‘Rock’ is riveting, ‘Iceman’ is intense and ‘Trek’ is terrific in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, May 17 in theaters throughout the Valley are a cat-and-mouse/battle-of-wills thriller starring Kate Bosworth, a true-crime thriller in which Michael Shannon portrays contract killer Richard Kuklinski and a sequel to director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 take on a popular science-fiction franchise.

Black Rock

Kate Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth play childhood friends who set aside their personal issues and reunite for a girls’ weekend on a remote island off the coast of Maine. However, one wrong move turns their weekend getaway into a deadly fight for survival. (R – 83 minutes)

“Black Rock” is a dynamite thriller that is also a bit deeper than most. Director Katie Aselton, who co-wrote the motion picture’s screenplay with her husband Mark Duplass, draws viewers to the edge of their seats with an emotionally electrifying cat-and-mouse/battle-of-wills setup and simultaneously provokes profound thoughts about gender roles and putting aside differences for the simple sake of survival. Constantly surprising, deeply engaging and incredibly exciting, this movie demonstrates not only the extreme exhilaration that a bare-bones production is capable of achieving but also the complex contemplation that a genre film is capable of stimulating. (Thumbs Up!)

Blancanieves

Maribel Verdú plays a young woman who learns the art of her father – a famous bullfighter – but is hated by her evil stepmother (Ángela Molina) so she ran away with a troupe of dwarves and becomes a legend. (PG-13 – 105 minutes)

“Blancanieves” is a celebration of cinema, Spanish culture and the fairy tales that shaped not only our childhood but also the fine art of storytelling in general. Writer/director Pablo Berger’s new silent film recounts the classic Brothers Grimm fable of “Snow White” in a such way that will keep you enthralled, enchanted and entranced. It is bold, it is beautiful and it is a bona fide masterpiece of a motion picture that will take your breath away by demonstrating that all an auteur needs in order to deeply move an audience is a time-honored tale, a fertile imagination and a majestic musical score. (Breakthrough!)

Erased

Aaron Eckhart plays an ex-CIA agent who discovers that he and his daughter have been marked for termination as part of a wide-reaching international conspiracy. A dangerous game of cat-and-mouse ensues as he tries to outsmart his hunters and uncover the truth. (R – 104 minutes)

After a first act that delivers all of the excitement, intrigue and unabashed fun of “Taken” and “Unknown,” the new thriller “Erased” eventually tries to imitate entertainment that is more intellectually stimulating. In the process of doing so, the motion picture becomes convoluted, confusing and lackluster while never really feeling very genuine in its efforts to motivate the mental muscle. Star Aaron Eckhart has a decent turn at being an action star and a few exchanges are exhilarating enough to amuse you while watching the movie but as soon as the end credits roll the experience will have been erased from your memory. (Thumbs Down!)

The Iceman

Michael Shannon plays a man who, appearing to be living the American dream as a devoted husband and father, is a ruthless killer-for-hire. Other stars include Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans and David Schwimmer. (R – 106 minutes)

“The Iceman” solidifies star Michael Shannon as a true powerhouse of a performer. His role as contract killer Richard Kuklinski in the new true-crime thriller is his most climactic accomplishment to date as he paints a portrait of a very complex character who was chillingly dangerous yet curiously charismatic. And although the conclusion is a little confusing as the story wraps up without any warning whatsoever, the movie is quite compelling thanks to a dynamic cast – including Chris Evans and David Schwimmer in unrecognizable roles – and a production design that yields an authentic 1960s-1980s atmosphere. (Thumbs Up!)

Love is All You Need

Trine Dyrholm plays a hairdresser who , having lost her hair to cancer and discovering that her husband is having an affair, travels to Italy for her daughter’s wedding and meets a widower (Pierce Brosnan) who still blames the world for the loss of his wife. (R – 116 minutes)

“Love is All You Need” owes an awful lot to its two leads. Trine Dyrholm and Pierce Brosnan’s natural charisma with one another save what is otherwise an overly-simplistic and almost sitcomish romantic comedy. Dyrholm and Brosnan add authenticity to a somewhat silly and considerably cliche affair in which supporting characters are little more than barren bookmarks between moments of emotional honesty and poetic poignancy about love, especially as one grows older. In the end, one forgives writer/director Susanne Bier for her film’s shortcomings and surrenders to the enchanting story of two people who overcome the odds – in more ways that one. (Thumbs Up!)

Something in the Air

Clement Metayer plays a graduating high school student in Paris who finds himself pulled into ever more dangerous political protests by the people around him – especially his radicalized girlfriend (Lola Créton). (NR – 122 minutes)

“Something in the Air” starts out with a very clear and concise goal, transporting viewers to a time and place of great turmoil so that they can essentially experience the incitement that is felt by its characters. The atmosphere that writer/director Olivier Assayas crafts during the first few scenes of this French import is incredibly authentic, siring an overall sense of extreme urgency. However, the story suddenly comes to a screeching halt shortly thereafter as the film loses its focus and Assayas swaps out dramatic intensity for a host of characters who lack depth or direction. (Thumbs Down!)

The Source Family

Filmmakers Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille examine a family whose members were the darlings of the Sunset Strip until their communal living, outsider ideals and spiritual leader’s 13 wives became an issue with local authorities. (NR – 98 minutes)

Cult psychology is apparently all the rage this year. With two television series on the subject debuting this past season – one of which was quickly canceled and the other of which recently received a second season renewal despite being a bore – and a couple of recently released fictional feature films having broached the topic as well, “The Source Family” taps into something that has as much popularity as it does promise. However, filmmakers Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille water down what could have been a fascinating, unsettling and even eye-opening exploration into a prosaic parade of tedious talking heads. (Thumbs Down!)

Star Trek Into Darkness

Chris Pine reprises his role of Captain Kirk who, after the crew of the Enterprise finds an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction (Benedict Cumberbatch). (PG-13 – 132 minutes)

“Star Trek Into Darkness” is Star Trek-tacular. Granted, that groan-worthy play on words has undoubtedly been used before but I – having never before been a fan of the franchise – use it now to emphasize the fact that the new sequel to director J.J. Abrams’s reboot of Gene Roddenberry’s science-fiction property is the most universally appealing “Star Trek” to date. Thanks to the easily accessible yet engagingly elaborate exploration of the classic “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theme and an emotionally heightened performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, this film is a lot of fun for Trekkers and non-Trekkers alike. (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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