You know it’s a feel-good weekend at the movies when Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon hit the road trip together and Keira Knightley sings Mark Ruffalo back from the brink of despair.
Melissa McCarthy must have realized she can’t base an entire name-above-the-title career on the loudmouth-lout character that earned her an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids. So it’s a relief to see her soften up considerably in this appealing comedy: She plays an impulsive, aimless woman who, fired from her job and betrayed by her husband, takes off on a road trip with her vulgar, alcoholic grandma — acted with exquisite comic timing by Susan Sarandon. They play off each other beautifully: While McCarthy adopts some of Sarandon’s subtlety, Sarandon channels a bit of McCarthy’s manic unpredictability. FULL REVIEW
Having made us fall in love with Dublin street singers in Once, writer-director John Carney expands on that theme with a bigger budget and a much bigger city: New York. Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right) is a self-destructive music executive who sees his path to redemption in a gifted young English singer (Keira Knightley). The Pride & Prejudice star has a sweet set of pipes to match the film’s pleasing soundtrack, and the Big Apple’s streets never looked — or sounded — better. FULL REVIEW
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Beatles’ breakthrough movie is screening in 100 cities nationwide. Director Richard Lester set out to make an entertaining diversion about Britain’s biggest rock group — and wound up changing the film world forever. Not only are The Beatles and their music irresistible, but Lester’s handheld camera, artful editing and playful direction created the modern music video. The climactic scene of The Lads performing for a screaming audience remains one of the most energetic segments ever put on film.
Still Out There …
Handsomely filmed and beautifully acted, this true story of a half-African woman raised in an aristocrat’s home at the tail end of slavery in the British Empire takes some of the hard themes studied in 12 Years a Slave and wraps them in Jane Austen finery. The luminous Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the title role; Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson are the conflicted blue bloods who try to balance their affection for Belle with the realities of 18th-century England. FULL REVIEW
Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise stars as a soldier who dies in a battle against space aliens, only to find himself in a time loop that plops him back into that same fateful day over and over again. It’s a Twilight Zone-worthy scenario that gets smart, spectacular treatment from director Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity). Cruise is laugh-out-loud funny in the early scenes as a cocky Army information officer. Emily Blunt is tough as nails as a fellow warrior who warms up to Cruise — after a few hundred replays. FULL REVIEW
The Fault in Our Stars
Like the bestselling John Green novel that inspired it, this young romance about two teens who meet and fall in love in a cancer-support group aims squarely at the YA (young adult) audience. But veterans Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe provide solid support for youngsters Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, and comedian Mike Birbiglia is hilarious as a clueless support-group leader.
Here are two things this re-re-reboot of the 1954 Japanese classic does not have enough of:
1) Bryan Cranston
Unwisely, the star of TV’s Breaking Bad makes an early exit … and inexplicably the title character doesn’t really show up until the second half. Most of the film focuses on two incredibly ugly prehistoric critters that terrorize cities on both sides of the Pacific; the G-Man arrives later, Mighty Mouse-like, to save the day.
Clint Eastwood’s screen version of the smash Broadway musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The film revivifies most of the group’s big hits but avoids becoming a mere big-screen jukebox. The cast is uniformly flawless, especially John Lloyd Young, whoses choirboy voice and good looks won him a Tony award as Frankie. FULL REVIEW
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Every time Seth McFarlane’s Western satire takes a turn along its winding, dusty road, we discover that Mel Brooks got there first, 40 years ago in Blazing Saddles. There’s a story about the hero (McFarlane), an out-of-place sheep farmer, preparing for an ill-advised shootout. But the film works best whenever McFarlane presents — in hilariously graphic fashion — yet another way in which the Old West can do you in.
Angelina Jolie is the chief attraction here. As the “evil” queen who cast that shut-eye curse on Sleeping Beauty, she gives a brainy, heartfelt performance in a movie that mostly sacrifices nuance for bombast. Director Robert Stromberg visually quotes a lot of better movies, including Fantasia, Wings of Desire and Kevin Smith’s Dogma (check them out!). Jolie’s stellar turn aside, however, he seems unwilling to make an emotional connection. FULL REVIEW
The Other Woman
Three betrayed women (Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton) seek revenge on the guy who done them wrong (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). But didn’t First Wives Club already build this same scenario — and do it a whole lot smarter?
The scientists meant well when they tried to stop global warming, but their experiment wound up freezing everyone on the planet to death. Everyone, that is, except the folks on Snowpiercer, a round-the-world train powered by a perpetual-motion engine. In this cautionary tale from acclaimed Korean director Joon-ho Bong (The Host), Tilda Swinton is the Margaret Thatcher-esque strong woman who keeps the privileged few at the front of the train — and the rabble in the rear.
Think Like a Man Too
The guys and gals from 2012’s surprise hit Think Like a Man, based on the bestselling book by Steve Harvey, are back. This time they head to Las Vegas for a wedding and embark on a battle of the sexes to see who can have the most over-the-top prenup party. Grownup stars like Dennis Haysbert, Jennifer Lewis and George Wallace stop by, but it’s the kids’ night out. Kevin Hart continues his (successful) quest to become the screen’s latter-day Chris Rock.
As he did in his Oscar-winning Crash, writer/director Paul Haggis tells several overlapping stories spanning two continents, enlisting an all-star cast including Liam Neeson, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Maria Bello, Adrien Brody and Olivia Wilde. Crash was about race; Third Person seems to be about love, but not in a nice way: Everyone here is in a poisonous relationship or emerging from one. FULL REVIEW
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer lend grownup presence to the latest toy-inspired Michael Bay heavy-metal fest, but when it comes to this series, there’s nothing more than meets the eye.
Words and Pictures
To this summer’s list of handsome grownup couples, add Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen in a romance that’s got more on its mind than boy-gets-girl. She’s an art professor who thinks pictures are supreme; he’s an English prof who insists words are all that. As their debate rages, we discover two damaged people who each might be able to supply the emotional elements missing from their counterpart. FULL REVIEW
X-Men: Days of Future Past
You needn’t be obsessed with the X-Men mythology to be utterly caught up in this spectacular new adventure about Marvel’s ultimate crime-fighting tag team. Set partly in the future and partly in the past, it’s the story of how a government program to eliminate the X-Men “mutants” goes horribly awry. The team sends Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to enlist younger versions of the group to head off the carnage before it starts.
New on DVD, Blu-Ray and Video On Demand:
The most delightful film to come out of India since Monsoon Wedding is writer-director Ritesh Batra’s story of a young housewife and a middle-age man who build a fantasy world together by exchanging handwritten notes through Mumbai’s breathtakingly efficient (and meticulously filmed) lunchbox-delivery system.
The Twilight Zone: Essential Episodes
Fifty-five years after Rod Serling first unlocked that door to a fifth dimension, here’s the one where William Shatner sees a monster on the airplane wing…the one where Burgess Meredith longs for time enough at last to read…the one where the aliens want “To Serve Man”…and lots more. Even die-hard fans know The Twilight Zone offered up the occasional clunker; not one of those is here.
Reuniting after a pal’s funeral, the members of a 1980s punk group called The Weapons of Happiness resolve to stage a comeback. Nobody wants tracks laid down by a bunch of middle-age has-beens, though, so their leader (Phil Daniels) hatches a plan: They hire a teen band to lip-synch their stuff. Based on a true story, Vinyl is a wise, wistful and funny look at show-biz ageism.