NOW IN THEATERS
Amy Winehouse was a talent too big for her small body, a body she was hellbent on destroying with drugs and booze. Using interviews, home movies, and news footage, director Asif Kapadia has documented the rise, fall, and early exit (at twenty-seven) of this tragic diva, a North London Jewish girl with a big voice and tiny self-esteem. Even if you weren’t a fan, you’ll be impressed by her talent, though her intensely personal numbers sound less like songs than sung journal entries. As this fresh, appealing girl gets sucked into the terrifying maelstrom of fame and paparazzi, surrounded by parasites that include her father and her husband, you watch in fascinated horror. It’s an agonizingly slow trainwreck, a good half hour too long, but still unsettling and memorable.
Not rated. 128 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)
Marvel Entertainment offers a palate-cleanser after the overstuffed Avengers: Age of Ultron with this relatively small heist picture about Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a thief who finds a suit that allows him to shrink himself and communicate with ants. The shrinking effects are indeed outstanding and the use of scale is occasionally inventive. Unfortunately, it takes a full 90 minutes to really get to that. In the meantime, you’re treated to flat jokes, a daddy-issues plot, and a tedious parade of all the clichés of superhero-origin movies. Michael Douglas co-stars as the retired Ant-Man of yesteryear. Rated PG-13. 117 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
BEST OF ENEMIES
At the tumultuous 1968 presidential nominating conventions, William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal faced off in a series of televised debates as part of ABC’s convention coverage. By this time they were already polar opposite cultural icons, and abiding enemies. Directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville have culled the series of 10 debates in which Buckley and Vidal engaged, and put together a fascinating portrait of a time when intelligence was admired in the national discourse. As ABC’s courtly anchorman Howard K. Smith moderates, they circle and jab, and smile, and smile. The politics of the conventions are all but forgotten as the hatred simmers and the tension builds. The unforgettable climax came in debate number nine, at the apocalyptic Democratic Convention in Chicago. Not rated. 87 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)
The latest attempt to bring the classic Marvel comics property to the big screen begins with promise, as filmmaker Josh Trank (Chronicle) frames the quartet as young, intelligent people who seek to improve the world through science and discovery. It gives the impression of optimistic 1980s films such as The Explorers, until everyone gets superhero powers about halfway in. At that point a different film comes crashing in and clobbers all of this goodwill with cynicism and crude clichés. Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell show terrific chemistry until they’re reduced to yelling tired lines about teamwork. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker)
Two high school acquaintances, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Gordo (Joel Edgerton) meet, apparently by chance, 25 years later, when Simon and his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall), move from Chicago to Simon’s hometown of LA for his new job. Gordo presses the friendship with an insistence that soon becomes uncomfortable and unnerving. Simon is cocksure and charismatic, Robyn is fragile and sympathetic, and Gordo is a disturbingly blank slate. Edgerton, the Aussie star who here makes his directing debut, infuses this creepy tale of stalking, revenge, and a dark past with deep psychological suspense and anxiety. There are a couple of gotcha! moments and twists that keep twisting. The film sometimes feels unpolished around the edges, but at its core, the three stars keep it taut and nerve-wracking. Edgerton shoots it all in a bleached palette that looks like a Polaroid left out in the sun. Rated R. 108 minutes. Regal DeVargas; Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Jonathan Richards)
INFINITELY POLAR BEAR
Superb performances, from a cast led by Mark Ruffalo and the exquisite Zoe Saldana as his wife Maggie, lift this unusual family comedy/drama. Ruffalo is Cameron Stuart, the scion of a wealthy and pedigreed Boston clan whose bipolar disorder (misconstrued by the younger daughter as “polar bear”) has brought him and his family to the poverty level. When Maggie decides to pursue an MBA at Columbia to develop some earning power, Cam takes on the raising of the kids while she’s away. Writer-director Maya Forbes based this on her own story, and her own daughter (Imogene Wolodarsky) plays her young self. Cam can be impulsive, violent, embarrassing, irresponsible, and often exhilarating fun. Forbes doesn’t skim over the dark side, but she brings home an intensely personal, painfully funny, deeply touching story.
