Recommended films showing in Salt Lake City for the week of August 9 – August 15, 2013
1. Pacific Rim (PG-13)
2. The Conjuring (R)
3. The Way, Way Back (PG-13)
4. The Wolverine (PG-13)
5. Man of Steel (PG-13)
1. Monsters University (G)
2. Despicable Me 2 (PG)
3. Planes (PG)
4. Turbo (PG)
5. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG)
1. Fruitvale Station (R)
2. The Way, Way Back (PG-13)
3. 20 Feet From Stardom (Not Rated)
4. Unfinished Song (PG-13)
5. Much Ado About Nothing (PG-13)
We’re the Millers
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudekis, Emma Roberts
Recommended To: Those looking for a vulgar, but often-funny film with a warped sense of humor.
Synopsis: When David Clark (Jason Sudekis), a small-time drug dealer, is forced into agreeing to smuggle a large amount of weed into the U.S. from Mexico he hires a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a runaway (Emma Roberts) and an awkward teen (Will Poulter) to be his family.
Review: We’re the Millers is a vulgar comedy of errors. Working from a script by Wedding Crashers’ Bob Fisher and Steve Faber and Hot Tub Time Machine’s Sean Anders and John Morris, Dodgeball director Rawson Marshall Thurber has created the sort film that the Farrelly Brothers have been trying to make since the success of There’s Something About Mary. It’s a predictable mesh of slapstick gags, gross-out humor and stereotypes, but it works better than I expected and never really strays into stoner-comedy territory. I can’t bring myself to call it a smart film, but it doesn’t feel dumbed down to the level of Grown Ups 2. It’s also not nearly as vulgar as The Hangover III or as violent as This Is the End and as a result is likely to appeal to a larger audience. The characters even have a little bit of depth and their growth throughout the film feels surprisingly natural, rather than a plot device. It’s not nearly as much fun as The Heat, but if you’re looking for laughs and can put up with the profanity We’re the Millers comes recommended.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Recommended To: Fans of the book series or the first film.
Synopsis: When the great tree that provides a protective barrier around Camp Half-Blood is badly damaged Percy Jackson and his friends set out to find the Golden Fleece in hopes of using its restorative powers to heal the tree.
Review: I was fairly ambivalent when it came to Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief. It felt like a formulaic attempt by 20th Century Fox to capitalize on the success of the Harry Potter films. They even brought in Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter films, to try and replicate the magic. It didn’t quite work for me, but the film made back its budget and then some and so three years later the second installment arrives.
Where as the Harry Potter films got darker as they went along Sea of Monsters feels much lighter than The Lightning Thief. I don’t know if this is mirrored in Rick Riordan’s novel or if it has to do with Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) taking over directorial duties. Whatever the reason Sea of Monsters feels like a children’s film that doesn’t really give adults much to enjoy. It’s essentially a watered down version of Clash of the Titians (which itself isn’t exactly the most accurate retelling of Greek mythology) set in modern times. It’s not particularly engaging and while I like the actors, particularly Logan Lerman, the performances are generally underwhelming. Maybe if I had read the book I would have connected with the characters. Ultimately Sea of Monsters is just for the fans.
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Klay Hall
Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett
Genre: Animated, Adventure, Comedy
Recommended To: Disney fans, children obsessed with airplanes and adults that don’t mind seeing something overly familiar.
Synopsis: A cropdusting plane pushes aside his duties for the chance to fly in an around-the-world aerial race.
Review: Originally intended as a direct-to-video spin off of Cars Disneytoon’s Planes isn’t quite on par with Toy Story 2 (which was also began life as a direct-to-video release), but it is good enough to warrant a theatrical release. The story of an outcast chasing down their dreams despite strong opposition is a common one. We’ve already seen it this summer in DreamWorks’ Turbo and we’ll most certainly see it again somewhere in the not-so-distant future. Fortunately Jeffrey M. Howard’s screenplay is good enough to keep things interesting despite the fact that almost any audience member could perfectly describe the film’s finale without seeing anything more than a synopsis on IMDB. Also, in spite of the formulaic script, the film feels less forced than Cars 2. Which was all I was really hoping for in the first place.
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharito Copley
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Drama
Recommended To: Sci-fi fans that are willing to put up with an uneven film for a few moments of brilliance.
Synopsis: In 2154 the wealthy and powerful live on a space station while the lower classes fight to survive on the decimated planet below. From the earliest days of his youth Max (Matt Damon) dreamed of living in the sky. As he became older and his police record grew those dreams slipped through his fingers.
Review: Neill Blomkamp impressed with a mix of sci-fi action and Apartheid politics in his modestly funded directorial debut District 9. So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that his second film follows a similar path. This time Blomkamp looks to tackle the plight of the have-nots on a global scale. Unfortunately the results are nearly as appealing. The film’s tone sways from serious to campy, due in part Sharito Copley’s over-the-top performance as a psychotic mercenary. Copley was part of what made District 9 brilliant; here he’s just a distraction as he chews his way through scene after scene. Worse yet is Jodie Foster’s bizarre accent. Still, there is good to be found in Elysium as Matt Damon offers up a solid performance and a few of the action sequences are breathtaking. A more constant tone and a stronger ending could have made Elysium a classic. As it stands it passes as a slightly above average popcorn flick.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Sebastian Silva
Starring: Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffman and Agustin Silva
Rated: Not Rated
Recommended To: Fans of character studies, road-trip comedies and spiritual journeys.
Synopsis: Jamie (Michael Cera) is an aggressive American living in Chile. His insatiable quench for recreational drug use sends him on a road trip to the beach where he intends on sampling a hallucinogenic cactus with his roommate, his roommates two brothers and Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman), a free-spirited young woman he invited to come along (while navigating a party high on weed and cocaine).
Review: Crystal Fairy is a very funny journey that features a solid performance from Cera as the classic ugly American character. But ultimately the films euphoria and laughter fades into something quite serious as the film draws to a close and the spotlight shifts entirely from Ceras emotionally innate character to the emotionally erratic and ultimately fragile Crystal Fairy. It is here that Gaby Hoffmans performance, which has threatened to steal away from Cera throughout the film, completely dominates the screen. The story gets a little too dark for its own good, but the impact is devastating. You almost feel bad for thinking the previous 100 minutes was as funny as it was.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, James Franco
Genre: Biography, Drama
Recommended To: Those looking for a less effective Boogie Nights.
Synopsis: Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) quickly became a cultural icon after appearing in Deep Throat. Behind the glitz and glamour was a battered woman with a manipulative husband.
Review: Unlike Boogie Nights, Lovelace isn’t so much an examination of the porn industry as it is a tale of a battered woman caught in the cycle of abuse. Of course the trick here is that many, particularly those who know nothing of Lovelace beyond Deep Throat, won’t know what they’re in for. Lovelace isn’t titillating; it isn’t supposed to be. Unfortunately it’s a bit too melodramatic for its own good and that undercuts what should be a truly horrific and nightmarish journey and turns it into something that feels a bit censored. It’s as if the directors wanted to make a truly abrasive film but settled for this one in hopes of securing a slightly larger audience. It’s a shame because Amanda Seyfried has moments of greatness that don’t have the impact that they should because the rest of the film can’t support them.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)