News Column

Movie guide

August 1, 2013


KEY: 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.


"Before Midnight" -- The third movie in Richard Linklater's film series about Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) that takes place nine years after 2004's "Before Sunset." This film tackles heavier and more mature issues while Jesse and Celine vacation in Greece. Reviewed by Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press. (R) L, N, S. 109 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Blackfish" -- Gabriela Cowperthwaite's documentary exploring why Tilikum the orca killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 is an honest and powerful example of video journalism. Don't mistake it as a "Free Willy" spinoff. Playing at the Century Centre Cinema and Evanston CineArts 6. (PG-13) V. 80 minutes. . . . 1/2

"The Conjuring" -- James Wan combines horror classics "The Exorcist" and "The Amityville Horror," along with SyFy's "Ghost Hunters" in this scary, old-school tale. This allegedly true story pits real-life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) against a haunted house and demonic possession in 1971. With Glencoe native Lili Taylor. (R) V. 112 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 out secret agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) search for a stolen formula while overprotecting his adopted daughters from boys. (PG) 98 minutes. . . .

"Fruitvale Station" -- Empathetic performances are the core of this tragic movie, based on the death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan). With Octavia Spencer. Reviewed by Jake Coyle, Associated Press. (R) D, L, V. 90 minutes. . . . 1/2

"The Heat" -- Sandra Bullock and Plainfield's Melissa McCarthy are perfect foils as a reserved FBI agent and a foul-mouthed, erratic Boston police officer who team up to find a drug dealer. Paul Feig's buddy action movie starts out cliched but turns up "The Heat" once Bullock and McCarthy hit their comedic groove. With "SNL" alum Jane Curtin. (R) L, S, V. 117 minutes. . . .

"Still Mine" -- This Canadian film is as much a romance about a long-married couple (James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold, turning in superb performances) as it is a David-and-Goliath tale. Reviewed by Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post. (PG-13) L, N, S. 103 minutes. . . . 1/2

"The To Do List" -- Virginal and naive Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) sets out to put more sexual experiences under her belt before she goes to college. Connie Britton and Rachel Bilson co-star in this raunchy and sweet coming-of-age comedy. Reviewed by Justin Lowe of the Hollywood Reporter. (R) D, L, S. 104 minutes. . . .

"This is the End" -- Raunchy! Hilarious! Shocking! Six Hollywood stars are stuck in James Franco's house during the Apocalypse. Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Emma Watson and Jonah Hill co- star in a zany, over-the-top comedy horror tale. (R) D, L, N, S, V. 119 minutes. . . . 1/2

"The Way, Way Back" -- This humorous and charming coming-of-age story features way, way good performances (especially from young actor Liam James) that make Jim Rash and Nat Faxon's co-directorial debut a relatable and nostalgic delight. With Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell and Toni Collette. (PG-13) D, L, S. 103 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Unfinished Song" -- Sincere performances raise Paul Andrew Williams' drama about music and changing for the better above its predictability and cliches. Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) helps prickly Arthur (Terence Stamp) cope with his wife's death. With Vanessa Redgrave. Playing at the Century Theatre in Chicago. (PG-13) S. 93 minutes. . . .


"The Great Gatsby" -- Baz Luhrmann directs a visually kinetic but dramatically arid adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel about a Midwesterner (Tobey Maguire) who chronicles the downfall of his wealthy Long Island neighbor (Leonardo DiCaprio), burning with romantic obsession for Daisy (Carey Mulligan). (PG-13) L, V. 143 minutes. . .

"The Internship" -- Call it "Wedding Crashers 2.0" without the fun of the original R-rated movie. Owen Wilson and the suburbs' own Vince Vaughn reunite in this good-natured comedy as unemployed salesmen who go for internships with Google and compete with younger interns for jobs. (PG-13) L, S. 119 minutes. . . 1/2

"Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" -- Comedian Kevin Hart's concert movie of his stand-up set at Madison Square Garden, featuring his self-aware and self-deprecating humor. Reviewed by Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post. (R) L, S. 75 minutes. . . 1/2

"The Lone Ranger" -- Johnny Depp's Tonto is the best thing to come out of Gore Verbinski's overblown and misguided attempt to revamp this classic western. Tonto teams up with John Reid aka the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) to stop a corrupt railroad tycoon (Tom Wilkinson). With a one-legged Helena Bonham Carter. (PG-13) S, V. 149 minutes. . .

