032714-cal-x movie capsules

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032714-cal-x movie capsules

Posted on: March 27th, 2014 by tommyj

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Opening Friday

Bad Words HHH — A 40-year-old man exploits a loophole to enter and hijack a children’s spelling bee, and along the way he forges an unlikely alliance with a cheerful 10-year-old competitor. With Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn and Rohan Chand. Written by Andrew Dodge. Directed by Bateman. Rated R. 88 minutes. Page 23.

A Birders Guide to Everything — ‘Sideways’ meets ‘Stand by Me’ in this endearing story of friendship, family and a place in bird watching’s history books. PG-13. 86 minutes. Not Reviewed.

Blood Ties HH — After serving several years in prison for a gangland murder and getting out on good behavior, an ex-con reconnects with his reluctant younger brother, a cop with a bright future, but is pulled back into a life of crime. With Clive Owen, Billy Crudup and Marion Cotillard. Written by Guillaume Canet and James Gray. Directed by Canet. Rated R. 128 minutes. Review on Page 24.

Noah — Director Darren Aronofsky’s (“Black Swan”) controversial Biblical drama tells the story a man (Russell Crowe) tasked by God to complete an impossible mission before the world is destroyed in an apocalyptic flood. Rated PG-13. 138 minutes.

Sabotage — Even though moviegoers haven’t been interested thus far, Arnold Schwarzenegger continues his film comeback as a member of a DEA task force being killed one at a time by the drug lord they brought down. Rated R. 109 minutes.

Cesar Chavez HHH — Diego Luna directs this biopic of the Mexican-American civil rights leader and labor organizer, played by Michael Peña. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes. Review on Page 25.

The Face of Love — Five years after losing her husband, a widow meets a man who looks exactly like him and begins to fall in love again but can’t bring herself to tell him the truth about what drew her to him. With Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams. Written by Arie Posin and Matthew McDuffie. Directed by Posin. PG-13. 92 minutes.

Continuing Friday

12 Years a Slave HHHH —Filmmaker Steve McQueen’s searing chronicle of enslavement won the best picture trophy in one of the closest contests in modern Academy Awards Academy Awards history. Based on the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from New York, who is abducted and sold into slavery in the south before the Civil War. Rated R. 134 minutes.

300: Rise Of An Empire — Shot in the same revolutionary style of “300,” this adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel Xerxes takes the action to the high seas, where Greece battled invading Persian forces. Director Noam Murro takes over for Zack Snyder, who only co-wrote the script this time. Rated R. 102 minutes. Not reviewed.

About Last Night — David Mamet’s play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” filmed once before in the 1980s with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, gets another go-around with an African-American cast. Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall and Joy Bryant are the two couples trying to make their relationships work. Rated R. 100 minutes. Not reviewed.

American Hustle HHHH — The always-unpredictable David O. Russell (“The Silver Linings Playbook”) travels back to the 1970s for this crime caper inspired by the Abscam scandal about a con man (Christian Bale), his loony wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and his British partner in crime (Amy Adams) who are forced to collaborate with a loose-cannon FBI agent (Bradley Cooper). Their target: a New Jersey politician (Jeremy Renner). Rated R. 137 minutes.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues HHH — San Diego TV personality Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) expands his horizons by moving to New York to work at a 24-hour news station. His crew (Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner) come along for the ride. Rated PG-13. 119 minutes.

The Art of the Steal — A crime caper comedy with Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon and Jay Baruchel. Rated R. 90 minutes. Not reviewed.

August: Osage County HH —Tracy Letts adapts his Pulitzer-prize winning play to the screen, with Meryl Streep as a domineering mother and Julia Roberts among her dysfunctional children. Rated R. 119 minutes.

Blue Jasmine HHHH — Cate Blanchett earned best actress (her second Oscar) in Woody Allen’s pastiche-y melodrama, about a fallen socialite seeking refuge in her sister’s flat. With Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale. Rated PG-13. 98 minutes.

Captain Phillips HHH1/2 — Tom Hanks delivers a career-high performance as the captain of an American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. Directed by Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) in a suspenseful, you-are-there documentary style. Rated PG-13. 134 minutes.

Dallas Buyers Club HHH1/2 — Matthew McConaughey won best actor for his portrayal of Texas electrician Ron Woodroof, who battled the medical establishment and the law after being diagnosed with HIV in 1986. Jared Leto took best supporting actor for his role as a transgender AIDs patient. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. Rated R. 117 minutes.

Divergent HH — “The Descendants” Shailene Woodley stars in the first adaptation of Veronica Roth’s wildly popular novels about a race of beings who don’t fit in with the rest of the world’s population. Rated PG-13. 135 minutes.

