Friday, December 19, 2014

Capsule Reviews of Movies

Reviews

Ratings:

**** 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

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes See Steven Rea's review on Page 4.

Hellion See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 4.

Rage See David Hiltbrand's review on Page 6.

Venus in Fur See Steven Rea's review on Page 5.

Also on Screens

Begin Again 1/2 Keira Knightley, bringing those daunting cheekbones to bear on a mawkish music-biz screenplay, is the best thing about John (Once) Carney's New York City melodrama. Mark Ruffalo is the down-on-his-luck industry veteran who thinks he can turn the heartbroken English singer into a star. With Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld. 1 hr. 44 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Belle Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy officer and an African slave, raised, alongside her white cousin, in the world of 18th-century English aristocracy. Rooted in history, and also in the traditions of Jane Austen, this handsome period piece combines heady romance and pointed issues of race. With Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sam Reid. 1 hr. 45 PG (adult themes) - S.R.

Chef Jon Favreau stars in - and wrote and directs - this bouncy paean to the culinary arts, about a top cook who gets a career-killing bad review, rebounds, and bonds with his son in a feel-good food-truck ride across the States. Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, and John Leguizamo join the fun - which feels force-fed at times. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Deliver Us From Evil A New York City cop (Eric Bana) and an unorthodox priest (Edgar Ramirez) who specializes in exorcisms join forces to investigate a series of possessions that are terrorizing the city. 1 hr. 58 R (bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, profanity) - T.D.

The Discoverers Griffin Dunne stars as a recently separated father who leads his dysfunctional family across the country on a reenactment of the Lewis and Clark trek. They find not only the Pacific in this comedy, but also each other. 1 hr. 44 No MPAA rating (adult subjects, sexuality, profanity, some drug use) - T.D.

Earth to Echo Any similarities to E.T. are strictly intentional in this thoroughly winning kiddie sci-fi caper, as boys help a stranded little alien escape first the authorities and then the atmosphere. 1 hr. 31 PG (action sequences) - D.H.

Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in a propulsive sci-fi war movie, about a cowardly military flack who gets Bill Murray's Groundhog Day syndrome - he's fated to relive the same day over and over again, and the day is a doozy: a battle against alien invaders that will determine the fate of humankind. 1 hr. 53 PG-13 (intense action, violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

The Fault in Our Stars A sweet, bittersweet tale of cancer-stricken lovebirds - played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort - facing love, and death, head-on. An adaptation of John Green's YA megaseller, from the writing team behind The Spectacular Now (also with Woodley) and (500) Days of Summer. 2 hrs. 6 PG-13 (sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

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 Dafoe, F. Murray Abraham, Saoirse Ronan, and newcomer Tony Revolori. Sublime. 1 hr. 40 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 1/2 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.

Ida Two women - an orphan raised in a convent, preparing to take her vows, and a cynical, hardbitten former prosecutor and judge - meet in Pawel Pawlikowski's extraordinary film, embarking on a road trip across the bleak terrain of 1960s Communist Poland - a road trip that is at once tragic, hopeful, and unforgettable. 1 hr. 20 PG-13 (sexual situations, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

The Immigrant 1/2 Marion Cotillard is nothing less than amazing as a destitute Pole who arrives at Ellis Island, 1921, and falls in with a smooth-talking pimp (Joaquin Phoenix). James Gray (Two Lovers, The Yards) directs this half-crazy, fascinating yarn. 1 hr. 58 R (nudity, violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Jersey Boys John Lloyd Young, who starred as Frankie Valli in the original Broadway musical, cinches up his face and hits the high notes with grace in Clint Eastwood's enoyable, and surprisingly tough, music-biz biopic. Wall-to-wall Four Seasons songs, too. 2 hrs. 14 R (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Life Itself 1/2 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.

Lucky Them Toni Collette gives a thoroughly enchanting performance as Ellie Klug, a snarky, cynical yet endearing music journalist in this charming rock-and-roll dramedy that's light on story but strong on character. Sparks fly when Ellie goes on a road trip with a dot.com millionaire-turned filmmaker in search of a legendary rock star - and her ex-lover - who disappeared 10 years earlier. 1 hr. 37 R (language, some sexual content and drug use) - T.D.

Maleficent Angelina Jolie stars as the titular villain of the Sleeping Beauty tale in this imaginative, if somewhat belabored reinvention of the classic Disney cartoon. With Elle Fanning as the cursed Aurora, and District 9's Sharlto Copley alarmingly cast as her dad, the king. Flower-powered fairyland visual effects to die for! And Jolie, horns and cheekbones high, is magnificent as the villainess fairy godmother. 1 hr. 37 PG (violence, scary images, adult themes) - S.R.

Obvious Child 1/2 Jenny Slate stars as a Brooklyn comedian 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. 1 hr. 29 R (profanity, sexual content, adult themes) - T.D.

Snowpiercer 1/2 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. 2 hrs. 6 R (violence, language, smoking, drug use) - T.D.

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. 1 hr. 36 R (profanity, adult themes) - D.H.

Think Like a Man Too 1/2 Kevin Hart oversees the couples therapy comedy, a sequel to the 2012 hit based on Steve Harvey's bestseller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (crude sexual content, partial nudity, language, and drug material) - W.S.

Third Person 1/2 From Paul Haggis, the writer director of Crash, a similarly crosshatched and crowded affair set in New York, Paris and Rome, where Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, and Mila Kunis are among the unhappy souls bumping into, if not one other, then shared tragedies and woes. 2 hrs. 17 R (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

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.

22 Jump Street 1/2 Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, not exactly the millennials' answer to Abbott and Costello but working a simpatico stupid-com groove, are back in the sequel to 21 Jump Street. This time the undercover cops go to college to bust a drug ring. Winkingly ironic dumb jokes - anatomical, scatalogical, sexual - ensue. 1 hr. 52 R (profanity, sex, drugs, cartoon violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Words and Pictures 1/2 Clive Owen teaches honors English, Juliette Binoche teaches honors art, in this Tracy-and-Hepburn-like rom-com with a Dead Poets Society backdrop and dollops of human failing for added drama. The prep school kids line up in one camp or the other - "This insane war is energizing our students!" a giddy Owen declares - and the two stars line up to do battle, and, of course, make love. 2 hrs. PG-13 (sex, profanity, alcohol, adult themes) - S.R.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Time-travel is of the essence in this entertaining seventh installment in the series based on the Marvel Comics about a gang of misfit mutant superheroes and their respective mentors, Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto. Directed by Bryan Singer, with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine as the linchpin. Geeky, action-packed fun. 2 hrs. 11 PG-13 (intense action, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Yves Saint Laurent Documentary on the life of the late French fashion designer.

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