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What to go see this week

Thursday, May 23

Hangover Pt. III

The Wolfpack returns to form in the third and final installment of what might be the most pleasantly surprising film franchise of the past decade. Though The Hangover sequel suffered from a dismal lack of imagination and relied on the repurposing of jokes from the first film in a nearly identical story, this one changes the formula. There’s less wanton drunkenness and confusion, but it’s a refreshing twist. The brash and diminutive Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is the criminal centerpiece of Hangover Pt III. He’s stolen a great deal of gold from a kingpin named Marshall (John Goodman) and is on the loose after escaping from prison in Bangkok. While driving Allen (Zach Galifinakis) to a rehab facility in Arizona, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) have to track down Chow and the gold in 3 days. Doug — the missing person in the first film — is here the collateral. You almost feel sorry for Bartha, who never gets in on the fun. Galifinakis takes center stage in his signature role while Cooper and Helms continue to anchor this enduring isosceles bromance. Like the first two films, this one’s just three guys in outlandish scenarios and it’s hilarious as ever. The film opens today in wide release. (Sam Allard)

Friday, May 24

Fast & Furious 6

The latest flick in the Fast and the Furious franchise picks up where the previous film, 2011’s Fast Five, left off. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is living easy off the money he made from a bank heist and his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) has shacked up with Brian (Paul Walker) and given birth to a boy. Though they’ve abandoned their lives of crime, Dom and Brian are still wanted men. This time, arch-enemy Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a federal agent who’s been their nemesis, wants to team up and work together to take down former British officer Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who’s been stealing military technology. Hobbs has a picture of Dom’s ex, Letty (Michele Rodriguez), who was previously presumed dead, as the bait to get him to help track Shaw. The set-up is rather flimsy, but it does enable Dom to join the good guys for once. Of course, from this point forward, the film goes down a predictable path that involves a number of high-speed chase scenes (one of which involves a tank!). The razor sharp dialogue and quick quips from Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris Bridges) keep the movie entertaining. But director Justin Lin tries too hard to turn the movie into something more than just an action flick and overemphasizes Dom’s commitment to his “family.” The film opens today in wide release. (Jeff Niesel)

Frances Ha

“I feel bad,” Frances (Greta Gerwig, who also co-write the script) says when her boyfriend asks her to move in with him in the opening scene in this new film from writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale). She explains that she’s just too attached to her roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) to shack up with him. But she gets thrown for a loop, however, when Sophie moves out, essentially “dumping” her. And so begins a downward spiral of sorts for Sophie, an aspiring ballet dancer who can barely make ends meet. Things pick up, however, when she meets Miles (Adam Driver) and he offers up his sofa until Frances can find a place she can afford on her own. While the dialogue throughout the film is pretty sharp (and has drawn comparisons to the HBO hit Girls), the storyline isn’t compelling. It’s immediately clear that Frances and Sophie cling to each other in a way that’s really cute but not necessarily healthy. While they joke about being lesbians who stopped having sex with each other, Frances and Sophie aren’t lovers but act like it. To Baumbach’s credit, the film’s better off without throwing romance into the mix. It opens today at the Cedar-Lee Theatre. (Jeff Niesel)

2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5411, clevelandcinemas.com

Epic

We’ve become so accustomed to expertly crafted animated films from the Pixar studios — films which we recognize as being, at minimum, equally gratifying for adults and children (looking at you, Toy Story 3) — that to see one squarely for the PG crowd is somewhat jarring. Epic features a stunning array of A-list voice talent, but there’s no cleverness in the script or subtle, textured emotions or nuanced themes which adults can appreciate while the kiddies laugh at the funny insects. In the movie, a teenager named M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) visits her father (Jason Sudeikis) in his weird ill-maintained house on the brink of a forest where he’s been adamantly researching the existence of miniature people (with predictably calamitous effects on his human relationships). The cynical M.K. gets magically shrunken and is compelled to assist the “Leafmen” (Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson), comic slugs (Aziz Ansari, Chris O’Dowd) and a civilization of sentient plants as they fight to save their world from the bad guys (Christoph Waltz, Pitbull, et al.). Sort of like The Owls of Ga’Hoole, this one has some gorgeous “nature visuals” but ultimately little that sticks with you. Even 3D can’t salvage this two-dimensional story. Nonetheless, children will certainly get a kick. The film opens today in wide release. (Allard)

Lore

Left to fend for themselves after their SS officer father and Nazi-obsessed mother are interred by the good guys at the end of World War II, a brood of German siblings journey from to their grandmother’s house in the north (Hamburg?) and they come to understand the consequences of their parents' actions and the Nazi regime at large. Some lovely visuals — almost doting nature shots — and a remarkable performance from Saskia Rosendahl as the eponymous “Lore,” the oldest daughter, are stunning to witness. When they confront a friendly refugee, she’s forced to reassess the hatred she’s been taught all her life. It’s a sort of dicey film from the Australian director Cate Shortland (Somersault), but it tells a rough coming-of-age story with perspective and restraint, acknowledging that children — regardless of parentage — are still mutable and innocent and essentially pure. It plays tonight at 7:25 and tomorrow night at 9:35 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. (Allard)

11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7450, cia.edu/cinematheque

What Maisie Knew

Based on a Henry James novel, this art house flick centers on Maisie (Onata Aprile), a young girl whose feuding, self-involved parents (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan) pass her back and forth like a baton. Not to make light of a tough situation, but if you could drank every time Maisie changed hands, you’d be sloshed by the film’s end. That certainly would add some excitement to the proceedings. As it is, the movie does effectively show just how tough divorce can be on a young child. Aprile is fantastic at playing Maisie as a girl with just enough emotional intelligence to catch on to what is going on and to protect her own interests. This is her acting debut and she puts on a tremendous performance that’s all the more remarkable because she holds her own against a high caliber cast. Everything in this film—from unseemly late-night parties to magical kites—is seen through the eyes of a child. But, while the visually provocative modernization of the James’ novel works on many levels, the story of childlike parents who don’t understand the damage they do has been told before. The film opens today at the Cedar-Lee Theatre. (Niesel)

2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5411, clevelandcinemas.com

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