Sept. 20: Capsule reviews of feature films

By The Philadelphia Inquirer

THE ACT OF KILLING 3 stars. A frightening, fascinating documentary about the gangsters and paramilitarist thugs who led the Indonesian death squads of 1965. And who now blithely revisit, and re-enact, the tortures and murders they once committed — in makeup and costume, as if they were actors in a Hollywood movie. 1 hr. 55 No MPAA rating (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS 3 stars. The greatest Terrence Malick movie Terrence Malick never made: David Lowery’s doomy, dreamy Texas romance stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as an outlaw couple determined to be together, even when prison tears them apart. Cue the crickets, the country strings, the poetic voice-overs and high grass waving in the wind. 1 hr. 45 No MPAA rating (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

BLACKFISH 3 1/2 stars. This excellent documentary looks at the deadly consequences of keeping killer whales in captivity for human entertainment. 1 hr. 23 PG-13 (disturbing subject matter, some violence, animals in peril) — Tirdad Derakhshani

BLUE JASMINE 3 stars. Cate Blanchett storms her way through the title role of Woody Allen’s pastiche-y melodrama, about a fallen socialite seeking refuge in her sister’s San Francisco flat. Lifted in chunks from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and offering wincing blue-collar-type caricatures, the film is nonetheless a wonder — thanks to its star. With Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale, looking on in awe. 1 hr. 38 PG-13 (adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE CONJURING 3 stars. Husband-and-wife paranormal investigators are thrown for a loop by the most terrifying case they’ve ever dealt with in this unexpectedly fresh, alive and vibrant haunted house thriller. 1 hr. 52 R (profanity, violence, demonic horror, filicide) — Tirdad Derakhshani

CUTIE AND THE BOXER 4 stars. A brilliant, beautiful documentary portrait of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, a Japanese artist couple who have lived together in New York, and made art, since the early 1970s, through good times and bad, drunken rages, ego-trips, shivering poverty and sacrifice. And mostly, the sacrifice has been Noriko’s. How does a relationship work when one of the partners — the wildman Ushio, using boxing gloves to pummel his canvases with paint — is self-involved, a showman, a drunk? 1 hr. 28 R (adult themes) — Steven Rea

DESPICABLE ME 2 2 1/2 stars. The Anti-Villain League recruits Gru when a powerful new criminal emerges in this animated family sequel. 1 hr. 38 PG (mild scares, rude humor, use of flatulence guns) — Tirdad Derakhshani

DRINKING BUDDIES 3 stars. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson play workmates at a Chicago brewery — they lunch together, drink together, joke and flirt. But each has a significant other, throwing a wrench in their friendship in Joe Swanberg’s minimalist take on modern day male-female relationships. With Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick. 1 hr. 30 R (profanity, sex, craft beer, adult themes) — Steven Rea

DRUG WAR 3 1/2 stars. The leader of a Chinese drug cartel is faced with the choice of being executed or becoming a turncoat after he is arrested. Mandarin and Cantonese with subtitles. 1 hr. 47 No MPAA rating (profanity, violence, drug use, smoking, sexual situations) — Tirdad Derakhshani

ELYSIUM 3 stars. Matt Damon is a 22nd century factory worker on a “diseased, polluted and vastly over-populated” Earth, trying to crash the gated community in the sky where the rich live in smug splendor. A rabble-rousing sci-fi allegory from the director of “District 9.” 1 hr. 49 R (intense action, violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE FAMILY 2 1/2 stars. The witness protection program secrets Brooklyn mobster Robert DeNiro and his family in France. Cultures clash and bullets fly in this oddly unsettling farce from Luc Besson. 1 hr. 50 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) — David Hiltbrand

FRUITVALE STATION 4 stars. Michael B. Jordan gives a deeply nuanced performance as Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Oakland, Calif., man shot and killed by a transit cop in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2009. Ryan Coogler’s film reconstructs — and in some instances, reimagines — the events of the day and night leading up to this tragic episode. 1 hr. 25 R (violence, profanity, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea

