Movies: ‘Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day’ reviewed, along with new, recent films

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

OPENING

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE HORRIBLE NO GOOD VERY BAD DAY
★★

Rated: PG for rude humor including some reckless behavior and language

Stars: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Kerris Dorsey, Dylan Minnette

This bright, wholesome and bland Disney comedy might have been a little more funny if it had been a little more, terrible, horrible, no good and so forth. Plenty of disastrous stuff happens to the Cooper family on this “Very Bad Day,” ranging from major minivan destruction to a rampaging crocodile, but none of it has much impact. There’s very little sense that anything significant is at stake here—and meager stakes result in meager laughs.

DRACULA UNTOLD
Not reviewed

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality

Stars: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance

When his kingdom and family are threatened, Vlad the Impaler (Evans) makes a deal with supernatural forces that barters his soul for power. Commercial director Gary Shore makes his debut with the supernatural thriller.

THE JUDGE
Not reviewed

Rated: R for language including some sexual references

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Vera Farmiga, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton

A big-city lawyer (Downey Jr.) reluctantly returns to his hometown to represent his estranged father (Duvall) when he is charged with murder. David Dobkin (“The Change-Up”) directed the drama.

KILL THE MESSENGER
Not reviewed

Rated: R for language and drug content

Stars: Jeremy Renner, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Sheen, Ray Liotta

After exposing the CIA’s role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine, a reporter (Renner) is driven to the point of suicide by a smear campaign. Michael Cuesta (“Roadie”) directed the drama.

PRIDE
★★★

Rated: R for language and brief sexual content

Stars: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine

It’s a bit overlong and a bit overstuffed with subplots and minor characters, but this based-on-fact dramedy about an unlikely coalition between gay activists and striking coal miners in Thatcher-era England is a real crowd-pleaser—mostly thanks to its terrific cast. In spite of its over-reliance on things like cute little old ladies at gay pride parades saying “Where are my lesbians?”

YOU’RE NOT YOU
★★ 1/2

Rated: R for some sexual content, language and brief drug use

Stars: Hilary Swank, Emmy Rossum, Josh Duhamel, Jason Ritter

A shameless tear-duct-dredging weepie with a side order of empowering life lessons, “You’re Not You” might not be particularly subtle, but it’s almost guaranteed to please if you’re merely in the mood for a couple of sobs. Double Oscar winner Swank suffers bravely Kate, a perfectly put-together former classical pianist living a perfect life with her perfect husband (Duhamel) until she’s suddenly stricken with ALS. Rossum is the sassy young hot mess of an aspiring singer/songwriter she hires as a caretaker. Next thing you know, they’re BFFs. Though not exactly forever.

STILL PLAYING

GONE GIRL
★★★ 1/2

Rated: R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language

Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris

Creepy, cold-blooded and not exactly encouraging regarding its outlook on marriage and romantic relationships in general, “Gone Girl” is nonetheless a smart, satisfying thriller that more than lives up to its hype. After the disappearance of his rich and famous wife (Rosamund Pike in a shocking performance) on their fifth anniversary, a grieving husband (Affleck) becomes the object of savage media scrutiny—and a police investigation. Is he what he seems to be? Is his wife? Is anything? Director David Fincher (“The Social Network”) keeps us guessing throughout—right up to the truly perverse finale.

THE HERO OF COLOR CITY
Not reviewed

Rated: G

Stars: Christina Ricci, Sean Astin, Owen Wilson, Rosie Perez

A group of crayons join forces to defeat a monster threatening their city—and the imagination of children. Frank Gladstone makes his directorial debut with the animated family adventure.

LEFT BEHIND
★ 1/2

Rated: PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence/peril and brief drug content

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Lea Thompson, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson

Surely one of the dullest end-of-the-world movies ever made, the evangelical-Christian-targeting rapture drama “Left Behind” does its best to dramatize the pandemonium that ensues when true believers around the world mysteriously disappear. Cage, believe it or not, plays an airline pilot whose copilot vanishes at 30,000 feet—forcing him to land his crippled plane on his own. The role’s epic blandness qualifies it as one of the weirdest of his career.

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN
★★

Rated: R for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue throughout—some involving teens, and for language

Stars: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Emma Thompson, J.K. Simmons

This dire, dour and dreary cautionary tale about the Internet is appearing about 10 years too late to qualify as a fresh topic, but timeliness isn’t the main thing that’s missing. The sharp, cynical wit that characterized co-writer/director Ivan Reitman’s first films (“Thank You for Not Smoking,” “Juno,” “Up in the Air”) is nowhere in evidence. Without it, the melancholy air of those first efforts degenerates into mere dismalness. Sandler is a standout as a sad dad in a sexless marriage who seeks solace from online call girls—part of a loosely connected group of teens and parents are all falling afoul of the interwebs in various sordid ways.

