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Thumbnails Apr 14

by Tony Medley

Breathe In (9/10): Director Drake Doremus gets the sparkling, sexy performance out of Felicity Jones that Ralph Fiennes failed to achieve in “The Invisible Woman.” The result is a sensitive examination of the intimacies of a marriage, the differing feelings and ambitions of a husband and wife, the insecurities of a teenaged daughter, and a May-September romance without being the least bit hackneyed. Jones’ subdued, seething sexiness and the slow way she attracts the affection of Guy Pearce, her married elder by some two decades at least, are what make this movie so fascinating. Opens April 4.

On My Way (9/10): Writer/director Emmanuelle Bercot presents two delights, Catherine Deneuve impulsively jumping in her car to strike out on her own to change her life, and a terrific road picture shot on location in Brittany. Using mostly non actors in key roles, there’s a lot more to this film than merely seeing a ‘60s-era beauty as a still beautiful older woman. In French.

Non-Stop (8/10): Despite a huge plot hole at the end that it’s best not to think about, and a first killing that doesn’t correspond to the story, this is Liam Neeson’s almost annual beginning-of-the-year thriller and it lives up to his past efforts epitomized by the “Taken” series.

Divergent (7/10): Because science fiction films about teenagers set in a bleak future are not my cup of tea, this was not a film I was eagerly anticipating. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this to be as advertised, an interesting action-adventure film that held my interest to the end with exceptional creation of war-ravaged Chicago 150 years from now and fine performances by the entire cast.

Blood Ties (8/10): Clive Owen is my choice to play James Bond. However, in his first English language film, writer/director Guillaume Canet remaking 2008’s “Les Liens Du San” (in which Canet played one of the male leads), casts him as a cold-blooded bad guy pimp to Billy Crudup’s good brother cop. Canet fills the screen with wonderful performances by an outstanding cast, but the film is dark, unhappy, depressing, and extraordinarily violent, physically and psychologically. It closes with a short car chase that is the most realistic since 1967’s “Bullitt,” but not nearly as exciting.

Three Days to Kill (5/10): Directed by McG, this is a schizophrenic movie that can’t decide whether it’s a thriller or a comedy or a family drama. Whichever, all are below par. Kevin Costner plays Kevin Costner again and he’s good at that. The best performance is by Connie Nielsen who plays a wife who feels she has been wronged by her husband, but is still in love with him. Hailee Steinfeld also gives a good, if range-restricted, performance as a headstrong teenager in Paris. Worse though are the now apparently obligatory car chases that are little short of idiotic.

300: Rise of an Empire (1/10): We always hear about how brilliant the Athenians were, the cradle of democracy, Socrates and Plato and Aristotle and all that. But if this picture is to be believed, the rest of the Athenians were dumber than a rock. While their opponents in this film, the Persians, are bedecked in armor from head to foot, the Athenians go into every battle bare chested and bare legged. Worse is the desecration of history. Ignoring Herodotus’ description of Artemisia (Eva Green, in a fine performance despite the ghastly script and directing) as a heroic woman, this film shows her as a despicable villain. The graphic depiction of blood-spilling violence should condemn this to an NC-17 rating.