GETAWAY One-half star. Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez (now there’s an odd couple) drive around in circles in this pointless and puzzling action film. 1 hr. 29 PG-13 (violence, profanity) — David Hiltbrand

GIRL MOST LIKELY 2 stars. Kristen Wiig stars as a once-promising young playwright who loses her job, her boyfriend and her self-esteem and is forced to move back home (to the Jersey shore) with her kooky mom (Annette Bening). Hilarity does not ensue. With Matt Dillon as a guy who thinks he’s a spy, and Darren Criss as the frontman in a Back Street Boys tribute band. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (sex, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE GRANDMASTER 2 1/2 stars. There has never been a more beautiful kung fu movie than Wong Kar Wai’s chronicle of the real-life martial arts master credited with training kung fu legend Bruce Lee. But there has probably never been one that’s harder to track, plotwise or character-wise, either.1 hr. 48 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE HUNT 3 stars. Mads Mikkelsen in a bracing, complex performance as a schoolteacher falsely accused of sexual abusing a child. Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s parable about mob mentality and the fabric of trust is a sad, sobering — and powerful — thing. 1 hr. 51 R (violence, profanity, nudity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

I’M SO EXCITED 3 stars. In the latest film from Pedro Almodovar, fear leads the passengers on an airplane to reveal some startling confessions. Spanish with subtitles. 1 hr. 35 R (strong sexual content, drug use, smoking) — Tirdad Derakhshani

IN A WORLD ... 3 stars. Lake Bell wrote, directs and stars in this winning, off the wall comedy, set in the world of voice actors — an egomanical and neurotic Hollywood clan. With Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Rob Corddry and Ken Marino. 1 hr. 33 R (profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

JOBS 2 1/2 stars. Ashton Kutcher tries on the guise of Steve Jobs, the 1970s college dropout turned new millennium computer company billionaire, in this less-than-multi-dimensional biopic. Apple products changed the world; this movie about its co-founder, will not. 2 hrs. 02 PG-13 (profanity, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea

KICK-ASS 2 1 1/2 stars. A lame followup to the punky, profane 2010 misfit teens superhero spoof, with Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson back as the costumed crimefighters, but with none of the novelty or nutball charm of the original. Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut and the increasingly annoying Christopher Mintz-Plasse co-star. 1 hr. 43 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER 3 stars. Based on the true story of an African-American who served eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan, in the White House, with Forest Whitaker, full of dignity and humilty in the title role, as pivotal events in the history of the Civil Rights movement swirl all around him. With Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo. 2 hrs. 12 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rae

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY 2/12 stars. Pixar’s first prequel takes a look at how its “Monsters, Inc. stars, Mike and Sully (the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman), first met, in the ivied halls of a college campus where the multi-hued, multi-limbed, multi-eyeballed students learn how to be “scarers.” Cute, funny, but not on the top tier when it comes to originality. 1 hr. 50 G (mild scares) — Steven Rea

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES 2 stars. Discovering she has mysterious powers, a girl (Lily Collins) hooks up with her kindreds (Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan and Robert Sheehan) to battle evil in all its gory guises. A slick but imitative Goth teen thriller. 2 hr. 10 PG-13 (intense violence, adult themes) — David Hiltbrand

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US 3 stars. Being the world’s most popular boy band has a short shelf life. And Harry, Louis, Niall, Zayn and Liam are making the most of theirs. Morgan Spurlock directed this lively documentary, a tribute to the boys’ irresistibility. 1 hr. 32 PG — David Hiltbrand

PARANOIA 2 stars. A corporate espionage thriller that’s pretty much completely lacking in thrills, unless Liam Hemsworth with his shirt off meets your requirements. With Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman as business rivals, and Amber Heard as the beautiful, brainy love interest. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rae

PLANES 1 star. Dusty the cropduster pursues his crazy dream of racing elite aircraft around the globe. Dane Cook, Stacy Keach and Brad Garrett lend their voices to a dismal kids’ film that exists mostly as an excuse for a toy line. 1 hr. 32 PG — David Hiltbrand.