THE BOXTROLLS
★★ 1/2

Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor

Stars: Ben Kingsley, Nick Frost, Tracy Morgan, Richard Ayoade

Though produced by the makers of “Coraline” and “Paranorman,” this disappointing stop-motion family adventure scores roughly equivalent points for weirdness, but without nearly as much charm or humor. Raised as a cardboard-box wearing troll in an underground cavern, a young boy (Isaac Hempstead Wright of “Game of Thrones”) ventures to the surface to confront the evil, cross-dressing exterminator (Ben Kingsley) who plans to wipe out the trolls. Adults may find that it has its moments, but don’t be surprised if younger children find it disturbingly freaky.

THE EQUALIZER
★★★

Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout

Stars: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

Washington brings his usual gravitas to the role of a retired CIA super-spy assassin who’s found something more interesting to do with his spare time than play golf. Namely, coming to the rescue of ordinary folks being oppressed by major-league bad guys “because he can.” Director Antoine Fuqua (who also directed Washington’s Oscar-winner “Training Day”) delivers the mayhem with stylishness to spare and a touch of literary appreciation as our deadly yet bookish hero distills life lessons from his reading of “The Old Man and the Sea” and “Don Quixote.”

HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS
★ 1/2

Rated R for language and some brief nudity

Stars: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgard

Essentially an even more vapid version of “Eat, Pray Love” for over-privileged middle-aged men, “Hector” features a midlife-crisising psychiatrist (Pegg), who takes a break from his passion-free existence for a globetrotting journey in search of the meaning of true happiness. The best way to be happy in the short run? Give this one a miss.

TRACKS
★★★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language

Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver

Despite the slow pace, “Tracks” is a journey well worth taking. Wasikowska (“Jane Eyre,” “Alice in Wonderland”) is particularly good as Robyn Davidson, a young woman who trekked 1,700-miles through Australian desert in the 1970s, with no one for company but three camels and a dog. Oh, and Driver, as a National Geographic photographer/romantic interest who frisks around puppy-like during occasional meetings and clearly annoys our hero no end. See it for Wasikowska’s strong, lone-wolf performance and for the stunning images of Australia’s Outback.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM
★★★

Rated R for language

Stars: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis

It’s a way too slow and it goes on way too long, but, if you stick it out, “Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” might eventually draw you in with its detailed examination of the agonized aftermath of a wrecked marriage. A distillation of two companion features subtitled “His” and “Hers,” “Them” opens with a quick flashback to the happy romance of Eleanor (Chastain) and Conor (McAvoy), then abruptly changes moods when Eleanor attempts suicide — then lets us spend the next two hours trying to sort out what went wrong. Fortunately, there’s one very touching scene near the very end that arguably makes it worth the effort.

THE MAZE RUNNER
★★★

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images.

Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter

Though it might seem the last thing anyone—including this film’s target audience—needs is another post-apocalyptic young-adult fantasy adventure, “The Maze Runner’ has a secret weapon. It’s actually pretty good. Debut director Wes Ball draws a surprising amount of excitement from this tale of a “Lord of the Flies”-like community of teenage boys imprisoned by a giant maze—and the newcomer (O’Brien) who helps them escape.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU
Not reviewed

Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use

Stars: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda

After the death of their father, four estranged siblings are forced to spend a week together in their old family home. Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”) directed the comedy.

TUSK
Not reviewed

Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content

Stars: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment

An obnoxious podcaster (Long) is taken captive by an eccentric recluse he intended to interview and ridicule. Kevin Smith (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”) wrote and directed the horror comedy.

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
Not reviewed

Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity

Stars: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour

A private investigator (Neeson) is hired by a drug kingpin to find the men who kidnapped and murdered his wife. Screenwriter Scott Frank (“The Wolverine,” “Minority Report”) wrote and directed the crime drama.

THE ZERO THEOREM
Not reviewed

Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity

Stars: Christoph Waltz, David Thewlis, Melanie Thierry, Tilda Swinton, Matt Damon

A computer expert (Waltz) is assigned by all-powerful Management (Damon) to perfect a theorem proving that everything adds up to nothing. Terry Gilliam (“Brazil”) directed the futuristic fantasy drama.

STILL PLAYING

THE SKELETON TWINS
★★★

Rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use

Stars: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell

Suicide is right up front as a thematic element in this Sundance festival prizewinner, along with parental abandonment, marital infidelity and sexual seduction of a minor — awkward topics for a movie that’s going for laughs, sort of, roughly half the time. So it’s kind of remarkable that “The Skeleton Twins” works as well as it does as often as it does, though the natural chemistry of former “Saturday Night Live” cast mates Hader and Wiig, as estranged twins getting to know each other again after mutual suicide attempts, has a lot to do with it.

DOLPHIN TALE 2
Not reviewed

Rated PG for some mild thematic elements

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Nathan Gamble

Years after saving the life of the rescued dolphin Winter with a prosthetic tail, the Clearwater Marine Hospital comes to her assistance again when her surrogate mother dies. Director Charles Martin Smith returns for the sequel.

THE DROP
Not reviewed

Rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language

Stars: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini

A Brooklyn bartender (Hardy) becomes involved when the bar owned by his boss (Gandolfini) is robbed while holding money for the mob. Michael R. Roskam (“Bullhead”) directed the drama.

