October 23, 2013

Movie Dope

Short descriptions of movies playing in and around Athens...

2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY (NR) 1968. Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece returns to the big screen. Humanity discovers a giant monolith, and two astronauts (Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood) embarks on a voyage of discovery. However, artificial intelligence HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain) has other plans. Kubrick cowrote the screenplay with science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, but the legendary filmmaker’s epic visuals, scored to memorable classical works, are what stun. Kubrick won his only Academy Award—for Best Visual Effects no less—for this film. (Ciné)

BAD GRANDPA (R) Johnny Knoxville resurrects one of his Jackass characters, 86-year-old Irving Zisman, for a scatological, light-hearted, disgusting romp. Zisman and his eight-year-old grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll), travel across the country, calling strange women strippers and faking their way into a beauty pageant, where Billy’s talent is pole-dancing. Bad Grandpa looks to have a very Sacha Baron Cohen comedic presence, making fun of everyday Americans. You already know whether or not this floats your boat. Knoxville’s constant Jackass collaborator, Jeff Tremaine, directs, and incredibly creative filmmaker Spike Jonze co-wrote the screenplay. 

BAGGAGE CLAIM (PG-13) This romantic comedy about a stewardess, Montana (Paula “Mrs. Robin Thicke” Patton), conducting a transcontinental search for a spouse wastes a talented cast (Patton, Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, Djimon Hounsou and Ned Beatty?) in a sub-Tyler Perry situation. Many (not all) of Perry’s movies leave something to vaguely recommend, but David E. Talbert’s adaptation of his own novel does not. Stereotypical crazy ladies (see Tia Mowry-Hardrict) and besties, both gay (Brody) and oversexed (Jill Scott). There’s little to nothing to see or like here. Don’t bother making this connection.

BLACK ROSES (R) 1988. Bad Movie Night returns to celebrate Halloween with the very worst that cinema has to offer with this heavy metal horror hack job. Apparently, the Baptist Church is right. Listening to metal leads to the devil. When the band Black Roses comes to the town of Mill Basin, all the kids go satanically cuckoo. Do you remember the hair metal bands Bango Tango and Lizzy Borden? I don’t either, but I love '80s metal enough to be unapologetically interested in this terrible piece of movie trash. (Ciné)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (PG-13) Paul Greengrass is Hollywood’s most effective director of tense docudramas. (Apologies to Kathryn Bigelow, but it is true.) Recounting the real life story of Captain Richard Phillips, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates and held hostage in a claustrophobic lifeboat for several days, Greengrass crafts his best film since United 93. Tom Hanks stars as Captain Phillips, and he loses his typical Hanks-ness in the dramatized reality realized by Greengrass. The lack of almost any other recognizable supporting actors (that guy, Chris Mulkey, is as familiar as it gets) helps Hanks slide deeper into a role than he has since Road to Perdition. Barkhad Abdi, who plays lead Somali pirate Muse could be one of those fun Oscar dark horses. The taut effectiveness of Billy Ray’s script certainly should not be undervalued but will be due to the incredible work done by Greengrass, whose greatest films seem like reality unfolding before our eyes. Captain Phillips should nab the British filmmaker another Oscar nod. As a word of advice, one may wish to watch Captain Phillips and Gravity on different weekends; otherwise, we are talking about the most intense double feature ever.

• CARRIE (R) Stephen King’s Carrie returns, and the results are much better than many feared. Though not as stylish as Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic, the new adaptation from Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce may be more affecting as a tale of abuse and bullying (a pretty relevant topic for today’s teens). All the memorable set pieces are recreated, from the bloody gym shower to the fiery, bloody Prom.  Peirce smartly does not attempt a shot-for-shot remake (hopefully, everyone learned that lesson from Gus Van Sant’s Psycho), especially considering De Palma’s extraordinary use of split screens/diopters. The new Carrie may lack the original’s defining style, but it has a stellar lead in Chloe Grace Moretz, who nails everything but Sissy Spacek’s natural mousiness. Julianne Moore makes a terrifying mother to the telekinetic teen, and Judy Greer is a believable, funny Ms. Desjardin. The other teen actors are blandly pretty CW fodder (though the film’s Tommy Ross, Ansel Elgort, has some big pics on the way). It’s doubtful anyone will choose to watch the new Carrie over the original in thirty plus years, but I hope it sparks a renaissance for King remakes. Bring on a new Firestarter!

