2 GUNS (R) After a summer of superheroes, giant robots and giant-er special FX, these two guns loaded with humor-piercing banter, accurately shot by two dead-eyes like Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, are a welcome change of pace. (Red 2, another comic book adaptation with similar tonal aspirations, wasn’t as consistently successful at the action-comedy changeup.) DEA Agent Bobby “Beans” Trench and Navy Intelligence Officer Michael “Stig” Stigman are two unlikely partners. Both believe the other to be a law breaker. When they unwittingly steal $43.125 million from a shadowy organization, represented by Earl (Bill Paxton at his homily sociopathic), they must trust one another again to clear both their names. Wahlberg’s first venture with director Baltasar Kormakur, the decent crime thriller Contraband, had little of the charm or wit of this thoroughly entertaining buddy action comedy. Washington and Wahlberg have great chemistry, and the latter shines. He’s as goofily funny as he was in The Other Guys. Kormakur smartly stays out of the way, confidently allowing his leads and supporting cast (Edward James Olmos, Paula Patton, James Marsden and Fred Ward) to do the heavy lifting. 2 Guns is loaded and hits the bull’s eye with every shot.
AUSTENLAND (PG-13) Kerri Russell plays a woman obsessed with "Pride and Prejudice" and all things Jane Austen. But when she travels to a Austen theme park, finding her Mr. Darcy is a lot harder in reality.
BASQUIAT (R) 1996. Tate is turning thirty! Come celebrate with some old favorites picked by UGA’s film professors. Dr. Richard Neupert has chosen Saturday’s film, Basquiat, from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly filmmaker, Julian Schnabel. Jeffrey Wright stars as Jean Michael Basquiat, the young street artist who shot to stardom thanks to discovery by Andy Warhol (David Bowie) and Co. With Benicio del Toro, Gary Oldman, Michael Wincott, Claire Forlani, Dennis Hopper, Tatum O’Neal, Courtney Love, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Parker Posey and Sam Rockwell. (Tate Theater)
BLACKFISH (PG-13) The EcoFocus Film Festival and UGA Speak Out for Species host a preview screening of the compelling new documentary, Blackfish. Documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite investigates the controversial captivity of killer whales for the ever popular SeaWorld shows through the story of Tilikum, an orca responsible for the deaths of several trainers. Dr. Lori Marino, who is featured in the film, and a Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and a Faculty Affiliate of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, will take part in a Q&A that follows the special preview screening. (Ciné)
BLUE JASMINE (PG-13) Oh my god! Andrew Dice Clay in a Woody Allen movie? I’m so in. Not to mention Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Sally Hawkins (so good in Happy-Go-Lucky), Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard. I don’t even know that I need to know what the film’s plot. (A rich woman moves in with her down to earth sister after her cheating husband loses everything.) Apparently, Allen’s back from his European sojourn, though he hasn’t returned to New York yet; this drama is set in San Francisco.
CLOSED CIRCUIT (R) The trailers give very little away about this thriller starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. Bana and Hall play lawyers and former lovers who find themselves in danger while preparing the defense for an international terrorist. Director John Crowley won several international awards for his previous features Boy A and Intermission. Academy Award nominee Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), best known for writing Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, wrote the screenplay. With Jim Broadbent, Ciaran Hinds and Julia Stiles.
THE CONJURING (R) James Wan has directed several horror films since bursting on the scene with the original Saw. Insidious looked like it would be his masterpiece, but a mushy final act stole the goodwill generated by a wonderful setup. Not so with Wan’s The Conjuring. An excellent haunted house-cum-demonic possession movie, this film, much like Pacific Rim, excels in its genre because of its innocence and its lack of cynicism. Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) investigate the things that go bump in the night. Most times, a rational explanation solves the case; sometimes, it’s something paranormal. The occurrences in the Perron family’s new house are not just paranormal; they’re malevolent. Wan stages the Perron’s haunting with utmost care for mise-en-scene and framing. Don’t expect a lot of CGI ghosties. From the font in the opening credits, the film harkens back to the 70s and places itself not as a wannabe, but as a peer next to such modern classics as The Amityville Horror and (dare I type it) The Exorcist. Horror movies don’t get much better than this flick nowadays.
