‘Conjuring’ crashes, ‘RED 2’ rivets and ‘Turbo’ thrills in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, July 19 in theaters throughout the Valley are a new horror flick from director James Wan, a sequel starring Bruce Willis and an animated adventure about a very fast snail.

Broken

Eloise Laurence plays a young girl whose innocence begins to vanish after bearing witness to a savage beating. Overwhelmed by her experiences, she is drawn into an ethereal chaos from which she may only return through the intense love of those closest to her. Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy co-star. Playing exclusively at the FilmBar. (NR – 90 minutes)

“Broken” is a cinematic exercise in miserablism. If director Rufus Norris’s new drama adapted from Daniel Clay’s novel had some sort of constructive comment about a child’s sudden awareness of this world’s darker aspects, said experience would have at least had meaning. Instead, we must settle for mere feeling transference. In other words, the aforementioned misery is infectious. Granted, we all have our own issues that rear their ugly heads from time to time, but if real life were even remotely this melodramatic with earth-shattering dilemmas flaring up for everyone we know simultaneously, suicides would be a far more common occurrence. (Thumbs Down!)

The Conjuring

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play paranormal investigators who work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, they find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives. (R – 112 minutes)

The only viewers who would be impressed with “The Conjuring” are those who do not ordinarily make it a point to see horror flicks. Granted, a pat on the back is owed to New Line Cinema’s marketing department for making director James Wan’s new motion picture look as though it has more credibility than most other movies of its typically derided genre. And although there may be some basis of truth in its tale, the more accurate truth is that all of these things have been done before; and better because they came with an ounce of subtlety – something that Wan employs absolutely none of here. (Thumbs Down!)

Girl Most Likely

Kristen Wiig plays a once-promising New York playwright who uses her skill for drama to stage an elaborate fake suicide as an appeal for his sympathy. When it backfires, when she is put into the custody of her estranged gambling addict mother (Annette Bening) on the Jersey shore. (PG-13 – 103 minutes)

“Girl Most Likely” is the kind of flick that, if viewed at a film festival, might seem adequate enough. But outside of that idealistic setting, it feels flat. That is to say that there is not exactly anything awful about it but there certainly is not anything special about it, either. The new comedy is very shallow, hollow and washed out in spite of its desperate attempts to make its supporting characters as quirky as physically possible. Moreover, star Kristen Wiig’s Imogene is an extremely unlikeable protagonist, preventing us from ever forgiving the film’s overwhelmingly sitcomish sense of humor. (Thumbs Down!)

The Hot Flashes

Brooke Shields, Virginia Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Wanda Sykes and Camryn Manheim play an unlikely group of middle-aged women who challenge the high school girls’ state basketball champs to raise money for a mobile breast cancer screening truck to continue its work. Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (R – 99 minutes)

“The Hot Flashes” is a good-natured film about refusing to be sidelined due to one’s age – especially when the incentive is a bit bigger than a championship trophy. Having said that, the new sports comedy plays strictly by the genre’s rules – shot for three-point shot – and thus cannot really be called original much less groundbreaking. Moreover, the scenes on the court are not exactly nail-biting (or even authentic for that matter). But that is why director Susan Seidelman’s motion picture is so universally appealing; it scores with its humongous heart as opposed to its superficial skills. (Thumbs Up!)

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling plays the owner of a Thai boxing club and smuggling ring whose brother is murdered. When his crime lord matriarch (Kristin Scott Thomas) forces him to settle the score with his brother’s killers, the respected criminal figure finds himself in the ultimate showdown. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (R – 90 minutes)

“Only God Forgives” is thematically monumental, taking the striking cinematic style of “Drive” – writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous collaboration with actor Ryan Gosling – and multiplying it by a million. However, unlike that earlier effort, the new arthouse thriller leaves viewers feeling oddly empty, as though they have eaten an exquisite meal of tiny-yet-tasty delicacies only to walk away from the table with their stomach craving something of more solid substance. Nonetheless, it is still worth seeing if – for nothing else – the sheer curiosity factor alone, as its forebodingly deathlike composure will render you unconscious. (Thumbs Up!)

R.I.P.D.

Ryan Reynolds plays a recently slain cop who joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him. Jeff Bridges and Kevin Bacon co-star. (PG-13 – 96 minutes)

Perhaps it is only fitting that “R.I.P.D.” is D.O.A. The new comedic actioner inspired by Peter M. Lenkov’s “Rest in Peace Department” comic book series published by Dark Horse Entertainment is a massive missed opportunity. What could have replicated the clever whimsy of “Men in Black” falls flat on its face as it disregards any real world ramifications and instead operates itself as some sort of kooky cartoon in which blobs of decaying flesh run amok along the sides of Boston’s buildings. By carelessly creating chaos, it comes across as completely ludicrous and essentially loses its entertainment value. (Thumbs Down!)

RED 2

Bruce Willis reprises his role as a retired black-ops CIA agent who reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Catherine Zeta-Jones also star. (PG-13 – 116 minutes)

Having seen 2010’s “RED” as being more or less a movie operating on a single gimmick that – forgive the pun – gets old very quickly, I was pleasantly surprised to find that its sequel is a slight improvement in that the motion picture prioritizes story over novelty. In fact, “RED 2” may in fact feature too much story, traversing more plot twists in 2 hours than “24” did in an entire season. And while said sudden developments certainly keep viewers on the edge of their seats, they also threaten to wear one down with too much talk and not nearly enough action. (Thumbs Down!)

Still Mine

James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold play an elderly couple who fight against local authorities in rural New Brunswick to build their final home. Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (PG-13 – 102 minutes)

Anchored by a sterling performance from star James Cromwell, “Still Mine” is a deeply affecting motion picture that will both break your heart and genuinely rejuvenate your belief in everlasting love. Writer/director Michael McGowan tells a tale that, based on a true story, demonstrates that life does not fit inside of a box. It is somewhat slow-moving but never the least bit boring as it arrests your emotions from beginning to end, beautifully manifesting what it means to truly treasure another person. Not everyone has the land on which to build a home for someone, but we all certainly have the equipment. (Thumbs Up!)

Turbo

Ryan Reynolds voices an everyday garden snail who, after a freak accident, might just be able to achieve his biggest dream – winning the Indy 500. Other voice talents include Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez and Ken Jeong. (PG – 100 minutes)

Bringing audiences to their feet with cheers and applause more so than any other animated adventure this year – and maybe even any live-action movie as well – “Turbo” is a tremendously entertaining crowd-pleaser of a motion picture. Fueled up with a special blend of humor, heart and excitement and harnessing the power of several potent themes, including dreaming big and seizing the day, the new family flick gets viewers’ engines started in such a way that they are then not so bothered by its far-fetched premise and fairly formulaic execution. (Thumbs Up!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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