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (PG) The animated family comedy, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, wasn’t quite one for which a sequel seemed necessary. Inventor Flint Lockwood (v. Bill Hader) is working for The Live Corp Company when he must leave his job to investigate claims that his machine is creating food-animal hybrids. Joining Hader for voicework are Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris and Terry Crews. This flick sounds like it barely escaped a direct to DVD launch.

THE COUNSELOR (R) It’s hard not to get pumped about Cormac McCarthy’s first produced screenplay, especially considering the cast—Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt—and director Ridley Scott. Fassbender plays a lawyer whose dabbling in drug trafficking takes him in way too deep. Few fall movies (outside of, maybe, Gravity) have me as legitimately excited. I want to read the book tie-in too! With Dean “RIP ASAC Hank Schrader” Norris, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo and Goran Visnjic.

DON JON (R) So actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt can do little wrong in my opinion, and his feature writing/directing debut absolutely succeeds despite its strange late film tonal shift. Jersey boy Jon (Gordon-Levitt) loves the ladies, his pad, his car, his family, his boys, his church and his porn. But when he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), Jon learns he might have to give up his favorite pastime. Jon makes further discoveries when he meets a sad, community college classmate, Esther (Julianne Moore). JG-L proves a technically superb filmmaker in his rookie outing. Don Jon is excellently, stylishly composed and edited without being over-directed. This awfully adult dramedy might make some viewers uncomfortable with its rather frank sexuality, especially regarding Jon’s porn watching habits. But mature audiences will enjoy an all too topical discussion of how the Internet has potentially changed young people’s sexual expectations with its easy access pornography. Plus, the movie’s funny. Just witness a few of Jon’s weekly shouting matches-cum-dinners with his parents (Tony Danza and Glenne Headly) and always silently texting sister (Brie Larson, The Spectacular Now). Don Jon will be remembered as one of 2013’s more unsung cinematic heroes.

ENOUGH SAID (PG-13) This comedy from writer-director Nicole Holofcener (I really enjoyed her last two features, the wonderful Please Give and Friends with Money) seems like a wonderful way to say an all too early goodbye to James Gandolfini. He costars with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays Eva, a masseuse dating Gandolfini’s character, Albert. Unfortunately, her newest client (Catherine Keener) is Albert’s ex-wife, and she has nothing but bad things to say about him. The trailer left me smiling. With Toni Collette and Ben Falcone. (Ciné)

• ESCAPE PLAN (R) If you are feeling nostalgic for the action movies of the '80s/'90s, Escape Plan is for you. Structural security specialist Ray Breslin (Sylvestor Stallone) has spent most of his life breaking out of prison. His latest job incarcerates him in a secret, secure prison for really, really bad guys, where he meets Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger). The chemistry between these two aging action stars is the main draw of Escape Plan, and Schwarzenegger makes the most of it. After easing back into action movies with small roles in Stallone’s Expendables franchise and the underrated The Last Stand, the former Terminator seems to be having a lot more fun than Stallone. The movie is entertainingly forgettable, but it would benefit from a little more creativity in the casting. As the evil warden, Jim Caviezel tries for a mad quirkiness, but this role would have been better handled by Vincent D’Onofrio, who is wasted outside the prison walls. All the best supporting actors—Amy Ryan, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson—are squandered outside the prison. Why not cast Arnie as the warden and Stallone as the old turnkey that assists 50 Cent’s escape? Nonetheless, watching Arnold and Sly work together is incentive enough.

EXODUS  1960. The Athens Jewish Film FestivaI presents a screening of the Academy Award winning (Best Music for Ernest Gold's score) retelling of the founding of the state of Israel. Legendary director Otto Preminger guided Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint in this adaptation of Leon Uris’ novel. The 208 minute film features a 45 minute intermission with refreshments. Israeli native, Dr. Assaf Oshri, a faculty member in the UGA Department of Human Development and Family Science, will introduce the screening. (Ciné)

THE FIFTH ESTATE (R) This biopic about Julian Assange stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the controversial Internet hero slash traitor. Director Bill Condon needs another great film (i.e. Gods and Monsters) to recover his reputation from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2, which are arguably the series’ best entries. The supporting cast—Daniel Bruhl, Carice von Houten, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie and David Thewlis—is strong, especially with Bruhl coming off his strong work in Rush.

