Silver Screen: The Score Card, August 22, 2013 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale (Friday unless otherwise noted).
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13, ***1/2): The second installment of the blockbuster series based on the young-adult novel series is better than the first, largely because it doesn’t have to spend as much time establishing the complex and sometimes dopily illogical framework of the story. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have survived the contest, but Katniss has become a symbol of revolution around the blighted country. To snuff her out, the nefarious President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has Katniss, Peeta, and twenty-two other former Hunger Games winners thrust back into the competition, but this time it’s the players and not the government that has a trick in mind. Director Francis Lawrence does a far superior job with the action and outlandish visuals than Gary Ross did with the first movie. The cast remains top-notch, especially Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, although the believably tough but glamorous Lawrence remains the movies’ greatest asset.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG-13, ****): Ben Stiller may be best known for commercial pabulum like the Night at the Museum and Fockers franchises, but more importantly he’s one of the greatest comedian-directors in America. His perfect record (Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, Reality Bites, and, yes, The Cable Guy) continues with this, his most flawed film so far, but also his most ambitious and affecting. Stiller stars in this significantly altered remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye film about a lonely man who escapes into elaborate daydreams. But when he’s faced with being fired from his office for losing a photograph, he goes on a transcontinental journey to track down the free-spirited photographer (Sean Penn), living a real adventure for the first time while also undertaking a more significant inward journey. It’s sincere as hell, but far from humorless, as Stiller’s deftness with small comic moments is long-established. Some awkward plotting and truly egregious product placement stick out sorely among the rampant earnestness, but the film still manages at times to evoke real wonder and joy. Stiller is both funny and no joke.
The Wolf of Wall Street (R, ****): Martin Scorsese’s brash, loud, and long adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir of his days of white-collar crime and druggy excess is a spiritual sequel to Goodfellas and Casino. The comparison to both of those movies reveals this film’s fatal flaw, which is that it refuses to examine the machinations of the antihero’s criminal enterprise. Star Leonardo DiCaprio, in voiceover, often literally tells the audience they wouldn’t be interested to know how he swindled thousands of people out of millions of dollars, but we came to see a movie with Wall Street in the title. It’s Casino without the casino. Still, there’s a lot to like here, both in memorably outlandish scenes (many of which involve a hilarious Jonah Hill) of bad behavior, and the sheer improbability of Belfort’s truly astounding misadventures. Despite all the liberal hand-wringing about Scorsese’s failure to turn the thing into an activist condemnation of unregulated capitalism, the commentary is there if you’re willing to look for it, and think for one second more.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
American Hustle (R): A con man (Christian Bale) and his partner in crime (Amy Adams) are forced to go undercover to help nail crooks way out of their league. Costarring Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Shea Whigham, and Louis C.K., and directed by David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook).
Anchorman II: The Legend Continues (PG-13): Will Ferrell’s bumbling god of the newsdesk returns with his co-anchors (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner) to front for a new network in the era of twenty-four-hour news. Director Adam McKay returns along with enough celebrities to start some weird new religion.
Forty-seven Ronin (PG-13): Keanu Reeves goes full Tom Cruise and stars as a samurai in this supernatural-tinged action flick about a group of warriors out to avenge their master’s murder. In 2D and 3D.
Frozen (PG): Computer-animated, Disneyfied adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about a girl (voiced by Kristen Bell) who makes a polar journey to convince her powerful sister to lift the Kingdom’s eternal winter. Also featuring the voices of Alan Tudyk and Josh Gad. In 2D only.
Grudge Match (PG-13): This oldtimer comedy pits Bobby “Raging Bull” De Niro against Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone against one another as rivals who come out of retirement for one last fight. Featuring Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, and Kim Basinger.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (PG-13): In the middle installment of Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of a slender kids’ book, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his cohorts fight to restore the realm of Erebor from the dragon Smaug, who is somehow or another played by Benedict Cumberbatch. In 2D and 3D.
> Inside Llewyn Davis (R): The latest film from undisputed geniuses Ethan and Joel Coen follows an emerging singer/songwriter (Oscar Isaac) through New York’s folk scene in the early 1960s— and it’s worth noting that the Coens also happen to hail from the homeland of Bob Dylan, which will almost certainly be relevant. Featuring Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, and Justin Timberlake.
> Her (R): Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) writes and directs this unconventional love story about an emotionally withdrawn man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with the voice of his smartphone (Scarlett Johansson). Featuring Rooney Mara and Amy Adams.
> The Legend of Hercules (PG-13): Renny Harlin, an unrepentant hack who’s made some of the worst movies of the last twenty-five years, directs and cowrites this flashy update of the Hercules myth, starring Kellan Lutz.
Lone Survivor (R): War drama based on the true story of a disastrous mission untaken by four Navy SEALs (Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, and Josh Berry) sent into enemy territory to hunt down a terrorist leader. Directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Very Bad Things).
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (R): The shaky-cam horror franchise with increasingly diminishing returns reboots by moving the action to an urban Latino neighborhood, where a pair of buddies (Andrew Jacobs and Jorge Diaz) encounter a demon spirit in an abandoned apartment.
> Ride Along (PG-13): Kevin Hart stars as a fast-talking goofball who must prove his manhood to his future brother-in-law (Ice Cube), a hard-nosed cop, by going on the titular ridealong in his squad car in this comedy by Tim Story.
Saving Mister Banks (PG-13): The Blind Side director John Lee Hancock helms this blatant Oscar bait that tells the true story of Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) attempts to adapt Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers’s (Emma Thompson) book into a film. Featuring Jason Schwartzman, Paul Giamatti, and Colin Farrell.
Walking with Dinosaurs (PG): Animated film that attempts to immerse the audience in a prehistoric adventure. In 2D and 3D.