Upcoming Theatrical Releases
The Invisible Woman
Director: Ralph Fiennes
R; 111 mins.
Nelly (Felicity Jones), a happily-married mother and schoolteacher, is haunted by her past. Her memories, provoked by remorse and guilt, take us back in time to follow the story of her relationship with Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) with whom she discovered an exciting but fragile complicity. Dickens – famous, controlling and emotionally isolated within his success – falls for Nelly, who comes from a family of actors. The theatre is a vital arena for Dickens – a brilliant amateur actor – a man more emotionally coherent on the page or on stage, than in life. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens’ passion and his muse, for both of them secrecy is the price, and for Nelly a life of “invisibility.” (Synopsis by Sony Classics)
A surprisingly good film that is heavy on reflection and quiet airs. It loses some impact because the events aren’t as scandalous to our modern sensibilities as it was at the time. Great direction and acting make the difference. See it.
Director: Stuart Beattie
PG-13; 92 mins.
Set in a dystopic present where vigilant gargoyles and ferocious demons rage in a battle for ultimate power, Victor Frankenstein’s creation Adam (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself caught in the middle as both sides race to discover the secret to his immortality. (Synopsis by Lionsgate)
The same people that brought us “Underworld” unleash this turd upon humanity. It wants so bad to be taken seriously, but falls off the edge into being ridiculous and boring. Skip it.
Upcoming DVD Releases
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Director: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
PG; 95 mins.
Inventor Flint Lockwood’s genius is finally being recognized as he’s invited by his idol Chester V to join The Live Corp Company, where the best and brightest inventors in the world create technologies for the betterment of mankind. Chester’s right-hand-gal – and one of his greatest inventions – is Barb (a highly evolved orangutan with a human brain, who is also devious, manipulative and likes to wear lipstick). It’s always been Flint’s dream to be recognized as a great inventor, but everything changes when he discovers that his most infamous machine (which turns water into food) is still operating and is now creating food-animal hybrids – “foodimals!” With the fate of humanity in his hands, Chester sends Flint and his friends on a dangerously delicious mission, battling hungry tacodiles, shrimpanzees, apple pie-thons, double bacon cheespiders and other food creatures to save the world again! (Synopsis by Sony Pictures)
If you are going to see this film, you can’t take it seriously at all—which is exactly why this works so well. It’s not great art, but it is a lot of fun. See it.
The Fifth Estate
Director: Bill Condon and R.J. Cutler
R; 124 mins.
Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, “The Fifth Estate” reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society-and what are the costs of exposing them?” (Synopsis by Disney)
It’s probably not a good sign when the subject of your film is not a fan. That is certainly the case here. This tepid exposé is more disappointing than insightful. Skip it.
Director: Ron Howard
R; 123 mins.
Two-time Academy Award (R) winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) teams once again with two-time Academy Award (R)-nominated writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) on Rush, a spectacular big-screen re-creation of the merciless and legendary 1970s Formula 1 rivalry between gifted English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth of The Avengers, Thor) and his disciplined Austrian opponent, Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl of Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum). (Synopsis by Official Site)
Not a particularly thoughtful film, but it doesn’t need to be—more importantly, it doesn’t try to be. It is a thrill ride of an adult drama, pure and simple. Greatly entertaining. See it.
Director: Jon Turteltaub
PG-13; 105 mins.
The ensemble comedy follows four old friends who decide to throw a Las Vegas bachelor party for the only one of them who has remained single. (Synopsis by CBS Films)
Hey remember how everyone liked “Red?” Well, I got an idea! Let’s do that again! Yes, I know we did “Red 2!” This is different. How? They go to Vegas! And do old people stuff! Wacky! Seriously, this is terrible and no one should see it outside of a nursing home during nap time. Skip it.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Director: Jeff Tremaine
R; 92 mins.
86 year-old Irving Zisman is on a journey across America with the most unlikely companion, his 8 year-old Grandson Billy in “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” This October, the signature Jackass character Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) and Billy (Jackson Nicoll) will take movie audiences along for the most insane hidden camera road trip ever captured on camera. Along the way Irving will introduce the young and impressionable Billy to people, places and situations that give new meaning to the term childrearing. The duo will encounter male strippers, disgruntled child beauty pageant contestants (and their equally disgruntled mothers), funeral home mourners, biker bar patrons and a whole lot of unsuspecting citizens. (Synopsis by Paramount)
Previously reviewed by The Dagger.
Other Jan. Releases
Upcoming Theatrical Releases
Director: Tim Story
PG-13; 100 mins.
