Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Capsule Reviews of Movies



**** Excellent *** Good

** Fair * Poor

Reviewers: C.R., Carrie Rickey; S.R., Steven Rea; D.D., Dan DeLuca; T.D., Tirdad Derakhshani; D.H., David Hiltbrand; W.S., Inquirer wire services.

New This Week

The Art of the Steal See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 8.

Better Living Through Chemistry See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 5.

The Grand Budapest Hotel See Steven Rea's review on Page 4.

Need for Speed See Steven Rea's review on Page 4.

Stranger By the Lake See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 6.

Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club Not Previewed.

Veronica Mars See David Hiltbrand's review on Page 5.

Also on Screens

About Last Night 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.

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. 2 hrs. 18 R (sex, nudity, profanity, drugs, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

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. 1 hr. 57 R (sex, nudity, drugs, profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me A fearless but compassionate documentary portrait of the Broadway belter and cabaret icon - a crank, a boozer, a terror, a delight. Stritch has been a fixture of the New York theater and music scenes forever, or before forever. And now, in her late 80s, she bravely lets a camera crew follow her around. 1 hr. 21 No MPAA rating (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Endless Love A jaw-dropping groanfest of teen romance cliches, this Valentine's Day disaster - which bears but passing resemblance to the 1979 Scott Spencer novel and 1981 film - stars the ridiculously photogenic Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer as high school seniors who fall hopelessly head over heels. Mushy montages and high melodrama ensue. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Forces of Nature Get a close-up look at natural disasters in this Imax documentary.

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 (fright) - D.H.

Gloria Paulina García stars as a fiftysomething divorcee, looking for romance, affection, maybe even love. Keenly observed and played pitch-perfect by the actress, this Chilean film is haunting and raw. 1 hr. 50 R (nudity, sex, 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. With Scarlett Johansson's voice, and Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt. 2 hrs. 06 R (sex, nudity, profanity, 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 little interlocking bits of plastic? 1 hr. 40 PG (mild action, rude humor) - W.S.

The Monuments Men George Clooney, in epaulets and Clark Gable mustache, 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. With Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett. 1 hr. 58 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman A time travel movie, a father-and-son movie, a boy-meets-girl movie, a movie that doggedly celebrates the art of the pun. But most significant, this snappy adaptation of the '60s Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon segments is a movie about the smartest creature on Earth - who just happens to be a beagle - and his adopted human boy. The bowtied canine and his bespectacled kid find themselves ricocheting through the centuries, exploring history firsthand, and firstpaw. 1 hr. 30 PG (cartoon violence) - 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.

Omar From Palestine, a clenched drama about a young resistance fighter, trapped behind the mazelike barriers of the West Bank and caught up in a web of conspiracy, betrayal, paranoia, and, yes, love. Gripping, grim, and a foreign-language Oscar nominee. 1 hr. 38 No MPAA rating (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Philomena *** A surprisingly tough and tender tale from director Stephen Frears, adapted from the true story of a seventysomething Irish woman (Judi Dench) looking to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption when she was an unwed teen. 2 hrs. 2 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Pompeii A sword-and-sandals saga set in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, with Game of Thrones' Kit Harrington, Sleeping Beauty's Emily Browning, and Kiefer Sutherland as a Roman senator. 1 hr. 45 PG-13 (vulgar language, violence, mass destruction) - W.S.

Ring of Fire This Imax documentary looks at the ring of volcanos in and around the Pacific Ocean.

Son of God Condensed and reconfigured from the 10-hour History Channel mini-series The Bible, with Portuguese model-turned-screen player Diogo Morgado in the role of Jesus of Nazareth, inspiring his followers, performing miracles, and getting arrested, tried, and nailed to a cross. With its Sunday-school narration and periodic flyovers of a computer-rendered Jerusalem, and with a cast that can best be described as handsome, the film reduces the civilization-shaping events in the life and times of Jesus to a cheesy clip reel. 2 hrs. 18 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Space Junk 3D This Imax documentary looks at the vast amount of space debris orbiting Earth and the extent to which it jeopardizes space exploration. Not Previewed

Stalingrad The first Russian film to be released in Imax 3-D, this thunderous reenactment of World War II's historic battle would have fit quite nicely at the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics. Inspired by 300 and other such purveyors of a CG-ized visceral aesthetic, it's full of slo-mo, in-your-face, artery-splurting combat and carnage, and (subtitled) dialogue that ricochets with war movie cliches. 2 hrs. 11 R (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

3 Days to Kill Kevin Costner is a veteran spy guy and assassin, returning to Paris to try to reconnect with his teenage daughter and estranged wife, but compelled to do one last job by a killer blonde in stiletto heels (Amber Heard). Car chases, firefights, torture scenes - plus bike-riding lessons and a prom - ensue. 1 hr. 53 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

300: Rise of an Empire As in the original 300 film, the vastly outnumbered ancient Greeks are trying to hold off the invading Persians. But this time they're fighting on boats, and against a villainess (Eva Green). And as in the original, you get gruesome stylized violence mixed with visual panache. 1 hr. 42 R (strong violence, sex, nudity, profanity) - D.H.

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 showbiz sidekick, Teller. 1 hr. 20 PG-13 (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. The British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor gives body and soul in the lead. 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.

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