Capsule reviews of feature films (July 12, 2013)

The Fresno BeeJuly 10, 2013 


The rating system: A, excellent; B, good; C, so-so; D, poor; F, terrible. Unless noted otherwise, reviews are by Bee critics Rick Bentley (RB) and Donald Munro (DM).


Frances Ha: A 27-year-old is always on the move without ever seeming to get anywhere. This month's presentation by Fresno Filmworks.

Grown Ups 2: Sequel to the family comedy starring Adam Sandler.

Pacific Rim: Giant robots must battle giant monsters to save the world.

Unfinished Song (Song for Marion): A man (Terence Stamp) has his routine disrupted by a local singing group.


After Earth (D+): Teen, his dad crash on devastated Earth. Will Smith stars. M. Night Shyamalan's sci-fi tale of a teen, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), and his military-minded father, Cypher (Will Smith), who get stranded on Earth 1,000 years after all humans have left for higher intergalactic ground. PG-13 (violence, disturbing images). 100 minutes. (RB)

Despicable Me 2 (B): Super villain Gru (Steve Carell), his adorable girls and all those wonderful Minions are back. "Despicable Me 2" doesn't have nearly as much heart as the original, but it makes up for that deficiency with a lot more humor. It's tough to find the same kind of emotional notes that made the original film — the 2010 hit where Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) goes from a super villain who steals the moon to the loving father of three orphans — so enjoyable. It seems almost impossible to emotionally top adopting orphans. That's why the sequel leans more on the humor, especially with a much-expanded role for the jabbering, yellow, round assistants known as his Minions. These are the funniest yellow characters this side of "The Simpsons." Rated PG (rude humor). 98 minutes. (RB)

Epic (C+): Animated tale of the battle between good and evil in the woods. A children's animated film that is more entertaining than it has any right to be. Rated PG (action scenes, rude language). 102 minutes. (Roger Moore, McClatchy)

Fast and Furious 6 (B-): Vin Diesel drives his way into another high- octane adventure. It's a fun summer thrill ride as long as director Justin Lin keeps the pedal to the metal in the action scenes. It's when he moves over to the slow lane to deal with relationships that the movie hits some big potholes. Whether it's the exaggerated action scenes or the way this franchise has morphed into an international thriller, the movies remain popular. Fans of the franchise need not worry about these drivers coming to the end of their road. There will be a seventh installment of this series. Rated PG-13 (action scenes, adult situations). 130 minutes. (RB)

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (B-): After most of the Joes are assassinated, the remaining members of the team retaliate. Instead of being little more than an extended commercial to sell action figures, as the first film was, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have tightened the story. The result is a campy film — but not so campy it detracts from the white-knuckle action. Rated PG-13 (action scenes, language). 110 minutes. (RB)

The Hangover Part III (F): What happens in Vegas becomes another sequel. The name might suggest low-level hijinks, but "The Hangover Part III" never delivers. Rated R (language, drug use, graphic nudity, violence). 100 minutes. (RB)

The Heat (B): Mismatched partners must find a way to work together. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star. Not since Mel Gibson and Danny Glover traded jabs in the "Lethal Weapon" movies has there been such an entertaining partnership. Director Paul Feig gets the most out of his leads' different comedy styles, using Bullock's more controlled humor as a buffer for McCarthy's often manic style. Rated R (language, crude humor). 117 minutes. (RB)

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain: Concert film that repackages one of the comedian's sold-out stand-up sets in Madison Square Garden. Rated R (language, sexual material). 80 minutes. (Stephanie Merry, Washington Post).

