Cockneys vs. Zombies
The title pretty much says it all in this gore-filled comedy about a bickering gang of London bank robbers who gets caught up in the middle of a zombie infestation. The funniest of the hijinks, however, concern a group of feisty seniors trying to defend their fledgling retirement community — the same one the crooks were stealing money to protect — from the walking dead. This low-budget entry doesn’t add much to the overpopulated recent roster of zombie flicks, although it does manage some solid laughs from a winning ensemble cast. Still, the film feels like a combination of genre ideas that were done better elsewhere. (Not rated, 88 minutes).
Don’t expect this 1970s Australian drama to join the canon of classic surfing movies, despite a heartfelt attempt to chronicle the fictional struggles of Andy Kelly (Myles Pollard) and his younger brother Jimmy (Xavier Samuel) open their own surf shop in a coastal town filled with biker gangs and a conservative mindset. Plus, the siblings always seem to be squabbling between their attempts to land cute girls and big waves. The pedestrian screenplay turns the story into a formulaic underdog tale that’s marginally energized by some gritty period details and abundant surfing footage that rivals some of the sequences from the fine documentaries about the sport. (Rated R, 113 minutes).
The found-footage concept is put to smart use in this cerebral science-fiction thriller about a group of international astronauts who undertake a mission to the titular moon near the planet Jupiter. Once they reach their destination, their journey becomes perilous for a variety of reasons that puts the entire crew in jeopardy. While the premise sounds familiar, the film mostly sidesteps clichés and contrivances despite an excessively jumbled chronological structure. Using minimal special effects considering the genre, Ecuadorian director Sebastian Cordero (Cronicas) maintains an intimacy and a slow-paced authenticity to the proceedings that helps to gradually increase the tension without sacrificing character development. (Rated PG-13, 90 minutes).
The Smurfs 2
Of course, there’s no creative rationale for a sequel to the 2011 hybrid of live action and animation based on the venerable cartoon characters. Rather, this follow-up is driven solely by financial motives, and available in 3D, of course. More of a crude and obnoxious rehash than a fresh concept, the story follows some of the titular tiny blue creatures to Paris to rescue their beloved Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by the villainous Gargamel (Hank Azaria) as part of a world-domination plot. It might be colorful and action-packed enough to satisfy small and indiscriminate children, but this is a long haul for accompanying adults. (Rated PG, 105 minutes).
The Spectacular Now
There aren’t any groundbreaking revelations or deeply profound relationship insights in this contemporary adolescent romance from director James Ponsoldt (Smashed). Yet it works because it sidesteps genre cliches and features dialogue and performances that resonate with authenticity. The story follows Sutter (Miles Teller), a high school senior known for his carefree attitude and his affinity for parties (along with borderline alcoholism), and his unlikely pairing with Aimee (Shailene Woodley), an emotionally vulnerable social outcast who is drawn to Sutter’s bad-boy image. Teller (21 and Over) and Woodley (The Descendants) establish solid chemistry within a sharp character-driven script that doesn’t resort to contrivances or cheap resolutions. (Rated R, 95 minutes).