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Capsule reviews of feature films


This news story was published on April 27, 2012.
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The Philadelphia Inquirer –

ACT OF VALOR 1 1/2 stars. This action film’s claim to fame is that it stars active-duty Navy SEALs. The problem is that these stoic warriors infect Act of Valor with more wooden acting than you’d see at a ventriloquism school. 1 hr. 51 R (violence, profanity) — David Hiltbrand

ADDICTION INCORPORATED 2 stars. A documentary that recounts the legal battles against American Big Tobacco. It’s a long, studious film. 1 hr. 42 PG-13 (adult themes) — David Hiltbrand

ALBERT NOBBS 3 stars. Oscar-nominated for her turn as a 19th century Irish hotel butler — a small, fearful character whose whole life has been a lie — Glenn Close wrings surprising poignancy out of this odd, and oddly charming, film. 1 hr. 53 R (adult themes) — Steven Rea

AMERICAN REUNION 2 1/2 stars. The “American Pie” guys return for a 13th annual high school bash, and party-hardy as they re-live their adolescence and grapple with adult responsibilities — sort of. 1 hr. 53 R (sex, nudity, profanity, barely adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE ARTIST 4 stars. Everything old is new again in this deft, delightful black-and-white silent film set in late 1920s Hollywood, as the industry transitions to talking pictures — leaving some of its biggest stars behind. With Jean Dujardin as a screen idol and Bérénice Bejo as the ingenue he mentors and falls for, as her career takes off, and his plummets. 1 hr. 40 PG-13 (adult themes) — Steven Rea

BEING ELMO 3 1/2 stars. This documentary looks at Kevin Clash, the man from working-class Baltimore who created the lovable Muppet. 1 hr. 16 PG (mild language including a brief drug reference) — Carrie Rickey

BEING FLYNN 3 stars. Robert De Niro and Paul Dano co-star in Chris Weitz’s low-key, high impact story inspired by Nick Flynn’s memoir about his days working at a homeless shelter where he reconnects with his estranged father. 1 hr. 42 R (profanity, brief nudity, drugs, mature themes) — Carrie Rickey

BULLY 3 stars. The controversial documentary on the problem of bullying in American schools makes it to the big screen. 1 hr. 39 PG-13 (cruelty to children) — Gary Thompson

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS 3 1/2 stars. Five friends pick the wrong cabin for rest and relaxation in this excellent horror film. 1 hr. 35 R (strong, bloody horror, violence and gore, profanity, drug use, and some sexuality/nudity) — Gary Thompson

CASA DE MI PADRE 3 stars. A goofball Spanish-language parody of the cheesily over-dramatic telenovela form, with Will Ferrell as the dimwitted son of a Mexican rancher, caught up in romance, sibling rivalry, drug-dealing and mystical communion with a talking white mountain lion. 1 hr. 25 R (violence, sex, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea

CHIMPANZEE 3 stars. Tim Allen narrates this child-friendly documentary that follows the progress of a young chimp who gets separated from his family. 1 hr. 15 G — Gary Thompson

CHRONICLE 3 1/2 stars. Smart, fun, and increasingly dark, this reality-grounded sci-fi tale finds three high school friends climbing into a hole — and emerging with telekinetic powers. But instead of using their newfound abilities to fight crime, they just do what guys in high school would do if they could levitate stuff and crush stuff and hurl stuff through the air. 1 hr. 23 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

CORIOLANUS 3 1/2 stars. A visceral, vital modern-dress interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, about a Roman general and his rise, fall, and revenge. Ralph Fiennes takes the title role with command, and is commanding behind the camera in his directorial debut, too. With Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain and a formidable Vanessa Redgrave. 2 hrs. 02 R (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS 3 stars. Whit Stillman returns from taking off the first decade of the new millennium, casting the awkwardly charming Greta Gerwig as a college coed with a peculiar worldview. She and her roommates invite a newcomer (Analeigh Tipton) into their midst, offering advice on campus life, on frat boy numskulls, on what to wear. Lots of deadpanning and declaiming, lots of fun. 1 hr. 39 PG-13 (adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE DEEP BLUE SEA 3 1/2 stars. Shot in a gauze of melancholy, Terence Davies’ crushing adaptation of the 1952 Terrence Rattigan play is a meditation on self-destruction and desire, with Rachel Weisz as the London magistrate’s wife who tosses her life away for a lover she knows doesn’t love her back. 1 hr. 38 R (sex, nudity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

EXIT STRATEGY 2 stars. Incompatibility becomes a relationship stumbling block after an evicted man moves in with his girlfriend of three months in this micro-budget romantic comedy from Philly native son, actor-writer Jameel Saleem. 1 hr. 16 No MPAA rating (mature themes) — Tirdad Derakhshani

