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WHEN JEWS WERE FUNNY

Cinematheque. PG. 90 minutes.

Director Alan Zweig (Vinyl; I Curmudgeon) probes two questions: Why were so many of the comedians of his youth Jewish? And why don't Jews still dominate comedy? Zweig layers personal history -- and his own aching nostalgia for days when Jewish suffering yielded hilarity -- into interviews with comic expert witnesses such as Shelley Berman, Shecky Greene, Marc Maron, Howie Mandel and Gilbert Gottfried, with funny and disarming effect. This doc returns to Cinematheque on Saturday. 3 1/2

 

STARTING FRIDAY

NON-STOP

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 107 minutes.

An air marshall (Liam Neeson) finds himself in the hot seat on a trans-Atlantic flight when an anonymous psycho threatens to kill one person on the flight every 20 minutes.

 

SON OF GOD

Globe, Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. 14A. 138 minutes.

The stand-alone story of Jesus Christ is adapted for the big screen from last year's History Channel miniseries The Bible with Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as the titular scion.

 

STALINGRAD

Polo Park Imax. 14A. 131 minutes.

If you got interested in Russian history after the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, consider this historical drama from Russia, in 3D Imax, about a band of Russian soldiers attempting to keep a building from the clutches of the invading Germans during one of the most devastating battles ever fought.

 

THE WIND RISES

Polo Park. PG. 127 minutes.

Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki offers up what may or may not be his swan song, a fanciful biography of pioneering Japanese airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi as he attempts to realize his dreams of flight.

 

STARTING SATURDAY

 

A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM

Cinematheque. Subject to classification. 106 minutes.

Director Mark Cousins offers an offshoot of his 15-hour doc The Story of Film: An Odyssey with this look at how children have been portrayed in film, including scenes from diverse sources including Night of the Hunter, The Red Balloon and ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.

 

NOW PLAYING

 

The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.

 

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

Polo Park. 14A. 100 minutes.

This new adaptation of David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago stars Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy as a couple of single men negotiating their rocky path from the bar scene to committed relationships with fractious soulmates Regina Hall and Joy Bryant. What keeps us around until the closing credits is the electrical charge of Hart and Hall as they bust each other up. They're the Wimbledon Finals of sexy, sassy, drunken comic banter -- two pros, evenly matched enough to put on a great show, even if they make us forget about the rest of the movie around them. 3/5 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

AMERICAN HUSTLE

Globe, McGillivray. 14A. 138 minutes.

Director David O. Russell follows up last year's unexpected hit Silver Linings Playbook with a movie deserving of any and all accolades, recycling two of that film's stars -- Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence -- paired with Christian Bale and Amy Adams of The Fighter. Russell's take on the Abscam affair offers riches of deception and danger with terrific performances by Cooper and Lawrence as genuinely horrible people. 4/5

 

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Grant Park. 14A. 121 minutes.

In the grand tradition of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill, playwright Tracy Letts introduces another dysfunctional American family in the Westons. Fire-breathing matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) holds savage court when her three daughters (Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicolson) show up to comfort their newly widowed, cancer-afflicted mom. Trimmed from its three hour and 20 minute stage incarnation, the downbeat drama retains its cathartic humour, but two hours of shrill tantrums and plate-smashing hysterics are overpowering. 3/5 (Reviewed by Kevin Prokosh)

 

ENDLESS LOVE

Polo Park, St. Vital. PG. 105 minutes.

This remake of a Brooke Shields melodrama from 1981 stars Gabriella Wilde as a girl from a privileged family who falls for a poor but honest hunk (Alex Pettyfer), much to the chagrin of her suspicious dad (Bruce Greenwood). Taken on its own, this movie is an uncomplicated tale of star-crossed lovers stocked with lovely, lush settings and beautiful actors. But in the context of either the previous movie or Scott Spencer's 1979 novel, this is pure pablum representing the safe, inoffensive Nicholas Sparks-ification of the romance genre. 2/5

 

FROZEN

Polo Park. G. 102 minutes.

A young princess (voiced by Kristen Bell) must rise to the occasion when her sorceress sister (Idina Menzel) accidentally puts their kingdom in a deep freeze in this Disney animated musical. The songs are more poppy than the enduring Broadway-like songbooks of Disney musicals past, a weakness compensated for in animation art that is particularly gorgeous. 3/5

 

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Polo Park. 14A. 162 minutes.

In this second instalment of Peter Jackson's latest J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) attempts to aid a band of plucky dwarves in reclaiming their kingdom from the titular dragon. It dispenses with much of the painstaking geek exposition of the first film and brings on the action, with help from a couple of ass-kicking elves (Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom) but still hews too close to Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy in plot, theme and execution. 3 1/2

 

I, FRANKENSTEIN

Towne. PG. 93 minutes.

In a dystopian world where demons and gargoyles battle for supremacy, Victor Frankenstein's creation Adam (Aaron Eckhart), the key to the secret of human immortality, finds himself caught in the middle. Regrettably, the tone of the piece is saturated with phoney-baloney gravitas, which tends to leach the fun out of it. Adam is not the only thing in this movie without a soul. 1 1/2

 

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

St. Vital. PG. 106 minutes.

