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Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels

Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels

“DUMB AND DUMBER TO”  My rating: D+ (Opens wide on Nov. 14)

110 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Dumb comedy?  Smart comedy?
It doesn’t matter what label you stick on it…as long as a movie makes you laugh its IQ is irrelevant.
1994‘s “Dumb and Dumber” made me laugh. Still does.
Now the Farrelly Brothers (Bobby and Peter) have given us a sequel with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprising their roles as chip-toothed Lloyd Christmas and disheveled dog groomer Harry Dunne.
I hardly laughed at all.
Oh, there are moments that are so appallingly crude that it wrings a shocked guffaw out of you.
We’re talking fart jokes. Masturbation jokes. Menstruation jokes. Sex-with-old-ladies jokes. Catheter jokes.
But the yuks are relatively few and very far between.
TO READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW VISIT THE KANSAS CITY STAR WEB SITE AT http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/movies-news-reviews/article3880189.html
Matthew McConaughey (center) and colleagues explore a water planet

Matthew McConaughey (center) and colleagues explore a water planet

“INTERSTELLAR”  My rating: B- (Now playing wide)

169 minutes | Audience rating: PG-13

Did I miss something?

Because while I don’t regret having spent three hours watching Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” I can’t quite shake the feeling that there’s less here than meets the eye.

That maybe the Emperor has no clothes.

The film has an epic scope, great visuals, good performances and a payload of scientific/metaphysical ideas percolating throughout.

And unlike many of Nolan’s efforts (among them the most recent incarnation of Batman, “The Prestige” and “Inception”), it has a backbone of genuine emotion.

But why, when the lights came up, was my reaction more “meh” than “wow”?

The film begins in a not-too-distant future. Earth is rapidly dying.  Corn is about the only crop not devastated by blight and massive dust storms.

Former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConauhey) works a farm in what might be eastern Colorado. A widower, Coop lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow) and his two kids.  He’s got a special relationship with Murph (Mackenzie Foy), a fiercely intelligent girl who reports ghostly goings-on in her room, with books being pulled from the selves by invisible hands.

Jessica Chastain...back home on a ravage Earth

Jessica Chastain…back home on a ravaged Earth

This activity and other clues lead Coop and Murph to a secret base in the mountains where what’s left of NASA (as far as the public knows  the program has been shut down) is working on a project to save humanity.

Coop’s old mentor Professor Brand (Michael Caine…always the voice of reason in Nolan movies) explains that a decade earlier a human crew was sent into space, through a wormhole near Saturn, and into another galaxy to look for Earth-like planets to which humanity might migrate.

That earlier mission is presumed lost. Now a second is being mounted.  Coop’s arrival is serendipitous — he was NASA’s best pilot — and he is recruited to head the new effort.

But that means saying goodbye to Murph, who is angry and devastated by what she sees as a betrayal by her beloved father.

This takes up “Interstellar’s” first hour. The rest of the film alternates between the mission in space and the lives of Coop’s family back on Earth.

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Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

“CITIZENFOUR” My rating: A- (Opens Nov. 7 at the Tivoli)

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

By now we have absorbed the knowledge that our government is — through mass data collection programs — spying on each and every one of us. We’ve numbed the shock with grim jokes.

“Citizenfour,” though, reignites the outrage. Laura Poitras’ spellbinding documentary takes us back a year to the beginning of the Edward Snowden controversy and places us at the heart of the situation.

In January 2013 Poitras — maker of “My Country, My Country” (about the 2005 elections in Iraq) and the 2010  war-on-terror doc “The Oath” — began receiving emails from a mysterious individual identified only as “Citizenfour.”  After establishing a variety of cryptographic and security protocols, Citizenfour announced he had a treasure trove of top secret government information depicting “the greatest system for oppression in the history of man.”

Citizenfour was, of course, NSA computer expert Edward Snowden, who told Poitras that “my personal desire is that you paint the target on my back.”

By June the 29-year-old was holed up in a Hong Kong hotel.  Joining him was Poitras and Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, well known for their stories piercing the veil of government secrecy.

As the journalists interviewed Snowden over several days, Poitras (who goes unseen) kept her cameras running.  The resulting film is like eavesdropping on secret history.

Like just about everyone else, I wondered about Snowden’s motives in amassing and then releasing all this secret information.

Is he a megalomaniac? A head case? An America-hating traitor?

After watching “Citizenfour” I’m calling him a hero.

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A church filled with homeless men in "Overnighters"

A North Dakota church becomes a haven for homeless men drawn by the fracking boom.

