Monday, December 22, 2014

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

Aftermath See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 5.

Persecuted See "Also Opening" on Page 6.

Planes: Fire & Rescue See David Hiltbrand's review on Page 4.

The Purge: Anarchy See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 17.

Sex Tape See Steven Rea's review on Page 17.

Siddharth See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 4.

Violette See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 5.

Wish I Was Here See Steven Rea's review on Page 16.

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.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 1/2 Unnecessarily slow and somber sequel to the 2011 reboot of the 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 monkeys. 2 hrs. 10 PG-13 (violence, action, 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.

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.

Hellion Kat Candler's affecting drama is about a heavy-metal music-fueled working-class teenager named Jacob (Josh Wiggins) who has been at war with the world since the death of his mother and increasingly alienated from his father. Himself gripped by rage, the father (Aaron Paul) has become all but incapable of caring for Jacob or his younger brother Wes. Impressionistic, low on plot and back-story, this episodic chamber piece sheds light on the hopelessness that grips so many working-class Americans. 1 hr. 34 No MPAA rating (language, some violence, some drug use, smoking) - T.D.

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. 1 hr. 58 R (adult themes) - S.R.

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.

Venus In Fur Wickedly smart and wickedly playful, Roman Polanski's adapatation 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.

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.

Latest Videos:
Also on
Stay Connected