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Los Angeles Times Movie Guide

Thursday, July 24, 2014 - Updated: 6:09 AM

OPENING THIS WEEK

"And So It Goes" -- A willfully obnoxious real estate agent wants nothing more than to sell one last house and retire, until his estranged son suddenly drops off a 9-year-old granddaughter he never knew existed. With Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton and Sterling Jerins. Written by Mark Andrus. Directed by Rob Reiner. (1:34) PG-13.

"Come Back to Me" -- After being involved in a car accident, a young married woman begins experiencing frequent blackouts and increasingly mysterious occurrences. With Matt Passmore, Katie Walder and Nathan Keyes. Written and directed by Paul Leyden. (1:36) R.

"The Fluffy Movie" -- A documentary following the comedian Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias on stage and off. Directed by Manny Rodriguez. (1:41) PG-13.

"Happy Christmas" -- The household of an aspiring novelist, her filmmaker husband and their 2-year-old son is turned upside down when the father's irresponsible younger sister comes to stay with them after a breakup. With Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg, Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham. Written and directed by Swanberg. (1:18) R.

"Hercules" -- The mythical Greek hero Hercules leads a band of mercenaries to help end a bloody civil war in the land of Thrace and return the rightful king to his throne. With Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes. Written by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Directed by Brett Ratner. (1:38) PG-13.

"Ironclad: Battle for Blood" -- In medieval England, a young warrior and a small band of hired swords try to hold off a tribe of Celtic raiders hell-bent on revenge. With Michelle Fairley, Tom Austen and Tom Rhys Harries. Written by Jonathan English and Steven McDool. Directed by English. (1:48) NR.

"Le Chef" -- A self-taught cook with haute-cuisine ambitions and a celebrated chef in danger of losing his restaurant form an uneasy alliance. With Jean Reno, Michael Young and Raphaelle Asogue. Written by Daniel Cohen and Olivier Dazat. Directed by Cohen. In French and English, with English subtitles. (1:25) PG-13.

"Lucy" -- A woman forced to act as a drug mule accidentally ingests some of the contraband and finds it gives her superhuman abilities, then turns the tables on her captors. With Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. Written and directed by Luc Besson. (1:28) R.

"Magic in the Moonlight" -- A renowned English conjurer is called upon to get to the bottom of a possible swindle in the south of France of the 1920s. With Eileen Atkins, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden and Hamish Linklater. Written and directed by Woody Allen. (1:38) PG-13.

"A Most Wanted Man" -- German and U.S. intelligence agents take notice when a brutally tortured half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant turns up in Hamburg's Islamic community laying claim to his father's ill-gotten fortune. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe. Written by Andrew Bovell. Directed by Anton Corbijn. (2:01) R.

"Premature" -- A high school student trying to win over his longtime crush and nail a college interview keeps reliving the same day over and over again. With John Karna, Craig Roberts and Katie Findlay. Written by Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz. Directed by Beers. (1:33) R.

"Very Good Girls" -- Two best friends home for one last summer in New York make a pact to lose their virginity before leaving for college, but they both fall for the same handsome artist. With Elizabeth Olsen, Dakota Fanning and Boyd Holbrook. Written and directed by Naomi Foner. (1:31) NR.

CRITICS' CHOICES

"Boyhood" -- Writer-director Richard Linklater couldn't have known where 12 years of shooting this story would lead, following a boy and his family (played by Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater) across time. But we are blessed that he did, because it has resulted in an extraordinarily intimate portrait of a life unfolding and an exceptional, unconventional film in which not much else occurs. Never has so little meant more. (2:45) R.

"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. In 3-D and Imax. (1:53) PG-13.

"A Hard Day's Night" -- It's been half a century since the Beatles' debut film was released, and if that fact makes you feel old, seeing a new digital restoration on a big screen will lighten your mood immeasurably. (1:27) G.

"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. In 3-D. (1:45) PG.

"Land Ho!" is full of surprises, rich in the way it noses around the rocky terrain of aging in an indifferent world through the engaging performances of its two stars. Colin and Mitch (Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson) are a couple of 70-ish brothers-in-law reconnecting during a trip to Iceland years after they'd drifted apart. The weather may be cold, but the conversations are warm. As Colin begins to thaw, it becomes a gentle reminder that life is something to be embraced. And that it is never too late to grab it with whatever gusto you've got. (1:35) R.

