Movie guide | 8-15-14


Ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America are: (G) for general audiences; (PG) parental guidance urged because of material possibly unsuitable for children; (PG-13) parents are strongly cautioned to give guidance for attendance of children younger than 13; (R) restricted, younger than 17 admitted only with parent or adult guardian; (NC-17) no one younger than 17 admitted.

Capsule reviews are by Kenneth Turan (K.Tu.), Betsy Sharkey (B.S.), Mark Olsen (M.O.) and other reviewers. Compiled by Oliver Gettell.

Opening in Hollywood this week

“The Admiral: Roaring Currents” — In 1597, the admiral of Korea’s Josen Dynasty leads 12 battleships against the 330-strong Japanese fleet. With Choi Min-sik, Ryu Seung-ryong and Cho Jin-woong. Written by Jun Chul-hong and Kim Han-min. Directed by Kim. In Korean with English subtitles. (2:07) NR.

“After” — In upstate New York, a middle-class family struggles with the financial consequences of a failing business and a series of intergenerational conflicts and rivalries. With Kathleen Quinlan, John Doman and Pablo Schreiber. Written by Sabrina Gennarino. Directed by Pieter Gaspersz. (1:41) NR.

“Cheatin’” — After falling for each other on a carnival ride, a blissful couple are divided by a scheming other woman in this animated film. With Sophia Takal, Jeremy Baumann and Alex Markowitz. Written and directed by Bill Plympton. (1:16) NR.

“Coldwater” — A teenager with a troubled past is forcefully taken, with his mother’s consent, to a harsh wilderness reform facility run by a retired war colonel. With P.J. Boudousque, James C. Burns and Chris Petrovski. Written by Vincent Grashaw and Mark Penney. Directed by Grashaw. (2:04) NR.

“Dinosaur 13” — A documentary following paleontologist Peter Larson, his unearthing of the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found, and his 10-year battle over the discovery. Directed by Todd Douglas Miller. (1:35) PG.

“The Expendables 3” — The mercenary team known as the Expendables face off against a former member who went rogue and was thought to be dead. With Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas and Jet Li. Written by Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. Directed by Patrick Hughes. (1:43) PG-13.

“Fifi Howls From Happiness” — A documentary portrait of the Iranian artist Bahman Mohassess, who was well known before the 1979 revolution but later censored by an oppressive regime. Directed by Mitra Farahani. In Farsi with English subtitles. (1:37) NR.

“Finding Fela” — A documentary about the Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti. Directed by Alex Gibney. (1:59) NR.

“Fort McCoy” — In summer 1944, a man moves with his family to serve as the barber for a military base in Wisconsin, which includes a German POW camp. With Eric Stoltz, Kate Connor and Lyndsy Fonseca. Written by Connor. Directed by Connor and Michael Worth. (1:40) R.

“Found” — A horror-obsessed fifth-grader discovers that his older brother is a serial killer. With Gavin Brown and Ethan Philbeck. Written by Scott Schirmer and Todd Rigney. Directed by Schirmer. (1:43) NR.

“The Giver” — In a seemingly utopian society marked by contentment and conformity, a young man is selected to be the new Receiver of Memory, the lone person in his community who carries the knowledge of the old world. With Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. Written by Michael Mitnick. Directed by Phillip Noyce. (1:29) PG-13.

“I Am Happiness on Earth” — As a filmmaker’s new project begins to mirror his daily life, the line between reality and fiction blurs. With Hugo Catalan, Alan Ramirez and Andrea Portal. Written by Julian Hernandez and Ulises Perez Mancilla. Directed by Hernandez. (2:04) NR.

“Let’s Be Cops” — Two rudderless friends dress as police officers for a costume party and enjoy their newfound authority, then get mixed up with real mobsters and dirty detectives. With Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson, Rob Riggle and Nina Dobrev. Written by Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas. Directed by Greenfield. (1:44) R.

