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Los Angeles Times Movie Guide

Thursday, July 10, 2014 - Updated: 6:03 AM

OPENING THIS WEEK

"Boyhood" -- A drama shot over 12 years chronicling the journey of a young boy and his family as he goes from childhood to adulthood. With Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Ellar Coltrane. Written and directed by Richard Linklater. (2:40) R.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' -- A growing nation of genetically evolved apes is threatened by a band of human survivors of a devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier in this sequel to the 2011 film "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." With Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell. Written by Mark Bomback, Rich Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Directed by Matt Reeves. In 3-D. (2:10) PG-13.

"Rage" -- A respectable businessman and loving father finds his violent past coming back to haunt him when his teenage daughter is kidnapped, forcing him to round up his old crew and find her by any means necessary. With Nicholas Cage, Rachel Nichols and Danny Glover. Written by Jim Agnew and Sean Keller. Directed by Paco Cabezas. (1:38) NR.

CRITICS' CHOICES

"Edge of Tomorrow" -- With Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt starring in an Earth-versus-aliens epic, this is one mass-market entertainment that's smart, exciting and unexpected while not stinting on genre satisfactions. (K.Tu., June 6) In 3-D and Imax. (1:53) PG-13.

"How to Train Your Dragon 2" -- From the fashionable day-old scruff on Hiccup's 20-year-old Viking chin to the amped-up firepower of Toothless, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" has made good use of the years since the villagers of Berk and the boy who'd rather not be chief first charmed us. The spot-on cast led by Jay Baruchel now includes Oscar winner Cate Blanchett. There's a new villain played by Djimon Hounsou, a major family reunion and Hiccup continuing his fight for dragon rights. Those battles on the back of the beasties are when the animation, and the film, soars. (B.S., June 13) In 3-D. (1:45) PG.

"Ida" -- Spare, haunting, uncompromising, this Polish film about a novitiate who discovers she is Jewish is a work of exceptional artistry whose emotions are as potent and persuasive as its images are indelibly beautiful. (K.Tu., May 2) In Polish with English subtitles. (1:20) PG-13.

"The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz" -- A compelling documentary that will leave you heartsick as well as more than a little furious. Whether Aaron Swartz is a personal hero or someone you've never heard of until now, his story cannot help but move you. (K.Tu., June 27) (1:45) NR.

"The Rover" -- Australian writer-director David Michod's first film after "Animal Kingdom" features Guy Pearce's pure controlled ferocity as a man on a stop-at-nothing quest to recover his stolen vehicle. (K.Tu., June 13) (1:42) R.

"Snowpiercer" -- Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho packs all of his apocalyptic angst inside an unforgettable "Snowpiercer." Using a great cast, a gripping idea and a gorgeously grimy retro aesthetic, Bong keeps this eerie examination of the train wreck of humanity racing along. Both the material and the messengers -- Chris Evans, John Hurt, Ed Harris and Tilda Swinton lead a cast top-heavy with international talent -- lend a kind of gravitas to what might otherwise have been mindless action fare. (B.S., June 27) (2:06) R.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" -- Time travel, Peter Dinklage and '70s kitsch top a very long list of what make "X-Men: Days of Future Past" such a blast. Its massive top-drawer cast includes James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and basically anyone who's had an "X-Men" walk-on. There is action galore, but this deeper, richer, more thoughtful film is the best "X" yet. (B.S., May 23) In 3-D. (2:10) PG-13.

ALSO IN THEATERS

"22 Jump Street" -- A monument to mocking, a master class in dissing, a parody of pastiche, poking its R-rated finger at social conventions, sequels, stereotypes, football, frats, friends, drugs, sex -- even its stars. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back for yet another capricious crime caper. Their chemistry crackles around strains in their bromance and the fallout from bungling any case they get. You might think the laughs are over when the credits start to roll. They aren't. Hang around for a final bit of fun. (1:51) R.