Tom Clancy's canny CIA hero is rebooted for a second time with Chris Pine taking on the role of a newly minted CIA recruit who uncovers a Russian plot to destroy the American economy. The first of the Ryan films not based on a Clancy novel, Shadow Recruit offers a more holistic reboot and turns out to be a wholly satisfactory, handsomely mounted affair, especially compared to the franchise fumble The Sum of All Fears. 3 1/2

 

LABOR DAY

Kildonan Place. PG. 111 minutes.

Director Jason Reitman adapted the Joyce Maynard novel about a convict (Josh Brolin) who forcefully enters the life of a depressed single mom (Kate Winslet) and her son (Gattlin Griffith). Veering away from his typically edgier fare, Reitman enters Nicholas Sparks territory with this romantic drama, but Winslet and Brolin keep the melodrama from flying out of orbit. 3/5

 

THE LEGO MOVIE

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 101 minutes.An ordinary Lego figure (voiced by Chris Pratt) is enlisted to lead a force of Lego good guys (including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) against an evil megalomaniac plotting to glue the Lego universe together. This wild animated feature may appeal to kids, but adults will be heartened by its potent satiric undercurrent and its championing of creativity. 3/5

 

MONUMENTS MEN

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 118 minutes.

A platoon of art experts is assembled to retrieve stolen works of art from the Nazis in this fact-based combat drama starring and directed by George Clooney. It's a great idea for a war movie, but the screenplay feels a few drafts short of completion with a sketchy narrative that never achieves any momentum, in addition to Clooney's heavy-handed messaging: Art is good. 2 1/2

 

THE NUT JOB

St. Vital. G. 110 minutes.

When his cache of acorns is destroyed, a squirrel and his friends contrive a plan to live through the winter by invading a nut store. This is a surprisingly simple, funny and often cute slapstick comedy, better than any animated film released in the doldrums of January has a right to be. 3/5 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

PHILOMENA

Grant Park. 14A. 98 minutes.

A political journalist (Steve Coogan) gets emotionally involved when he helps an older woman (Judi Dench) search for the son she forcibly gave up for adoption decades earlier. Philomena is a standard issue little-old-lady tour de force for Oscar winner Judi Dench, but it's a delicious change of pace for snarky funnyman Steve Coogan.4/5 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

POMPEII 3D

McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 105 minutes.

A gladiator (Kit Harington) falls for the daughter of a senator (Emily Browning) in the Roman city of Pompeii, while more serious issues await due to the impending apocalyptic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Kiefer Sutherland co-stars as an evil Roman general bent on claiming Browning for himself. It's a clumsy Titanic-meets-Gladiator conjoining of disaster and gladiator movies so serious and bombastic, that makes one pine for the days English directors hired Frankie Howerd for their Pompeii movies. 2/5

 

RIDE ALONG

Polo Park, Towne. 14A. 100 minutes

Kevin Hart stars as a security guard who accepts the challenge when the cop brother (Ice Cube) of his intended bride invites him to accompany him on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta. Even by the standards of the well-worn buddy-cop genre, this is a lazy movie, insulting the audience by letting us stay five steps ahead of the hack screenwriters. 2/5 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

ROBOCOP

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 118 minutes.

This remake stars Joel Kinnaman as a cop transformed into a law enforcement cyborg by a corporation with dubious respect for the rule of law. It lacks the ferocity and originality of the original Paul Verhoeven classic -- note the PG rating -- but it does take the material in an interesting, not terrible direction. Cybernautic fighting units aren't as outlandish a concept as they were in 1987, and director José Padhila accommodates with a movie more grounded in contemporary reality. 3/5

 

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT

Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital. 14A. 95 minutes.

In a show of solidarity you'd only find in a rom-com, Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) come to the support of their about-to-be divorced pal Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) by promising to stay single and unattached, a vow that inevitably comes back to bite them, especially when Jason falls for a winsome writer (Imogen Poots). Coming after Joseph Gordon-Levitt's more gutsy rom-com deconstruction Don Jon, this movie feels not only spineless but emasculated. 1/5

 

3 DAYS TO KILL

McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. 14A. 117 minutes.

A dying Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) accepts one last assignment in exchange for a potentially life-saving drug that might give him a chance to reconcile with his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). Daft and sloppy as it is, this rarely fails to entertain, all part and parcel of the madness of producer Luc Besson, 3/5 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

12 YEARS A SLAVE

Grant Park. 14A. 134 minutes.

Director Steve McQueen adapted a harrowing memoir by Solomon Northup (here played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in upstate New York, abducted and sold into slavery. The beauty of this movie is in how we identify with Northup and come to understand the awful effects his loss of liberty had not just on him, but on the moral relativists and outright sadists who ran the machinery of slavery. 5/5 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

WINTER'S TALE

Polo Park. PG. 118 minutes.

This fantasy drama stars Colin Farrell as a burglar who exists in both present day and 1900s-era New York where he falls in love with a dying heiress. It amounts to a lovely but slow and emotionally austere experience, a romantic weeper that shortchanges the romance and the tears. 2 1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Grant Park, McGillivray VIP. 18A. 180 minutes.

Martin Scorsese draws a bold parallel between the underworld of Goodfellas and the supposedly straight world of high finance with this memoir of a depraved stockbroker (Leonardo DiCaprio). Instead of violent excess, the film goes with sexual excess, but it remains a concise macroscopic depiction of the over-arching greed that derailed the economy. 4/5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2014 ??65524

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