and John Logan score one of the sure Oscar nominations. War Violence. Some images of carnage. Brief profanity.
Agent 007 James Bond: Daniel Craig is on an Istanbul chase to recover a stolen hard drive with the identities of all 00 British agents; it switches from scooters to a speeding train, exhausting the first 20 minutes. Thought dead when he falls from the speeding train, M: Judi Dench writes 007’s eulogy. Garreth Mallory: Ralph Fiennes recommends M’s retirement when a bomb goes off in M’s office. The 00 identities list appears five at a time on YouTube. Bond’s co-worker Eve: Naomie Harris is a sly one. The villain Silva: Javier Bardem doesn’t show up till more than half way through to eat the scenery. There’s exotic eye candy Severene: Berenice Severine in the Hong Kong scenes. When the plot gets to Skyfall (Bond’s family home), look for the caretaker Kincade: Albert Finney, in a small, important role. Director Sam Mendes and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan (based on Ian Fleming’s characters) give us a darker Bond story than usual, with less tongue-in-cheek humor but plenty of action. Intense violence throughout. Profanity. Some sexuality. Partial nudity. Smoking.
TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN, PART 2
Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters) and writers Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay) and Stephenie Meyer (novel) can at last be proud of the best of the series. It may never be great, but it does entertain in its own over-the-top way. Bella: Kristen Stewart, who finally wears a smile (perhaps because of her newfound powers as a vampire), has married Edward: Robert Pattinson and given birth to their daughter, a hybrid who grows much faster than normal. Jacob: Taylor Lautner is frequently in the background to babysit, unless he’s turning into a protective werewolf. Dr. Cullen: Peter Facinelli and his wife Emma: Elizabeth Reaser calmly stand by until it’s time to protect the family. Bella’s b.f. Alice: Ashley Greene’s psychic powers allow her to see Renesmee’s future. The Voltari (vampire elite) view the child as a threat and are prepared to go to battle. Violence including disturbing images. Some sensuality. Partial nudity.
In a 2044 cornfield in the Mid-West, looper (hired assassin) Joe: Joseph Gordon-Levitt awaits his appointment with a hooded victim sent back from 2074. One day when his employers want “to close the loop,” they return Old Joe: Bruce Willis unhooded: he is the future self of Joe. The cornfield, coincidentally, belongs to Sara: Emily Blunt who may be the mother of the gang-leader of the future, 10-year old Cid: Pierce Gagnon. The 2074 guys send back three names of boys born on the same day in the same hospital. The 2044 gang-leader Abe: Jeff Daniels is determined to rub out Joe. The supporting cast includes Seth: Paul Dano, Joe’s best friend who lives on the edge, and barmaid Suzie: Piper Peraboo. Director-screenwriter Rian Johnson provides a chilling tale with lots of suspense as Joe must make life-determining decisions instantly. Violence. Profanity. Nudity/Sexuality. Drug content.
ROBOT AND FRANK
Ex-jewel thief Frank: Frank Langella, now a senior in a New England village is presented with a butler robot: Voice of Peter Sarsgaard from his grown son, Hunter: James Marsden. Set in the near future, the robot is to make things easier for him. Frank also has a daughter, Madison: Liv Tyler, who visits occasionally. His librarian friend, Jennifer: Susan Sarandon, takes him to a social function where Frank spots some fancy jewelry. He soon begins training the robot for new duties. Writer Christopher D. Ford provides amusing situations for director Jake Schreier. Some profanity.
Crime scene writer Ellison Oswalt: Ethan Hawke knows what it takes to attract readers to his books of real-life horror tales. He moves his family into a home where four teens were hung on the back yard tree. Of course, he doesn’t tell his wife, Tracy: Juliet Rylance or either of the youngsters. The sheriff: Fred Dalton Thompson provides a harsh warning for Ellison while the deputy: James Ransome proves helpful in giving him file research info on the deaths. They soon establish a pattern of similar atrocities in several states, each with a supernatural entity who enticed the victims. The book expands to more than one site. Ellison repeatedly enters dark rooms without switching on the light. Director/co-writer Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill know how to scare the willies out of the audience. Much too violent for any children! Some violence within families caused by children! Mild profanity.
Retired CIA Agent Bryan Mills: Liam Neesom vacations in Istanbul with his family, ex-wife Leonor: Franke Jannsen and grown daughter, Kim: Maggie Grace. Albanian gangster Murad: Rade Serbedzija wants to terrorize Bryan because while with the CIA, Bryan had killed one of his sons while rescuing Kim. Murad kidnaps Bryan and Lenore, and sends his men for Kim. Bryan phones a warning to Kim at the last second to go to the Embassy; she prefers to help her parents get free, jeopardizing her own safety. Director Olivier Megaton presents an edge-of-your-seat chase from the exciting screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Violence! Some sexuality. Profanity.
For a send-up of how a senatorial race might be competed, leave it to Cam Brady: Will Farrell to bombard the public with poor taste in every sentence and every scene. True, sometimes it is funny, but not often enough. After being in his North Carolina senatorial seat unopposed for several terms, Brady runs roughshod over his opponents. That is until last-minute registrant CEO Marty Huggins: Zach Galifianakis enters the campaign. Wade and Glenn Motch: Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow are the money-men behind-the-scenes with their own agendas. Marty’s campaign manager Tim Watley: Dylan McDermott lacks loyalty and switches sides. Father Raymond Huggins: Brian Cox smirks his way in this role. Sexual images. Profanity! Crude sexual conduct. Drinking. Drug usage. Brief nudity.
A sci-fi action thriller set in the urban future, Mega City One encompasses from Washington, D.C. to Boston where evil forces are controlled by on-the-spot gun-carrying cop-justices. The unsafe city in which criminals rule is divided into districts with a judge assigned to each. Judge Dredd: Karl Urban (Star Trek, Red) is assigned a rookie partner to train and evaluate, Cassandra Anderson: Olivia Thrilby who possesses extraordinary psychic abilities, as he seeks scarred Ma-Ma, a gangsta leader: Lena Headey (300, The Remains of the Day) who is selling the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO. She and her gang dwell in a 200-storey vertical slum where judges are rarely seen. Director Pete Travis holds the reigns on Dreed which seems to have been made for gamers. Intense bloody violence and action. Sexuality. Profanity. Drug use.
END OF WATCH
Rookie cop partners in LA South Central, Brian Taylor: Jake Gyllenhaal and Mike Zavala: Michael Pena, do their best to provide protection for the area residents. Gabby: Natalie Martinez waits and worries at home for Mike. Janet: Anna Kendrick (Twilight, Up in the Air) becomes engaged to Brian and they marry. When the officers, during a typical vehicle stop, seize firearms and a small cache of bills belonging to a feared cartel, they are set up for a wipe-out. Director-writer David Ryan has an action hit here with inspired casting of his leads and the gang members. Strong violence. Some disturbing images. Pervasive profanity with sexual references. Drug use.
