Movies Opening Today
Act of Valor
Confused by advertisements calling this “the first film featuring real Navy SEALS?” Bottom line: The movie is a tale of fiction. But in 2007, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh filmed a video for the Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, a Special Ops division of the U.S. Navy that operates small crafts used to support special missions, particularly those of the Navy SEALS. The directors then decided to make a commercial feature film about the elite force, and hired Navy SEALS as consultants/advisers. They soon discovered that no actor could realistically portray all they do — so actual SEAL members were drafted into the film, and some documentary footage also was used. The plot: When the rescue of a kidnapped CIA agent leads to the discovery of a terrorist plot against the United States, a team of SEALS is dispatched on a worldwide manhunt. The names of the real SEALS never are used, not even in credits. The film was overseen and approved by the Naval Special Warfare unit.
Rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language — Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and the Stars and Stripes Drive-In.
Amanda Seyfried stars as Jill, who returns home from her night shift to find her sister’s bed empty. She is convinced that the serial killer from whom she escaped two years ago, has come back for her sister. The police see no proof and do not believe her, and so Jill sets out to find her sister with time running out.
Rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, brief language and drug references — Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds
Wesley (played by Tyler Perry) always has done what is expected of him, whether taking over his father’s company or becoming engaged to restless Natalie (Gabrielle Union). He is jolted out of his predictable routine when he meets Lindsey (Thandie Newton), a down-on-her-luck single mother who works on the cleaning crew in his office building. He offers to help her get back on her feet, and one good deed sparks his courage to pursue the life he really wanted. Brian White, Jamie Kennedy, Eddie Cibrian and Phylicia Rashad costar. Perry also directs.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, some violence and thematic material — Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
This comedy from producer Judd Apatow co-stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as an overextended, stressed out Manhattan couple. When Rudd’s character is downsized out of a job, they stumble upon Elysium, an open community populated by colorful characters who care only about being happy — and where money, careers and clothes are options only if you want them.
Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use — Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
Movies Continuing This Week
Kerns Rating: Three and one-half stars
Director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis use a small ($15 million) budget to frighten and entertain, introducing Seattle teenagers with unexpected superpowers. Andrew (Dane Fehaan) deals with daily abuse at home and, after finding a video camera, documents everything in his mundane life. He, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and their friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) explore a large hole in the ground. They leave with gradually growing powers of telekinesis and levitation. The drama builds as they control/increase their powers. Andrew cannot stop his dark side from emerging. When Matt interferes with Andrew’s revenge, the boys take their battle to a literally higher level, too young to understand the implications.
Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking — Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (in 2-D and 3-D)
Nicolas Cage returns five years after the original “Ghost Rider” as Johnny Blaze, still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter. He has been hiding in a remote part of Eastern Europe, where he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds, replacing Peter Fonda). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy and possibly rid himself of the curse.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language — Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and the Stars and Stripes Drive-In.
Kerns Rating: Four stars.
Director Joe Carnahan makes all the right decisions when a group of oil-rig roughnecks, and the sniper (Liam Neeson) hired to protect them, are left stranded on sub-arctic tundra when their airplane crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Tension builds as they battle mortal injuries, biting cold temperatures and hunger — only to find themselves also stalked by a pack of wolves. Neeson delivers a terrific performance as a once-suicidal character unwilling to give up. Advice: Stay through the final credits.
Rated R for violence/disturbing content including bloody images and for pervasive language — Tinseltown 17.
The Iron Lady
Kerns Rating: Three stars
Only initially impressive is a stylized approach taken by screenwriter Abi Morgan and director Phylidda Lloyd, one which ignores chronological reporting and instead introduces Margaret Thatcher (played by Meryl Streep, earning her 17th Oscar nomination) battling dementia at 86. Flashbacks tell us more about one of the 20th century’s more controversial figures, the grocer’s daughter who smashed through barriers of gender and class discrimination to be heard, and eventually lead as Britain’s first female prime minister. Missing is any explanation of why she felt driven to battle such long odds. Streep’s Thatcher can be tough and arrogant. Viewers see only visual headlines rather than the human effects of her ups and downs as PM, and home movies only sentimentalize an apparent lack of parenting skills. Also missing is any exploration of the poll tax that brought her down. Streep, under the weight of prosthetics, captures this woman who warns her future husband that she will never become “a woman who dies washing a teacup.” Hers is a courageous, deeply textured performance; one wishes the script and movie as a whole were as satisfying.
Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity — Movies 16, double feature with “My Week with Marilyn.”
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (in 3-D and 2-D)
Kerns Rating: Two and one-half stars.
An improved, amusing follow-up to 2008 remake “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The new 3-D family adventure begins when 17-year-old Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) receives a coded distress signal from his grandfather (Michael Caine), an explorer on an island that should not exist, Sean’s stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson) goes along, joined by a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens). The film takes for granted that what Jules Verne wrote about was real, and younger viewers no doubt will have fun with it.
Rated PG for some adventure action, and brief mild language — Tinseltown 17 and the Stars and Stripes Drive-In.