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me — A fearless but compassionate documentary portrait of the Broadway belter and cabaret icon — a crank, a boozer, a terror, a delight. Stritch has been a fixture of the New York theater and music scenes forever, or before forever. And now, in her late 80s, she bravely lets a camera crew follow her around. Not rated. 81 minutes.

Endless Love — Scott Spencer’s novel about doomed romance gets a do-over, with Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde taking over from Martin Hewitt and Brooke Shields as the young lovers who can’t keep their hands off each other, with disastrous results. Rated PG-13. 103 minutes. Not reviewed.

Enemy — Jake Gyllenhaal reunites with his “Prisoners” director Denis Villeneuve for this thriller, based on Jose Saramagoís novel, about a man looking for his doppelganger after seeing him in a movie. Rated R. 90 minutes.

Frozen HHHH — In Disney’s newest musical adventure, Anna (Kristen Bell) sets off in search of her exiled sister, the Snow Queen (Tony-winning Broadway luminary Idina Menzel), who has a King Midas-like touch — only everything she rests a hand on turns to ice. Rated PG. 108 minutes.

Gloria HHH½ stars — Paulina GarcÌa stars as a fiftysomething divorcee, looking for romance, affection, maybe even love. Keenly observed and played pitch-perfect by the actress, this Chilean film is haunting and raw. The country’s official entry in the foreign-language Oscar competition, it didn’t make the cut to the final five — a shame. Rated R. 110 minutes.

God’s Not Dead — College student Josh Wheaton’s faith is challenged by his philosophy professor, who believes God does not exist. Rated PG. 113 minutes. Not reviewed.

The Grand Budapest Hotel HHHH— At a European hotel between the wars, a concierge and a lobby boy get mixed up in the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune. With Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Edward Norton and Saoirse Ronan. Written and directed by Wes Anderson. Rated R. 100 minutes.

Grand Piano HH½— Years after a catastrophic performance, a gifted pianist reemerges for a long-awaited public concert, only to discover a death threat scrawled on the score. With Elijah Wood and John Cusack. Written by Damien Chazelle. Directed by Eugenio Mira. Rated R. 90 minutes.

Grudge Match HH — Sylvester Stallone is an aging former champion lured out of retirement with a publicity stunt that pits him against his nemesis, the Kid (Robert De Niro). Rated PG-13. 113 minutes.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire HH½ — After winning the 74th Hunger Games competition, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) go on a victory tour that inadvertently sparks a rebellion. Rated PG-13. 146 minutes.

I, Frankenstein H— Aaron Eckhart stars as the mad doctor’s creation, caught in an ancient war between gargoyles and demons. Rated PG-13. 93 minutes.

Inside Llewyn Davis HHH½ — Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen continue to top themselves with this melancholy, brutally funny story about a perpetually sad folksinger (Oscar Isaac) trying to eke out a living in 1960s bohemian New York City as a musician. Carey Mulligan is his bitter ex-girlfriend and Justin Timberlake plays a happy-go-lucky pop singer. Rated R. 106 minutes.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Hunter HH — Chris Pine takes over from Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck as Tom Clancy’s government-agent hero. The movie, about a financial terrorist plot, is based on an original screenplay by David Koepp and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also co-stars. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes.

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons — A young demon hunter who prefers a nonviolent approach embarks on a quest for spiritual enlightenment. With Shu Qi, Wen Zhang and Huang Bo. Written and directed by Stephen Chow. In Mandarin with English subtitles. PG-13. 110 minutes. Not reviewed.

Labor Day HHH — On a back-to-school shopping trip, a reclusive single mother (Kate Winslet) and her 13-year-old son encounter and take in a man (Josh Brolin) in need, who turns out to be an escaped convict but also bonds with them both. Written and directed by Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”). Rated PG-13. 111 minutes.

The Legend of Hercules — Renny Harlin (“The Deep Blue Sea,” Cliffhanger,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight”) directs this new recounting of the adventures of the musclebound Greek hero (played by Kellan Lutz). Rated PG-13. 99 minutes. Not reviewed.

The Lego Movie HHH — The directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street”) return with this animated adventure based on the popular toys. Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett and Will Ferrell provide the voices. Rated PG. 100 minutes.

Lone Survivor HHH — Four Navy Seals on a covert mission to take down a high-level al Qaeda operative are ambushed in the mountains of Afghanistan and face insurmountable odds. With Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster. Written and directed by Peter Berg. Rated R. 121 minutes.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman — 3-D animated comedy about a genius dog who travels back in time with a boy to change the course of history. Rated PG. 92 minutes. Not reviewed.

