Movie Review: Paul Walker’s next to last film, “Brick Mansions,” is far too typical of his weaker films

ImageImageThe late Paul Walker wasn’t a great actor, but within a narrow corner of the action genre, he was the guy who got the job done. A vulnerable tough guy who could hold his own in stunt brawls and car chases, an actor who said “Bro” like he meant it, he will be missed.

But not for something like “Brick Mansions.” This A-level action/D-level plot is too typical of the lesser fare that Walker squeezed in between the increasingly popular, decreasingly intelligent “Fast & Furious” movies. He might show some range in “Hours,” playing a newly widowed dad trying to save his incubator baby in an hospital that’s been abandoned during Hurricane Katrina. But “Mansions” is like “Vehicle 19″ or “Takers,” dumb, noisy junk and the best he could do in a career that never really took off.

“Brick Mansions” is a remake of the French parkour thriller “District B-19,” a run, jump, punch and dangle picture from the Luc Besson (“Taken,” “Transporter”) action stable. David Belle, the French stuntman/parkour specialist who starred in that one, returns here. Walker plays a cop who meets this French wonder while working undercover, and has to match or somehow keep up with a guy who goes over walls, not around them, who plunges through car windows rather than opening the door.

Set in the Detroit of the very near future, in a housing development that’s turned into such an irredeemable ghetto which the government has walled in, “Mansions” showcases Belle as Lino, a French underworld figure who turns into some sort of crusader for cleaning the place up, probably to win back his girl (Catalina Denis).

Walker is an undercover cop out to finish off one last drug lord, Tremaine, played by the rapper turned Real Zero of an Actor, RZA.

A plot twist borrowed from “Escape from New York” — a bomb has been stolen and activated by the gangsters, who risk blowing up the entire middle of the city. Damien, the cop, must let the Frenchman be his guide as they dash in among the “Brick Mansions” to defuse it.

Editor turned director Camille Delamarre, a “Taken 2″ and “Transporter 3″ veteran, drops frames and jump cuts his way through the fights and chases and parkour stunts of this picture, giving the action a jagged, nervy edge. Belle gets a pre-credits showcase sequence, and Walker a brawl, shoot-out and dragged-behind-a-car chase right at the open to set the tone.

But the stupidity of the piece hangs over it from the start, too. The mayor, perhaps relying too much on the French screenwriters who don’t know what an acre is, refers to the Mansions as “20 acres in the middle of the city.” That’s a Walmart parking lot, hardly a large enough setting for all we see here.

The near future — 2018 — may be necessary in terms of the cars, weapons and cell-phones the film uses. But depopulated Detroit is hardly the crowded, cop-packed crime mecca the film depicts.

A bustier and fishnet stockinged assassin named Rayzah (Ayisha Issa) makes a strong impression, but none of the other cops, crooked officials or mob henchmen do. RZA’s Tremaine should be anxious that there’s a big bomb about to blow up his corner of the city.

“Tremaine Alexander don’t do anxious!”

Walker’s best moments have him doing a deadpan double take at some impossible stunt Belle’s Lino has just pulled off, That gives his character a moment to figure out how he can get the same results without having wall-climbing, back flipping and tumbling skills of this Cirque du Detroit sidekick.

And moments like that, even in a dumb movie, add a little sting to the loss of Walker’s amiable, sincere screen presence, a nice guy who always made a convincingly righteous dude, and an actor who wasn’t above letting himself in on the laugh that a lot of these movies he made were.

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MPAA Rating: PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Catalina Denis, Ayisha Issa

Credits: Directed by Camille Delamarre, written by Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri. A Relativity release.

Running time: 1:32

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Movie Review: “Walking with the Enemy”

