Death at a Funeral (R) ★★☆☆☆
Audiences unfamiliar with Frank Oz’s 2007 original film by the same title will enjoy Neil LaBute’s lesser remake, whose conceit lies in transplanting the setting from the U.K. to the U.S. and replacing the all-white cast with a largely African-American group (Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan). Screenwriter Dean Craig updates his own comedy of errors but much of the original’s humor gets lost in translation.
Kick-Ass (R) ☆☆☆☆☆
Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) oversees this dumb story co-written by comic book writers Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr. The story is about the young Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who reinvents himself as Kick-Ass. He finds assistance from a Bat-Man wannabe (Nicolas Cage) and his Robin-ish daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz). From its cartoon bad guys to its profanity and gory violence, this film spells disaster.
The Joneses (R) ★★★☆☆
The Joneses is a satire from debut director/co-writer Derrick Borte. A gated suburb is the hunting ground for a manufactured family of product-placement experts. David Duchovny and Demi Moore are phony parents to perfect teens (Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth), while Lauren Hutton plays their boss. Concerning the greedy pre-financial meltdown, The Joneses is a superfluous footnote whose relevance has passed.
Date Night (PG-13) ★★★☆☆
This middle-aged rom-com splits between slap-stick and saucy comic delivery. As a wedded couple, Tina Fey and Steve Carell are plausible and funny. Screenwriter Josh Klausner’s hackneyed plot puts the couple on the run in a case of mistaken identity. Cameos from Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta, James Franco and Mila Kunis barely improve the script. Fey and Carell deserve better, but their comic timing make it worthwhile.
A Prophet (R) ★★★★★
Jacques Audiard’s look at the French prison system hinges on a criminal’s transformation from submissive ignorance to an intelligent dominant force. Impressive newcomer Tahar Rahim plays the jailed Malik, who works for the leader of the jail’s Corsican mafia (Niels Arestrup). A most worthy contender for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.
The Perfect Game (PG) ★★★☆☆
A sweet sports movie that’s ideal for introducing baseball to young fans. It’s 1957, Mexico and a former Cincinnati Reds ballboy (Clifton Collins Jr.) coaches a group of ragtag children to the Little League World Series. Based on a true story of the only “perfect game” (when a pitcher never allows a runner on base) in the league’s championship history.
The Clash of the Titans (PG-13) ★★★☆☆
In spite of a miscast Sam Worthington and a lame CGI Medusa, Titans is an enjoyable spectacle based on the myth of Perseus. Director Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2) makes the most of big action set pieces that include intense battles. To all the critical moaning about this update of Desmond Davis’ 1981 original, I say pishaw. Solid performances from Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes add gravitas.
Hot Tub Time Machine (R) ★★☆☆☆
Considering John Cusack produced this lackluster comedy romp where three buddies (Rob Corddry, Cusack and Craig Robinson) travel back to their ’80s-era heyday, Time Machine should at least feature some cool music. Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover are wasted in minor roles. Homosexual hijinks and poorly executed slapstick pratfalls attend this sloppy comedy.
The Runaways (R) ★★★☆☆
Runaways follows the crash-and-burn experiences of the 1970s all-girl rock band of the same name. Dakota Fanning delivers her best work as the band’s bisexual lead singer, while Kristen Stewart channels Joan Jett. But Michael Shannon steals the show as their famously eccentric producer. Debut filmmaker Floria Sigismondi is keen on meta meaning, while Joan Jett and record producer Kenny Laguna executive produced.