"America"' -- A documentary contemplating what today's world would look like had the United States never existed. Directed by Dinesh D'Souza and John Sullivan. (1:43) PG-13.

"Begin Again" -- A teaming of Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and "Once" filmmaker John Carney in a tale of music's transformative power certainly has appeal, but you may end up wanting to enjoy it more than its qualities will allow. (K.Tu., June 27) In French with English subtitles. (2:18) NR. (1:44) R.

"Belle" -- Dressed up in the corsets and social conventions of Georgian England, "Belle" proves a good canvas for its mannered conversation about race. In an even stranger sense, it echoes many of our current conversations about race, which makes the film's shortfalls disappointing. "Belle" is greatly buoyed by Gugu Mbatha-Raw's performance as the mixed-race beauty Dido Elizabeth Belle, but with family ties, race relations, marriage proposals, legal issues and London's not-so-polite society fighting for attention, it leaves the film fighting for its identity. (B.S., May 2) (1:45) PG-13.

"Chef" -- Writer-director-star Jon Favreau cooks up tureens of fun and charm in this welcome return to his more intimate, indie film roots ("Swingers," "Made") after helming such mega-budget pictures as "Iron Man," "Iron Man 2" and "Cowboys & Aliens." As for the movie's food porn quotient: Like most else here, it doesn't disappoint. (1:55) NR.

"Cinemanovels" -- The estranged daughter of a famous, recently deceased filmmaker decides to help put together a retrospective of his work. With Lauren Lee Smith and Jennifer Beals. Written and directed by Terry Miles. (1:31) R.

Deliver Us From Evil -- A New York police officer joins forces with an unconventional priest to investigate a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes. With Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez and Olivia Munn. Written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman. Directed by Derrickson. (1:37) R.

"Earth to Echo" -- After a construction project begins in their neighborhood, three boys start to receive strange coded messages on their cell phones, and their investigation brings them into contact with an extraterrestrial who needs their help. With Teo Halm, Brian "Astro" Bradley and Reese Hartwig. Written by Henry Gayden. Directed by Dave Green. (1:22) PG.

"The Fault in Our Stars" -- Despite the way death and cancer gnaw at "The Fault in Our Stars," the new teenage love story starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort is really about living. The two play the hand they're dealt quite well, balancing the sentiment with teenage moxie. Make no mistake, "Fault" is a certifiable weepie, but it comes by its emotions honestly. What sustains it through the rockier times are its challenging themes, offering real issues for the young protagonists to wrestle with, rather than whether anyone will be carded trying to buy beer. (2:05) PG-13.

"The Girl on the Train" -- A documentary filmmaker on headed to an interview in upstate New York has a chance encounter with a mysterious woman who leads him on a dangerous journey. With Henry Ian Cusick, Stephen Lang and Nicki Aycox. Written and directed by Larry Brand. (1:20) R.

"Godzilla" -- Someone's clearly lost sight of the obvious when the no-name monsters get more screen time than the main attraction. The cast led by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a good one. But forgotten is the primary reason we show up in such massive numbers -- we actually want to see the big guy go stomping and tromping through cities. As it happens, "Godzilla's" terrifying towering reptile is one very cool dude, with 3-D side effects that are monstrous in all the right ways. Ironically this big, lumbering movie could have used more, not less. More Godzilla, and more emotional content for its fine cast too. In 3-D and Imax. (2:03) PG-13.

'A Hard Day's Night" -- The Fab Four embark from Liverpool to London for a TV appearance and deal with their uptight manager, obsessed fans and a troublemaking grandfather along the way. With John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Written by Alun Owen. Directed by Richard Lester. (1:27) G.

"Jersey Boys" -- Director Clint Eastwood brings the successful Broadway musical to the screen in a pleasantly old-fashioned production that gives equal weight to personal drama and the classic rock anthems of the Four Seasons. (2:14) R.