ImageImageBen Kingsley classes up “Walking with the Enemy,” an ambitious if muddled World War II drama about the Holocaust in Hungary. Kingsley plays Miklos Horthy, Regent of Hungary during the war. He gives the leader, an ally of Nazi Germany, a complexity — balancing cooperation with Hitler with a self-righteous neutrality about the nation’s Jews — that Horthy himself would approve.
The movie around that small role is just as complicated, if clumsily simplistic, the sort of film where the sweep of history and a vast array of characters almost obliterate what is a simple story.
The enormity of the Holocaust, the scale of the horror, the depth of the depravity, the simple fact that it’s a period piece requiring settings, costumes, trains, trucks, tanks and motorcycles, would be daunting to any filmmaker. But first-time director Mark Schmidt, with assorted screenwriters, plunged right in, staging combat scenes and mass executions, throwing in a love story or good measure. The history is a bit fuzzy, but at least they got the World War II movie tropes right.
Irish actor Jonas Armstrong is Elek, a Jewish college student whose swing dancing good times come to an end in early 1944, as Hungary comes under the administration of Nazi SS Col. Adolph Eichmann (Charles Hubbell). The war has turned against Germany, but Eichmann has arrived to ensure that Hungary’s Jews, mostly protected under the Horthy regime, face the same fate as those of Poland, France and the rest of Europe.
Elek, Miklos (Simon Dutton) and Ferenc (Mark Wells) struggle to adapt to a rapidly deteriorating situation. Elek tries to convince his father, a village rabbi, to see the warning signs and flee with the family. But one thing “Walking with the Enemy” gets right is how dearly bought information was in Nazi Europe. Kept in the dark, people were willing to believe anything to avoid considering the worst.
As Budapest comes under the jurisdiction of the infamous Nazi Col. Skorzeny (Burn Gorman of “Pacific Rim”), Elek sees friends and family arrested, tortured and killed. He and a rotating collection of friends hurl themselves into helping as many as possible escape, starting with distributing Swiss exit visas and eventually donning an SS uniform to free prisoners and save more lives.
Of course, Elek has time for love, courting Hannah (Hannah Tointon) in between acts of derring-do. And that eye-roller is nothing when compared to the dialogue, which sounds as if it came from a WWII Movie Dialogue Generator, and not from nine credited writers. Every scene has a groaner.
“Don’t worry. Nothing will happen. I promise.” Hello, Holocaust?
“Ach, practicing your German again, Elek?” That’ll come in handy.
Seventy years of movies about Nazis and their (Hungarian) collaborators have not altered their cliches.
“Colonel, your reputation precedes you.” “If I may be so bold…” “We have our ORDERS.”
Only Kingsley comes out unscathed, lured into this project by the scant few good scenes and the very best lines.
“The Jews have Eichmann,” Horthy intones. “We have Skorzeny. All we be tested.”
After “Walking with the Enemy,” two hours and four minutes of torture, rape and mass shootings, you’ll feel you’ve been tested, too.
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MPAA Rating: unrated, with torture, shootings, attempted rape
Cast: Jonas Armstrong, Hannah Tointon, Burn Gorman, Simon Hepworth, Charles Hubbell, Ben Kingsley
Credits: Directed by Mark Schmidt, screenplay by Kenny Golde. A Liberty Studios release.
Running time: 2:04

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Movie Review: “The Other Woman”

ImageAnd thus, is a great comic duo born.
“The Other Woman” is a female empowerment comedy and buddy picture, a PG-13 “Bridesmaids,” as if that was even possible. But it is, because of Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann.
Diaz, whom future generations will look back on in awe that anybody so skinny/sexy could be so very scary, takes the straight-woman role to Mann, an under-rated comedienne who hasn’t worked nearly as much as she should have in the years and years since she married comic brand name Judd Apatow.
This farce, about a romantically jaded lawyer, Carly (Diaz) who realizes her new love of the past two months is actually married to a prattling, scattered but sweet housewife (Mann), gives Diaz a few pratfalls, a lot of pricey clothes and the occasional bikini, and Mann every thing else. Especially every funny thing.
Mann’s “Kate” all but collapses, on learning the truth in the Carly’s office.
“Does this open?” she mumbles, groping and poking, dazed, at a wall-sized window she’d like to jump through.
“You had sex with my husband…fifty times? Don’t you have a JOB?”
She cries to Carly, drinks with Carly, badgers Carly with calls.
“Just wanted to keep you in the loop.”
“Take me OUTTA the loop!”
And she drops in, uninvited, on Carly’s swank city apartment.
“I don’t want to sit anywhere you and Mark had sex.”
“Hmmmmm.”
Mann, who stole “Knocked Up”, plays a great drunk. Pouring her into Carly’s chauffeured Town Car is like watching Buster Keaton in high heels.
Worldwise Carly gets why Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) would cheat on Kate. She’s a clingy ditz, unable to train her Great Dane, catering to her entrepreneur hubby’s every need. Even Kate gets that.
“I am like Martha Stewart with big underpants!”
But Kate wins Carly’s sympathy, and ours.
The Diaz/Mann pairing is helped by a pair of funny supporting players — pop singer Nicki Minaj, a Picasso-parody of what real women look like, plays Carly’s secretary, and Don Johnson plays her five-times-married massage addict of a father.
“Don’t make fun of ‘Nam,” he bellows. “Best years of my life!”
And then the ladies meet a third “other woman.” Voluptuous model Kate Upton plays her, and while it’s not her fault that this Nick Cassavetes comedy hits the wall when she shows up, she’s no actress. Parking her next to Diaz and Mann probably scared the wits out of the older women, but Upton looks like a cheerful, chipmunk-cheeked collection of shapely, dull-eyed baby fat next to them.
Cassavetes plays around with the soundtrack, underscoring Kate’s “little Edith Piaf moment” breakdown with a funny-sad cover of “La Vie en Rose,” getting a little too on-the-nose by using “Mission: Impossible” music for Kate and Carly stalking Mark as he sneaks off to cheat.
It’s too long , and gets more obvious the longer it goes. The villain is weak and Minaj’s caricature seems straight out of a Tyler Perry picture. But Melissa K. Stack’s script has snap and crackle to go with the pop, making this female wish-fulfillment fantasy an “Eat, Pray, Revenge” that delivers the punches that two “Sex and the City” movies never could.
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MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, sexual references and language
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Nicki Minaj
Credits: Directed by Nick Cassavetes, written by Melissa K. Stack. A Fox release.
Running time: 1:49

