Sunday, March 9, 2014
NEW ON THE SHELF
Matt Damon in “Elysium.”
“ELYSIUM,” Matt Damon, Jodie Foster. Having blindsided audiences and critics with the 2009 smash hit “District 9,” writer-director Neill Blomkamp delivers this long-awaited follow-up, another futuristic parable that touches on many of the same issues regarding class warfare and immigration. Damon’s character is saddled with a daunting mission that might bring much-needed equality to those left behind on an overpopulated Earth now run by robots and Elysium, the luxuriant space station where the wealthiest citizens live. Not quite as audacious as “District 9,” but thrilling and thought-provoking throughout. Rated R. Running time: 1:49. Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $40.99.
“THE FAMILY,” Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer. There aren’t many adjectives, good or bad, that haven’t been lobbed at director Luc Besson (“The Professional”), but “boring” has never been one of them, and this entertainingly uneven dark comedy is anything but that. A notorious mafia clan forced to relocate to France under the witness relocation program, the Manzonis (led by De Niro and Pfeiffer, comfortable in familiar roles) do their best to fit in. But thankfully for the audience, old habits die hard and there are plenty of nasty yuks to be had watching the Manzonis terrorize their neighbors. It’s Besson-lite, but mean fun all the same. Rated R. Running time: 1:30. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.99.
“KICK-ASS 2,” Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz. Somewhat tepidly received sequel amps up the violence and obscenities but can’t quite rekindle the magic, most likely due to the absence of previous director Matthew Vaughn, who managed to leaven the often extreme brutality with genuine wit, in short supply here. Nonetheless, as before, the performances are enjoyable, with Moretz again a delight as the foul-mouthed and deadly Hit Girl, and Jim Carrey a welcome addition as Colonel Stars & Stripes. Includes commentary from Taylor-Johnson, Moretz, Mintz-Plasse and director Jeff Wadlow (“Never Back Down”). Rated R. Running time: 1:43. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $34.98.
“THE LONE RANGER,” Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer. Attempting to resurrect a largely forgotten icon via an enormous budget and the joke-heavy “Pirates of the Caribbean” treatment, director Gore Verbinski and Depp were largely met with confusion and indifference in theaters, but living room audiences looking to satisfy their curiosity will find plenty of spectacle and fisticuffs to enliven their Friday nights. Just don’t expect a sequel anytime soon. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2:29. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.
“PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS,” Logan Lerman, Douglas Smith. A would-be colleague of Harry Potter, “Twilight,” and “The Hunger Games,” the “Percy Jackson” series coasts easily enough on good humor and earnest performances, though the underperforming box office receipts suggest it’s not quite ready to share the spotlight with its peers. That said, if you can handle the exposition overload needed to squash author Rick Riordan’s massive universe into an average running time, there’s a pleasing, Spielberg-esque tone that gives it an edge over its oft maudlin and overly serious ilk, enough so that one hopes the series will continue to find its stride. Rated PG. Running time: 1:47. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.98.
“PRISONERS,” Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal. The success of this gritty, complex and excellently acted crime drama is welcome proof that audiences will in fact turn up in droves to an intelligently scripted film that isn’t simply a rehash of accepted tropes, though “Prisoners” is uncompromising enough that not all viewers will want to take it on. A kidnapping drama involving a desperate father (Jackman), an intelligent but overworked detective (Gyllenhaal), and an impenetrable, mentally handicapped suspect (Paul Dano), “Prisoners” unleashes its characters in an unthinkable situation and stands back to observe, with director Denis Villeneuve (“Maelstrom”) giving his actors plenty of room to bring the situations to vivid life. Rated R. Running time: 2:33. Suggested retail price: $28.98; Blu-ray $35.99.
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