Earth To Echo

Relativity Media

Rated PG for action, peril and mild epithets

Coming-Of-Age Sci-Fi Features Shades Of E.T.

Most people know E.T. revolves around several kids who befriend an alien stranded on Earth and eager to return home before ill-intentioned adults can do him any harm. That coming-of-age classic landed four Academy Awards back in 1983, and was even voted the best sci-fi of all time in a recent survey by Rotten Tomatoes.

But if you’re too young to remember Steven Spielberg’s heartwarming adventure, or if it’s been so long since you saw it that the storyline’s a little fuzzy, have I got an homage for you. Much about Earth To Echo just screams remake, starting with the picture’s vaguely-familiar promotional poster which similarly features a human hand reaching out to touch an extra-terrestrial.

Still, this delightful variation on the theme endeavors to refresh the original by incorporating current cultural staples, ranging from texting shorthand to social media. So, when the protagonists here communicate with each other, they often rely on inscrutable slang apt to befuddle fuddy-duddies unfamiliar with the lexicon employed by today’s average adolescent.

At this found-footage flick’s point of departure, we find narrator Tuck (Astro) lamenting the impending separation from his BFFs Alex (Teo Halm) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) when their Nevada neighborhood is razed in a week to make way for a turnpike. The plot thickens after all their cell phones inexplicably “barf” simultaneously, and they decide to discern the source of the mysterious malfunction.

Equipped with a camcorder and state-of-the-art spyglasses, the youngsters ride their bikes into the desert in the middle of the night accompanied by a cute rebel (Ella Wahlestedt) with her own reason for running away from home. GPS sends the sleuths to a site in the desert where, lo and behold, they find Echo, a cuddly visitor from another galaxy with pressing issues akin to the aforementioned E.T.

The kids, of course, kick it into high gear on his behalf, keeping just a step ahead of the untrustworthy authorities. Their noble efforts inexorably lead to a satisfying resolution every bit as syrupy as Spielberg’s.

An unapologetic retread bordering on plagiarism that nevertheless provides the perfect, popcorn summer escape for the tyke and ‘tweener demographics.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 92 minutes

 

 

Begin Again

The Weinstein Company

Rated R for profanity

Keira Knightley And Mark Ruffalo Co-Star In Magical NYC Musical

Greta (Keira Knightley) followed her college sweetheart (Adam Levine) to Manhattan when he was signed to a lucrative record deal with a major music label. However, the overnight fame went to Dave’s head and he soon started to stray. This development signaled not only the end of their romantic relationship but the demise of their promising partnership as songwriters, too.

Nevertheless, Greta is still very talented in her own right, which she readily proves when pushed by a pal to perform at a Greenwich Village dive on open mic night. The haunting strains of “A Step You Can’t Take Back” catch the ear of Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), a legendary talent scout who happens to be sitting in the audience.

He proceeds to imagine how great Greta would sound accompanied by a full band instead of simply by her acoustic guitar. So, right after the diamond in the rough steps offstage, he offers to help turn her into the next singing sensation.

But Greta is initially reluctant for a couple of logical reasons. First of all, she’d just decided to abandon her silly pipe dream of superstardom and was on brink of moving back toEngland. Secondly, the solicitous stranger standing in front of her reeks of alcohol and looks homeless, and nothing like a veteran A&R exec.

Truth be told, disheveled Dan is in the dumps because he was recently fired from Distress Records by the Harvard classmate (Mos Def) he’d co-founded the company with. Furthermore, he’s been missing his estranged wife (Catherine Keener) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) since being kicked out of the house a year ago.

In fact, he was actually contemplating suicide until Greta’s voice gave him a new reason to live. Well, will he be able to revive his career and launch Greta’s simultaneously, or will the ambitious endeavor fail miserably? And, will the two fall in love, despite the age difference, or might they merely return to their respective exes? Those are the alternate scenarios contemplated by Begin Again, an absorbing, character-driven, musical drama written and directed by John Carney.

The movie is most reminiscent of Carney’s earlier offering Once, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Song (“Falling Slowly”) en route to the Broadway stage where it subsequently swept the Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Begin Again similarly revolves around a pair of losers down on their luck whose close collaboration yields a cornucopia of mellifluous melodies.

