‘Mud’ captivates, ‘Pain’ entertains and ‘Scary’ decays in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, April 26 in theaters throughout the Valley are a drama starring Matthew McConaughey, true crime story starring Dwayne Johnson and the latest installment of the “Scary Movie” franchise.

The Angels’ Share

Paul Brannigan plays a new dad who, narrowly avoiding jail, vows to turn over a new leaf. A visit to a whiskey distillery inspires him and his mates to seek a way out of their hopeless lives. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (NR – 96 minutes)

Although it really refers to the 2 percent of alcohol that disappears into thin air each year during the Scotch whisky maturation process, it is almost ironic that “The Angels’ Share” title suggests something spiritual. Director Ken Loach’s new Scottish dramedy, which was written by his “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” collaborator Paul Laverty, has a social conscience that is kind of confusing. What starts out as a charming and almost fairytale-like story about unfair working class contraventions takes a tonal turn in the third act and suggests that two wrongs may actually make a right after all. (Flee It!)


Caleb Jones plays an employee at a clinic that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. When he becomes infected with the disease that kills the most revered celebrity of all, he becomes a target for collectors and rabid fans. Playing exclusively at The FilmBar. (NR – 106 minutes)

It is not necessarily a bad thing that writer/director Brandon Cronenberg’s style seems so inspired by that of his father David. After all, he has picked up many useful skills – including an eye for visual poetry and a knack for infusing an interesting idea with significant social subtext. However, some stories – such as the one in “Antiviral” – ought to be told with at least some sense of humanity. Brandon borrows too much from David for this particular premise, using a parasite in place of an actual character and adopting a pace that will put most audiences to sleep. (Flee It!)


Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play two teenage boys who encounter a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunter (Paul Sparks) on his trail and to reunite him with his true love (Reese Witherspoon). (PG-13 – 130 minutes)

At times, “Mud” moves slower than molasses – a quality that is underscored by its longer-than-average runtime. But there is not a moment of writer/director Jeff Nichols’ new drama that is anything less than completely captivating. It is especially gifted in its ability to scrupulously shed each of its layers – of which there are many – over the course of its classic-yet-uniquely-told coming-of-age story in the same way that a snake sheds its skin. Underneath it all is an extremely raw and and even more real heart as well as a very visceral performance from star Matthew McConaughey. (See It!)

The Numbers Station

John Cusack plays a former black ops agent who is assigned to guard a code operator (Malin Akerman) at a top-secret remote CIA numbers station where encrypted messages are sent and received. When an elite team of heavily armed assailants lays siege to the station, the two of them find themselves in a life-or-death struggle against an unknown enemy. Playing exclusively at AMC Ahwatukee 24. (R – 89 minutes)

The unenthusiastic nature of John Cusack’s performance in “The Numbers Station” makes one wonder what prevented the actor from packing up and leaving the project mid-production. He clearly looks about as bored here as anyone who is unfortunate enough to try and sit through this threadbare thriller. The only difference is that most viewers will walk out on the motion picture long before its anticlimactic conclusion. In spite of some early action sequences, the movie quickly loses steam and settles into a single-setting psychological waiting-game of sorts where “suspense” seems to be a completely foreign concept. (Flee It!)

Pain & Gain

Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie play personal trainers who, in pursuit of the American Dream, get caught up in a criminal enterprise that goes horribly wrong. Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson and Ken Jeong also star. (R – 120 minutes)

“Pain & Gain” is a ripped riot – so long as you are not the kind of person who gets offended by seeing a man flip severed hands on a barbeque as if they are burgers. Oh, and as a well-timed on-screen note reminds us, this is a true story. So if that inhibits your ability to find amusement in this too-bonkers-to-believe story, you may wish to steer clear. Otherwise, you are certain to see this movie as entertainment on steroids thanks to director Michael Bay’s all-business/action-packed approach, incredibly clever narration and characters who have an abundance of brawn but no brains whatsoever. (See It!)


Vincent Rottiers plays a young man – the son of Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) – who returns home to convalesce after being wounded in World War I. At his side is a young woman (Christa Theret) who rejuvenates, enchants and inspires both father and son. Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (R – 111 minutes)

It is strange that such a cinematically picturesque movie about a renowned painter of all people would be as shamelessly shallow as “Renoir.” If that is not irony, then nothing is, as writer/director Gilles Bourdos’s new French-language drama goes absolutely nowhere and does so at such a tranquil pace that you may very well become hypnotized by its gorgeous cinematography and fall fast asleep. Fortunately, if you do, you will not have missed much as its beauty is only skin-deep. Bourdos fails to make any insightful observations while the film itself is as emotionally flat as canvas. (Flee It!)

Scary Movie V

Ashley Tisdale and Simon Rex play a couple that begins to experience some unusual activity after bringing their newborn son home from the hospital. With the help of home-surveillance cameras and a team of experts, they learn that they are being stalked by a nefarious demon. (PG-13 – 86 minutes)

After having suffered through “Scary Movie V,” it is almost impossible to believe that this half-baked comedy that lacks even a single, solitary laugh is a direct descendant of the movie that, in 2000, was clever and quite hilarious. Granted, the franchise’s fall from grace did not happen overnight as its quality has been consistently decaying over the course of four sequels. And while this latest (and hopefully last) installment is slightly less insignificant than “A Haunted House” released earlier this year, anyone who saw that putrid pile of refuse knows that such a statement is hardly a compliment. (Flee It!)

To the Wonder

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck play a couple who, after visiting Mont Saint-Michel, come to Oklahoma where problems arise. The woman meets a priest and fellow exile (Javier Bardem) who is struggling with his vocation while the man renews his ties with a childhood friend (Rachel McAdams). Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (R – 112 minutes)

Writer/director Terrence Malick’s characters in “To the Wonder” love to spin around in circles. At first, everything looks so absolutely gorgeous – with dialogue that makes this romantic drama feel less like a motion picture than a piece of poetry that has come to life – that you embrace the experience and spin around with them. However, as time goes on and things get increasingly abstract, you lose your grasp on the story and are sent flying into a state of discombobulation by the centrifugal force. Eventually, you are merely looking at the movie as opposed to actually absorbing it. (Flee It!)

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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