Sunday, December 21, 2014

Life, Life, Love

New and Noteworthy: Movies

Scarlett Johansson stars in "Lucy," smuggling a new, high-tech designer drug into Taipei when the contraband accidentally seeps into her bloodstream, turning her into a super-powered, super-brainy fighting machine. (Universal Pictures)
Scarlett Johansson stars in "Lucy," smuggling a new, high-tech designer drug into Taipei when the contraband accidentally seeps into her bloodstream, turning her into a super-powered, super-brainy fighting machine. (Universal Pictures)
Scarlett Johansson stars in "Lucy," smuggling a new, high-tech designer drug into Taipei when the contraband accidentally seeps into her bloodstream, turning her into a super-powered, super-brainy fighting machine. (Universal Pictures) Gallery: New and Noteworthy: Movies


By Steven Rea

Lucy Scarlett Johansson is smuggling a new, high-tech designer drug into Taipei, when suddenly the contraband accidentally seeps into her bloodstream, turning her into a super-powered, super-brainy fighting machine - just like Scarlett Johansson in real life! From French visionary Luc Besson. R

A Most Wanted Man Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final complete role (he died during the shoot of The Hunger Games - Mockingjay), stars as a German counterterrorist spy in Anton Corbijn's adaptation of the John Le Carre thriller. Set in a gloomy and atmospheric Hamburg, with native speakers Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss, and Willem Dafoe and Rachel McAdams trying out their Teutonic accentuations. R

Happy Christmas Prolific indie auteur Joe Swanberg follows last year's Drinking Buddies with this tale of a husband and wife - Swanberg and Melanie Lynskey - who let his sister move in with them after her relationship back in New York explodes. The couple get a free babysitter out of the deal, but more than a few headaches, too. Philly's Mark Webber and Girls' Lena Dunham also star. R


Also Opening


A Long Way Down Four people with deep difficulties in their lives meet on New Year's Eve and form a support group. Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette star.

And So It Goes A self-centered realtor (Michael Douglas) finds his life in sudden turmoil when his estranged son drops off a granddaughter he didn't know existed. Diane Keaton also stars.

Boyhood The twists and turns of a boy's life between ages six and 18 are followed in this drama.

Come Back to Me A suburban mother suffers blackouts and uncovers a terrifying secret after an auto accident.

The Fluffy Movie This documentary looks at the career and comedic style of Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias.

 Hercules Dwayne Johnson takes the title role in this latest big-screen take on the ancient legend.

I Origins A molecular biologist's study of the human eye leads to the uncovering of evidence that can have a significant impact on human society.

  Step Up: All In The characters from the previous installments in this series gather in Las Vegas and dance for glory.

Very Good Girls Two New York City friends (Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen) make a pact to lose their virginity before college. Their friendship is put to the test when they both want to lose it with the same man.


Excellent (****)

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

Read complete reviews at

The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson's eighth, and most teeming, film is a between-the-wars comic caper set in a fictitious central European land where Ralph Fiennes is the concierge of an elegant alpine hostelry. When a wealthy guest dies and the will is read, a mad dash for money and a prized painting ensues. With Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, F. Murray Abraham, Saoirse Ronan, and newcomer Tony Revolori. Sublime. R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Venus In Fur Wickedly smart and wickedly playful, Roman Polanski's adaptation of David Ives' Tony-nominated play works on so many levels it's dizzying. A two-character piece about power, perversion, subjugation, seduction, the battle of the sexes, and the relationship between an actress and her director, it stars Polanski's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Mathieu Amalric, who bears a striking resemblance to Polanski. 1 hr. 36 No MPAA rating (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.


Very Good (***1/2)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 One of the most delightful surprises of the year, this DreamWorks Animation sequel is an intelligent, sensitive, and beautifully realized morality play that will fascinate children and parents alike. Five years after he ended the war between dragons and Vikings, young hero Hiccup and his fellow dragon-riders face off against a dreaded enemy named Draco, who subjugates dragons, using fear and torture to make them do his bidding. 1 hr. 42 PG (adventure action and some mild rude humor) - T.D.

