New Releases for the Week of October 18, 2013


Carrie

CARRIE

(Screen Gems) Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde, Ansel Elgort, Barry Shabaka Henley. Directed by Kimberly Pierce

A young picked-upon girl, the daughter of an obsessively devout mother, develops telekinetic powers among other things. Some bitchy cheerleader sorts decide to play a prank on her at the prom – not a very good idea. A remake of the classic 1976 film with Sissy Spacek and itself based on one of Stephen King’s earliest novels.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday night)

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content)

A.C.O.D.

(The Film Arcade) Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Lynch. The adult son of a divorced couple whose acrimonious divorce scarred him to the point of needing therapy needs to get his bickering parents to make peace so that they can attend his brother’s wedding. He also discovers the therapy he underwent to get through the pain of the divorce was actually a project by a writer to chronicle the effects of divorce on children which led to a bestseller on her part but exposing all of
his most painful secrets. When he finally gets his parents together, his life goes spinning off into directions he couldn’t have imagined. This played the Sundance Across America series at the Enzian earlier this year and my review can be found here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for language and brief sexual content)

Boss

(Viacom 18) Akshay Kumar, Shiv Pandit, Mithun Chakraborty, Ronit Roy. A petty criminal takes the fall for his father when he accidentally and unknowingly kills a teenager. After serving his time, he relocates to another city, only to discover that his younger brother has gotten into a conflict with the bullying son of a home minister. He will have to return home to defend his family – a home that doesn’t want him back.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Escape Plan

(Summit) Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio. An expert on structural security who makes a lucrative living exposing the defects in prisons and other correctional institutions takes on a brand new high-tech state-of-the-art Supermax prison. Unbeknownst to him, someone wants him to disappear from the grid – permanently. To survive he is going to have to make an alliance with a brutal inmate and assuming he survives long enough to put his plan into action, find out who put him there…and make whoever it is pay!

See the trailer, promos and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday night)

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for violence and language throughout)

The Fifth Estate

(Touchstone/DreamWorks) Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Laura Linney. Idealists Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-berg, disgusted and disillusioned by all the chicanery going on in secret, decide to found a website where whistle-blowers can expose the corruption and crime going on in the political and corporate worlds. However their idealism will be put to the test when a cache of top secret documents from the U.S. Military is leaked and leads to a fundamental dilemma – is the freedom of accessible information more important than the potential loss of human life?

See the trailer and featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: R (for language and some violence) 

The Hunt

(Magnolia) Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrom. A substitute teacher in a small Danish town in the midst of a bitter divorce and custody battle is unexpectedly accused of molesting the daughter of his best friend. Despite his protestations of innocence and a lack of any evidence, nobody believes him and he is ostracized from nearly everyone in the town. As events escalate and grow uglier, he will have to find a way to convince the town – and his friend – that he is an innocent man. One of the best films to come out of this year’s Florida Film Festival, you can read my review here.

See the trailer, a clip and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for sexual content including a graphic image, violence and language)

I’m in Love with a Church Girl

(High Top) Ja Rule, Adrienne Bailon, Stephen Baldwin, Michael Madsen. A young man who has made his fortune as a drug trafficker attempts to get out of the business and go straight although the DEA is skeptical of his intentions. When he meets a beautiful but devout woman, he falls for her despite the difference in their lifestyles. Both of them will be sorely tested in their faith if their love is to overcome the long odds that it faces.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Faith Drama (opens Thursday)

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, a scene of violence, some suggestive content and brief language) 

Paradise

(Image/RLJ) Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Octavia Spencer, Holly Hunter. A young woman who has led a sheltered life in a small Montana town is nearly killed in an accident, causing her to take stock of her situation and her mainly unlived life. Deciding to see for herself what the other side has to offer, she takes her insurance settlement to Las Vegas and falls in with some fellow wounded souls and finds something a little more lasting than sin.

See the trailer, clips and a link to stream the full move at Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material, substance abuse, some language and thematic elements)

The Snitch Cartel

(BN) Manolo Cardona, Tom Sizemore, Juana Acosta, Kuno Becker. Based on the life of Andreas Lopez-Lopez, a young boy from a poor background tries to win the heart of the girl he’s had a crush on since he was very young but doesn’t have the money to catch her eye. He joins one of the more vicious drug cartels in Colombia and works his way up the ladder but in doing so catches the eye of the DEA as well.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Drama

Rating: R (for strong violence, language, drug content and sexuality/nudity)

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The Descendants


The Descendants

George Clooney may not get the joke but Shailene Woodley does.

(2011) Dramedy (Fox Searchlight) George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Nick Krause, Amara Miller, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel, Patricia Hastie, Barbara L. Southern, Celia Kenney, Scott Michael Morgan. Directed by Alexander Payne

 

Most of us aspire to live in paradise. The problem with that is that we still have to live in paradise and living is a messy, complicated business.

