At the movies

Animas City Theatre

(128 E. College Drive, 799-2281, www.animascitytheatre.com)

Particle Fever. Outside of the average film fanatic, documentaries that aren’t music- or movie-related are hard-pressed to find popularity in general audiences. Of course, there have been the occasional smash hits in the genre, with classic documentaries like “Hoop Dreams” about inner-city kids trying to go pro with basketball, “Dogtown and Z-Boys” on the roots of Zephyr skateboarding, “Super-size Me” on the dangers of fast food addiction, and more recently “The Act of Killing”, which re-enacts genocide through unconventional storytelling. This year, a documentary that might be found later inside the desks of high school physics teachers, is a feature on the half-decade long search to find a recently discovered particle in “Particle Fever.”

The tagline for the film’s poster is “with one switch, everything changes,” and that is actually foreshadowing of what the whole movie covers. Documented from 2008 to 2012, director Mark Levinson follows a small group of physicists, Fabiola Gianotti, Martin Aleksa and Monica Dunford, who are in the middle of attempting to turn on and run the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle collider in the world. For the first half of the documentary, we see many failed attempts and bad press the team receives for struggling to charge the collider. In the second half of the film, we see fellow physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed and his mentor Savas Dimopoulos debate the relevancies of the “multiverse” theory and the supersymmetry theory.

“Particle Fever,” though rather basic in its use of hand-held camera work and professional camera crews when focusing on the scientists, also supplies some colorful and impressive animation of space and other science elements featured throughout the film. Those who aren’t interested in watching a feature on science can at least enjoy some cool-looking eye-candy of the universe and particles. Fever has already been gaining an overwhelmingly large amount of praise from the science community and film critics from its limited release last month and film festival run last year. The film was co-produced by physics professor David Kaplan from Johns Hopkins University, and is a work of passion from both film and science. Levinson, who is usually a sound editor for big Hollywood filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, David Fincher and Anthony Minghella, makes a solid second effort as a creator combining both filmmaking and informing. It should be noted though, that the science fans might find this film a little bit more interesting, because it is all about scientific discovery. Only four months into the year and Hollywood might have found its first contender in the Best Documentary categories for next awards season.

Not rated.

Gaslight Cinema

(102 Fifth St. Next to the railroad depot, 247-8133, www.allentheatresinc.com)

The Grand Budapest Hotel. One of the most aesthetically recognizable filmmakers of our time, Wes Anderson, has his own niche of frequent collaborators, colorful set decorations and retro soundtracks. The signature look had subtle beginnings with “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore” to the ensemble indies like “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Life Aquatic”, to the family dramedies of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” Now his latest feature titled “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is his grandest, most extravagant, artistic, star-studded film to date. For those wondering where they can find 2014’s first masterpiece, look no further.

In 1932 Hungary, a teenage boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) becomes the new lobby boy of the Grand Budapest Hotel and sees firsthand how concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) runs the place. Only a month into the job, Zero is dragged into Gustave’s involvement with the death of Gustave’s older lover Mrs. Desgoffe-und-Taxis, a.k.a., Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). The two are then on the run from her greedy son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and Dmitri’s hired assassin (Willem Dafoe) when it is discovered that Gustave is bequeathed some of the belongings in the Madame’s will.

Saoirse Ronan plays Zero’s love interest, as well as a baker with a gift for hiding things in her pastries. Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham and Tom Wilkinson narrate Gustave’s and Zero’s tale. Edward Norton is an inspector following the duo, while Léa Seydoux is a sneaky French maid. Jeff Golblum is the attorney with Madame D’s will, and Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson and Bob Balaban appear throughout this fine mess of fun extravagance.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film that is surprisingly charming and clever, yet also adult-oriented in its art and narrative. After two successful efforts at expanding his themes to younger audiences with “Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise,” Anderson continues with having a teen protagonist but with more mature elements that are still light and sweet in presentation. The film shows a director who is now completely at home in his craft and medium for his fans to enjoy, and also manages to continue attracting other viewers for his screen journeys.

Though the cast may seem too crowded, Fiennes and Revolori shine brightest in this grand affair. Fiennes, after two decades of acclaimed acting on stage and screen – most famously with “Schindler’s List”, “Quiz Show” and “The English Patient”, and also appearing in hits like “Strange Days” and “In Bruges” – expands his career even more with a rare comedy role that is spot-on with delight from start to finish as a flamboyant professional without being annoyingly hammy. Revolori, an unknown newcomer from Anaheim, Calif., is a natural on screen, but maintains a modesty and subtlety that meshes well opposite Fiennes. Budapest Hotel has already crept into the Top 10 at the box office, and deservedly so.

Rated R.

God’s Not Dead. Present-day college freshman and devout Christian Josh Wheaton finds his faith challenged on his first day of philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative professor Radisson. Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words “God is Dead” on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh finds himself at a crossroads, having to choose between his faith and his future. Josh offers a nervous refusal, provoking an irate reaction from his smug professor. Radisson assigns him a daunting task: if Josh will not admit that “God is Dead,” he must prove God’s existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence over the course of the semester, and engage Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the class. If Josh fails to convince his classmates of God’s existence, he will fail the course and hinder his lofty academic goals. With almost no one in his corner, Josh wonders if he can really fight for what he believes. Can he actually prove the existence of God?

