Plus: "Liberal Arts," "Little White Lies," "China Heavyweight," "Wild Horse, Wild Ride," "Dredd" and "Hellbound?"
It takes a while to sort out who's who in the gabby high school reunion comedy "10 Years." But once you do, the movie that comes together is an unpretentious, well-acted ensemble piece. The movie focuses on about a dozen former classmates, with Jake (Channing Tatum), the class jock, receiving the most attention.
Tatum gives an appealing performance as a former high school hero who brings his longtime girlfriend, Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Tatum's wife), to the fete. When a former sweetheart, Mary (Rosario Dawson), shows up with a husband, Paul (Ron Livingston), there is some awkwardness as the old flame sputters to life.
One alumnus, Reeves (Oscar Isaac), is a pop star who serenades the assemblage with his biggest hit, a sweet folk-pop love song inspired by the demure, hesitant Elise (Kate Mara), his secret high school crush. Also on hand are the former class bully (Chris Pratt), and his embarrassed wife (Ari Graynor), and the former nerd (Aaron Yoo).
"10 Years" settles into a sweet and sad ending, with enough hints of bitterness to keep it from being cloying.
STEPHEN HOLDEN, NEW YORK TIMES
The bookish group at the heart of this talky film -- Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Zac Efron and Allison Janney -- is having such a grand time trading tart exchanges that their mood proves infectious. The sparring helps offset some of the movie's contrivances -- so an A for effort and a C for execution.
Radnor, who also writes and directs, plays Jesse, a university admissions counselor in New York City, now 35, but not yet able to let go of a lingering nostalgia for his Midwest college days. So he's happy to accept an invitation from his alma mater to a retirement dinner for one of his favorite English professors, Peter Hoberg (Jenkins). Jesse bumps into a favorite professor, Judith Fairfield (Janney), and begins gushing about her class on the Romantics. Janney and Jenkins never hit a false note.
Jesse meets a fetching young student, Zibby (Olsen), who also loves the Romantics. There is an undeniable something between them, but Zibby is 19. As she showed in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," Olsen has a gift for finding the right note for her characters, and she's made Zibby just innocent and astute enough to be a compelling complicating factor.
Radnor's second film is more of a nudge in the ribs than the biting style of humor that has come to dominate today's comedies -- a nice change.
BETSY SHARKEY, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Theater: St. Anthony Main.
In a rural part of China's Sichuan Province, an ex-boxer in his late 30s named Qi Moxiang has found work as a coach seeking middle-schoolers for a training program.
Boxing, banned by Mao in 1959, was legalized again in 1989, and this heartfelt but badly scrambled documentary focuses on Coach Qi and two of his trainees. Boxing seems an odd fit for these skinny Chinese boys who suffer extreme shyness and have no real zest for the sport, outside of vaguely glamorizing such American "boxing kings" as Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. The movie jumps around over several years. There are touching, closely observed scenes between one boy and his parents, who eke out a living as tobacco farmers. There is boilerplate about how boxing builds confidence and courage.
Nice photography (and a moody original score by Olivier Alary) shows the gyms where boxers are groomed for the good of all China. But the two boys seem to fall out of boxing entirely, and the final reel is a depressing look at Coach Qi's ill-fated decision to fight one last bout against a Japanese boxer who looks years younger. This ain't no Rocky, and your take-aways are mostly about Chinese family and social customs.
Little White Lies
★★ 1/2 out of four stars
Guillaume Canet's ensemble drama draws together some of the best actors in French cinema for a sort of Gallic "Big Chill" backed by a soundtrack of U.S. pop classics.
A clique of friends takes summer vacation at a seaside home while one ("The Artist's" Jean Dujardin) remains hospitalized after a near-fatal traffic accident. They weave a web of subplots about love and insecurity over Mediterranean boating excursions and wine-lubricated feasts, busily ignoring the deeper problems that sabotage their happiness.
The luminous Marion Cotillard plays a bi-curious music scholar, François Cluzet (the paralyzed hero of "The Intouchables") splutters furiously as the group's wealthiest member, who tries to buy the affection he can't reciprocate. The script is banal, but the acting company and the locations are easy on the eyes.
Is hell a literal place or a metaphor? Do sinners choose it through their actions, or does God select candidates for punishment? Why would a loving deity consign some souls to eternal torment?
Writer/director Kevin Miller's haphazard documentary offers opinions from a cavalcade of talking heads. We hear from scholars, ministers, theology bloggers, hate-filled Westboro Baptist sidewalk shouters, teen actors from a Halloween-style "Hell House," a serene Greek Orthodox elder. Several conclusions emerge from the round-robin debate.
First, one man's dogma is another's heresy. Second, some people are inclined to offer the final word on matters of which they have no firsthand knowledge. Miller will host a Q&A session after Friday's 7 p.m. screening.
Karl Urban replaces Sylvester Stallone in this reboot of the kitschy 1995 movie about a futuristic comic-book judge-jury-executioner. The 3-D here is used to greatest effect in slow-motion shootings, impalings and throat slashings -- blood-on-the-lens stuff. The villain, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), is poorly drawn. Dredd and a "mutant" psychic judge-in-training (Olivia Thirlby) must battle their way out of a mega-high-rise controlled by Ma-Ma. Their backup seems awfully slow to arrive.
And Urban --so droll as Dr. McCoy in the "Star Trek" reboot, so sinister in as Black Hat in "Priest," so worthy a foe for Bruce Willis in "Red" -- is lost behind that big ol' helmet, which he never takes off.
That conspires to render the mega violent mega satire of MegaCity mega boring.
ROGER MOORE, MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE
The deep, mysterious bond between humans and horses is touchingly explored in this documentary about the annual Extreme Mustang Makeover.
Trainers have 100 days to tame wild horses rounded up on government land and prepare them for auction to loving new owners. Directors Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus dig into the diverse personalities of a half-dozen horses and their humans -- weathered old hands, empathetic whisperers, a rhinestone cowgirl and a Ph.D. engineer among them. The process of building trust and communication with animals that have never been touched by a person is remarkable to observe. As you watch both species go from wary strangers to trusting companions, you can't help feel you're watching a special kind of love story.