by Wendy Schadewald
Special to Sun Thisweek-Dakota County Tribune
Rating system: (4=Don’t miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“Born in China” (G) (3.5) — John Krasinski narrates this beautifully photographed, family-friendly, educational, stunning, 3D, 76-minute, Disneynature documentary that follows the life cycle of various animal families that raise their offspring in China, including a bamboo-eating panda caring for her daughter, a high plateau snow leopard raising her two cubs, a jealous golden snub-nose monkey trying to fit in with his family and newborn sister, female chiru antelope that leave the males for six months to give birth, and legendary cranes that carry the souls of the departed.
“Coffee Date” (NR) (3) [DVD only] — After his mooching brother (Jonathan Silverman) sets him up with a blind date on the Internet with a movie-buff, gay Latino salon owner (Wilson Cruz) in this charming, pleasant comedy, an uptight, recently divorced businessman (Jonathan Bray) returns to their Los Angeles apartment pretending to be gay but the ruse backfires when he tries to convince his widowed, well-intended mother (Sally Kirkland) and his coworkers (Jason Stuart, Deborah Gibson, et al.) that he is really straight.
“The Fate of the Furious” (PG-13) (3) [Prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.] — When a ruthless cyber terrorist (Charlize Theron) coerces a professional daredevil stunt driver (Vin Diesel) in Cuba to work for her by threatening his family and he goes rogue in this action-packed, fast-paced, entertaining, riveting, star-dotted (Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Patrick St. Esprit, Kristofer Hivju, and Celestino Cornielle), 136-minute film filled with numerous car crashes, two FBI agents (Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood) gather his fearless team (Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, and Nathalie Emmanuel) to stop the duo from detonating a nuclear missile from a Russian submarine.
“Gray Matters” (PG-13) (1.5) [Some mature thematic material, sexual content, and language.] [DVD only] — Stilted and unrealistic dialogue and characters mar this choppy, predictable romantic comedy about a New York City advertising executive (Heather Graham) who jeopardizes her close relationship with her surgical resident brother (Tom Cavanagh) when she unexpectedly falls for a beautiful zoologist (Bridget Moynahan) she finds for him at a dog park.
“The Lost City of Z” (PG-13) (3) [Violence, disturbing images, brief strong language, and some nudity.] — Slow pacing hinders this beautifully photographed, fascinating, factually based, violent, 141-minute film based on David Grann’s bestselling novel “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” that chronicles three perilous expeditions that British Colonel Percival “Percy” Fawcett (Charles Matthew Hunnam) made to South America where he was initially sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society, leaving his pregnant wife (Sienna Miller) and 3-year-old son (Tom Mulheron) in 1906 to survey the border between Bolivia and Brazil with aide-de-camp Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), returning again in 1912 to Brazil with his devoted crew (Edward Ashley, Matthew Sunderland, et al.) and well-known explorer James Murray (Angus Macfadyen) to find evidence of a mysterious civilization, and finally after serving in WWI, he returns with his adult son Jack (Tom Holland) in 1925 to find the ancient city that he always dreamed of discovering.
“The Promise” (PG-13) (3.5) [Thematic material, including war atrocities, violence, and disturbing images, and some sexuality.] — Striking cinematography highlights this captivating, factually inspired, well-acted, evenly paced, bittersweet, violent, star-studded (James Cromwell, Tom Hollander, Jean Reno, Rade Serbedzija, Andrew Tarbet, et al.), 135-minute, romantic, 2016 film with the Ottoman Empire as the backdrop and based on Franz Werfel’s 1933 novel “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” that follows a smart, ambitious, engaged Armenian apothecary (Oscar Isaacs) as he leaves his strict parents (Shohreh Aghdashloo and Kevork Malikyan) and devoted fiancée (Angela Sarafyan) in Southern Turkey in 1914 to attend the medical academy in Constantinople where he ends up falling for a gorgeous artist (Charlotte Le Bon), who is in love with an American “Associated Press” photojournalist (Christian Bale) based in Paris and covering the Armenian Genocide, and then suddenly finds himself in a Turkish labor camp building a railroad in the Taurus Mountains after trying to save his wealthy cousin who was arrested, and then finally after escaping and returning home, he joins other Armenians trying to stand up and fight the Turkish army who have slaughtered more than 1.5 million Armenians.
“Shut Up and Kiss Me!” (NR) (2) [DVD only] — While an unlucky-in-love, accident-prone, greenhorn stockbroker (Christopher Daniel Barnes) who still lives with his eccentric, divorced mother (Victoria Jackson) in Miami tries to hook up with a knockout tour guide (Kristen Richardson) he literally runs into in his office building in this wacky, uninspired comedy, his womanizing best friend (Brad Rowe) tries to get close to a beautiful Sicilian (Krista Allen) he meets during a grocery store robbery despite being protected by overzealous bodyguards hired by her mobster uncle (Burt Young).
“There Will Be Blood” (R) (3.5) [Some violence.] [DVD only] — The hunger and tenacity for oil and a deep-seated antagonism for a zealous evangelist (Paul Dano) of an aesthetic, greedy, and obsessive turn-of-the-century sociopathic prospector (Daniel Day-Lewis) in this compelling, but slow-moving, 2-1/2 hour film that has a striking musical score and was inspired by Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel “Oil” lead not only to riches for his partners (Ciarán Hinds, et al.) and to the estrangement of his son (Dillon Freasier/Russell Harvard) after a tragic accident leaves him deaf but to his slow descent in madness, bitterness, and self-imposed alienation.
“An Unreasonable Man” (NR) (3) [DVD only] — An in-depth and interesting documentary about the profound, enormous, and widespread influence of infamous and famous lawyer and lobbyist Ralph Nader who has made a significant impact on human rights, consumer safety (such as seat belts and nutrition labeling), environmental safeguards, and worker protection and has forever shaped the American political scene after throwing his hat into the presidential ring as a Green Party candidate.
Wendy Shadewald is a Burnsville resident.