In hilly Franklin County, Virginia during the Depression, the three Bondurant brothers: Jack: Shia LaBouef; Forrest: Tom Hardy; and Howard: Jason Clarke run a profitable bootleg liquor still. Maggie: Jessica Chastain (The Help) goes to work in their bar/restaurant. Jack pursues religious Bertha: Mia Wasikowska as he moves upward from hick to slick. When citified lawman Charlie Rakes: Guy Pearce is installed over the sheriff, he wants a cut of the profits and doesn’t hesitate using violence to get it. Floyd Banner: Gary Oldman is the local mobster opposition. John Hillcoat directs from Nick Cave’s rousing screenplay based on Matt Bondurant’s book. Strong bloody violence. Profanity. Nudity/Sexuality.
Inspired by the founder of the secretive Church of Scientology (L. Ron Hubbard), director-writer Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) delves into his believers’ past lives to purge all negative emotions and experiences toward achieving a state of perfection. The action is set in 1950 (when Hubbard published his worldwide best-seller, “Dianetics”), as the calculating, commanding, and even cruel leader of The Cause, Lancaster Dodd: Philip Seymour Hoffman publishes his own “Bible”. From the opening sequence, the strange score by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood (He also scored There Will Be Blood.) with its staccato and percussion emphasizing, when screwed-up ex-Navy alcoholic Freddie Quell: Joaquin Phoenix slips aboard a large yacht in the San Francisco harbor, he finds himself on a wedding cruise that will go through the Panama Canal to NYC. He is “adopted” by kindred spirit Dodd, but mistrusted by Mrs. Dodd: Amy Adams, the real brain behind the movement. The cult indoctrinations are more show than tell, albeit close quarters, often two person power struggles. This truly is one of the outstanding films of the year; expect to see it on most awards lists. The three leads command their complex characters with sparkle. PSH channels Hubbard, down to his Kool cigarettes. Helen Sullivan: Laura Dern provides notable support. Graphic nudity. Sexual content. Profanity.
Wilee Coyote: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one bike messenger in NYC of the 1,500 who risk their lives daily in traffic, rides with no brakes. When he is given a delivery for Chinatown, it attracts the interest of a dirty cop, Bobby Monday: Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) that believes it is worth money and pursues Wilee. His girl friend, Vanessa: Dania Ramirez, works for the same bike firm and assists Wilee in his cop battle. The script girl should have been fired: Wilee has a bandage on his arm after exiting an ambulance with no medic. The streets in the evening are covering with rain and puddles, but the real-time photography never showed any drops! Director/co-writer David Koepps (with John Kamps) provides a fast tour of Manhattan with rare scenic landmarks in this hold-your-breath thriller. Violence. Intense action scenes. Profanity.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE
Set in the Carolinas, pro-baseball scouts look for talent to bring home to the pros. One aging scout for the Atlanta Braves baseball team with eye problems, crotchety Gus: Clint Eastwood, has lately depended upon his daughter, Mickey: Amy Adams, to see the ball cross home plate. With a full caseload at her law office, she chooses to accompany Dad on a last scouting tour of the high schools in the area. His buddy, Pete Klein: John Goodman joins them. They keep bumping into journalist Johnny: Justin Timberlake, who has his eye on Mickey. After initially discouraging Johnny, Gus decides maybe he would be good for Mickey. Watson: Bob Gunton heads her law office; hot shot Philip Sanderson: Matthew Lilliard and Vince: Robert Patrick round out the supporting cast of this enjoyable film. Billy Clark is played by 26-year old son, Scott Eastwood. Profanity. Sexual references. Drinking. Smoking.
THE BOURNE LEGACY
The franchise continues without Matt Damon, but with Aaron/Kitt (Jeremy Renner) as the new action hero who makes his way from northern Canada to DC. The viewer is thrown into the tale without explanations that don’t develop in the first half-hour. Some of the mumbo-jumbo is later explained, but not all. Dr. Marta Shearing: Rachel Weisz works in the lab where she only knows her experimental patients by a number. She soon learns even this has put her life in danger and, luckily for her, Kitt comes to the rescue. Dr. Donald Foite: Zeljko Ivanek runs low on one of his lab supplements and picks up a gun, shooting numerous fellow workers. Marta and Dita: Donna Murphy, survive. For the remainder of the film, Marta and Kitt are on the run; not a second for romance. Marta becomes adept at the muscle-building spy activities, like jumping from rooftops. Their nemesis is Retired Lt. Col. Eric Byer: Edward Norton, in a one-note performance. It’s hard to believe the plot revolves around the vitamin supply for the enhanced super agents. Cameos of less than one minute (why did they bother?) include familiar faces from The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Dr. Albert Hirsch: Albert Finney; Ezra: Scott Glenn; Pam Landry: Joan Allen; and Noah: David Strathairn—plus unbilled Liam Neeson. Director Tony Gilroy also wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Dan. One foot chase and one motorcycle chase are memorable, exciting, and remind one to breathe. Perhaps it would help to see The Bourne Ultimatum first. Continuous thrilling violence. Profanity.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Gotham is in danger from evil forces as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) is healing from wounds. Eight years later, Batman must come to the rescue of a city that no longer trusts him. BW’s safe is cracked for his finger prints, taken by cat burglar Selina: Anne Hathaway (who has formed an attachment to his mother’s jewels), working for ugly muscular hulk Bane: Tom Hardy, whose plans include leveling Gotham. There are a thousand violent criminals locked up since the Dent Act has cleared Gotham of all crime. Returnees include Commissioner Gordon: Gary Oldman, Alfred: Michael Caine, and inventor Fox: Morgan Freeman. New to Gotham are Miranda: Marion Cotillard, who’s in charge of investing for Wayne Enterprises, and Foley: Matthew Modine, who’d rather kill Batman than thank him. Bale is excellent as the hero with a failing body. It’s rather obvious by the end that enterprising cop-on-the-beat Blake: Joseph Gordon-Levitt will take over the franchise in future. (He’s got some pumping up to do first.) Clearly the best picture released so far this year! As good as its Best Picture of 2008 predecessor. Director/co-writer Christopher Nolan is still at the top of his form as he directs the third of his trilogy. Hans Zimmer’s overpowering score will sweep one up into the horror. Intense violence and action. Sexuality. Profanity.
In a last ditch effort to save their disintegrating marriage, a LONG-MARRIED couple, mousy Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) go to Maine for the marital self-help therapy pedaled by noted authoritative author Dr. Feld: Steve Carell. Eileen, Kay’s supportive best friend, is played by Jean Smart. The humor comes from the couple’s discomfort with bananas and other prescribed sexual experiments. Feld talks plainly about things that make the pair blush. Kay is more open to getting their marriage back on track than is Arnold. There are lotsa laughs here, due to the underplaying expertise of the principals. They even learn how to touch each other. David Frankel adeptly directs Vanessa Taylor’s script. Rude humor. Profanity.
Dallas: Matthew McConaughy runs a male stripper club in southern Florida where Magic Mike: Channing Tatum stars at night. During the day, he builds houses. Mike adopts a protégé, younger The Kid/Adam: Alex Pettyfer, and trains him in how to lure the female patrons, to perform for easy money and be part of the party circuit. Mike finds he has a problem when he falls for Adam’s sister, Joanna: Olivia Munn. Adam Rodriguez, better known as Eric Delko on Miami Vice, here plays stripper Tito. Steven Soderbergh directs with pizazz Reid Carolin’s screenplay about the revealing backstage life of the strippers who usually wander around in a jock strap. Bare breasts. Bare male buttocks!! Sexual images. Profanity. Drinking. Drug usage.
