BLUE JASMINE ***1/2
Globe, Grant Park. PG. 98 minutes.
Woody Allen splices the Bernie Madoff affair with A Streetcar Named Desire and creates a potent drama utilizing the formidable Cate Blanchett as the frail, increasingly unhinged Blanche DuBois-like wife of a high-rolling Wall Street fraudster (Alec Baldwin). After his misdeeds are exposed, she journeys to San Francisco to live with her unpretentious sister (Sally Hawkins) to make a fresh start... but a life based on lies dies hard. ***1/2
NEW IN TOWN
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 130 minutes.
A stilted, silly mishmash of earlier fantasy franchises starring Lily Collins as a young woman who learns she is the latest in a long line of "shadow-hunters," descendants of an angel born to do battle with sundry demons, vampires, witches and warlocks. If you love exposition and shapely if bland young actors in leather, skinny jeans, knee boots, Goth cocktail dresses and heavy eye makeup, this may be the movie for you. **1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
Grant Park. 14A. 102 minutes.
An Israeli Palestinian surgeon, fully assimilated into Tel Aviv society, suffers the loss of his wife in a restaurant suicide bombing, only to discover she has been deemed responsible for the attack. Convinced of her innocence, he enters the Palestinian territories in pursuit of the truth.
BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME
Cinematheque. PG. 113 minutes.
The '70s rock band Big Star, led by the late Alex Chilton, may be gone but they're not forgotten in this doc examining the band's influence on subsequent groups including R.E.M., the Replacements and Belle & Sebastian.
Cinematheque. PG. 90 minutes.
This doc examines the tragic story of Tilikum, a killer whale designated for performances in an aquarium show who killed several people while in captivity, suggesting the villain here is not the whale or the trainers, but the billion-dollar sea-park industry.
Grant Park. 14A. 85 minutes.
This pertinent docu-drama examines the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) before he was inexplicably killed by a cop at the titular San Francisco train station on New Year's Day in 2009.
I'M SO EXCITED
Globe. 14A. 91 minutes.
Pedro Almodovar directed this uncharacteristically loopy comedy set on an airplane where passengers and crew are obliged to consider that the end is near when the landing gear fails.
THE WORLD'S END
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 109 minutes.
The final entry in director Edgar Wright's so-called "Cornetto trilogy" (also including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) stars Simon Pegg as a stuck-in-the-past party animal who convinces four of his old mates (including Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan) to complete a 12-stop pub crawl unsuccessfully initiated in the '80s. Alas, the hometown has changed: Many of their old neighbours are now robots.
Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 18A. 95 minutes.
This home-invasion thriller places a fractious upper-crust family at the mercy of a contingent of masked psychos.
The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.
Polo Park. 14A. 112 minutes.
Director James Wan returns with his Insidious star Patrick Wilson for an allegedly real-life haunted house story set in the '70s. Wan serves up some classic scary situations and provides a decent jolt or three, but horror audiences are more sophisticated than this story. *** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
DESPICABLE ME 2
Polo Park, St. Vital. G. 98 minutes
This sequel to the 2010 hit sees Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) enlisted to save the world. It's a gag-filled delight from start-to-finish with more laughs in its first five minutes than Monsters University managed over its entire length. ****1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 110 minutes.
This science-fiction epic takes place in the year 2154 where a dying man (Matt Damon) realizes his only hope to live is to escape the wretched, toxic confines of a polluted earth and invade the titular paradise-like space station occupied exclusively by the very rich. It's wonderfully pertinent, simultaneously evoking the immigration debate currently raging in the U.S. as well as the widening divide between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us. Pity writer-director Neill Blomkamp can't resist the lure of techs and violence with all those robotic smackdowns. ***1/2
Grant Park, Polo Park, Towne. PG. 128 minutes
Ashton Kutcher plays computer brainiac Steve Jobs in this biopic about Jobs' rise, fall and resurrection at Apple. Kutcher, usually recognized as a dim goofball (Dude Where's My Car?) pulls off a decent performance, but even while it acknowledges Jobs' vanity and tempestuous temper, it still feels more like hagiography than legit bio-pic. ***
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 18A. 103 minutes.
