News Column

Movie Capsules [Buffalo News (NY)]

October 31, 2013


baggage claim. Starring Taye Diggs, Paula Patton and Jill Scott. Directed by David E. Talbert. Pledging to keep herself from being the only woman in her entire family never to wed, Montana embarks on a 30-day, 30,000-mile expedition to charm a potential suitor into becoming her fiance. 96 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language.)

Blue Jasmine. Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale in Woody Allen's comedy/drama about a Park Avenue diva forced to live with her struggling sister in San Francisco when her Wall Street crook of a husband is sent to jail. "The finest single performance -by anyone - that I have ever seen in an Allen film is by Blanchett in this film. Sure, maybe she'd warmed up for it by playing Blanche Dubois in a 2009 stage production of Tennessee Williams' 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' but the difference is this: In Allen's reimagination of 'Streetcar' as the life of a Ruth Madoff-type figure after her Wall Street mega-crook husband is jailed, Blanchett is adding brilliant Allen comedy to all those DuBois notes of absurd pretension and heart-rending pathos and madness. Because of it, this is not only one of the best films of the 77-year-old writer/director's latter-day career, it's one of the best films he's made in his entire life." 98 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.) **** (Jeff Simon)

Captain Phillips. Starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Barkhad Abdirahman. The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama. "A truly great film and not just because of the commanding suspense and overpowering sense of reality created by its director Paul Greengrass. The film's coda, after all the action has ended and your nerves have gone back to normal, is Hanks giving you something on screen you've probably never seen an actor do before. It shows us the consequences of things our movies usually care nothing about. The great film actors, bless them, can always surprise you. It's best to never forget that." 134 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.) **** (Jeff Simon)

Carrie. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde and Alex Russell. Remake of the Stephen King horror story about a sheltered teen who unleashes her telekinetic powers after being bullied by fellow students. 99 minutes. (Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.)

cloudy with a chance of meatballs 2. With the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Kristen Schaal and Will Forte. Directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. Fun sequel to the original story about a machine that made it rain food. Now, the food is alive. "'Meatballs' is such a treat because they never oversell it. Enjoy the nods to 'Jurassic Park,' 'Willy Wonka' and 'Up,' and see if you catch the little tribute to 'Enemy From Space,' from 1957. Flint is tricked into a mission that brings him back home, where his small island has become a haven for the foodimals. Watermelonphants. Shrimpanzees. Flamangoes. Susheep. Honestly, it would make a great game, coming up with these hybrids. Beautiful to look at, especially in 3-D, and written in a way that is both smart and kind, this second serving of "Meatballs" is simply delicious." 95 minutes. (Rated PG for mild rude humor.) ***o (Melinda Miller)

The Conjuring. Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Lili Taylor. Paranormal investigators help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. "James Wan's film is a smart, thrilling reminder that there is no cinematic experience as cathartic as a real scare. A good laugh and a bit of blubbering might come close, but to be genuinely frightened amidst a crowd of gleeful fear- mongers - that is some kind of bliss." 112 minutes. (Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.) ***o (Christopher Schobert)

The Counselor. Starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. Directed by Ridley Scott. A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking. 117 minutes. (Rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and profanity.) **o (Jeff Simon)

DESPICABLE ME 2. With the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Miranda Cosgrove. Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal. 98 minutes. (Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.) *** (Christopher Schobert)

Don joN. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza and Glenn Headly. Directed by Gordon- Levitt. A young stud with an addiction to hookups and internet porn falls for a club goddess whose view of men has been shaped by movie romance. 90 minutes. (Rated R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use.) ***o (Jeff Simon)

enough said. Starring Julie Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini and Catherine Keener. Directed by Nicole Holofcener. A divorced woman pursues a man only to learn he's her new friend's ex-husband. "'Enough Said' is a movie whose lack of underlining and italicizing would seem to be the whole point of it all. In the warmth and off- hand and low-key charm Gandolfini exhibits, it is clear that, in its small way, it showed a new side to his talents that would undoubtedly have grown." 93 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence and partial nudity.) *** (Jeff Simon)