RED 2 2 1/2 stars. The explosive adventures of retired spies Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malcovich never get old. Just a little formulaic in this sequel. 1 hr. 56 PG-13 (profanity, violence, drugs) — David Hiltbrand

RIDDICK 2 stars. Vin Diesel reprises his role as the glowering space criminal, this time marooned on a lethal planet. Fun cast (Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff and Dave Bautista) and bountiful action, but absolutely no redeeming values. 1 hr. 59 R (violence, profanity, nudity, adult themes, drugs) — David Hiltbrand

SHORT TERM 12 3 1/2 stars. A low-key, high-emotion indie set in a foster-care facility for at-risk teens, with a career-defining performance from Brie Larson as the supervisor who hides her own hurt with an outsized empathy. Full of heart and heartbreak, it’s also funny and inspired. 1 hr. 36 R (profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE SPECTACULAR NOW 3 stars. A high school romance that feels genuine, and finds deep places to go, with Miles Teller as a freewheeling senior who surprises himself by falling for a shy and unlikely schoolmate, beautifully played by “The Descendants’” Shailene Woodley. 1 hr. 35 R (sex, alcohol, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rae

TERRAFERMA 3 stars. From Emanuele Crialese, director of “Respiro,” another tale set on the same rocky Sicilian island — about an old fisherman who defies the authorities and rescues, and then hides, an African refugee he pulled out of the water. A sun-splashed meditation on compassion, tradition, tolerance, generational change. 1 hr. 28 R (nudity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THÉRÈSE 2 1/2 stars. A free spirit attempts to break free from the social conventions of 1920s France. French with subtitles. 1 hr. 50 No MPAA rating (mature themes, mild sexuality, intense existential ennui, bourgeois malaise) — Tirdad Derakhshani

TURBO 2 stars. A snail in the Indy 500? That’s the premise of this formulaic animated feature that definitely isn’t hitting on all cylinders. With the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Maya Rudolph and Snoop Dogg. 1 hr. 36 PG (mild action and thematic elements) — David Hiltbrand

20 FEET FROM STARDOM 3 1/2 stars. A rocking doc about the unsung singers standing just to the right and left of Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and other music superstars. Backup vocalists finally get their due. 1 hr. 30 PG-13 (profanity) — Dan DeLuca

THE WAY, WAY BACK 3 stars. Sly, richly modulated, emotionally engaging, and brutally honest, Oscar winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s brilliantly cast coming of age dramedy is about Duncan, a geeky, awkward, alienated 14-year-old boy forced to spend summer vacation with his single mom (Toni Collette) and her new beau, an obnoxious, overbearing car salesman (Steve Carell). Duncan comes out of his shell when he befriends a local water park manager played with manic glee by Sam Rockwell. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes, mild sexuality, smoking) — Tirdad Derakhshani

WE’RE THE MILLERS 2 1/2 stars. A pot dealer and a stripper — Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston — pose as an all-American, RV-driving couple, recruiting two misfit teens to play their kids so they can smuggle a huge shipment of marijuana across the Mexican border. Innocuously smutty, intermittently funny road comedy. R (profanity, nudity, drugs, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE WOLVERINE 3 stars. Hugh Jackman stars in this dark and stormy — and ragingly fun — X-Men thriller, in which Logan, the brooding mutant with the retractable adamantian claws, finds himself is the thick of whooshing ninjas, tattooed yakuza and all the anime cool of 21st century Japan. 2 hrs. 06 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE WORLD’S END 3 stars. Edgar Wright and his anarchic nutball mates from the “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” parodies turn their attention to another genre, as five old school chums reunite for an epic pub crawl in their old hometown. A town whose occupants seem eerily unfamiliar. 1 hr. 49 R (profanity, cartoon violence, gore, sex, adult themes) — Steven Rea

YOU’RE NEXT 3 stars. A family is terrorized by killers while on vacation, but one of their guests turns out to be the most talented killer of all. Directed with impressive control and confidence by horror specialist Adam Wingard. 1 hr. 36 R (extreme violence, gore, coarse language, smoking) — Tirdad Derakhshani


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