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Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons

“HEARTS BEAT LOUD”  My rating: B+ (Opens June 15 at the Tivoli)

97 minutes | MPAA rating: PGH-13

“Hearts Beat Loud” is this year’s “Once,” a dramedy with music about a father/daughter relationship that that could very well be the summer’s most satisfying movie.

Writer/director Brett Haley, whose first two features (“Hero,” “I’ll See  You in My Dreams”) focused on septuagenarian protagonists, here sheds a few decades, centering the film on  Kiersey Clemons, a quietly spectacular young talent.

Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) runs a record store (no CDs) in Red Hook, N.J. More accurately, he’s running it into the ground. He has little patience for boneheaded customers.

Frank is a widower whose daughter Sam (Clemons) is preparing to leave for college (UCLA…she’s on a pre-med path). Frank is more than a little conflicted about this…for one thing, he’ll miss Sam terribly.

For another, how’s he going to pay for that university education?

Haley’s screenplay (with Mark Basch) chronicles the last days of the record store as well as the growing musical collaboration between father and daughter (he’s a guitarist, she’s a keyboardist with incredible pipes).

For Sam this is simply a fun little hobby with Dad.  When he asks her what they should call their band she responds with a groan: “We’re not a band.” Frank jumps on that comment; soon they’re performing as We’re Not A Band.

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“THE INCREDIBLES 2” My rating: B (Opens wide on June 15)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“The Incredibles” (2004) always was too good for kids.

Youngsters may have made up the bulk of ticket buyers, but so much of Brad Bird’s yarn about the Parrs, an urban family with superpowers, was directed at adults — especially boomers with a collective memory of James Bond films and early ’60s kitsch.

The long-in-coming “Incredibles 2” is more of the same.  Far from being a radical departure from the original film, it picks up precisely where the first one left off (with the arrival of the John Ratzenberger-voiced Underminer and his gigantic burrowing machine); you could watch the two films back to back as one big story.

Once again, Bird’s screenplay pits the family against a villain — in this case a mysterious figure known as the Screenslaver who uses the world’s TV sets  as  invasive hypnotic devices. And the sequel continues the earlier film’s plot thread about a worldwide ban on superheroes, which forces our protagonists to operate mostly in secret.

All well and good. But the real theme of “Incredibles 2” is gender roles.

Because of its early ’60s setting, Bird can dabble in bad-old-days male chauvinism, particularly as it affects the marvelous Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), who finds herself more or less working solo to fight the Screenslaver.

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Cinnamon Schultz

“GOODLAND” My rating: C+ (Opens June 14 at the Screenland Tapcade)

84 minutes | No MPAA rating

Shot in western Kansas by a Lawrence-based Rockhaven Films, funded largely by a Kickstarter campaign and featuring familiar faces from the local theater scene,  “Goodland” has more than a few attractions for Kansas City moviegoers.

It’s a great-looking film, filled with telling details of life out in the flatlands (writer/director Josh Doke is a native of Goodland KS) and features a nifty central performance by area actress Cinnamon Schultz as a sleepy-town sheriff.

Too bad, then, that Doke the screenwriter falls so far behind Doke the director.  It’s not just his often artless attempts to evoke folksy irony in the dialogue…this yarn dabbles in intriguing ideas which are left undeveloped. Halfway through we’re introduced to a crime subplot that is generic and, well, silly.

Individual moments of “Goodland,” though, are fine indeed.

The generally unremarkable duties of Sheriff Georgette Gaines (Schultz) are upended when a local farmer’s combine  largely dismembers a human body in his cornfield.

Gaines and her deputies recognize the dead man as a drifter who came into town a few days back, got into a drunken brawl and, after drying out in a jail cell, was escorted out of town and sent on his way.

He didn’t get far. The most simple explanation is that he got loaded again and passed out in the field (there’s a half-filled whiskey bottle nearby). But the sheriff smells something fishy; she believes he was dead before encountering that big ol’ Allis Chalmers.

All this dovetails with the arrival in town of Ergo Raines (Matt Weiss, a  founding member of K.C.’s Living Room Theatre and Fishtank Performance Studio), who says he’s shooting photos of small towns for a proposed book.

Ergo checks into a cruddy hotel where a teenage desk clerk (Sara Kennedy) all but throws herself at him. Apparently he’s got other things on his mind, and turns down her not-so-subtle advances.

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Johnny Flynn, Jessie Buckley

“BEAST”  My rating: B- (Opens June 15  at the AMC Studio)

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A gnarly character study posing as a serial killer thriller, Michael Pearce’s “Beast” very nearly defies description.

On its most graspable narrative level it’s about a socially challenged young woman who falls hard for a local lad, then begins to suspect that he may be the murderer terrorizing the island on which they live.

But it’s also a wince-worthy portrayal of a destructive family dynamic, of sexual rapture after a life of chastity, and of a hermetically-sealed society driven off the rails by paranoia and panic.

Which is a lot to cram into one movie.  With his first feature writer/director Pearce sometimes struggles to keep it all in balance, but thanks to solid performances he delivers the modest goods.