The Immigrant Marion Cotillard is nothing less than amazing as a destitute Pole who arrives at Ellis Island in 1921 and falls in with a smooth-talking pimp (Joaquin Phoenix). James Gray (Two Lovers, The Yards) directs this half-crazy, fascinating yarn. R (nudity, violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Life Itself A touching, inspiring documentary portrait of Roger Ebert, the famously prolific thumb-slinging movie critic whose life story is the stuff of movies itself - and whose resilience in the face of an 11-year struggle with cancer is nothing short of extraordinary. R (adult themes) - S.R.

Obvious Child Jenny Slate stars as a Brooklyn comedienne who finds herself pregnant following a messy, drink-fueled one-nighter, in this low-key indie set in a world of stand-up, breakups, and visits to Planned Parenthood. Philadelphia native Gabe Liedman costars. R (profanity, sexual content, adult themes) - T.D.

Siddharth This powerful drama about working-class life in India focuses on an Indian man who desperately searches for his son after the boy fails to return home from a long-distance work assignment. 1 hr. 36 No MPAA rating (adult subjects, disturbing themes) - T.D.

Snowpiercer A global-warming experiment goes awry and Earth freezes, leaving survivors to circle Earth on a train driven by perpetual motion. Class war breaks out between those in back and those in front. All aboard for Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Chris Evans. R (violence, language, smoking, drug use) - T.D.

Violette This impressive film brings to life the long relationship between French writers Violette Leduc and Simone de Beauvoir. 2 hrs. 12 No MPAA rating (adult subjects, profanity, sexuality, smoking) - T.D.


Also on Screens

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes **1/2 Unnecessarily slow and somber sequel to the 2011 reboot of the classic sci-fi franchise from another century. The apes are dominant, living a life of peace in the misty woods north of San Francisco, but then the humans come asking favors - armed with guns. With Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, and Andy Serkis' performance-capture turn as Caesar, leader of the highly evolved primates. PG-13 (violence, action, adult themes) - S.R.

Planes: Fire & Rescue *1/2 Dusty, the converted cropdusting plane, is back and this time he's battling forest fires. This animated kids' film is better than the original, but that's not saying much. 1 hr. 23 PG (peril) - D.H.

The Purge: Anarchy **1/2 In this sequel to the 2013 hit, a young couple fights for survival as the annual purge rolls around. 1 hr. 43 R (adult subjects, profanity, strong bloody violence) - W.S.

Sex Tape ** Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel are a married couple trying to put the passion back in their lives. So, why not video themselves having sex? And then why not spend the rest of the movie desperately trying to reclaim the gifted iPads featuring their X-rated marathon? Naked butts, yes. Raunchy dialogue, yes. Laughs - not so much. 1 hr. 30 R (sex, nudity, profanity, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.

Tammy **1/2 Melissa McCarthy goes on a crazy, low-rent road trip with her boozy grandma (Susan Sarandon) in a raucous comedy that goes off the rails in its second half. R (profanity, adult themes) - D.H.

Transformers: Age of Extinction 3D ** Director Michael Bay outdoes himself in the latest pulverizing chapter of his robot franchise. It's much longer and much louder than any of the previous demolition extravaganzas. Mark Wahlberg provides the puny human element. 2 hrs. 45 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - D.H.

Wish I Was Here **1/2 Zach Braff's 10-years-later followup to his writing/directing debut, Garden State, finds the actor playing an actor - a mid-30s slacker whose dreams of fame and fortune, or just steady work, appear dashed on the rocks of reality: a mortgage, school tuitions for the kids, a wife who seems weary and glum. Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin costar. 2 hrs. R (profanity, sex, adult themes) - S.R.

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