"Life Itself" -- Expert documentarian Steve James provides a fine and moving examination of the life and legacy of the engaging and influential critic Roger Ebert. (1:58) 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. (2:06) R.

"Venus in Fur" -- Starring Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner in a whip-smart dissection of gender politics via some teasing S&M, "Venus in Fur" is arch. So arch, in fact, that it is surprising it's a Roman Polanski film. The director has spent a great deal of creative energy over the course of his career exploring the dark side of punishing psychosexuality. "Venus" isn't frothy by any stretch, but it's a caustic, comic, cerebral romp for a very long time before it hits you with its best shot. In French with English subtitles. (1:36) NR.

"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. In 3-D. (2:10) PG-13.

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ALSO IN THEATERS

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"22 Jump Street" is 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. (B.S., June 13) (1:51) R.

"Affluenza" -- During summer 2008, an aspiring young photographer moves in with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Great Neck, New York, and falls in with an indulged, entitled crowd as the financial crisis looms. With Ben Rosenfield, Gregg Sulkin and Nicola Peltz. Written by Antonio Macia. Directed by Kevin Asch. (1:25) NR.

"Aftermath" -- In the wake of a nuclear apocalypse, nine strangers hole up in a farmhouse cellar and face dwindling supplies, radioactive air and hordes of zombie-like refugees who want in. With Edward Furlong, Monica Keena and Andre Royo. Written by Christian McDonald. Directed by Peter Engert. (1:32) NR.

"America" seems more intent on editorializing, razzling and dazzling than on stimulating civic debate. As far as agitprops go, this is as polished as a commercial. It's far more invested in elaborate historical re-enactments, hypothetical dramatizations and special effects than interviews, research and data. It's "Sesame Street"-style show and tell, complete with highly suggestive musical cues. (Martin Tsai, July 2) (1:43) PG-13.

"Among Ravens" -- At an annual Fourth of July weekend hosted by a troubled couple, long-buried secrets are revealed. With Johnny Sequoyah, Amy Smart and Joshua Leonard. Written by Russell Friedenberg. Directed by Russell Friedenberg and Randy Redroad. (1:43) NR.

"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.

"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. (Gary Goldstein, May 9) (1:55) NR.

"Closed Curtain" -- A reclusive screenwriter holed up in a seaside house has his tranquility interrupted by a young woman fleeing from the authorities. With Kambuzia Partovi, Maryam Moqadam and Jafar Panahi. Written by Jafar Panahi. Directed by Partovi and Panahi. In Farsi with English subtitles. (1:46) NR.

"Code Black" portrays the experience of an emergency room from a perspective many of us otherwise might not know, directed by Ryan McGarry when he was a young doctor at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. The film feels like neither a polemic, a reality show pilot nor some kind of soap opera doctor drama. This is for the best. (M.O., June 27) (1:28) NR.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" -- If you want apes, you've come to the right place with this next iteration of the ever-popular science fiction sage. If people are your passion, not so much. (K.Tu., July 11) In 3-D. (2:10) PG-13.

"Deliver Us From Evil" -- Buckle up for this highly intense and effective mash-up of police procedural and horror show. Director Scott Derrickson, who adapted the script with frequent collaborator Paul Harris Boardman, has infused this winding tale with propulsive urgency and snowballing tension, providing plenty of jumps, nightmarish imagery and things that literally go bump in the night. (Gary Goldstein, July 2) (1:37) R.

"Earth to Echo" -- It's no "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." (What is?) But on its own modest terms, the alien adventure "Earth to Echo" is a lively and likable knockoff that should divert, if not exactly enthrall, tweens and young teens. (Gary Goldstein, July 2) (1:22) PG.

"The Empty Hours" -- On the coast of Veracruz, a 17-year-old boy takes over running his uncle's rent-by-the hour motel and develops a crush on a woman neglected by her lover. With Kristyan Ferrer, Adriana Paz and Eliseo Lara Martinez. Written and directed by Aaron Fernandez. In Spanish with English subtitles. (1:40) NR.

"I Origins" -- A molecular biologist's study of the human eye points to evidence with far-reaching scientific and spiritual implications. With Michael Pitt, Brit Marling and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Written and directed by Mike Cahill. (1:48) R.

"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. (K.Tu., June 20) (2:14) R.

