by Wendy Schadewald
Special to Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune
Rating system: (4=Don’t miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (PG-13) (3.5) [Intense sequences of violence, gunplay, and action throughout.] — After his boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is shot by the mysterious winter soldier (Sebastian Stan) in this action-packed, fast-paced, 3D, star-studded (Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Cobie Smulders, Emily VanCamp, Garry Shandling, Hayley Atwell, Gary Sinise, Elizabeth Olsen, et al.), entertaining, 136-minute film filled with terrific special effects, Captain America (Chris Evans) teams up with Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) when he becomes the target of traitorous S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (Robert Redford, Frank Grillo, et al.) working for Hydra.
“Draft Day” (PG-13) (3) [Brief strong language and sexual references.] — An engaging, football-lovers, realistic, star-dotted (Jennifer Garner, Sam Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Frank Langella, Rosanna Arquette, Denis Leary, Tom Welling, Chi McBride, Sam Elliott, Sean Combs, and Terry Crews), 105-minute film about the wheeling-dealing general manager (Kevin Costner) of the Cleveland Browns who negotiates with other managers (Patrick St. Esprit, Pat Healy, et al.) for various teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Jackson Jaguars, and Buffalo Bills, for his possible number one draft picks (Josh Pence, David Ramsey, Chadwick Boseman, et al.) for his football team.
“Finding Vivian Maier” (NR) (3) — When writer John Maloof bought numerous items from an auction, including personal belongings, more than 100,000 negatives, and hundreds of rolls of colored and black-white film, be began to piece together the interesting life of eccentric nanny and talented amateur photographer Vivian Dorothy Maier (2/1/1926-4/21/2009) through her hundreds of fascinating black-and-white photographers and interviews with photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Mary Ellen Mark, former talk show host Phil Donahue, former employers (Zalman and Laura Vsiskin, Roger Carlson, Jacqueline Bruni-Manier, Cathy Bruni-Norris, and Laura Walker), landlord Maren Baylaender, friend Bill Sacco, store owner Bindy Bitterman, genealogist Michael Strauss, French mayor Daniel Arnaud, and gallery owner Howard Greenberg.
“The Grandmaster” (PG-13) (3.5) [Violence, some smoking, brief drug use, and language.] [Subtitled] [DVD only] — Amazing cinematography and striking martial arts choreography dominate director’s Kar Wai Wong’s factually based, action-packed, 110-minute, 2013 biopic that chronicles the tumultuous life of legendary Wing Chun kung fu master Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) from 1936 in China where he meets skilled Gong master Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang) when her father comes to his village to his move to Hong Kong in 1950 after the Second Sino-Japanese War to provide for his family.
“Heading South” (NR) (2.5) [Subtitled] [DVD only] — Jealousy ensues among tourists in Haiti when a hard-edged, 55-year-old French professor (Charlotte Rampling) from Boston, a sexually ignited schoolteacher (Karen Young) from Savannah, and an overweight woman (Louise Portal) from Canada wile away the summer in Port a Prince and vie for the affections of a dark-skinned, well-toned gigolo (Ménothy Cesar) during the late 1970s.
“The House of Sand” (R) (3.5) [Some graphic sexuality.] [DVD only] — A mesmerizing, foreboding landscape dominates this poignant, heartrending story in which a pregnant woman (Fernanda Torres) is forced to move with her foolish husband (Ruy Guerra) and elderly mother Maria (Fernanda Montenegro) to a stark and isolated desert region in northern Brazil in 1910, but after years of trying to escape her predicament, she eventually finds peace and a home with a kindly widowed fisherman (Seu Jorge) among the ever shifting sand dunes.
“Joe” (R) (3) [Violence, disturbing material, language, and some strong sexual content.] — A gritty, dark, engaging, well-acted, 117-minute film based on Larry Brown’s 1991 novel in which a hard-drinking, kindhearted, ex-con, lumber company foreman (Nicolas Cage) befriends and takes on a struggling, determined, 15-year-old teenager (Ty Sheridan), who lives in a rundown shack with his abusive father (Gary Poulter), oblivious mother, and mute sister in Texas, as the boy tries to get the upper hand from his violent, alcoholic father and a lowlife troublemaker (Ronnie Gene Blevins).
