THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Red 2”: This sequel to 2010’s surprise hit “Red,” which chronicled the antics of a group of former black-ops agents who were marked for assassination by a new breed of much-younger agents, doesn’t nearly match up to the original. Returning are Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren, who are called into action to track down an incarcerated nuclear scientist (Anthony Hopkins) who holds the key to a missing, next-generation portable nuclear device that can change the balance of world power. The first film is goofy and implausible — with over-the-hill agents outsmarting and outgunning their younger counterparts — and therein lies its novelty. This one is just a weak retread in familiar territory. The actors all seemed to be having fun making this movie, though — certainly more than I had in watching it. Co-stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung Hun Lee, David Thewlis, Brian Cox and Neal McDonough. Extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel and “The Red 2 Experience,” a behind-the-scenes featurette about the characters, the weapons, the spy gadgets and stunts. From Lionsgate.
“Getaway”: is the bastard child of every car chase/car crash film ever made. There’s virtually little story line and very little acting — but oh, my, are there ever crashes and chases. The plot is basic: Former race car driver Brent Magna (Etahn Hawke) comes home one night to find his wife kidnapped; a phone rings and he’s instructed to steal a custom Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake, taking it and its unwitting owner (Selena Gomez) on a high-speed race against time, following the orders of the mysterious villain holding his wife hostage. Magna and the girl race through the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria, with very little dialogue to break up the 90 minutes of destruction. Hawke has little to do here except drive, and Gomez tags along for the ride, thankfully. According to the director and the stunt coordinator, no CGI was used in the car stunts — which wrecked 130 cars. And to pull the viewer into the action, 18 to 42 “crash cams” were used in each scene — in the cars, on the streets, on buildings. If you like non-stop speed action, this is for you. One note: Someone, please, give Selena Gomez acting lessons. Extras include four very useless one-minute featurettes. From Warner.
“The Canyons”: Billed as a “searing indictment of Hollywood culture” and a “sexually-charged tour through the dark side of human nature,” this boring film is actually the swan song of auteur writer and filmmaker Paul Schrader (writer of “Raging Bull” and “Taxi Driver”). The story revolves around an arrogant young trust-fund baby (adult-film star James Deen), his girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan), his producer (Amanda Brooks) and her struggling actor boyfriend (Nolan Funk) as they attempt to make a horror film and navigate rekindled romances and violence. This road down the canyons wanders aimlessly through what seems like 40 years-worth of desert dialogue and tame sexual situations. There’s little to like about any of these characters, and their dialogue (written by screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis) is so divorced from reality that I marveled at how both Schrader and Ellis have squandered their talents. From IFC Films.
Also due this week: “JOBS,” which was unavailable for review.
We travel to France and Japan — and back in time — for this week’s best bets. First off there’s “Le joli mai (The Lovely Month of May)” (1963), directed by Chris Marker & Pierre Lhomme. One of Chris Marker’s major works, “Le joli mai” had its U.S. premiere at the very first New York Film Festival in 1963, then quickly disappeared from our screens. But the film, now fully restored, reemerged at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and Toronto Film Festival. A portrait of Paris and Parisians shot during May 1962 — after the end of the French war in Algeria and ”the first springtime of peace” for France since before World War II — the cinema verite “Le joli mai” is a film with several thousand actors including a poet, a student, an owl, a housewife, a stock broker, a competitive dancer, two lovers, General de Gaulle and several cats. It features a musical score by Academy Award-winning composer Michel Legrand, with narration by Simone Signoret (English) and Yves Montand (French). From Icarus Films … The colossally popular Zatoichi films make up the longest-running action series in Japanese history and created one of the screen’s great heroes: an itinerant blind masseur who also happens to be a lightning-fast swordsman. As this iconic figure, the charismatic and earthy Shintaro Katsu became an instant superstar, lending a larger-than-life presence to the thrilling adventures of a man who lives staunchly by a code of honor and delivers justice in every town and village he enters. The films that feature him are variously pulse-pounding, hilarious, stirring, and completely off-the-wall. The “Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman” deluxe set features the string of 25 Zatoichi films made between 1962 and 1973, collected in one package for the first time. In new digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays, from The Criterion Collection.