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Movie Review: “The German Doctor”

ImageAs plain and simple as the title is, it still gives the story away.
“The German Doctor” is set in South America — Argentina — in 1960. And you’d have to have slept through years of history classes and skipped past every re-run of “The Boys from Brazil” to not guess who that doctor might be.
But writer-director Lucia Puenzo, adapting her own historical novel, concocts a disquieting and chilling thriller out of what might be a lost chapter in the infamous career of Nazi Doctor Joseph Mengele.
Yes, the stranger’s moustache is faintly sinister. His attentions, especially for the Argentine family’s daughter Lilith (Florencia Bado, precocious and terrific), suggest a perverse degree of scrutiny.
He doesn’t say why he’s on this lonely road in the middle of Patagonia. But this fellow who calls himself “Helmut” (Alex Brendemühl, guarded, excellent) drives a Chevy and keeps a doctor’s bag handy at all times. And all he wants to do is follow them so he can avoid the dangers of being stranded. Sure, says dad Enzo (Diego Peretti).
But as the family arrives in the alpine setting where an inn their relatives used to run is located, Helmut reveals a detail, here and there. He studies animal genetics. He’s insistently curious about mother Eva (Natalia Oreiro) and her pregnancy. Is she having twins?
“There’s nothing more mysterious than blood,” he purrs as he fills his journals with drawings, diagrams and charts. He’s sure a little hormone treatment would help the undersized Lilith grow, and spare her the teasing she endures in school.
Because that’s just what happens in Aryan High, down South America way.
Lilith narrates the story, describes herself as a “perfect specimen” in the German doctor’s eyes, and watches as he ingratiates himself into her family’s lives — underwriting Enzo’s doll-making hobby so that he can mass produce little Heidi look-alikes (nice metaphor) — slipping treatments for Lilith in between his many meetings with “the neighbors” and all the other blue-eyed folks who make this corner of Argentina a touch Bavarian.

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Puenzo’s cinematographer, her brother Nicolas Puenzo, captures scenery that seems straight out of a Leni Reifenstahl movie, snow-capped mountains that attracted Germans there long before the Austrian corporal’s Reich sent others seeking a refuge that looked like home.
A passing acquaintance with history doesn’t spoil the film’s suspense, not when the first swastika pops up at an unexpected time from an unexpected source. And melodramatic touches like organized, bullying and secretive school kids and a too-nosy school photographer (Elena Roger) don’t weigh down the film any more than Enzo’s anachronistic ’70s haircut or Helmut’s ’65 Impala in a movie set in 1960.
“The German Doctor”, in Spanish, German and Hebrew with English subtitles, is still a cracking good thriller. Because as that title implies, whatever gifts Germany has given modern culture — and the film’s scene of young teachers twisting to a German version of “The Purple People Eater” certainly counts — in the movies, there’s still no villain like a Nazi one.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and brief nudity
Cast: Florencia Bado, Àlex Brendemühl, Diego Peretti, Natalia Oreiro, Elena Roger
Credits: Written and directed by Lucia Puenzo. A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:33