“Level Five” — An experimental docudrama about World War II’s Battle of Okinawa. Directed by Chris Marker. In French with English subtitles. Icarus Films (1:46) NR.

“Life After Beth” — A young man grieving the recent death of his girlfriend is shocked by her mysterious reappearance, but she’s not quite the same. With Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan and John C. Reilly. Written and directed by Jeff Baena. (1:31) R.

“Mission Blue” — A documentary about oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle and her efforts to protect the oceans from pollution, overfishing and climate change. Directed by Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens. (1:35) NR.

“Nightlights” — A 27-year-old woman living with and providing for her autistic brother questions whether she can find happiness in her own life. With Leslie Easterbrook, Shawna Waldron and Stephen Louis Grush. Written by Nick Izzo and Adam Dick. Directed by David Midell. (1:27) NR.

“Rich Hill” — A documentary following three teenage boys coming of age in a small Missouri town. Directed by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo. (1:33) NR.

“Septic Man” — A sewage worker determined to uncover the cause of his town’s water-contamination crisis undergoes a hideous transformation. With Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth and Robert Maillet. Written by Tony Burgess. Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook. (1:27) R.

“The Trip to Italy” — Two Englishmen gab and bicker while on a culinary road trip around Italy in this sequel to the 2010 film “The Trip.” With Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Written by Coogan, Brydon and Michael Winterbottom. Directed by Winterbottom. (1:55) NR.

“Weaving the Past” — A documentary chronicling a filmmaker’s search to uncover the story of his grandfather, a Mexican revolutionary, immigrant and minister. Directed by Walter Dominguez. (2:06) NR.

Critics’ choices

“Alive Inside” — A joyous, unexpectedly uplifting documentary, winner of Sundance’s coveted audience award for U.S. doc, that details what happens when people with dementia put on earphones and hear their favorite music. The effect is miraculous. (K.Tu., Aug. 1) (1:14) NR.

“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. (B.S., July 11) (2:45) R.

“Calvary” — Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, “Calvary” reveals itself over and over to be a movie of surprises, a serious-minded, lightly comedic rumination on life, death, faith and community. From the jolting simplicity of the opening scene right through the final shots, it’s never quite the film you expect it to be. It sneaks up on you. (M.O, Aug. 1) (1:40) R.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” — Blessed with a loose, anarchic B-picture soul that encourages you to enjoy yourself even when you’re not quite sure what’s going on, this irreverent space opera takes us back to Marvel’s comic book roots and the subversive satisfactions those early days provided. (K.Tu., Aug. 1) In 3-D and Imax. (2:01) 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.

“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. (B.S., July 11) (1:35) R.

“A Most Wanted Man” — A taut, involving thriller, based on the novel by John le Carre, that’s a fitting final film for star Philip Seymour Hoffman, not only because it is so expertly done but because his role as a German spymaster combating terrorism was so challenging. (K.Tu., July 25) (2:01) 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.

“A Summer’s Tale” — Like a forgotten gift we now get to unwrap with delight, French director Eric Rohmer’s 1996 film, never before released in this country, arrives just in time to add a touch of delight to the cinematic landscape. (K.Tu., July 18) In French with English subtitles. (1:54) NR.

Also in theaters

“37: A Final Promise” — A rock star planning to kill himself on his upcoming 37th birthday to atone for a horrible crime he committed as a child falls for a woman with a dark secret of her own. With Randall Batinkoff, Scotti Thompson and Tricia Helfer. Written by Batinkoff and Jesse Stratton. Directed by Batinkoff. (1:32) NR.

“About Alex” — A circle of 20-something friends reunite for a weekend away after one of them suffers an emotional breakdown. With Aubrey Plaza, Max Greenfield and Nate Parker. Written and directed by Jesse Zwick. (1:38) NR.