Set in the future, there are but two populated areas: Britain and Australia (only a 17-minute commute back and forth!!). The cops look like starship troopers from The Empire Strikes Back and the wet-walls setting is straight out of Blade Runner. The three-breasted hooker is the only recollection from the original Total Recall (1990). Once one gets past those, the story starts unfolding that factory worker Douglas Quaid: Colin Farrell believes he’s been married to Lori: Kate Beckinsale for seven years, but it’s only six weeks and his name is really Hauser. When he goes for a mind-trip vacation at Rekall, he finds he has the reactions of a super hero and shoots several people. He’s had a recent memory implant so he doesn’t remember. Lori has been assigned to him to keep him from remembering Hauser. They have one helluva fight and he leaps from the balcony. He finds an ally in sexy Melina: Jessica Biel when he must run from the police. The supporting cast includes Cohaagen: Bryan Cranston, Harry: Bokeem Woodbine, and Matthias: Bill Nighy. Len Wiseman directs the efforts of seven screenwriters who couldn’t do any better. Save your money and rent Blade Runner. Sci-fi Action Violence. Profanity. Sexual content. Brief nudity.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
Young Lincoln: Benjamin Walker (Bdwy.’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) supposedly was witness to his mother’s death via vampire fangs! This contributed to his outlook on Life. Accept this premise and you’re halfway there. Seeking vengeance, he is rescued by Henry Sturgess: Dominic Cooper, who takes a mysterious interest in Abe. After teaching him how to fell a vampire with a silver-bladed axe, Henry identifies those to be felled by Abe’s axe. Abe moves to Illinois, encounters his bride-to-be Mary Todd: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, political opponent Stephan A. Douglas: Alan Tudyk, self-assured Joshua Speed: Jimmi Simpson, and his (fictional) childhood black friend (who had been abused), Will: Anthony Mackie. Years later, as our 16th President, he must dig out his axe when undead Confederate soldiers group to attack. Some humor would have helped this yarn that takes itself too seriously while muddling history. The best scenes involve a chase within a herd of stampeding horses and the climactic fight on board a train. Director Timor Bekmambetov (Wanted) instills visual flair in the aerial shots of fight scenes. Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows) adapts his popular novel and adds new rules to the vampire mythology. If you must … Constant violence. Brief sexuality.
Lt. Alex Hopper: Taylor Kitsch and his handsome brother, Commander Stone Hopper: Swedish Alexander Skarsgård are serving in the Navy in Hawaii. Admiral Shane: Liam Neesom, who just turned 60!, isn’t very pleased with the interest of his daughter Samantha Shane: Brooklyn Decker in Alex. Petty Officer Cora “Weps“ Raikes: Rihanna is a force to be reckoned with in the battle scenes with the aliens who seem invincible. Sec. of Defense: Peter MacNicol is in over his head, trying to cope with the attack. Once again, Hawaii has forces wanting to destroy the U.S. fleet, only this time they are from outer space and have huge, horrific machine-weapons. And the crew members thought they were there for exercises! Director Peter Berg with screenwriters Erich and Jon Hoeber cope with attack, romantic and sci-fi scenes. Profanity. Violence. Action and destruction.
The assistant funeral director (who sang in the church choir, taught Sunday School, and would lend a helping hand to anyone) Bernie Tiede: Jack Black became best friends with wealthy widow Marjorie Nugent: Shirley MacLaine. He took vacations with her and managed all her banking, despite the fact that she was grumpy and increasingly demanded more time from him. Sheriff Danny Buck: Matthew McConaughey enters the picture when no one has seen Marjorie for months. From Cathage, Texas comes this true story directed by Richard Linklater, who co-wrote the black comedy screenplay with Skip Hollandsworth. This one converts midway but constantly keeps the audience involved. Violent images. Profanity.
The feisty, fiery heroine Merida: voice of Kelly Macdonald, has red hair so soft and curly that it took the Pixar animators three years to get her hair, Merida’s outstanding feature, perfect to their satisfaction. The filmmakers’ 13th feature finally has a heroine as brave as their heroes have been. Our tale begins with her hopping onto her valiant horse, galloping through the green Scottish countryside, hitting her targets with her bow and arrow. Co-directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman also co-wrote the screenplay with Steve Purcell and Irene Mecchi, relying on known Disney themes and familiar character types. Unfortunately, after its promising opening, it changes its tune to a kiddie komic, disappointingly. Merida’s parents, King : Billy Connolly and Queen Elinor: Emma Thompson enliven the tale. Rude humor. Scary action.
Chris: Jesse McCartney, Paul: Jonathan Sadowski, and Natalie: Olivia Dudley + 3 hire a guide, Uri: Dimitri (born in SF in 1968) Diatchenko, to see the forbidden residences of the Chernobyl factory workers, deserted since the disaster 25 years ago. They soon realize they are not alone. Sometimes spooky but ultimately disappointing. No director wants to be credited (a bad sign) so writers Oren Peli and Carey Van Dyke + 2 are left holding the blame bag for this low budget horror flick. Violence. Bloody images. Profanity!
Director Ridley Scott and writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof seem to have seen Alien once too often and have been influenced by it. A space crew of scientists [Elizabeth: Nooni Rapace, Charlie: Logan Marshall-Green (Devil), Meredith: Charlize Theron, robot David: Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Peter: Guy Pearce] land on a distant planet and encounter one setback after another. They must fight not only for their lives but for the future of mankind. Sci-fi violence. Some intense images. A birth scene. Brief profanity.
ROCK OF AGES
Set in 1987 during the Rock era, singer Sherrie: Julianne Hough arrives in LA from the Midwest and through a series of misfortunes, finds herself in need of a job. Drew: Diego Boneta gives her one at the famous Bourbon club. She, in turn, gives him the self confidence to sing on stage. The club was put on the map by the King of the Rockers: Stacee Jaxx: Tom Cruise. Cruise does his own singing while appearing on stage with pecs showing and in a black leather jock strap. Girls nibble his nipples on stage! He has a revolving gate to his bed with no count being kept, or no involvements, all in a drunken daze. Rolling Stone reporter Constance: Malin Akerman falls for his sad tale of “sex without love” and they slither onto a pool table to resolve the issue at once. Bromates Dennis: Alec Baldwin and Lonny: Russell Brand own the Sunset Strip club where it’s all happening, or at least used to, but is now in dire financial straits. Across the street, female church lady pickets are led by the new mayor’s wife: Patricia Whitmore: Catherine Zeta-Jones. She has a special reason for wanting to shut down Bourbon and Jaxx. Director Adam Shankman tries to resurrect the past frenzy but, although it hits some high points with the songs and reveals a lot, it revels in the seamy aspect. Nudity. Simulated sex acts. Drinking. Pot smoking. Profanity.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
Queen Ravenna: Charlize Theron asks her mirror “Who is the fairest?” once too often. She is not prepared for the answer “Snow White” and breaks everything in sight. Then, she sends the Huntsman: Chris Hemsworth to slay the daughter of the late king: Kristen Stewart, even more sullen and emotionless than in her Twilight films. Wisely, somebody gave her less than 50 lines of dialog but plenty of action until she finds the eight dwarfs living in the forest, who protect her, as well as the Huntsman who sets out to oust Ravenna from her throne. Director Rupert Sanders and writers Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock +2 present this action adventure drama-fantasy update of the fairy tale. Some intense images. Brief profanity.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
A motley bunch of Brits fly to Jaipur, lured to retire in a luxurious hotel by the misleading brochure produced by the owner of the title hotel, Sonny: Dev (Slumdog Millionaire) Patel. Narrator widow Evelyn: Judi Dench; upbeat Douglas: Bill Nighy, henpecked by his bitchy wife, Jean: Penelope Wilton; cautious sourpuss Muriel: Maggie Smith who “won’t eat anything I can’t pronounce” and brings jars of her favorite foods; Graham: Tom Wilkinson, a retired judge who wants to look up the lover he left behind 40 years ago; and Norman: Ronald Pickup & Madge: Celia (Una in Bridget Jones movies) Emrie, who are both searching for love, all encounter an “assault to their senses” amid the colorful historical setting. They soon realize that Sonny has oversold his bedraggled rundown, in need of many repairs, residences. Muriel is there for a needed cut-rate hip replacement. Director John (Shakespeare in Love, The Debt) Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker move the location from Bangalore in a 2004 novel by Deborah Moggach.
