Is there life in “Life?” This sci-fi thriller features Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds as astronauts who confront a deadly new species on their voyage to Mars. The film owes a bit too much of its inspiration to the classic “Alien,” but thanks to a good cast and competent execution, “Life” nearly overcomes most of its genre clichés.
Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine is perfectly cast as a nasty old lady in the comic drama, “The Last Word.” Since no one has anything nice to say about her, an unlikable octogenarian hires a writer, played by Amanda Seyfried, to pen a flattering obituary. The actors are fine, but the effort seems labored. “The Last Word” misses the opportunity to mine an interesting, original premise.
Woody Harrelson plays the misanthropic title character in “Wilson,” a bleak, R-rated adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel. The film attempts a very uneasy mix of mean-spiritedness and cloying sentimentality. While the cast is terrific, the characters in this dark comedy are so clueless and unlikable that their actions elicit more groans than laughs.
Also opening this week, “Slamma Jamma” is a faith-based drama about a wrongfully imprisoned ex-con who attempts a comeback through a slam-dunk competition. Chris Staples stars. “Song to Song” is a Terrance Malick drama about struggling songwriters. Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman star. “The Lure” is a Polish film about two mermaid sisters in a love triangle. “Personal Shopper” is a horror flick with Kristen Stewart as the titular servant to a celebrity. “Power Rangers” is a live action revival of the 1990s kids TV show. “CHiPS” is a raunchy, R-rated reboot of the 70s TV series.
The 20th annual Kansas City Film Festival takes place April 5th-9th at the Cinemark Palace on the Plaza. Info is available at kcfilmfest.org.