This sequel to the 2010 comic book movie sees Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) face a new menace in the form of Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who has gone the route of the super-villain with an assembly of serious bad guys in his thrall. Alas, as the first movie's shock-of-the-new appeal has worn off, a sense of the familiar has blanketed the franchise, making for a harsh, disagreeable combination of ultra-violence and outr© high school hijinks. **
LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER
Globe, Grant Park, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park. 14A. 133 minutes.
Lee Daniels (Precious) directs this drama starring Forest Whitaker as a sharecropper's son who grows up to become a White House butler in service to every U.S. president from Eisenhower (Robin Williams) to Reagan (Alan Rickman). The stunt casting is off-putting and Daniels prefers seamy melodrama to insights into the varying characters of presidents, but the central idea still manages to provoke. ***
Polo Park, St. Vital. PG. 115 minutes.
A promising young techie (Liam Hemsworth) is made a pawn in a high-finance duel between competing tech kingpins (Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman) in this slow, slick and superficial thriller from director Robert Luketic. ** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. PG. 106 minutes.
This sequel to Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief sees our demi-god hero (Logan Lerman) and his friends attempting to save their refuge by going on a mission to the Bermuda Traingle to discover the Golden Fleece. The saga gets points for attempting to illuminate the world of Greek mythology for young audiences, but it's too bad the result is largely lacklustre. **1/2 (Reviewed by Claudia Puig)
McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. G. 92 minutes.
A humble crop-dusting plane named Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) aspires to be a racer and enters an around-the-world contest in this Disney spin-off of Pixar's Cars franchise. The movie earns a few bonus air miles with some exotic locales and a few genuinely funny moments but a wartime flashback is a tad too grim for the presumably juvenile crowd. **
THE SMURFS 2
Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 105 minutes.
The Wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria), needing some Smurf magic, conjures up a couple of Naughties (elfin Smurf-like entities of dishonest disposition) to kidnap Smurfette (Katy Perry). Filled with Smurf wholesomeness, Smurf puns and posi-Smurf messages about "never giving up on family," The Smurfs 2 still sucks Smurfberries. ** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
McGillivray, Polo Park. 14A. 109 minutes.
A couple of bank robbers (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) accidentally steal $40 million from a small-town bank, leading to the slow unravelling of a massive conspiracy involving the DEA, the CIA, the Navy and a Mexican drug cartel. It all feels like a '70s throwback (specifically recalling the '73 classic Charley Varrick), but Washington and Wahlberg have a bit of charisma, which helps with an otherwise rote action movie. **1/2
THE WAY WAY BACK
Towne. PG. 103 minutes.
A 14-year-old boy (Liam James), bullied by his mother's overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carell) gets a job at a water park and finds an unlikely friend and confederate in the facility's outrageous manager (Sam Rockwell). A nifty blend of humour, heart and drama. **** (Reviewed by Colin Covert)
WE'RE THE MILLERS
Grant Park, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 110 minutes.
Jason Sudeikis is a lowly pot dealer forced to assemble a bogus wholesome family to get a huge shipment of marijuana across the border from Mexico. A twist on the snobs-vs.-slobs comedy formula -- call it straights-vs.-reprobates -- this is a pleasingly raunchy summer farce with Sudeikis ideally cast as a lowlife with a wholesome facade and Jennifer Aniston gleefully tearing apart her Friends image as the sensible good girl in the role of a desperate stripper at the end of her G-string rope. ***
Polo Park, St. Vital. 14A. 126 minutes.
The feral, adamantium-boned loner Logan (Hugh Jackman) is summoned to Japan by a man whose life he saved during the Second World War only to find himself rendered physically vulnerable for the first time in his life. This gets points for going somewhere new in a superhero movie, where the norm is to get stuck in the fertile but familiar mud of the origin story. ***