Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation"
Since the Hasbro name appears twice in the opening credits, the intent of this noisy action adventure is obvious: toy soldier merchandising.
Positioned as a sequel to "Rise of the Cobra" (2009), it's got a new director, Jon. M. Chu ("Step Up"), and a couple of stars like Bruce Willis and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Brawny Channing Tatum returns briefly as Duke, but makes an early exit. Previous participants Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rachel Nichols are nowhere to be found.
The super-commando survivors are Roadblock (Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Jinx (Elodie Yung) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona), operating under the command of the original Joe: Gen. Joe Colton (Willis). The new villains include Ray Stevenson as Firefly, Luke Bracey as the silver-masked Cobra Commander, along with the feuding ninjas: silent Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and white-clad Storm Shadow (Klee-Byung Hun), who's working both sides of the equation.
Scripted by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick ("Zombieland"), the fast-paced plot begins in North Korea and then proceeds to Islamabad after the assassination of Pakistan's president. The mission is to secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons for the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce), who is actually the nefariously evil Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) in disguise; the impostor is keeping the real president alive in an underground bunker. As the elite fighting force battles the terrorists, it's obvious that the original 2D film was converted into 3D, particularly as the Ninjas choreographically rappel, zip-line and bungee-jump across an icy mountain range.
One can only imagine the panic that struck Hasbro executives, particularly after the Newtown tragedy, when it seemed that the American public was questioning the effects of the constant barrage of TV, game and movie violence on children. Yet it's accepted that simplistic violence still sells, particularly overseas. And the filmmakers are scrupulous about not showing excessive bloodshed amid the cinematic slaughter -- hence the PG-13.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" is a blasting, fight-filled but forgettable 4, totally lacking the essential element of cartoonish fun.
There's obviously such a thirst for children's entertainment that this mediocre computer-animated 3D comedy about Stone Age cavemen is proving a mammoth box office draw.
Life isn't easy for over-protective, prehistoric patriarch Grug (voiced by Nicholas Cage). He gets crushed by boulders, hit by lightning and screamed at by his mother-in-law Gran (voiced by Cloris Leachman). Convinced that darkness brings death, he awakens every morning proclaiming, "I'm still alive!" acknowledging that there's a perilous world outside the protection of the family's cave. No wonder Grug's cautious credo is, "Never not be afraid!"
But when the tectonic plates shift, causing earthquakes and lava flows, his Neanderthal family is in grave danger. That terrifies everyone except Grug's rebellious, titan-haired teenage daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone), who is curious about what exists in the mysterious beyond, particularly when she meets the inventive Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a more advanced humanoid who not only has mastered the art of making a fire but also wears shoes and has a pet sloth.
"The world is ending," Guy tells her. "Come with me." "I can't," Eep says.
But a landslide soon reduces their cave to rubble. So spunky Eep, her frightened mother Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener), doltish brother Thunk (voice by Clark Duke), belligerent baby sister Sandy (Randy Thom) and Gran convince reluctant Grug to venture forth with Guy as nomads into the unknown.
Lifting liberally from the concept of "The Flintstones" and the plot of "Ice Age," the stereotypical, formulaic script is credited to co-directors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders ("How to Train Your Dragon," "Lilo & Stitch"), who conceived the idea back in 2005 under the catchier title "Crood Awakening." Visually, DreamWorks digital animation is fast-moving and imaginative, filled with fantasy creatures like canine-crocodiles, flying turtles, tiny piranha-birds, spotted mastodons, lime-tinted saber-toothed housecats and walking whales.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Croods" is an energetic, slapstick 6, aimed at youngsters who will want to buy lots of Crood toys.
"GINGER & ROSA"
Sally Potter's "Ginger & Rosa" is the coming-of-age story of two British girls, born on the same day and raised together, whose relationship is shattered when one falls in love with the other's father.
On Aug. 6, 1945, as the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, two girl babies were born to two women, holding hands in a maternity ward in London as their respective husbands pace in the waiting room.
Skip ahead to 1962. The inseparable girls are now 17 years old and emotionally affected by the widespread media coverage of the Cuban missile crisis and the catastrophic consequences of a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia. Daughter of frustrated painter Natalie (Christina Hendricks) and philandering Roland (Alessandro Nivola), a conscientious objector who served time in prison during World War II for his political beliefs, Ginger (Elle Fanning) is a nascent poet and ardent political activist, joining the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, attending meetings and marching in pacifist demonstrations. At the same time, Rosa (Alice Englert), whose father left her mother (Jodhi May) years earlier, turns to religion and gives Ginger a crucifix. Eventually, Roland takes his own flat and Ginger moves in with her father. Problem is: where Ginger goes, so does Rosa. And rebellious Rosa's budding sexuality is inflamed by amoral Roland -- with disastrous consequences.
While writer/director Sally Potter ("Orlando") concentrates on idealistic Ginger's emotional angst, propelled not only by fear of a nuclear holocaust but also by the betrayal of both her father and best friend. Aided by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, Potter fashions a dazzling, dramatic showcase for Fanning, who was only 13 at the time of filming. The stalwart supporting cast is headed by Alice Englert (daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion) and includes Annette Bening, as an American dissident, along with Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt as Ginger's godfathers.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Ginger & Rosa" is a sensitive 6, notable primarily because of Elle Fanning's incandescent performance.