Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Capsule Reviews of Movies

Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in "The Giver," a solid adaptation of Lois Lowry´s much-read children´s novel.
Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in "The Giver," a solid adaptation of Lois Lowry's much-read children's novel.


**** 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

As Above/So Below Horror and thrills in the catacombs of Paris. From the director of Quarantine and Devil. Not Previewed

Life of Crime See David Hiltbrand's review on Page 4.

The November Man See Steven Rea's review on Page 5.

A Summer's Tale See Steven Rea's review on Page 5.

The Trip to Italy See Steven Rea's review on Page 4.

Also on Screens

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.

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.

The Expendables 3 1/2 Sylvester Stallone enlists faces both old and new (but mostly old) for this raucous, redundant sequel - a mercenary film about mercenaries. With Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas and Ronda Rousey. 2 hrs. 6 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes). - D.H.

A Five Star Life Margherita Buy stars as a fortysomething single woman whose job - hotel critic - takes her around the globe, checking in incognito and putting the ritziest of establishments to the test. But when she's back home, alone, in Rome, she has to figure out what it is she wants from life. A frothy romantic comedy tinged with melancholy and yearning. 1 hr. 25 No MPAA rating (sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Frank 1/2 It's a road movie, a rock-and-roll movie, a meditation on creativity, the nature of identity, the fickleness of social media, and a movie about a guy who walks around wearing (and never removing) a cartoon-y papier-mâché head. It's also a delightful, oddball surprise. Michael Fassbender has the title role. 1 hr. 35 R (profanity, sex, adult themes) - S.R.

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.

The Giver A seemingly utopian society, its citizens devoid of memories or feelings, gets shaken up when a young charge (Brenton Thwaites) is assigned to be the Receiver of Memories from the time before "Sameness." Jeff Bridges is the gravelly voiced old-timer who imparts a bygone civilization's flashbacks of war, and tumult, but also of happiness and beauty. And so a veritable can of worms is opened in this solid adaptation of Lois Lowry's much-read children's novel. 1 hr. 34 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

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.

The Hundred-Foot Journey 1/2 Helen Mirren is a snooty restaurateur who doesn't like it when a family from Mumbai roll into her quaint little French town, setting up their eatery right across the rue. An impossibly overstuffed culinary culture clash rom-com, but probably impossible not to enjoy. Especially if you're a foodie. 2 hrs. 2 PG (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

If I Stay 1/2 Chloë Grace Moretz stars as a high school girl, a cello prodigy with a hot new boyfriend and a chance to go to Julliard, when a family drive turns tragic. In a coma in a hospital bed, she flashes back on key moments in her childhood and adolescence, and considers whether to fight for her life or move on. From Gayle Forman's top-selling YA novel. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (profanity, sex, adult themes) - S.R.

Into the Storm 1/2 A series of deadly tornadoes that wreak havoc in a town leads some to flee, but others to channel their inner storm-chaser. 1 hr. 29 PG-13 (sequences of intense destruction and peril, language, some sexual references) - T.D.

Land Ho! 1/2 A pair of senior former brothers-in-law embark on a road trip through Iceland. The scenery is beautiful, but that's the high point of the film. 1 hr. 35 R (language, sexual references and drug use) - T.D.

Let's Be Cops Two buddies who dress up as cops for a party wind up getting sucked into doing real police work in this comedy that stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. Not Previewed

Life After Beth 1/2 A young man's deceased girlfriend returns as a zombie. So naturally they resume their relationship. 1 hr. 31 R (pervasive profanity, some horror violence, sexual content, nudity, brief drug use) - T.D.

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.

Magic In the Moonlight For all its visual delights - Roaring Twenties roadsters, dazzling dresses, Cote d'Azur landscapes to die for - Woody Allen's 44th feature has to be one of his bigger duds. The mostly mirthless comedy, a sparkless romance, stars Colin Firth as an ace magician out to debunk a beautiful young American psychic, played by Emma Stone. 1 hr. 37 PG-13 (adult themes) - S.R.

A Most Wanted Man 1/2 One of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last performances is also one of 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.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 1/2 The sequel to comic-book artiste and auteur Frank Miller's 2005 black-and-white, digital backlot noir is full of cartoon violence, goonish misogyny, junior high hardboiled gab, and deaths by (count 'em) decapitation, crossbow, noose, throwing star, serrated knife, blade, bomb, bullets. With the CG likenesses of Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Eva Green, and Bruce Willis. 1 hr. 42 R (violence, sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Step Up All In The stars from the previous installments in this dance series return for a big competition in Las Vegas. 1 hr. 52 PG-13 (some language, suggestive material) Not Previewed

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. 1 hr. 41 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.

When the Game Stands Tall 1/2 Jim Caviezel stars as a high school football coach coming off a record winning streak whose faith allows him to face adversity with equanimity. A solemn, saintly take on a true story. 1 hr. 55 PG (violence, smoking) - D.H.

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