By the end, most have adjusted to their compatriots and surroundings. Profanity. Sexual content.
Director Ralph Fiennes has updated this Shakespearean tragedy for modern times. As the title character, he has created a very complex military officer with complicated familial ties. His manipulating power-behind-the throne mother, Volumnia: Vanessa Redgrave and his red-headed wife, Virgilia: Jessica (The Help) Chastain do little to make his life easier. And then there’s his adversary, Aufidius: Gerard Butler in another of his bloodbath roles. Senator Menenius: Brian Cox stands out. This one is the horror of fighting men/ground forces that face tanks and artillery blowing them to bits. Screenwriter John (Hugo, Gladiator) Logan sets his tale in Rome, though it was filmed in Serbia. Highly recommended! Bloody war violence. Profanity.
In 1752, the Collins family with young son, Barnabus, sail from England to Maine. Years later, Barnabus: Johnny Depp breaks the heart of witch Angelique Bouchard: Eva Green, who curses him, turns him into a vampire and buries him alive. Suddenly freed from his entombment, he finds himself in a very different 1972. Not only is his mansion a mess; his relatives aren’t in much better shape. To help the troubled matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard: Michelle Pfeiffer, she has a full-time live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman: Helena Bonham Carter. Both Roger Collins: Jonny Lee Miller and Carolyn Stoddard: Chloë Grace Moritz are eccentric misfits. There’s also handyman Willie Loomis: Jackie Earle Haley with guest appearances from Clarney: Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper performing for the senior prom. Angelique is around to make life hell for the Collins family in every way she can as they get their canning business back on track. Director Tim Burton adds his gothic touch, while failing with his impersonal approach and story momentum, to the screenplay: Seth Grahame Smith and story: John August +2. Adult themes. Vampires: blood. Sexual content. Profanity.
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS 3-D
When Loki: Tom Hiddleston and his thugs threaten world security, Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson, the director of the global peace-keeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D., summons all the superheroes to save Earth from the impending tragedy. This includes Tony Stark/Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr. and his secretary Pepper Potts: Gweneth Paltrow; Steve Rogers/Captain America; Chris Evans; Bruce Banner/The Hulk: Mark Ruffalo; Thor: Chris Hemsworth; Natasha/Black Widow: Scarlett Johansson; Clint Barton/Hawkeye: Jeremy Renner. Selvig: Stellan Skarsgard assists Fury. This is THE action thriller of the year—a must see! The massive destruction within Manhattan is not to be believed; this is the central point of the warfare. Joss Whedan directs his screenplay from a story by Zak Penn + 3. World-wide grosses have already topped $1-billion! Sci-fi violence and action. Mild drug references.
MEN IN BLACK III 3-D
Agent J: Will Smith must travel back in time to 1969 to save the life of Agent K: Tommy Lee Jones when he first encountered Boris, the Animal at Cape Canaveral. Boris has escaped from a satellite prison and decides to travel back to get his severed arm. J protects Young Agent K: Josh Brolin, much more jovial than the sour K. Not much new here from the last one, except a new boss, Agent O: Emma Thompson. Good special FX. Sci-fi action violence. Suggestive content.
NOBODY ELSE BUT YOU
A best-selling crime novelist, David Rosseau: Jean-Paul Rouve, is desperately seeking a new story and hones his focus on an apparent suicide of an aspiring blond starlet, Martine Langvine/Candice Lecoeur: Sophie Quinton, who thinks she is the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe. She has been filming TV cheese commercials, topless, in the small French town of Mouthe. Quinton has the figure of MM. French with subtitles. Extreme violence. Blood and gore.
THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS
The cutthroat competition for Pirate of the Year is here. Competitors crossing swords include the Pirate Captain (voice of Hugh Grant) with his wacky scalawags; Cutlass Liz: (v.o. Salma Hayek) and Black Bellamy: (v.o. Jeremy Piven). They encounter Charles Darwin (v.o. David Tennant), who likes the Captain’s “big-boned” parrot, Polly, actually a dodo, and the pirate-hating, evil Queen Victoria (v.o. Imelda Staunton). With Wallace & Gromit to their animation credit, they add another bone to the flag of directors Peter Lord & Newitt and writer Gideon Defoe. Rude humor. Profanity.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING
There are a few laughs here and there in director Kirk (Nanny McPhee, Waking Ned Devine) Jones’ movie inspired by Heidi Murkoff’s book published in 1985. Several women seem to get pregnant about the same time so their deliveries will (impossibly) coincide. There’s TV fitness expert Jules: Cameron Diaz and reality show partner, Evan: Matthew (Glee) Morrison, who confront her pregnancy with busy schedules. Photographer Holly: Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Alex: Rodrigo Santoro give up trying after years and decide to adopt in Ethiopia. The owner of a breast-feeding boutique, Wendy: Elizabeth Banks and husband, Gary: Ben Falcone have been trying for some time. Rosie, 20-something: Anna Kendrick and Marco: Chace Crawford, ex-high school classmates, now competing food truck owners, slipped up one night. Brooklyn Decker and Dennis Quaid host a hilarious backyard Bar BQ. Daily park meetings of fathers with baby carriages (Chris Rock, Ron Huebel and Thomas Lennon) who chat about guy stuff are the males in this ensemble cast. Crude sexual content. Profanity. Thematic elements.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
This is a film where the less you know about it going in, the more it can be appreciated… perhaps. Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, has wrought another spoof of slasher flicks with five young people ( Dana: Kristen Connolly, Kurt: Chris Hemsworth, Jules: Anna Hutchison, Marty: Fran Kranz, and Holden: Jesse Williams) going to a cabin in the woods for a weekend. Little do they know that there are hidden cameras everywhere; that they are part of some government experiment run by Sitterson: J.K. Simmons (Juno) and Hadley: Bradley Whitford (The West Wing); and that some will spend their last night there. Directed with suspense by Drew Goddard from a screenplay co-written with Whedon. Crude sexual content. Profanity. Drug material. Teen drinking. Violence!