GRACE UNPLUGGED (PG) Grace Trey is a Christian singer/songwriter and daughter of one-hit-wonder Johnny Trey. Seeking stardom, Grace leaves her small, church-centered town for Los Angeles.

GRAVITY (PG-13) Yes. Children of Men filmmaker Alfonse Cuaron’s latest film is as great as you have heard. An astronaut (George Clooney) and a doctor (Sandra Bullock) must work together to survive an accident in the cold, silent confines of space. Gravity is an acting tour de force by Bullock (this  movie is essentially her Cast Away) and the most incredible special effects driven film I have ever seen. See it in 3D/IMAX if you can, as the film reminded me of Six Flags’ Chevy Show. You feel like you are in space, which is simultaneously awe-inspiringly beautiful and coldly dangerous. Though a science fiction film, Gravity is the most harrowing cinematic experience I can remember. It’s often more terrifying than any recent horror film. Cuaron has cured me of any lingering desires to travel into space. He has also proven himself to be the single most intriguing major filmmaker working today. Taking two mega-stars and placing them in a straight up disaster movie that is heavily reliant on special effects takes so much vision and control to keep the spectacle from overwhelming the humanity. Gravity is heavyweight genre filmmaking that never lets up. It is intense, but you cannot miss it.

GROWN UPS 2 (PG-13) With nary a grown-up in it, this sequel to Adam Sandler’s second biggest box office hit of all time is worse than its sub-par predecessor. Former Hollywood bigshot Lenny Feder (Sandler) moves his family back to his tiny hometown, but rather than spend time with them, he mostly hangs out with his childhood besties—Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock) and Higgins (David Spade)—and some meathead hangers-on (including Nick Swardson and Shaquille O’Neal). Grown Ups 2’s biggest accomplishment is how worthless it is. “Jokes” fail to land. I lost track of the “guys like boobs” moments; they were simply too many. Likability and funny are not one and the same. Argue all you want about what a great guy Sandler is, because at this point in his career you’ll find it impossible to convince someone he’s still funny, or better yet, relevant; The Internship was more of both. On a gags to chuckles ratio, Sandler ranked behind James, Rock, Spade (yikes), Colin Quinn and maybe, just maybe, Jon Lovitz. That being said, it’s already a box office smash, the monster from the depths that’s destroying the much more entertaining Pacific Rim. Good job, America.

INEQUALITY FOR ALL (PG) Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich travels across the country to raise awareness about the widening economic gap in this country. Filmmaker Jacob Kornbluth previously directed The Best Thief in the World (starring Mary-Louise Parker) and Haiku Tunnel. Inequality for All was a Grand Jury Prize nominee at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize; it also won an Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Traverse City Film Festival. (Ciné)

INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED (PG-13) No Se Aceptan Devoluciones tells the story of an infamous bachelor from Mexico who becomes an unlikely father when a baby is left on his doorstep. 

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (PG-13) As a horror filmmaker, James Wan, who made his debut with the low budget smash Saw, has grown as a stylist. See The Conjuring or this sequel to his 2009 hit, Insidious. Insidious: Chapter 2 continues the Lambert family’s ghost story. When Josh (Patrick Wilson) returned from the spirit world at the conclusion of the first movie, he didn’t return alone, and his family—wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and sons Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astor)—is in danger. Fortunately, his mom, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), and a team of bumbling Scoobies (including screenwriter Leigh Whannel) are on the job, searching for the supernatural solution via some poor comic relief. Chapter 2 is like a reverse Insidious. Chapter 1 had its chilling, mysterious first two acts bogged down by Josh’s blah final stroll through the spirit world. The sequel painfully explicates a dumb story for two acts, relying on trite haunted house tropes like slamming doors and flying household objects, before a strong final act that finally brings the scary and some nifty callbacks to the first movie. Insidious: Chapter 2 is no The Conjuring, where Wan proved he’s got the goods. Now he needs to show some consistency.

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.)

