New Releases shelves loaded with good films this month

By Gary Clift

The New Releases shelves at video stores are going to sag and groan this month, they will be that heavy with largely-popular recent general-release movies. There will be animated features like “The Croods” and “Monsters University” and special effects, action pictures like “Pacific Rim.” And then there will be some really sort of odd feature films taking a little space from the glut of more conventional offerings.

Take, for example, “This is the End.” In it half a hundred recognizable show biz personalities play themselves. They are all gathered at James Franco’s new mansion when the Apocalypse happens. Tractor beams pull some people into the air. The earth quakes and riots break out. Those of our heroes who have decided to play characters different from their usual screen presences—Franco and Michael Cera, for instance—come off much better than do those—including project-organizers Seth Rogan and Jay Baruchel—who play their usual characters. The movie is moral without being funny.

A little better was “The Hangover 3,” though it is obviously the weakest of the movies in its series. This time our heroes find themselves conned by Ken Jeong and coerced by his enemy, John Goodman (who often appears in disappointing sequels). There isn’t much funny in the film, and the only exhilaration is during the wild parasailing over the Los Vegas strip.

But “The Hangover 3” is a thrill a minute compared to “After Earth,” a thankfully brief, sci-fi picture starring father and son Will and Jaden Smith and directed by M. Knight Shyamalan. The Smiths are starship troopers who are separated when they crash land on a threatening planet (guess which one). Son must travel a sort of mortal obstacle-course to help save injured Dad. None of the action is in any way interesting.

“The Purge” is about a family living through the annual night during which anyone can commit any crime without fear of legal punishment. They have to survive attacks from the daughter’s beau, a marauding gang looking for an injured man to whom the family has given sanctuary, and their jealous neighbors. Not really scary, but still fairly satisfactory.

It was as much fun to watch as was “The Heat,” a routine Sandra Bullock comedy about law enforcement officers with different styles who must work together to solve the big case. Melissa McCarthy plays the Oscar part here, and her physical comedy is, surprisingly, the most memorable stuff in the movie.

Supposedly based on a true story, the horror movie “The Conjuring” follows a married couple of ghost busters who try to help a New England family living in a house haunted by the minions of a Salem witch. Director James Wan had the cast here, including Ron “Office Space” Livingston. But the movie isn’t scary and contains some business having to do with the couple’s daughter that never pays off in the final cut of the film.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn star in “The Internship,” a movie that attempts to separate short-term fads from the qualities that make us friends or successes. The over-the-hill boys get internships at Google and the rest is pretty much the “Rocky” plot in a sort of good-humored way. The movie proves once again that techno nerds don’t make attractive screen presences.

“The Way, Way Back” is like “Adventureland.” In it a depressed boy finds summer work at a water park, falls in love, and learns to value what he is. Sam Rockwell appears as a member of the strong cast, which includes Steve Carrel in the villain’s part. Vaguely interesting.

I can only recommend “Before Midnight,” the third in a series of talky movies about a long interrupted romance, to people who actually liked the first two films. Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke are married to each other now and both living in Greece, but they still yammer a lot more than they do anything else. And they talk a lot of fake sounding crud.

On the other hand, I liked “R.I.P.D.” Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star as deceased lawmen who are held out of Heaven for a time and are assigned to stop ghosts on Earth. Kevin Bacon plays the villain, an organizer trying to use ghosts to hurry the Apocalypse. Bridges, doing a sort of Buffalo Bill Cody impersonation here, delights and director Robert Schwentke manages to keep the special effects from taking over what is a pretty good, if not altogether unfamiliar, story.

That’s a bunch of new movies for one month, and more than a few of them are worth watching, and even worth watching again. The plenty is certainly welcome.

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