‘Getaway’ crashes, ‘Instructions’ and ‘Short Term’ affect in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, Aug. 30 in theaters throughout the Valley are a 90-minute car chase starring Ethan Hawke, a foreign-language dramedy starring Eugenio Derbez and a rehab drama starring Brie Larson.

Getaway

Ethan Hawke plays a burned out race car driver who is thrust into a do-or-die mission behind the wheel when his wife is kidnapped. With his only ally being a young hacker (Selena Gomez), his one hope of saving his wife is to follow the orders of the mysterious voice (Jon Voight) who’s watching his every move through cameras mounted on his car. (PG-13 – 90 minutes)

One’s first reaction to a review, such as this one, that claims that “Getaway” is one of the absolute worst movies of the year might be to ask, “Well what did you expect from a 90-minute car chase?” A logical response would be, “Something, I don’t know… fun?” The new actioner crashes and burns within the first few minutes of its runtime thanks to a nearly non-existent narrative and the unpleasant presence of wannabe-actress Selena Gomez. The only bright spot is a pulse-pounding 90-second sequence that places the viewer on the hood of a car weaving in and out of traffic. (Thumbs Down!)

Harold’s Going Stiff

Stan Rowe plays a man suffering from a frightening new disease that is turning him into a zombie. After an experimental new treatment fails, his condition deteriorates and he ends up on the run from a group of violent vigilantes who are out for blood. Playing exclusively at FilmBar. (NR – 77 minutes)

Had “Harold’s Going Stiff” been made with a bit more continuity, it could have been considered a resounding success. After all, writer/director Keith Wright has essentially come up with an incredibly fresh concept for the zombie genre, which has been growing increasingly rotten in recent years. Although none of it is likely to make you laugh out loud or shed an actual tear, the entire tale is concocted in such a way that is comically clever and honestly heartfelt. The problem is that Wright does not always adhere to the mockumentary style that works so well and occasionally drops the point-of-view ball, so to speak. (Thumbs Up!)

I Declare War

Armed with nothing more than twigs, their imaginations and a simple set of rules, a group of 12-year-olds engaged in a game of Capture the Flag in the neighborhood woods start dangerously blurring the lines between make-believe and reality. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (NR – 96 minutes)

From the very first scene, one does not quite know how to react to “I Declare War.” Should they be offended by the inappropriate sight of 12-year-olds shooting each other with submachine guns and blowing one another away with grenades? Or should they disregard the often graphic imagery and instead take the new dramatic actioner as some sort of socio-political statement? Or maybe its is merely a satirical send-up of the war movie genre? Or a simple celebration of a child’s limitless imagination? I would go with the first option as it is neither clever nor amusing nor charming. The only thing that it is is disturbing. (Thumbs Down!)

Inch’Allah

Evelyne Brochu plays a Canadian doctor who finds her sympathies sorely tested while working in the conflict ravaged Palestinian territories. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (R – 102 minutes)

“Inch’Allah’ is a beautifully-shot motion picture that is incredibly well-intentioned. However, the new foreign-language film’s pace is somewhat too slow and its story too loose to leave viewers feeling as emotionally impacted as the serious subject matters suggests they should be. And that is a shame because writer/director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette employs a technical proficiency that essentially makes the movie feel real and raw – kind of like a documentary – with a straight-up sincerity to show us the deeply devastating consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ultimately, it just lacks the urgency and cohesiveness that would have weighed heavily on audiences’ hearts. (Thumbs Down!)

Instructions Not Included

Eugenio Derbez plays a man whose life as Acapulco’s resident playboy comes to a screeching halt when a former fling leaves a baby on his doorstep and takes off without a trace. However, after spending 6 years establishing himself as an unlikely father figure, he finds himself in danger of losing his daughter – and his best friend. (PG-13 – 100 minutes)

Do not be mislead by “Instructions Not Included’s” ill-suited title, which suggests that director/star Eugenio Derbez’s new movie is all about the harebrained hijinks that take place when Acapulco’s resident playboy is thrust head-first into fatherhood. Although there are some comedic moments, the motion picture is actually an affectionately heartfelt tale of understanding our parents’ peculiar methods and appreciating life’s inconvenient detours – no matter how brief they may be. It is tender and touching with a ultimately tragic twist that will tear your emotions in two while simultaneously strengthening your belief that everything happens for a reason. (Breakthrough!)

Passion

Rachel McAdams plays the manipulative boss of an advertising agency whose rivalry with her talented protégée (Noomi Rapace) escalates from stealing credit to public humiliation to murder. Playing exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. (R – 98 minutes)

In my review of “Love Crime,” I stated that revenge was a dish best served French. Little did I know how true that statement would end up being. That is not to say that “Passion” – writer/director Brian De Palma’s English-language remake of the 2011 thriller – is an absolute failure. In fact, in some ways it is actually an improvement over the original – particularly during the first 45 minutes, which gets the ball rolling a bit faster this time around. But where it counts – in all of the twists and turns that make this a titillating tale- this flick feels kind of campy whereas its predecessor was sincerely surprising. (Thumbs Down!)

Short Term 12

Brie Larson plays a 20-something supervising staff member of a foster care facility who navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.). Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (R – 96 minutes)

“Short Term 12” is a deeply affecting film that earns each and every one of the emotions felt by its viewers in an exceptionally genuine way. The new drama is undoubtedly difficult to watch at times as it tackles topics that we tend to not like talking about. But, by its last scene, it demonstrates how healing can only happen if silence is broken and that hope always exists – even when it appears as though all hope is lost. Stars Brie Larson and Kaitlyn Dever give great performances but it is Rami Malek in a supporting role who steals the show. (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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