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Movie Review: “The Railway Man”

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In Hollywood parlance, they “meet cute” — he stumbles into her first class
seat on the train to Edinburgh.
She (Nicole Kidman) is a bit taken aback, but only for a moment. She offers,
way too soon, that she’s “newly single.” He is bookish, awkward, slow to pick up
on that. His encyclopedic knowledge of rail schedules gives away that he’s
really into trains.
“I’m not a train spotter, I’m a railway enthusiast.”
His small talk is pattering on about the history of every village, hamlet and
landmark they pass by.
“Lancaster — known as the hanging town.”
He is smitten, she in intrigued. So it’s not really a coincidence when he
runs into on her home bound train some days later. Thus begins an adorable love
affair and marriage.
But Eric has night terrors, paralyzing seizures of fear set off by a phrase,
a song on the radio. Patti, who loves him, needs answers.
“The Railway Man” is about the horrors the people who lived through the “Keep calm and carry on” era didn’t talk about. This slow, uneven drama is a different sort of British prisoner of war movie. And even if it stumbles on its way to its fairly obvious, politically correct conclusion, it’s still worthwhile as a
closer read on history than the decades of WWII movies that preceded it.
Because it’s good to remember that the construction of the Bridge over the
River Kwai wasn’t all British stiff upper lips, jolly good sport playing head
games with the Japanese, whistling the “Colonel Bogey March” as they did.
For those who lived through it, prisoners of war worked to death as slave
labor under inhuman conditions in the jungles of Thailand, it was a fetid,
living hell.
Patti Lomax has to pry information out of Eric’s peers, the men who meet to
not talk about what they went through together building that Thai-Burma Railway.
Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) is dismissive, but eventually he fills her in on what
they all have been living with for 40 years (the movie is set in 1980).
In a long flashback, we see the shameful, seemingly premature surrender of
Singapore, which Churchill called “the worst disaster” in British military
history. The young radio operators, Eric and Finley (played by Jeremy Irvine and Sam Reid) pocket vacuum tubes and other radio parts as they line up to march into captivity. But once there, they see the awful consequences of getting caught doing that. They may be needed to keep the few machines the Japanese are using to build this rail line going. But beatings, torture and summary executions are a constant threat.
Director Jonathan Teplitzky cast emaciated men to play many of the prisoners, and took care to get the Japanese right, too, historically. These weren’t the best and the brightest. They were small men, physically, mentally and spiritually, raised on a diet of rice and racism. And they behaved barbarically.

“The Railway Man” vividly, if unevenly recreates that horrific past. And then
Teplitzky and the screenwriters very clumsily document the way the real Eric Lomax came to terms with it and his chief tormentor, a secret police
interpreter/interrogator, played by Tanroh Ishida in the war scenes and Hiroyuki Sanada in the 1980 “present.” Those scenes, whatever their moral rectitude, ring hollow and false. The actors bring no conviction to them.
Shifts in attitude and tone are abrupt, as Firth plays Lomax as utterly
broken, teetering on the brink of madness at one moment, lucid and calculating the next. Kidman is beguiling in the courtship scenes, given too little to play in the “Why won’t you talk to me?” ones.
Skarsgard brings gravitas to his fellow survivor role, and the younger
players — Irvine, Reid and Ishida — acquit themselves nicely playing
characters who are either dehumanized or dehumanizers.
But “The Railway Man” is more interesting as history, re-written, than as the
moral parable this true story became. As a generation dies out and the tests of those who lived through that era are forgotten, movies like this, even the less satisfying ones, help us remember and appreciate the great wrongs, the scars and the healing power of forgiveness in the face of World War II’s unspeakable cruelty.

