Thursday, August 7, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Our critics recommend...

Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) go out to the ball game in "About Last Night," also starring Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, and Paula Patton.
Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) go out to the ball game in "About Last Night," also starring Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, and Paula Patton.
Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) go out to the ball game in "About Last Night," also starring Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, and Paula Patton. Gallery: Our critics recommend...

Also Opening This Week

Like Father Like Son A Japanese man who discovers his son was switched with the boy he has raised at birth must make the most difficult decision of his life. Japanese with subtitles.

The Maze Runner A teen (Dylan O'Brien) finds himself with other boys in the center of a maze. They have no idea how they got there or how to get out.

Winter's Tale A burglar with the gift of reincarnating the dead attempts to bring back a woman who died in his arms. Will Smith, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Connelly star.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.), Tirdad Derakhshani (T.D.), and David Hiltbrand (D.H.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.

American Hustle David O. Russell's wild, woolly take on the late-'70s FBI sting operation Abscam is also a wild, woolly love story: Christian Bale and Amy Adams as con artists recruited by the feds, and fated for each other. Throw Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence into the mix and something goes kaboom in just about every scene, brilliantly. R (sex, nudity, profanity, drugs, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Gravity A transcendent, zero-g tale of survival, with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as orbiting astronauts caught in a debris storm, quite literally at the end of their tether. A technological marvel, and an emotional, spiritual, and physical voyage of stratospheric suspense. 1 hr. 30 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Her Joaquin Phoenix stars as a lonely Los Angeleno who may have found true love at last - in the disembodied voice, and consciousness, of his computer's new operating system. A near-future meditation on intimacy and isolation, connection and the disconnect of new technology, from writer/director Spike Jonze. With Scarlett Johansson's voice, and Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt. 2 hrs. 06 R (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Inside Llewyn Davis Oscar Isaac is a hard-luck troubadour on the folk scene of early '60s Greenwich Village in the Coen brothers' sublime odyssey to nowhere. It's a story of artistic struggle, and of the crushing beauty that can be wrested from a song. With Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman - and with many a dark laugh along the way? 1 hr. 45 R (profanity, violence, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.

The Lego Movie It took 65 years, but finally those little Danish construction toys get their own movie. If the Smurfs can do it, why not these interlocking little bits of plastic? The computer-animated feature is voiced by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and the three Wills (Arnett, Ferrell, and Forte). 1 hr. 40 PG (mild action, rude humor) - W.S.

Nebraska Bruce Dern in a career-defining performance as an ornery coot who believes he's won a $1 million prize, and heads from Montana to Nebraska to claim it. His son (Will Forte) reluctantly tags along in Alexander Payne's funny, sad, poignant, absurd road movie. In black-and-white. It's a gem. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

12 Years a Slave The remarkable, essential story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor gives body and soul in the lead, and Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt are part of a superb supporting cast. 2 hrs. 13 R (violence, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

The Attorney A hustler-attorney's life changes when he takes on a case involving a student who was arrested and tortured by the South Korean government in this true story. 2 hrs. 07 No MPAA rating (profanity, mild violence, scenes of torture, smoking) - T.D.

Dallas Buyers Club The "inspired by true events" tale of a party-hearty Texas cowboy and self-employed electrician who, in 1985, contracted the AIDS virus. Matthew McConaughey gives a literally transformative performance as this homophobic hellraiser who won't accept the doctors' diagnosis that he has 30 days to live. He proves them wrong, becoming a cash-rich drug dispenser and patients' rights advocate in the process in this wild, colorful, compassionate film. 1 hr. 57 R (sex, nudity, drugs, profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Kids For Cash A no-nonsense, no-stone-unturned documentary about the scandal that rocked Luzerne County in 2009, in which a pair of judges pocketed $2.6 million after they helped facilitate the opening of a privately owned juvenile detention center. A center where one of the judges proceeded to send literally thousands of youths who stood before his bench - some of them charged with no more than classroom pranks. Chilling, powerful stuff. 1 hr. 42 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Philomena A surprisingly tough and tender tale from director Stephen Frears, adapted from the true story of a 70-something Irish woman (Judi Dench) looking to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption when she was an unwed teen, and of the cynical veteran journalist (Steve Coogan) who tags along on her quest. 1 hr. 38 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Also on Screens

Frozen *** A plucky princess (voiced by Kristen Bell) is joined by a slapstick snowman (Josh Gad) in a delightful animated film that is part fairy tale, part farce. 1 hr. 48 PG - D.H.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit * 1/2 Chris Pine stars in this increasingly flimsy re-reboot of the Tom Clancy espionage franchise. The new Jack is a financial analyst for the CIA who gets thrown into operational hot water when he heads for Moscow and meets a madman bent on bringing America to its knees. Kenneth Branagh is said nemesis, and also the film's director. Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley costar. 1 hr. 45 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Lone Survivor *** Mark Wahlberg stars in this full-force combat film, based on the true story of four Navy SEALs on a botched mission in 2005 Afghanistan. Harrowing, visceral. With Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Taylor Kitsch. 2 hrs. 01 R (extreme violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

The Nut Job ** Kids may love The Nut Job, the animated story of Surly the outcast squirrel, but the animated tale will drive their parents nuts as they wait for the redundant humor - a lot of it from cheap jokes about flatulence, falls, and fumbles - to end. 1 hr. 26 PG (rude humor) - W.S.