“THE OVERNIGHTERS”  My rating: B+ (Opens Nov. 7 at the Alamo Drafthouse)

90 minutes | PG-13

A documentary that plays almost like a scripted drama, “The Overnighters” is both a deeply personal story of a spiritually-driven but flawed individual and a damning commentary on the American economy in the new millennium.

Jesse Moss’ film is set in Williston, N.D., a small town in the midst of the fracking boom. There are lots of well-paying jobs in the petroleum industry, and that has attracted thousands of desperate men who arrive daily by car, camper and bus to find work.

Problem is, many if not most of them won’t get a job.  They are more or less stranded in Williston with no income, no housing, no hope.

That’s where Pastor Jay Reinke of the Concordia Lutheran Church comes in.  Reinke has turned his church into a crash pad for these newcomers, allowing many to sleep in their vehicles in the parking lot while others camp out in the church’s offices and classrooms.

Reinke’s motivations seem altruistic — “Who is my neighbor? How do I serve him?” — but there’s a price to pay.

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awake 2“AWAKE: THE LIFE OF YOGANANDA” My rating: B (Opens Nov. 7 at the Tivoli)

87 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Few religious figures of the 20th century are more compelling or intriguing than Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), the yogi who at the age of 26 received a divine calling to bring the spiritual lessons of his native India to America.

“Awake: The Life of Yogananda” — directed by Paola di Florio and Lisa Leeman — is a well-made overview of Yogananda’s life and beliefs, filled with fascinating photos and film clips that seem always to capture the guru with a mysterious Mona Lisa half-smile.

Arriving in Boston in 1920, Yogananda immediately began collecting devotees. But it was not until he moved to Los Angeles five years later that his ministry really took off, attracting celebrities like opera star Amelita Galli0-Curci and millionaire industrialists like oil tycoon James Lynn.

Yogananda’s genius was to dump the baggage of “religion” and promote his system of self-realization as a science.  Not relying on a particular creed or dogma, his approach allowed individuals of all religious backgrounds to integrate their beliefs with yogic practice that would, ultimately, rewire their brains.

He lectured incessantly. He pioneered a mail order program of study. And he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, a center for yogic learning that still flourishes today on a Eden-like hilltop overlooking the Pacific. His Autobiography of a Yogi has been hugely influential and has sold steadily for decades.

Yogananda’s emphasis was on yoga and meditation as a pathway to godliness, not as some sort of physical workout.  As one of the many talking heads in the film explains, “It’s not set up to give you flat abs…although that’s a nice byproduct.”

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Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz

Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz

“LAGGIES”  My rating: D+ (Opens Nov. 7 at the **)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Every filmmaker is allowed a few career missteps.

Lynn Shelton seems to have spent all hers on just one movie.

“Laggies” is…what? An unfunny comedy?  An uninvolving drama?

Whatever it is, it wastes what looks like a dream cast on a script so wretched you’ve got to wonder what all these talented people possibly saw in it.

Shelton is the indie phenom who seemed on the verge of greatness with her 2011 release “Your Sister’s Sister,” a comedy about two sisters’ relationships with the same man marked by long, real-time conversations.

Perhaps we should have taken heed when her last effort, 2013’s “Touchy Feely,” vanished without so much as a whimper.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW VISIT THE KANSAS CITY STAR WEB SITE AT http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/movies-news-reviews/article3561006.html
Michael Keaton and Edward Norton...exploring artistic differences

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton…exploring artistic differences

“BIRDMAN”  My rating: B+ (Opens Oct. 31 at  the Glenwood Arts, Cinemark Palace and Studio 30)

119 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Birdman” is a tour de force, a heady mix of dark comedy and psychic meltdown with energy vibrating from every frame.

Writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”), star Michael Keaton (in a bravura performance) and a terrific supporting cast deliver a movie unlike anything we’ve seen before.

If the film, full name: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” isn’t as deep as it thinks it is, there’s no arguing with the jaw-dropping creativity on display — technical, dramatic and thespian.

The setup: One-time movie box office champ Riggan Thomson (Keaton) — who earned worldwide fame portraying a feathered superhero called Birdman — has come to Broadway to write, direct and star in a stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

Riggan has personally financed the production in hopes of restarting his moribund career (“I’m the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question”) and affirming his artistic credentials.

Turns out his sanity is on the line as well.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW VISIT THE KANSAS CITY STAR WEB SITE AT http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/movies-news-reviews/article3449803.html

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