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MPAA Rating: R for disturbing prisoner of war violence
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Irvine, Sam Reid,
Hiroyuki Sanada, Tanroh Ishida
Credits: Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, written Frank Cottrell Boyce and
Andy Paterson. A Weinstein Co. release.
Running time: 1:54

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Movie Review: “Blue Ruin”

ImageEvery homeless man has a story. And in the case of Dwight Evans, the “Duck Dynasty”-bearded hermit of the minimalist thriller “Blue Ruin,” it’s a minor epic.
Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s film is about a blood feud, the crippling impact of long-ago murders on a drifter who is only spurred to action when he learns that a murderer who destroyed his family is getting out of prison.
Dwight, played by Macon Blair in an utterly unaffected performance, has mastered laying low in the little Delaware town where he lives. He sneaks baths in the odd vacant beach cottage, dumpster dives for food and amusement park tickets and lives in his rusted, bullet-hole riddle car far off the beaten path.
But as sneaky as he is, the cops know him. And when they warn him a killer is about to get out of jail, Dwight sells recyclables for gas money, pulls the car battery out of mothballs and sends his sister a postcard of warning.
He doesn’t have enough for a gun, so he rummages through pickups in the parking lot of a local honky tonk. “Blue Ruin” is a ringing endorsement for the virtues of keeping a trigger lock on your pistol. Because without a firearm, revenge comes with a knife and a brutal encounter in the men’s room of the bar the ex-con visits the minute he’s out of prison.
We pick up Dwight’s story in bits and pieces, his obsession with old photo albums and high school yearbooks, some of it from a chat with his sister.
“I’m not used to…talking this much.”
The violence is immediate, bloody and personal. Blair and his writer-director limit Dwight’s cunning to things he picked up being homeless. He sets a simple trap here, clumsily fails to cover his tracks there. This is just how somebody living off the grid might get away with a revenge killing. Until the other family comes hunting (shotguns, crossbows) for payback.
The dialogue is hard-boiled in the extreme, never more than when Dwight tracks down an old high school buddy (Devin Ratray, excellent) because he remembers the guy’s into guns, as indeed a lot of the people in Dwight’s corner of Virginia are.
“No speeches,” Ben (Ratray) warns about revenge killing. “No talkin’. You point the gun, you shoot the gun.”
“Blue Ruin” stumbles only when it violates Ben’s rules in the third act. Repeatedly. The fact that one of the people Dwight is feuding with is an unrecognizable Eve Plumb, from the 1970s TV series “The Brady Bunch,” makes up for some of that.
It’s a patient film, taking the time to set up Dwight’s manner of living, the hows and how-tos of homelessness. He tracks Dwight from the dumpy beach town onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, from the seedy bars to the remote homesteads where violent people can target practice with no neighbor to fuss at them for the racket.
Saulnier wastes barely a moment of screen time in this grim and gripping slice of Southern Gothic. “Blue Ruin” joins “Shotgun Stories” and “Joe” as vivid reminders that however homogenized American culture seems, there are still pockets that are distinct, with people who live by their own rules and their own bloody code.
 
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MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, and language
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Eve Plumb
Credits: Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier. A Radius/TWC release.
Running time: 1:30

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Movie Review: “Last Passenger”

ImageA runaway train tale is a disaster made for the movies. It happens in real
time, a ticking clock thriller where “the end of the line” is literally the end
of the line for its victims. We learn which characters have “character” over the course of the crisis.
The special effects don’t have to be exotically special. And every now and
then, this sort of thing really happens. So yeah, we buy into it.
It’s no wonder that movies from “Runaway Train” to “Unstoppable” have
succeeded with this simple plot line.
“Last Passenger” is a London commuter train runaway tale, a handful of people on The Hastings line who notice they’re skipping stops, that something happened to the porter/guard on board, that the brakes don’t work. What will, what can they do?
Lewis (Dougray Scott of “My Week With Marilyn”) is headed home to Tunbridge Wells, a doctor who expects to drop off his kid (Joshua Kaynama) and be in surgery “in 47 minutes.” It’s the holidays, and he’s in a rush. Then, suspicious people show up and suspicious things start to happen.
Sarah (Kara Tointon of “The Sweeney”) is a friendly and somewhat flirtatious
blond who indulges the doctor’s kid and suggests a perhaps too-keen interest in who he is and what he does. His son “outs him” as being able to read people’s medical history by just looking at them.
“Guess my condition,” Sara flirts.
“Heart murmur,” he says. He could confirm it by doing this and that, checking
her chest, her heartbeat to listen for a symptom called a “thrill.”
“So, you’d feel me for a thrill?” she flirts some more.
Then there’s Jan (Iddo Goldberg), an aggressive Polish punk who seems to have a grudge against the world.
The prickly businessman (David Schofield) furiously demands that they wait
for “the authorities” to solve their woes. Too furiously?
So the doctor scrambles to keep the kid calm and find a way to get to the
engineer or whoever is making the train hurtle through the London suburbs at 100 miles per hour.
Director Omid Nooshin gives this story harrowing touches largely through
arresting camera angles and aggressive editing. He ensures that “Last Passenger” features a couple of jaw-dropping moments even as it traverse familiar ground.
Too little is done with the mystery and the mysterious passengers. Is one of
them in on it, and if so, why? Is there a faceless someone in the locomotive, an entity/driver straight from Steven Spielberg’s breakout film, “Duel”?
As the few passengers frantically try to break open this door or that hatch,
deafening blasts of the horn scare them off and jolt the viewer.
And as familiar as this set up is and these “types” are, “Last Passenger”
works, a modest thrill ride that may make you reconsider your public transit
plans the next time you need to get from London to Tunbridge Wells or further on down the line.
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MPAA Rating: R for language
Cast: Dougray Scott, Kara Tointon, Iddo Goldberg, David Schofield, Lindsay
Duncan
Credits: Directed by Omid Nooshin, written by Omid Nooshin and Andy Love. A
Cohen Media release. Running time: 1:36

