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Film Reviews: Opening This Week (May 20-24, 2013)

A critical digest of the week’s latest U.S. theatrical releases. Where applicable, links to longer reviews have been provided.

Fast & Furious 6
Distributor:
Universal
That increasingly rare Hollywood franchise in which the heroes sport street clothes instead of spandex, Universal’s “Fast and Furious” shifts into sixth gear with few evident signs of engine wear. Mounted on an even larger scale than 2011’s epic (and massively profitable) “Fast Five,” this series swan song for helmer Justin Lin (on board since 2006’s “Tokyo Drift”) ups its own ante on balletic vehicular mayhem and international intrigue, while mending some loose narrative ends and unfurling others. Faithful fans and passersby alike should be more than pleased by this superior piece of classical action craftsmanship, which looks to meet or exceed its predecessor’s nitrous-boosted $626 million global take.
— Scott Foundas
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The Hangover Part III
Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Five minutes into “The Hangover Part III,” a giraffe is gruesomely decapitated by a freeway overpass. While this unfortunate event is ultimately tangential to the film’s plot, it nonetheless marks its best shot at leaving a lasting legacy, with the phrase “beheading the giraffe” perhaps someday supplanting “jumping the shark” as the cliche of choice to mark a franchise’s official descent into pitiable pointlessness. Nearly bereft of laughs, this final “Hangover” should nonetheless generate lucrative business due to simple brand recognition and a desire to see the old gang one last time as they dutifully, distractedly wind down the clock.
— Andrew Barker
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Epic
Distributor:
21st Century Fox
The most questionable thing about “Epic,” Blue Sky Studios’ latest animated adventure, is its title. Not only is it generic-sounding and Google-unfriendly, it’s also one of the last words most viewers would use to describe the film. Which is not to say that director Chris Wedge’s effort is some sort of epic fail, in fact it’s nothing of the sort: “Epic” is a reasonably entertaining, adeptly crafted kidpic whose biggest crime is its near pathological reliance on overfamiliar tropes and trappings. But that shouldn’t bother family crowds, who will likely line up in large numbers and leave satisfied, if hardly awed.
— Andrew Barker
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Before Midnight
Distributor:
Sony Pictures Classics
One of the great movie romances of the modern era achieves its richest and fullest expression in “Before Midnight.” Exquisite, melancholy, hilarious and cathartic, Richard Linklater’s third walking-and-talking collaboration with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy turns a summer night’s Grecian idyll into a typically digressive and cumulatively overwhelming essay on the joys and frustrations of (spoiler alert!) long-term commitment and parenthood. Answering the question of whether we needed another date with Jesse and Celine with a resounding yes, this wise and wondrously intimate picture should gross somewhere in the modest vicinity of its predecessors while sending faithful fans, and perhaps a few new ones, into the emotional stratosphere.
— Justin Chang
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Fill the Void
Distributor:
Sony Pictures Classics
Problems of reception always arise when religious directors choose to celebrate their communities. With “Fill the Void,” Rama Burshtein’s impressive debut, there’s so much skill on display that auds disinclined to look kindly on pics presenting marriage as a woman’s ultimate goal will struggle to find technical faults. Stunningly shot in shallow focus, giving the ladies a soft incandescence, the film looks with great sympathy on a young woman being pressured by her mother to marry her late sister’s husband. Sure to generate hours of post-cinema discussion, “Void” will fill seats at fests and targeted arthouses.
— Jay Weissberg
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We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Distributor:
Focus World
Since 2006, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been running around pulling down the pants of corporations and governments alike. Now Alex Gibney returns the favor with a feisty portrait of the populist hero in “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” exposing what Gibney sees as the paradox at the center of Assange’s methods, wherein the man responsible for uncovering high-level corruption refuses to discuss perceived corruption in his own life. While Assange’s enigmatic appeal should draw substantial curiosity for this Focus World release in theatrical and VOD, it’s the site’s key leaker, Bradley Manning, who leaves the strongest impression.
— Peter Debruge
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A Green Story
Distributor:
Indican Pictures
“Inspired by true events,” earnest but clunky inspirational drama “A Green Story” chronicles the struggles of a Greek emigre who rises from poverty to become the leading inventor of eco-friendly household cleaning solvents. It’s about as exciting as that sounds, despite reasonably slick presentation by writer-director-producer Nika Agiashivili. Some familiar names in supporting roles will help boost visibility, but prospects for the pic (which opens theatrically in New York and Los Angeles this Friday) are modest at best in any format.
— Dennis Harvey
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