The Monuments Men HH½ — George Clooney wrote, directed and stars in this crime caper about a World War II platoon assigned to steal art masterpieces from the Nazis and return them to their true owners. Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett round out the squad. Rated PG-13. 118 minutes.

Muppets Most Wanted —Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Christoph Waltz and Salma Hayek are among the famous names in this second installment of the newly revived franchise featuring Jim Hensonís beloved creations. Rated PG. 112 minutes.

Nebraska HHH½ — Bruce Dern in a career-defining performance as an ornery coot who believes he’s won $1 million and heads to Nebraska to claim it. His son (Will Forte) reluctantly tags along, in Alexander Payne’s funny, poignant, absurd road movie. In black and white. Rated R. 115 minutes.

Need for Speed — Aaron Paul finds out if there’s life after “Breaking Bad” by starring in this spin-off of the popular video game, playing an ex-con with a bounty on his head who joins a cross-country drag race. Rated PG-13. 130 minutes. Not reviewed.

Non-stop HH — Liam Neeson returns to kick some more bad-guy butt, this time playing an air marshal fighting terrorists during a trans-Atlantic flight. Julianne Moore and Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) are among the terrified passengers. Rated PG-13. 106 minutes.

Philomena HHH — Stephen Frears, Academy Award-nominated director of “The Queen,” helmed this heartwarmer about a jaded journalist (Steve Coogan)who reluctantly takes an assignment to cover a woman (Judi Dench) searching for her son, who was taken from her 50 years earlier. Rated PG-13. 97 minutes.

Pompeii HH — “Game of Thrones’” Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow) gets his first leading role in this giant-sized 3D epic about the doomed Roman city that was destroyed by volcano, tsunami and earthquake in one really, really bad day. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes.

Repentance — An author and spiritual advisor (Mike Epps) tries to help his client, Angel (Forest Whitaker). Things go terribly wrong in this mystery/horror story. Rated R. 90 minutes. Not reviewed.

Ride Along HH½ — In the new comedy by director Tim Story (“Think Like a Man,” “Barbershop”) a security guard (Kevin Hart) goes on a 24-hour patrol with a cop (Ice Cube) to prove himself worthy of marrying the policeman’s sister. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes.

Robocop HHH — Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent 1987 classic gets a tamer, less violent remake, starring Joel Kinnaman as the police officer in a crime-ridden Detroit who is half-human, half-machine. Rated PG-13. 108 minutes.

Saving Mr. Banks HHH½ — Emma Thompson is P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks is Walt Disney in this comic drama about their tumultuous collaboration on the making of 1964’s classic “Mary Poppins.” Rated PG-13. 125 minutes.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty HHH — Ben Stiller makes his directorial debut and plays the title character — loosely based on James Thurber’s New Yorker short story — a milquetoast guy who frequently escapes into an imaginary world. Rated PG. 114 minutes.

Son of God HH½ — An epic-size look at the life of Jesus Christ, from birth to resurrection, played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado. Rated PG-13. 140 minutes.

Tim’s Vermeer HHH½ — Fascinating, illuminating documentary about inventor Tim Jenison’s obsessive project to prove that the 17th-century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer, long hailed for his photorealistic style, used optical devices to get the job, and the art, done. Narrated by Penn Jillette, directed by his less gabby show-biz sidekick, Teller. Rated PG-13. 80 minutes. Not reviewed.

Tyler Perry’s The Single Mom’s Club— A group of struggling single mothers (including Nia Long and Amy Smart) form a support group to help each other out in the latest comedy-drama from Tyler Perry. Rated PG-13. 111 minutes. Not reviewed.

Veronica Mars — Famously funded by a kickstarter campaign, this big-screen spin-off of the cult TV show catches up with the amateur sleuth heroine (Kristen Bell) as she gets ready to graduate from law school when her ex-boyfriend is accused of murder. Rated PG-13. 108 minutes. Not reviewed.

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago — Six strangers from around the world attempt to cross an entire country on foot — with only a backpack, a pair of boots and an open mind. Not rated. 84 minutes. Not reviewed.

The Wind Rises HHH — The new animated film by Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke”) steers clear of fantasy and delves into history to recount the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II. Rated PG-13. 126 minutes.

The Wolf of Wall Street HHH — The frequently collaborating duo of director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio brings to life the memoirs of ex-con Jordan Belfort. DiCaprio plays the trader who enjoyed the excesses of the 1990s financial industry a bit too excessively. Rated R. 180 minutes.

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