Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"THE WORLD'S END"
In advance of the nationwide opening of the newest installment in this trilogy of British comedies, several theaters have booked marathon back-to-back showings of "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and "Hot Fuzz" (2007). Known as the "Three Flavours: Cornetto," all were directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and each has an ice cream cone cameo.
In this newest episode, five former high school friends decide to reunite and complete an epic pub crawl that they first attempted 20 years ago. Wearing the exactly the same trench coat and black Sisters of Mercy T-shirt and driving the same car, middle-aged yet still immature man/child Gary King (Pegg) is the instigator. He recruits sensible, now sober for 16 years, corporate lawyer Andy (Nick Frost), whose friendship he'd lost in an accident; pretentious real estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman); mild-mannered, married Peter (Eddie Marsan), and fun-loving, divorced architect Steven (Paddy Considine) to quaff a pint in all 12 pubs on what's called the Golden Mile of Newton Haven.
They finish their marathon at the aptly named The World's End. But there are unexpectedly sinister, sci-fi complications lurking in their hometown. All the pubs are now identical -- with fake ale/lagers on tap. And the usual residents have been replaced by ink-blooded, alien robots. Have these "five musketeers" become the human race's only and last chance for survival?
Written by Wright and Pegg, it's fast-paced fun, filled with rapid-fire editing, if you're familiar with the previous two movies. If not, it's admittedly a bit bewildering, particularly a discordant flash-forward. While "Shaun" riffed on zombie movies and "Hot Fuzz" parodied buddy-cop movies, this is more of an ensemble "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" effort -- with a surprise cameo. On the distaff side, Rosamund Pike ("Jack Reacher") turns up as Oliver's sister, a love interest for Gary and Steve, but she vanishes far too quickly.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The World's End" is a silly, stylized, slapstick 6. For aficionados, I suppose the apocalyptic British romp is ridiculously amusing.
Based on Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s comic book franchise, the "Kick-Ass" (2010) introduced Chloe Grace Moretz as feisty pre-teen Mindy Macready -- a.k.a. Hit-Girl, the cleverly cartoonish, leather-clad, purple-wigged epitome of female empowerment, spewing profanity and hurling lethal nunchuks.
Having lost her beloved father (Nicolas Cage), she's now living with NYPD detective/guardian Sgt. Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) and trying to cope with the Mean Girls and their cruel, competitive, cheerleading cliques at Millard Fillmore High School.
When dopey Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) -- a.k.a. Kick-Ass -- asks her to join him to form a dynamic duo of misfit teens, at first Mindy refuses, sneering: "I'm in the NFL. You play pee-wee." So Kick-Ass teams with a deluded, spandex-clad squad, called Justice Forever, that includes Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), Mr. Radical (Matt Steinberg), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), Battle Guy (Clark Duke) and an older couple -- Tommy's Dad (Steven Mackintosh) and Tommy's Mom (Monica Dolan) -- whom the police refused to help when their son disappeared.
Led by crook-turned-born-again Christian, sadistic Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), these vigilantes patrol the streets and help at food banks. The uber-villain is Red Mist, Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), in his late mother's bondage gear; his mob boss father was killed by Kick-Ass. He's hired brutal bodybuilder/former-KGB agent Katharina Dombrovski (Olga Kurkulina) -- a.k.a. Mother Russia -- with her manservant (John Leguizamo).
Using upper-corner panel captains, writer/director Jeff Wadlow recycles the same costume-wearing caricatures, same crime-fighting concept, adding even more misogynistic violence. Indeed, after last December's shooting tragedy in Newtown, Jim Carrey has publicly disavowed Wadlow's all-too-realistic depiction of brutal carnage.
Chloe Grace Moretz retorts: "If you believe and are affected by an action movie, you shouldn't see `Pocahontas' because you'll think you're a Disney princess ... if you see `Silence of the Lambs,' you'll think you're a serial killer ... If anything, these movies teach you what not to do."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Kick-Ass 2" is a flimsy 4, one of the stupidest sequels ever.
Based on a true story, this touching, extraordinarily told tale of devotion speaks to both the heart and the mind. Joining the ranks of "Away From Her," "Quartet" and "Amour," it revolves around the vicissitudes of aging.
Set in rural St. Martins, New Brunswick, in Canada's maritime provinces, it centers on Craig Morrison (James Cromwell), an 89-year-old cattle rancher who realizes that his beloved wife Irene (Genevieve Bujold) is growing frailer by the day and is now unable to cope with living in their old, two-story farmhouse, where they raised seven children.
To care for her properly, he starts to build a smaller, more suitable and comfortable cottage nearby -- on part of the 2,000 acres he owns overlooking the Bay of Fundy. Although he was trained as a carpenter by his accomplished shipbuilding father and he mills his own old-growth spruce, Morrison gets blindsided by an overzealous local bureaucrat (Jonathan Potts). Accused of 26 alleged "violations" of the new national building code, he must appear before a judge to plead his case, which he illustrates by alluding to a treasured baseball, signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
In a meticulously crafted, tour-de-force performance, guided by Toronto-based writer/director Michael McGowan, Cromwell -- best known as the farmer in "Babe" -- exhibits an irresistible mixture of insight and tender uncertainty, depicting Morrison's dilemma with fluid precision, while Bujold's emotional vulnerability wraps around your heart. Not often seen on screen since she made "Anne of a Thousand Days," Bujold is a brilliant French-Canadian actress. In supporting roles, Campbell Scott, George R. Robertson, Julie Stewart and Rick Roberts deliver memorable performances.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Still Mine" is a sentimental, inspirational 7, concluding on a note of optimism.