Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US"
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock first catapulted into the national spotlight in 2004 when he stuffed himself with McDonald's hamburgers in "Super Size Me," followed by "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," tweaking corporate sponsorship and product placement, and "Comic-Con, Episode IV: A Fan's Hope."
Those were quirky, irreverent, subversive escapades. Now he's cashing into a global pop music phenomenon, having made an authorized, relatively staid concert documentary of the wildly popular, British/Irish boy band called One Direction.
Filmed during One Direction's 2012-13 world tour, it encompasses live footage from more than 100 shows, encompassing London's 02 Arena and stops in Europe, Asia, Australia, Mexico and North America, including Manhattan's Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles Staples Center.
In addition, Spurlock superficially profiles the five, slouching, working-class "lads," ranging in age from 19 to 21. There's mop-topped Harry Styles, bland Louis Tomlinson, generous Zayn Malik (who buys his mother a house), acoustic guitar-playing Niall Horan and heavily-accented Liam Payne -- chronicling their unlikely beginning in 2010, when they were matched as mates by production Svengali Simon Cowell on "The X-Factor" competition, their wildly enthusiastic fans, and their adjustment to fame and fortune. Like having Chris Rock, Cristiano Ronaldo and Martin Scorsese drop by, exuding enthusiasm, and reportedly selling more than 13 million albums worldwide, including their 2012 hit "Take Me Home." Unlike other pop music documentaries, there's no drinking, smoking, drugs or sex.
Hard partying seems to be verboten, along with any mention of Styles' brief fling with songbird Taylor Swift. But, then again, it is duly authorized under clean-cut Pepsi sponsorship and was vetted not only by Columbia TriStar but also by Syco Records, which is Simon Cowell's production company, along with the quintet's management. So make of that what you will.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "One Direction: This is Us" is a squealing, screaming, somewhat insipid 6, a glossy, promotional concept that's overly enhanced by unnecessary amplification.
With the good looks and arrogance of a Greek god, Great Britain's James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) lived competitively and raced recklessly, as opposed to Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), an Austrian pragmatist who was far more interested in designing and building the best race car than in being the most acclaimed racer. Both came from families that did not support their racing aspirations, so it was the swaggering playboy vs. the strategic perfectionist on European racetracks during the 1970s.
Off-the-track, their lives were equally divergent. Ever-flirtatious Hunt impulsively proposed to model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) within moments of meeting her, yet doomed their marriage with continual womanizing, so no one was surprised that it ended with Suzy running off with actor Richard Burton. In contrast, strait-laced Lauda married Marlene Knaus (Alexandra Maria Lara), a compatible, loving, understanding woman.
Working from an elegant, engaging script by Peter Morgan ("Frost/Nixon," "The Queen"), this action drama is perfectly cast and confidently directed by Ron Howard ("Apollo 13," "Frost/Nixon"), whose preparation included studying Asif Kapadia's 2010 documentary "Senna" about the great Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna. Hunky Australian Chris Hemsworth, best known as Thor in "The Avengers," is appropriately flamboyant as the sexy British daredevil, but it's Daniel Bruhl, the Spanish-born German actor from "Inglorious Basterds," who steals every scene. Nicknamed "The Rat" because of his prominent overbite, decidedly unglamorous Lauda was disciplined and blunt, even brusque, with those around him but every bit as compelling as Hunt.
FYI: after retiring, Lauda worked as a BBC sports commentator; Hunt died of a heart attack in 1993 at age 45.
Credit cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle ("Slumdog Millionaire") for thrillingly tense racing sequences, often viewed from the driver's perspective, and Hans Zimmer's score for enhancing the contrasting imagery.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Rush" is an exciting, exhilarating 8, enthralling even for those who are not into automobile racing.
"INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2"
Continuing right after the supernatural events of the first "Insidious" chapter, the troubled Lambert family seeks to discover the mysterious childhood secret that has kept them malevolently connected to a shadowy netherworld.
Having just rescued their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from the fiendish forces of the spirit realm, mom Renai (Rose Byrne) and dad Josh (Patrick Wilson) are left to deal with Elise (Lin Shaye), the now-strangled family friend/medium who helped get him back, and her goofy, paranormal investigating cohorts: Carl (Steve Coulter), Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs) Leigh Whannel).
Plus, there are bizarrely unwelcome occurrences, like a piano playing itself, the baby's toys tossing themselves around and Dalton's tin-can-telephone conversations with something in the closet.It seems that both Dalton and Josh have the ability to "astral project," transporting them into a place between life and death, populated by ghouls looking for a healthy body to occupy. As if flaunting Josh's deranged advice to just "ignore" the ghostly doings, a shrieking apparition shows up and punches Renai in the face. "Is something wrong with Daddy?" Dalton inquires. You think?
In an expanded role, Josh's long-suffering mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), helps them track down an old man (Tom Fitzpatrick) who knows more about the dimension called "the Further" and the demonic creature that has taken possession of Josh's body.
Utilizing every cheesy cliche in the ghost-buster genre, screenwriter Lee Wannell and director James Wan ("The Conjuring," "Saw") manage to have every door creak ominously, punctuated with cheap, freaked-out "boo!" scares. Wilson should have quit while he was ahead in "The Conjuring," instead of channeling Jack Nicholson in "The Shining," and Byrne seemed to survive innumerable threats on her life in TV's "Damages." But they and the rest of the cast will inevitably return for the third chapter in this profitably low-budget franchise. Indeed, it's already in the planning stages.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Insidious: Chapter 2" is a tedious, repetitive 3, concluding with yet another creepy cliffhanger.