News Column

Movie guide

September 17, 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

"Blue Jasmine" -- Jasmine loses her husband and fortune and moves in with her working-class sister (Sally Hawkins). Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine perfectly as a pretentious woman in denial about her situation, echoing Blanche DuBois in this tragedy directed by Woody Allen. (PG-13) L, S. 98 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Closed Circuit" -- Two British attorneys (Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana) defend a suspected terrorist in John Crowley's engaging, well- crafted thriller. Reviewed by Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press. (R) L, V. 96 minutes. . . .

"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. . . .

"Populaire" -- A whimsical, stylish French comedy modeled after the 1950s Doris Day/Rock Hudson romances. A young woman (Deborah Francois) gets tutored by an older insurance salesman (Romain Duris) to become a world-class speed typist in 1958. At the Music Box Theatre, Chicago. (R) S. 111 minutes. . . .

"Short Term 12" -- Superbly rendered drama about how a new arrival (Kaitlyn Dever) at a facility for at-risk teenagers shakes up the place, especially for Grace (Brie Larson), a passionate, tough twenty-something supervisor who understands troubled teens better than anyone imagines. (R) L, S. 96 minutes. At the River East and Century Centre in Chicago, Renaissance Place in Highland Park and the Century 12 in Evanston. . . . .

"Spectacular Now" -- James Ponsoldt directs a refreshing and surprising teen romance movie about popular Sutter (Miles Teller, channeling a young Vince Vaughn) and bashful Aimee (Shailene Woodley) falling for each other. (R) L, S. 95 minutes. . . . 1/2

"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 star. An inventive look at the Rapture. (R) D, L, N, S, V. 107 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. . . .

"The World's End" -- Hilarity ensues when a Peter Pan Brit (co- writer Simon Pegg) takes four pals back to re-create their "pub crawl" along the Miracle Mile at their university. Things aren't quite as the nostalgic guys remember them. Fun surprises from director Edgar "Shaun of the Dead" Wright. (R) L, S. 109 minutes. . . . 1/2

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. A film by Luc Besson 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 review is not the "Extended Fan Cut" of Morgan Spurlock's documentary about the popular 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. . .

"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. . .

"Riddick" -- The second sequel to 2000's "Pitch Black" brings back Vin Diesel as Riddick, an escaped convict on a planet where he must deal not only with alien predators but also with bloodthirsty bounty hunters. (R) V. 119 minutes. . . 1/2

"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, 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. . .

"Winnie Mandela" -- Chicago's Jennifer Hudson pulls out the stops as the mother of South Africa, but this superficial, formulaic drama undermines her talents. Terrence Howard is superb as Mandela. (R) L, V. 109 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

"You're Next" -- Darkly comic horror tale about a family dinner ruined by killers wearing animal masks. Reviewed by John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter. (R) L, N, S, V. 94 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

"Getaway" -- High-octane dumbness prevails as Ethan Hawke's pro race car driver zips around Bulgaria committing crimes in a Ford sports car to stop a criminal mastermind (Jon Voight) from killing his abducted wife. Selena Gomez plays a computer wiz and banking expert who helps him. Insanely inane. (PG-13) L, V. 90 minutes. 1/ 2 star

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" -- A new low standard for stupid fantasy adventures. A girl (Lily Collins) discovers she's a "shadowhunter" with magical powers. The characters can't connect and the dialogue is hilariously silly. (PG-13) S, V. 130 minutes. 1/2 star

"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. .

Unpreviewed

"Austenland" -- Keri Russell stars in this romcom, produced by Stephenie Meyer, about a woman whose lifelong obsession with Jane Austen leads her to an eccentric theme park based on the author's writings. At the Century Centre in Chicago and the Renaissance Place in Highland Park. (PG-13) S. 97 minutes.

"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.

"The Grandmaster" -- Wong Kar Wai's epic tribute to legendary kung fu master Ip Man, who trained the great Bruce Lee. (PG-13) D, L, V. 130 minutes.

"In a World" -- Star Lake Bell directs this story about a voice coach who becomes a movie voice-over star who goes up against the king of the profession, her own father. (R) L. 93 minutes.

"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 baby. (PG-13) L, S. 100 minutes.

"Madras Cafe" -- Shoojit Sircar directs a political spy thriller, set against the backdrop of Sri Lankan Civil War of the 1990s. In Hindi with subtitles. (NR) 135 minutes.

"Plush" -- An on-the-skids rock star (Emily Browning) falls for a guitarist (Cam Gigandet) who strums an evil tune when she tries to close their romantic set. (R) D, L, S, V. 99 minutes. Not screened for critics, so caveat emptor.

"Satyagraha" -- A mystery suspense thriller about a man who encounters corruption in India and joins up with an idealist to launch a protest. In Hindi with subtitles. (NR) 156 minutes.

"Shuddh Desi Romance" -- A romantic comedy starring Rishi Kapoor. In Hindi. (NR) 125 minutes.

"The Ultimate Life" -- Peter Fonda and Bill Cobbs star in this prequel to the spiritual drama "The Ultimate Gift." A businessman at the end of his rope finds his grandfather's journal. It changes his life. (PG)

"Zanjeer (The Chain)" -- An action-adventure starring Ram Charan Teja and Priyanka Chopra. In Hindi. (R) 125 minutes.

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