Matt King (Clooney) is a wealthy lawyer descended from King Kamehameha I. His family was one of the first non-Hawaiian landowners in the islands, and the family trust, for which Matt is the sole trustee, owns 25,000 acres of virgin land in Kauai. The trust will expire in seven years and the family is eager to sell the land which is worth billions. For some family members who are experiencing financial hardships, the sale of this land will be a windfall that will allow them to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.

However, Matt’s focus is no longer on the sale. His wife Elizabeth (Hastie) has been in a serious boating accident, leaving her in a coma. Matt has always been more married to his work than to his wife; he is the self-described “back-up parent,” leaving Elizabeth to raise his two daughters – 10-year-old Scottie (Miller) and 17-year-old Alex (Woodley). Scottie has taken to bullying, using profanities and flipping her father the bird when she doesn’t get her way.

Alex is also a mess, having quarreled with her mother shortly before leaving for boarding school and taking to using drugs and alcohol to salve her pain. She’s just getting her life back on track when Matt comes to fetch her to let her know the dire news the doctor has just given him; Elizabeth is not responding to treatment and the coma will be permanent. As per her living will, she will be unhooked from her life support and allowed to die with dignity. Matt chooses to keep Scottie in the dark about this for the time being.

Matt also learns unexpectedly that Elizabeth was having an affair at the time of the accident and was thinking about getting a divorce. The object of her affections was a realtor named Brian Speer (Lillard) who is currently on vacation in Kauai. Matt decides to confront Brian and with his daughters in tow, as well as Alex’s not-quite-boyfriend Sid (Krause) along for the ride, Matt goes about the business of getting closure, and allowing family members – such as Elizabeth’s crotchety dad (Forster) the same.

While there are some comedic elements, there is almost always something darker about them. For example, Matt’s awkward flip-flop run, oft-repeated in the trailer, to his neighbor’s house to confront them about what they know about Elizabeth’s affair – it’s certainly silly to watch out of context but when you know what prompted the ungainly sprint it is a different matter entirely. Sid’s near-epic insensitivity also prompts some guilty laughter, not to mention groans of dismay.

This is very much one of Clooney’s outstanding performances, destined to be one of the defining moments of his career I think. He is most certainly the Oscar frontrunner at this point, giving Matt a good deal of humanity yet never letting us forget that this is a man enduring some incredible pain at the moment – not only living with the knowledge that his wife was about to die, but having his world crumble further in that she no longer loved him and wanted another man. There is also unspoken guilt (which I would have loved to hear spoken) that he felt some kind of guilt in driving her to that place. That aspect of his pain is never explored and I think it might have added something had it been.

Woodley also is terrific as the daughter who has her own issues but as time goes by finally begins to understand her dad and even like him a little bit. That’s a big step for Alex, and Woodley gives the character depth. It doesn’t hurt that the character was written with some to begin with, instead of making her a typical Hollywood screen teen who knows better than her parents. Alex certainly doesn’t; she’s more like the teenagers I met than the ones I’ve seen onscreen.

Forster and Greer, both veteran character actors, have also elicited some supporting actor/actress Oscar buzz; Forster for the dad who is crusty and curmudgeonly, but at the center is deeply wounded and in despair that he is going to outlive his daughter. Greer has a very emotionally complex role that leads to an amazing scene with Clooney in Elizabeth’s hospital room near the end of the movie. It’s devastating and maybe the best single scene you’ll see in a movie this year.

I can’t imagine going through what Matt King goes through here. To be in a situation where one must not only mourn for someone he loves, but to feel acute betrayal as well at the same time – how horrible is that? I loved where the movie took us, and appreciated the journey that got us there. Some are going to look at this from the trailers as a comedy along the lines of the Coen Brothers movies, but this is definitely far from a feel-good kind of film. It has its quirks, but at the end of the day it is a very human film which is going to be making quite a few appearances on Academy ballots when all is said and done.

REASONS TO GO: Oscar-worthy performance by Clooney. A very moving and painful journey.

REASONS TO STAY: May be too painful and intense for some.

FAMILY VALUES: There is quite a bit of swearing and some sexual references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Woodley is best known for the TV show “The Secret Life of an American Teenager.” This is her first big screen role.

HOME OR THEATER: Although most of the film translates well to more intimate screens, the Hawaiian vistas are another matter and besides, it deserves some box office support.

FINAL RATING: 8.5/10

TOMORROW: The Infidel

Couples Retreat


Malin Akerman (center) realizes her love scenes are with Vince Vaughn while her co-stars pretend not to notice her discomfort.

Malin Akerman (center) realizes her love scenes are with Vince Vaughn while her co-stars pretend not to notice her discomfort.

(Universal) Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Jean Reno, Faizon Love, Kali Hawk, Carlos Ponce, Peter Serafinowicz, Tasha Smith, Temuera Morrison, Jonna Walsh. Directed by Peter Billingsley

Relationships require a lot of work and even with that, none are ever perfect. Sometimes we have problems with our mates that we didn’t even know we had.

