Friday movie roundup: Speeding or feeding?
It's a busy weekend at the movies, with fast cars and funny food.
"Rush" is an often exciting look at the world of Formula 1 racing, focusing on the '70s rivalry between the dashing English driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the calculating Austrian champ Niki Lauda (Daniel BrÃ¼hl). Director Ron Howard creates some energetic race sequences, and has fun revealing his protagonists' sex-filled private lives.
"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" is a witty and hilarious sequel to the 2009 animated tale of an inventor's creation going out of control and creating food from water. The sequel has the inventor, Flint (voiced by Bill Hader), seeking to find his invention, through a foodie jungle populated by food/animal hybrids. It's mostly a vehicle for a lot of food-related puns, most of which are really funny.
"Baggage Claim," alas, is not really funny, which is a hindrance in a romantic comedy. Paula Patton ("Precious," "2 Guns") stars as Montana, a flight attendant feeling family pressure to get married. So she abuses her flight privileges to pursue some old boyfriends, to see if they're husband material. No cliche goes unturned in this wheezing script (hey, look, it's the sassy gay friend!), but with nothing humorous to show for it.
The best new movie this weekend is also a romantic comedy: "Enough Said," which traces the beginnings of a potential relationship between a 40-something massage therapist (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and a gentle museum curator (James Gandolfini). Writer-director Nicole Holofcener ("Please Give," "Friends With Money") finds insightful humor about middle-age romance, and gives space for Gandolfini (in one of his last roles) to give a sweet, touching performance with a character that's miles away from Tony Soprano.
The sex comedy "Don Jon" is actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt's debut as a director and writer, and it's an uneven mess. JGL plays Jon, a New Jersey stereotype picking up women in bars, confessing about it on Sunday, and then eating dinner with the family, and arguing with his dad (Tony Danza) in wife-beater T-shirts. The added twist is that Jon also has an addiction to online porn, which becomes an issue when he starts dating the stunning Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). Gordon-Levitt shows chops as a director, with smart editing and camera choices, but his script is overloaded with one-note characters.
The biographical drama "Hannah Arendt" is a talky but often fascinating look at the German-Jewish political theorist (played by Barbara Sukowa) who became famous and a little infamous for her coverage of the war-crimes trial of Nazi official Adolf Eichmann, and her analysis in which she coined the phrase "the banality of evil." Director Margarethe von Trotta focuses on Arendt's writing about the trial, and the backlash that followed when she criticized the Israeli government (which had Eichmann kidnapped in Argentina and tried him in Jerusalem) and Jewish leaders during World War II. The main draw here is Sukowa's powerful, intellectual performance.
Two more movies that arrive in town without local critics getting to see them: The IMAX 3-D film "Metallica Through the Never," which mixes concert footage of the metal band with a narrative; and, at the Century 16, the body-building documentary "Generation Iron."