Rated PG.

Durango Stadium 9

(Next to Durango Mall, 247-9799, www.allentheatresinc.com)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. For the latest Marvel release, “Captain America: The WintJaer Soldier,” most fan boys might prefer a Consumer Reports-style product review.

New character introductions: Smooth. Action sequences: Excellent if sometimes lacking finesse. Viewer satisfaction: Likely high. Box-office prospects: Bankable. Teasers for future Marvel installments: Yes, two.

With slick design and plushy interiors, “The Winter Soldier” is an excellent product. But is it a good movie? Are the two indistinguishable at this point?

Like the recent “Thor: The Dark World,” “Winter Soldier” is a sequel to a pre-”Avengers” franchise starter. The earlier “Captain America: First Avenger” was a mostly clever period film, set in the 1940s and awash with a charming World War II thriller nostalgia.

“Winter Soldier” brings Steve Rogers – the weakling recruit made a brawny Greatest Generation icon, played by Chris Evans – up to present day for a Washington, D.C., conspiracy thriller. Fittingly, Marvel has attracted the default hero of such films, Robert Redford. He’s a major get for the franchise, especially since (unlike in last year’s “All is Lost”) he’s actually talking now.

While Rogers runs laps around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and jots notes on the pop culture he missed while frozen for 70 years, there’s trouble brewing at S.H.I.E.L.D. Its head, Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson), believes something is amiss with the agency’s latest project: a trio of “helicarriers” that can kill evildoers from the sky even before the evil is done.

It’s in this way that Marvel films use a complicated current-events issue – NSA-like spying – to feign contemporary relevance. It’s the appearance of having something to say. Captain America, a stand-in for a more innocent, noble America, wonders if the helicarriers are like “holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection.”

But that’s about the extent of such talk in “Winter Soldier”: a political thriller without the politics. (Be warned: some small spoilers follow.)

Fury, having doubted the project, finds himself a hunted man. Captain America is left to investigate with only a few trustworthy friends: Scarlett Johansson’s scarlet-haired former KGB agent Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow (an “Avengers” toss-in, added like a dash of paprika) and Anthony Mackie’s veteran Sam Wilson (a welcome newbie).

The best thing “Winter Soldier” has going for it is its cast, a uniformly likable bunch, particularly the winning Mackie, whose character dons mechanical wings to become the Falcon. And then there’s Redford, who plays Alexander Pierce, a S.H.I.E.L.D. director.

Redford, naturally, classes up the joint. Historically, in films like “Three Days of the Condor” and “All the President’s Men,” he’s been the regular guy fighting government conspiracy – which makes his duplicitous turn in “Winter Soldier” exciting. Like Jackson, he lends a gravitas to the film that it perhaps doesn’t quite deserve.

Directing brothers Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (“You, Me and Dupree”) and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (“Thor: The Dark World”) put perhaps a bit more into character development than these films often do. (The biggest misstep is with the handling of the title character, an assassin played by Sebastian Stan, whose true identity is mysterious.)

The brightly lit D.C. environs, too, give the film something of a sense of the real world. Yet when Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” plays – pop-culture homework for Rogers – it’s like a window into another, wholly separate universe. One with soul.

It’s getting difficult to tell the Marvel movies apart. The fight scenes on a departing aircraft blur together. The reversals of friend and foe refract like an infinity mirror. The characters are spread across so many movies that you’d need a detective’s cork board to keep it straight.

So while “The Winter Soldier” succeeds as finely engineered merchandise built to be crowd-pleasing entertainment, for moviegoers and shareholder alike, it has a shelf life that won’t last much past its running time.

Rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.”

Muppets Most Wanted. The entire Muppets gang goes on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid, Dublin and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine – the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit – and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, a.k.a. Number Two, portrayed by Ricky Gervais. The film stars Tina Fey as Nadya, a feisty prison guard, and Ty Burrell as Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon. Rated PG.

Divergent. In a future world where people are divided into distinct factions based on their personalities, Tris Prior is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy to destroy all Divergents, she must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it’s too late. Based on the mega-best-selling books by Veronica Roth; she’s sold more than 11 million of them, so there should be no shortage of young ticket buyers lined up to fill the seats. Rated PG-13.

Need for Speed (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge). Fresh from prison, a street racer (Aaron Paul) who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins. Rated PG-13.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge) Mr. Peabody, the most accomplished dog in the world, and his mischievous boy, Sherman, use their time machine, The WABAC, to go on the most outrageous adventures known to man or dog. But when Sherman takes The WABAC out for a joyride to impress his friend Penny, they accidently rip a hole in the universe, wreaking havoc on the most important events in world history. Rated PG.

Non-Stop. Liam Neeson stars in a suspense thriller played out at 40,000 feet in the air. During a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the airline to transfer $150 million into an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every 20 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The Monuments Men. George Clooney and Matt Damon star in what passes for a true story in Hollywood about a special unit on the hunt for Nazi art plunder during World War II. Rated PG-13.

Rebels with a Cause. Wednesday only. This is the story of a regional California effort that grew into an astonishing system of 14 National Seashores – the result of garden clubs, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, politicians from both parties, widows and volunteers working together through compromise and negotiation, with the American public coming up as the winner. Not rated.

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