RE­TURNS

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1960s ar­ti­fact. The film may in­spire the same kind of love among to­day’s young­folk. But to fans of the orig­i­nal, the movie’s more a mat­ter of eh, eh, eh. The re­jig­gered premise casts a cold, cruel light on the cen­tral dog/boy re­la­tion­ship. Sher­man is bul­lied mer­ci­lessly by a mean girl, who hu­mil­i­ates him for hav­ing a dog for a fa­ther. Then, a child-pro­tec­tion-ser­vices of­fi­cial threat­ens to sep­a­rate Sher­man from Mr. Pe­abody for­ever. This is the sup­posed “heart” of the story, prop­ping up the wacky trips in time made by Sher­man and his fren­emy, Penny. Some of this is amus­ing, but the story gets off to such a sour start, it takes a long time for the com­edy to re­cover. 90 min. (PG) for some mild ac­tion and brief rude hu­mor. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★ Ne­braska — Through­out Bob Nel­son’s tidy, well-or­dered screen­play, fam­ily and friends drop bits of bio­graph­i­cal de­tail re­gard­ing Woody Grant, the ir­ri­ta­ble, melan­choly soul at the movie’s cen­ter. We learn he’s a life­long al­co­holic; a Korean war vet­eran; and he wasn’t much of a fa­ther. He may also have early-on­set de­men­tia. And now, hav­ing re­ceived a mag­a­zine sub­scrip­tion flier, he be­lieves him­self to be the lucky win­ner of a sweep­stakes, and is de­ter­mined to travel from Billings, Mont., to Lin­coln, Neb., to col­lect the grand prize. This road trip story has Woody find­ing a trav­el­ing com­pan­ion in his younger son. “Ne­braska” is less a movie than a fea­ture-length equiv­a­lent of a wry comic bal­lad, ob­serv­ing some or­di­nary lives. 110 min. (R) — Michael Philips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★ Non-Stop —“Non-Stop” con­fines its ac­tion al­most en­tirely to the in­side of a tran­satlan­tic New York to Lon­don flight. A fast, ef­fi­cient in­tro­duc­tion lays the ground­work: U.S. federal air mar­shal Bill Marks (Liam Nee­son) is a ner­vous flier, an al­co­holic ex-cop who looks as though he’s car­ry­ing around a suit­case of un­re­solved is­sues. His seat-mate, played by Ju­lianne Moore, sees in Bill a man in need of some com­fort and con­ver­sa­tion. But is she hid­ing some­thing? Di­rec­tor Col­letSerra’s cut­away shots ap­pear to in­di­cate as much. Marks re­ceives a text mid-flight from some­one de­mand­ing $150 mil­lion in wired funds, or else the ter­ror­ist will be­gin killing one pas­sen­ger per 20 min­utes. Tick­ing clock! And why does ev­ery ac­tor with a speak­ing role in “Non-Stop” ap­pear to be a shifty-eyed po­ten­tial killer? And there are a dozen more red her­rings (or are they?) de­signed to keep the fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion worth our time. 107 min. (PG-13) for in­tense se­quences of ac­tion and vi­o­lence, some lan­guage, sen­su­al­ity and drug ref­er­ences. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★ The Nut Job — Job Di­rec­tor and co-writer Peter Lepe­ni­o­tis’ movie comes from “Surly Squir­rel,” an an­i­mated short the film­maker made nearly a decade ago. A re­vised, ul­ti­mately redeemed ver­sion of the same squir­rel re­turns to take the lead in “The Nut Job.” The generic com­puter an­i­ma­tion lo­cates the story in a vague 1940s/early ’50s uni­verse. Surly is ban­ished from the park’s threat­ened an­i­mal king­dom and, to get back in the park’s good graces, his scheme to steal a win­ter’s worth of food from a nut shop. Big prob­lem straight off: tone. The vi­o­lence isn’t slap­sticky; it’s just vi­o­lent. An­other prob­lem: Since Surly spends so much of the story be­ing a flam­ing jerk, “The Nut Job” fights its pro­tag­o­nist’s own charm­less­ness from the first scene. 