DESPICABLE ME 2 (PG) As far as animated sequels go, Despicable Me 2 has more creative life in it than might first be thought; it’s way better than Cars 2. Gru (v. Steve Carell) may no longer be a master criminal, utilizing his freeze rays and other diabolical inventions to raise his three adopted daughters—Margo (v. Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (v. Dana Geier) and Agnes (v. Elsie Fisher). When a new super villain steals a dangerous, experimental serum, the Anti Villain League – represented by sweet potential love interest Lucy (v. Kristen Wiig) – enlist Gru’s assistance. Watching this enjoyable kiddie flick with a kid definitely increases the appeal of the little yellow Minions, whose roles have been enlarged with their own spinoff in the works for 2014. Carell’s Boris Badunov accent still entertains and warms the heart, as does little Agnes. A little long, even at 98 minutes (remember when Disney cartoons clocked in under 80?), Despicable Me 2 has no shot at surpassing expectations like its underdog predecessor, and its appeal to anyone over ten probably depends on one’s tolerance for the Minions. Still, it’s a funny movie for kids and parents. On a hot or rainy summer day, that’s more than good enough.
ELYSIUM (R) Science fiction offers a rich canvas upon which ambitious authors and filmmakers can point out the flaws in modern society via a far-off future. Think Orwell, Bradbury, Kubrick, etc. Filmmaker Neill Blomkamp certainly sees the polemical advantages of sci-fi. Unlike his near perfect District 9, his immigration parable, Elysium, rarely ventures past its bleak concept to become an entertaining movie. In 2154, the Earth has gone from third rock from the sun to third world. Orbiting in the skies above the planet is Elysium, where the wealthy live forever thanks to breakthroughs in medical technology. An ex-con turned factory worker, Max De Costa (Matt Damon), gets sick in an industrial accident and seeks a means to get to Elysium. Tricked out with an exoskeleton that makes him stronger and nearly invincible, Max goes all Terminator until he gets to Elysium, run by ice-cold Defense Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster). District 9’s Sharlto Copley impresses as Delacourt’s psychotic merc, Kruger, though his accent’s incomprehensibly thick. With Blomkamp’s mastery of ultraviolence, cyborg tech and high concept satire, the South African could be a new (and improved?) Paul Verhoeven, were he to also equal the Dutchman’s exuberant sense of overkill.
THE FAMILY (R) Robert De Niro in a mob comedy? This concept had already grown tired with Analyze This. The presence of Gallic director Luc Besson and the twist that De Niro’s mafia family has been relocated to Normandy provide a brief glimmer of hope. De Niro is joined by Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Agron (“Glee”) and John D’Leo. Tommy Lee Jones appears as the Blake family’s CIA agent handler. Martin Scorsese is even in on the action as an executive producer.
GETAWAY (PG-13) Ethan Hawke continues his genre tear, leaving horror and venturing into action exploitation. Hawke stars as Brent Magna, a former racecar driver who must follow a mysterious man’s directions if he hopes to ever see his kidnapped wife again. Selena Gomez costars as his passenger. Courtney Solomon hasn’t directed much (his previous two features are Dungeons & Dragons and An American Haunting) but has produced a lot as head of After Dark Films. With Jon Voight.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (PG-13) The Conjuring director, James Wan, and his Saw screenwriter, Leigh Whannel, collaborate on this sequel to their 2011 hit. After the chilling events of the first movie (whose best scene remains the terrifying cameo by Darth Maul), the Lambert family—Josh (Patrick Wilson), Renai (Rose Byrne), Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), Dalton (Iron Man 3’s Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astor)—seek more answers to the childhood mystery that’s tied them to the spirit realm. Trailers for the sequel look promising.
