Movie guide: Capsule listings, reviews of current releases

 

Los Angeles Times

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

"But Always" - Two best friends from Beijing reconnect in New York after years apart and begin a romance, despite have already established lives with others. With Nicholas Tse and Gao Yuanyuan. Written and directed by Snow Zou. In Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles. (1:46) NR.

"Expedition to the End of the World" - A documentary following a ship packed with artists and scientists sailing to the rapidly melting massifs of northeast Greenland. Directed by Daniel Dencik. In English and Danish, with English subtitles. (1:30) NR.

"Frontera" - After illegally crossing the border into the U.S., a Mexican man finds himself wrongly accused of killing a woman, and her widowed husband, a former sheriff, searches for the truth. With Ed Harris, Michael Pena and Eva Longoria. Written by Michael Berry and Luis Moulinet III. Directed by Berry. (1:43) PG-13.

"God Help the Girl" - A troubled teen in Glasgow meets two kindred spirits and forms a pop band. With Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray. Written and directed by Stuart Murdoch. (1:51) NR.

"The Identical" - The lives of identical twin brothers separated at birth during the Great Depression intersect years later life via their shared passion for music. With Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta and Seth Green. Written by Howard Klausner. Directed by Dustin Marcellino. (1:47) PG.

"Innocence" - Haunted by the death of her mother in a surfing accident, a 16-year-old girl moves to Manhattan with her novelist father and enrolls in an exclusive prep school that harbors a dark secret. With Sophie Curtis, Graham Phillips and Kelly Reilly. Written by Hilary Brougher and Tristine Skyler. Directed by Brougher. (1:36) PG-13.

"Kabbalah Me" - A documentary following a secular New York Jew's journey into the Kabbalah spiritual movement. Directed by Steven Bram and Judah Lazarus.(1:20) NR.

"Last Weekend" - An affluent matriarch gathers her dysfunctional family to spend Labor Day weekend at their well-appointed Lake Tahoe house, which she is secretly pained about selling. With Patricia Clarkson, Chris Mulkey and Zachary Booth. Written by Tom Dolby. Directed by Dolby and Tom Williams. (1:34) NR.

"Levitated Mass" - A documentary about Michael Heizer's monumental artwork "Levitated Mass" and its journey to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Directed by Doug Pray. (1:29) NR.

"The Longest Week" - A wealthy slacker living in his parents' prestigious Manhattan hotel suddenly finds himself evicted, disinherited and in love with his best friend's girlfriend. With Jenny Slate, Olivia Wilde and Billy Crudup. Written and directed by Peter Glanz. (1:30) PG-13.

"No No: A Dockumentary" - A documentary portrait of the eccentric major league pitcher Dock Ellis, who is most famous for claiming to have thrown a no-hitter under the influence of LSD. Directed by Jeffrey Radice. (1:40) NR.

"Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering" - A documentary about Ralph W. Moss, a former science writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who asserts that research about the promise of the alternative cancer therapy laetrile was covered up. Directed by Eric Merola. (1:15) NR.

"Starred Up" - A violent, arrogant 19-year-old convict is transferred to the same prison facility as his estranged father and quickly makes enemies among the authorities and his fellow inmates. With Jack O'Connell, Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend. Written by Jonathan Asser. Directed by David Mackenzie. (1:42) NR.

"Thunder and the House of Magic" - In this animated movie, an abandoned young cat stumbles into an mansion owned by a retired magician and has to help save it from a scheming nephew. With the voices of Murray Blue, Doug Stone and George Babbit. Written by James Flynn, Domonic Paris and Ben Stassen. Directed by Stassen and Jeremie Degruson. (1:25) NR.

CRITICS' CHOICES

"Calvary" - Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, "Calvary" reveals itself 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 the film you expect it to be. It sneaks up on you. (M.O, Aug. 1) (1:40) R.

"Frank" - Odd, offbeat and endearing and starring Michael Fassbender as a musician who wears an enormous fake head, "Frank" has its own kind of charm as well as some pointed, poignant things to say about the mysterious nature of creativity. (K.Tu., Aug. 22) (1:35) 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.

"Love Is Strange" - The strangest thing about "Love Is Strange," with its perfect pairing of John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a long-committed couple finally able to legalize their relationship in a lovely New York City garden wedding, is how little it is about gay marriage. The joining together of these two men in holy matrimony is rather a rock tossed in a placid lake. Far more interesting is the ripple effect. Indeed, the marriage between men is not the film's chief concern, but rather how life should be lived - its joys, pains and all of its orientations equally embraced. (B.S., Aug. 22) (1:38) 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.

