Las Vegas Weekly

December 19, 2013

Las Vegas Weekly

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A&E | SHORT TAKES minutes. Rated PG-13. Canadian Scott directs the American remake of his own French-language film Starbuck. Vaughn stars as David Wozniak, whose early 1990s sperm donations have resulted in 533 children. The flat, scrubbed-looking film barely does anything with this premise, but Pratt, in the "best friend" role, provides the movie's slyest line readings. –JMA Theaters: RR, SF, SP, ST, TS, TX, VS Despicable Me 2 AABCC Voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. 98 minutes. Rated PG. Reformed super-villain Gru (Carell) teams up with a top-secret crime-fighting force and falls for his new partner (Wiig). Gru's little yellow minions can be amusing, but they aren't enough to carry the movie, which has an underwhelming villain and a weak emotional core. –JB Theaters: TC Ender's Game AAABC Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Harrison Ford. Directed by Gavin Hood. 114 minutes. Rated PG-13. The title character (Butterfield) is a preteen charged with training for military command in humanity's war against ant-like aliens known as Formics. Screenwriter and director Hood deserves credit for putting in as much of the source novel's intellectual challenges as he can within the structure of a crowd-pleasing action movie. –JB Theaters: DI, VS Escape Plan AABCC Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel. Directed by Mikael Håfström. 116 minutes. Rated R. Twenty-five years ago, an action movie teaming Stallone and Schwarzenegger as inmates trying to break out of the world's most secure prison would have been the box office event of the year. But Escape Plan is mostly a dumb, sloppy thriller that probably would have been a disappointment even in 1988. –JB Theaters: TC unparalleled, although some sappy backstory-illuminating speeches threaten to undermine the intensity. –JB Theaters: BS, DI, SC The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug AAACC Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage. Directed by Peter Jackson. 161 minutes. Rated PG-13. It's still a bad idea to split up J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel into three movies that run nearly three hours each, but the second installment, with better pacing and a greater sense of urgency, at least makes a case for giving some of the bigger set pieces time to breathe. –JB Theaters: AL, CAN, CH, COL, DI, FH, GVL, ORL, PAL, RP, RR, SF, SHO, SP, SS, ST, TS, TX, VS Homefront AACCC Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder. Directed by Gary Fleder. 100 minutes. Rated R. With a cool hero (Statham) and a lunatic villain (Franco), Homefront—about a feud between an ex-DEA agent and a bunch of rednecks in a small Louisiana town—had the ingredients to be solid backwoods B-movie entertainment. But director Fleder missed the point and treats the material with an indifferent, grim resolve. –JMA Theaters: BS, SC, TS The Hunger Games: Catching Fire AABCC Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth. Directed by Francis Lawrence. 146 minutes. Rated PG-13. Lawrence returns as steely teenager Katniss Everdeen, who triumphed in a contest in which children fight each other to the death. Catching Fire is impressive in scope, full of dazzling special effects and elaborate action sequences. Yet it moves the story forward only incrementally, and its efforts at social commentary are muddled. –JB Theaters: AL, BS, CAN, CH, DI, FH, GVL, GVR, ORL, PAL, RP, RR, SC, SF, SHO, SP, SS, TS, TX Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa AAACC Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll. Directed by Jeff Tremaine. 92 minutes. Rated R. Far from genius, or even coherence, the latest from the Jackass crew provides a very loose plot upon which to hang its tricks, jokes and stunts. In this road/bonding movie, 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Knoxville) and 8-year-old grandson Billy (Nicoll) provide some heart as well as a few moments of Borat-like satire. –JMA Theaters: TC, TX Last Vegas AACCC Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline. Directed by Jon Turteltaub. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13. Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Kline play a quartet of old friends who head to Las Vegas for the quickie wedding of Douglas' character. The Vegas scenes are shot like an LVCVA commercial, but with less creativity, and the Vegas clichés compete with the old-age clichés for the title of most obvious. –JB Theaters: BS, DI, SC, SHO Nebraska AAAAC Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb. Directed by Alexander Payne. 