Upcoming Theatrical Releases
Muppets Most Wanted
Director: James Bobin
PG; 112 mins.
Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid, Dublin and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine-the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog-and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, aka Number Two, portrayed by Ricky Gervais. The film stars Tina Fey as Nadya, a feisty prison guard, and Ty Burrell as Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon. (Synopsis by Disney)
Fans of The Muppets should rejoice. This latest installment is just as good as the reboot from three years ago. The jokes are so groan-inducing you’ll laugh at yourself for laughing at them. So. Many. Puns. See it.
Director: Jason Bateman
R; 89 mins.
Jason Bateman makes his feature directorial debut with the subversive comedy Bad Words. Mr. Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old who finds a loophole in the rules of The Golden Quill national spelling bee and decides to cause trouble by hijacking the competition. Contest officials, outraged parents, and overly ambitious 8th graders are no match for Guy, as he ruthlessly crushes their dreams of victory and fame. As a reporter (Kathryn Hahn of We’re the Millers) attempts to discover his truemotivation, Guy finds himself forging an unlikely alliance with a competitor: awkward 10-year-old Chaitanya (Rohan Chand of Homeland), who is completely unfazed by Guy’s take-no-prisoners approach to life. (Synopsis by Focus)
A mixed bag; some people will thinK the unrelenting awfulness of Bateman’s character is hilarious. Others will wish it was over quickly. For his directorial debut, this is a decent film. Not great, but decent. Rent it.
Director: Neil Burger
PG-13; 143 mins.
DIVERGENT is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it’s too late. Based on thebest-selling book series by Veronica Roth. (Synopsis by Summit)
Check out my review on The Dagger later this week.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
R; 100 mins.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune — all against the back-drop ofa suddenly and dramatically changing Continent. (Synopsis by Fox Searchlight)
Another step forward for Anderson, who adds a layer of sophistication to his diorama style. Funny, sad, and an homage to old-school film. See it.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
R; 90 mins.
Academy Award Nominee Jake Gyllenhaal reteams with his PRISONERS director, Academy Award Nominee Denis Villeneuve, in this sexy and hypnotically surreal psychological thriller that breathes new life into the doppleganger tradition. Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal) is a glum, disheveled history professor, who seems disinterested even in his beautiful girlfriend, Mary (Laurent). Watching a movie on the recommendation of a colleague, Adam spots his double, a bit-part actor named Anthony Clair, and decides to track him down. The identical men meet and their lives become bizarrely and irrevocably intertwined. Gyllenhaal is transfixing as both Adam and Anthony, provoking empathy as well as disapproval while embodying two distinct personas. With masterfully controlled attention to detail, Villeneuve takes us on an enigmatic and gripping journey through a world that is both familiar and strange – and hard to shake off long after its final, unnerving image. ENEMY, adapted from Nobel Prize-winning author José Saramago’s 2004 novel The Double, is about the power of the subconscious. In the end, only one man can survive. (Synopsis by A24 Films)
Few films can really mess with an audience. This one manages to pull that trick off quite well. There are more questions than answers, but that’s the point. Not for everyone, but a pretty good “thinkers” film. Rent it.
Upcoming DVD Releases
Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
PG; 102 mins.
Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, “Frozen” is the coolest comedy-adventure ever to hit the big screen. When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction. (Synopsis by Disney)
Most adults are probably ready to “let it go” after hearing the hype (and songs) non-stop since the theatrical release. Hope you’ve bought ear plugs, because now it’s on constant loop for your kids! It’s also pretty good. See it.
Director: David O. Russell
R; 129 mins.
A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell’s previous films, American Hustle defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes. (Synopsis by Sony)
A crime story with style and swagger. Great performances and writing. It was nominated for Best Picture for a reason. See it.
Saving Mr. Banks
Director: John Lee Hancock
PG-13; 120 mins.
Two-time Academy Award (R)-winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar (R)-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen. When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise-one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation. For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp. It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history. Inspired by true events, “Saving Mr. Banks” is the extraordinary, untold story of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen-and the testy relationship that the legendary Walt Disney had with author P.L. Travers that almost derailed it. (Synopsis by Disney)