My Week with Marilyn
Kerns Rating: Four stars
Michelle Williams (as Marilyn Monroe) and Kenneth Branagh (as Sir Laurence Olivier) are Oscar-nominated, and for good reason. The story: In the summer of 1956, Colin Clark, 23, left Oxford to make his way in the film business. He worked as a lowly assistant on the set of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a film co-starring Olivier and Monroe. Forty years later, a diary account, “The Prince, the Showgirl and Me,” was published. But one week was missing. The story of that week was published years later as “My Week with Marilyn.” This is that story. When Miller leaves England, the coast is clear for Colin to introduce Marilyn to the pleasures of British life: an idyllic week in which he escorts a woman desperate to get away from Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work.
Rated R for some language — Movies 16, double feature with “The Iron Lady.”
Kerns Rating: Four stars
Bored rookie CIA operative (played by Ryan Reynolds) may finally reach agent status if he can only keep rogue spy/“house guest” Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) alive long enough to make it to another so-called safe house. The problem is that during Frost’s 10 years off the grid, he has built a file of corruption within the governments of multiple countries — and it could even be his own government responsible first for very realistic waterboarding, followed by almost non-stop action and fire-fights. “Is this even legal?” asks Reynolds in an early scene; he’ll lose that naivety while determined not to lose his prisoner. The movie comes across like a combination of John Woo gunfights and Jason Bourne hand-to-hand combat. Direction by Daniel Espinosa is first rate, as is the acting by Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleason, Sam Shepard and Ruben Blades. Washington, long one of America’s best actors, brings back the chilling uncertainty perfected already in “Training Day” and “American Gangster.”
Rated R for strong violence throughout and some language — Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
The Secret World of Arrietty
Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi has made an animated adventure from Mary Norton’s fantasy novel about little people who live under the floorboards. The studio that gave us “Spirited Away” (2002) updates the story for a modern-day Tokyo setting. A sickly child named Sho (voice of Tom Holland) comes to live with his great aunt Sadako. Seeing a cat chase something in the bushes, he comes across a tiny borrower — so called because they “borrow” what they need from humans living above. She is Arrietty (Saoirse Ronan), whose mother Homily (Olivia Colman) warns her about befriending Sho — since borrowers are not supposed to be seen by humans. But Arietty and Sho become friends. Knowing they have been discovered, Arrietty’s dad plans to move —but the miniature family needs Sho’s help. Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett also provide vocal talent.
Rated G — Movies 16.
Star Wars: Episode One, The Phantom Menace (in 3-D and 2-D)
Kerns Rating: Four stars
George Lucas had not directed in 22 years, and this prequel arrived in 1999, 16 years after the prior trilogy closed with “Return of the Jedi.” Lucas’ writing gears this first chapter of a new prequel trilogy for a much younger audience, and a clumsy Gungan character named Jar-Jar Binks only offers proof. The plot: When the Trade Federation blockades planet Naboo, two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), are dispatched to negotiate a settlement. Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) orders both Jedi killed, and invades Naboo with battle droids. When Qui-Gon saves Jar-Jar Binks, the latter leads them to an underwater Gungan city. Gungan officials initially refuse to join the fight, but provide transportation to the surface. Subsequently, the Jedi save Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) and also discover a slave child, Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who may have been born of The Force. Anakin helps them, wins his freedom in an exciting pod race, inspired by the chariot race in “Ben-Hur.” Some of the most thrilling scenes pit Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in light-saber battles against red-faced Sith, Darth Maul (Ray Park). In my eyes, the film suffers because it is far too easy to view Palpatine and Darth Sidious as mirror images. But while Lucas does not possess the directorial skills of those who directed “Star Wars” episodes four through six, one cannot deny that magical scenes in episode one deserve and demand to be seen on a big screen. A new generation has never viewed it that way. (The 3-D only serves to darken every sequence.)
Rated PG for sci-fi action and violence — At Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and Stars and Stripes Drive-In.
The movie centers on a married woman (played by Rachel McAdams) who loses all recent memory in an automobile accident. She struggles to rebuild her identity, while her husband (Channing Tatum) tries desperately to win her heart a second time.
Rated PG-13 for a car accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language — Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and the Stars and Stripes Drive-In.
The Woman in Black
Daniel Radcliffe, formerly our favorite young wizard, plays attorney Arthur Kipps in a classic ghost story. He is forced to leave his young son and travel to a remote village to attend to the affairs of the recently deceased Eel Marsh House owner. Working alone in the old mansion, he uncovers the town’s tragic and tortured secrets. Fears escalate when he discovers that local children have died under mysterious circumstances.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images — Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
This Means War
A comedy filled with action-adventure opens by introducing two of the world’s deadliest CIA operatives, played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, who are best friends until both fall for the same woman (portrayed by Reese Witherspoon). Having once helped bring down entire enemy nations, they now employ their skills and an array of high-tech gadgetry against each other.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language — Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and the Stars and Stripes Drive-In.