PICKS OF THE WEEK
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” (PG) — Brilliant scientist and inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) was a surprise success in the last film, in which he made a device that turned rain into food. In this follow-up to the last animated romp, Flint and friends must go on an expedition into a wild world of food-animal hybrids — shrimpanzees, tacodiles and flamangoes to name a few of the pun-tastic creatures.
This new adventure successfully adapts to formula from the first and adds the right amount of tweaks. The pacing is fast and frenetic, with comedic action sequences that both thrill and tickle. The quick jabs and jokes — verbal and visual — are measured out at just the right rate.
“Rush” (R) — Two drivers risk death on the racetrack in a six-year battle for supremacy in the prestigious Formula 1 racing circuit of the 1970s. James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, Thor from “The Avengers,” clean-shaven and dashing) is the Englishman and unstoppable party machine. If he’s not racing, he’s intoxicated — and sometimes the two overlap. His archrival is Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl, the sniper from “Inglorious Basterds”), a calculating and methodic Austrian racer.
Director Ron Howard uses his resources to full effect: pulse-pounding racing and a gentlemen’s grudge between diametrically opposed athletes at the top of their games. While Hunt lusts after life-threatening situations; Bruhl calculates his risk before every race.
“Last Vegas” (R) — With four distinguished performers leading a story about life and identity in older age, you’d think there would be something meaningful or at least entertaining about this film. Instead, you’ll likely find yourself praying that the guys from “The Hangover” grow up before they become this bland. Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Michael Douglas play four old buds in Las Vegas having the time of their lives. It’s neither charming nor edgy, not too funny and not too sappy. I think it would be more entertaining to watch the actors drinking after a day of shooting than this schlock.
“The Fifth Estate” (R) — This film looks behind the headlines to tell a dramatized version of the rise of Wikileaks — the controversial online organization that publishes classified government information. At its center is the polarizing Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a white-haired Aussie who believes it’s his personal crusade to expose the darkest secrets of the world’s most powerful organizations. The film is big on details, short on thrills. The script and direction somehow miss the mark, and the real-life story of espionage, exposure and informational warfare gets watered down into a sort of melodrama.
“Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Season 4 DVD” (U.K. Edition)
“Treme: The Complete Fourth Season”
“Vera, Set 3”
“African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross”
“Danny Phantom: The Complete Series”
© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.