IRON MAN 3 (PG-13) Happily, Shane Black has taken over the Iron Man franchise from Jon Favreau (Black also co-wrote the script), and it’s mostly a blast right out of 1987. I dig Black’s vision of Iron Man 3 as a buddy movie; I just wish his Stark had suited up more. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) may be the rare superhero alter ego that is more interesting out of costume, but watching him investigate a mystery in Small Town, Tennessee (child sidekick in tow) felt more like episodic television than the initial, post-Avengers solo adventure. The climactic showdown where a hoodied-and-Polo’ed Tony and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) run around a cargo ship with guns drawn was way more Lethal Weapon 2 than Iron Man 2. Armor them up, and you have yourself a cool twist on the 80s' buddy concept Black helped pioneer. The Iron Man franchise goes 0 for 3 on villains; none are in Iron Man’s league. The potential of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is wasted with a twist that, while amusingly executed, leaves the film villainously bereft. Such minor quibbles don’t devalue Iron Man 3’s entertainment worth; it’s one high quality blockbuster (terrifically pulpy, worth watching credits included).
KLUTE (R) 1971. Tate is turning thirty! Come celebrate with some old favorites picked by UGA’s film professors. First up is Jane Fonda’s Academy Award winning turn as a prostitute in Professor Rielle Navitski’s pick, Klute. Private detective John Klute (Donald Sutherland) and call girl Bree Daniel (Fonda) investigate the disappearance of a Pennsylvania businessman. Director Alan J. Pakula was a three-time Oscar nominee (To Kill a Mockingbird, All the President’s Men and Sophie’s Choice). With Roy Scheider. (Tate Theater)
LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER (PG-13) I wonder if Lee Daniels now wished he’d followed up Precious with this crowd-pleasing slice of historical nostalgia, chronicling the major events of the second half of the 20th century through the eyes of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forrest Whitaker). Were this film released later in the year, I’m sure Whitaker would be in the awards hunt; however, this August release date didn’t hurt The Help. With its exceptional cast—Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack and Alan Rickman appear as Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Reagan, plus there’s Oprah, Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, Melissa Leo, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave—The Butler overcomes the natural tendency of such films to drift into sentimental nostalgia. Daniels never sugarcoats the Civil Rights Movement, especially impressive for its PG-13 rating. The Butler’s anecdotal narrative inevitably draws comparisons to Forrest Gump, but Daniels’ film is more complicated. Too bad the scenes of Gaines’ home life, dominated by Oprah as his unhappy wife, lack the strength of those set in the White House and the Deep South. (Note: The title was changed to Lee Daniels’ The Butler for reasons of copyright, not ego.)
THE LONE RANGER (PG-13) Is the Lone Ranger that hard to get right? This second failed attempt to bring the masked man back to the big screen (do you recall 1981’s Legend of the Lone Ranger?) reunites Johnny Depp with his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski for another bloated blockbuster that misses the mark. Depp’s Indian savant Tonto is one of the oater’s strengths; the star swaggers and mugs like a silent film star. Otherwise, this over-plotted, overlong origin story establishes the wrong tone for its masked hero. With Tonto providing the comic relief, John Reid should have been a one-track-minded vigilante of justice—the Lone Ranger as a cowboy Batman. As John Reid, Armie Hammer stammers and stumbles along like Clark Kent or Jack Burton. He’s not a natural Wild West lawman; he leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to Tonto. Verbinski and his team of scripters play everything for slapstick laughs, despite slaughtering hundreds, including an entire Native American tribe. The final action spectacle aboard two moving trains, scored to the "William Tell Overture," ends the movie properly, but it’s not enough to right the wrongs done to this classic character.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (PG-13) I am so over romantic-tinged, supernatural fantasies aimed at teens. The first movie in what the makers hope to be the new Twilight et al. contains every single YA genre trope. When her mother (Lena Headey) disappears, a seemingly normal girl, Clary Fray (Lily “Daughter of Phil” Collins), discovers her significance in a shadow world of demons, vampires, werewolves and witches. Apparently, Clary is the only one able to find The Cup, one of the Mortal Instruments, which was hidden by her mother. With bad people played by the likes of Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Kevin Duran after the Cup, it’s a good thing Clary can count on a punkishly cute, part-Angel, part-human Shadowhunter named Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower). Maybe this sort of Junior “True Blood” seemed original a few years ago, but all it is in 2013 is boring. Don’t expect new Karate Kid director Harald Zwart to liven up the proceedings, and the cast is terribly underwhelming. God love Jared Harris, but Lane Price certainly cannot do this alone. At least Beautiful Creatures had Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson and Viola Davis to gleefully camp it up. The Mortal Instruments is desperately frumpy and achingly serious in comparison.
