This week’s new releases are Hercules, Maleficent, A Most Wanted Man, Planes: Fire & Rescue, and Step Up: All In.
Running Time: 98 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (violence, language)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Joseph Fiennes, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and John Hurt
Verdict: Johnson is perfectly adequate in the role of the Grecian demigod, but nothing else in the movie is mildly interesting, including the special effects. Somehow, Ratner even manages to omit any fun or adrenaline out of the innately larger-than-life tale. A movie about one of the most interesting mythic heroes of ancient times shouldn’t be this lifeless. Let it be said, though: at least it’s not the worst movie made about Hercules this year. (1½ stars / 5)
Running Time: 97 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (frightening scenes)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Dakota Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville
Verdict: Maleficent continues the trend of taking a villain — in this case, the horned witch of the animated classic Sleeping Beauty — and showing her tragic and woeful backstory. It’s the Disney equivalent of Wicked, but it does a thorough job of painting Maleficent as the misunderstood, flawed heroine of a much larger story than the one audiences are familiar with. Jolie delivers one of the most enjoyable performances she’s given in the last decade as the tormented fairy. Maleficent manages to not just make its central “bad” character interesting but to enhance your appreciation of her character. (4 stars / 5)
A MOST WANTED MAN
Running Time: 122 mins.
OFRB Rating: 14A (coarse language)
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Homayoun Ershadi, Rainer Bock, and Daniel Brühl
Verdict: Of any respected author of fiction, John Le Carré may be the one whose novels least translate into interesting movies. A Most Wanted Man is a most boring film, despite what should be a gripping story of counterterrorism, bureaucracy, and international relations. Powerful performances abound, including one of the last from Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it’s the equivalent of a bunch of gorgeous sports cars spinning their tires and not getting any traction. (2½ stars / 5)
PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE
Running Time: 83 mins.
OFRB Rating: G
Starring: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Wes Studi, Hal Holbrook, Stacy Keach, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina King, Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller, and Fred Willard
Verdict: The first Planes was just a retread of the same plot and themes as Cars (which, who are we kidding, was just an animated version of Doc Holiday), which makes this rehash of Planes all the more derivative and repetitious. Glorious puns still abound and the jokes land a bit more frequently here than in the first Planes, but Cook still hasn’t learned the different between being vocally manic and being vocally animated and the plot ends exactly where it starts, making Planes: Fire & Rescue even more irrelevant as a sequel. (2½ stars / 5)
STEP UP: ALL IN
Running Time: 112 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG
Starring: Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan, Stephen Boss, Stephen “Stevo” Jones, Adam Sevani, Misha Gabriel, David Schreibman, Mari Koda, and Christopher Scott
Verdict: After Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D, Step Up: Revolution, Stomp the Yard, You Got Served, Take the Lead, How She Move, and Battle of the Year, was there really anything left to be said by this brainless sub-genre? Like when Survivor started running out of ideas, the fifth Step Up movie centers around an all-star battle royale, giving the movie the perfect excuse to bring back characters from the first four movies who weren’t interesting the first time around. Yes, there are a few impressive dance sequences, but nothing that couldn’t have been done in YouTube videos or a spot on America’s Got Talent. (1 star / 5)