A quirky look at intergenerational relations, a warm comedy about a hot affair, and a misguided buddy pic arrive in theaters this weekend.
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). But this is the movies, people, so their newfound hipster lifestyle begins to sour as ulterior motives surface. Writer-director Noah Baumbach, whose The Squid and the Whale won a Movies for Grownups award, keeps the laughs coming even as the film makes poignant observations about midlife’s inherent queasiness quotient. Bonus points for Charles Grodin as Stiller’s father, resplendent in a tux.
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 guy’s quirky but devoted parents.
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.
Still out there:
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’re introduced to billionaire bondage boy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his oh-so-willing submissive partner (Dakota Johnson).
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).
At its best, this dramatic fantasy — about a hapless New York shoemaker ( Adam Sandler) who discovers he can magically become his customers simply by trying on their shoes — plays like an above-average Twilight Zone episode. The plot gets too convoluted, but Sandler again proves adept at a substantial acting role.
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)
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Even after watching the trailer, we have no idea what this movie is about, but the first installment ( Divergent, natch) made $260 million. It looks a little bit like The Hunger Games, so there’s that. If nothing else, director Robert Schwentke’s name is fun to say.
Perhaps hoping to carve out a Liam Neeson–like action-movie career, another great screen actor, Sean Penn, picks up a sidearm and leaps into the abyss. Here he’s a retired hit man trying to turn his life around — but, of course, his past catches up with him. Mayhem ensues.
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)
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. Richard Gere is charming as a new guest, but young Dev Patel wins Actor We’d Most Like to Evict.
New on DVD, Blu-Ray and Video on Demand:
Into the Woods
Stephen Sondheim’s landmark musical score stays intact from the original stage musical, and the movie version’s splendid cast members — notably Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Christine Baranski — are in fine form and voice. But director Rob Marshall’s vision is universally menacing, and the film lacks the clear delineation between whimsical first act and considerably darker finale.
Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean
The greatest physical comedian of his generation, Rowan Atkinson stars in this 25th-anniversary collection of all 14 episodes of his landmark British comedy series. Don’t settle for YouTube outtakes; you need to see each episode in full to appreciate Atkinson’s genius for building gags over a half hour.
In the first half of this film, based on the inspiring true story of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, Angelina Jolie proves she can direct a taut survival-at-sea movie. In the second half she succeeds at depicting the brutality of a Japanese POW camp. But she fails to blend the two accounts into a satisfying narrative, or even to provide a much-needed sense of closure.
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