“The Last Kiss” (R) (2.5) [Sexuality, nudity, and language.] [DVD only] — The feet of a marriage-phobic architect (Zach Braff) get even colder after his longtime girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett) announces to her parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson) that she is pregnant, one of his best friends (Casey Affleck) wants to separate from his wife after only three years of marriage, and he finds himself drawn to a petite brunette (Rachel Bilson) he meets at a wedding reception.
“The New One-Armed Swordsman” (NR) (2.5) [Subtitled] [DVD only] — After being falsely accused of a heinous crime by a jealous, underhanded, lying competitor (Ku Feng) and cutting off his own arm in agonizing defeat in Zhang Che’s action-packed, smartly choreographed 1971 Chinese film, the bullied, juggling, one-arm waiter (David Jiang) reluctantly accepts a honed sword from the smitten daughter (Li Ching) of a blacksmith in order to avenge the senseless murder of a skilled, dual-sword-wielding friend (Ti Lung).
“Nymphomaniac: Vol. II” (NR) (2) — In Lars von Trier’s dark, erotic, sexually explicit, 124-minute, 2013 final installment to his trilogy that began in 2009 with “Antichrist” and in 2011 with “Melancholia,” a battered, sex-addicted woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) continues to retell to a seemingly kindhearted man (Stellan Skarsgård), who found her in an alley after she was mugged, her myriad sexual encounters with various men (Jamie Bell, Shia LaBeouf, Willem Dafoe, Jean-Marc Barr, Kookie, Papou, et al.) that became increasingly sadomasochistic in attempt to not feel sexually numb.
“The Puffy Chair” (R) (2) [Language.] [DVD only] — Strained relationships are ultimately tested in this strange, realistic, tedious slice of life in which a booking agent (Mark Duplass) in New York City goes on a road trip with his longtime girlfriend (Kathryn Aselton) and bohemian brother (Rhett Wilkins) to pick up a red recliner in North Carolina purchased on Ebay as a birthday present for their dad (Larry Duplass) in Atlanta.
“Rio 2” (G) (3) — While Blu (voiceover by Jesse Eisenberg), his wife (voiceover by Anne Hathaway), and kids leave Rio de Janeiro for the Amazon rainforest to help an American couple (Leslie Mann and Bruno Mars) find the endangered blue macaws in this action-packed, family-friendly, colorful, 3D, star-dotted (voiceovers by Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Rita Moreno, Tracy Morgan, Andy Garcia, Will i. Am, and Rodrigo Santoro), 101-minute, animated musical, they end up trying to stop a greedy, sucker-loving businessman (voiceover by Miguel Ferrer) from illegal logging with the revenge-driven, flightless cockatoo (voiceover by Jemaine Clement), an anteater, and a pink frog (voiceover by Kristin Chenoweth) hot on their tail.
“Under the Skin” (R) (2.5) [Graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence, and language.] — Haunting music highlights this creepy, exceedingly different, repetitive, artsy, original, love-it-or-hate-it, 108-minute, sci-fi film based on Michel Faber’s book about a beautiful, charismatic alien (Scarlett Johansson) who drives around Scotland in a white van enticing unsuspecting, horny men into her mysterious, deadly liar where their bodies become trapped in a gooey, gelatinous substance.
“Vikings: Journey to New Worlds” (NR) (3) [DVD only] — Breathtakingly spectacular panoramic photography of scenic Iceland and Greenland dominates this interesting and informative IMAX documentary narrated by Mike Guinta that delves into the social, cultural, historical, and scientific significance that Nordic traders and legendary Viking explorers, such as Erik the Red, had on the world as they reached out in longships from Scandinavia in 793 A.D. to discover and conquer new lands from Lindisfrane, England to Istanbul, Turkey.
“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (R) (3) [Subtitled] [DVD only] — A witty, 1988 Pedro Almodóvar farce about the mixed-up lives of three Spanish women (Carmen Maura, Maria Barranco, and Julieta Serrano) and their unscrupulous lovers (Fernando Guillén and Antonio Bandares).
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.