Film Capsules

In theaters this week

Celeste and Jesse Forever High-school sweethearts Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) seem to have the perfect relationship, except for one little thing: They're getting divorced. The best friends still spend every day with each other, acting as if nothing is wrong, which confuses and annoys everyone around them. When Jesse shares some life-altering news, their friendship is put to the test, leaving them both wondering if they truly can remain friends. Written by Jones, Celeste and Jesse Forever is an honest look at how hard it can be to maintain a friendship after the romance ends. Even if there really isn't a happy ending for the couple, this is a smart, funny, and occasionally sad movie about two people who just can't seem to let go of each other. (PG-13) (Julia Eberle)

Killer Joe (NC-17) Killer Joe pivots on a perverse yet amusing scheme: Kill the worthless family matriarch and collect her life insurance. To handle the task, her estranged son (Emile Hirsch) and ex-husband (Thomas Haden Church) hire Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey), a cop who moonlights as a hitman. In a terrific performance, McConaughey swaps his usual screen persona for violence and pedophilia — culminating in a disquieting sex scene featuring a chicken leg. That kind of uncomfortable humor soaks the plot, but the characters, a genius mix of ignorance and id, elicit the most nervous laughter. From the southern setting to its bipolar tone, Killer Joe's success lies in the details. They combine to create a rare movie experience: simultaneously unsettling and enjoyable. And the shocking ending, in hindsight, makes perfect sense. (Christina Sterbenz)

Premium Rush (PG-13) Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a New York City bike messenger who loves his fixed gear bike because, as he puts it, you can never coast — you just have to keep pedaling. At the end of one particularly grueling day, he has one last package to deliver. But campus security stops him, demanding the package. Wilee refuses, triggering a hair-raising chase down the city's congested streets. Turns out the security guy is really a dirty cop (played by Michael Shannon) who needs the package to pay off a gambling debt. There aren't too many surprises in the end, but getting there is tons of fun. Setting the action in real time allows director and co-writer David Koepp to keep the adrenaline flowing. In fact, there are so many riveting cycling stunts in Premium Rush, they should have just called it Ride. (Jeff Niesel)

Red Hook Summer (R) — Spike Lee's latest joint centers on the coming of age of 13-year-old Flik Royale (Jules Brown), who travels from Atlanta to Brooklyn's Red Hook section to spend the summer with his preacher grandfather, Da Good Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters). Flik — who has an annoying habit of taking his iPad with him everywhere he goes (which, not so surprisingly, doesn't endear him to the hoodlums who hang in the projects) — butts heads with the old man almost immediately. But it turns out that Da Good Bishop isn't as chaste as he appears, and one day a distraught parishioner call hims out for his shocking transgressions. Even though it picks up a little near the end, this slow-moving movie is filled with way too many platitudes about sin and redemption. And the low-budget approach makes it look more like a meandering documentary than a focused drama. (Niesel)

Robot & Frank (PG-13) Set "in the near future," Frank (a terrific Frank Langella), a former cat burglar in the early stages of Alzheimer's, lives alone and is not much of a housekeeper. So his son buys him a state-of-the-art robot that can cook, clean the house, and advise Frank on how to take care of his body and mind. At first, Frank is reluctant, but then he realizes that he can train the robot to help him return to his old jewelry-thieving ways. Robot & Frank is less a sci-fi treatise than a meditation on loneliness, friendship, and the basic need for love under any circumstance. Even the robot — equal parts HAL 9000, R2-D2, and Yo Gabba Gabba's Plex — is given personality, thanks to expert voicing by Peter Sarsgaard. But this is Langella's movie, and he deserves an Oscar nomination. (Enrique Lopetegui)

Hope Springs (PG-13) — Steve Carell counsels Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones through their 30-year-old marriage, which predictably has hit a few bumps. There are plenty of problems to get through, starting with the usual bedroom ones. Carell's doc suggests solutions — some work (holding each other through the night proves easy enough), some don't (Streep tries to goes down on Jones in a movie theater with disastrous results). Every summer, a movie like this is released to give grownups a reprieve from the superheroes clogging the multiplex. At least this one has a terrific cast, even if, like a marriage, it hits some predictable bumps. (Gallucci)

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (PG) — Jim and Cindy Green live an unremarkable life in a small town best known for its pencil factory. The two are almost creepily obsessed with having a child, and their inability to do so has left them unhappy. After yet another letdown, the young couple soak their depression in booze and make a list of all the qualities they want in their ideal kid. They bury the list in a box in their garden, and through some old-fashioned Disney magic, a little boy named Timothy emerges. For a family film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is surprisingly creative (it's based on a story by Ahmet Zappa, one of Frank's sons). Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton can get annoying as the overly involved parents, but CJ Adams brings an irresistible charm as Timothy. (Julia Eberle)

