News Column

Movie Guide Movie guide

August 22, 2013

YellowBrix

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.

Picks

"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

"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 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. . . .

"Prince Avalanche" -- Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play opposite personalities painting miles of dividing lines on a Texas highway in 1988. The open road allows for the actors to explore their characters and director David Gordon Green to stamp his poetic style on this comedic drama. At the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. (R) S. 94 minutes. . . .

"Twenty Feet From Stardom" -- Hear from the voices of Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer and more in Morgan Neville's enjoyable documentary that celebrates the unheralded heroines and heroes of the music industry: backup singers. Playing at the Century Theatre in Chicago. (PG-13) L, S. 89 minutes. . . . 1/2

"2 Guns" -- Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg elevate this convoluted action comedy with great chemistry. They play undercover agents battling drug dealers and corrupt officials. Their comic barbs and comebacks make up for the all-too-often violence. (R) N, L, V. 109 minutes. . . .

"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

"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. . . .

"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. . . .

Passables

"Jobs" -- You'd think the story of one of the most influential figures would be more than a generic underdog made-for-cable movie. Ashton Kutcher plays Steve Jobs as this formulaic drama documents the Apple founder's rise. (PG-13) D, L. 122 minutes. . .

"Kick-Ass 2" -- This on-screen comic book has its titular hero (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) join a team of masked vigilantes called Justice Forever. Chloe Grace Moretz steals the show again as the manic Hit Girl, but the movie tries to stuff a realistic message into its cartoon characters' speech bubbles. With Jim Carrey. Reviewed by Riley Simpson. (R) L, N, S, V. 103 minutes. . .

"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

"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

"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. . .

"Planes" -- Kids should love the bright planes and highflying 3- D action of this Disney animation about a crop duster plane (voiced by Dane Cook) competing in an international race. Made of spare parts from Disney's "Car" films, "Top Gun" and "Vertigo." (PG) 92 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. . .

"Smurfs 2" -- Evil sorcerer Gargamel (Hank Azaria) tries to exploit insecure Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) to get the Smurfs' secret formula. Could it be the same kid-movie formula director Raja Gosnell used for this churned-out sequel? Reviewed by Justin Lowe of the Hollywood Reporter. (PG) 105 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

Pits

"Elysium" -- Neil "District 9" Blomkamp underwhelms on the story and overstuffs this futuristic Jason Bourne thriller with bloated action and effects. Matt Damon plays Max, a lowly worker on the desolate Earth in 2154 who plans to invade Elysium, the satellite where the wealthy have retreated. With Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. (R) L, V. 109 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" from 2010. Reviewed by John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter. (PG-13) L, N, S. 101 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, the Washington Post. (PG) 106 minutes. .

"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. .

Unpreviewed

"Chennai Express" -- Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) takes his grandfather's ashes from Mumbai to the holy waters of Rameshwaram, falling in love along the way in this action-comedy in Hindi. (NR) 141 minutes.

"Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara" -- This sequel to the 2010 Bollywood crime drama sees up-and-coming don Shoaib Khan (Akshay Kumar) fend off rivals to his new criminal empire. In Hindi. (NR) 160 minutes.

"Stuck in Love" -- Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman and Lily Collins star in this comedy-drama about a broken family that learns to love again. (R) D, L, S. 97 minutes.

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.

Picks

"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

"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 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. . . .

"Prince Avalanche" -- Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play opposite personalities painting miles of dividing lines on a Texas highway in 1988. The open road allows for the actors to explore their characters and director David Gordon Green to stamp his poetic style on this comedic drama. At the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. (R) S. 94 minutes. . . .

"Twenty Feet From Stardom" -- Hear from the voices of Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer and more in Morgan Neville's enjoyable documentary that celebrates the unheralded heroines and heroes of the music industry: backup singers. Playing at the Century Theatre in Chicago. (PG-13) L, S. 89 minutes. . . . 1/2

"2 Guns" -- Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg elevate this convoluted action comedy with great chemistry. They play undercover agents battling drug dealers and corrupt officials. Their comic barbs and comebacks make up for the all-too-often violence. (R) N, L, V. 109 minutes. . . .

"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

"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. . . .

"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. . . .

Passables

"Jobs" -- You'd think the story of one of the most influential figures would be more than a generic underdog made-for-cable movie. Ashton Kutcher plays Steve Jobs as this formulaic drama documents the Apple founder's rise. (PG-13) D, L. 122 minutes. . .

"Kick-Ass 2" -- This on-screen comic book has its titular hero (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) join a team of masked vigilantes called Justice Forever. Chloe Grace Moretz steals the show again as the manic Hit Girl, but the movie tries to stuff a realistic message into its cartoon characters' speech bubbles. With Jim Carrey. Reviewed by Riley Simpson. (R) L, N, S, V. 103 minutes. . .

"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

"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

"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. . .

"Planes" -- Kids should love the bright planes and highflying 3- D action of this Disney animation about a crop duster plane (voiced by Dane Cook) competing in an international race. Made of spare parts from Disney's "Car" films, "Top Gun" and "Vertigo." (PG) 92 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. . .

"Smurfs 2" -- Evil sorcerer Gargamel (Hank Azaria) tries to exploit insecure Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) to get the Smurfs' secret formula. Could it be the same kid-movie formula director Raja Gosnell used for this churned-out sequel? Reviewed by Justin Lowe of the Hollywood Reporter. (PG) 105 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

Pits

"Elysium" -- Neil "District 9" Blomkamp underwhelms on the story and overstuffs this futuristic Jason Bourne thriller with bloated action and effects. Matt Damon plays Max, a lowly worker on the desolate Earth in 2154 who plans to invade Elysium, the satellite where the wealthy have retreated. With Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. (R) L, V. 109 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" from 2010. Reviewed by John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter. (PG-13) L, N, S. 101 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, the Washington Post. (PG) 106 minutes. .

"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. .

Unpreviewed

"Chennai Express" -- Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) takes his grandfather's ashes from Mumbai to the holy waters of Rameshwaram, falling in love along the way in this action-comedy in Hindi. (NR) 141 minutes.

"Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara" -- This sequel to the 2010 Bollywood crime drama sees up-and-coming don Shoaib Khan (Akshay Kumar) fend off rivals to his new criminal empire. In Hindi. (NR) 160 minutes.

"Stuck in Love" -- Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman and Lily Collins star in this comedy-drama about a broken family that learns to love again. (R) D, L, S. 97 minutes.

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