Movies: ‘Get On Up’ opens, and other new, recent films reviewed

King of soul: Chadwick Boseman in
King of soul: Chadwick Boseman in "Get on Up."

OPENING

GET ON UP

Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language and violent situations

Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Craig Robinson, Octavia Spencer

The story of James Brown’s journey from extreme poverty to fame as the godfather of soul. Tate Taylor (“The Help”) directed the biographical drama.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

★★★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language

Stars: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana

There’s plenty of spectacular action in this comic book adventure about an unlikely team of outlaws defending the galaxy from a genocidal maniac, but it’s the deftly handled humor that makes it work. “Parks and Recreation” cast member Pratt stars as Peter Quill (who would much rather be called Starlord), a likeably roguish thief with a predilection for pratfalls. He’s Han Solo with a silly streak. And there’s a permanently disgruntled talking raccoon (Cooper) in his crew who’s even more fun.

STILL PLAYING

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

★★★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout

Stars: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Jacki Weaver, Eileen Atkins

Woody Allen’s probably didn’t break a sweat coming up with this light, romantic change of pace following last year’s heavy-duty “Blue Jasmine,” but it’s basically a delight, nonetheless. A cynical 1920s stage magician (Firth) attempts to expose a psychic medium (Stone) but gradually begins to believe she could be the real thing — while beginning to fall for her. “Magic” is an intentionally superficial entertainment, but there’s a bit of substance under the surface as well as a nice selection of prime Allen one-liners.

AND SO IT GOES

★★

Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements

Stars: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Rob Reiner

It will only take about five minutes for you to figure out precisely where this thoroughly artificial retirement-age romance is going as it plods along its deeply rutted path. Forced to take care of the granddaughter he didn’t know he had while his son does time in prison, misanthropic realtor Douglas reaches out to his disapproving, widowed, breathy-voiced lounge singing neighbor (Keaton) for an assist. Any doubts about what happens next? Rob Reiner, a long, long way from “When Harry Met Sally,” directs with sitcom snappiness and canned pathos.

THE FLUFFY MOVIE

Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for suggestive material and sexual references

Stars: Gabriel Iglesias, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Juliocesar Chavez

Stand-up comic Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias’s 23-country “Unity through Laughter” tour was captured in this concert film.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Not reviewed

Rated R language, drug use and some sexual content

Stars: Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick, Joe Swanberg

An irresponsible 20-something (Kendrick) disrupts the holidays after moving in with her older brother (Swanberg) and his family. Swanberg wrote and directed the comedy-drama.

HERCULES

★★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Irina Shayk

The mythical hero (Johnson) questions his life as a mercenary when a king and his daughter seek his help to defeat a tyrannical warlord. Brett Ratner (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) directed the action-adventure.

I ORIGINS

Rated R for some sexuality/nudity, and language

Stars: Michael Pitt, Astrid Berges-Frey, Brit Marling

The purely scientific worldview of a molecular biologist (Pitt) is challenged when he uncovers possible evidence of reincarnation. Mike Cahill (“Another Earth”) wrote and directed the drama.

LUCY

★★★ 1/2

Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Analeigh Tipton

When the drugs she’s being forced to smuggle burst open in her body, a woman (Johansson) develops superhuman abilities and a strong desire for vengeance. Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”) wrote and directed the action-adventure.

A MOST WANTED MAN

★★★

Rated R for language

Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe

Condensing the complicated plot of John Le Carré’s 2008 novel results in occasional confusion and the slow, brooding pace sometimes tests patience, but “A Most Wanted Man” does have one very good thing going for it — Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final starring role. He’s subtle perfection in the role of a rumpled, world-weary German spy hoping to link a tortured Chechen refugee to a Muslim philanthropist suspected of funding terror, while fending off the CIA and an arrest-happy Hamburg police chief.

STILL PLAYING

BOYHOOD

★★★★

Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use

Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

This one is special. Writer/director Richard Linklater (“Slacker,” “School of Rock,” “Before Sunrise”) took a few days each year for 12 years to shoot this loosely plotted, subtly moving fictional portrait of a boy (Ellar Coltrane), his sister (Linklater’s daughter Lorelei), his mom (Arquette) and his mostly absentee dad (Hawke) simply going about their lives, with all its attendant calamities and joys.

PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE

Not reviewed

Rated PG for action and some peril

Stars: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Hal Holbrook

When air-racer Dusty (Cook) learns his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he shifts gears and becomes an aerial firefighter. Disney producer/TV director Roberts Gannaway makes his feature debut with the animated adventure.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY

Not reviewed

Rated R for strong disturbing violence, and for language

Stars: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez

A man seeking revenge for the death of his son assists a stranded couple when their car breaks down during America’s annual anything-goes Purge. Writer/director James DeMonaco returns for the sequel to last year’s thriller.