Moll (Jessie Buckley) is such an outsider she seems a stranger even at her own birthday party.  With an explosion of unkempt red hair and a personality that seems always in retreat, she’s a perennial misfit.

Moll works occasionally as a tour guide — like filmmaker Pearce she lives on the Isle of Jersey, an outpost of stiff-upper-lip Britishness just off the hedonistic French coast — but mostly she’s  caretaker to her dimentia-riddled father. She’s more or less cast in that role by the rest of the family, especially her domineering and icily biting mother (Geraldine James), who treats her like a con on probation.

Which, in a sense, Moll is.  Fourteen years earlier she used a pair of scissors to skewer a bullying classmate. She still hasn’t lived down her reputation as violently unstable. (more…)

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Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howe

“ON CHESIL BEACH” My rating: C+ 

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

No film with Saoirse Ronan can be easily dismissed. Nonetheless, many will find “On Chesil Beach” a long haul.

Directed by Dominic Cooke and adapted by Ian McEwan from his 2007 novel, this is a story of lost love.  More specifically, it’s about two young people utterly unprepared for the intimacies of married life who are driven apart by sexual dysfunction.

That may sound intriguing…and on the printed page it was.  The problem is that McEwan’s novel is a deep psychological study of two individuals, and deep psychology is not one of the things the movies do particularly well.

We can see the outside, but we’re not privy to what’s happening on the inside. And despite McEwan’s use of extensive flashbacks to depict the young lovers’ courtship and backgrounds, the whole enterprise feels like it’s unfolding at an emotional arm’s length.

Florence (Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) check into a seaside hotel for their honeymoon. They’re nervous…this is the big night, after all.  The time is the early ’60s and these two virgins are both eager and terrified.

In a series of flashbacks we see how they met and fell in love.

Edward is working class, a bit impetuous and keyed into the burgeoning pop culture of the day. His family history is far from storybook; his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) suffered a head injury when struck by a train and now devotes herself to making art in the nude.

Florence’s background is a pure 180 from Edward’s. She comes from the upper crust, plays violin in a string quartet, and married Edward despite the disdain of her snooty/pompous parents (Emily Watson, Samuel West).

He thinks Chuck Berry is awesome.  She thinks Chuck Berry is “quite, well, merry.” (That early exchange, initially amusing, carries grim portents for the couple’s compatibility.)

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Douglas Booth and Elle Fanning as Percy and Mary Shelley

“MARY SHELLEY” My rating: 

120 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Men are shit.

At least that’s the moral of “Mary Shelley,” a biopic in which Elle Fanning portrays the author of Frankenstein.

The facts of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s life are plenty fascinating. She was born in 1797 to philosopher and political writer William Godwin (Stephen Dillane) and feminist and free-love advocate Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after giving birth.

As Haifa Al-Mansour’s film begins, young Mary is torn between her professorial father and a wicked stepmother (Joanne Froggatt, late of “Downton Abbey”) who wastes no opportunity to harp on the sexual immorality that is young Mary’s inheritance.

One day a dashing young poet named Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth) drops by Papa’s bookstore and the teenage Mary is smitten. He’s romantic. He’s smart. A secret affair ensues.

All is not smooth.  Percy is married, Mary discovers. And his bohemian lifestyle has led to his being cut off from his family’s wealth.

But so enraptured is our heroine that she runs off with him, bringing along her desperate-for-excitement stepsister Claire (Bel Powley). (more…)

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Nicolas Cage

“211” My rating:

86 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“211” is less interesting as a film than as a commentary on the failing fortunes of Nicolas Cage.

In the last five years the Oscar winner (for 1995’s “Leaving Las Vegas”) has starred in nearly 20 movies, only one of them (“Joe”) of more than passing interest. “211” is more of the same.

York Alec Shackleton’s action/crime drama is a mashup of “Die Hard” and “Dog Day Afternoon,” with Cage playing a beat cop (he’s about to turn in his retirement papers, of course) who finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery and hostage situation.

Curiously, Cage’s cop, Mike Chandler, is but one of a dozen characters of more or less equal importance.  Shackleton’s screenplay attempts to approach the situation from multiple perspectives.

Thus you’ve got Mike’s partner and son-in-law (Dwayne Cameron), as well as the black teen (Michael Rainey Jr.) who for disciplinary purposes has been required to do a police ride-along.  While pinned down the kid comes up with a MacGyver-ish way to communicate with the outside world.

Meanwhile his mother(Shari Watson),  the head of the hospital E.R., contends with a flood of casualties of the mayhem.

There’s also an Interpol cop (Sapir Azulay) who for months has been tracking the criminals, a band of former U.S. special forces soldiers turned murderously mercenary. These baddies are the least-developed of the characters, delivering curt orders in cliched militaryspeak.

“211” (police code for an armed robbery) has been competently made, with a couple of furious action sequences (and a disturbingly high civilian body count) but it really never adds up to much. Cage doesn’t embarrass himself here, but there’s only so much anyone could do with these cut-and-dried characters.

| Robert W. Butler

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