NASHVILLE (R) 1975. Tate is turning thirty! Come celebrate with some old favorites picked by UGA’s film professors. Professor Christopher Sieving’s choice is Robert Altman’s 1975 classic, Nashville. This sprawling character-driven epic stars Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Academy Award nominee Ronee Blakely, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter), Shelley Duvall, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Murphy, Lily Tomlin and Keenan Wynn. If you’ve never seen Nashville, you’ve never seen Altman at his best. Nominated for five Academy awards, including Best Picture. (Tate Theater)
NOW YOU SEE ME (PG-13) A magical heist flick, you say? I’m skeptical, I say. Four street magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco) are enlisted in a mysterious, magical plan to do something, but nobody is really sure what until the last reel. Hot on their heels is a dogged FBI Agent, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), and a debunker of magicians (Morgan Freeman). Now You See Me is as entertaining as it is eye-rollingly contrived. However, this smug band of protagonists is hard to pull for despite game attempts by Harrelson and Fisher; Darth Eisenberg finally crossed over to the Smug Side. Fortunately, Ruffalo, the lovely Melanie Laurent and underused sidekick Michael Kelly (check out Netflix’s “House of Cards” for his best work) are present to pick up the slack. Clash of the Titans’ Louis Leterrier (to be fair, he should probably be remembered for the first two Transporters and Unleashed) keeps the illusions moving along too fast for anyone to see through the script’s tricks until the woeful reveal. Now You See Me has the slick, breezy air of a ‘70s TV show, an okay trait for forgettable summer fun.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (PG-13) 1968. Tate is turning thirty! Come celebrate with some old favorites picked by UGA’s film professors. The Tate celebration finishes off with Professor Antje Ascheid’s selection, Once Upon a Time in the West. Sergio Leone’s epic classic stars Jason Robards and Charles Bronson as Cheyenne and Harmonica, two gunmen that promise a widow (Claudia Cardinale) they’ll track her family’s killer, Frank (Henry Fonda, cast against type). Horror great Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Academy Award winner Bernardo Bertolucci helped Leone craft the story. (Tate Theater)
ONE COUCH AT A TIME EntrepreneuREEL presents a special screening of the first full-length feature documentary about the phenomenon of couchsurfing. The doc follows veteran couchsurfer Alexandra Liss as she moves through twenty-one countries and six subcontinents over seven months thanks to connections made through CouchSurfing.org. Sharing economy expert Rachel Botsman, founder of Burningman Larry Harvey, sacred economist Charles Eisenstein, and the founder of CouchSurfing, Casey Fenton, are all interviewed in Liss’ film. How much would you share with a stranger? (Ciné)
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (PG) The popular boy band hits the big screen in a movie directed by Academy Award nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me). (This kind of pop-blum does not fit into Spurlock’s oeuvre.) The rise of Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis from competing on “The X Factor” to performing at London’s O2 Arena is chronicled. If you liked Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never, you’ll be hard-pressed to justify any animosity for the Brit boy band’s musical doc.
