‘East’ energizes, ‘Steel’ subsides and ‘End’ entertains in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, June 14 in theaters throughout the Valley are a drama about an anarchist group, a new take on the super-est of all superheroes and a comedy about the end of the world.

The East

Brit Marling plays an operative for an elite private intelligence firm who finds her priorities irrevocably changed after she is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. (PG-13 – 116 minutes)

“The East” is the kind of movie that not only entertains you but also makes you think – and not just about the story, which is told with terrific intelligence, but also its very real implications. You will, without a doubt, believe that the system is indeed broken after having seen writer/director Zal Batmanglij’s drama, which was co-written by star Brit Marling. How to go about fixing it, though, is the pinnacle problem as the motion picture proves that it is an exceptionally complex issue. Save for some mid-movie meandering, you are certain to be breathless from beginning to end. (Thumbs Up!)

Man of Steel

Henry Cavill plays a man who, having learned that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth, journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind. (PG-13 – 143 minutes)

“Man of Steel” is bit too much science-fiction and not nearly enough superhero. Granted, it has certainly got a guy in tights who saves the day – albeit bringing an entire city to ashes in the process. However, said guy seems so alien that his relatability and therefore the integral theme of hope are lost amid a mass of ambiguous action sequences that make Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies look like low-budget indies. Having said that, director Zack Snyder’s new post-Nolanverse vision of the Last Son of Krypton is definitely dynamic – but this is simply not Superman. (Thumbs Down!)

Shadow Dancer

Andrea Riseborough plays a single mother living in Belfast who is arrested for her part in an aborted IRA bomb plot in London and forced to become an informant for MI5 in order to protect her son’s welfare. Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson also star. (R – 96 minutes)

Despite an initially intriguing premise and a complex performance from actress Andrea Riseborough, “Shadow Dancer” is a mundane and monotonous movie. The new drama based on author Tom Bradby’s novel never picks up the pace enough to deliver viewers any authentic thrills and therefore loses them long before its cushioned climax. If this lifeless effort is any indication, James Marsh – who helmed one of 2011’s greatest motion pictures “Project Nim” – ought to stick to directing documentaries. Even star power in the form of Clive Owen cannot save this snooze-fest of a feature film. (Thumbs Down!)


Steve Oram plays a man who takes his wife (Alice Lowe) on a journey through the British Isles. But before long, litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre-booked caravan sites, conspire to shatter his dreams and send him – along with anyone who rubs him the wrong way – over a very jagged edge. (NR – 88 minutes)

“Sightseers” gives a bad name to the dark comedy genre. Director Ben Wheatley’s new movie, which boasts Edgar Wright – the mind behind “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and the upcoming “The World’s End” – as an executive producer, never really serves up any laughs. To make matters worse, its interpretation of the word “dark” is more mean-spirited than merciless and the entire ordeal is essentially a one-trick pony, operating solely on a single gimmick that is never used to its fullest potential and quickly grows old. As a result, the viewer is left with little to do but be bored to death by unlikeable characters. (Thumbs Down!)

This is the End

While attending a party at James Franco’s house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride are faced with the apocalypse. As the world unravels outside, dwindling supplies and cabin fever threaten to tear apart the friendships inside. (R – 107 minutes)

“This is the End” feels like one giant inside joke. Fortunately, anyone and everyone who considers themself a movie fan is in on it. Having said that, the new apocalyptic comedy starring just about every actor who has ever appeared in a Judd Apatow production is not nearly as earth-endingly side-splitting as you might expect. Granted, it is outrageous, ostentatious and offensive – often crossing the fine line between amusement and annoyance – but the viewer will have to settle for the simple appreciation of seeing these stars satirize and sully themselves as well as one another. It is incredibly crude but also quite clever. (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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