Filmed in the Ivory Coast, this DisneyNature documentary details how a 3-year-old chimp: Oscar, separated from his family, is adopted and raised by fully grown male chimpanzee of another tribe. Tim Allen narrates the rich animal film directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield. Scary for kids under 10.
THE KID WITH A BIKE
His downbeat dad, Guy Catoul: Jeremie Renier, abandons 11-year-old, Cyril Catoul: Thomas Doret, who is placed in a state-run youth farm. He is rescued, on weekends at least, by local world-weary hairdresser, Samantha: Cecile De France, with whom he forms an unlikely friendship. Cyril searches for a new father figure and his missing bicycle. Cyril’s story is presented without cheap sentiment, engrossing with great compassion. Belgian filmmaking brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (The Child, La Promesse) directed, winning the 2011 Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In French with English subtitles. Adult themes.
Exiled by the evil Queen: Julia Roberts (chomping scenery with delight), her unloved daughter, Snow White: Lily Collins enlists aid in regaining her kingdom from seven clever rebels who live in the woods. Prince Alcott: Armie Hammer is smitten by Snow, but is under a spell cast by the queen. Some humor is provided by the Queen’s servant, Brighton: Nathan Lane. Directed by Tarsem Singh, the story has some slow moments, but spectacular sets and costumes. Writers Jason Keller and Marc Klein +3 can share some of the blame. Fantasy action. Mild rude humor.
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
When Sheikh Muhammed: Amr Waked desires to bring fly fishing to the desert, his British consultant Harriet: Emily Blunt recruits expert Dr. Alfred Jones: Ewan McGregor to help make his dream become a reality by damming water and releasing it under control for irrigating the desert. The whimsical comedy manages to overcome the many improbabilities. The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Patricia Maxwell: Kristen Scott Thomas, convinces the powers who want it to happen that it’s good publicity. Violence. Sexual content. Brief profanity.
TITANIC – IMAX, 3-D
Director James Cameron’s 1997 Best Picture (+ 10 other Oscars) has been fine-tuned and enhanced for this rerelease. There’s still the basic love story of First Class Rose: Kate Winslet and Third Class passenger, who won his tickets last minute in a card game, Jack Dawson: Leonardo di Caprio. Her rude, overbearing fiancé, Cal: Billy Zane has the financial approval of her mother, Ruth: Frances Fisher. By the time they get to the lifeboats, the most admirable commonsense survivor of all is Molly Brown: Kathy Bates. The present-day Rose is the frail, lovely Gloria Stuart. The large cast includes: Capt. Smith: Bernard Hill; explorer of the sunken Titanic, Brock: Bill Paxton; Cal’s nasty asst., Spicer: David Warner; Thomas: Victor Garber; and Lizzy: Suzy Amis (now Mrs. Cameron in real-life). Profanity. Disaster-related peril and violence. Nudity. Sexual
A Kenosha, Wisconsin insurance agent, Mickey: Greg Kinnear thinks he’s stealing a Stradivarius violin worth $1.5-million from Gorvy: Alan Arkin. The loony security installer, Randy: Billy Crudup displays his hair-trigger temper at retired farmer Gorvy’s home. Jo Ann: Lea Thompson is Mickey’s money-grabbing wife. Director Jill Sprecher’s co-writer of this screwball dramedy is her sister, Karen Sprecher. Profanity. Intense violence. Sexual content. Disturbing images.
21 JUMP STREET
The high school dork, Schmidt: Jonah Hill, and the popular athlete with zilch IQ, Jenko: Channing Tatum, wind up in the same police training academy seven years later. Schmidt helps Jenko get through the class work and they are assigned as partners. When they screw up their first arrest, they are reassigned to the drug unit run by Capt. Dickson: Ice Cube at a Korean Church cover. Address: 21 Jump St. Their assignment is to infiltrate a high school drug ring and bring down the supplier. With only a month of school left, Schmidt gets the part of Peter Pan in the H.S. musical. Jenko, posing as his brother, gets into sports. Molly: pretty Brie Larson falls for Schmidt. The drug dealer, handsome Eric: Dave Franco is the younger brother of James Franco. The star of the original TV series, Johnny Depp, has a 5-minute cameo. Directed with filthy humor and suspense by Phil Lord and Chris Miller from a screenplay/story by Michael Bacall +3. Crude sexual content. Pervasive profanity. Drug material. Teen drinking. Violence.
CASA DE MI PADRE
Mexican brothers, Armando: Will Farrell and Raul: Diego Luna, join forces the help their father, Miguel Ernesto: Pedro Armendariz, Jr., to save his ranch from the brutal drug dealer, Onza: Gael Garcia Bernal. If you can make it past the familiar clichés, there is some humor. Latina spitfire Sonia: Genesis Rodriguez is there to marry Raul but has an eye for Armando. This comedy is directed by Matt Piedmont and written by Andrew Steele. In Spanish with English subtitles. Sex jokes. Bare butts. Extreme violence. Blood and gore.
DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX
From the creators of “Despicable Me” and Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book comes this whimsical 3-D animated tale for kids of all ages. The corporation magnate O’Hare: voice of Rob Riggle, who owns Threadyville, is furious when the hidden cameras reveal that idealistic teen Ted: v.o. Zac Efron has dared to leave the walled-in confines of the village. Ted has been told to seek out the Once-ler: v.o. Ed Helms, who knows why there are no more trees in Threadyville and how to find the Lorax: v.o. Danny DeVito. Ted’s dream girl, Audrey: v.o. Taylor Swift, awaits his return. Ted’s wise Grammy Norma: v.o. Betty White counsels Ted.
THE HUNGER GAMES
In the future after wars, droughts, famine, fires and an unspecified catastrophe have devastated North America, it is replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two teen representatives, one male and one female per district, fight to the death on national TV in The Reaping with all residents required to watch. When the younger sister of supple 16-year old markswoman, Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence, is selected, Katniss choses to sub for her, despite the fact that she faces the baker’s son, Peeta: Josh Hutcherson (see Journey 2), the youth who loves her. She hunts with Gabe: Liam Hemsworth, whose part should be larger in the next films in the trilogy based on the Suzanne Collins’ books. President Snow is played with his usual dignified aplomb by Donald Sutherland. Katniss is ravishing, whether dressed in her backwoods hunter attire or a fancy ballgown. The games are brutal and bloody with bricks used as weapons! Hunger-lites will not be disappointed and are guaranteed to have started yet another franchise. Director Gary Ross and Collins + 2 wrote the compelling screenplay. Intense violence. Disturbing images.
JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME
Unemployed hermit Jeff: Jason Segal leaves his basement room to get glue to repair a wooden blind for his widowed mother Sharon: Susan Sarandon. He encounters his older brother Pat: Ed Helms and together they track Pat’s wife Linda: Judy Greer for the day in this dramedy by filmmaking brothers Jay and Mark Douglas (Cyrus). Pat suspects Linda of infidelity. Sharon is surprised by a secret admirer at work. Carol: Rae Dawn Chong is a co-worker. Everything is resolved in a traffic jam with all the cast present. Profanity. Brief nudity. Sexual references. Drug use.
