At the movies: Feb. 15, 2013

Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2013, 10:22 am
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New in theaters

Regal 14 Stadium Cinemas, Moline:

-- "Safe Haven" (PG-13)
-- "Beautiful Creatures" (PG-13)
-- "A Good Day to Die Hard (R)
Rave Motion Pictures 53, Davenport:
-- "Beautiful Creatures" (PG-13)
-- "Escape From Planet Earth" (PG)
-- "A Good Day to Die Hard" (R)
Central Theater, Geneseo: -- "A Good Day to Die Hard" (R)

Aledo Opera House:
-- "Zero Dark Thirty" (R)
These are mini-reviews of some of the movies currently playing in the Quad-Cities area.

"Identity Thief" (R, 112 min.). The pairing of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in a road trip comedy seems inspired. They're two unique comedic talents who always put an interesting spin on a line or a double take, whether starring in sitcoms or effortlessly swiping scenes in big-screen fare. Unfortunately, "Identity Thief" is a depressingly predictable road-trip buddy comedy that's far more interested in car chases, lame shootouts, physical shtick and cheap schmaltz than creating anything original. Rating: Two stars. (Richard Roeper)

"Warm Bodies" (PG-13, 97 min.). Here's a bloody, fresh twist on the most popular horror genre of this century, with none-too-subtle echoes of a certain star-crossed romance that harkens back to a certain Bard who placed a certain young Romeo under a certain balcony. A well-paced, nicely directed, post-apocalyptic love story, it has a terrific sense of humor and the, um, guts to be unabashedly romantic and unapologetically optimistic. A lot of zombie movies have heart, but usually the heart ends up on someone's plate. Cheers to "Warm Bodies" for taking us in a different direction for a change. Rating: Three and a half stars (Richard Roeper). Following are Roger Ebert's mini-reviews of new video releases.

Coming to video Tuesday, Feb. 19:
"Undefeated" (PG-13, 113 min.). The story of a high school football team that was possibly the worst in Tennessee, and the volunteer coach who dedicated himself to turning around the team and the lives of its players. Coach Bill Courtney comes across as stubborn and brave in his approach. Winner of an Academy Award as best documentary feature. Rating: Three and a half stars.
"Sinister" (R, 109 min.). A story made of darkness, mysterious loud bangs in the attic, distant moans from the dead, vulnerable children, an egomaniacal crime writer and his long-suffering wife, who is plenty fed up -- even before she discovers he has moved his family into the same house where horrifying murders took place. Ethan Hawke stars as the best-selling true crime writer, Juliet Rylance is his increasingly alarmed wife and their children experience night terrors and sleepwalking. Few films have ever been bathed in so much darkness. Rating: Three stars.
"Anna Karenina" (R, 129 min.). Joe Wright's daringly stylized new version of "Anna Karenina" is staged largely within an actual theater, and uses not only the stage but the boxes and even the main floor -- with seats removed -- to present the action. Keira Knightly, almost distractingly beautiful here, stars as Tolstoy's heroine. Jude Law is her dry and proper husband, a government minister, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Vronsky, the young military officer with whom she begins a disastrous affair. A sumptuous film, extravagantly staged and photographed, perhaps too much so for its own good. There are times when it is not quite clear if we are looking at characters in a story or players on a stage. Rating: Two and a half stars.
"Argo" (R, 120 min.). Ben Affleck directs and stars in the incredible true story of how, at the height of the Iranian hostage crisis, a CIA agent and a couple of Hollywood professionals dreamed up a cockamamie scheme to free six Americans who were not being held in the American Embassy but had found refuge with the Canadian Embassy. Kept top secret for 18 years, the operation created a fake sci-fi production named "Argo," convinced the Iranians it was real and used it to spirit the Americans out of the country. With lots of tension and also some humor from John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the Hollywood pros involved. Rating: Four stars.
"Bully" (Not rated; a PG-13 version has some vulgarities removed, 106 min.). An interesting and often touching documentary about several victims of bullying, two driven to suicide, and the parents and teachers who often had no idea what was going on. But it is episodic, and we're not sure what we learn from these personal stories except that they are sad. Rating: Three stars.
"The Sessions" (R, 95 min.). Mark (John Hawkes) is 38 years old and after contracting polio, he has spent most of those years in an iron lung. He believes his time is running out. He would like to experience sexual intercourse with a woman at least once before he dies. He contacts Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate who explains the ground rules to Mark: They will have six meetings, no more. They are not working together in order to fall in love, but to achieve a specific physical purpose. She is kind and tactful, and so is Mark's parish priest (William H. Macy), who guides him with compassion through this process. Astonishing performances, and not without humor. Rating: Three and a half stars.
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (PG-13, 103 min.). Logan Lerman stars as an alienated freshman in high school who sees himself as a chronic outsider, and is befriended by a group of older kids who embrace their nonconformist status. The group is led by half-siblings Sam and Patrick, played by Emma Watson in her own coming-of-age after the Harry Potter movies, and Ezra Miller, who was remarkable as an alienated teenager in "We Need to Talk About Kevin." They're artsy outsiders and teach Charlie it's OK to be who he is. Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, based on his own novel. Rating: Three and a half stars.
"Robot and Frank" (PG-13, 90 min.). The story of a retired burglar and a household appliance more relentless than an alarm clock. Frank Langella stars as a retired jewel thief whose worrywart son supplies him with a robot caregiver (voice by Peter Sarsgaard). Frank begins to explore the robot's abilities in lock-picking and safecracking, and the movie sweetly deals with his affection for the local librarian (Susan Sarandon). But the movie could have benefitted from more irony and complexity, and at the end was too easily satisfied. Rating: Two and a half stars.



Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)