New and Noteworthy: Movies
COMING THIS WEEK
By Steven Rea
300: Rise of An Empire Ancient Greeks and ancient Persians go at it in the CG-crazy sequel to 2006's Battle of Thermopylae free-for-all. With an international cast (Lena Headey, Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro, Eva Green) playing kings and queens, warriors and worrywarts. R
The Bag Man "You do not look inside this bag. You do not open this bag. Death is inside this bag." So Robert De Niro warns John Cusack, dispatched to a motel in the middle of nowhere to get "this bag," in this noirish-looking thriller. R
Also Opening This Week
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me The Broadway legend is the subject of this documentary.
If You Build It Documentary about two designers who travel to rural North Carolina to work with high school students on redesigning their community and lifting their self-esteem in the process.
7 Boxes A teen unwittingly places himself in danger when he takes on a simple task for a hefty fee. Spanish and Guarani with subtitles.
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. 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. 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. 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.
The Wind Rises A love song about flight, about childhood obsessions realized, Hayao Miyazaki's latest and possibly last feature (he has announced his retirement, but he's done that before), has the same dreamlike sense of magic that imbues all of the cartoon maestro's work - even though it's a story rooted in fact: the story of aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi. Nominated for the animated feature Academy Award. 2 hrs. 06 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Very Good (***1/2)
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 as 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.
The Rocket Australian director Kim Mordaunt made his name with his harrowing docu Bomb Harvest, about Laotian children killed each year collecting for scrap metal unexploded bombs that have littered the countryside since the Vietnam War. He returns to Laos for his first drama, an aching, poetic coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old boy whose family is uprooted from their land and their traditions by the construction of a new dam. A searing, yet hopeful, look at a world where life is unimaginably precarious. 1 hr. 36 No MPAA rating (adult themes, mild violence, some gore, profanity) - T.D.
Tim's Vermeer Fascinating, illuminating documentary about inventor Tim Jenison's obsessive project to prove that the 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer, long hailed for his photorealistic style, used optical devices to get the job, and the art, done. Narrated by Penn Jillette, directed by his less gabby show-biz sidekick, Teller. 1 hr. 20 PG-13 (adult themes) - S.R.
Also on Screens
About Last Night **1/2 The relationships of two new couples are put to the test in this romantic comedy starring Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant. 1 hr. 40 R (sexual content, language, brief drug use) - W.S.
The Monuments Men ** George Clooney leads a gang of art experts, tasked with retrieving troves of artwork stolen by the Nazis in this throwback to Hollywood's war movies of yore. Alas, it's a throwback that's thrown its back out - limping along, trailed by battalions of stereotypes and ammo rounds of cliche. 1 hr. 58 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Non-Stop ** Liam Neeson's latest vehicle is a jetliner - the broad-shouldered, softspoken action hero plays a U.S. air marshal on a flight hijacked by - well, the question of the hijacker's identity is the ostensible suspense mechanism for this increasingly ludicrous thriller. With Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, and lots of very frightened passengers. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Pompeii ** A sword-and- sandals saga set in the shadow of Mount Vesuviu, with Game of Thrones' Kit Harrington, Sleeping Beauty's Emily Browning, and Kiefer Sutherland as a Roman senator. Let the lava flow! 1 hr.45 PG-13 (vulgar language, violence, mass destruction) - W.S.