PACIFIC RIM (PG-13) Yes, Pacific Rim’s giant monsters versus giant robots concept is unbelievably dumb, but the level of unironic fun is bigger than Knifehead and Gipsy Danger combined! (Granted, that comparison won’t mean much to you until you see the movie, but trust me, it’s big.) A portal to another dimension opens in the Pacific, unleashing giant monsters called Kaiju on humanity, who builds giant robots called Jaegers to counter them. Controlled by two mind-linked (the film calls it drifting) pilots, Jaegers give us the edge over the Kaiju, until they don’t. Years into a losing war, the Jaeger program leader, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), takes one last chance, sending the last surviving robots and pilots (including Charlie Hunnam, “Sons of Anarchy”) to close the portal for good. I could gush about this film for pages. The most well-realized blockbuster of its kind, Pacific Rim delivers the childlike robot action missing from all three misguided Transformers flicks. Writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s smartest move was leaving the snark and the cynicism to lesser movies (Sharknado, anyone?), and Pacific Rim delivers on the geek promise of his previous features. Summer 2013 thanks you, Mr. del Toro!
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (PG) Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief was not terrible, but it definitely suffered from Chris Columbus Syndrome. Well, its successor, Sea of Monsters, has full-blown, terminal sequelitis. The titular hero, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), must save Camp Half-Blood, the safe haven for the gods’ half-mortal children, so he embarks on a quest for the legendary Golden Fleece. Backed by his pals—Athena’s daughter Annabeth (the gorgeous, unnecessarily blonde Alexandra Daddario) and his Cyclops half-brother, Tyson (Douglas Smith)—Percy must defeat bland villain Luke (Jake Abel), who’s still mad at his dad (Zeus), rescue satyr Grover (Brandon Jackson) from Polyphemus (fortunately voiced by Ron Perlman) and defeat a reborn Cronos. Even with the additions of Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci and Anthony Head (stepping into Pierce Brosnan’s digitized hooves as centaur teacher Chiron), Sea of Monsters is a giant misfire. This flick isn’t even worth the excuse to stare at Alexandra Daddario for almost two hours. Even the all right FX cannot overcome the awful writing and charmless acting, especially from Lerman. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters has almost surely sunk the chances of Percy Jackson: The Titan’s Curse ever seeing the light of day. Someone else cast Daddario stat!
PLANES (PG) What with its Cars pedigree and Dane Cook voicework, Planes could have been a lot worse. It’s no more disagreeable than Turbo, a kiddie flick with which it shares some central DNA. A cropduster named Dusty Crophopper (v. Cook) longs to race across the skies. Unfortunately, he’s afraid of heights. With the help of his friends—including a Mater stand-in named Chug (v. Brad Garrett)—and mentor, Skipper (v. Stacy Keach), Dusty conquers his fears and the skies. It’s cute, sweet, and maybe a smidge direct-to-DVD; the voice cast—Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer and Sinbad (?!)—is a step below the usual Pixar crop (though John Ratzenberger does pop by for his obligatory vocal cameo). Kids that love Cars will not care and will most likely fall for Planes. What’s next? Ships?
• RIDDICK (R) Vin Diesel’s return as the anti-hero Richard B. Riddick may not have the scope of The Chronicles of Riddick, but writer-director David Twohy’s return to the smaller scale, B-grade science fiction of Pitch Black proves a smart move. Five years after the events of Chronicles, Riddick is stranded on a hostile planet. The arrival of dueling mercenary teams (one includes Katee “Starbuck” Sackhoff), both looking to capture or kill the convicted murderer. Much as in Pitch Black, Riddick’s peculiar skill set is needed to help his human foes defeat the planet’s native creatures. Diesel simply nails Riddick’s charismatic killer, but it’s easy to pull for him when his hunters are so lackluster, outside of the aforementioned Sackhoff. Twohy has created a cool character in a familiar sci-fi milieu, and while I would have preferred the series continue its more mythic, Conan-in-space trajectory, the box office of Chronicles said otherwise. Smaller works better for this character, as is proven by Pitch Black and its almost too similarly structured second sequel. Some better genre faces to support the underrated Diesel (think the first film’s Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Keith David) would benefit any future Riddick adventures.