“And So It Goes” — What would “And So It Goes” be without Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton? It’s hard to fathom, because even with these star wattage pros, Rob Reiner’s senior citizen romantic comedy is about as engaging as a drooling nap on a porch. (Robert Abele, July 25) (1:34) PG-13.

“As It Is in Heaven” — Members of a small religious sect in the Kentucky backcountry grapple with the death of their elderly prophet and his unexpected appointment of a newcomer as his successor. With Chris Nelson, Luke Beavers and Abi van Andel. Written by Ginny Lee Overbay. Directed by Joshua Overbay. (1:27) 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) (1:44) R.

“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.

“Deepsea Challenge 3D” — A documentary following filmmaker and underwater explorer James Cameron on expedition to the deepest part of the ocean. Directed by John Bruno, Andrew Wight and Ray Quint. (1:30) PG.

“The Dog” — A documentary about John Wojtowicz, whose 1972 attempt to rob a bank in order to finance his lover’s sex-change operation inspired the film “Dog Day Afternoon.” Directed by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren. (1:41) NR.

“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.

“A Five Star Life” — A hit in Italy, “Five Star Life” earned the country’s top acting award for Margherita Buy, whose lovely portrayal of an elegant “mystery guest” is as unflashy as the mildly conflicted movie itself. Director Maria Sole Tognazzi gently explores what it means to be unmarried, middle-aged and female. She illuminates a seldom-seen line of work, bathes her flawed characters in affection, and makes points both obvious and astute, soft-pedaling her insights with celebratory travelogue touches. (Sheri Linden, Aug. 1) In Italian with English subtitles. (1:25) NR.

“The Fluffy Movie” — Despite Mexican American comic Gabriel Iglesias’ engaging presence, amusing observations and deft imitations, “Fluffy” is a standard-issue comedy concert film far better suited to a 90-minute cable TV slot than the big screen. (Gary Goldstein, July 28) (1:41) PG-13.

“Get on Up” — Despite the linked advantages of generous helpings of James Brown’s high-octane music and a star performance by Chadwick Boseman that is little short of heroic, this biopic is more frustrating than fulfilling, a disjointed film that has a more ambitious plan than it has the ability to execute. (K.Tu., Aug. 1) (2:18) PG-13.

“Hercules” — If at first blush it feels as if casting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the mighty son of Zeus was more inevitable than inspired, the truth is the part fits the big guy like a glove. Without putting too fine a point on it, Hercules is Johnson’s King Lear or Willy Loman; an iconic, aspirational role that’s been long-simmering in his wheelhouse. (Gary Goldstein, July 25) (1:38) PG-13.

Los Angeles Times

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” — A promising young chef and his family, who have been displaced from India to the South of France and opened their own restaurant, come into conflict with the icy proprietress of a classical French restaurant in this movie based on the novel by Richard C. Morais. With Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren and Om Puri. Written by Steven Knight. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. (2:02) PG.

“Into the Storm” — A town is ravaged by deadly tornadoes while storm chasers try to obtain a once-in-a-lifetime shot in this found-footage-style thriller. With Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies and Matt Walsh. Written by John Swetnam. Directed by Steven Quale. (1:29) PG-13.

“The Kill Team” — A documentary about Private Adam Winfield, a 21-year-old soldier in Afghanistan who, with the help of his father, attempted to alert the military to war crimes his platoon was committing. Directed by Dan Krauss. (1:17) NR.

“Lucy” — The offspring of a shotgun marriage between Carl Sagan and Quentin Tarantino starring Scarlett Johansson, “Lucy” is part philosophical/scientific treatise, part action movie, a film that goes from mayhem to boredom in a heartbeat. (K.Tu., July 25) (1:28) R.

“Magic in the Moonlight” — In this amusing trifle and sugary truffle of a film, Woody Allen dallies with some of his favorite themes (true romance, magicians and spirituality) and favorite tropes (beautiful women and scenery). Colin Firth stars as a master magician out to unmask Emma Stone’s mentalist, a young tease playing the chateau circuit along the French Riviera in the summer of ‘28. The filmmaker has done froth far better and funnier. The seances are great fun, and the cast is charmingly eclectic. But as to whether “Moonlight” is magical — it is, but ever, ever so slightly. (B.S., July 25) (1:38) PG-13.