FOOTNOTE 4 stars. The rivalry between father- and-son Talmudic scholars spins into a moral and ethical whirlwind when one is honored with a huge prize, in this brilliant tragicomedy from Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar. Nominated for the foreign-language Academy Award. 1hr.43 PG (adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD 3 1/2 stars. The past and the present, ancient laws and modern longings, collide in this satisfying, psychologically complex tale of a teenager caught in a blood feud in craggy modern-day Albania. From the director of “Maria Full of Grace.” 1hr.49 No MPAA rating (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE HUNGER GAMES 2 1/2 stars Jennifer Lawrence stars as the bow-and-arrow-toting, brow-furrowed heroine of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult novel about a dystopian society’s televised spectacle, in which 12 boys and 12 girls battle to the death, until just one remains. The big-budget, tonally odd adaptation opts for a Vegas-meets-“Wizard of Oz” production design, as Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen and the other “tributes” prep for their lethal showdown amidst the extravagant glitz of the Capitol. And then they go into the woods, and start the killing. PG-13 (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

IN DARKNESS 3 stars. Agnieszka Holland’s Oscar-nominated true-life account of a group of Polish Jews who lived in a city’s sewers for 14 months, evading Nazis and enduring unspeakable discomfort and dread — and of the sewer worker who helped them, first for the money, then for more morally complex reasons. Troubling, inspiring, frightening. 2 hrs. 25 R (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME 3 stars. Jason Segel stars as a 30-year-old stoner, holed up in his mom’s basement (nicely played by Susan Sarandon) and interpreting seeminglyrandom events as portentous signs of life-changing magnitude. Ed Helms, the great Judy Greer and Rae Dawn Chong co-star; from sibling filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass, of “The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead” and “Cyrus” fame. 1 hr. 23 R (profanity, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI 3 1/2 stars. This documentary portrait of Jiro Ono, proprietor of a 10-seat sushi bar in a Tokyo subway station, is a beautiful meditation on work, on life, on seeking perfection in things big and small. 1hr.22 PG — Steven Rea

JOHN CARTER 2 1/2 stars. A sci-fi sword-and-sandals saga, adapted from the first installment of Edgar Rice Burroughs “Barsoom” books, about a Confederate cowboy transported from post-Civil War Arizona to war-torn Mars, where towering six-limbed green guys are battling with various beasts and human-like species. Over-the-top pulp, cool to look at, but kind of uninspiring. 2 hrs. 12 PG-13 (violence, icky aliens, scary green Tharks, mild Marsoomian profanity) — Steven Rea

THE KID WITH A BIKE 3 1/2 stars. A fiercely determined 11-year-old goes looking for the father who abandoned him — and finds a guardian angel of sorts in the form of a village hairdresser, in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s bracing, resonant film. 1 hr. 27 No MPAA rating (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE LUCKY ONE 2 1/2 stars. Zac Efron is an Iraq war veteran who finds a photo in the bombed-out rubble — a photo of a radiant woman — and decides to track her down when he returns stateside. Fate, destiny and sage cliches whorl together in this glossy, sun-dappled adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks romance. With Taylor Schilling as the girl in the photo. 1 hr. 41 PG-13 (sex, profanity, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE MAN NOBODY KNEW 3 1/2 stars. At once a deeply personal film and an important historical document, Carl Colby’s portrait of his father, former CIA chief William Colby, offers insights into the world of old-school espionage, but also into the trickier territory of morality and truth. How does someone whose livelihood depends on deception function in the “normal” spheres of everyday life? 1 hr. 44 No MPAA rating (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

MARLEY 3 stars. A beautiful if sometimes jumbled documentary about the reggae superstar Bob Marley, from his childhood in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica, to his enduring influence in pop music, even 30 years after his death. 2 hrs. 25 PG-13 (drugs, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

MIRROR MIRROR 2 1/2 stars. Julia Roberts hams it up snappily as the evil queen in this dazzling-on-the-eyes, ho-hum-on-the-head retelling of ye olde Snow White tale. The Audrey Hepburn-esque Lily Collins has the looks but lacks the charm as Ms. White, Armie Hammer makes for a clownish handsome prince, Nathan Lane is the palace buffoon, and Jordan Prentice and Danny Woodburn distinguish themselves among the troop of little people playing the seven dwarves. 1hr.46 PG (cartoonish violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

MISS BALA 3 stars. Taut, terrifying crime thriller about a young beauty pageant contestant inadvertently caught up in the chaos and carnage of the Mexican drug wars. 1 hr. 53 R (violence, sex, nudity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

MOZART’S SISTER 3 stars, Exquisitely sad tale of the older sibling to little Wolfgang, herself a prodigy, writing sonatas and singing and playing the harpsichord and violin like a master. Marie Féret, daughter of the filmmaker, stars. No MPAA rating (adult themes) — Steven Rea

PINA 4 stars. A shockingly beautiful and moving tribute to the late German choreographer Pina Bausch, by her friend, the filmmaker Wim Wenders. The Oscar-nominated doc is in 3-D, and it’s easily the 3-D experience of the year. 1 hr. 46 PG (adult themes) — Steven Rea

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN 3 stars. British rom-com, heavy on the whimsy, about a fisheries department bureaucrat (Ewan McGregor) and a sparky London marketing whiz (Emily Blunt) thrown together to work on the cockamamie concept of stocking a Yemeni waterway with upstream-swimming fishies from the U.K. 1 hr. 47 PG-13 (profanity, sex, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY 4 stars. This captivating animation from Japan’s Studio Ghibli is based on “The Borrowers,” Mary Norton’s children’s fantasy about micro-beings who live beneath the floorboards. As lovingly written as it is beautifully rendered. 1 hr. 35 G — Carrie Rickey.

