Theatrical Releases This Week
The Secret World of Arrietty
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Gary Rydstrom
Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (David Henrie), a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger. (Synopsis by Disney)
While not as solid an offering as “Spirited Away” or “Howl’s Moving Castle,” this is still a superb model of anime. In theaters filled with 3D computer-generated monsters; this is a pleasant appeal to old-school story telling. It lives up to “The Borrowers” source material, making it that much more endearing.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Nicolas Cage reprises his role as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. In this gritty new vision for the character, directed by Neveldine/Taylor (Crank), Johnny is still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter – but he may risk everything as he teams up with the leader of a group of rebel monks (Idris Elba) to save a young boy from the devil… and possibly rid himself of his curse forever. (Synopsis by Sony)
Cage continues to pay off his tax bill by subjecting us to these little theatrical treats. While the best part of the first movie was Cage’s acting, there is little to look forward to here. Marvel seems intent on proving the point that they can make money off of any comic book character. Even one that was essentially based on several characters.
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Set in contemporary Iran, “A Separation” is a compelling drama about the dissolution of a marriage. Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and daughter Termeh. Simin sues for divorce when Nader refuses to leave behind his Alzheimer-suffering father. Her request having failed, Simin returns to her parents’ home, but Termeh decides to stay with Nader. When Nader hires a young woman to assist with his father in his wife’s absence, he hopes that his life will return to a normal state. However, when he discovers that the new maid has been lying to him, he realizes that there is more on the line than just his marriage. (Synopsis by Sony Pictures Classic)
The best film being released this week. What begins as a standard drama of a marriage moves onto a discussion of the cultural, gender, generational, and class wars being fought in contemporary Iran. At the end it boils down to a contrast of morals: on one side are absolutes and the other compromises.
This Means War
The world’s deadliest CIA operatives are inseparable partners and best friends until they fall for the same woman. Having once helped bring down entire enemy nations, they are now employing their incomparable skills and an endless array of high-tech gadgetry against their greatest nemesis ever – each other. (Synopsis by Fox)
The date movie of the week has a few laughs, but ends up being a disappointment. None of the lead actors quite click together, and the lack of chemistry sinks the laughs that might be found. It is always troubling when a script has taken years to get to the screen. In this case, it took 14 years. Just as disconcerting is the list of actors once attached who dropped off: Martin Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Seth Rogen, Justin Timberlake and Sam Worthington all had a foot in the door at one time. Luckily for them, they all found better films to make. Well, maybe not Martin Lawrence.
DVD Releases This Week
Director: Steve James
The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student, whose death was caught on videotape. The film’s main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, which believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. (Synopsis by the Official Site)
A must-see film which rivals the powerful documentaries about the Iraq and Afghan wars. Most films of this type are overly dramatized or cynical. “The Interrupters” breaks both those molds. As citizens one county line away from one of the most violent cities in the country, for us this speaks of home. For a homegrown take, watch this with “The Boys of Baraka.”
Paranormal Activity 3
Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
The Paranormal Activity franchise continues with this third outing from Paramount Pictures. Oren Peli and Jason Blum return to produce the highly secretive feature, with Catfish’s directing duo of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman taking on the helming duties. (Synopsis by Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi)
Another installment in the franchise that just won’t go away. This version adds a little humor and character development, but is still essentially the same as the first two.
Johnny English Reborn
Director: Oliver Parker
In the years since MI7’s top spy vanished off the grid, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) has been honing his unique skills in a remote region of Asia. But when his agency superiors learn of an attempt against the Chinese premier’s life, they must hunt down the highly unorthodox agent. Now that the world needs him once again, Johnny English is back in action. With one shot at redemption, he must employ the latest in hi-tech gadgets to unravel a web of conspiracy that runs throughout the KGB, CIA and even MI-7. With mere days until a heads of state conference, one man must use every trick in his playbook to protect us all. For Johnny English, disaster may be an option, but failure never is. (Synopsis by the Official Site)
Even by British standards, this just isn’t all that funny. Fans of Atkinson will enjoy this, others not so much. The best choice would be to watch old Mr. Bean episodes.
The Rum Diary
Director: Bruce Robinson
Based on the debut novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Tiring of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of late Eisenhower-era America, Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper, run by downtrodden editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Amber Heard), the wildly attractive Connecticut-born fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson is one of a growing number of American entrepreneurs who are determined to convert Puerto Rico into a capitalist paradise in service of the wealthy. When Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write favorably about his latest unsavory scheme, the journalist is presented with a choice: to use his words for the corrupt businessmen’s financial benefit, or use them to take the bastards down. (Synopsis by FilmDistrict)
While it is commendable that Depp pushed to have this film made, it does not make up for the fact that it is very average. None of Thompson’s gonzo intensity is transferred and it simply falls flat. Skip it and watch the classic “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”