Grant Park. PG. 109 minutes
Wong Kar-Wai directed this artsy portrait of Chinese hero Ip Man (Tony Leung), a.k.a. Bruce Lee's first martial arts instructor, detailing his origins as a martial arts master and his subsequent move to urban Hong Kong. It almost resembles the kung fu movie in its most classic form: a martial arts teacher is compelled to fight a ruthless adversary in a competing school. But Wong never goes where you expect, and that includes fight scenes filmed as lavish spectacle. ****
Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. 18A. 119 minutes.
Vin Diesel returns as the titular psychopathic hero (Pitch Black; The Chronicles of Riddick), a fugitive going up against predators and bounty hunters on a hostile planet. See review on Sept. 7.
TO THE WONDER
Cinematheque. PG. 113 minutes.
Terrence Malick's followup to The Tree of Life is a poetic, mostly silent view of an affair between an American engineer (Ben Affleck) and a free-spirited woman (Olga Kurylenko) he meets in France.
Cinematheque. PG. 107 minutes.
The French film by Gilles Bourdos is set in 1915 and links the world of celebrated Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) with his filmmaker son Jean (Vincent Rottiers), who would go on to make The Rules of the Game and Le Grand Illusion.
The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.
Grant Park. 14A. 102 minutes.
Dr. Jaafari (Ali Suliman) is an Israeli Palestinian surgeon, fully assimilated into Tel Aviv society, who 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. Lebanese writer-director Ziad Doueiri's film is a moving drama about his journey into an uneasy truth. **** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
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
Polo Park. PG. 96 minutes.
After a terrorist attack in London, a couple of lawyers (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall) find their own lives in danger when they join the defense team of the accused bomber in this entertaining, well-crafted, if not overtly heart-stopping British conspiracy thriller. *** 1/2 (Reviewed by Jocelyn Noveck)
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 is to live is to escape the wretched, toxic confines of a polluted earth and invade a 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
Globe. 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. ***
Grant Park, Polo Park, St. Vital. PG. 90 minutes.
Ethan Hawke is a race-car driver forced to commit mayhem in Bulgaria at the behest of a sinister online puppetmaster, with a teen punk (Selena Gomez) along for the ride. The car action may be fast, but when it comes to smarts, this thing is definitely driving in the slow lane, and Gomez's character is so awful, she may make us wistful for Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, now unseated as the most obnoxious movie heroine of all time. *
I'M SO EXCITED
Globe. 14A. 91 minutes.
Pedro Almodóvar 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. With a premise that promises rich melodrama (Almodóvar's specialty), he instead concocts a frothy, campy comedy showing the director in rare madcap form. ***
Polo Park. PG. 128 minutes
Ashton Kutcher plays computer brainiac Steve Jobs in this biopic about Jobs' rise, fall and resurrection in 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 biopic. ***
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. ***
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, 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)
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 93 minutes.
The Brit boy band created by Simon Cowell get their own 3D concert film/love-in directed by Morgan Spurlock. It's not that different from the Justin Bieber doc, or the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus concert films -- sanitized and packaged -- presenting these five British and Irish boys, ages 19-21, as paragons of pop virtue while others vouch for what "rebels" they are, and that they have "edge." **1/2 (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)
McGillvray, 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 cartels. It all feels like a '70s throwback (specifically recalling the '73 classic Charley Varrick) and Washington and Wahlberg have a bit of charisma, which helps with an otherwise rote action movie. ** 1/2
WE'RE THE MILLERS
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, 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. 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. ***
THE WORLD'S END
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 109 minutes.
The world ends not with a bang but a whimper and so too does director Edgar Wright's otherwise riotous "Cornetto trilogy" (also including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz). Simon Pegg as a stuck-in-the-past party animal who convinces four of his old mates to complete a 12-stop pub crawl unsuccessfully initiated in the '80s. Alas, the old hometown is now populated with robots. In the previous films, Wright and Pegg took the mickey out of genre movies and contemporary life. This movie, while not without some rewarding comic bits, seems to have taken the mickey out of them. ***
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. Director Adam Wingard trots out a few horror clich©s, but when it counts, delivers pretty effective jolts, especially when it emerges the killers' motivations aren't as mysterious as believed. *** 1/2