Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Capsule Reviews of Movies

Reviews

Ratings:

**** Excellent *** Good

** Fair * Poor

Reviewers: C.R., Carrie Rickey; S.R., Steven Rea; D.D., Dan DeLuca; T.D., Tirdad Derakhshani; D.H., David Hiltbrand; W.S., Inquirer wire services.

New This Week

The Discoverers See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 5.

Korengal See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 5.

Lucky Them See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 4.

Transformers: Age of Extinction See David Hiltbrand's review on Page 4.

Also on Screens

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Schematic sequel to 2012's reboot of the Marvel Comics franchise starring a kid (Andrew Garfield) who morphs into a webslinging superhero driven by adolescent heartache and indecision, and by gigantic, effects-driven fight scenes - against super-foes including Jamie Foxx's Electro and Dane DeHaan's Green Goblin. And through it all: Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy, a lash-batting cartoon of brainy cute-osity. 2 hrs. 22 PG-13 (intense action, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Belle Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy officer and an African slave, raised, alongside her white cousin, in the world of 18th-century English aristocracy. Rooted in history, and also in the traditions of Jane Austen, this handsome period piece combines heady romance and pointed issues of race. With Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sam Reid. 1 hr. 45 PG (adult themes) - S.R.

Blended In this rom-com, the comedy is strictly middle-cheek standard and the romance is nonexistent. Blame the listless leads, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who play antagonistic single parents taking their kids to the same South African resort. 1 hr. 57 PG-13 (profanity, crude and sexual content) - D.H.

Chef Jon Favreau stars in - and wrote and directs - this bouncy paean to the culinary arts, about a top cook who gets a career-killing bad review, rebounds, and bonds with his son in a feel-good food-truck ride across the States. Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, and John Leguizamo join the fun - which feels force-fed at times. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

A Coffee in Berlin Jan Ole Gerster's sly and melancholy day-in-the-life tale is shot in black-and-white and moves to a retro jazz score. Its scruffy protagonist is out of work, and increasingly out of luck, as he ricochets around the German city, meeting people, offending people, and maybe helping one or two as well. 1 hr. 28 No MPAA rating (adult themes) - S.R.

Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in a propulsive sci-fi war movie, about a cowardly military flack who gets Bill Murray's Groundhog Day syndrome - he's fated to relive the same day over and over again, and the day is a doozy: a battle against alien invaders that will determine the fate of humankind. 1 hr. 53 PG-13 (intense action, violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

The Fault in Our Stars A sweet, bittersweet tale of cancer-stricken lovebirds - played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort - facing love, and death, head-on. An adaptation of John Green's YA megaseller, from the writing team behind The Spectacular Now (also with Woodley) and (500) Days of Summer. 2 hrs. 6 PG-13 (sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Godzilla Giant Japanese monster reappears in this narratively muddled, effects-driven reboot. Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are among the noble thespians who tear around, screaming as if the world were collapsing around them. It is, thanks to a 350-foot-tall pile of dinosauric scales and dentition. 2 hrs. 3 PG-13 (intense action, carnage, adult themes) - S.R.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson's eighth, and most teeming film, is a Between the Wars comic caper set in a fictitious central European land where Ralph Fiennes is the concierge of an elegant alpine hostelry. When a wealthy guest dies and the will is read, a mad dash for money and a prized painting ensues. With Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, F. Murray Abraham, Saoirse Ronan, and newcomer Tony Revolori. Sublime. 1 hr. 40 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 One of the most delightful surprises of the year, this DreamWorks Animation sequel is an intelligent, sensitive, and beautifully realized morality play that will fascinate children and parents alike. Five years after he ended the war between dragons and Vikings, young hero Hiccup and his fellow dragon-riders face off against a dreaded enemy named Draco, who subjugates dragons, using fear and torture to make them do his bidding. 1 hr. 42 PG (adventure action and some mild rude humor) - T.D.