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Box Office: “Heaven is for Real” opens big, “Transcendence” doesn’t, “Bears” bombs

This spring’s steady diet of faith-based films has apparently gotten SOME folks back in the habit of going to the movies. The faithful are tithing to Tristar as Sony’s “Heaven is for Real,” based on the best seller about a preacher who insists his little boy visited heaven, had a big Friday, and with an Easter holiday weekend behind it, could hit $26 million+ by Monday night, according to Deadline.com.

Since they always overestimate, let’s assume it does a solid $22-24, at this stage.It’s not a very good film, but it is touching, and it does leave adults and atheists plenty of wriggle room in suggesting the kid’s upbringing and coaching/prompting has more to do with this “amazing true story” than facts.

That’s a lot more than the heavily hyped “Transcendence,” which plays very much like an April sci-fi film should play — not good enough for summer release, with the box office to show for it. If it clears $12 by Sunday night, or even by Monday, it’ll be a miracle.

“Bears,” the other new opening, had a weak Good Friday, but Saturday will really tell for this kid-targeted nature documentary from Disney. $6 million or so by Sunday now, maybe $7 if it has a big Saturday, and Monday should pay off, too. It’s a good movie and deserves better than that. Cannot tell you how many parents are worried “does a cub die?” in comments to me about this one. We’re a long way from the emotional maturity of “Old Yeller.” Parents shield their kids from the grim reality of animals dying that these days.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” is back on top of the box office race doing about $26 over the long weekend. Close to $200 in the U.S.

“Rio 2″ is managing $24 or so. It will hit $100, or close to it, before the serious summer cinema season start.

“God’s Not Dead” will be close to $50 million by next weekend.

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Easter Weekend Box Office: Can “Heaven is for Real” transcend “Transcendence”?

Neither of the major openings this weekend has a prayer of catching “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” or “Rio 2.”

The bad reviews for Johnny Depp’s last film in which he does not play a pirate (merely a prediction) won’t help “Transcendence.” You have to squint extra hard to find real names on the critics’ “quotes” on the TV ads endorsing this stinker. Never a good sign.

Box Office Mojo still figures Depp doing sci-fi will pull in $20 million. I doubt it.

Box Office Guru makes the case that “After Earth” and “Oblivion” opened bigger than that, and based his $25 million prediction on those precedents. We’ll see. I think Depp, as much as I’ve enjoyed him over the years, is done. And he’s particularly bad in this part.

“Heaven is for Real” is the last of this Easter season’s faith-based films, and with the director of “Braveheart” and Greg Kinnear and a god supporting cast, this child’s view of the afterlife earned far better reviews than the dreadful “God’s Not Dead,” which will end up earning $50 million or so, when all is said and done.

The Guru figures “Heaven” could open at $16, which would be impressive. Box Office Mojo is thinking $15 million. Will the faithful embrace it? “Noah” made nearly $100 million despite being pounded by evangelicals and Fox News blondes. “God’s Not Dead” had a lot of church-based marketing behind it. Will “Heaven” get that sort of boost? 

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Next screening: “Belle”

A period piece about an illegitimate, mixed-raced beauty raised by her aristocratic uncle (Tom Wilkinson), “Belle” could be a breakthrough role for Gugu Mbatha-Raw, of English and South African ancestry. And in a posh period piece, no less. Matthew Goode, Emily Watson and Miranda Richardson also star in “Belle.”
It opens in early May.

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