Theatrical Releases This Week
Director: Bradley Parker
R; 86 mins
Chernobyl Diaries is an original story from Oren Peli, who first terrified audiences with his groundbreaking thriller, Paranormal Activity. The film follows a group of six young vacationers who, looking to go off the beaten path, hire an “extreme” tour guide. Ignoring warnings, he takes them into the city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, but a deserted town since the disaster more than 25 years ago. After a brief exploration of the abandoned city, however, the group soon finds themselves stranded, only to discover that they are not alone. (Synopsis by Warner Brothers)
One more cliché piece of “shaky cam” garbage that will make a few bucks off the horror enthusiasts. You know writer Oren Peli from the “Paranormal Activity” series that, while once inventive, has gotten pretty stale. Maybe there is something worth seeing here, but I wouldn’t be $15 on it.
Men in Black 3
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
PG-13; 106 mins
In Men in Black 3, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back…in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K’s life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him — secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind. (Synopsis by Sony Pictures)
With a summer chock full of fantasy adventures, one questions whether this series needed another sequel. But this film does manage to capture the enjoyment of the first film while adding some depth to the characters. With so many recent collapses of other re-booted franchises, at least this one manages to not fall flat on its face.
DVD Releases This Week
This Means War
PG-13, 2 hr.
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)
Fun fact: every copy of the DVD comes with an application for the witness protection program. Because if your friends and family ever found out you watched this, you are going to wish you had a new life. Terrible even by romantic comedy standards.
The Woman in Black
Director: James Watkins
PG-13, 1 hr. 34 min.
A young lawyer (Radcliffe) travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorner woman is terrorizing the locals. (Synopsis by CBS Films)
A better than average horror film that is a throwback to the old school. Taking a gothic ghost story and adding a twist, Radcliffe chooses well in his follow up to the “Harry Potter” franchise. While the entangled plot never quiet comes to full clarity, there is enough here to make a solid film.
The Secret World Of Arrietty
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
G, 1 hr. 34 min.
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 (AIR-ee-ett-ee) 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)
The anime take on “The Borrowers” lives up to expectations in every way. The classic animation is a wonder to behold. The story is paced just right to draw the audience in provide the drama. While not as fast paced as the usual kids fare these days, this is one to curl up on the couch as a family and enjoy.
Director: Anthony Hemingway
PG-13, 2 hr.
1944. To help win the war, the Pentagon brass has no choice but to consider the untested African-American pilots of the experimental Tuskegee training program. Just as the young Tuskegee men are about to be shut down and shipped back home, they are given the ultimate chance to show their courage. These intrepid young airmen take to the skies to fight for their country – and the fate of the free world. (Synopsis by the Official Site)
Incessantly mediocre, even with a real life story that is so poignant. Ironically, the pilots are reduced to stereotypes of war movie characters, despite playing a group who were stereotyped. Too many impassioned speeches and not enough actual humanity ultimately bring this back down to Earth in a blaze.
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Unrated, 1 hr. 46 min.
Juliette Binoche won the Best Actress prize in Cannes for her performance in this playful and provocative romantic drama from legendary auteur Abbas Kiarostami (TASTE OF CHERRY, THE WIND WILL CARRY US), his first feature made outside of Iran. Binoche plays a gallery owner living in a Tuscan village who attends a lecture by a British author (opera star William Shimell) on authenticity and fakery in art. Afterward, she invites him on a tour of the countryside, during which he is mistaken for her husband. They keep up the pretense and continue on their afternoon out, discussing love, life and art, and increasingly behaving like a long-married couple. But are they play-acting on a whim, or is there more to their seemingly new relationship than meets the eye? (Synopsis by IFC)
Drifting in the ether between reality and fantasy underlies a deceptively simple plot. A beautifully crafted film that is felt not just in the heart but also in the head. While the ending will turn away some people with its abruptness, the film is a must see for the masterful construction.