"K Missing Kings" -- Individuals with mysterious powers and their own personal clans battle one another in this anime film based on the TV series "K." With the voices of Daisuke Namikawa, Daisuke Ono and Mikako Komatsu. Written by GoRA. Directed by Shingo Suzuki. In Japanese with English subtitles. (1:13) NR.

"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." (B.S., May 30) In 3-D and Imax. (1:37) PG.

"Mood Indigo" -- A wealthy Parisian bachelor falls for an enchanging woman, but their courtship is tested when she develops an unusual illness in which a flower begins growing in her lungs. With Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris and Omar Sy. Written by Michel Gondry and Luc Bossi. Directed by Gondry. In French with English subtitles. (1:34) NR.

"Obvious Child" is about a few weeks in the life of aspiring stand-up comic Donna Stern, played by the very funny Jenny Slate. It follows her emotional journey from romance, to break-up, to one-night stand, to unexpected pregnancy, to romance, to abortion -- much of which is mined for laughs in her confessional-style late-night routines. This might not sound like a laughing matter, but writer-director Gillian Robespierre knows how to tease the comedy out of the human condition. As the film stumbles its way to the final punch line, it echoes Donna's onstage musings -- funny, but rough around the edges. (B.S., June 6) (1:23) R.

"Planes: Fire and Rescue" -- In this animated movie set in a world of anthropomorphic aircraft, a famous air racer learns that his engine is damaged and shifts gears into the world of aerial firefighting. With the voices of Dane Cook and Julie Bowen. Written by Bobs Gannaway and Jeffrey M. Howard. Directed by Gannaway. (1:23) PG.

"The Purge: Anarchy" -- A new group of individuals fight to survive the annual night on which all crime is legal for 12 hours in this sequel to the 2013 film "The Purge." With Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez. Written and directed by James DeMonaco. (1:43) R.

"Sex Tape" -- To spice up their love life, a couple of 10 years make a marathon sex tape and then scramble to erase it from existence after they accidentally send it to friends and family members. With Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper. Written by Segel, Kate Angelo and Nicholas Stoller. Directed by Jake Kasdan. (1:35) R.

"A Summer's Tale" -- A new restoration of the 1996 French film about a recent university graduate juggling three women while on summer holiday in Bretagne. With Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet and Gwenaelle Simon. Written and directed by Eric Rohmer. In French with English subtitles. (1:54) NR.

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 (B.S., July 2) (1:57) 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 best-selling "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. (B.S., June 20) (1:45) PG-13.

"Third Person" -- The latest interlocking puzzle from Paul Haggis is about love, but it's not a soft and fuzzy sort of love. Haggis uses a double-edged sword -- and a relatively blunt one at that -- to hack away at it. There are three theaters of operation -- the entanglement between Liam Neeson's and Olivia Wilde's characters unfolding in Paris, Adrien Brody and Moran Atias' mismatched pair sparring in Rome and Mila Kunis and James Franco battling it out in New York City. The actors bring their A-games, but ultimately the film's pieces remain scattered, its puzzle unfinished, its stories half-told. (B.S., June 20) (2:16) R.

"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. (B.S., June 27) In 3-D and Imax. PG-13.

"Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger" -- Joe Berlinger's densely detailed new documentary about the legendary Boston mobster is disturbing on so many levels it's hard not to wonder why Bulger was the only one on trial. Picking up the story in 2012 as the gangster is headed to court, the documentary does a good job of exposing a cesspool of corruption -- members of the legal system and law enforcement agencies of all stripes are right in there alongside Whitey. The film ends with news reports of his conviction. But the victory feels hollow, more questions raised than answered, and the case of the United States v. James J. Bulger feels far from closed. (B.S., July 11) (1:47) NR.

"Wish I Was Here" -- When his ailing father takes a turn for the worse, a 30-something actor struggling to support his family decides to pull his kids from the pricey yeshiva school their grandfather was paying for. With Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin and Josh Gad. Written by Zach Braff and Adam Braff. Directed by Zach Braff. (1:50) R. Story on Page E1

"Words and Pictures" is 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. But for the most part, the florid flourishes are so lightly played by Owen and Binoche, the film's melodrama can almost be forgiven. (B.S., May 23) (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. (Gary Goldstein, June 25) In French with English subtitles. (1:46) R.

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