(PG, 92 minutes, Fox): Think of this as the backstory of “The Flintstones,” before that modern Stone Age family got modern.
Hunter-gatherers Grug Crood (voice of Nicolas Cage) and his wife, Ugga, don’t live in an amenity-filled house but in a dark, depressing cave. They’re raising their kids – Eep, Thunk and Sandy – as best they can, considering there’s no Internet.
Driving the story forward is the character of Eep, a restless teen who chafes at her father’s dictum, “Never not be afraid.” Sneaking out of the cave one night, Eep encounters Guy, a more advanced, homo-sapiens-like adolescent who already has discovered such conveniences as fire, shoes, pants and belts.
Guy has discovered something else, too: The world as Eep knows it is coming to an end, thanks to shifting continental land masses. “The Croods” is light fare, but it explores a serious theme: the importance of cooperation – and the evolutionary advantage of altruism – in the formation of human society.
‘This is the End’
(R, 107 minutes, Sony): This apocalyptic satire, made for admirers of Seth Rogen and James Franco, is an alternately sly and wildly indulgent exercise in omni-referential humor.
As both homage and sendup, it presents viewers with the image of a comedy genre eating its own tail. That genre, for the uninitiated, has been perfected by Rogen and Franco – along with “End” co-stars Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride – in films that brim with marijuana-fueled disquisitions, sophomoric sex jokes, graphic gross-outs and gratuitous violence.
The epitome of the form was the 2008 stoner action comedy “Pineapple Express,” which set out to prove that “stoner” and “action” aren’t mutually exclusive, but which suffered from overkill.
The premise of “This Is the End” is that everyone is playing themselves – a bunch of over-privileged young actors hanging out in L.A. when a sudden spate of earthquakes, fires and mysterious disappearances sends them into a panicked scrum of survivalist hoarding and doom speculation.
‘A Fierce Green Fire’
(Unrated, 101 minutes, First Run Features): A sweeping history of the environmental movement, “A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet” is both a cautionary tale and a triumphant one.
The documentary focuses on the individuals who halted deforestation and saved baby seals, but filmmaker Mark Kitchell also delineates the imminent dangers of climate change. Unfortunately, the sprawling documentary’s lack of focus tempers the overall force of the individual stories, some of which are truly riveting.
The film is divided into five chapters, each with a different narrator. Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Isabel Allende, Van Jones and Meryl Streep fill in the gaps on narratives that range from the founding of the Sierra Club to Love Canal and Greenpeace’s war on whaling to the Kyoto Protocol.