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Rene Rodriguez

Rene Rodriguez has been The Herald's movie critic since 1995. He studied film criticism and filmmaking at the University of Miami. Before being named movie critic, he was an arts writer for The Herald and also worked on the city desk.



Life Itself (R)

There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a war against mankind in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)

    Yawn of the Planet of the Apes — excuse me, Dawn — has a big-budget sheen, a few terrific action setpieces and some of the most jaw-dropping CGI effects to date: You will believe these apes are real (although some of them are actors wearing costumes).

Chris Evans (center) and Jamie Bell (left) are about to crack some skulls aboard a speeding bullet train in “Snowpiercer.”

    Snowpiercer (R)

    In the near future, mankind attempts to solve the growing problem of global warming by shooting a missile into space that will lower the planet’s thermostat. Instead, the device plunges Earth into another ice age, killing all life except for the people on a huge bullet train that has been circling the globe for 17 years (don’t ask, just go with it).

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘We are the best!’: </span> Mira Barhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne team up to form a punk rock band.

    We Are the Best! (unrated)

    Much like its title implies, We Are the Best! is a lively, feel-good lark from Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, who returns to the upbeat vibe of his early films (Show Me Love, Together) with an altogether new kind of exuberance (the exclamation mark in the title is well-earned). Set in 1982 Stockholm, the film centers on two misfit best friends, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), who are mocked by their schoolmates for their punk hairstyles and androgynous looks (“Just go die somewhere!” one mean girl tells them).

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Transformers: Age of Extinction”:</span> Mark Wahlberg plays hide and seek with a giant robot.

    Transformers: Age of Extinction (PG-13)

    Everything you learned in science class about dinosaurs turns out to have been wrong. The prehistoric creatures weren’t killed off by global warming or a meteor smashing into Earth: In the opening minutes of Transformers: Age of Extinction, we learn it was Michael Bay and his computer-generated aliens who wiped the creatures out. If the rest of this visually stunning, technically impressive and crushingly dumb and overlong picture doesn’t also quite kill off the cinematic art entirely, at least it sends you home feeling like you won’t be going back to a movie theater for a good while.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum go undercover once again - this time as college students - in ‘22 Jump Street.’

    22 Jump Street (R)

    “Do the same thing as the last time, and everyone will be happy,” Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) tells officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) at the start of 22 Jump Street. Hardy is referring to their new assignment — pose as college students, track down drug traffickers and bust their supplier, just like they did at a high school in the smash hit 21 Jump Street. But Hardy is also referring to the nature of sequels, comedies in particular, which often try to repeat the success of the preceding hit by trotting out the same jokes. “It’s always worse the second time around,” Hardy says, the first of the movie’s countless meta-moments.

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless.

    How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG)

    Watching How to Train Your Dragon 2, you’re reminded of the thrill you felt when you saw your first computer-animated movie, be it Toy Story or A Bug’s Life or even the forgettable Antz. We’ve come to take the art form for granted, because there have been so many great ones (thanks, Pixar!). The ice castles of Frozen or the floating lanterns in Tangled momentarily stun us, then we’re on to the next thing. The ever-growing invasion of CGI in live-action movies, too, has robbed animated films of some of their impact. Visually, we’re jaded, which is part of the reason why the less-is-more approach used in Godzilla seemed so effective.

Brenton Thwaites stars as one of three friends who run into major trouble in the Nevada desert in ‘The Signal.’

    The Signal (PG-13)

    On a road trip from Cambridge to California, two MIT students, Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp), along with Nic’s girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke), start getting harrassed by a hacker who previously destroyed one of their school projects. But these guys are just as smart as their antagonizer, who goes by the online handle Nomad. While he’s able to spy on them via their own laptops, they’re able to pinpoint his location in the middle of the Nevada desert.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">OH, SHOOT: </span>Tom Cruise has faced the enemy again and again and again.

    Edge of Tomorrow (PG-13)

    In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise tackles the sort of character we rarely see him play: A clueless wimp. In the future, as mankind is fighting off an alien invasion that has taken down most of the eastern hemisphere, Cruise plays William Cage, a U.S. Army Major whose primary job is to go on TV, put a positive spin on bad news with that million-watt smile, issue press releases on how well the effort is going and sit down for talk shows to assure the public that although the world is at stake, the government has our backs.

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