EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 11, 2013

In theaters

Tribune News Service
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — :ADMISSION: In this fraught romantic comedy, Portia (Tina Fey) is a Princeton University admissions officer with a secret. Her live-in boyfriend, a professor played by Michael Sheen, treats her like a dog - literally. But on a road trip, Portia visits a new age alternative high school, run by John (Paul Rudd). John has reason to believe that a promising applicant just might be the same boy that Portia gave up for adoption. Fey and Rudd are smooth as silk together, but the film is only half good. PG-13 (language and some sexual material). 1:50. 2 1/2 stars. .

THE CALL: Jordan (Halle Berry) is a hotshot 911 operator in Los Angeles. On a call in which she tries to coach a teenage girl away from a home invasion, Jordan slips up, fails, and the girl is abducted and murdered. Dedicated to redeem herself, Jordan gets another emergency call in the form of Casey (Abigail Breslin), who has been drugged and kidnapped and wakes up in the trunk of a speeding car. Jordan has to coach the hysterical teen through a series of daunting situations. Berry is enough of a pro to handle this, but the film is kind of a dud. R (for violence, disturbing content and some language). 1:36. 2 stars.

THE CROODS: It’s “Ice Age” with humans and less ice. The Croods are a brood of cavepeople; there’s Ugg (Nicolas Cage), Ugga (Catherine Keener), Eep (Emma Stone) and some others. Earthquaked out of their dwelling, the Crood brood embarks on a search for a new home. They come across Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a caveboy who knows about fire and has things called “ideas.” Guy leads the Croods toward a place he calls “Tomorrow” where survival lies. Not a whole lot here, and like most Dreamworks vehicles, it’s way too much. PG (some scary action).

EVIL DEAD: This remake of Sam Raimi’s 1983 cult classic offers plenty of reasons to jump and turn away. Mia (Jane Levy) has quit drugs, and her withdrawal confuses her senses. Her brother and her friends have brought her to the cabin in the woods to cure her. But is she seeing visions of demonic possession, or is this simply the cold turkey playing tricks on her mind? There’s a demon that jumps from human to human, and more splashing bodily fluids than one knows what to do with. All in all, it’s okay, and likely a franchise ... again. R (strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language). 1:31. 2 stars.

:G.I. JOE: RETALIATION: The action is nonstop in this sequel. But do we really want our action to never end? Like, ever? The plot concerns the murder of the Pakistani president, stolen nukes, a frame-up job by COBRA disgracing the Joes. The Joes fight back. Spoiler alert: They win. Sure, there’s Channing Tatum as Duke, Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock, and even ole Bruce Willis as the original Joe, but the movie plays out like a video game, and I think we’ve learned by now that there should be a difference. PG-13 (intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and language). 1:51. 2 1/2 stars.

:THE HOST: This movie version of Stephenie Meyers’ departure from the “Twilight” series is painful to watch. Earth has been invaded by creatures from another galaxy called Souls. Some Souls called Seekers locate humans to serve as hosts for other Souls. Saoirse Ronan plays Melanie, whose body is sublet by a Soul named Wanderer. Melanie and her Soul become frenemies, and Melanie arm-twists her visitor to return to Melanie’s cave-dwelling survivalist clan. Then Wanderer falls in love with Ian (Jake Abel). And then ... you get the picture. It’s agonizingly slow and just not very good. PG-13 (some sensuality and violence). 2:05. 1 star.

IDENTITY THIEF: Unfortunately, this road-trip movie fails its stellar stars. Denver businessman Sandy (Jason Bateman) discovers his identity has been stolen, his credit ruined. To fix things, he must track down the culprit, who happens to be Diana (Melissa McCarthy), a Florida con woman. The two go on the road to make things right, all the while followed by bounty hunters. Bateman and McCarthy are great performers and likeable, but the material is so dreadfully inferior, there’s just not much to see here. R (sexual content and language). 1:51. 1 1/2 stars.

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE: All of the skilled actors on display in this absurd comedy can’t save the film. Las Vegas magicians Burt (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have a stale act, and Burt’s become a terrible person. They can’t stand each other. And there’s a dangerous new kid in town, a “Jackass”-y performer (Jim Carrey) who gives the bloodthirsty public what it wants. While Alan Arkin and Olivia Wilde manage ably in their scenes, the rest of the movie is poor and terribly written. PG (sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language). 1:40. 1 1/2 stars.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER: This giant, straining blockbuster reinvents “Jack and the Beanstalk,” as see Jack gape; see Jack run; see Jack slay giants. Bryan Singer (”Usual Suspects,” ‘‘X-Men”) directs, and the movie is a bit too much: too much yelling, too much running, too much flaming tree throwing. Jack (Nicholas Hoult) trades his horse for magic beans, and, you know, the beanstalk connects the human world and the world of giants. Mayhem ensues. As far as these things go, it’s just too much fantasy action for its own good. PG-13 (intense sequences of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language). 1:54. 2 stars.

JURASSIC PARK 3-D: This Spielberg classic is back, with its lunging raptors and roaring T. rexes now in 3-D. The result is great, since the film has always been so much more powerful on the big screen than on TV. When tycoon John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) creates an isolated theme park where he has back-engineered dinosaurs to life, a group of visiting scientists gets caught running for their lives when the attractions escape their cages. It really is a fun movie, and the dinos were made for 3-D. PG-13 (intense science-fiction terror). 2:07. 3 stars.

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN: This movie is “Die Hard in the White House,” where terrorists appear out of nowhere to storm Washington, take over the White House and seize the president (Aaron Eckhart) and most of the cabinet. Their only hope is former Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the only man who knows how to get into the fortified presidential bunker where the hostages are. Banner proceeds to stab, shoot and strangle his way through legions of terrorists. There are much better thrillers out there; this one is just a manifestation of a first-person shooter video game. R (strong violence and language throughout). 1:53. 2 stars.

OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL: Sam Raimi’s digital blockbuster prequel to the Hollywood classic is uneven but agreeably managed. Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) is a carny magician who departs 1905 Kansas via tornado and lands in Oz. He runs into witches, including Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), and has the company of a winged monkey (voiced by Zach Braff). Oz must lead the revolution to restore order to the land. There are big sights, electric shocks, lots of 3-D and those monkey minions. PG (sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language). 2:10. 2 1/2 stars.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES: Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt performer traveling with a two-bit carnival. Coming through small town N.Y., he learns he has fathered a son with a local waitress (Eva Mendes). Luke turns to bank robbery while also trying to establish a relationship with his son. Then, the story switches to the police officer (Bradley Cooper) who is plagued by becoming known as the hero who pursued the “moto-bandit.” It’s a fine film with really solid actors playing well-written, authentic characters. R (language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference). 2:20. 3 1/2 stars.

SPRING BREAKERS: Writer-director Harmony Korine is a resolute sleaze monger. He cares little for impulse control. All this helps “Spring Breakers,” in which not-so-innocent debauchery turns sociopathic on a dime. It’s about four teenage girls, three nasty (Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine), one nice (Selena Gomez). Determined to have a memorable vacation, the girls get some spending cash by fake-pistol-waving in a restaurant. But things steadily move into a more dangerous space, with an impressive turn by James Franco as a lively gangsta rapper called Alien. R (violence, language and sexual content). 1:34. 3 stars.