MACHETE KILLS (R) Machete Kills is a dumb, dumb movie, and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and star Danny Trejo know it. In this mostly superior sequel, ex-Federale Machete (Trejo) is seeking revenge for the death of his beloved Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) when the U.S. President (Charlie Sheen, billed by his birth name Carlos Estevez) tasks him with stopping a mad Mexican revolutionary (an awesomely frenzied Demian Bechir). But the real big bad is arms maker Luther Voz (Mel Gibson). The entire movie is made with a wink and a nod; too bad it’s a long wink and a nod. Chop off fifteen or twenty minutes, and this action-comedy would be one svelte south of the border Bond parody. Fun is had by the entire cast (Amber Heard! Michelle Rodriguez! Sofie Vergara with machine gun boobs! Lady Gaga?! Antonio Banderas! Cuba Gooding Jr! Walton Goggins!) Still, it’s Gibson who proves head and shoulders above his peers, and though his crazy personal life has dropped the Oscar winner to silly cameos, he makes the most of it. Give in to the inanity of Rodriguez’s most brainlessly entertaining movie; Machete Kills fills the lampoonish void. 

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (G) So let’s call it a slump. Cars 2 was a clunker; Brave was good verging on really good but not close to great; and Monsters University lacks the Pixar pop of their undeniably great features (Up, Wall-E, Toy Story 3). In this prequel to Monsters, Inc., we learn how Mike (v. Billy Crystal) and Sully (v. John Goodman) met. Apparently, the two scarers didn’t start as best buds. First, they were scaring rivals at Monsters University. This Revenge of the Monster Nerds doesn’t creatively bend college life for monsters as one would expect from Pixar. The life lesson is trite—don’t let others define your limits or some similar sentiment—and is taught as cleverly as an inferior animation studio’s Monsters, Inc. knockoff. Fortunately, the animation, especially the creature design, is as lush and lifelike as ever, and the voicework from Pixar newcomers like Nathan Fillion and Charlie Day saves the comic day. Kids will love the silly, low scare fun, and parents will be happy it’s not Cars 3. (Just wait, that’s coming in August in the form of Planes.)

MUSCLE SHOALS This documentary by Greg 'Freddy' Camalier illuminates the role FAME Studios and producer Rick Hall played in creating the Muscle Shoals, Alabama music scene. Music legends like Aretha Franklin, Greg Allman, Bono, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Wilson Pickett and Keith Richards attempt to explain the musical magic—that “Muscle Shoals Sound”—that emanated from a small town on the Tennessee River. This tuneful doc was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival. (Ciné)

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!

PRISONERS (R) Don’t head into Prisoners if you’re in the mood for some lighthearted escapism. On a rainy Thanksgiving, two young girls go missing. The parents, Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) and Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis, look everywhere but eventually turn to the police, represented by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal). An obvious prime suspect, the mentally challenged Alex Jones (Paul Dano), appears, but no further clues can be found. A dark morality play from Contraband scripter Aaron Guzikowski, the two and a half hour Prisoners lasts a while. Jackman will probably land on the Academy’s shortlist for his turn as survivalist Dover, who won’t give up on his daughter; he also goes further to find her than the law allows. As Jackman’s co-lead, Gyllenhaal furthers separates himself from his pretty peers, though Guzikowski could have opened up Loki a bit more for the audience. He remains more a determined cipher than a complete character as his dogged drive is never examined. No one in the well-known cast underperforms in Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to his Academy Award nominated Incendies. Villeneuve’s Prisoners feels like home-grown Haneke; it’s a tough, mature box office hit.

ROMEO AND JULIET (PG-13) The latest version of Shakespeare’s seminal work about star-crossed lovers stars True Grit Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet, opposite Douglas Booth’s Romeo. The cast (Damien Lewis as Lord Capulet, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Benvolio, Stellan Skarsgard as the Prince of Verona and Paul Giamatti as Friar Laurence) is solid without crushing it. Director Carlo Carlei benefits from having a script by the inimitable Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey” is so good!), but how will it ever out-teenage Baz’s R+J?

