Movies: ‘Under the Skin’ reviewed with other new, recent films

Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier

L to R: Georges Batroc (George St-Pierre) & Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)

Ph: Zade Rosenthal

© 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.
Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier L to R: Georges Batroc (George St-Pierre) & Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) Ph: Zade Rosenthal © 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

OPENING FRIDAY

CUBAN FURY

Rated R for language and sexual references

Stars: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd

A former salsa-dancing prodigy (Frost) attempts to rekindle his passion to win the heart of his salsa-loving boss (Jones). TV director James Griffiths (“Up all Night”) makes his feature debut with the comedy romance.

DOM HEMINGWAY

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use.

Stars: Jude Law, Luca Franzoni, Richard Graham

After protecting his boss for 12 years by keeping his mouth shut in prison, safecracker Dom (Law) decides to collect some appreciation. Richard Shepard (“The Matador”) wrote and directed the crime comedy.

DRAFT DAY

★ ★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual references

Stars: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner

Though mainly a baseball kind of guy (“Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams”) Costner acquits himself reasonably in this wannabe nail-biter about behind-the-scenes machinations leading up to the NFL draft. As the embattled general manager of the Cleveland Browns, he contends with a girlfriend (Garner) who announces she’s pregnant, a mom who wants to bury his dad’s ashes on the 50-yard line and other distractions while trying to decide whether or not to bet everything on a golden-boy first-round pick. Director Ivan Reitman (of “Ghostbusters” fame) emphasizes drama but uses a light touch trying to emulate the insider appeal of “Moneyball.”

JOE

Rated R for violence, disturbing material, language and some strong sexual content

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Heather Kafka

A tough ex-con (Cage) reluctantly takes an abused teenage boy (Sheridan) under his wing and faces dangerous consequences. David Gordon Green (“Prince Avalanche”) directed the drama.

OCULUS

Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language

Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff

A woman (Gillan) attempts to prove that supernatural forces are to blame after her brother is convicted of murder. Mike Flanagan (“Absentia”) co-wrote and directed the thriller.

ON MY WAY

Rated: No MPAA rating

Stars: Catherine Denueve, Nemo Schiffman, Gerard Garouste

An aging former beauty queen (Denueve) facing a divorce and a failing business, leaves work for a quick drive that turns into a cross-country road trip. Emmanuelle Bercot (“Backstage”) co-wrote and directed the comedy-drama.

STILL PLAYING

UNDER THE SKIN

★ ★ 1/2

Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Lynsey Taylor McKay

Heavy on gorgeous avant-garde visual style and non-narrative storytelling technique, this determinedly baffling sci-fi anti-thriller is strangely effective as a mood piece. It’s just a shame the dominant mood is monotony. Director Jonathan Glazer (who also made the much more compellingly weird “Sexy Beast”) has held onto one commercial trump card, however — the frequently disrobed Scarlett Johansson. She plays an affect-less interplanetary seductress named Laura, who picks up random Scottish men (filmed with hidden cameras) and lures them back to her lair to become alien snack food. Not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER

★ ★ ★

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

Stars: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson

You can’t fault this high-energy/high-drama, follow-up for being unambitious since it ups the ante on both adrenaline-pumping action and factoring serious socio-political issues into the plot. Ultimately, it goes a bit too far and bogs down in both areas, but if you can factor that out, “Winter Soldier” is as impressive as it is entertaining. Evans returns as the anachronistically wholesome, old-fashioned World War II hero thawed out after 70 years on ice and faced with major new challenges: His ethical opposition to a S.H.I.E.L.D. involvement in grand-scale surveillance and drone warfare, and a Cold War Soviet super-assassin with whom he has personal history.

IN THE BLOOD

Rated R for strong violence and language

Stars: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Luis Guzman, Danny Trejo

Kidnappers mess with the wrong lady when they abduct the husband of a professional underground fighter (Carano). John Stockwell (“Turistas”) directed the action thriller.

ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR

Rated G

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Patricia Wright

Hundreds of species of Madagascar lemurs, now all endangered, are the subject of this IMAX 3D documentary, narrated by Freeman. Veteran cinematographer David Douglas (“Rolling Stones Live at the Max”) makes his feature directorial debut.

NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. II

Rated: No MPAA rating

Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Willem Dafoe

The sexual misadventures of a lifelong lust addict (Gainsbourg) continue in part two of the erotic drama by writer/director Lars von Trier (“Melancholia”).

THE RAID 2: BERANDAL

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language

Stars: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo

Make no mistake. If what you’re after is insane, mind-bogglingly violent martial arts action, “Raid 2” is quite possibly the ultimate. That’s if you don’t mind the fact that there’s a lot more plot to keep track of in this more epic installment in the saga of honest cop Rama’s (Indonesian Silat champion Uwais) ongoing war with the gangsters of Jakarta. The stylishly cinematic carnage of writer/director Gareth Evans, still must be seen to be believed but it has built-in diminishing returns. There’s only a certain amount of bone snapping, rapid-fire stabbing, throat slitting, head crushing, facial griddle-sizzling, etc., that can be taken in before mayhem fatigue sets in.

BAD WORDS

★ ★ ★

Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity

Stars: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Rohan Chand

Morally reprehensible, socially unacceptable and linguistically … wide-ranging, “Bad Words” is about as far removed as you can get from the spelling bee movies “Spellbound,” say, or “Akeelah and the Bee” in terms of inspirational uplift. You might find it a lot funnier, though, depending on how you feel about a grown man being appallingly mean to schoolchildren. Of course it helps that most of the kids are nasty pieces of work themselves. Bateman makes an impressive directorial debut as man who won’t let anything stand between him and the national spelling-bee championship.

CESAR CHAVEZ

★ ★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for some violence and language

Stars: Michael Pena, Rosario Dawson, John Malkovich

This typically reverential biopic about civil rights icon Cesar Chavez doesn’t offer much more than a simplistic overview of his life and work. Even so, it’s welcome and long-overdue if only as a reminder of the prominent place he deserves in modern history. While it’s apparently true that he wasn’t the sort of firebrand usually associated with radical activism, it’s a little hard to know what to do with a class-struggle hero as mild and unassuming as the Chavez we see here (character actor Pena in a rare leading role). A little more passion, even at the risk of making him seem a little less saintly, might have helped.

LE WEEK-END

Rated R for language and some sexual content

Stars: Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, Jeff Goldblum

Long after their honeymoon, a British couple (Broadbent, Duncan) return to Paris to rejuvenate their marriage. Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) directed the romance from a script by Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Launderette”).

NOAH

Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content

Stars: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins

After divinely inspired visions of apocalyptic flood, a man (Crowe) prepares for a new beginning for mankind. Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”) directed the drama, based on the Bible story.

SABOTAGE

Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use.

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard

After robbing a drug cartel safe house, an elite DEA task force find themselves being eliminated one by one. David Ayer (“End of Watch”) co-wrote and directed the thriller.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED

★ ★ 1/2

Rated PG for some mild action

Stars: Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell

“Everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good,” Kermit and the gang sing in the big opening production number of “Muppets Most Wanted” and in this case, they’re kind of right. This is still a Muppet movie, though, and for a lot of people, that’s going to be more than enough. The plot (Gervais and another master criminal, who happens to be Kermit’s evil double, with a sinister Russian accent) is a bit belabored and the whole thing goes on about a half hour too long — with one or two or three too many production numbers. But evil Kermit makes it all worthwhile. Note to Disney: Spinoff, please.

DIVERGENT

RatedPG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality

Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney

A girl classified “Divergent” (Woodley) in a future society divided into factions based on abilities, discovers she and others of her kind have been targeted for extinction. Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) directed the futuristic thriller.

ENEMY

Rated R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon

A professor (Gyllenhaal) decides to track down his double after spotting him in a movie — and suddenly finds his life dangerously complicated. Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”) directed the thriller.

NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. I

★ ★ 1/2

Rated: No MPAA rating

Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf

After putting mankind out of its misery with a cosmic cataclysm in “Melancholia,” Danish director Lars von Trier is back with another artfully filmed misanthropic provocation. This time, the subject is sex (complete with trickily edited hardcore sequences featuring porn-actor stand-ins) and the main character is Joe (Gainsbourg), a soul-deadened lust addict recounting her erotic misadventures to a sympathetic listener (Skarsgard) who found her beaten in an alley. “The Joy of Sex” it’s not, and things presumably get worse next month in volume two.