Kevin Hart and Ice Cube lead the lineup in Ride Along, the new film from the director and the producer of the blockbuster comedy Think Like a Man. When a fast-talking guy joins his girlfriend’s brother-a hot-tempered cop-to patrol the streets of Atlanta, he gets entangled in the officer’s latest case. Now, in order to prove that he deserves his future bride, he must survive the most insane 24 hours of his life. For the past two years, high-school security guard Ben (Hart) has been trying to show decorated APD detective James (Cube) that he’s more than just a video-game junkie who’s unworthy of James’ sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). When Ben finally gets accepted into the academy, he thinks he’s earned the seasoned policeman’s respect and asks for his blessing to marry Angela. Knowing that a ride along will demonstrate if Ben has what it takes to take care of his sister, James invites him on a shift designed to scare the hell out of the trainee. But when the wild night leads them to the most notorious criminal in the city, James will find that his new partner’s rapid-fire mouth is just as dangerous as the bullets speeding at it. John Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne join the cast of the action-comedy directed by Tim Story. Ride Along is produced by Will Packer (Think Like a Man), alongside Ice Cube, Matt Alvarez (Barbershop) and Larry Brezner (Good Morning, Vietnam). (Synopsis by Universal)
If you like Kevin Hart, you’ll be distracted in a good way. This is a simple comedy, but there are worse things in theaters. Sometimes you need a simple comedy with ridiculous over-reactions. Rent it.
The Nut Job
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
PG; 86 mins.
In animated 3D, THE NUT JOB is an action-packed comedy in fictional Oakton that follows the travails of Surly (voiced by Will Arnett), a mischievous squirrel, and his rat friend Buddy, who plan a nut store heist of outrageous proportions and unwittingly find themselves embroiled in a much more complicated and hilarious adventure. (Synopsis by Open Road)
This clumsy film barely clears the bar of comedy. There isn’t a lot to like here in either character or story. Save your money and watch any of the other superior animated features out there now. Skip it.
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
R; 89 mins.
After a mysterious, lost night on their honeymoon, a newlywed couple finds themselves dealing with an earlier-than-planned pregnancy. While recording everything for posterity, the husband begins to notice odd behavior in his wife that they initially write off to nerves, but, as the months pass, it becomes evident that the dark changes to her body and mind have a much more sinister origin. (Synopsis by Fox)
This one was not screened for critics, an immediate sign that it is terrible. Someone will see this and be disappointed. Don’t be that person. Skip it.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Director: Kenneth Branagh
PG-13; 145 mins.
Based on the character created by bestselling author Tom Clancy, “Jack Ryan” is a global action thriller set in the present day. This original story follow a young Jack (Chris Pine) as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot. The story follows him from 9/11, through his tour of duty in Afghanistan, which scarred him forever, and into his early days in the Financial Intelligence Unit of the modern CIA where he becomes an analyst, under the guardianship of his handler, Harper (Kevin Costner). When Ryan believes he’s uncovered a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy, he goes from being an analyst to becoming a spy and must fight to save his own life andthose of countless others, while also trying to protect the thing that’s more important to him than anything, his relationship with his fiancée Cathy (Keira Knightley). (Synopsis by Paramount)
The early praise is encouraging; the action is top notch and the story is solid. This is a great start to what might be the next action-thriller franchise. See it.
Upcoming DVD Releases
Director: David Twohy
R; 119 mins.
Riddick, the latest chapter of the groundbreaking saga that began with 2000’s hit sci-fi film Pitch Black and 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick reunites writer/director David Twohy (A Perfect Getaway, The Fugitive) and star Vin Diesel (the Fast and Furious franchise, xXx). Diesel reprises his role as the antihero Riddick, a dangerous, escaped convict wanted by every bounty hunter in the known galaxy. The infamous Riddick has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet that appears to be lifeless. Soon, however, he finds himself fighting for survival against alien predators more lethal than any human he’s encountered. The only way off is for Riddick to activate an emergency beacon and alert mercenaries who rapidly descend to the planet in search of their bounty. The first ship to arrive carries a new breed of merc, more lethal and violent, while the second is captained by a man whose pursuit of Riddick is more personal. With time running out and a storm on the horizon that no one could survive, his hunters won’t leave the planet without Riddick’s head as their trophy. (Synopsis by Universal)
It’s mindless sci-fi action, but were you expecting much more? In that vein, this succeeds. The best move is to simply stick with action over story–no one is here to listen to Vin Diesel spit out lines. Rent it.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Director: Lee Daniels
PG-13; 132 mins.
LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more. Academy Award (R) nominated Lee Daniels (PRECIOUS) directs and co-wrote the script with Emmy (R)-award winning Danny Strong (GAME CHANGE). (Synopsis by Weinstein)
The cast is outstanding and the story is engaging. As a trip through Civil Rights history, it succeeds in dramatizing salient points and adds cinematic gravity to the events. It may be over-long, but it is always engaging. See it.
Director: Ryan Coogler
R; 84 mins.
Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, director Ryan Coogler’s FRUITVALE STATION follows the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother (Octavia Spencer), whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to Tatiana (Ariana Neal), their beautiful four year-old daughter. Crossing paths with friends, family, and strangers, Oscar starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easily. His resolve takes a tragic turn, however, when BART officers shoot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day. Oscar’s life and tragic death would shake the Bay Area – and the entire nation – to its very core. (Synopsis by Weinstein)
The visceral impact of the intimate storytelling cannot be overstated. This works so well because of the human connection between Jordan and the audience. It won Grand Jury for a reason; don’t miss this. See it.