Rated R. 90 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)
Kierkegaard and Kant, Dostoevsky and Heidegger, the categorical imperative and situational ethics and existentialism — Woody Allen surrounds himself with a few of his favorite things in Irrational Man. Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) arrives as a philosophy professor at a small New England college. He’s preceded by a reputation as a thinker, drinker, and womanizer, and soon students are flocking to his lectures and women are laying siege to his bed. One is Rita (Parker Posey), a dissatisfied married professor. Another is Jill (Emma Stone), a bright, saucer-eyed undergraduate. Abe has lost his lust for life, and for lust, but it’s rekindled when he and Jill overhear a conversation that inspires him to undertake a fateful, existential action. The philosophical byways of this movie are intriguing to travel, but the journey never generates much heat. Allen’s scenes neatly lay out the issues, but you are always aware of the armature beneath them. But like most of this director’s work, it’s intelligent entertainment of an above-average stripe. Rated R. 96 minutes. Regal DeVargas.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
Director Guy Ritchie gave Sherlock Holmes an action-packed, sexy, stylized gloss in two recent films. Now, he does the same for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., based on the 1960s television show. Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) is Napoleon Solo, a CIA agent who partners with Illya Kuryakin, a KGB operative (Armie Hammer), to save the world from a criminal network with access to nuclear weapons. Rated PG-13. 116 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
The jibberish-spouting pill-shaped yellow thingies from the Despicable Me movies get their own spinoff, and if you’re wondering if the characters are interesting enough to warrant their own movie, the answer is no. The setting is the 1960s, and the Minions, trying to find their way in the world, join up with Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock) to help her conquer England. The animation is nice but the movie never survives the fact that its protagonists don’t actually talk. Without the benefit of language, the filmmakers rely on tepid visual humor and tired comic beats. The Minions are never as cute as the film’s massive marketing campaign insists they are, and by the time we hit the third-rate action of the climax, they’ve really overstayed their welcome. Rated PG. 91 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION
The fifth Mission: Impossible film shows no sign of the franchise slowing down: Tom Cruise takes hairpin turns on a motorcycle, hangs off the back of an airplane, dives into deep-water tanks without scuba gear, and a lot more. All this action is hung on a loose cat-and-mouse game between Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), head of the would-be world conquerors called the Syndicate. Director Christopher McQuarrie, along with his cinematographer and editor, give the film an evocative look and elegant pacing. The film falters in the home stretch, dragging on with a generic gunfight, but otherwise it’s a brisk and enjoyable action pic with a crackerjack action sequence at the Vienna Opera House. Rated PG-13. 131 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
It is 1947. Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) is ninety, long retired, living in seclusion in Sussex, and keeping bees. He is cared for by his widowed housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her precocious young son Roger (Milo Parker). Holmes is engaged in writing his own recollections of his final case, one that still troubles him, the case that led him to give up detecting. Watson’s account of the affair tricked it out with success, but Holmes remembers it differently — to the extent that he can remember it at all. That great mind is beginning to slip its moorings. There are three story strands covering different periods and places, and director Bill Condon, adapting Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A
Slight Trick of the Mind, weaves them together with unhurried skill, abetted by the great McKellen. Rated PG. 103 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)
THE NEW RIJKSMUSEUM
Oeke Hoogendijk’s two-part documentary completes a trifecta that began with Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery and continued with Johannes Holzhausen’s The Great Museum. Hoogendijk’s feature is the most accessible and deals with the restoration of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, a building that houses masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Dutch Masters. Its narrative structure follows the political and financial pitfalls that plagued the project and staff, including inflating costs and a change of leadership. It’s a dramatic telling that entertains and inspires. Not rated. 110 minutes. In Dutch, French, and English with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts. (Michael Abatemarco)
Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss), a Jewish cabaret singer in Berlin before the war, emerges from Auschwitz with her face shattered. The surgeon who reconstructs it advises her that she can have any look she wants. Nelly just wants her old face, and her old life, back. At the center of that life was Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), her ruggedly handsome husband. He spots her at the Berlin club where she used to sing, and is struck by her resemblance to his dead wife. She goes along with his scheme for her to impersonate Nelly in a scam to recover his wife’s inheritance. It doesn’t take much searching to find the plot of Vertigo in this tense, beautifully played film noir as Johnny drills Nelly in how to look and sound like his lost wife. it’s expertly constructed, expertly played, and the finale is devastating. Rated PG-13. 98 minutes. In German with subtitles. The Screen. (Jonathan Richards)
Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and other characters from classic video games are invading the planet. The hour of the geek has arrived, as the only people who can stop them are former arcade champions, played by Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Peter Dinklage. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
RICKI AND THE FLASH
Every once in a while, Meryl Streep takes a break from high drama and lets her hair down. In this comedy, written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jonathan Demme, she plays a musician who didn’t make it as a rock star, and returns home to her family. Kevin Kline co-stars. Rated PG-13. 102 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE
Aardman Animations created Shaun the Sheep as a foil for its beloved Wallace and Gromit in the 1995 short film A Close Shave. Shaun, who is equal parts cute and crafty, proved so popular that he spun off into his own delightful TV show, and now his first movie. The tomfoolery centers around Shaun and his flock heading to the big city, trying to blend in, and avoiding their farmer. Rated PG. 85 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
Jake Gyllenhaal follows up his acclaimed performance of a journalist who embraces darkness (in Nightcrawler) by playing a boxer who falls into darkness after his wife is murdered. Mired in drugs and depression, he must step into the ring to earn enough money to get his daughter back. Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams co-star. Rated R. 123 minutes. Regal DeVargas; Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
In the late 1980s, the hip-hop crew NWA stormed the national scene with a double-platinum record, FBI threats, notorious tours, and more. With police brutality of African-African youth in the news once more, the time seems right for a biopic about the group that made headlines 25 years ago with an anti-police song. The film doesn’t fully explore this context, instead touching on it while painting a rollicking portrait of the band’s meteoric rise and equally rapid splintering. The script stretches itself thin and whitewashes some unpleasant events — the film was produced in part by group members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube — but is surprisingly sympathetic to all parties (including the shifty manager Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti) and superbly acted. Rated R. 147 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker)
Comedy superstar Amy Schumer is everywhere this summer, and Trainwreck gives us a chance to see why. From a loosely autobiographical script written by Schumer, Judd Apatow directs a bold, funny spin on familiar Apatow territory. The rom-com plot, as it usually does in Apatow-land, concerns the maturing of an irresponsible wild child. But this time, instead of a man-child, Apatow focuses on a young woman (Schumer) who has commitment problems, a father grappling with MS, and an unhealthy appetite for destruction. When her boss at the silly men’s magazine where she works assigns her to profile a sports doctor (a charming Bill Hader), she must overcome these obstacles to accept the love of a good man. With the help of a talented supporting cast, including a surprisingly solid performance from basketball star LeBron James, the movie mostly overcomes romantic cliché to offer a refreshingly feminist take on the genre. Rated R.
122 minutes. Violet Crown. (Molly Boyle) Ed Helms hops into the family vehicle once manned by Chevy Chase in this sort-of remake of the 1983 film National Lampoon’s
Vacation. He plays a grown-up Rusty Griswold, son of Chase’s Clark Griswold, who has inherited his father’s knack for getting into goofy adventures on the way to the amusement park Walley World. Christina Applegate plays his wife. Rated R. 99 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
Silence is golden: The Tribe