THE ROOM (R) The Room, from baffling “auteur” Tommy Wiseau, might be the Mona Lisa of bad movies; its greatness lies in its mysterious smile, which a laughing Wiseau trots out at the oddest moments. Johnny (writer-producer-director-star-charlatan Wiseau) is engaged to “beautiful” blonde Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who embarks on an affair with Johnny’s “best friend,” Mark (Greg Sestero), for no apparent reason, which may be why she constantly reminds him (and us) that she loves him. The Room will leave you with so many questions that don’t need answering. Did Johnny and Lisa get married? (The infamous tuxedo scene says yes but is contradicted by later dialogue.) What about Claudette’s cancer? Who uses a fake pregnancy bomb to spice up an uninteresting relationship? Why do they want to throw the football so much? Why must everyone keep repeating Mark’s status as Johnny’s “best friend?” Why am I in a theater at one in the morning watching this strange, hysterical man vomit drama on the big screen? 

RUNNER RUNNER (R) Where the week’s other wide release, Gravity, is the most original piece of genre filmmaking I have seen in years, Runner Runner is a dose of same old same old. Young buck, Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), loses his tuition money gambling online. As a Princeton man, he figures out he was cheated and confronts the sinister entrepreneur, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), who cheated him. Surprisingly, Ivan offers Richie a job rather than just have him murdered. Naturally, what is too good to be true is, especially when there is a beautiful Brit (Gemma Arterton) involved. If you skipped August’s Paranoia (and you should have), you could catch up with Runner Runner. But then again, why would you? Director Brad Furman may have surprised audiences with the sly Lincoln Lawyer (a lot due to Matthew McConaughey), but he cannot do it again, despite a ravenous, Cagney-esque performance by Affleck as an Internet gangster. Timberlake adds nothing to the bland protagonist, who probably should lose to Block on cool points alone. Unless you’re a JT or Affleck fanatic, run run away.

RUSH (R) You will never know you are watching a Ron Howard film during this recreation of the 1976 Formula One battle between James Hunt (Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). The rivalry merely heats up after Lauda suffers life-threatening burns during a midseason race. Howard recreates the sensational racing more realistically than any racing movie I have ever seen, and the script by Academy Award nominee Peter Morgan (his The Queen remains one of my favorite films of the last decade) fashions realistic people from these larger than life race car drivers. Hemsworth is terrific at being likably arrogant, but we all knew that from Thor and The Avengers. It is Bruhl, best known to American audiences from Inglourious Basterds, who captivates. His level-headed, unpleasantly disciplined Lauda overcomes the odds to stand out as the film’s champion, no matter who wins on the racetrack. Whether or not you like racing (stock car or formula) or Ron Howard films, Rush is that rare adult action drama that never loses speed on or off the track.

THE SMURFS 2 (PG) Even the Smurfs seem less “smurfed” up about their sequel. Gargamel (Hank Azaria, still ruining a great cartoon villain) creates some fake Smurfs—he calls them Naughties. Vexy (v. Christina Ricci) and Hackus (v. J.B. Smoove) are an un-Smurf-like gray, so Gargamel kidnaps Smurfette (v. Katy Perry), who holds the secret to turning the Naughties blue. Sadly, Smurfette is an easier target than usual as the birthday girl feels forgotten by Papa Smurf (v. the late Jonathan Winters) and the rest of her blue brethren. (She’s the only girl; no blue-blooded Smurf ever forgets Smurfette.) Maybe the kids will be entertained again, but the illogical trip to Paris, where Gargamel has become a big celebrity magician, will flummox adults. Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays and franchise newbie Brendan Gleeson don’t add that much to the movie. I’d have preferred a more fantastical adventure that takes place wholly in the Smurfs’ home realm. Kudos to the voice work by Anton Yelchin, Winters and “The Daily Show”’s John Oliver. They really “smurfed” it. The rest of the disposable family film is just “smurfy.”

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) A darker, more complicated hero than Marvel’s super-bankable Iron Man and Spider-Man, Wolvie poses a narrative difficulty, much like The Punisher, who Hollywood has yet to get right. The Wolverine comes closest to nailing this popular, mysterious icon. After the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan has shed his Wolverine persona to live a solitary life in the woods. However, the last request of a dying friend whisks the clawed one off to Japan. Director James Mangold and writers Mark Bomback and Scott Frank chose smartly in adapting Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s seminal 1982 limited series.