COMING THIS WEEK
By Steven Rea
Queen and Country The sequel to John Boorman's 1987 Oscar-nominated gem, Hope and Glory, finds the British director's alter ego, Bill Rohan, grown from the scrappy lad of the London Blitz to a soldier training to fight in the Korean War. Callum Turner stars, with Richard E. Grant, David Thewlis and Tamsin Egerton. No MPAA rating
Get Hard Kevin Hart, sorely missing from the big screen (what's it been, two months since his last pic?) teams with Will Ferrell in a comedy about a convicted white-collar criminal who enlists a guy he thinks has done time to teach him how to survive behind bars. R
Home Interplanetary pee jokes abound in DreamWorks Animation's kiddie comedy, about a purple four-legged footstool, I mean alien (the voice of Jim Parsons), and the cool Earthling girl (Rihanna) he befriends. PG
A Girl Like Her A high school student and her friend set about documenting the relentless harassment she suffers on a daily basis at the hands of another student.
A Little Chaos Kate Winslet stars in this period drama about a gardener who is put in charge of the grounds at Versailles during the time of King Louis XIV.
Man From Reno A mystery develops following an accident involving the sheriff of a town south of San Francisco.
Merchants of Doubt This documentary looks at pundits who present themselves as scientific experts.
Serena The owner of a depression-era timber company attempts to keep his business afloat following complications to his new marriage. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star.
Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.), Tirdad Derakhshani (T.D.), Dan DeLuca (D.D.), and Molly Eichel (M.E.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.
Birdman Michael Keaton is a faded Hollywood star trying to reclaim his career by mounting a Broadway drama in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's fierce, funny, breathless dive into the head of a man in deep trouble. An exhilarating, out-of-the-blue masterwork that ranks as one of the best films of the year, the decade, the century. Academy Awards for best picture and director Iñárritu. With Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts. 1 hr. 59 R (profanity, violence, sex, adult themes) - S.R.
Red Army Madly entertaining documentary about the dynastic days of the Soviet ice hockey team nicknamed the Red Army, and the charismatic player at its center, Vyacheslav Fetisov. But this is much more than a sports movie. It's about Cold War politics, about national pride, about how we fix our hopes and dreams to athletic competitions, how we identify with sports and how sports identifies us. 1 hr. 16 PG - S.R.
Still Alice Shot through with piercing detail, and devoid of cheap sentimentality, the sad, beautifully realized story of a linguistics professor, a mother, a wife, diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. One of the defining performances of Julianne Moore's career, winner of the best actress Oscar. With Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart. 1 hr. 53 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem Unexpectedly gripping Israeli drama, starring, and co-written and co-directed by Ronit Elkabetz, as an Israeli woman who goes before the Rabbinical court to seek a divorce from her long-oppressive husband. Shot in intense close-ups, the better to study the emotions burning in the characters' eyes, the film is all talk and gesture, but it begins to take your breath away like a chase movie, a suspense film, would. 1 hr. 55 No MPAA rating (adult themes) - S.R.
'71 Yann Demange's feature debut is stunning piece of thrilling and intelligent filmmaking, a deeply intimate piece about a single day in the life of a British soldier who is barely out of basic training (Jack O'Connell) and assigned to patrol the streets of Belfast during the Troubles. 1 hr. 39 R (violence, profanity, smoking) - T.D.
Wild Tales Six vignettes about people on their best behavior: out for vengeance and out of control. Madly entertaining and just plain mad, from Argentinian director Damián Szifrón, and one of this year's foreign language Oscar nominees. 1 hr. 54 R (sex, violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Whiplash Miles Teller (the student) and J.K. Simmons (the teacher) star in Damien Chazelle's propulsive drama about an aspiring jazz musician's torturous mentorship at a prestigious New York conservatory. It's a hyperventilated nightmare about artistic struggle and ambition - as much a horror movie as a keenly realized indie about jazz, art, and what it takes to claim greatness. Oscar for best supporting actor for Simmons. 1 hr. 46 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Chappie ** A not-very-futuristic (it's set in 2016) shoot-'em-up about a robot police force, artificial intelligence, and a sentient machine adopted by a gang of South African street thugs. Another sunny vision from District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp, with Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver joining in the fun. R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Cinderella *** A winning re-do of Disney's 1950 animated classic, directed by Kenneth Branagh with a sprinkling of stardust, dashes of good humor and a respect for the corniest kinds of romance. Lily James ("Downton Abbey") and Richard Madden (dazzling dentition) star as the woebegone heroine and the handsome Prince. Cate Blanchett chews scenery as the gleefully cruel, cackling stepmom. 1 hr. 52 PG (adult themes) - S.R.
Deli Man *** David "Ziggy" Gruber, carrying on the tradition of his grandfather, guides this charming documentary of the decline in numbers but expansion through the country of kosher delicatessens, including his own much-loved Kenny & Ziggy's New York Delicatessen Restaurant in Houston. 1 hr. 31 PG-13 (language) - W.S.
Focus **1/2 Will Smith is a seasoned grifter, Margot Robbie his eager protege, in a slick, glossy con artist caper that walks the walk and talks the talk but disappoints just when you don't want it to. With glammy pit stops in New York, New Orleans and Buenos Aires. 1 hr. 44 R (profanity, sex, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
The Gunman ** Sean Penn stars as an elite ex-Special Forces op who seems to have forgotten his tradecraft basics as he runs around Europe trying to figure out who wants him dead - before he is dead. With Javier Bardem, Jasmine Trinca and Idris Elba. Intriguing le Carré-esque possibilities are thwarted by heavy-handed direction and obvious plot twists. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, action, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
An Honest Liar *** The Amazing Randi spent his life debunking the claims of psychics, faith healers and channelers. The real joy of Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein is an intimate look at Randi's personal life, including his partner of 25 years. Featuring James Randi, Bill Nye, Alice Cooper, Penn Jillette. 1 hr. 32 No MPAA rating - M.E.
Insurgent **1/2 The action-heavy second installment in the Divergent Series, about life in a post-apocalyptic dystopian Chicago where society is divided into five factions, and Shailene Woodley is the upstart who doesn't fit in. With Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller and a lot of trippy virtual reality mind games, too. PG-13 (violence, action, adult themes) - S.R.
McFarland, USA *** Inspirational Disney sports film, based on the true story of a fledgling high school team of Latino kids - the sons of crop pickers and day laborers - who go on to win the cross-country state championship. Kevin Costner stars as the coach, with his own problems and prejudices to overcome. 2 hrs. 08 PG (violence, ethnic slurs, adult themes) - S.R.
Run All Night ** A grim, jumpy, violent noir, with Liam Neeson as an aging mob enforcer regretting his crimes - and regretting that his son (Joel Kinnaman) wants nothing to do with him. But then the estranged duo are thrown together, when crooks and cops and Albanian thugs start hunting them down. Surprise: Neeson has to save his kid! 2 hrs. 02 R (intense violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel **1/2 The John Madden-directed followup to his surprise 2012 hit quickly settles into a familiar, familial groove. The ex-pat pensioner gang played by Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie pick up where they left off, and new guests, most notably one beamy, white-maned Richard Gere, check in, while the eager-to-please young manager played by Dev Patel runs around Jaipur, antic, frantic and full of oddball aphorisms. 2 hrs. 02 PG (adult themes) - S.R.
What We Do in the Shadows *** From Eagle vs. Shark and Flight of the Conchords' Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, a mockumentary about three vampires who share a house in Wellington, New Zealand, and argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes. A cheerfully horrific affair, and there are even werewolves. 1 hr. 25 No MPAA rating (comic violence, adult themes) - S.R.