“Before Midnight” – The bittersweet conclusion (or continuation?) of director Richard Linklater’s ongoing series of scintillating cinematic chat-fests starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who once again co-wrote the script with Linklater) is even better than 1994′s “Before Sunrise” and 2004′s “Before Sunset.” Don’t miss it. (A).
“This is the End” – It’s the end of the world, and a group of spoiled Hollywood brat/actors (including Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill) use the occasion to get high, talk trash and tie up some loose ends, not necessarily in that order. Co-directed and written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, this intermittently inspired dark comedy runs out of steam midway through, but rallies just in time for a suitably apocalyptic ending. (B).
New on DVD:
“Jack the Giant Slayer” – Criminally overrated Sundance alumnus Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects,” “X-Men 1 and 2″) has made a lot of ho-hum movies, but none as boring or derivative as this fractured Medieval fairytale snooze-fest. Not even Stanley Tucci’s amusingly foppish villain or Ewan McGregor’s affable storybook heroics can make this anything more than an endurance test. Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell a huge corporate write-off on the film’s reported $200-million budget. (C-).
“The Last Exorcism, Part 2” – Okay sequel to the 2010 sleeper finds the original film’s possessed heroine (Ashley Bell, very good) trying to live down her demonic past in New Orleans. Despite its oxymoronic title, this is decently made overall, and Bell remains a sympathetic presence throughout. She deserves to graduate from B-horror flicks the same way Mary Elizabeth Winstead did last year in “Smashed.” (C+).
“Movie 43” – This all-star omnibus comedy recalls the raunchy skit comedies that briefly flourished in the ’70s (“Kentucky Fried Movie,” “The Groove Tube,” etc.), but isn’t likely to spark a revival of the form. Fearless performances by a game cast of dedicated thespians (everyone from Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts, to Richard Gere and Hugh Jackman) nearly disguise the fact that the material is sorely lacking in any discernible wit (or laughs). Real-life marrieds Anna Faris and Chris Pratt are adorable. Too bad their scatological segment is the single most repulsive in the whole film. (C-).
“Quartet” – First-time director Dustin Hoffman helmed this quaint British charmer about a group of retired British opera singers (including Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Tom Courtenay) living out their golden years at a posh retirement villa. Better than “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and not just because it’s a half hour shorter. (B).
“Stoker” – Mia Wasikowska falls under the possibly homicidal spell of the enigmatic uncle (Matthew Goode) who’s carrying on an affair with her distant mom (Nicole Kidman). The first American film by South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook (“Old Boy,” “Thirst”) is a style. (B+).