The violent action farce “Stuber” plays a bit like a comic reworking of the Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx action flick, “Collateral.” Kumail Nanjiani plays an Uber driver named Stu, hence the jokey title. Dave Bautista is an LA cop who commandeers the ride, forcing Stu to take him on a series of trips to capture a homicidal drug lord. Nanjiani and Bautista are an appealingly odd couple and their repartee earns some laughs, but we’ve seen all of this before. The best rating that I can give this Stuber ride is three stars.
China’s premier filmmaker Zhang Yimou returns with another sumptuously filmed wuxia entry. “Shadow.” In ancient China, an ailing military commander finds his doppelganger and trains him to fight in his place in order to fulfill an intricate plan to bring down the king. The story is a bit confusing and the acting melodramatic, but “Shadow” is still an involving and stylish action epic.
The Canadian coming-of-age drama “Firecrackers” is rude, foul-mouthed and irreverent. It’s also beautifully acted, painfully realistic and heartbreaking. Michaela Kurimsky and Karena Evans play two teenage friends who long to escape their poverty-stricken small town lives but are seemingly thwarted at every turn. There’s not a moment of Hollywood gloss or phoniness in “Firecrackers,” only the pop of raw emotions.
Also opening this week, “Crawl” is a horror entry about alligators attacking folks after a hurricane. “The Fall of the American Empire” is a French-Canadian thriller about a delivery man who stumbles upon millions in mob cash after a robbery gone wrong. “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” is a documentary about the famed surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack. Jesse Eisenberg stars in “The Art of Self-Defense,” a dark comedy about a timid bookkeeper who takes martial arts classes after being attacked by a motorcycle gang.