A SEPARATION 3 1/2 stars. The foreign language Oscar nominee from Iran is an understated, complicated tale of legal and familial strife, as a middle-class, secular Tehran couple in the throes of breaking up are pitted against a poor, devout couple full or rage and righteousness. 2 hrs. 03 PG-13 (adult themes) — Steven Rea

THIN ICE 3 stars. Greg Kinnear stars as a sleazeball insurance agent trying to scam an absent-minded old farmer (Alan Arkin) out of a prized violin. Larceny and murder ensue in this nicely turned, increasingly dark morality tale. With Billy Crudup, Lea Thompson. 1 hr. 33 R (profanity, violence, sex, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THINK LIKE A MAN 3 stars. In this disarming and entertaining comedy inspired by Steve Harvey’s self-help book, marriage-minded women and relationship-phobic men both win. The sparkling ensemble cast includes Taraji P. Henson, Michael Ealy, Meagan Good and Romany Malco. Directed by Tim Story. 2 hrs. 02 PG-13 (sexual situations, profanity, drug use) — Carrie Rickey

THIS MEANS WAR 2 1/2 stars. Unbeknownst to lovelorn Reese Witherspoon, the men she is dating (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) are both CIA agents and best friends embroiled in a race for her affections. Intermittently amusing, this is a bromantic comedy in the clothes of a romantic one. 1 hr. 38 PG-13 (sexual content, profanity) — Carrie Rickey.

THE THREE STOOGES 3 1/2 stars. Mo, Larry, and Curly stumble into a murder plot while trying to save their childhood orphanage. 1 hr. 32 PG (slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language) — Gary Thompson

TIM & ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE If you’re totally fried on hash brownies, bong hits and beer, this jaw-droppingly dumb waste of time (“ironically” dumb, of course) might seem like fun. A lazy assemblage of sketch comedy raunch, mock shlock TV ads and ideas that even the writers of “Mall Cop” would have tossed. (Yes, it’s set in a mall.) 1 hr. 34 R (profanity, drugs, nudity, sex, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

TOMBOY 3 stars. Written and directed by Celine Sciamma. With Zoe Heran, Jeanne Disson and Mathieu Demy. Sun-dappled account of a young French girl who moves to a new suburb and pretends to be a boy. 1 hr. 24 PG-13 (brief nonerotic adolescent nudity) — Carrie Rickey

21 JUMP STREET 3 stars. This potty-mouthed and drug-laced reimagining of the 1980s TV show has one of the highest laughs-per-minute ratios since the Naked Gun films. Co-stars Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play the baby-faced undercover cops assigned to bust a High-school drug ring and despite the raunch and noise they are endearingly funny. 1 hr. 49 R (pervasive drugs, extreme profanity, violence, sexual situations) — Carrie Rickey

UNDEFEATED 3 stars. Inspiring — and Oscar-winning — documentary about the struggle to turnaround a historically awful high school football team. And about the tireless volunteer coach who sees it as his mission to inspire a band of underpriveleged kids from the desolate precincts of North Memphis, Tenn. PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE VOW 2 1/2 stars. Rachel McAdams is a perky, artsy spouse who flies through a car window and then awakens from her coma with no memory of the man she loves. That would by Channing Tatum, who cries man tears and does everything in his power to make his amnesiac wife remember who he is. 1 hr. 44 PG-13 (nudity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

WANDERLUST 3 stars. Riotous, raunchy and raggedy, David Wain’s “Lost in America” update stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as disillusioned New Yorkers looking for the American dream. With Justin Theroux. 1 hr. 38 R (nudity, sexual candor, drug use) — Carrie Rickey

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN 2 1/2 stars. Tilda Swinton, fearless as always, is a mother grappling with the consequences — and guilt, and shame — of a high school killing spree committed by her son, in this fragmented, dreamlike arthouse horror show from filmmaker Lynne Ramsay. 1hr.50 R (violence, sex, adult themes) — Steven Rea

WRATH OF THE TITANS 1 1/2 stars. Sam Worthington returns as Perseus silly but noisy togas-and-fireballs sequel. It’s Greek mythology for the Grand Theft Auto generation. 1 hr. 33 PG-13 (Intense fantasy violence) — David Hiltbrand

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RATINGS:

4 stars: Excellent; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Fair; 1 star: Poor

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