115 minutes. Rated R. Payne's latest film, shot in black and white, stars the great Bruce Dern as an ornery old man who mistakenly believes he's won a million-dollar sweepstakes prize. Midwestern caricatures abound, as usual, but the film manages to find the right balance between mercilessness and pathos. –MD Theaters: GVR, SC ing, this disappointing follow-up merely uses that world as a generic backdrop for its moldy thriller template. –MD Theaters: TC Out of the Furnace AACCC Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson. Directed by Scott Cooper. 116 minutes. Rated R. The first half is a slow, ponderous character study of the troubled relationship between two working-class brothers, before the main revenge storyline eventually comes into focus. The movie might have worked better as a scuzzy thriller, because director and co-writer Cooper refuses to allow for anything resembling fun or excitement. –JB Theaters: COL, ORL, PAL, RR, SF, SP, ST, TS Thor: The Dark World AABCC Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston. Directed by Alan Taylor. 112 minutes. Rated PG-13. After the gleeful popcorn-movie high of The Avengers, it's a bit of a comedown to see Marvel superhero Thor (Hemsworth) back on his own. The Dark World hums along mostly as expected, delivering adequate superhero adventure in a fairly generic manner, right through the two post-credits stingers. –JB Theaters: AL, BS, COL, DI, PAL, RP, RR, SC, SF, SS, TS, TX Philomena AABCC Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark. Directed by Stephen Frears. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13. Based on a nonfiction book about an Irish woman searching for the child she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years earlier, Philomena delivers a weepy, feel-good (but hollow) narrative, in which a cynical, opportunistic journalist (Coogan) has his heart melted by the plight of a lovable old lady (Dench). –JB Theaters: BS, CAN, GVR, SC Turbo AACCC Voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña. Directed by David Soren. 96 minutes. Rated PG. A snail acquires magical speed powers and attempts to race the Indy 500 in this dull, predictable animated kids' movie. Ironically, the plot moves at a snail's pace, while the characters are bland and the life lessons are obvious. –JB Theaters: TC Runner Runner AABCC Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton, Ben Affleck. Directed by Brad Furman. 91 minutes. Rated R. Timberlake plays a college student who's lured into the employ of a shady businessman (Affleck) after being cheated on the guy's online poker site. But where Rounders (from the same screenwriters) made illegal gambling seem excit- Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas (Not reviewed) Tyler Perry, Anna Maria Horsford, Tika Sumpter. Directed by Tyler Perry. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13. No-nonsense grandma Madea dispenses her unique form of holiday spirit in a rural town. Theaters: AL, CAN, CH, DI, FH, GVR, ORL, PAL, RP, RR, SF, SHO, SP, SS, ST, TS, TX, VS JMA Jeffrey M. Anderson; JB Josh Bell; MD Mike D'Angelo Free Birds AACCC Voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler. Directed by Jimmy Hayward. 91 minutes. Rated PG. This chaotic and yet empty animated movie follows two turkeys as they travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving to prevent turkeys from becoming the go-to holiday meal. With its muddled historical allegory, strained humor and bland visual style, Free Birds is on par with a forgettable TV holiday special. –JB Theaters: BS Frozen AAAAC Voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. 102 minutes. Rated PG. Based loosely on the fairy tale The Snow Queen, Frozen is Disney's best animated movie in years, combining all the charms of the classic princess formula while tweaking them in clever, forward-thinking ways, accompanied by stunning animation and wonderful, Broadway-caliber songs. –JB Theaters: AL, CAN, CH, COL, DI, FH, GVL, ORL, RP, RR, SF, SP, SS, ST, TS, TX, VS Gravity AAAAC Sandra Bullock, George Clooney. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13. From the moment that two astronauts (Bullock, Clooney) receive an urgent message that flying debris is headed their way, Cuarón keeps the suspense at a breathless level for nearly the entire running time. As a story of survival, Gravity is nearly > WAR GAMES Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield (from left) confer in Ender's Game. DECEMBER 19–25, 2013 LASVEGASWEEKLY.COM 58-59_Short_Takes_20131219.indd 59 59 12/18/13 1:36 PM

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