The title character, played by hunky, usually shirtless Taylor Kitsch, is a Civil War Virginia Confederate officer, transported in the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ film version to a Barsoom (Mars) desert. He soon discovers his single defense is that he can make incredible leaps, due to the gravity. He is attacked by Tharks: ten-foot skinny green creatures with horns and four arms, via CG, including actors Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton. More human-like, King Tardos: Ciarán Hinds (who looks uncomfortable) of the crimson-tattooed Heliumites and daughter, Princess Dejah: Lynn Collins, never convincing, (seems more like a Maria Montez handmaiden - who looks uncomfortable - from a 40s B-flick) needs rescuing. John’s challenger for Dejah is untrustworthy Sab Than: Dominic West, leader of the Zodangans. Andrew Stanton from Pixar (director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E) directs/co-writes this $250,000-budgeted flick. This franchise may never leap forward (as of my deadline, it has not made back 1/4th the cost). Mild profanity. Intense war violence. Beheading. Cleavage.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
This sci-fi adventure has resources in Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Jules Verne‘s novels. Piecing clues together teen Sean: Josh Hutcherson and his adventurous stepdad, Hank: Dwayne Johnson, come up with a map of the Mysterious Island, where Grandad Alexander: Michael Caine is said to have disappeared years before. Mom Liz: Kristen Davis stays behind. They hire helicopter transport from Gabato: Luis Guzman whose daughter Kailani: Vanessa Hudgens comes along, beautifying the tropical scenery. The island has prehistoric critters that threaten them. 3-D. Mild obscenities. Some scary scenes.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY
This delightful Japanese animated film uses U.S. actors for its voices: teen Arrietty Clock: Bridget Mendler, her mom Homily: Amy Poehler, and her dad Pod: Will Arnett are a family of borrowers 4-inches high, who live in a basement corner and do not associate with people. She and Dad make raids in the night to find necessities. When Arrietty is seen by the teenage son Shawn: David Henrie, they fear they must move. She develops a friendship with him and he helps her “borrow” sugar cubes, tissues and items they need to live in comfort. Shawn is growing stronger out of the city while awaiting heart surgery. The vicious maid Hara: v.o. Carol Burnett tries to harm the Clocks. Directed by H. Yonebayashi from Mary Horton’s award-winning novel, “The Borrowers” with screenplay by H. Miyazaki and K. Niwa.
A family is torn apart when the wife, Simin: Leila Hatami, moves out to have a better life. The businessman husband, Nadar: Peyman Hoadi, stays behind to be with his father with Alzheimer’s and keeps their 11-year old daughter, Termeh: Fatima Sarhadi. Simin engages a caretaker, Razieh: Sareh Bayat, to care for the elder. When he soils himself, she is torn by religious beliefs whether she should bathe him. Simin remains determined to leave the country and take her daughter. Director-Screenwriter Asghar Farhadi presents his exquisite drama in Persian with English subtitles. Mature thematic material.
Awards: 2011 Academy Award: Best Foreign Film, nom.: Best Writing, Original Screenplay. Asia Pacific Screen Awards: won Best Film + 3 noms. 5 Berlin Film Festival Awards: won Golden Berlin Bear; Silver Berlin Bear: Best Actor & Actress; Prize of Ecumenical Jury; Reader Prize of “Berliner Morgenpost”. Bodil Award won: Best Non-American Film & Director. British Independent Film Award: won Best Foreign Film. Broadcast Film Critics Assn. Awards: won Best Foreign Lang. Film + won 31 other international awards!
Unrelentingly and in what is actually one long continuous take, without cliches, filmmaking duo Chris Kentis and Laura (also co-producer and writer) Lau (Open Water: 2003) establish ominous terror in a lake-house for its occupants, twenty-something Sarah: Elizabeth Olsen; her father, John: Adam Trese; and uncle Peter: Eric Sheffer Stevens. She is scared out of her wits and manages to show it in variable ways while still the focus of the camera’s attention. Surprisingly, it is based on a 2010 Uruguayan film. Disturbingly violent. Incestuous rape. Terror. Blood. Profanity. Cleavage.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
This unsettling drama about a disturbed youth, Kevin, played as a toddler, age 8 and almost 16 by three actors, spotlights a brilliant performance by the guilt-wracked mother, Eva: Tilda Swinton, once a successful travel writer. Complacent dad Franklin: John C. Reilly buys Kevin stronger bow-and-arrow sets each birthday. Defiant teen, a psychopathic sociopath, Kevin: Ezra Miller causes much suffering and mayhem, affecting classmates, even his father and younger sister, plus bringing much grief to Eva. When she walks into his bedroom, he continues masturbating. Director/co-writer Lynne Ramsey pulls no punches in her tale of teenage horror, blessedly not shown on screen. Intense violence. Blood. Profanity. Brief nudity. Sexual situations.
With help from his best friend Sebastian: Ben Foster, Chris Farraday: Mark Wahlberg must protect his brother-in-law Andy: Caleb Landry Jones from evil Tim Briggs: Giovanni Ribisi after his drug deal goes bad. Chris quickly assembles a crew, including Danny: Lukas Haas, and leaves his loving wife Kate: Kate Beckinsale and kids to go to Panama on a freighter. Once there, he has minutes to get a pallet-load of uncut big bills smuggled aboard his ship and return safely back home to New Orleans to pay off Briggs. Capt. Camp: J.K. Simmons doesn’t trust Chris. Of course, some things go awry en route and it’s touch-and-go with suspicious customs. Directed with suspense by Baltasar Kormácur. Profanity. Violence.
Always daring director Steven Soderburgh spotlights martial-artist Mallory Kane: Gina Carano as his unlikely covert op heroine who has more lives than a cat. Her rescue mission in Barcelona successful, she is immediately dispatched to Dublin on an assignment that turns sour. Betrayed and angry, she goes for payback when set up for a fall in Lem Dobbs’ screenplay by teammate Kenneth: Ewan MacGregor and employers Rodrigo: Antonio Banderas and Coblenz: Michael Douglas. She and Paul: Michael Fassbinder have the shortest “marriage” on record. Mallory returns to the US, seeking to protect family and get revenge. Aaron: Channing Tatum shows up along the way. John Kane, her father: Bill Paxton finds his New Mexico home invaded by men seeking his daughter on the run. Profanity. Extreme violence.
MAN ON A LEDGE
Nick: Sam Worthington is the title character, whose presence on an NYC hotel ledge 11 floors up proves a distraction for his team (including Joey: Jaime Bell and Angie: Genesis Rodriguez) at work in the building next door which is the HQ for his nemesis, a corrupt wealthy businessman, Englander: Ed Harris, current possessor of a fist-sized diamond he stole from Nick. As the police psychologist trys to talk Nick inside, Lydia: Elizabeth Banks has backup from her partner Jack: Edward Burns; and her former partner, Mike: Anthony Mackie. In the crowd gathered on the street below, there’s TV news reporter Suzie: Kyra Sedgwick (taking time off from Closer, her popular TV series). Asger Leth directed the breathtaking thriller from a screenplay by Pablo F. Fenjves. Profanity. Violence.