ESCAPE PLAN. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Amy Ryan, Jim Caviezel and 50 Cent. A security expert and prisoner team up to escape a new maximum security prison run by the C.I.A. Directed by Mikael Hafstrom. "At this stage of their lives, Arnold needs Sly at moviehouses more than Sly needs Arnold. Weirdly, though, this movie needs Arnold's panache as an actor (no kidding) because Sly still couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. Not only does Schwarzenegger display something in the neighborhood of acting chops but the plot could almost be accused sometimes of being smart - as outrageous as it is." 112 minutes. (Rated R for violence and language throughout.) *** (Jeff Simon)

The Family. Starring Robert De Niro Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron and Jon D'Leo. A mob family hides out in France under the witness protection program. Directed by Luc Besson. 108 minutes. (Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality.) ** (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

THE FIFTH ESTATE. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie and David Thewlis. The story behind Julian Assange and the early days of WikiLeaks. Directed by Bill Condon. "Why on earth is this movie rated R? Has the rating board never met teens intelligent enough to give this movie a PG-13 rating? It's only the first thing that goes wrong with this accomplished and well-made journalistic thriller that doesn't begin to have the kind of hellfire apocalyptic hellfire Paddy Chayefsky put into the script for 'Network.' That's what the the story of Julian Assange and Wikileaks - and the whole digital revolution - cries out for and what's what it doesn't get." 128 minutes. (Rated R for some violence and language.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Fruitvale Station. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer. Directed by Ryan Coogler. A re-creation of the murder of Oscar Grant in the Fruitvale Station of the BART Line that rocked the Bay Area four years ago. 90 minutes. (Rated R for some violence, language throughout and drug use.) ***o (Jeff Simon)

Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris. A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space. "What happens after the first 20 minutes follows the actors as they try to survive, much less cope. It is wrenchingly powerful and harrowingly imagined. I have nothing but admiration, too, for the story director Alfonso Cuaron's schema is trying to tell about Bullock's character, who is the movie's centerpiece in what is certainly the best performance in a career that has been probably underrated too often. Cuaron is, at first, asking us to live in outer space. And then, as the movie proceeds, he is trying to tell us about the heroine's terrors of inner space." 90 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.) **** (Jeff Simon)

grown ups 2. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade return in the sequel to hit the comedy about a group of immature adults who learn lessons from their kids. 101 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for some profanity, male rear nudity and suggestive content.)

I'm In Love With a Church Girl. Starring Michael Madsen, Stephen Baldwin, Vanessa Leon and Ja Rule. Miles, a retired high-level drug trafficker, falls for Vanessa, a girl that is very different than the ones he usually dates. But his past threatens to destroy their relationship. 118 minutes. (Rated PG for thematic elements, violence, some suggestive content and brief language.)

inequality for all. Directed by Jacob Kornbluth. Documentary follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he looks to raise awareness of the country's widening economic gap. 89 minutes. (Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and smoking images.)

Insidious: Chapter 2. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey. The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world. 105 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements.)

JAckass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Starring Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Spike Jonze and Georgina Cates. Directed by Jeff Tremaine. An 86-year-old grandfather travels America with his 8-year-old grandson. 92 minutes. (Rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.)

Lee Daniels' The Butler. Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Robin Williams and Jane Fonda in the story of one African-American man's 30 years in service in the White House during the most tumultuous times of the civil rights movement. 132 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for language, brutal violence, thematic elements, sexual material, language, disturbing images and smoking). **** (Jeff Simon)

Machete Kills. Starring Danny Trejo, Alexa Vega, Mel Gibson and Jessica Alba. The U.S. government recruits Machete to take down an arms dealer who looks to launch a weapon into space. 107 minutes. (Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content.) *o (Jeff Simon)

