Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life, Life, Love

New and Noteworthy: Movies

COMING THIS WEEK

By Steven Rea

The Expendables 3 "Lets do what we do," Sylvester Stallone says in his best Shakespearean intonations in the trailer for the third installment of the old-school action romp. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, and Jason Statham join Sly for the guns-and-ammo fiesta, along with Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer, Wesley Snipes, and Mad Mel - Gibson, that is. PG-13

The Giver An adaptation of Lois Lowry's Newbery-winning children's novel about a utopian society that isn't, with Jeff Bridges in the title role as a wise old coot who must impart his memories to a young charge (Brenton Thwaites). Order gives way to chaos, palmy days to stormy nights. Meryl Streep plays the community's watchful matriarch. With Katie Holmes and a cameo-ing Taylor Swift, too. PG-13

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  • Rich Hill Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary about three teenage friends, living in poverty, living in the small-town Midwest. No MPAA rating

    Also Opening

     

    As Above, So Below Archaeologists find more than they bargained for when they search the catacombs beneath Paris.

    The Expendables 3 Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, and Jet Li return for another go-round in this action series.

    Finding Fela This documentary looks at the life and music of Nigerian singer Fela Kuti.

    A Five Star Life A single hotel critic is surrounded by luxury, but she wants something more meaningful out of life.

    The Giver In a future and seemingly conflict-free world, a young man learns about humanity's dark side from an elderly 'Giver.' Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, and Meryl Streep star.

    Jake Squared A middle-aged director (Elias Koteas) sets out to make a film about himself. The project quickly spirals out of control.

    Land Ho! A pair of senior former brothers-in-law embark on a road trip through Iceland.

    Rich Hill This documentary chronicles the lives of three boys growing up in an impoverished Midwestern town.

     

    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 www.inquirer.com/movies.

    Boyhood Richard Linklater's unassuming masterpiece follows a Texas kid (newcomer Ellar Coltrane) from grade school to college dorm, reconvening cast and crew (including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the parents) a few weeks every year for 12 years, and its carefully observed series of small moments take on quiet, metaphoric power. The faces and features of the actors - children and adults - change, and good stuff, bad stuff, the funny, the sad, the transformative, the banal, all happen in real time. Because, for once in the movies, time is real. 2 hrs. 46 R (profanity, sex, adult themes) - S.R.

    Calvary Brendan Gleeson stars as a good priest in a bad world - in the beautiful west country of Ireland - in John Michael McDonagh's stormy whodunit. A furious, darkly funny look at the nature of faith, and the nature of man. 1 hr. 40 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

     

    Very Good (***1/2)

    Code Black A riveting, you-are-there documentary about life - and death - in the underfunded, understaffed and overwhelmed ER of Los Angeles County/USC Hospital, from the point of view of a group of passionate resident physicians. A must-see for anyone concerned about the state of health care in this country now. Which should be all of us. 1 hr. 22 No MPAA rating (graphic surgical scenes, adult themes) - S.R.

    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. 1 hr. 42 PG (adventure action and some mild rude humor) - T.D.

    A Most Wanted Man One of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last performances is also one his greatest - as the rumpled, chain-smoking chief of a covert antiterrorist unit in modern-day Hamburg. The actor lives and breathes the role. A taut thriller, adapted from John le Carré's 2008 novel, full of tradecraft and moments of quiet terror, with a stellar supporting cast. 2 hrs. R (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

    Obvious Child Jenny Slate stars as a Brooklyn comedienne who finds herself pregnant after 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.

    Snowpiercer A global-warming experiment goes awry and Earth freezes, leaving survivors to circle the globe 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.

     

    Also on Screens

    Get On Up 1/2 Chadwick Boseman, having played baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 42, tries on a different kind of legend: the Godfather of Soul. With that unmistakable rasp, unmistakable pompadour, and unmistakable dance moves, a biopic of James Brown. From Tate Taylor, director of The Help. 2 hrs. 18 PG-13 (sexual content, drug use, profanity, violent situations) - D.D.

    Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt rounds up a team of outer-space misfits. Their mission: Does it matter? This breezy comic-book adaptation is the first sci-fi movie to spoof itself. 2 hrs. 2. PG-13 (violence, profanity) - D.H.

    Hercules 1/2 Dwayne Johnson supplies the muscle in this large-scale, entertaining adventure. The plot is pedestrian but that's why Herc rides a chariot. With Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and John Hurt. 1 hr. 38 PG-13 (Violence, profanity, partial nudity) - D.H.

    Lucy *** French action director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Nikita) outdoes himself in this English-language comic-

    book fantasy starring Scarlett Johansson as a student whose brain becomes supercharged after a drug overdose. Clever, drenched in irony, the flick is at turns a violent, noirish mob thriller, a speculative sci-fi yarn about the mysteries of the brain, and an existential inquiry about the meaning of life. 1 hr. 30 R (Strong bloody violence, sexuality, smoking, drug use, profanity) - T.D.

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Uninspired reboot of the jokey '90s franchise, with Megan Fox as intrepid news reporter April O'Neil, friend to those adolescent, anthropomorphic reptiles schooled in the martial arts. Will Arnett and William Fichtner also show up. PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

    What If Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are great together as platonic best friends who find themselves wondering - increasingly, but hardly ever at the same time - whether the platonic part is such a good idea. Smart, snappy, sweet. 1 hr. 42 PG-13 (sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

    Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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