Ida Two women - an orphan raised in a convent, preparing to take her vows, and a cynical, hardbitten former prosecutor and judge - meet in Pawel Pawlikowski's extraordinary film, embarking on a road trip across the bleak terrain of 1960s Communist Poland - a road trip that is at once tragic, hopeful, and unforgettable. 1 hr. 20 PG-13 (sexual situations, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

The Immigrant Marion Cotillard is nothing less than amazing as a destitute Pole who arrives at Ellis Island, 1921, and falls in with a smooth-talking pimp (Joaquin Phoenix). James Gray (Two Lovers, The Yards) directs this half-crazy, fascinating yarn. 1 hr. 58 R (nudity, violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Jersey Boys John Lloyd Young, who starred as Frankie Valli in the original Broadway musical, cinches up his face and hits the high notes with grace in Clint Eastwood's enoyable, and surprisingly tough, music biz biopic. Wall-to-wall Four Seasons songs, too. 2 hrs. 14 R (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Maleficent Angelina Jolie stars as the titular villain of the Sleeping Beauty tale in this imaginative, if somewhat belabored reinvention of the classic Disney cartoon. With Elle Fanning as the cursed Aurora, and District 9's Sharlto Copley alarmingly cast as her dad, the king. Flower-powered fairyland visual effects to die for! And Jolie, horns and cheekbones high, is magnificent as the villainess fairy godmother. 1 hr. 37 PG (violence, scary images, adult themes) - S.R.

A Million Ways to Die In the West Seth MacFarlane writes, directs, and casts himself (a mistake) in the lead of this potty-brained and seriously unpleasant sagebrush spoof. Neil Patrick Harris, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfriend, and Charlize Theron appear to be willing participants in the racist, misogynist "comedy." It's beyond bad taste. It's just bad. 1 hr. 56 R (profanity, crude humor, sex, nudity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Neighbors In this lewd comedy, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are young parents whose lives are massively disrupted when a rowdy fraternity led by Zac Efron moves into the house next door. Smutty? Oh, yes. And often fall-on-the-floor funny. 1 hr. 37 R (profanity, nudity, sexual content, violence, alcohol and drug abuse) - D.H.

Obvious Child Jenny Slate stars as a Brooklyn comedian who finds herself pregnant following a messy, drink-fueled one-nighter, in this low-key indie set in a world of stand-up, breakups, and visits to Planned Parenthood. Philadelphia native Gabe Liedman costars. 1 hr. 29 R (profanity, sexual content, adult themes) - T.D.

The Railway Man Hang in through the stuffy start and you'll get an emotionally powerful (though graphic) film about the horrors of war (WWII) and its aftereffects. With Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine. 1 hr. 56 R (torture scenes) - D.H.

The Rover Writer-director David Michôd's (Animal Kingdom) elegantly filmed minimalist thriller set in the not-too-distant future has Guy Pearce as a pissed-off Australian seeking out the gang that stole the last thing on earth that mattered to him. 1 hr. 42 PG-13 (profanity, bloody violence, smoking) - T.D.

The Signal An eerily mysterious and inventive indie, in which two guys and a girl climb in a car for a road trip west, only to find themselves "followed" by a genius computer hacker - and only to find themselves off the grid, in the dead of night, in a mighty strange place. 1 hr. 35 PG-13 (violence, intense action, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Think Like a Man Too Kevin Hart oversees the couples therapy comedy, a sequel to the 2012 hit based on Steve Harvey's bestseller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (crude sexual content, partial nudity, language, and drug material) - W.S.

22 Jump Street Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, not exactly the millennials' answer to Abbott and Costello but working a simpatico stupid-com groove, are back in the sequel to 21 Jump Street. This time the undercover cops go to college to bust a drug ring. Winkingly ironic dumb jokes - anatomical, scatalogical, sexual - ensue. 1 hr. 52 R (profanity, sex, drugs, cartoon violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Words and Pictures Clive Owen teaches honors English, Juliette Binoche teaches honors art, in this Tracy-and-Hepburn-like rom-com with a Dead Poets Society backdrop and dollops of human failing for added drama. The prep school kids line up in one camp or the other - "This insane war is energizing our students!" a giddy Owen declares - and the two stars line up to do battle, and, of course, make love. 2 hrs. PG-13 (sex, profanity, alcohol, adult themes) - S.R.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Time-travel is of the essence in this entertaining seventh installment in the series based on the Marvel Comics about a gang of misfit mutant superheroes and their respective mentors, Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto. Directed by Bryan Singer, with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine as the linchpin. Geeky, action-packed fun. 2 hrs. 11 PG-13 (intense action, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

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