SALINGER (PG-13) Filmmaker Shane Salerno (he co-wrote the screenplay for Oliver Stone’s Savages) attempts to solve the mystery that is J.D. Salinger. Salerno interviewed 150 subjects, many of whom were close to the reclusive author. Famous folk like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito, John Guare, Martin Sheen, David Milch, Robert Towne, Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, Gore Vidal and Pulitzer Prize winners A. Scott Berg and Elizabeth Frank also contribute their thoughts on Salinger and his influential works, particularly The Catcher in the Rye. (Ciné)
THE SPECTACULAR NOW (R) Let’s just pretend for a moment that you are not interested in a film as astonishing as The Spectacular Now. Maybe romantic high school dramedies where teen sweethearts like Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) trudge through their senior year of high school do not appeal to you. Then you can still enjoy seeing our great Athens on the big screen. Clarke Central students, faculty and alumni definitely don’t want to miss seeing their beloved school on the big screen. After hot sophomore picture Smashed, acclaimed filmmaker and Cedar Shoals grad, James Ponsoldt, returns with what, in a perfect world, would be his breakthrough film, an Oscar-worthy effort certain to make waves at the Independent Spirit Awards. Ponsoldt has a knack for choosing the right actors at the right time. In Teller and Woodley, Ponsoldt has chosen two young actors with the natural, charming effortlessness of bigger stars, and both are poised on the brink of superstardom. Adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel by (500) Days of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, The Spectacular Now is a teen movie made by and for adults that stands out by not indoctrinating audiences into the cult of youth.
THIS IS THE END (R) This meta-comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (their directorial debuts!) stars Rogen and a bunch of his pals—James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and a lot more—as they face the end of the world. The jokes fly fast and loose in the trailers. If the movie can live up to its own buzz, this flick could be one of the year’s funniest. With almost any comic actor one can think of or recognize.
TURBO (PG) Why, in a cinematic world so accepting of superheroes, is the idea of a racing snail so absurd? I don’t know, but it is. After a first act highlighted by endearing animation and stellar voice work from Ryan Reynolds and Paul Giamatti, Turbo gets stupid, as the main mollusk is imbued with the abilities of a car (not just speed but alarm, radio and headlights) after a freak accident involving a street racer and some nitrous. After buddying up with a taco-making fellow named Tito (Michael Pena), Turbo and his other racing snail pals—including Whiplash (v. Samuel L. Jackson) and Smoove Move (v. Snoop Dogg)—head to the Indy 500, where they will face off against defending champion and world’s greatest racecar driver, Guy Gagne (v. Bill Hader). While a much better cartoon than its trailer portrays, Turbo will mostly appeal to those kiddies for whom Cars has run out of gas. I never imagined animated snails could be so appealing. Turbo definitely benefits from one of the best voice casts (I have yet to mention Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph and Luis Guzman) of the summer.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (R) We’re the Millers doesn’t break any laugh records, but after a few laughless weeks at the cinema, it more than accomplishes its goal. Its silliest problem is its star, the hilarious Jason Sudeikis, who comes off far too smug far too easily. (One wonders how this movie would have played with a more sympathetic David Clark, played by Jason Bateman or Jason Segel, etc.) After running afoul of his drug kingpin pal (Ed Helms), Dave (Sudeikis) must smuggle a smidge that turns out to be a lot more than a smidge of marijuana across the border. Dave hatches a brilliant plan to fake a family with stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston, who is getting hotter with age), runaway teen Casey (Emma Roberts) and virginal Kenny (Will Poulter, Son of Rambow). Everything works out great until he runs into a swell DEA agent and his wife (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) and the big-time Mexican drug lord to whom the weed really belongs to catches up with them. We’re the Millers will probably gain popularity once it starts airing non-stop on FX. Still, it’s a funny afternoon diversion, thanks mostly to its clever cast, not its familiarly sitcom-ish script.
