written by: Micah Bloomberg and Rose Lichter-Marack
produced by: Andrew Neel, Veronica Nickel, Dave Saltzman & Craig Shilowich
directed by: Sam Fleischner
rating: no rating
runtime: 102 min.
U.S. release date: May 23, 2014 (New York) & July 18, 2014 (limited)
There have been enough missing-child thrillers over the years to categorize them as a sub-genre. Usually, they involve an abduction, suspects and an official investigation of some sort, while worried parents or guardians are left to feel helpless or take matters into their own hands. However, director Sam Fleischner’s powerful new film “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” involves none of those conventions. He instead relies heavily on the building emotions in the aftermath of a child’s disappearance and the sound and vision from the perspective of the missing child. It’s a refreshingly interesting approach to a familiar subgenre, leaving the audience with several memorable moments and causing them to notice life in a different way.
written by: Henry Gayden
produced by: Ryan Kavanaugh and Andrew Panay
directed by: Dave Green
rating: PG (for some action and peril, and mild language)
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: July 2, 2014
What we needed from the tiresome ‘found footage’ subgenre was a family-friendly sci-fi adventure that aspires to be the “E.T.” for the youth of this generation. It’s not. Not even close. I found myself either nodding off or getting annoyed at the shaky cam that is all over this feature. Then again, my 8 year-old daughter enjoyed it. So, while I may not be the target audience for “Earth to Echo”, it’s easy to identify how this movie would’ve worked better and where it fell short. If anything, it made me realize that the family-friendly sci-fi flicks I grew up with in the 80s were pretty awesome.
written by: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
produced by: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver
directed by: Matt Reeves
rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence with brief strong language)
runtime: 131 min.
U.S. release date: July 11, 2014
This time back in the summer of 2011, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, was less than a month away. The trailer looked intriguing, but James Franco and an overall ad nauseam sensation for remakes made us apprehensive. Everyone was still trying to shake off the memory of that Tim Burton debacle that had come out ten years prior. No one predicted what happened. 20th Century Fox wound up delivering a surprise summer hit with “Rise”, impressing us with a story with a brain, engaging characters and phenomenal visual effects. – a rare combination for a summer blockbuster. The next chapter, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, runs with that approach, surprising us again in new ways, offering a deep and nuanced examination of two species navigating how best to evolve.
written by: Ehren Kruger
produced by: Don Murphy, Tony DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Ian Bryce
directed by: Michael Bay
rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo)
runtime: 165 min.
U.S. release date: June 27, 2014
I viewed “Transformers: Age of Extinction” at the immense Navy Pier IMAX theater in Chicago with several other critics, days before its actual release. Others around us had received passes for this screening and had filled the rest of the enormous theater with a palpable sense of anticipation for the movie to start – all 2 hours and 40 minutes of it. Try as I may to maintain a sense of optimism when approaching any movie, this latest ‘rinse and repeat” noise fest from Michael Bay tested that mindset. Trepidation kicked in, knowing full well this guaranteed blockbuster product would be a test of endurance. At least I was in the best place possible to take in the undoubtedly superb sound and vision of this inane and repetitive franchise – still, it nevertheless left my butt numb, my head aching and my moviegoing psyche mad.
written by: Jonathan Sobol
produced by: Nicholas Taborrok
directed by: Jonathan Sobol
rating: R (for language throughout including some sexual references)
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: October 24, 2013 (festival) and March 14, 2014 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray release date: May 06, 2014
Here’s a trend that’s been developing over the last 10-15 years in Hollywood, one I see popping up more and more in recent years. Well, basically since “The Sixth Sense” first appeared in 1999. Movies aren’t just interested in pulling a fast one on you with a great twist. They’re obsessed with doing it. That’s all fine and good until it becomes so ridiculously forced that said twist almost ruins the process of getting there. Case in point, last year’s “The Art of the Steal”, one I’m still mulling over.
written by: Dean DeBois
produced by: Bonnie Arnold
directed by: Dean DeBlois
rating: PG (for adventure action and some mild rude humor)
runtime: 102 min.
U.S. release date: June 13, 2014
Back in 2010, DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” soared into theaters and blew everyone away with it’s rich visuals, spirit of adventure and poignant story. Really. I don’t know anyone who’s seen it, that hasn’t either thoroughly enjoyed it or, in the very least, praised the feature’s wonderful tale of acceptance and compassion (to name a few themes) and, of course, vikings and fire-breathing dragons. A sequel was inevitable and, to be honest, quite welcome. I vividly recall being disappointed when the first movie was over. I wanted more time with the boy and his dragon.
written by: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman
produced by: Neal H. Moritz, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum
directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence)
runtime: 112 min.
U.S. release date: June 13, 2014
Going in the way back machine all the way to the ancient times of…..2012, “21 Jump Street” was one of the biggest, most pleasant surprises I can remember in theaters in recent years. It was genuinely funny, mixing smart and stupid humor. Raking in over $200 million in theaters, the flick ended on a positive note, even hinting at a tweaked sequel. And here we sit, with the much-anticipated sequel “22 Jump Street”.