Dave (Vaughn) is a happily married video game salesman (specializing in Guitar Hero) who has a nice suburban Chicago home, two mostly well-behaved kids (although one has a tendency to use just about anything as his personal toilet) a stressful job that demands long hours, and a gorgeous, loving wife (Akerman) named Ronnie who is completely absorbed in remodeling their home. He is less enthusiastic about the project and this has brought some tension to the marriage.

His best buddy is Joey (Favreau), who married Lucy (Davis) just out of high school after he got her pregnant. They show a united front to the world, especially when their daughter Lacey (Walsh) attempts to leave the house in the middle of winter dressed like a hooker, but in reality they can’t stand each other and plan to divorce as soon as Lacey leaves for Stanford. In the meantime, they are cheating on each other as much as they can.

Shane (Love) is already divorced and dating Trudy (Hawk), a much younger model wannabe. He’s going through a big time midlife crisis, but is having some financial troubles after his wife Jennifer (Smith) soaked him in the divorce. He asks his buddy Dave to co-sign on a loan to buy a motorcycle, which Dave refuses at first but eventually gives in when Shane opens up and tells him how much he needs it on a personal level. Dave’s an enabler that way.

Finally there’s Jason (Bateman) and his wife Cynthia (Bell) who seem perfect for each other. So anal they make squeaking noises when they walk, they have had difficulty conceiving a child. This has caused strain so severe on their marriage they are considering a divorce, a fact they reveal to their friends in a PowerPoint presentation (squeak, squeak, squeak). They intend to give their marriage one last-ditch effort at the beautiful Eden resort in the South Pacific, where they will have the opportunity to jet ski and learn couples skill building at the same time.

The others aren’t so enthusiastic about going, although their interest is piqued when Jason and Cynthia promise them they don’t have to do any of the touchy-feely stuff. Dave’s objection is that he can’t really get away from work and that they couldn’t get anyone to watch the kids anyway, but when his kids beg him to go and even call his dad to babysit, Dave and Cynthia – who had skipped their honeymoon when Dave got a job offer – decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

Once there they fall under the ministrations of the smarmy concierge Sctanley (yes, that’s how he spells it) and the new age guru Marcel (Reno) who is something of a whiz kid at rescuing marriages. Once there, they realize that all the fun stuff is located in the singles side of the island to which they are forbidden to go, and that all of them had to partake of the skill building sessions. As they go through therapy, cracks in the facades of all their relationships begin to appear until it becomes evident that none of them may leave Problem Island with their marriages intact. 

Vaughn co-wrote and co-produced this epic with his buddy Favreau, and if you like either one of their onscreen personas in previous movies like Swingers and Wedding Crashers, you’ll want to see this. Vaughn gets most of the great one-liners (the advantage of being your own producer and writer) and he delivers them seamlessly, Vince Vaughn-style.

It seems odd that the three middle aged flabby guys all have super hot wives (Akerman, Bell and Davis all look pretty spectacular in bikinis) and Love, who is a bit of a behemoth, has essentially a 20-year-old supermodel doing the nasty with him in oh-so-nasty ways. However, this is Hollywood and I suppose anything is possible.

The cast is really solid and they all are given characters that give them at least something to latch onto as actors, and they’re all good enough to take advantage of it. It’s too bad the script couldn’t have given them a better story. While the concept is solid, the way they get from beginning to end is pretty weak. I think they would have benefited from a little more realism and maybe the knowledge that not every marriage works out okay should have been introduced. The whole notion of love conquering all is mainly a Hollywood invention and nobody really believes it anymore. While I’m sure studio executives were anxious for everyone to end up happy and in love, the movie would have been better if they hadn’t.

Filmed at the St. Regis resort in Bora Bora, one of the most beautiful places in the world, it’s a great-looking film. The bottom line is whether or not it’s funny. The answer is, yeah for the most part. There are some moments that fall flat, and some of the writing seems a bit forced into making a Hollywood happy ending. The underlying message is that as long as the sex is good, so is the marriage which doesn’t really ring true. Still, there are enough laughs for me to recommend this slightly. It’s not as horrible as other critics are making it out to be; it’s just slightly better than okay. Not a ringing endorsement I know, but the sandal definitely fits.

REASONS TO GO: Jennifer Garner’s best performance to date augments an intriguing premise. The movie has a good deal of heart and has at least one genuinely moving moment.

REASONS TO STAY: The romantic comedy aspect doesn’t work as well as the satire. Too many cameos spoil the broth.

FAMILY VALUES: Some PG sexual situations and one scene in which some self-pleasuring is implied; nothing really overt but you may want to think twice before bringing kids who are less aware of sex.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Couples Retreat marks the fourth movie that both Vaughn and Favreau have been in together.

HOME OR THEATER: Although some of the lovely shots of Bora Bora look gorgeous on the big screen, it works as well on the home screen.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Reader