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Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (

October 13, 2013

YellowBrix

Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (drug use), L (language), N (nudity), S (sexual situations, references), V (violence). Ratings by Dann Gire, Daily Herald Film Critic, unless otherwise noted.

Picks

"Captain Phillips" -- A superior fact-based thriller about the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship by Somali pirates, who hold the captain (Tom Hanks delivering a nuanced, powerful performance) hostage. At least until the Navy's cavalry arrives. A rich, multilayered action movie from Paul "United 93" Greengrass, with four talented Somali actors. (R) D, V. 134 minutes. . . . .

"Despicable Me 2" -- The Minions take over this fast, but dumbed- down sequel with their popular slapstick shtick. Former villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) helps secret agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) search for a stolen formula while overprotecting his adopted daughters from boys. (PG) 98 minutes. . . .

"Don Jon" -- The amazing Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars in a daring, hilariously insightful sex comedy about a computer porn addict who meets the girl (Scarlett Johansson) of his dreams, only to discover he might have a different dream. With Tony Danza as Dad, Brie Larson and Julianne Moore. (R) D, L, N, S. 90 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Enough Said" -- James Gandolfini's performance as a regular Joe highlights Nicole Holofcener's wonderfully scripted drama about two middle-aged single parents trying to find happiness. Sweet and too real. With Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Catherine Keener. (PG-13) L, S. 93 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Gravity" -- Alfonso Cuaron directs a visually stunning work, a bold and daring survival thriller about two astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) dealing with the aftermath of a debris storm that wipes out their shuttle in space. How will they get back? (PG-13) L, V. 91 minutes. . . . .

"Munger Road" -- St. Charles native Nick Smith's scarifying thriller stars Bruce Davison as the St. Charles police chief out to stop an escaped lunatic at the same time two teen couples become stranded on a haunted road. (PG-13) L, V. 86 minutes. . . .

"Prisoners" -- Riveting child-abduction thriller about a father (Hugh Jackman) who kidnaps and tortures the man (Paul Dano) he thinks is responsible for taking his daughter. Taut, suspenseful and surprising. (R) L, V. 146 minutes. . . . .

"Rush" -- Ron Howard directs a serviceable bio-drama about the intense rivalry between two Formula One racers (Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl). Based on James Hunt and Niki Lauda. (R) D, L, N, S. 123 minutes. . . .

"We Are What We Are" -- A thoughtful, frightening gothic horror tale from Jim "Stakeland" Mickle who mixes suspense and restraint with bold shock. The Parker family in the backwoods of the Catskills struggles after the mother accidentally drowns, leaving quietly rebellious teen sisters (Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner) to deal with a little brother and their increasingly controlling father (Bill Sage). At the Music Box in Chicago. (R) L, N, S, V. 100 minutes. . . . 1/2

"We're the Millers" -- Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and the rest of the cast somehow make this cliched comedy work. Sudeikis plays a drug dealer who recruits a stripper (Aniston), a runaway girl (Emma Roberts) and his neighbor (Will Poulter) to pose as his fake family to smuggle drugs in an RV from Mexico. (R) D, L, N, S. 110 minutes. . . .

Passables

"The Family" -- A Mafia boss and his family struggle to quit the old ways after they're relocated to a sleepy French town as part of the U.S. Witness Protection Program. Starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones. Reviewed by Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press. (R) L, S, V. 112 minutes. . . 1/2

"Insidious Chapter 2" -- Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne return for more supernatural bumps in the night (and on the head) in the James Wan and Leigh Whannell sequel to the 2011 horror film. Some comedy and cleverness mixed with cheap theatrics and blatant horror rip- offs. (PG-13) 105 minutes. . . 1/2

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" -- This serious and sincere drama about the progression of Civil Rights witnessed by a longtime White House butler (Forest Whitaker) is spoiled by the distracting casting of the presidents he serves. Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan? Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower? Ha! (PG-13) L, S, V. 132 minutes. . . 1/2

"One Direction: This is Us" -- Note: This is not the "Extended Fan Cut" of Morgan Spurlock's documentary about the boy band that rose to popularity on "The X Factor." The concert scenes represent fairly standard fare, with 3-D visual effects adding a touch of hyper-reality. Reviewed by Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter. (PG) L. 92 minutes. . .

"Romeo & Juliet" -- The Bard's immortal story gets a traditional but simplified adaptation by Julian Fellowes that suffers from the bland, passionless pairing of Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth as the titular star-crossed lovers. Reviewed by Jake Coyle, Associated Press. (PG-13) V. 97 minutes. . .

"When Comedy Went to School" -- Surprisingly dry, uninspired doc about how the Catskills resorts served as a college for the world's leading Jewish comedians. With Jerry Lewis, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar and many others. (NR) 85 minutes. . .

"The Wolverine" -- Hugh Jackman returns as the buffed-up Marvel hero to fight ninjas and mobsters in modern-day Japan. This one finally challenges Jackman to express pain and weakness as the clawed, regenerating Wolverine. Reviewed by Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press. (PG-13) L, S, V. 126 minutes. . . 1/2

Pits

"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" -- Chester and Flint must save the world again in this animated sequel, complete with "foodanimals" and sophomoric jokes. Reviewed by Sean O'Connell of the Washington Post. (PG) 95 minutes. . 1/2

"Machete Kills" -- Robert Rodriguez's continuing fetish for grade F retrograde exploitation movies runs out of gas. This overwrought comic sequel is a tired mishmash of blood, bullets, bodies and brainlessness as Machete (Danny Trejo) returns as a U.S. agent for the president (Carlos Estevez, aka Charlie Sheen) to stop a Mexican madman (Demian Bichir) from nuking Washington. Mel Gibson steals the show as the ultimate 007 villain. (R) D, L, N, S, V. 106 minutes. . 1/2

"Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" -- Demigod Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and his friends set out into the Bermuda Triangle to find the Golden Fleece. A few funny moments from Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillion highlight this slog of a sequel. Reviewed by Jen Chaney, Washington Post. (PG) 106 minutes. .

"Runner Runner" -- A student gambler (Justin Timberlake) gets in over his head with a ruthless offshore operator (Ben Affleck) in this bland, disappointing thriller. Reviewed by Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter. (R) L, S. 91 minutes. . 1/2

Unpreviewed

"Instructions Not Included" -- The relationship between a single Hollywood stuntman (Eugenio Derbez) and his young daughter (Loreto Peralta) is jeopardized by the arrival of her birth mother, who abandoned her as a baby. (PG-13) L, S. 100 minutes.

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