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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“Babel” (R) (3) [Subtitled.] [Violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language, and some drug use.] [DVD only] — A rifle given as a gesture of thanks by a Japanese hunter (Koji Yakusho) to his North African tour guide intertwines seemingly unrelated, but captivating stories in which a frantic American tourist (Bratt Pitt) in Morocco desperately searches for help after his estranged wife (Cate Blanchett) is shot by a stray bullet when two foolish brothers (Boubker Ait El Caid and Abdelkader Bara) use a tour bus for target practice, a depressed deaf-mute teenager (Rinko Kikuchi) in Japan acts out in a reckless manner to get the attention she craves from her widowed father, and an illegal Mexican nanny (Adriana Barraza) in San Diego crosses the border with her two American charges (Elle Fanning and Nathan Gamble) when she hitches a ride with her reckless nephew (Gael García Bernal) to attend the wedding of her son (Robert Esquivel).
“Blue Velvet” (R) (2.5) [DVD only] — After a hardware store employee (Kyle MacLachlan) finds a severed ear in his neighborhood in this intriguing, Oscar-nominated, multiple-award-winning, but ultraweird 1986 David Lynch cult classic, he convinces a smitten high school student (Laura Dern) to help him become an amateur sleuth to investigate a masochistic lounge singer (Isabella Rossellini) whose husband and child have been kidnapped by a brutal and insane gangster (Dennis Hopper) with a blue velvet fetish.
“Flushed Away” (PG) (2.5) [Crude humor and some language.] [DVD only] — An energetic, family-oriented, animated Aardman claymation film in which a lonely, spoiled pet rat (voiceover by Hugh Jackman) living in a posh Kensington home is flushed down the toilet by a grubby sewer rat (voiceover by Shane Richie) and ends up in a bustling underground city where he and a cheeky boat captain (voiceover by Kate Winslet) try to evade a greedy toad (voiceover by Ian McKellen) and his main henchman (voiceover by Andy Serkis) who are attempting to take over the rat’s prime property.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (PG-13 (3.5) [Intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.] — Twenty-six years after space pirates mysteriously kidnap a young sobbing boy (Wyatt Oleff) who just lost his widowed mother (Laura Haddock) to cancer and he grows up to be a Walkman-carrying, butt-kicking Ravager (Chris Pratt) with a bounty on his head for stealing a powerful orb in this fast-paced, entertaining, wacky, tongue-in-cheek humor-dotted, action-packed, star-studded (Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Rooker, Josh Brolin, and Seth Green), 3D, 2-hour sci-fi adventure film filled with terrific special effects, he finds himself in prison and joining forces with prison mates, including a green-hued humanoid (Zoe Saldana), a gun-toting raccoon (voiceover by Bradley Cooper), a treelike creature (voiceover by Vin Diesel), and a leather-skinned Drax (Dave Bautista), to escape and save a planet from an evil warlord (Lee Pace).
“Happy Christmas” (R) (2.5) [Language, drug use, and some sexual content.] — After an immature, dysfunctional, 27-year-old woman (Anna Kendrick) goes to Chicago during the holidays to live with her filmmaker brother (Joe Swanberg), his novelist wife (Melanie Lynskey), and their adorable 2-year-old son (Jude Swanberg) and parties with a friend (Lena Dunham) and a babysitting pot dealer (Kevin Weber) in this realistic, engaging, 83-minute film, relationships are strained, family dynamics are tested, tensions rise, and problems ensue when alcohol and dope enter the picture.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (PG) (4) [Thematic elements, some violence, language, and brief sensuality.] — When a grieving, stubborn, widowed Indian father (Om Puri) eventually moves his family to a small town in France after the death of his wife (Juhi Chawla) and their restaurant is torched in this delightfully charming, touching, well-acted, predictable, 2-hour Lasse Hallström film, which is based on Richard C. Morais’s novel and filled with gorgeous, scrumptious, mouth-watering cuisine, he opens a restaurant with his talented son (Manish Dayal), who has an extraordinary palate, and his other children (Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, et al.) directly across the street from a Michelin-starred restaurant to the dismay of its prim, snobbish, widowed owner (Helen Mirren), her employees (Charlotte Le Bon, et al.), and the food-guzzling mayor (Michel Blanc).
“Into the Storm” (PG-13) (3) [Sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language, including some sexual references.] — Phenomenal special effects dominate this riveting, scary, realistic, 89-minute film that follows daredevil storm chasers (Matt Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sumpter, and Arlen Escarpeta) as they search for and film tornados and end up trying to help a vice principal (Richard Armitage) save his son (Max Deacon) who is trapped with this girlfriend (Alycia Debnam Carey) as massive storm systems converge on a small Oklahoma town and threaten the lives of many of its citizens (Scott Lawrence, Nathan Kress, Kyle Davis, et al.).
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (PG-13) (3) [Sci-fi action violence.] — When the four teenage ninja turtles, including Michelangelo (voiceover by Noel Fisher), Raphael (voiceover by Alan Ritchson), Leonardo (voiceover by Johnny Knoxville), and Donatello (voiceover by Jeremy Howard), ignore their the advice of their father (voiceover Tony Shalhoub) and risk exposure to save New York City from the power-hungry Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), a duplicitous businessman (William Fichtner), and the evil Foot Clan in this family-oriented, entertaining, funny, action-packed, 3D, 101-minute film, a crime reporter (Megan Fox) tries to convince her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) and her cameraman (Will Arnett) that these sword-wielding, butt-kicking reptiles are not a figment of her imagination.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.