TYLER PERRY’S THE SINGLE MOMS CLUB

Rated PG-13 for some sexual material and thematic elements

Stars: Nia Long, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Cocoa Brown, Tyler Perry

A solid base-hit for writer/director/producer Perry (“A Madea Christmas”). It’s a little heavy on the solidarity vibe, perhaps, and a melodramatic meltdown midway almost knocks it off course, but it’s pretty funny at times — mainly because it’s raunchier than usual and Brown and McLendon-Covey strike a few sparks. A group of five very different single moms reluctantly join forces after their kids get into trouble at a ritzy prep school.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

★ ★ ★ ★

Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody

If you admire director Wes Anderson at his best (“Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” 2012’s “Moonrise Kingdom”), there’s a good chance you’ll be delighted by this masterfully executed, highly stylized, occasionally perverse farce. “Grand Budapest Hotel” is the story of Gustav H (Fiennes in a rare comic role), legendary concierge of the hotel in its 1930s glory days. He’s embroiled in an increasingly complicated struggle involving murder, a priceless stolen painting, young love, an evil aristocrat with a homicidal henchman (Brody and Dafoe), more murders, a prison break and a climactic cross-country chase. It’s strange to think of Anderson turning out a crowd- pleaser given his eccentric work (on display here), but this may be as close as he gets.

VERONICA MARS

Rated PG-13 for sexuality including references, drug content, violence, strong language

Stars: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Jamie Lee Curtis, Martin Starr

Years after walking away from her career as a teen private eye, Veronica (Bell) returns home to help an old flame (Dohring) accused of murder. Rob Thomas wrote and directed the return to his hit TV series.

NEED FOR SPEED

★ ★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language

Stars: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Dakota Johnson, Michael Keaton

Based on the mega-selling video-game series, “Need for Speed” is the story of wrongly imprisoned ex-convict Tobey (Paul of “Breaking Bad”) risking everything for an $8 million payday in the country’s biggest underground race. Of course he’s mainly motivated by honor and redemption and vengeance and all that stuff. Cooper plays the no-good, dirty-tricks-pulling sleazebo villain and Poots is on hand for potential romance. Fans looking for crazed stunts and insanely revved-up racing action will find plenty of both.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

★ ★

Rated R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence, a sex scene, nudity, and some language

Stars: Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Sullivan Stapleton

This stripped-down/buffed-up beefcake bonanza makes one thing clear: If you were a body-waxer in ancient Greece, you never ran out of work. A sequel to the 2007 mega-hit “300,” “Rise of an Empire” focuses on the naval conflict raging during the first film’s battle of Thermopylae. As soon as the Greek and Persian ships bump noses, you get the same horde of gym-toned, manscaped warriors in loincloths hacking, impaling and eviscerating each other in ultra-slow motion. Now, the geysers of slo-mo gore erupt in 3D. The only improvement is former Bond girl Green as the sultry, sinister, exceedingly homicidal Persian commander.

MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN

★★★

Rated PG for some mild action

Stars: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann

Directed by Rob Minkoff, who also directed “Stuart Little” and “The Lion King,” this is a spectacular, revved-up 3D update of the classic cartoons featured between adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle on early-’60s Saturday-morning TV. Like those comparatively primitive, extremely 2D “Improbable History” adventures from way, way back, the new “Mr. Peabody” features the genius Beagle and his nerdy adoptive son Sherman traveling through time in their WABAC machine to sort out some sort of historical snafu. Only this time, the emphasis (in addition to snickering juvenile silliness) is on grand-scale, high-energy action/slapstick set pieces — including a climactic space-time disaster that threatens to destroy the world. Underneath all the hoopla, though, the whimsical, slyly intellectual spirit of the original is still something special.

SON OF GOD

★★

Rated PG-13 for intense and bloody depiction of the Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence

Stars: Diogo Morgado, Greg Hicks, Roma Downey, Amber Rose Revah

Thoroughly bland, unimpressively acted and featuring almost shockingly cheesy production values, “Son of God” looks and plays like a dramatic recreation on the History Channel — because that’s precisely what it is. Cut down and cobbled together from last year’s 10-hour miniseries “The Bible,” this warmed-over run-through of the life of Jesus (Portuguese model-turned-actor Morgado) has little to recommend it. It does, however, manage to generate some emotional impact with its depiction of the Passion.

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