"Life Itself" -- A documentary recounting the life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, based on his bestselling memoir of the same name. Directed by Steve James. (1:58) R.

"Maleficent" -- In re-imagining the infamous evil queen who curses an innocent girl, "Maleficent" is very much a cautionary tale for modern times. It essentially prompts the question -- are you sure it was the shrew that needed taming? It stars a wickedly good Angelina Jolie. Unlike "Sleeping Beauty," "Maleficent" explains all: motivation, regrets -- from the queen's point of view. This multifaceted Maleficent has wit and empathy as well as rage. Though the film hits a few bumps, Jolie hasn't looked like she's had such fun with a role since 2005's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." In 3-D and Imax. (1:37) PG.

"A Million Ways to Die in the West" -- If Seth MacFarlane's latest accomplishes nothing else, it proves beyond doubt the old adage that dying is easy -- it's comedy that's hard. Deadly jokes certainly dog this latest bit of ridiculous raunch from the Hollywood whiz kid, who falls flat on his face many times over the course of the film, from the main drag of the frontier town of Old Stump to one comedy riff after another. The movie feels half-baked. Not even its very good cast, led by Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson, can save it. Of the million ways to die in the West, a comedy misfire is deadliest of all. (1:56) R.

"Tammy" -- Oh, "Tammy." Can I call you Tammy? I hate to break this to you, but the thrill is gone. I'd like to say it's me, not you. But I really think it's you. As the latest, loudest, R-rated, plus-size incarnation of Melissa McCarthy's comic psyche, you had such promise. But the party's over. And let me make this clear -- it's the shtick, not the size, that's the problem. McCarthy is clearly talented. Comedy is her calling card. It's just that she keeps playing it. Shuffling the deck wouldn't mean walking away from comedy. It just means occasionally giving us, and herself, a break (1:57) R.

"They Came Together" -- Surface gags are fine for the purposes of a sketch needling the conventions of Hollywood's boy-meets-girl factory product, but a feature-length lampoon needs more than rubbery performances, so-so silliness and the constant thrum of meta humor to make it a consistently amusing variation on a theme. (1:24) R.

"Think Like a Man Too" -- Kevin Hart's amped-up style has earned him shooting-star status, but in "Think Like a Man Too" he hits such adrenaline-fueled extremes it's exhausting. Hart is on day and night as the sprawling group of friends we met in the 2012 adaptation of Steve Harvey's bestselling "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" heads to Vegas for a wedding -- and the requisite debauched bachelor and bachelorette parties beforehand. As funny as Hart can be, and there is no doubt he is funny, "Too" is a case of too much Hart. (1:45) PG-13.

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" -- The nearly three-hour crucible that is "Age of Extinction" stars Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, a greatly expanded world of Autobots, Decepticons and Dinobots, and all the Michael Bay bombastics we've come to expect from the franchise. The filmmaker has actually built a better "Transformers," one I'm sure fans will adore. It's still not a great movie, but it is, most definitely, full-metal Bay. In 3-D and Imax. PG-13.

"Words and Pictures" -- A middle-aged romantic comedy masquerading as a war between literature and art. The battleground is a Maine prep school. Clive Owen is the brash, unconventional English teacher in residence, and Juliette Binoche is the new art teacher, an aloof, acclaimed abstract painter. Adult and teenage angst and intellectual jockeying fill the corridors and classrooms. There are contrivances around every corner too. But for the most part, the florid flourishes are so lightly played by Owen and Binoche, the film's melodrama can almost be forgiven. (1:56) PG-13.

"Yves Saint Laurent" -- The first of two French-made biopics being released this year about the iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent is a stylish, serviceable recounting of his life from the late 1950s through the '70s. But watchable as it may be, this drama lacks intimacy and urgency. It's also missing the kind of deep artistic soul that would seem de rigueur for a look back at one of the world's most influential couturiers. In French with English subtitles. (1:46) R.

-- Los Angeles Times

     

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