Endless Love (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): The film follows the story of Jade and David, two young people from different sides of the economic spectrum who fall in love. The love the couple shares is deemed improper because of the fact that David is poor and Jade is rich. Together the couple work to fight what society thinks of their relationship.
Why to Watch: Endless Love was a smart Valentine’s Day release for couples to go see together. If you’re a fan of gender stereotypes, it has aggressive confrontations for the guys in the audience, while the ladies get plenty of romance and fighting for true love. This type of film has been done much better by so many other romantic dramas before it. You may have heard of a little thing called Romeo and Juliet, for instance. The only real star of this film is Alex Pettyfer, known for his roles in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike and the sci-fi “thriller” I Am Number Four. Is Endless Love going to change the way you understand love? No. Will it be moving? Maybe. Is it worthy of your time? While many critics would say no, I found value in its focus on love and commitment. Worth a shot.
Robocop (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): Dedicated police officer Alex Murphy is critically injured in the line of duty. Then a major industrial corporation decides to make Murphy the world’s first cyborg cop.
Why to Watch: The 1987 classic film, starring Peter Weller and directed by Paul Verhoeven, was great; it was cheesy and ultra-violent, and that was part of its charm. This reboot, starring Joel Kinnaman and directed by Jose Padilha, takes a decidedly more direct and genuine approach. I like the fact that Murphy has to react to losing his body but works incredibly hard not to lose his humanity. Yes, the action scenes are cool, but much more than that I loved watching Murphy struggle to adapt to the changes OCP made to his body. Michael Keaton was an interesting choice as the head of OCP. Without question this is the darkest Robocop film (including a couple of previous sequels to the original), but it’s also strangely the strongest interpretation of the character. One other thing of note in this film is Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as a newsman who supports big industrial companies. The last scene with that character can only be described as truly memorable cinema. I’d buy this film for a dollar, and so should you.
BACK IN THEATERS (THANKS, OSCARS)
12 Years A Slave (The Art Theater Co-op): Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a career-making performance as Solomon Northup comes to the Art Theater, a man forced into slavery after being a freeman for most of his life.
Why to Watch: Right off the bat, it’s about time people started seeing Ejiofor for the amazing actor his is. If you didn’t see him as Denzel’s partner in Inside Man, or as the villain in Joss Whedon’s Serenity, you missed out. (And I know you didn’t see his performance in David Mamet’s Redbelt, so go rent that ASAP.) 12 Years A Slave is undoubtedly going to be a film that is tough to stomach. Slavery is a dark time in the history of the United States, but that does not mean that the stories of the people who suffered acts of inhumanity should be silenced. Steve McQueen, who directed the films Shame and Hunger (both with Michael Fassbender, who appears here as a repellant slave owner), knows how to tell the story. He also knows that film can be a powerful tool in the right hands—a mirror reflecting even our most disappointing and haunting moments.
Philomena (The Art Theater Co-op): The story of Philomena, a woman who long ago put her son up for adoption. Years later, after moving on, Philomena works with a reporter to search for her long lost son.
Why to Watch: This film works because of the relationship between Dame Judi Dench and comedic actor Steve Coogan. I think the way he supports her throughout this film is something marvelous to behold. I also want to take time to mention the humor used in this film, which adds to chemistry of Dench and Coogan. The two actors share several funny moments in this film, which showcases Dench’s wit and gives a sad subject sprinkles of genuine humor. Dench herself is wonderful as Philomena, and the chemistry between the two actors basically saves this movie from feeling formulaic. Moreover, their journey really feels like a partnership. It’s a funny and heart-wrenching story that I’m grateful I get to see again.
Why to Watch: Almost everyone played with Legos as a child, and now Legos are more popular than ever. This seems like a hilarious film for the whole family as it is filled with pop culture jokes and popular characters both you and your kids are familiar with. I mean, how much more awesome can you get than having Morgan Freeman voice the character of Vituivus (aka God)? The characters are incredibly well animated, and, while they don’t seem realistic, it’s nice to see characters I’m familiar with on screen.