Ride Along *1/2 Kevin Hart and Ice Cube star in this facile action comedy about a tough Atlanta police detective and his chippy civilian partner-for-a-day. This vehicle won't pass inspection. 1 hr. 40 PG-13 (violence, adult themes, profanity) - D.H.

That Awkward Moment ** Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller are a trio of commitment-wary guys in this indie rom-com from first-time director Tom Gormican. 1 hr. 34 R (sexual content, profanity) - W.S.

Theater

Reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.), Jim Rutter (J.R.), David Patrick Stearns (D.P.S.), Toby Zinman (T.Z.) and Jim Rutter (J.R.).

New This Week

4000 Miles (Montgomery Theater) An unhappy young man finds a haven with his spunky grandmother. Previews Wednesday and Thursday, opens Friday.

Julius Caesar (Lantern Theater) Forrest McClendon heads the cast of this great Shakespeare tragedy. Previews Thursday-Feb. 11, opens Feb. 12.

Ondine (Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium) The natural world clashes with the world of man in this Giraudoux classic. Previews Wednesday and Thursday, opens Friday.

Trousers (Inis Nua) Two guys, happy-go-lucky Dublin roommates in 1989, are less so in Manhattan in 2006. Previews Wednesday and Thursday, opens Friday.

True West (Theatre Exile/ Plays & Players Theatre) Sam Shepard's play about a bitter sibling rivalry that surfaces when two brothers reunite in their mother's house in the desert. Opens Wednesday.

Continuing

Beautiful Thing (Mauckingbird Theatre Company) Jonathan Harvey's groundbreaking play about gay first love gets an uneven production that treats the play like an after-school special. Griffin Back gives a bright performance as the truant Jamie. Ends Sunday. - J.R.

Cherokee (Wilma Theater) Under Anne Kauffman's direction, the world premiere of Lisa D'Amour's camping-trip comedy is impressive, with a terrific cast and an eye-popping set, although the script still needs work. Ends Saturday. - T.Z.

The Disappearing Quarterback (Plays and Players) Former Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla's one-man show about why he walked away is a highly enjoyable, attention-commanding work. Ends Sunday. - J.R.

Driving Miss Daisy (Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio) Johnnie Hobbs Jr.'s performance as Hoke, the African American chauffeur in the he Pulitzer-winning story of two lives enriched by friendship and respect, is a textbook example of how to play the role. Ends Sunday. - T.Z.

Ghosts (People's Light and Theatre) Oh, the secrets! People's Light gives the Henrik Ibsen play a phenomenal production that indicts cowardice and hypocrisy in parenting so effectively that it could almost have been set in 2014. Through next Sunday. - J.R.

Gidion's Knot (InterAct Theatre Company) A boy is dead, and his mother seeks answers from his teacher in an intense, captivating production. Alice Gatling and Karen Peakes give powerful performances, though the script offers multiple reasons to disbelieve in their characters. Through next Sunday. - J.R.

Other Desert Cities (Walnut Street Theatre) Spot-on set, great costumes, and a terrific cast keeps this family cauldron boiling. Through March 2. - W.R.

The Pillowman (Luna Theatre Company) Superb acting elevates this creepy, edgy, nearly funny work from Martin McDonagh, given a crackerjack production. Ends Saturday. - T.Z.

Snowglobe (MacKnight Foundation/Shubin Theatre) If you're going to premiere a whimsical one-act meditation on whether it is possible to prove the existence of God, you can't do better than to have Charlotte Northeast and Amanda Schoonover as your cast. Through next Sunday. - T.Z.

Tribes (Philadelphia Theatre Company/Suzanne Roberts Theatre) Nina Raine's play about a deaf man who appreciates what it means to be understood only after he falls in love with a woman on the brink of deafness. Through Feb. 23.

Tuesdays With Morrie (Bristol Riverside Theatre) The story of a mentor's conversations with author Mitch Albom, adapted from his best-selling book. Through Feb. 16.

Vanities (Hedgerow Theatre) Three friends move from high school through their twenties in this vapid, dated 1976 dramedy. Through next Sunday. - W.R.

Water By the Spoonful (Arden Theatre Company) Quiara Alegría Hudes draws on her Philadelphia roots for this story about people seeking connection. Through March 16.


Our critics recommend...

Sunday at 1 p.m., tune in to WRTI (90.1 FM) for a Philadelphia Orchestra concert from November featuring Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with Yuja Wang, and Strauss' Serenade for Winds and Ein Heldenleben. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.

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