Parents, Kids...and Jennifer Aniston in Pain

In theaters, three films take very different views of family bonds, while at home Jennifer Aniston’s breakthrough performance takes the Cake.

 

The Age of Adaline
Never aging a day past 29 sounds like a pretty sweet deal — at first. But as Blake Lively’s titular character discovers, it also means watching everyone you love grow old — including your 80-something daughter (a radiant Ellen Burstyn) and that handsome hunk with whom you once had a thing (the ever-dashing Harrison Ford). If you still go all moony over the 1980 Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour weepie Somewhere in Time, this lovers-separated-by-the-ages fantasy is for you.

 

Little Boy
An appealing cast — including Tom Wilkinson, Kevin James and Emily Watson — enlivens this heartfelt story of a World War II-era child convinced he can magically bring his beloved dad back from the battlefield. A challenging subplot, in which the boy tries to befriend a Japanese-American man shunned by the town’s residents, lends Little Boy some welcome heft.

 

The Water Diviner
First-time director Russell Crowe tackles one of World War I’s most consequential events: the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey. Crowe also stars as an Australian farmer who travels to Turkey after the war to learn what became of his three sons, reportedly among the battle’s 150,000 casualties.

 

New on DVD and Home Video

 

Cake
Jennifer Aniston’s funny/tragic performance as a woman in the grip of chronic pain earned her a Golden Globe nomination this year — and reminded everyone how far her acting skills extend beyond her sitcom/tabloid persona.

Dance with Me, Henry (1956)
Abbot and Costello’s final film is a surprisingly gritty affair: Bud is a gambler in trouble, Lou is the owner of a struggling kiddie amusement park and Child Services is threatening to take away the two orphans Lou is raising. The plot involves gangsters, murder and kidnapping. Check out the closing title: It’s the one and only time Lou got top billing.

The River (1951)
Ranking high in the rankings of Movies That Haven’t Aged Well is this film’s story of three young women smitten with the same dashing sea captain. But director Jean Renoir’s Technicolor vision of life along the Ganges, flowing with color and pulsating with humanity, remains indelible.

Taken 3
What, you’ve already seen the first two? Okay, never mind!

 

Still out there in theaters:

5 to 7
Embedded in this disarming comedy about a young New York novelist ( Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin) having an affair with a married Frenchwoman (Bérénice Marlohe) are sparkling, don’t-miss performances by Glenn Close and Frank Langella as the scrivener’s quirky but devoted parents.

50 Shades of Grey
We’re not supposed to laugh out loud at a movie that features beautiful young people having kinky sex, right? Yet that’s precisely what happens almost from the moment we meet billionaire bondage boy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his oh-so-willing submissive partner (Dakota Johnson).

Cheatin’
Renegade animator Bill Plympton has created a true toon for grownups — a darkly engaging fantasy about the wife of a helpless philanderer who finds a way to magically become each and every one her husband’s lovers. Opening in limited theaters and available this month on Video on Demand.

Child 44
Tom Hardy, one of our great screen actors, stars as a disgraced Stalin-era KGB agent on the trail of a child killer. Persistently grim and convoluted, the film (from the novel by Tom Rob Smith) is a notch above standard TV crime procedurals thanks to its fine cast, especially Gary Oldman as a Soviet officer. It’s been banned in Russia, so you’ll have to catch it over here.

Cinderella
Disney’s live-action adaptation of the animated classic keeps the most charming elements of the original’s damsel-in-distress scenario and transforms the central character into a strong-willed young woman determined to overcome her dismal plight at the hands of a truly wicked stepmother ( Cate Blanchett).

Danny Collins
Al Pacino triumphs in this joyful story of a legendary pop-music star who faces a late-midlife crisis when he discovers that, way back in 1971, John Lennon had written him a letter urging him not to sell out as an artist. The superb cast includes Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale (FULL REVIEW)

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Desert Dancer
The central characters (a band of dancers trying to defy the Iranian government’s ban on their art) are plenty young and pretty. But their true story — of ordinary people who consider artistic expression essential to their being — is timeless. The distractingly by-the-numbers storytelling is redeemed by several glorious interludes of exquisite dance.

Effie Gray
Writer-costar Emma Thompson ( Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice) has dipped into Britain’s bonneted past one time too many, producing this lifeless account of the loveless “marriage,” if you want to call it that, between Victorian artist John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and his decade-younger bride, Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning).  (FULL REVIEW)

Furious 7
“What’s that?! Sorry, you’re going to have to scream louder over all these revving engines!” Seriously, Vin Diesel: Put a muffler on it.

Get Hard
This comedy about a convicted exec ( Will Ferrell) who hires a streetwise guy who owns a car wash (Kevin Hart) to help him prepare for prison commits any number of offenses. The worst? It reminds us how desperately we miss Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, who played the same gag to untouchable perfection in Stir Crazy.

The Longest Ride
Superhunk Scott Eastwood ( Clint’s son) and superhottie Britt Robertson ( Under the Dome) costar in this latest weepie from the pen of Nicholas Sparks ( The Notebook). But for acting aficionados, Alan Alda (in a small but pivotal role) provides the real eye candy.

Maps to the Stars
Despite a great cast — including  Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson — director David Cronenberg’s satire of Hollywood is as phony as the culture he attempts to skewer. ( FULL REVIEW)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Hey, look—it’s Kevin James on a Segway again. Ha!

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
In this sequel the original stars (including  Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy) prove to be just as delightful the second time around. Regrettably, the script adds precious little to the  first installment. Yes, Richard Gere is charming as a new guest, but young Dev Patel wins Actor We’d Most Like to Defenestrate. (FULL REVIEW)

Unfriended
This thriller about teens stalked by an otherworldly evil unfolds entirely on a desktop computer screen. Hit “delete.”

While We’re Young
A middle-aged documentary maker ( Ben Stiller) and his wife ( Naomi Watts) add some spark to their humdrum lives when they befriend a couple nearly half their age (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Bonus points for Charles Grodin as Stiller’s father, resplendent in a tux. (FULL REVIEW)

Woman in Gold
Helen Mirren is the real golden girl in this true story of Maria Altmann, the woman who sued the Austrian government to recover a painting the Nazis stole from her family. As her young L. A. attorney, Ryan Reynolds at first merely humors his client, but soon he’s as blindly driven as she is to bring home the painting, Glustav Klimt’s “Woman in Gold.” (FULL REVIEW)

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