SEX TAPE

★★ 1/2

Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use

Stars: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe

When their sex life fizzles after 10 years and two kids, a married couple (Segel and Diaz) decide to spice things up with a homemade porn opus — and immediately regret it after copies are synched to iPads they’ve given to family and friends. The leads have minimal chemistry and director Jake Kasdan (“Bad Teacher”) takes a long time to get things moving, but “Sex Tape” is pretty funny at times when the farce finally kicks in. Especially long-ago sex tape veteran Lowe as Diaz’s secretly raunchy prospective boss.

WISH I WAS HERE

Not reviewed

Rated R for language and sexual content

Stars: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Pierce Gagnon, Joey King, Mandy Patinkin

A struggling actor (Braff) decides to try home-schooling his children when he can no longer afford to pay for their private school. Braff (“Garden State”) wrote and directed the comedy.

STILL PLAYING

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language

Stars: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jason Clarke

A small group of humans who survived a devastating virus challenge the rule of evolved ape leader Caesar. Matt Reeves (“Let Me In”) directed the sequel to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

LE CHEF

★★

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language

Stars: Jean Reno, Michael Youn, Raphaelle Agogue, Julien Boisselier

It’s meant to be a soufflé-light charmer, but this bland, predictable French comedy basically falls flat. Two chefs on the menu, actually: classic-cuisine superstar Alexandre (Reno, better known for action fare) and otherwise-clueless kitchen genius Jacky (Youn) — a half-hearted odd-couple teaming up to save his restaurant from crass trendiness. There are a couple of clever swipes at molecular cuisine (“phosphorescent radish mousse”), but “Le Chef” ultimately resorts to dressing Youn up as a Japanese lady for laughs, and doesn’t get them.

BEGIN AGAIN

★★★

Rated R for language

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine

Writer/director John Carney’s follow-up to his near-perfect 2006 indie musical romance “Once” is basically an attempt to lay down the template and have another go with movie stars this time around, and a plusher budget. Ruffalo plays a one-time star producer whose career and personal life are on the skids but sees salvation in his discovery of singer-songwriter Knightley — leading to a guerrilla-style recording of an album in various New York locations. Their relationship is a bit trumped-up, but the musical vibe is quite nice.

EARTH TO ECHO

★★

Rated PG for some action and peril, mild language

Stars: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt

This flashy but uninspired revamp of ’80s sci-fi adventures for kids (particularly “E.T.”) was shot found-footage style, as if on camcorders, smartphones and the like, making it frequently confusing in addition to thoroughly artificial. Sensing a government conspiracy after their parents are ordered to vacate their homes, three boys (Halm, Astro and Hartwig) ride out into the Nevada desert and befriend a tiny, crash-landed alien. Unfortunately, debut director Dave Green places much more value on the way “Earth to Echo” looks than making the over-familiar story and two-dimensional characters credible.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

★★ 1/2

Rated R for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, and language

Stars: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn

The hit-and-miss detective/horror thriller “Deliver Us from Evil” comes with a double helping of clichés, but at least the back-and-forth genre hopping keeps it fairly lively. NYPD detective Sarchie (Australian Bana with a “Noo Yawk” accent) teams up with a whisky-drinking, chain-smoking, smolderingly sexy Jesuit exorcist (Ramirez) to investigate very freaky/very gross goings-on in the Bronx. Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”) co-wrote and directed based on Sarchie’s memoir.

LIFE ITSELF

★★★ 1/2

Rated R for brief sexual images/nudity and language

Stars: Roger Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Chazz Ebert, Werner Herzog, A.O. Scott

More than just a tribute to the career of the world’s most famous and influential film critic, this often-revelatory documentary is also an intimate portrait of a life well lived — right up to the very last moment. In most ways, “Life Itself” conforms to the standard format of biographical documentary, covering Ebert’s life and career with archival photos and reminiscences. But it ultimately goes much deeper when Ebert learns, mid-film, that he’s losing his long battle with thyroid cancer — and decides to continue regardless.

SNOWPIERCER

★★★

Rated R for violence, language and drug content

Stars: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Jamie Bell

The first English-language film by South Korea’s Joon-ho Bong (who also made the spectacular old-fashioned monster movie “The Host”) takes place aboard a high-speed train circling the globe after a flash-freeze apocalypse. A revolution is in progress, as the oppressed poor, led by unrecognizably grimy “Captain America” Evans, attempt to seize control from the decadent rich — and encounter many surprises. Grim throughout, but exhilaratingly so, with lots of dazzling flourishes from this world-class visual stylist.

TAMMY

Not reviewed

Rated R for language including sexual references

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh

After losing her job and learning her husband has cheated on her, a woman (McCarthy) hits the road with her hard-drinking, foul-mouthed grandmother (Sarandon). Actor Ben Falcone co-wrote (with his wife McCarthy) and directed the comedy.

THEY CAME TOGETHER

Not reviewed

Rated R for language and sexual content

Stars: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders

A corporate candy company exec and the owner of an indie candy shop (Rudd and Poehler) hate each other at first sight — and then, strangely, begin to have a change of heart. David Wain (“Role Models”) co-wrote and directed the romcom parody.

Tags:

0 Comments

Read about Ernest Hemingway and his ties to Oak Park by clicking here.

Modal