Capsule reviews for Oct. 20

The Bachelors

Some fine performances bolster this otherwise predictable melodrama about grief and recovery that follows a math teacher named Bill (J.K. Simmons) and his teenage son (Josh Wiggins) both trying to cope with the recent and sudden death of Bill’s wife. They relocate and try to restart their lives, but discover new obstacles when they each meet potential new romantic interests — Bill with a French teacher (Julie Delpy) and his son with a vulnerable classmate (Odeya Rush). The well-intentioned film generates some powerful moments and intriguing character dynamics, yet the emotional authenticity in the screenplay by director Kurt Voelker is compromised by familiarity and contrived catharsis. (Not rated, 99 minutes).



With a title standing for Beats Per Minute, this ambitious and captivating drama from French director Robin Campillo (Eastern Boys) covers familiar territory in a fresh way. It takes place in the early 1990s, following a group of grassroots activists in Paris trying to combat public and bureaucratic indifference with regard to the AIDS epidemic, for which potential pharmaceutical remedies are being sidetracked by sociopolitical obstacles. Inspired by true events, the stylish and heartfelt film — although it tends to meander through a bloated running time — is both an incisive history lesson and a potent glimpse into the power of protest that carries contemporary resonance. (Not rated, 143 minutes).



Magicians aren’t supposed to reveal their secrets, but this compelling documentary provides plenty of insight into the life and career of Richard Turner, a “card mechanic” who has become one of the most respected sleight-of-hand artists in the world despite being totally blind. The film provides a glimpse into his ability to overcome personal obstacles, as well as his stubborn struggles to confront the natural adversity his affliction causes. The approach of director Luke Korem (Lord Montagu) certainly celebrates his subject’s remarkable ability with a deck of cards — for good reason — even if it shortchanges some of the more difficult material away from the spotlight. (Not rated, 85 minutes).



Even by disaster-movie standards, this big-budget saga of meteorological mayhem is far-fetched and unconvincing. It starts with the malfunction of satellites meant to protect Earth from natural disasters during the onslaught of global warming. With scientists and politicians baffled, it’s up to estranged brothers Jake (Gerard Butler) and Max (Jim Sturgess) to mend their rift and rescue mankind from its politically, ethically and technologically dubious antics. Loud and dumb, the directorial debut of screenwriter Dean Devlin (Independence Day) features some stylish action sequences, yet it’s overall short on thrills and completely devoid of logic as it lumbers toward an elaborate finale filled with effects-driven urban destruction. (Rated PG-13, 108 minutes).



Yossi Ghinsberg’s true-life survival story is filled with harrowing twists and near-death turns, yet this chronicle of his experiences from director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) never sufficiently captures the depth of his perilous plight. Yossi (Daniel Radcliffe) is a former Israeli soldier who convinces two friends, plus a guide, to join him on an ill-fated mission in 1981 to explore the Bolivian jungle. Among other problems, Yossi becomes lost in the elements as his provisions are depleted and his hopes for rescue dwindle. Despite Radcliffe’s committed portrayal, the film becomes muddled in the second half, meandering into flashbacks and hallucinations that don’t add much suspense. (Rated R, 115 minutes).


Killing Gunther

Arnold Schwarzenegger provides a jolt of energy to the final half-hour of this otherwise lackluster satire about bickering hitmen, as he sends up his image and action tropes in general with freewheeling bravado. The problem is you have to sit through the first hour, a labored set-up following Blake (Taran Killam), a fledgling assassin who’s jealous that the elusive Gunther is stealing all of the high-profile headlines. So he assembles a ragtag team of fellow killers to find and eliminate him. The screenplay by “Saturday Night Live” alum Killam, who also directed, features some amusing quirks and non sequiturs, but most of the gags fall flat. (Rated R, 93 minutes).


Kills on Wheels

There are plenty of differences to celebrate in this modestly amusing and heartfelt comedic thriller from Hungary, which puts both actors and characters with disabilities in the spotlight. It centers on three wheelchair-bound men—a young comic aficionado (Zoltan Fenyvesi) and his friend (Adam Fekete), along with a hitman (Szabolcs Thuroczy) who takes them under his wing. All three see the partnership as a chance not only to earn money for medical reasons, but also to speak out against perceptions and disability laws. The screenplay by director Attila Till unfolds in mostly contrived fashion, yet capably juggles tones between dark crime saga and lighthearted poignancy. (Not rated, 103 minutes).



Texas rednecks crank up the chainsaw again in this ill-conceived prequel to the iconic horror franchise, which apparently thinks that previous installments were missing sufficient teenage angst. The film follows the obese title character (Sam Coleman) through an upbringing supervised by his abusive mother (Lili Taylor) and his eventual escape from a mental hospital with three other inmates, who become his hostages as a deranged sheriff (Stephen Dorff) pursues them to the bloody end. The result features the requisite technical grit, yet lacks enough gore for genre aficionados and series completists — likely the only folks who will bother. There’s too much setup and not enough payoff. (Rated R, 84 minutes).


Never Here

Trying to imitate David Lynch is a tough assignment, as demonstrated by this mildly compelling but mostly pretentious thriller that emphasizes atmosphere over plot. It follows an artist (Mireille Enos) who photographs strangers for a living when her voyeurism makes her a witness to a violent crime. She’s reluctant to assist a detective (Vincent Piazza) in order to cover up an affair with a colleague (Sam Shepard, in his final role) before her studio and her home become targets. Rookie director Camille Thoman showcases a distinct visual style, although her slow-burning screenplay clinically tackles familiar themes of morality and art imitating life, inhibiting the emotional resonance. (Rated R, 110 minutes).


The Strange Ones

Mood prevails over narrative momentum in this elliptical drama that’s admirable for its vision even as it keeps its characters at a frustrating emotional distance. Essentially, this muddled road movie of sorts follows a teenage boy (James Freedson-Jackson) and his older traveling companion (Alex Pettyfer), whose exact relationship to the youngster remains as cloudy as his motives. We’re not sure who can be trusted, why they’re on the lam, or who they’re running from — and it’s doubtful many viewers will be patient enough to solve the puzzle. However, both lead performances are convincing, and the film provides some sharp character-driven moments amid the unsettling atmosphere. (Rated R, 81 minutes).