The Lone Ranger (C+): Armie Hammer plays the masked man. Johnny Depp co-stars. The story is a standard Western tale, with the Lone Ranger and Tonto trying to catch the evil Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) who is in cahoots with some dastardly businessmen. Hammer is likable enough, both as attorney John Reid and as The Masked Man. But he is closer to the homespun nature of Sheriff Andy Taylor in "The Andy Griffith Show" than the heroic way the character was played by Clayton Moore in the TV series. Rated PG-13 (action scenes). 149 minutes. (RB)

Man of Steel (B-): A visitor from another planet becomes Earth's greatest guardian. Since the movie travels very little new ground it's a competent retelling of the tale. There's just nothing super about it. Rated PG-13 (comic book violence). 143 minutes. (RB)

Monsters University (B-): A look back at how Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) become scaring buddies. This prequel approach is sweet, colorful and generally funny, but it lacks the emotional tug of the original film. "Monsters University" has plenty of strengths. Rated G. 110 minutes. (RB)

Now You See Me (C+): Bank-robbing illusionist makes money disappear. Until the final scene, this is a mildly interesting look at what happens when larceny meets illusion. Imagine David Copperfield becoming a member of the "Ocean's Eleven" gang. Director Louis Leterrier shows a deft hand when dealing with the stage presentations, but he doesn't have equal ability staging the more emotional moments. Leterrier's past work has shown the same weakness when it comes to personal drama. Rated PG-13 (language, sexual content). 101 minutes. (RB)

Oblivion (B): Tom Cruise stars in this end-of-the-world science-fiction drama after an alien invasion more than a half-century ago. Director Joseph Kosinski has created a beautiful film, including the stark image of the moon broken into millions of pieces, but too often the movie comes across as a small story that's just trying to look big. Rated PG-13 (violence, language, brief nudity). 125 minutes. (RB)

Olympus Has Fallen (A-): This high-powered tale of terrorists who take over the White House is "Air Force One" meets "Die Hard." This is the kind of movie Gerard Butler should make instead of fumbling around with light comedies like he has done in recent years. As Banning, he's got that grizzled look of a man who's seen way too much death in his life — most of it of his doing. Butler snarls and snipes his way through the film, creating a character that falls somewhere between hero and anti-hero. Rated R (violence, language).

Pain & Gain (D-): Three bodybuilders kidnap and torture a man for his money. Dwayne Johnson stars. Had the film been a fictional story, it would have been a lot easier to accept the absurdity of the crimes and actions. Rated R (language, violence, nudity, drug use). 130 minutes. (RB)

Star Trek Into Darkness (A): The crew of the Enterprise faces a threat to Starfleet. Chris Pine stars. Director J.J. Abrams proved with 2009's "Star Trek" that it is OK to boldly go where others had gone before, as long as the journey is exciting, original, entertaining and respectful to legions of loyal fans. His film, which found the balance between reprising and reimagining, was a direct hit. In his second voyage on the Starship Enterprise, Abrams has perfected that approach. It's the best Star Trek work since Gene Roddenberry brought the franchise to life in the 1960s. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 132 minutes. (RB)

This is the End (A-): Hollywood celebrities try to survive the end of the world. Seth Rogen stars. There's every reason in the world to hate "This Is the End," which makes an unapologetic assault on everything from religious beliefs to sexuality with humor that's pitch black in tone. And it takes gross-out material so far beyond conventional social limits that it makes "The Hangover" look like a Nickelodeon movie. It lewdly kicks what's acceptable right in the political correctness. Rated R (language, violence, sexual material, drug use, graphic images). 107 minutes. (RB)

White House Down (D+): A Washington, D.C., police officer (Channing Tatum) must save the White House. The film isn't funny when it tries to be and is funny when it doesn't intend to be. The film can't decide if it wants to be an action movie or summer comedy. It fails at both. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 137 minutes. (RB)

World War Z (B-): United Nations employee (Brad Pitt) travels the world in an effort to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic. Zombies bad. Brad Pitt good. That's all you need to know about the zombie apocalypse movie "World War Z." Except for its massive scale and scope, it is little more than the kind of zombie movies made since George A. Romero brought life to the genre in 1968 with "Night of the Living Dead." "World War Z" is a large panoramic view at a world. From above, the view almost looks like a swarming army of ants consuming a bread crumb. That's a fun way to spend the summer with the undead. Rated PG-13 (violence, disturbing images) 156 minutes. (RB)


The Conjuring: A family turns to expert help when it moves into a house occupied by an evil spirit. Ron Livingston stars.

Red 2: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reunites his unlikely team.

R.I.P.D.: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds play cops dispatched to protect the living from those who refuse to move peacefully into the afterlife.

Turbo: A snail gains enough speed to enter the Indy 500.


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