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MOVIE CLIPS: A quick look at movies hitting theaters — ‘Insurgent’ and more

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WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media

“The Gunman”

The film stars Sean Penn in his first action thriller. At 54, Penn takes on the role of Jim Terrier, a former Special Forces soldier, who became a private contract sniper for hire. He’s contracted by an unknown firm to assassinate the Congo’s Minister of Mines. His successful kill shot triggers chaos in the Congo.

Terrier experiences an epiphany. He wants out of the assassination racket. However, his efforts to extricate himself from the mercenary business are fraught with obstacles. Javier Bardem and Idris Elba are onboard as two shadowy figures hired to terminate the protagonist.

A screen capture from a trailer to the film "The Gunman" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug9xufczPVE

A screen capture from a trailer to the film “The Gunman” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug9xufczPVE

Was Penn inspired by the transition of Liam Neeson from indie film fixture to major international macho hero? Consider that this film is directed by Pierre Morel. He had previously helmed “Taken,” the film that redefined Neeson’s screen image. Coincidence? Not likely.

A screen capture from a trailer to the film "The Gunman" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug9xufczPVE

A screen capture from a trailer to the film “The Gunman” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug9xufczPVE

The film is adapted from the 1981 novel, “The Prone Gunman” by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

Wide release R (for strong violence, language and some sexuality) 115 minutes

“An Honest Liar”

“An Honest Liar” is a documentary about James Randi aka The Amazing Randi.  For over 50 years, the bearded, gnome-like Randi was a skilled magician and escape artist. However, his principal claim to fame was as a debunker of faith healers, psychics, mystic, and con artists. Among those who he exposed were Uri Geller and Peter Popoff. Surprisingly, both of them appear as talking heads in the movie. Randi also designed and operated the guillotine on Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies Tour. And yes-Cooper is on hand talking about his one-time collaborator. So are Bill Nye the Science Guy as well as Penn & Teller.

Ritz Bourse (4th & Ranstead) No MPAA rating 92 minutes

 “Insurgent”

“Insurgent” is a science fiction action film, which is a sequel to last year’s
“Divergent.” Both are adapted from the three-tome collection by Veronica Roth.

Shailene Woodley returns as the plucky heroine, Tris Prior. Several days after the uprising of the first episode, Tris and Four (Theo James) are on the lam. The chief villainess, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslett), is trying to track them down.

In this image released by Lionsgate, Theo James, left, and Shailene Woodley appear in a scene from "The Divergent Series: Insurgent." (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Andrew Cooper)

In this image released by Lionsgate, Theo James, left, and Shailene Woodley appear in a scene from “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Andrew Cooper)

Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer join an extant cast that includes Miles Teller, Mekhi Phifer, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, and Ansel Elgort.

Wide Release PG-13 (for intense violence and action throughout, some sensuality, thematic elements and brief language) 119 minutes

“It Follows”

“It Follows” is a low budget, indie teen horror film, which was written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. The film’s premise arises from a recurring nightmare that used to plague Mitchell. In it, he was stalked by a menacing figure predator that heads slowly towards him

“It Follows” aggressively spurns the use of CGI in favor of old time practical effects. There is an  absence of any recognizable actors. Despite this, “It Follows” had elicited an enthusiastic audience response when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and later played at the Sundance Film Festival. This has been augmented by near universal critical acclaim.

PFS Roxy Theater (2043 Sansom Street) R (for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language) 100 minutes

“Mr. Kaplan”

The Opening Night vehicle of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, “Mr. Kaplan” was Uruguay’s Oscar submission as Best Foreign Language Film. In it, 76-year old Jacob Kaplan (Hector Noguera) and his wife of a half century, Rebecca (Nodoa Telles), are languishing in retirement in Montevideo. Jacob managed to escape Poland during World War II. However, his entire family was exterminated.

Jacob is consumed with a gnawing concern. Jacob worries that he hasn’t achieved anything of note in his life. He hears a news report that details the arrest of a Nazi war criminal in Argentina and his extradition to Israel to face trial. Will becoming a Nazi hunter be the crowning achievement of Jacobs’s life?

Monday, March 23 @ 7:30 PM Gershman Y (401 S. Broad Street) 94 minutes (In Spanish with English subtitles)

“Spring”

Being promoted as a genre-bender, “Spring” stars Lou Taylor Pucci (“Evil Dead,” “Thumbsucker”).  He plays Evan, a 20-something American, whose mother has just died.  Evan is involved in a barroom brawl, which could result in jail time for him.

His solution? Evan fills his backpack and flees to Italy. In an idyllic village on the Italian coast, he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker) and immediately becomes smitten with her. Is she too good to be true? Does she harbor some deep, dark secret?

The film is written and directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who previously collaborated on “Resolution.”

PFS Theater at the Roxy (2023 Sansom Street) No MPAA rating 109 minutes

“A War Story”/”Seed of Life”

As part of the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia, there will be a double bill of films directed by Tzipi Baider. The helmswoman is scheduled to be in attendance for an audience Q & A.

The documentary, “A War Story,” focuses on Israel’s Channel 10 television correspondents, while they report on the 2014 Protective Edge operation during the Gaza conflict.  Interviews with reporters and unedited video footage capture the complex decision-making involved in reporting the news during times of national peril.

International House of Philadelphia. Sunday, March 22 @ 5 PM No MPAA rating 53 minutes (In English and Hebrew with English subtitles)

In August of 2002, Israeli soldier, Kayven Cohen, was killed in action. His parents made a bold and unprecedented decision. They harvested sperm from their son’s cadaver. They seek a woman to be impregnated with their son’s sperm, carry the fetus to term, then raise the child.

International House of Philadelphia. Sunday, March 22 @ 7 PM No MPAA rating  73  minutes (In Hebrew with English subtitles)

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.

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