“The Maid’s Room” — A Colombian immigrant takes a seasonal job in East Hampton as a live-in maid to a privileged family and becomes the only witness to a crime her employers want to cover up. With Paula Garces, Philip Ettinger and Annabella Sciorra. Written and directed by Michael Walker. (1:50) NR.

“Mood Indigo” — Wacky, surreal, insanely playful, this version of Boris Vian’s cult novel is a film that believes that too much is not enough. Even for a wild and crazy French director like Michel Gondry, this is something out of the ordinary. (K.Tu., July 18) In French with English subtitles. (1:34) NR.

“No Cameras Allowed” — A documentary following James Marcus Haney, a music enthusiast who has snuck into dozens of music festivals. Directed by Haney. (1:24) NR.

“Planes: Fire and Rescue” — What this Disney animated feature lacks in the naming department, it makes up for with fluid visuals and fast-moving action of the, yes, firefighting variety. You’ll feel you could fight a fire yourself after seeing it. (K.Tu., July 18) (1:23) PG.

“The Purge: Anarchy” is a good deal bloodier, but also — gulp — a good deal better than its predecessor. Make no mistake, a good “Purge” does not equal a good movie, but the post-apocalyptic thriller is slightly more interesting because it takes itself, and its menace, more seriously. By building a marginally better “Anarchy,” no doubt we’re in for another purge next year. (B.S., July 18) (1:43) R.

“Sex Tape” — Let’s start with the bare facts. A big-screen shot of a naked handstand is an overshare of parts and places better left unexposed — even from the back, even in a raunchy sex comedy titled “Sex Tape,” even when executed by Jason Segel, like co-star Cameron Diaz, a very appealing actor, dressed or not. Worse still, given all the skin its stars show, never has sex been less sexy, though it is non-stop and all over the place. Is “Sex Tape” funny? Occasionally. But super sexy? Nope. (B.S., July 18) (1:35) R.

“Step Up All In” — A high-stakes dance contest in Las Vegas brings together crews from previous installments of the “Step Up” franchise. With Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan and Stephen “Twitch” Boss. Written by John Swetnam. Directed by Trish Sie. (1:52) PG-13.

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.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” — Four anthropomorphic turtles trained in martial arts team up with a fearless reporter and her wisecracking cameraman to save New York City from the villain Shredder and his henchmen, the Foot Clan. With Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner and K. Todd Freeman. Written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. (1:41) 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. (B.S., June 27) In 3-D and Imax. PG-13.

“Us and the Game Industry” — A documentary about the forefront of experimental computer game development. Directed by Stephanie Beth. (1:30) NR.

“War Story” — A veteran war photographer recovering from a brutal episode travels to Sicily and crosses paths with a former lover and a young migrant woman who bears a striking resemblance to someone she once photographed. With Catherine Keener, Hafsia Herzi and Vincenzo Amato. Written by Kristin Gore and Mark Jackson. Directed by Jackson. (1:29) NR.

“What If” — A medical-school dropout who has been repeatedly burned by bad relationships decides to put his love life on hold, only to spark a connection with an animator who, unfortunately, has a live-in boyfriend. With Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Rafe Spall. Written by Elan Mastai. Directed by Michael Dowse. (1:37) PG-13.

“Wish I Was Here” feels self-satisfied rather than sincere, defensive rather than open. For a film that purports to be about the process of maturity and growth, it is woefully un-evolved, lacking in understanding and insight. With its greeting card aphorisms and muddled style, Zach Braff’s latest feels like a step back rather than some new destination. There is simply no there to “Wish I Was Here.” (M.O., July 18) (1:50) R.

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