86 min. (PG) for mild ac­tion and rude hu­mor. — Michael Philips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers (NR) Omar — A riv­et­ing blend of thriller and ro­mance el­e­ments, “Omar” grabs you from the very first im­age. A fit, en­er­getic young man climbs a knot­ted rope to the top of Is­rael’s 25-foot sep­a­ra­tion wall, the con­crete cur­tain iso­lat­ing West Bank Pales­tini­ans from Is­raelis. Hand over hand he makes his way to the top of the loom­ing bar­rier. The long shot shows there’s noth­ing to break his de­scent if he slips. In He­brew and Ara­bic. 96 min. (U). ★★★ Philom­ena — Judi Dench is not the only rea­son to see this un­apolo­getic crowd-pleaser di­rected by the vet­eran Stephen Frears which tells the story of a woman in Ire­land look­ing for a child she was forced to give away in adop­tion. But she is the best one. On the job for 55 years, Dench el­e­vates ev­ery­thing she does, from Min the James Bond epics to this less in­tim­i­dat­ing but equally de­ter­mined “lit­tle old Ir­ish lady.” 97 min. (PG-13) — Kenneth Tu­ran, Tri­bune News­pa­pers (NR) Pom­peii — In the year 79 A.D., a slave-turned-glad­i­a­tor finds him­self in a race against time to save his true love, who has been be­trothed to a cor­rupt Ro­man se­na­tor. As Mount Ve­su­vius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pom­peii crum­bles around him. Star­ring Kit Har­ing­ton, Emily Brown­ing, Kiefer Suther­land. Di­rected by Paul W.S. An­der­son. 105 min. (PG-13) for vul­gar lan­guage, vi­o­lence, de­pic­tions of mass de­struc­tion. ★★ Ride Along — This is the ol’ odd­cou­ple cops rou­tine, this time rigged up to sup­port the pair­ing of Ice Cube, in the role of a snarling At­lanta po­lice de­tec­tive on the trail of a mys­te­ri­ous arms dealer, and Kevin Hart, as the de­tec­tive’s prospec­tive brother-in-law, a high school se­cu­rity guard with as­pi­ra­tions to join the force. Di­rec­tor Tim Story can’t do much with the screen­play, which smells of the eter­nally rewrit­ten paste-up job. “Ride Along,” trad­ing in too much ac­tion and not enough com­edy, is best con­sid­ered as the lat­est restau­rant to open in an Olive Gar­den-type chain. No sur­prises. Pretty much like the last one you went to. Plus lots of bread­sticks. 100 min. (PG-13) for se­quences of vi­o­lence, sex­ual con­tent and brief strong lan­guage. — Michael Philips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★ RoboCop — In­trigu­ingly am­bigu­ous in its root­ing in­ter­ests, the “RoboCop” re­make doesn’t re­ally be­lieve its own poster. The tagline “Crime has a new en­emy” sug­gests lit­tle more than point and shoot — the same old cy­borg song and dance. While no­body’d be dumb enough to re­boot the orig­i­nal 1987 kill-’em-up fran­chise by hold­ing back on the scenes of slaugh­ter in fa­vor of sly po­lit­i­cal satire about arm-twist­ing Fox News jin­go­ism or Amer­i­can busi­ness ethics, Brazil­ian-born di­rec­tor Jose Padilha man­ages to do all that and still deliver the prod­uct. There’s a lot to en­joy here, though the bru­tal­ity is very rough for a PG-13 rat­ing. 116 min. (PG-13) for in­tense se­quences of ac­tion in­clud­ing fre­netic gun vi­o­lence through­out, brief strong lan­guage, sen­su­al­ity and some drug ma­te­rial. — Michael Philips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★ ½ Son of God — Blame Mel Gibson for it if you like, but no Je­sus movie these