Why to Watch: Despite the fact that Hollywood is continually refusing to come up with an original concept, this film looks promising. Rising stars Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) and Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now), and former teen heartthrob Zac Efron are three amigos working to understand how to move on to the next steps in their relationships. This film is the rare guy romantic comedy. There are funny moments in the trailers from Teller and Efron, but Jordan doesn’t get a showcasing moment. I think movies like this could be good as long as viewers can learn something from them while enjoying the film. A film worth watch even though you suspect all the guys will get their girls by the time the credits roll.
Frozen (Savoy 16 and Carmike 13): Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, the story involves a young woman who is chosen to be queen but is ostracized because she has the power to freeze things. Her sister is the only one capable of breaking the spell that froze the entire kingdom indefinitely.
Why to Watch: Frozen is the second feature by Disney to be a mixture between hand drawn animation and CGI (the first being Tangled). This new approach worked well for Disney, and it succeeds again here but only because the film has such a strong story to tell. Kristen Bell voices the heroine, Anna, who is out to rescue her sister, Elsa (voiced by Tony winner Idina Menzel). This film again harkens back to the 90s’ Disney feature catalog and reminds us why we love those movies so much. For me, it’s the fact that the characters stand for something and seem like people who could learn from if they existed in reality. Most of the film’s comedic moments are provided by a snowman named Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad). Olaf is a Disney supporting character treasure, and I’d be more than happy to see this film multiple times just for his antics. See this film with the whole family. You’ll have a great time.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): Jack Ryan, an analyst for the CIA is thrust into becoming an operative for the organization after being asked to stop a man who wants to cause the collapse of the American dollar and create a second Great Depression.
Why to Watch: The origins of the Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan that made Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford even more famous than they were in the 90s did not interest me. As I sat and watched Chris Pine’s vision for the character I thought about what connected me with the character. By the time the credits rolled, all I could think of that I loved about the character was his vulnerability. We learn how Ryan got involved with the CIA, but we really only get one scene very early on the film that shows Jack Ryan going through any real emotional struggle. The scene in question involves Ryan’s rehab after an accident where he meets Keira Knightley’s Cathy. Kenneth Branagh, who directs and acts as the film’s villain, shows that he doesn’t know how to film action scenes without quick cuts every 5 seconds. And Branagh’s Russian villain is only a threat once in this film. The rest of his time is used moving the big terror plot along. Reading my review, you’d think this is a bad film. It’s not bad; it’s just I wanted the film to go deeper into Ryan’s emotional turmoil with the fact that he is thrust into being an operative. I wanted the villain to issue and possibly carry out more than one nasty threat. This film could be stronger, but it’s just okay. See it for Pine doing the best he can to make Jack Ryan cool for teenage viewers.
Pompeii: This Paul W. S. Anderson epic tells the tale of the final days before Pompeii was destroyed by a volcano. Technologically speaking, the effects of this film look brilliant. The main problem is that this film’s most recognizable actor is Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington. I strongly suspect that the Doctor Who episode “Fires of Pompeii” will be better than this film in terms of story.
3 Days to Kill: Kevin Costner has had a slight resurgence as of late with roles in Man of Steel and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. In this film, Costner seems to want to take a page out Liam Neeson’s playbook, with maybe a little Jason Statham on the side. The story centers around a dying federal agent who will be given a cure for his disease if he does one last job. This film is directed by McG, which dampens my hopes somewhat, considering his last two films (This Means War and Terminator: Salvation). What gives me hope is that this film features Costner as an action star again, front and center, instead of playing another backseat supporting role. Also, cool trailer.
The Wind Rises: Hayao Miyazaki’s final film tells the story of a man who would go on to design the fighter planes for the Japanese in World War II. I loved this film when I saw it during Oscar season’s big voting push. Miyazaki has always been a great animator, but it’s his stories that capture the hearts of children and adults alike. If this film is truly the director’s last, then he soared like the planes his main character created.