THE WOLVERINE (PG-13) With Walk the Line’s James Mangold (just imagine if the film’s first director, Darren Aronofsky, had stuck around) in the director’s chair, The Wolverine can’t be worse than its predecessor, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, right? The movie also uses Frank Miller’s classic mini-series as a framework, as Wolverine ventures to Japan. This fanboy is pretty stoked, even if they are trotting out my one of my top two least favorite superhero tropes—the loss of powers.
THE WORLD’S END (R) The Cornetto Trilogy, begun in Shaun of the Dead, concludes pitch-perfectly with The World’s End. Five old friends—Gary King (co-writer Simon Pegg), Andy (Nick Frost), Ollie (Martin Freeman), Steve (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan)—reunite in their hometown to again attempt an epic pub crawl. They just didn’t realize the world as they know it might be ending, when their pub crawl is interrupted by a Who-vian invasion of blue-blooded robots. Pegg and director/co-writer Edgar Wright know comedy. The jokes all land and the comic beats/pauses are perfectly synced. You will want to watch The World’s End again just to hear the jokes you laughed through the first time. Franchise filmdom (Mission: Impossible and Star Trek) hasn’t dulled Pegg’s charm, and grown-up teenager Gary is a wonderfully well-drawn slacker bookend to Shaun. Frost seems to enjoy playing the straight man, at least for a bit. The increasingly giddy Marsan, though, will be the revelation for most viewers. As silly as the bits can be, The World’s End captures the melancholy of growing up, old and apart from childhood friends. It’s like a Big Chill for Generation Zed. With jokes. And robots.
WORLD WAR Z (PG-13) The biggest zombie (and arguably horror) movie EVER MADE is better than expected, judging from its PG-13 rating and tortured production history. Former U.N. employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is sent around the globe to discover the source of the zombie pandemic threatening to wipe out humanity. Also, if he doesn’t go, the U.S. military is going to kick his wife (Mirielle Enos of “The Killing,” another TV show you should be watching) and two daughters off their aircraft carrier. One-time Bond director Marc Forster (he of the uber-versatile filmography) and his stable of writers (the screenplay’s credited to three writers including The Cabin in the Woods’ Drew Goddard and “Lost”’s Damon Lindelof) turn Max “Son of Mel” Brooks’ oral history of the zombie conflict into a more focused, traditional “one hero must race time to save the world,” and it works. Minor quibbles range from a lack of blood (blame the need for a PG-13 rating to recoup the massive budget) and way too fast, superstrong zombies; still, it’s way more exciting than the second season of “The Walking Dead.” With its focus on action over scares, WWZ is the Resident Evil 5 of zombie movies.
YOU’RE NEXT (R) Wow. Ridiculously overhyped horror movies typically cannot live up to the hyperbolic claims crafted by overzealous marketing folk. You’re Next, directed by Adam Wingard (check out his earlier feature, A Horrible Way to Die), is the best horror film since the last best horror film, except, unlike the new Evil Dead, You’re Next really is that great. With the strongest cold open since Scream, this home invasion flick (my favorite slasher subgenre) ratchets up the tension for an hour and a half without ever letting up. A well-to-do family—including indie darlings Joe Swanberg (check out his new feature, Drinking Buddies), Ti West (House of the Devil and The Innkeepers), Aimee Seimetz and former Tasty World bartender AJ Bowen—are stalked by a group of killers in animal masks, who may have met their match in one son’s new girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson). Hopefully, I haven’t said too much to ruin the horrific fun. Wingard and collaborator Simon Barrett take a well-known, beloved and maligned genre, turning it on its head with gleefully violent abandon. Remember; it’s okay to laugh. The horror movie of the year may well be one of the year’s best films, period.