NO GOOD DEED
Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, menace, terror, and for language

Stars: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson

An escaped convict (Elba) terrorizes a suburban mom (Henson) and her family after she lets him into her home to make a call. Sam Miller (British TV’s “The Bill”) directed the thriller.

THE IDENTICAL

Rated PG for thematic material and smoking

Stars: Blake Rayne, Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta

Not just bad, but double bad, “The Identical” offers an evangelicized, milk-and-cookies version of the Elvis story times two — sort of. Former Elvis impersonator Rayne stars as debut as thinly fictionalized rock ‘n’ roll superstar Drexel Hemsley and his identical twin brother Ryan — separated at birth when Ryan is given to a traveling preacher (Liotta). Despite adopted daddy’s desire for him to enter the ministry, Ryan, unaware of his origin, heeds another call: to become a clean-living, true-believing Drexel impersonator. Film features 20-some pseudo-Elvis songs (“Bee Boppin Baby,” “Boogie Woogie Rock and Roll”) that would have killed rock dead before it began.

THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD
★★ 1/2

Rated R for some sexuality and language

Stars: Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning, Susan Sarandan

Whatever hard lessons Errol Flynn learned in the last 17 years of his life, staying away from very young girls after his 1942 statutory rape trial clearly wasn’t one of them. The final major scandal of the aging former swashbuckler (Kline, perfect) involved dying in the company of his 17-year-old fiancée (Fanning) after their two-year affair — condoned by her fame-obsessed stage mother (Sarandon). Writer/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Sundance festival winners for “Quinceañara”) take a surprisingly sympathetic approach to everyone involved in the romance, resulting in blandness — a little more lechery and lust wouldn’t have hurt.

WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL
★★ 1/2

Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking

Stars: Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, Laura Dern

Considering that the De La Salle High School Spartans are the winningest team in high-school football history, if not the winningest team in any sport, ever, it’s interesting that “When the Game Stands Tall” is essentially a movie about losing. Not flat-out, over-and-done losing, but losing as an opportunity to learn moral lessons, as in winning is less important than teamwork, brotherhood and faith. The Christian-themed film spotlights the 12-year, 151-game winning streak of the De La Salle High School Spartans football team — and what happened when these Goliaths ran into their David.

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
Not reviewed

Rated R for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout

Stars: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge

A team of explorers finds something very scary dwelling in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. John Erick Dowdle (“Devil”) directed the horror.

LIFE OF CRIME
★★★

Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence

Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Yasiin Bey, John Hawkes, Tim Robbins, Will Forte, Isla Fisher

Striking the proper balance between light humor and genuine threat has always been a problem for adapters of Elmore Leonard crime novels, but “Life of Crime” basically gets it right. Possibly because the late author also served as executive producer. Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def) and Hawke play kidnappers who expect crooked real-estate developer Robbins to hand over a million dollars for his trophy wife Aniston — only to learn he’s filed for divorce and isn’t especially eager to see her again.

THE NOVEMBER MAN
Not reviewed

Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use

Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko

An ex-CIA operative (Brosnan) returns to the fray for a fracas with a former pupil involved in shady goings-on in Russia. Roger Donaldson (“The Bank Job”) directed the espionage thriller.

YVES SAINT LAURENT
Not reviewed

Rated R for sexual content and drug use

Stars: Pierre Niney, Guillaume Gallienne, Charlotte Le Bon, Nikolai Kinski

The life and career of the famed French fashion designer (Niney) is explored in this biographical drama. Jalil Lespert (“Headwinds”) directed the bio-drama.

LOVE IS STRANGE
★★★1/2

Rated R for language

Stars: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei

Despite the travails and tragedy in “Love is Strange,” you’ll have to look a long time to find a film that’s a better endorsement of long-term relationships. Lithgow and Molina (both at their best) star as a newlywed, long-partnered gay couple who essentially become homeless when a Catholic school fires one of them in reaction to their marriage. It’s a minor-key movie, achingly sad at times, but understated, true to life and ultimately quite moving.

ARE YOU HERE
★★1/2

Rated R for language, drug use and some sexual content/nudity

Stars: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler, Laura Ramsay

There are times when “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner’s feature debut seems like two films at once: a standard-issue whacky bro-mantic comedy with two-dimensional characters and an attempt to mine their personal struggles for maximum dramatic impact. It doesn’t really work. Wilson and Galifianakis are more or less typecast as Steve and Ben, a charming, womanizing, shallow TV weatherman and a borderline-crazy hermit. When Ben inherits a farm in Amish country, Steve tries to help him collect. True-romance and deepened self-knowledge ensue.

LAND HO!
Not reviewed

Rated R for some language, sexual references and drug use

Stars: Earl Lynn Nelson, Paul Eenhoorn,

A pair of 60-something former brothers in law (Nelson and Eenhoorn) embark on a road trip through Iceland in search of their youth. Aaron Katz (“Cold Weather”) and Martha Stephens (“Passenger Pigeons”) co-wrote and directed the comedy.

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