ONE FOR THE MONEY
Stephanie Plum: Katherine Heigl, recently divorced and unemployed, takes on a bail bondsman job to seek out wrongdoers and get paid for it. The first task is to find ex-cop Joe Morelli: Jason O’Mara, a past romance, who has a warrant out. Scenes with the leads wearing handcuffs and a smile will keep you awake. As her ditzy Grandma: Debbie Reynolds almost steals this comedy romance film. The cast also includes Jimmy: John Leguizamo and a hilarious streetwalker, Lulu: Sherri Shepherd. It was directed by Julie Anne Robinson with a flair for comedy from a screenplay by Stacy Sherman + 3. Profanity. Brief nudity.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO
Cameron Crowe’s latest directorial effort stars Benjamin: Matt Damon as the title character, with his cute daughter, Rosie: Maggie Elizabeth Jones and disinterested son, Dylan: Colin Ford. Kelly: Scarlett Johanssen has been running the zoo and stays on to help Benjamin. Could romance be in the air? His brother, Duncan: Thomas Haden Church also lends a hand. This charming family story will bring laughs and a few tears as they have a tight deadline to meet before the season starts to open to the public. Crowe co-wrote the screenplay with Aline Brosh McKenna from Benjamin Mee’s book. Mild profanity.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Given a last chance by his London solicitor employer, circa 1910, lawyer Arthur Krips: Daniel Radcliffe is sent to a Yorkshire village to settle a large estate. In a flashback, three teen girls jump from high windows to their death below; their souls still haunt the mansion as Krips arrives for his assignment. From the outset, villagers are unwelcoming to him. He is befriended by the local nobleman Mr. Daily: Ciarán Hinds, who has a sickly wife, Janet McTeer. The creepy, morbid eeriness forebodes an entertaining, unsettling horror film that gives Radcliffe his first post-Harry Potter role with facial hair and period costumes. It takes a while for him to learn the secret of the title character who preys on the young and how to make things right. Director James Watkins provides tension from Jane Goldman’s screenplay adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel. Profanity. Scary scenes.
George: Paul Rudd and Linda: Jennifer Aniston live in NYC; he has a corporate job which he hates and Linda peddles her documentary about penguins with testicular cancer! When he loses that work, they drive (hilariously) to Atlanta to his obnoxious brother’s, Rick: Ken Marino. They join a hippie commune with a bunch of characters: the flower child Almond: Lauren Ambrose, the angry ex-porn actress Karen: Kathryn Hahn, the nudist Wayne: Joe Lo Truglio, and an elder almost senile burnout Carvin: Alan Alda. George soon finds himself competing for Linda’s affections with goofy Seth: Justin Theroux. A highlight is George’s mirror chat! He finds solace with sexy Eva: Malin Akerman. Director David Wain also co-wrote [Role Models] this delightful romp with Marino. Graphic nudity. Sexual content. Drug use. Profanity.
Major silent film star George Valentine: Jean Dujardin accidentally meets dancer Peppy Miller: Bernice Bejo, puts her in a small part in his film and the press creates a romance that causes his jealous wife, Doris: Penelope Ann Miller, to divorce him. The characters are as winning as the movie terrier Uggie, who looks like he bounced out of a Thin Man movie. There is an element of the Star Is Born story. You even forget that it’s a silent film; this is a remarkable tribute to classic Hollywood. Dujardin charms with laughs and tears and tap dances like Fred Astaire with Bejo as his Ginger. James Cromwell portrays Clifton, the chauffeur: John Goodman is Al, the explosive studio head. Directed/co-written by Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, this is his first American film. Received the highest score from U.S. film critics: 97% loved it.
Awards: 10 Oscar nominations: Picture, Actor: Dujardin , Supporting Actress: Bejo, Director & Orig. Scrn.: Hazanavicius, Orig. Score, Art Dir., Cinematography, Costume Design. Golden Globes: won Best Comedy-Musical, Actor, Orig.Score, Nom.: Sup. Actress: Bejo; Dir.,
Cannes Film Festival: Best Film, Actor.
EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE
When Oskar Schell: Thomas Horn hears his dad, Thomas Schell: Tom Hanks, calling from the Twin Towers on the morning of 9-11, he freezes up and can’t answer the phone. The cast is rounded out by his mom Linda: Sandra Bullock, Grandmother: Zoe Caldwell, Stan the Doorman: John Goodman, and The Renter: Max von Sydow. When Oskar finds a key in his dad’s effects, his search through the NYC boroughs leads him to Abby Black: Viola Davis and, eventually to her husband, Wm. Black: Jeffrey Wright. Director Stephen Daldry with the writers: Eric Roth (scrn.) and J.S. Foer (book) supply a three-handkerchief movie that is well worth seeing.
Films about Sept. 11 are still hard to stomach, even this many years after the tragedy.
Awards: Academy Awards: Nom. Best Picture, Sup. Actor: Max von Sydow.
There is a surprise in Ben Kingsley’s history that I won’t spoil here. This film has more charm than any I can recall any other movie having had for many years. The color of the 1930’s Paris sets are spectacular, constantly amazing while the story is totally unique and pays tribute to the beginnings of the film industry with a magical touch called Scorcese. Both youths, Hugo: Asa Butterfield and Isabelle: Chloë Grace Moritz, add character to the film. Ray Winstone plays Hugo’s Uncle Claude who tends the clocks in a Paris train station where they live. Other cast members include: the humorous wooden-leg Station Inspector: Sasha Baron Cohen, Lisette: Emily Mortimer, and Mr. Labisse: Christopher Lee. Director Martin Scorcese picks up his seventh Oscar nomination, winning in 2007 for The Departed. John Logan wrote his exceptional screenplay from Brian Selznick’s book.
Awards: 11 Oscar nominations: Picture, Dir.: Scorcese, Screenplay, Costume Design, Visual Effects , Art Dir. Golden Globes: won Best Dir. Nom.: Best Score, and Cine.
THE IRON LADY
The chronicles of Margaret Taylor, a young Conservative political candidate who marries Denis Thatcher, provide an insight into British politics. Meryl Streep may be hard to beat in the Best Actress Oscar race as she ages from the powerful first female Cabinet Minister (1979-90) to her 80s with dementia, still chatting with her dead husband—all with the voice, posture and helmet hairdo of Thatcher. The Academy would love to give her another Award to prove her equal to Katharine Hepburn who won four Oscars. My personal disappointments were with the constant shifting of timeframes between her memories, and that husband Thatcher: Jim Broadbent didn’t receive a supporting nod for his devoted portrayal that brought tears. Phyllidia Lloyd directs the shallow screenplay by Abi Morgan. Mild profanity.
Awards: Oscar noms.: Best Actress: Streep, Makeup. Golden Globes: won Best Actress-Drama: Streep.
TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
During the Cold War between Britain and Russia, espionage veteran George Smiley: Gary Oldman returns from semi-retirement to take charge of finding the mole who provides secrets to the Communist MI6. He has George’s simplicity down pat. The suspects are numerous: Control: John Hurt, Bill: Colin Firth, Jim: Mark Strong, Percy: Toby Jones, Roy: Ciarán Hinds and Ricki: Tom Hardy. The bodies pile up as the search continues. This thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat. Fans of the le Carré mysteries who have been waiting for this espionage caper to hit the big screen will not be disappointed. Directed by Tomas Alfredson with mostly nighttime photography, the screenplay is by Bridgit O’Connor and Peter Straughan and based on John le Carré’s best seller. Profanity. Violence.
Awards: Oscar nom.: Best Actor: Gary Oldman.