"The One I Love" - There is something slightly subversive and satisfyingly spot on when a movie about love and marriage turns on a solitary detail. In "The One I Love," starring Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss as sparring spouses, basically it all comes down to the bacon. Who loves it and who loathes it matters. There is so much more than the bacon bits, but to get too specific about the movie's ins and outs would destroy the pleasure of discovering the surprise tucked inside. (B.S., Aug. 22) (1:31) R.

"The Trip to Italy" - One fascination of director Michael Winterbottom's breezy culinary road trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is the way the male ego gets skewered in the pair's exchanges. The film is essentially a running gag on the competitive urge as Coogan and Brydon try to outdo each other's Michael Caine impression, struggle to appear happy at one man's success or suppress a certain satisfaction at another's failure. Along the way, the pair sample the local cuisine, search out the spots that inspired British Romantic poets Shelley and Byron, and contemplate modern life and middle age. (B.S., Aug. 15) (1:55) NR.

ALSO IN THEATERS

"Are You Here" - Hopes have run understandably high for the first major feature film effort from "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner. Taken on its own terms - that is, as a buddy picture of modest but distinct ambitions - "Are You Here" proves a gently immersive, ingratiating, often witty character comedy with a pair of comfortably effective lead performances. (Gary Goldstein, Aug. 22) (1:53) R.

"As Above, So Below" - A team of explorers venture into the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris to uncover the secrets of the city of the dead. With Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman and Edwin Hodge. Written by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle. Directed by John Erick Dowdle. (1:33) R.

"The Calling" - A detective in a sleepy town comes face to face with a serial killer motivated by a higher calling. With Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace and Gil Bellows. Written by Scott Abramovitch. Directed by Jason Stone. (1:48) R.

"Cantinflas" - A biopic about the iconic Mexican film actor known as Cantinflas. With Oscar Jaenda, Michael Imperiloi and Ilse Salas. Written by Edui Tijerina. Directed by Sebastian del Amo. In Spanish with English subtitles. (1:36) PG.

"The Congress" - An aging actress with an ailing son makes a deal with a Hollywood studio to have her likeness digitally scanned, preserved and used without restriction in future films. With Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel and Jon Hamm. Written and directed by Ari Folman. (2:02) NR.

"The Damned" - A man widowed from his Colombian-born wife flies to Bogota with his new fiancee to retrieve his rebellious teenage daughter, but a car accident leaves them stranded at a run-down inn. With Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles and Nathalia Ramos. Written by Richard D'Ovidio. Directed by Victor Garcia. (1:28) 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.

"The Expendables 3" - An action film starring Sylvester Stallone and other aging types which tries to make a virtue of necessity by constructing a film about younger folks muscling their sclerotic compatriots out of a job. That may sound interesting, but it's really not. (K.Tu., Aug. 15) (1:43) 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.

"The Giver" - The problem with this Jeff Bridges-Meryl Streep version of the Lois Lowry dystopian classic is not that it departs from the original but that it's been unable to find a way to make the essence of the book cinematically involving. (K.Tu., Aug. 15) (1:29) PG-13.

"The Hundred-Foot Journey" - A sweet and unapologetic fairy tale for adults, this story of cuisines and cultures in conflict starring Helen Mirren and Om Puri has been polished to such a high sheen it's hard to know whether to be impressed or disheartened. Or both. (K.Tu., Aug. 8) (2:02) PG.

"If I Stay" - Adapted from Gayle Forman's popular young adult novel and starring Chloe Grace Moretz, this is a flat-out all-in fantasy romance, an unashamed tear-jerker that is unafraid of glossy emotions. (K.Tu., Aug. 22) (1:47) PG-13.

"Into the Storm" - Basically a B-picture with a sizable effects budget, this film knows you bought your ticket for the tornadoes, not the dramatics, and acts accordingly. Its story line and performances are no more than serviceable, but those terrible twisters are state-of-the-art. (K.Tu. Aug. 8) (1:29) PG-13.

"Jamie Marks Is Dead" - A cross-country star becomes fascinated with a recently deceased teenager, whose ghost begins appearing to him. With Cameron Monaghan, Morgan Saylor and Noah Silver. Written and directed by Carter Smith. (1:40) NR.

"Kundo" - In the last days of Korea's Joseon Dynasty, a pack of bandits steal from the rich and give to the poor. With Ha Jung-woo, Gang Gong-won and Lee Sung-min. Written by Jeon Cheol-hong. Directed by Yoon Jong-bin. In Korean with English subtitles. (1:40) NR.