Who knew that Keira Knightley could carry a tune let alone in such a dulcet tone? Or that she was capable of generating palpable screen chemistry? Kudos are also in order for her top-flight, supporting cast, especially Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Mos Def, James Corden, Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld and CeeLo Green.

An enchanting musical adventure amounting to the best-kept cinematic secret of the summer! At least until now.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 104 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening July 4, 2014

 

Deliver Us From Evil (R for graphic violence, grisly images, profanity and pervasive terror) Screen adaptation of Beware The Night, Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool’s supernatural thriller about an NYPD street cop (Eric Bana) who joins forces with a renegade exorcist (Edgar Ramirez) in response to the alarming increase in cases of demonic possession occurring around the city. With Olivia Munn, Dorian Missick and Joel McHale.

 

Tammy (R for profanity and sexual references) Melissa McCarthy plays the title character of this road comedy about a just-fired fast-food clerk who embarks with her foul-mouthed grandmother (Susan Sarandon) on a rip-roaring road trip fromIllinois toNiagara Falls after catching her philandering husband (Nat Faxon) in bed with a neighbor (Toni Collette). Ensemble includes Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd and Gary Cole.

 

America (PG-13 for violent images) Revisionist documentary co-directed by John Sullivan and Dinesh D’Souza speculating about what the country would look like if the Minutemen had lost the Revolutionary War toEngland.

 

Beyond The Edge (Unrated) Historical drama chronicling Sir Edmund Hillary (Chad Moffitt) and Tenzing Norgay’s (Sonam Sherpa) historic, 1953 ascent of Mount Everest. With Daniel Musgrove, Joshua Rutter and John Wraight.

 

Gabrielle (R for sexuality) Romance drama about the unlikely love affair between two members (Alexandre Landry and Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) of a choir for mentally-challenged individuals. Support cast includes Benoit Gouin, Sebastien Ricard and Marie Gignac. (In French and English with subtitles)

 

The Girl On The Train (R for profanity and violence) Crime thriller about a documentary filmmaker (Henry Ian Cusick) whose chance encounter with a mysterious passenger (Nicki Aycox) aboard a commuter train headed from Grand Central Station to upstate New York leaves him a suspect in the eyes of skeptical detective (Stephen Lang). With Charles Aitken, James Biberi and John Fugelsang.

 

Heatstroke (Unrated) Crime thriller about the girlfriend (Svetlana Metkina) and daughter (Maisie Williams) of a research scientist (Stephen Dorff) who are forced to survive by their wits after he is murdered in an African desert by ruthless arms dealers. Support cast includes Peter Stormare and Andrew Roux.

 

Life Itself (R for profanity, sexual images and brief nudity) Reverential tribute to legendary film critic Roger Ebert featuring commentary by his wife, Chaz, colleague A.O. Scott, and film directors Martin Scorcese, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Ava DuVernay.

 

Marius (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Marseille, where the seafaring son (Raphael Personnaz) of a tavern owner (Daniel Auteuil) finds himself torn between the love of a woman (Victoire Belezy) and the lure of a life on the ocean. With Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Marie-Anne Chazel and Nicolas Vaude. (In French with subtitles)

 

Me And You (Unrated) Oscar-winner Bernardo Bertolucci (for The Last Emperor) directed this beguiling bildungsroman about the forbidden friendship secretly forged between a 14-year-old introvert (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) and the troubled, 25-year-old half-sister (Tea Falco) he shares the basement with when she comes to town in need of a place to stay. With Sonia Bergamasco, Veronica Lazar and Pippo Delbono. (In Italian with subtitles)

 

Premature (R for profanity, drug use, crude humor and pervasive sexuality) Coming-of-age comedy, reminiscent of Groundhog’s Day, revolving around a high school senior (John Karna) forced to relive over and over again the day he loses his virginity to the girl of his dreams (Carlson Young). With Alan Tudyk, Katie Findlay and Zoe Myers.

School Dance (R for crude humor, graphic sexuality, underage drug use and pervasive profanity) Nick Cannon makes his directorial debut with this musical dramedy about a teenager’s (Bobb’e J. Thompson) attempt to impress the cute classmate (Kristinia DeBarge) who doesn’t even know he exists by winning a spot on their high school’s dance team. Ensemble cast includes Kevin Hart, George Lopez, Katt Williams, Amber Rose, Patrick Warburton and Luenell.

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