‘Earth’ crash lands, ‘Midnight’ moves and ‘See Me’ tricks in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, May 31 in theaters throughout the Valley are a science-fiction flick starring Will Smith and his son, a sequel to both “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” and a thriller about a bunch of magicians who rob banks

After Earth

Will and Jaden Smith play a father and son who crash land on Earth 1,000 years after events forced humanity’s escape. With his father injured, the son must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help. (PG-13 – 100 minutes)

Even if it were not a blatant attempt by Will Smith to shove his son Jaden down our throats and toward superstardom, “After Earth” would still be too silly to be taken even remotely seriously. After all, both stars speak with some strange and unnecessary accent that not only renders their lines unintelligible but also makes them seem inarticulate while the dialogue feels more fit for satire than sincere science-fiction. It is consistently entertaining – albeit on a very child-like level – but writer/director M. Night Shyamalan should be ashamed of producing something so sheepheaded and senseless. (Thumbs Down!)

Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles of Jesse and Celine who, 9 years after we last saw them, embody the realities of a longterm relationship – the weight of children, work, ambitions and disappointments. (R – 108 minutes)

Like its predecessors “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” “Before Midnight” is deep, meaningful and realistically romantic. However, that last quality receives somewhat of a melancholy modification this time around. Whereas the first two films were hopeful, this one hits viewers – especially those who feel connected to these two characters with whom they have grown up for the past 18 years – in the gut like a ton of bricks. The insights and revelations about time’s impact on true love are devastating. But because they are reflections of reality rather than some fairy tale, they culminate in this franchise’s most emboldened ending yet. (Breakthrough!)

Now You See Me

Mark Ruffalo plays an FBI agent who tracks a team of illusionists (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Isla Fisher) that pulls off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money. (PG-13 – 116 minutes)

“Now You See Me” is fresh, fun and fascinating but too far-fetched. When you think about it, the new crime thriller is actually just one giant magic trick with director Louis Leterrier employing the same slight-of-hand techniques as your average illusionist. The audience is so mesmerized by the movie’s spectacular special effects and flustered by the flick’s fast pace that they almost do not notice – or at least do not care – that old-fashioned Hollywood hocus-pocus has been replaced with garish computer-generated imagery and the puzzle that the pieces make by fitting into place is fairly pointless. (Thumbs Up!)

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Terence Nance plays a quixotic artist who hypothesizes about why he feels bad when a mystery girl stands him up. The event prompts him to ask: What is the content of a momentary feeling? Is it the sum of your experiences? And, more importantly, are your experiences the sum of you? (NR – 85 minutes)

If writer/director Terence Nance considers his new experimental motion picture “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” to indeed be an oversimplification, then I would not want to encounter anything that he considers to be an overcomplication. Nance’s new movie – which is actually an agitated amalgamation of two shorts – is an amazing achievement in stylized philosophizing. However, its constant repetition, linear incohesiveness and instructional-esque narration do not make for a very satisfying slice of entertainment. The opening hooks you with a series of compelling questions but it quickly becomes more exasperating than it is enlightening on a universal level. (Thumbs Down!)

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Keith Poulson plays a young man who, along with his best friend (Nick Offerman) and the woman they both adore (Jess Weixler), stumble through 35 years of seemingly mandatory but unfulfilling entanglements. (NR – 76 minutes)

For a flick that barely scrapes past the runtime to be considered feature-length, “Somebody Up There Likes Me” sure feels long. Perhaps that is because the film fast-forwards through periods of 5 years at a time to encompass a total of 35 years while one of its characters fails to age a single day and others merely get glasses or salt-and-pepper hair. And although it plays into the motion picture’s purpose in that we are who we are and no passage of time will ever change that, viewers need more than deadpan humor to make the message poignant and the movie entertaining. (Thumbs Down!)

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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