"The Last of Robin Hood" - A biographical drama about the final years of the swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn and his affair with an underage starlet. With Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon and Dakota Fanning. Written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. (1:30) R.

"Let's Be Cops" - There's an appealing hint of misadventure in a title like "Let's Be Cops," as well as in the first few scenes in which two down-on-their-luck roommates (played by Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. realize the power rush of impersonating authority. All of which makes the rote, slipshod and unfunny rest of the movie all the more dispiriting - like a drug that's as much fun as precinct paperwork. (Gary Goldstein, Aug. 13) (1:44) R.

"A Letter to Momo" - In the wake of a family quarrel and the disappearance of her father, a young girl moves to a remote island with her mother and discovers three mischieious spirit creatures living in the attic. With the voices of Karen Miyama, Yuka and Toshiyuki Nishida. Written and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. In Japanese with English subtitles, and dubbed in English. (2 hrs.) NR.

"Life of Crime" - The wife of a corrupt real estate developer is kidnapped by two criminals and held for ransom, but his decision not to pay the ransom sets of a chain of double-crosses. With Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins and John Hawkes. Written and directed by Daniel Schechter. (1:39) R.

"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). The filmmaker has done froth far better and funnier. (B.S., July 25) (1:38) PG-13.

"May in the Summer" - A sophisticated New Yorker returns to her childhood home in Jordan for her wedding, and cultural and familial conflicts lead her to question the step she is about to take. With Cherien Dabis, Alia Shawkat and Nadine Malouf. Written and directed by Dabis. In English and Arabic, with English subtitles. (1:39) NR.

"The Notebook" - Toward the end of World War II, a desperate mother leaves her 13-year-old twin sons at their cruel grandmother's country home, where they harden themselves into becoming unfeeling and merciless. With Laszlo Gyemant, Andras Gyemant and Piroska Molnar. Written by Janos Szasz and Andras Szeker. Directed by Szasz. In Hungarian with English subtitles. (1:50) R.

"The November Man" - Onetime 007 portrayer Pierce Brosnan playing an ex-CIA spook drawn out of retirement is familiar territory in these days of grizzled veterans ("Taken," "Red," "The Expendables") pulled back in the game. Brosnan is aging quite nicely as a leading man, but even his residual appeal running around again in agent mode is diluted by his character's inconsistencies, a hindrance unaided by the screenplay's silly soup of the gritty and the ridiculous. (Robert Abele, Aug. 27) (1:48) R.

"Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie" - The young ninja Naruto confronts the masked figure responsible for the death of his parents in this anime film. With the voices of Maile Flanagan, Kate Higgins and Tony Oliver. Written by Yuka Miyata and Masashi Kishimoto. Directed by Hayato Date. (1:50) NR.

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill" - For The greatest sin of "A Dame To Kill For" is the way its high style is brought low - visually stunning, but emotionally vapid, unrelentingly violent, its splendiferous comic book cast mostly squandered. There is an interesting kernel of a story about beauty, betrayal and brutality inside each of the film's scenarios. But the kernel never pops, and all we're really left with is a whole lot of neo-noir corn. (B.S., Aug. 22) (1:42)

"Step Up All In" - Though "Step Up All In" emphasizes the difficulty of surviving on a dancer's unpredictable wages, the film has a muscled buoyancy and thrilling, joyful spectacles that make the fifth installment of the franchise an energetic crowd-pleaser. (Inkoo Kang, Aug. 8) (1:52) PG-13.

"The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears" - After returning home to find his wife missing with no signs of a struggle or break-in and no help from the police, a man finds himself tumbling down a pyschosexual rabbit hole. With Klaus Tange, Ursula Bedena and Joe Koener. Written and directed by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani. In French and Dutch, with English subtitles. (1:42) NR.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" - The new adaptation of the comic book "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," directed by Jonathan Liebesman, often feels like some sort of corporate seminar in brand management. There is something half-hearted about the entire film, as if those behind it were involved not because they wanted to make it, not because they should make it, but just because they could. (M.O., Aug. 8) (1:41) PG-13.

"When the Game Stands Tall" - A true tale of high school football achievement becomes a strained, by-the-numbers grab bag of uplift in this Christian sports drama. For that intersection between sports and manhood, you're better off binge-watching "Friday Night Lights." (Robert Abele, Aug. 22) (1:54) PG.

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