The Queen of Versailles (PG) — Around the time of the 2008 stock market crash, Lauren Greenfield was shooting a documentary on the Siegel family, who raked in millions during the housing-market bubble. They pushed the profits toward a 90,000-square-foot home that was still under construction during the crash, becoming a deadweight as the Siegels veered toward financial ruin. The Great Recession presented Greenfield with one hell of an inciting incident: Her characters must change, lest they get swept up and dumped out by a world that can't facilitate their lifestyle anymore. At first, the film resembles a reality TV show, but the results prove far more compelling. Rather than placing judgment, events unfold without intervention. The Queen of Versailles is a detailed snapshot of the nation's financial turmoil, presented through a couple who attained the American dream only to see it decay into an abject nightmare. (Erin Gleeson)

Farewell, My Queen (R) ­— The French Revolution drama Farewell, My Queen tackles an old-school historical rumor that Marie Antoinette may have been a lesbian. Diane Kruger (best known for the National Treasure movies and Inglourious Basterds) shines as the insecure yet regal queen who copes with unrequited love as well as various assassination threats. But the movie steers clear of cheap sexuality, settling instead for a mere touch of the hand here and a longing glance there. The film occasionally borders on arrogance and secrecy, but the cast's terrific performances give humanity to this royal society. While the costumes and dialogue aim for authenticity, the narrative appeals to both emotions and intellect. (Christina Sterbenz)

ParaNorman (PG) Norman seems to have a pretty normal home life with his two parents, skanky older sister, and sweet little grandma. Only problem: Granny is dead. Turns out that Norman can see, and talk to, dead people. This strange talent gets him viciously harassed by his classmates and family. But when an old witch's curse brings the dead out of their graves and onto the streets, it's up to Norman to reverse the curse and save the town. The idea of a family-friendly zombie movie might scare away some audiences, but ParaNorman strikes the right balance of chills and laughs. The stop-motion animation is a perfect complement to the movie's brains — yummy, yummy brains. (Eberle)

The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13) — This story picks up eight years after Batman (Christian Bale) went into retirement and Gotham branded him a criminal. It takes a hulking psychopath sporting a pain-suppression mask named Bane (Tom Hardy) to bring him back into action. A stellar cast of newcomers (including Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard) join series veterans Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine in this deep-thinking epic. The film doesn't pack the same visceral punch as its predecessor, but it comes close. It's dark, despairing, rousing, and absolutely brilliant. (Gallucci)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG) The third movie based on Jeff Kinney's hit book series for preteens has the same problem as the first two Wimpy Kid outings: Protagonist Greg Heffley (played once again by Zachary Gordon) isn't very likable. He treats his best friend like crap, taking advantage of him to weasel his way into a posh country club, where he plans to spend his summer pursuing a cute classmate. And he lies outright to his dad (Steve Zahn) about his summer job so he doesn't have to take an internship at his father's company. Greg learns to admit his mistakes by the end of the movie, but it doesn't quite redeem his flaws. Kids will like the slapstick humor, but adults will have a hard time sympathizing with such a bratty wimp. (Jeff Niesel)

Ruby Sparks (R) — Calvin (Paul Dano) is a neurotic young writer crumbling under the pressure of his reputation as a literary genius. Then inspiration finally strikes when his shrink asks him to write a story about the fictional Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), a quirky redheaded painter who also happens to be Calvin's idea of the perfect girlfriend. Through some unexplained movie magic, Calvin wakes up one morning to discover that his dream girl has become a reality and is standing in his kitchen. The movie starts sweet, but quickly turns dark as Calvin finds that he can't handle losing control of his creation. (Julia Eberle)

Step Up Revolution (PG-13) — Step Up Revolution has a message at its core: Don't let anyone determine your fate, Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Emily (Kathryn McCormick) tell each other as they try to overcome life's obstacles. Set in Miami, the fourth movie in the franchise features some incredible choreography made all the more incredible by snazzy 3D. But the plot about disaffected youth looking for meaning through dance is a tired one. (Niesel)

The Watch (R) — After a security guard is murdered in his store, Costco manager Evan (Ben Stiller) vows to catch the killer. When he receives no help from the lazy local cops, he starts a neighborhood watch. At first, no one takes them seriously. Then they stumble across a glowing silver orb that has the power to blow shit up. After responding to a call, they discover an alien at the crime scene, and suddenly the fate of the world is in the hands of this unlikely group of heroes. Most of The Watch's jokes are crude and kinda immature. Still, it's the best movie with aliens and dick jokes since Paul. (Eberle)

Scroll to read more Movie Reviews & Stories articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.