THE WAR HORSE
Spielberg starts the film in a National Velvet vein, always following the horse, Joey, as the central character. The people he meets are almost peripheral. None are with him throughout the story of his upbringing and going into WWI with a young British officer, Capt. Nicholls: Tom Hiddleston, who swears to the lad, Albert: Jeremy Irvine, who raised him that he will take care of him. He even sketches a picture of Joey and plans to send it before being called into battle. Albert’s parents, Rose: Emily Watson and Ted: Peter Mullan, hate to sell him to the cavalry. Later, there’s the Dutchman: Niels Arstrup and his granddaughter, Emilie, Celine Buckens, who also love the horse. Warning: Joey gets tangled up in barbed wire on the battlefield which brings a moment of peace between the British and the Germans. Lee Hall and Richard Curtis based their screenplay on Michael Morpurgo’s novel. Composer John Williams now has 47 Oscar nominations, with three of his five wins for Spielberg films.
Awards: 6 Oscar nominations: Pic., Art Dir., Cine., Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing. Golden Globes: Nom. Best Drama, Score. Profanity. War violence.
Hawaiian real estate mogul Matt King: George Clooney not only has to deal with raising his daughters: Alexandra, 17going on 25: Shailene Woodley and Scottie, 10: Amara Miller; his wife is in a coma from a boating accident and he has to decide when to pull the plug. Alex's doofus boy friend Sid: Nick Krause is attached at the hip. Cousin Hugh: Beau Bridges and the other cousins are counting their millions before Matt can decide if he really wants to sell off their beachfront holdings. He learns that his wife was having an affair with a real estate guy, Brian Speer: Matthew Lilliard, who'll profit from the sale. His wife Julie Speer: Judy Greer has a devastating scene that could put her in the running for Supporting Actress. Then there's his wife's father Scott Thorson: Robert Forster who is contentious. Though all of this, Clooney goes from anguished to wrought in a performance that would have most tearing their hair out as his life falls apart around him. Directed/co-written by Alexander Payne, this is only his fourth film. Clooney and Payne could also get Oscar nominations. Profanity.
HAPPY FEET 2
Mumble's (voice of Elijah Wood) son: Erik: v.o. Ava Acres is growing up and wants to fit in. Mighty Sven (who can fly!): v.o. Hank Azaria is a zany inspiration to Erik. A trapped elephant seal (v.o. Richard Carter) is rescued. When mother Gloria: v.o. Pink (who gets to belt "Bridge of Light") and others are trapped as suddenly crashing glaciers produce a valley surrounded by peaks where the men are, they must be fed and rescued. Wacky Ramon/Lovelace: v.o. Robin Williams supplies some comedy. Some of the most beautiful underwater scenes feature The Krill: v.o. Brad Pitt & Matt Damon . Kids of all ages will enjoy this one. Directed and co-written (plus 7), who can't come up with a compelling storyline, by George Miller (Mad Max). IMAX. 3-D.
Ancient Greece: 1228 BC. King Hyperion: Mickey Rourke kills everyone in his path to get the Epirius Bow which has the power to free the imprisoned Titans. He captures the oracle Phaedra: Freida Pinto and her three oracles. The Old Man: John Hurt befriends peasant Theseus: Henry Cavill (next: Man of Steel) who has been chosen by the god Zeus: Luke Evans to protect his people. Directed by Tarsem Singh with brutal battle scenes with half-a-dozen beheadings and blood everywhere, this bloodbath seems more inspired by comic books and Lord of the Rings than mythology. Profanity. Nudity. Violence. 3-D
This sci-fi thriller, set in the near future in NYC, has the premise that time can be "tattooed" on the arm of every human, with additions, purchases and subtractions made; when you clock out, you die. You live until age 25 and must buy/steal additional time after that. Will Salas: Justin Timberlake isn't very macho as the poor boy hero from the ghetto who should be tough enough to outrun the timekeeper, Raymond Leon: Cillian Murphy. Will connects with a socialite, Sylvia Weis: Amanda Seyfried and they run off together, Why a wealthy lady with lots of time would care for this bum doesn't compute. His mother Rachel: Olivia Wilde runs out of time. Directed by Andrew Niccol; Profanity. Partial Nudity. Some violence.
Hoover ran the FBI under eight presidents over 48 years, ending with his death in the Nixon reign. Despite the extraordinarily fine interpretation of J. Edgar Hoover by Leonardo DiCaprio, the man himself was an unlikeable, fussy, paranoid, rules-obsessed, without humor, mama's boy cuddled by Anna Marie Hoover: Judi Dench, almost to the point of smothering. (The old age make-up could have been better.) He frets about not being able to dance when Lela Rogers (Ginger's mother): Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) invites him to dance at a premiere party. His office is capably run by Miss Helen Gance: Naomi Watts, who shares every confidence. His No. Two man in the FBI is also his platonic lover, Clyde Tolson: Armie Hammer; there is on-screen kissing, hand-holding and wrestling for those who might be uncomfortable with same. Hoover's first fame came when he found the Lindbergh baby killer. For viewers with an interest in old buildings, the Orpheum Theater: LA and the Library of Congress are used. The script by Dustin Lance Black (Oscar-winner for Milk) was thrown into a mix and assembled by heaven knows what formula. The film is getting Oscar buzz. Directed by Clint Eastwood with his usual aplomb. Profanity. Mild violence.
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
Asst. Director #3 Colin Clark: Eddie Redmayne on the filming of The Princess and the Showgirl in London wrote his first book about Marilyn Monroe: Michelle Williams and Laurence Olivier: Kenneth Branagh in 1998. That serves as the basis for this tale of the filming. Dame Sybil Thorndyke: Judi Dench stands up for MM when she's late or flubs her lines, which is often. Colin dates setworker, Lucy: Emma Watson , who is jealous of his time with MM. Mrs. LO/Vivien Leigh: Julia Ormond knows that Larry always falls for his leading ladies. Marilyn's acting coach Paula Strasberg: Zoe Wanamaker , husband Arthur Miller: Dougray Scott and producer Milton Greene: Dominic Cooper all have ways of controlling/driving MM batty. She develops a closeness to the quiet 22-year-old AD Colin. Williams does a very credible job with direction by Simon Curtis. There's Oscar talk. Songs from other MM films are tacked on at the beginning and end. Profanity. Nudity.
PUSS IN BOOTS
In a spin-off from the Shrek series, Puss: voice of Antonio Banderas has his own film. In this prequel, Kitty: v.o. Salma Hayek, Humpty Dumpty: Zach Gallifianakis, Jack: v.o. Billy Bob Thornton and Jill: v.o. Amy Sedaris interact along his suave swashbuckling path. This is a fast-paced action adventure for all. Although it's free of the Murphy-pun influence, the jokes could have been funnier. IMAX. 3-D.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN: PART 1
Bella: Kristen Stewart marries vampire Edward: Robert Pattinson in the first 20 minutes. The next 20, almost without dialog, is in their honeymoon cottage in the Bay of Rio de Janiero with lots of nudity and lovemaking. Bella has a 3-4 month pregnancy and births a freakish child (never seen) as Jacob Black: Taylor Lautner and the wolves surround the Cullen family home, threatening attack. This is about as corny as it gets; for died-in-the-wool Twilight fans only! Directed at almost a snail's pace by Bill Condon. Profanity. Violence.
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