Monsters University. The voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren and Steve Buscemi in Pixar's "prequel" to "Monsters Inc." about Mike and Jimmy (Sulley) meeting and becoming friends in the Scare College of Monsters University. 110 minutes. (Rated G.) **o (Jeff Simon)

percy jackson: sea of monsters. Starring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario and Nathan Fillion. To restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. 106 minutes. (Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language.) ** (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Planes. The voices of Dane Cook, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett, John Cleese and Cedric the Entertainer in Klay Hall's animated feature about a little cropduster named Dusty who wants to enter the "Wings Around the Globe" air race and compete with the bigger, faster planes. "A pleasant surprise. Not a huge one, for sure. It made the kids at the screening reasonably happy and the adults didn't feel sorely burdened. A win-win as such movies go." 92 minutes. (Rated PG for action intensity.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Prisoners. Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano in Denis Villeneuve's acclaimed and superbly performed thriller about a couple of distraught fathers who take the law into their own hands when their daughters are kidnapped and the police investigation seems to have stalled. "The movie is so much more intense than what people expect of our ordinary stylized wisecracking thrillers - especially when their emotions are of the canned TV variety - that some people laugh at the most inappropriate times at the film. It's the contrast between the film's overpowering emotional naturalism and the sudden bursts of its characters' impotent frenzy that people react to with nervous laughter. American films have taught us too well it seems, which is why powerful and brilliant films like this are needed to un- teach us." 153 minutes. (Rated R for violence, language and extremely brutal torture scenes.) ***o (Jeff Simon)

Riddick. Starring Vin Diesel, Karl Urban and Katee Sackhoff. Directed by David Twohy. Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick faces an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick's past. 119 minutes. (Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.)

Romeo & Juliet. Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Damian Lewis and Laura Morante. Update on William Shakespeare's tragedy of two star-crossed lovers. 118 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements.)

Runner Runner. Starring Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck and Gemma Arterton. When a poor college student who cracks an online poker game goes bust, he arranges a face-to-face with the man he thinks cheated him, a sly offshore entrepreneur. 91 minutes. (Rated R for language and some sexual content.)

rush. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde and Daniel Bruhl. Directed by Ron Howard. Based on the true story of the 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. "It is great to look at in every second whether you're watching beautiful people or roaring, thundering race cars. And the true story of Hunt and Lauda has built-in suspense, as does any sporting tale. But don't bother asking - or even thinking for a second - about where such polar personalities and minds came from. The movie, essentially, couldn't possibly care less." 123 minutes. (Rated R for sexual content, nudity, strong language, disturbing images and some drug use.) *** (Jeff Simon)

The Smurfs 2. Starring Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays. The Smurfs team up with their human friends to rescue Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by Gargamel because she knows the secret spell to turn his newest creation, creatures called the Naughties - into Smurfs. 105 minutes. (Rated PG for some rude humor and action.)

2 Guns. Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos and Bill Paxton in a punch'n'crunch shoot-em-up about two undercover federal agents who team up, neither knowing the other's a fed, and steal $43 million from a bank. "More than two guns to be sure. But compared to the vast arsenals and body counts of some summer movies, this is almost an intramural high school scrimmage. It's also a reasonably entertaining movie. The requisite wisecracks and observations are even better than the action which is old school, eschewing CGI and 3-D. All the bad guys in this movie are on the U.S. government's payroll which, undoubtedly, says something but you'll have to figure out what." 109 minutes. (Rated R for action violence, language and some nudity.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Wadjda. Starring Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, and Abdullrahman Algohani. A strong-willed Saudi girl signs up for her school's Koran recitation competition to make enough money to buy a green bicycle. "Viewers are unlikely to come across a more involving, wry, strong-willed character this year than the eponymous heroine of 'Wadjda,' played in her film debut, by young Waad Mohammed. This is a breathtakingly assured, uniquely lived-in performance as the 'spunky little girl' who is a rebel in an environment in which rebellion is frowned upon. 'Wadjda' certainly succeeds thanks to its location, its performances and its back story. It is a brisk, funny, splendid creation, one that should bring international attention to its director and young star." 98 minutes. (PG for thematic elements, brief mild language, and smoking.) ***o (Christopher Schobert)

we're the millers. Starring Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts. A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico. 110 minutes. (Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.) *** (Adian Ryan)

The Wolverine. Starring Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima and Will Yun Lee. Directed by James Mangold. Summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, Wolverine becomes embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons. 126 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.)

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