"Man of Steel" -- Zack Snyder's dour and humorlessly dark reboot of the Superman myth stars Brit actor Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, who comes out of hiding to fight General Zod (Chicago's Michael Shannon). Filmed in part in the suburbs. Michael Bay couldn't have directed this noisy spectacular action picture better. (PG-13) L, V. 148 minutes. . .

"Monsters University" -- Where's Boo? This Pixar prequel may be cute, but it's got nothing on the emotional 2001 "Monsters, Inc." Mike and Sully (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) don't start out seeing eye to eye as scare students at Monsters University. Helen Mirren and Steve Buscemi also lend their voices. (G) 110 minutes. . . 1/2

"Much Ado About Nothing" -- Joss "The Avengers" Whedon presents this brisk, modern retelling of Shakespeare's classic, but the Bard's classic prose doesn't translate well here. With Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof and Nathan Fillion as the bumbling Constable Dogberry. (PG-13) D, S. 107 minutes. . . 1/2

"Now You See Me" -- Louis Leterrier's mystery/Robin Hood tale boasts inert characters with nonexistent relationships in a story dogged by ridiculous plot twists. Four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco) become the targets of an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) after pulling off a bank job in France while doing their magic act in Las Vegas. (PG-13) L, S, V. 116 minutes. . .

"Pacific Rim" -- Maybe 10-year-olds will like Guillermo del Toro's robot-vs-monster alien epic where human pilots (Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba) show as much emotion as their mechanical counterparts. Computer-generated fight scenes and destruction abound. With Charlie Day. (PG-13) L, V. 131 minutes. . .

"Red 2" -- Devoid of the wit of the 2010 "Red," this sequel aims less to please its AARP audience and more to show off big explosions and action. Bruce Willis returns as Frank, a retired agent who tracks down a Cold War-era nuclear device. With John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. (PG-13) D, L, V. 116 minutes. . .

"Turbo" -- A freak accident turns a garden snail (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) into a superfast competitor in the Indy 500. Is this really an underdog (read: undersnail) story or does it advocate juicing for the weak? Reviewed by Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter. (PG) 96 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

"World War Z" -- A zombie movie without teeth. Brad Pitt stars as a retired U.N. investigator who travels the world looking for a cure to stop the zombie apocalypse. Marc Forster's exciting action flick whiffs on horror and characterization. (PG-13) V. 116 minutes. . . 1/2


"Girl Most Likely" -- Kristen Wiig and the talented cast rarely hit their comedic marks in this heavy-handed and overly quirky comic drama. Recently fired and dumped, Wiig is forced to move back home with her mother (Annette Bening) and re-evaluate her life. (PG-13) L, S. 103 minutes. . 1/2

"Grown Ups 2" -- Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James and David Spade star in this childish and vulgar sequel to the childish and vulgar original "Grown Ups" in 2010. Reviewed by John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter. (PG-13) L, N, S. 101 minutes. . 1/2

"R.I.P.D." -- Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds play supernatural cops of the Rest in Peace Department. Reviewed by Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post. (PG-13) L, S, V. 96 minutes. .

"White House Down" -- A cop with marital problems battles terrorists during a building takeover to save a loved one. Sound familiar? This "Die Hard" copycat stars Channing Tatum as John Cale, who protects the president (Jamie Foxx) from mercenaries who take over the White House. (PG-13) L, S, V. 131 minutes. . 1/2


"Bajatey Raho" -- An Indian comedy-thriller about a cable company owner (Tusshar Kapoor) and his family. In Hindi. (NR) 110 minutes.

"Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" -- The true story of Milkha "The Flying Sikh" Singh, the Indian sprinter who overcame the death of his family members to compete in the Olympic Games in the 1950s and '60s. In Hindi. (NR) 188 minutes.

"D-Day" -- A crack team of operatives attempts to bring in "The Most Wanted Man in India" in this crime thriller in Hindi. With Irrfan Khan. (NR) 153 minutes.

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