days is worth its salt with­out an ut­terly un­flinch­ing treat­ment of his tor­ture and Cru­ci­fix­ion. But “Son of God,” a big-screen ver­sion of Mark Bur­nett and Roma Downey’s His­tory Chan­nel TV se­ries “The Bi­ble,” has a re­demp­tive op­ti­mism about it that makes the bru­tal­ity go down eas­ier. Their Je­sus may be all busi­ness. But he sports a be­atific smile as he ren­ders unto au­di­ences lines that feel like rough drafts of the pol­ished po­etry of the King James Bi­ble. It’s a stan­dard-is­sue Christ pic­ture, but un­like “The Pas­sion of the Christ,” there’s no Ara­maic with English sub­ti­tles, a lot less blood and no anti-Semitism; no char­ac­ter feels like a car­i­ca­ture. But it’s also dra­mat­i­cally flat, with few ac­tors who make an im­pres­sion as they play saints and sin­ners, the icons of the Bi­ble. 140 min. (PG-13) for in­tense and bloody de­pic­tion of The Cru­ci­fix­ion, and for some se­quences of vi­o­lence. — Roger Moore, McClatchy News­pa­pers ★★ ½ Stal­in­grad —“Stal­in­grad” is a huge, old-fash­ioned com­bat spec­ta­cle, a war story told on a vast scale and shown on vast Imax movie screens, in 3-D. It’s Rus­sian, oh so very Rus­sian, an epic of “The Great Pa­tri­otic War” that mixes blood-and-guts com­bat with chest­thump­ing pa­tri­o­tism and pathos. And, un­for­tu­nately, it’s more than a lit­tle clumsy, from its ab­surd fram­ing de­vice to the sim­ple head count of the cast of “fa­thers” who saved a young woman, and the world, dur­ing the “blood­i­est bat­tle in his­tory.” 131min. (R) for se­quences of war vi­o­lence. — Roger Moore, McClatchy News­pa­pers ★★★ Stranger by the Lake — De­spite the sun­shine, gen­tle breezes and placid wa­ters, some­thing wicked this way comes in “Stranger by the Lake,” French film­maker Alain Guiraudie’s tan­ta­liz­ingly erotic fa­ble of love, pas­sion and death. The set­ting is a lake in the French coun­try­side, specif­i­cally the side of the lake that is a pop­u­lar cruis­ing spot. Franck (Pierre De­ladon­champs) is young, hand­some and a con­stant pres­ence at the lake as he searches for com­pan­ion­ship as well as sex. Michel (Christophe Paou) is the mys­te­ri­ous, mag­netic one who se­duces and dis­cards lovers with­out a thought. On one, de­serted day, Franck is about to emerge from the trees when he spots two swim­mers in the mid­dle of the lake. At first it looks like play­ful dunk­ing, but only one man walks away. In French with English sub­ti­tles. 97 min. (U). — Betsy Sharkey, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★ ½ 300: Rise of an Em­pire — Even with a change in di­rec­tors and a halfen­light­ened, half-sala­cious em­pha­sis on the vo­ra­cious Per­sian con­queror played by Eva Green, “300: Rise of an Em­pire” hews closely to the look, vibe and the ca­su­alty count of its sleekly schlocky 2007 pre­de­ces­sor, helmed by Zack Sny­der. Also taken from a Frank Miller graphic novel, the se­quel chron­i­cles mighty Gre­cian bat­tles re­gard­ing who’s go­ing to get to use the work­out equip­ment first. This is the genre of abs and pecs and ar­rows in the eye in slow mo­tion, with gey­sers of globby blood float­ing around, pret­tily and pain­lessly, for our gamer-style delec­ta­tion. 103 min. (R) for strong sus­tained se­quences of styl­ized bloody vi­o­lence through­out, a sex scene, nu­dity and some lan­guage. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★ Tim’s Ver­meer — Here’s the the­ory. Well be­fore the ad­vent of pho­tog­ra­phy, in paint­ings of para­dox­i­cally pho­to­re­al­is­tic light and de­tail such as “Girl With a Pearl Ear­ring” and “The Mu­sic Les­son,” 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Ver­meer may have used a cam­era ob­scura and a cou­ple of mir­rors. “Tim’s Ver­meer” is a di­vert­ing ac­count of one man’s mis­sion to ex­plore the Ver­meer op­tics the­ory in de­tail. The Tim in ques­tion, video soft­ware pioneer Tim Jeni­son, went about his mis­sion by paint­ing his own damn Ver­meer, pre­cisely the way he thinks Ver­meer did, with the sim­ple op­tics the artist may well have de­ployed. It’s an odd, re­ward­ing film. 80 min. (PG-13) for some strong lan­guage. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★ ½ 3 Days to Kill — Kevin Cost­ner and di­rec­tor McG are plunged into the mad­cap mayhem of Mon­sieur Luc Bes­son in “3 Days to Kill,” a se­rio-comic thriller about mor­tal­ity, mur­der for hire and fa­ther­hood. Pro­ducer Bes­son gives Cost­ner the full Liam Nee­son-in-”Taken” treat­ment, cash­ing in on a ca­reer of cool in a movie that moves al­most fast enough to keep us from notic­ing how scruffy, dis­com­fit­ing and ab­surdly over-the-top the whole thing is. Cost­ner plays Ethan, a vet­eran CIA agent di­ag­nosed with cancer. But his new con­trol agent, a vamp named ViVi and played to the stiletto-heeled hilt by Am­ber Heard, wants him to fin­ish one last mas­sacre — tak­ing out a nu­clear arms dealer and his as­so­ciates in the City of Light. 113 min. (PG-13) for in­tense se­quences of vi­o­lence and ac­tion, some sen­su­al­ity and lan­guage. — Roger Moore, McClatchy News­pa­pers ★★ ½ WhenCom­edy Went to School — A doc­u­men­tary about the birth of mod­ern stand-up com­edy which be­gan in the Catskill Moun­tains - a boot camp for the great­est gen­er­a­tion of Jewish-Amer­i­can co­me­di­ans. Star­ring Sid Cae­sar, Robert Klein, Jerry Stiller, Jackie Ma­son, Larry King, Jerry Lewis. 83 min. (U) — Kenneth Tu­ran, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★ ½ The Wind Rises —“The Wind Rises” is be­ing mar­keted as the “farewell mas­ter­piece” of Ja­panese writer-di­rec­tor Hayao Miyazaki, who brought the world “Spir­ited Away,” “Howl’s Mov­ing Cas­tle” and “Ponyo,” as well as over­see­ing and con­tribut­ing to “From Up on Poppy Hill” most re­cently. The film’s por­trait of en­gi­neer Jiro Horkoshi — his early dreams of flight and his suc­cess in de­sign­ing for the Mit­subishi en­gine com­pany in the run-up to World War II — links the pro­tag­o­nist to the fic­tional dream­ers and strivers and poets of the film­maker’s ear­lier work. If this is in­deed Miyazaki’s farewell, it’s a fine one. “The Wind Rises” makes no apolo­gies for what the Zero wrought, like any other war ma­chine, churned out by any other coun­try’s fac­to­ries. Rather, it makes the dream of flight it­self a ve­hi­cle for bit­ter­sweet en­chant­ment. 126 min. (PG-13) for some dis­turb­ing im­ages and smok­ing. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★ ½ Win­ter’s Tale — In the movies, par­tic­u­larly in the case of best-sell­ers adapted for the screen, time travel and its next-door neighbor, rein­car­na­tion, seem like a good idea at the time. But very of­ten some­thing goes gooey. Even with Colin Far­rell’s soul­ful eyes, the taste­fully cocka­mamie and in­creas­ingly gloppy new film “Win­ter’s Tale,” pulled from Mark Hel­prin’s 1983 novel, re­fuses to take off in any of its eras. 118 min. (PG-13) for vi­o­lence and some sen­su­al­ity. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★ The Wolf of Wall Street — The var­i­ous il­le­gal­i­ties and near-death ex­pe­ri­ences of Jordan Belfort, who ran Strat­ton Oak­mont, the Wall Street bro­ker­age house, like a coked-up 24-hour bac­cha­nal were self-chron­i­cled in his mem­oirs. Now, di­rec­tor Martin Scors­ese has made a three-hour pic­ture about the man (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his plea­sure mis­sions. Scors­ese’s cam­era en­er­gizes all he can, but around the 80-minute mark the bul­let train of a pro­tag­o­nist be­gins to run in cir­cles, how­ever ma­ni­a­cally. It’s di­vert­ing, sort of, to see DiCaprio do­ing lines off a strip­per’s pos­te­rior, but af­ter the 90th time it’s, like, enough al­ready with the heinous cap­i­tal­is­tic ex­tremes. 179 min. (R) for se­quences of strong sex­ual con­tent, graphic nu­dity, drug use and lan­guage through­out, and for some vi­o­lence. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★ Dal­las Buy­ers Club — In “Dal­las Buy­ers Club,” we meet Matthew McConaughey’s Ron Woodroof mid­coitus, sec­onds be­fore he jumps onto a wild bull for thrills and the prom­ise of a few bucks. The year is 1985, the same year clos­eted ac­tor Rock Hud­son died of AIDS-re­lated causes. By con­trast Woodroof, a dru­gus­ing het­ero­sex­ual, is just an­other good ol’ boy with a dan­ger­ous edge and zero sense of per­sonal frailty. How Woodroof be­came his own brand of AIDS ac­tivist is the stuff of “Dal­las Buy­ers Club,” which does a few things wrong but a lot right, start­ing right at the top with McConaughey. He’s riv­et­ing as Woodroof, who scram­bled to stay alive af­ter be­ing given one month to live by his doc­tors. 117 min. (R) for per­va­sive lan­guage, some strong sex­ual con­tent, nu­dity and drug use. — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★ ½ The Great Beauty — Di­rec­tor and co-writer Paolo Sor­rentino has given us a “La Dolce Vita” for a new century, and a dif­fer­ent, swirling collection of artists, ac­tors, poseurs, strip­tease artists, per­for­mance artists, the rich, the fa­mous, the sa­cred, the pro­fane. Toni Servillo plays Jep Gam­bardella. He came to Rome, as he tells us in voice-over, to be­come “king of the high life.” But that wasn’t enough; more than par­ties, he says, he wanted the power to “make them a fail­ure.” Such ob­ser­va­tions in­form ev­ery inch of this charis­matic bas­tard’s tem­per­a­ment. Then, in this lightly plot­ted af­fair, some con­flict. Jep learns of the death of his first and pos­si­bly only true love, and some­thing in­side of him shifts. “The Great Beauty” is about that shift. It is a flam­boy­antly comic ex­ter­nal­iza­tion of that shift. 141min. (U) — Michael Phillips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers ★★★★ Twenty Feet From Star­dom — This joy­ous mu­sic doc­u­men­tary is pure sat­is­fac­tion, even when the sto­ries re­veal the frus­tra­tions along with the re­wards of a life lived just north, east or west of the sweet­est part of the spot­light. Five women take cen­ter stage in this doc: Dar­lene Love, a backup singer for ev­ery­one from Dionne Warwick to Frank Si­na­tra; Merry Clay­ton (heard on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shel­ter”); Lisa Fischer, now tour­ing with the Stones; Tata Vega, a 70s Mo­town artist who tours with El­ton John; and Ju­dith Hill, a for­mer Michael Jack­son backup, is now, like so many, try­ing to carve out a solo ca­reer. Yes, for ev­ery star there are five more also-rans and may­benext-times. But there is honor and glory in be­ing part of the blend. 90 min. (PG-13) — Michael Philips, Tri­bune News­pa­pers

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