Movies: ‘Million Dollar Arm’ reviewed and other new, recent films

OPENING

CHEF

Not reviewed

Rated R for language, including some suggestive references

Stars: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman

After giving up his job at a high-end restaurant a chef (Favreau) opens a food truck and tries to win back his estranged family. Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Swingers”) wrote and directed the comedy.

FOR NO GOOD REASON

Not reviewed

Rated R for language, some drug content and brief sexual images

Stars: Johnny Depp, Ralph Steadman

Johnny Depp, friend of the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, pays a visit to Thompson’s illustrator, the equally gonzo English artist Ralph Steadman. Charlie Paul makes his directorial debut with the documentary.

GODZILLA

★ ★ ½

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence

Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe

This $160-million reboot is still a big, dumb monster movie at heart, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s lots of miscellaneous human drama to wade through involving lots of not-quite-A-list stars, but the main attraction is a prehistoric-era grudge match between the big G and a couple of bad-guy monsters that look like giant dung beetles. Sure, that might sound silly, and it is, really, but the important thing is that the new “Godzilla” looks and sounds awesome. Tremendously awesome at best. Just wait until you hear this crazy reptile roar.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM

★ ★ ½

Rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content

Stars: Jon Hamm, Alan Arkin, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal

As bland, family-friendly, wholesome inspirational sports movies go, “Million Dollar Arm” has its moments. It’s just a shame it winds up being about the wrong characters. Rather than telling the story of the first two major-league baseball prospects to be signed from India, “Million Dollar” is mostly about the LA superagent (Hamm) who finds them in a nation-wide talent contest. And then has to learn valuable lessons about life, love and What Really Matters Most. Hint: it’s not money.

STILL PLAYING

BELLE

★ ★ ½

Rated PG for thematic elements, some language and brief smoking images

Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sarah Gadon, James Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson

There’s a lot of fascinating historical fact in this handsomely produced, Merchant Ivory-style period drama about a mixed-race young woman (Mbatha-Raw) occupying a complicated place in the family of an English lord (Wilkinson) famous for judicial decisions damaging to the 18th-century slave trade. Unfortunately, “Belle” ultimately disappoints by developing into a bogus romance, while simultaneously attempting to resolve the issue of slavery. Amma Asante (“A Way of Life”) directed the historical drama.

FED UP

Not reivewed

Rated PG for thematic elements including smoking images, and brief mild language

Stars: Michele Simon

TV journalist Katie Couric executive-produced this investigation into why more Americans continue to gain weight and become seriously ill because of their diet, despite increased awareness of the issue. Stephanie Soechtig (“Tapped”) directed the drama.

LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN

★ ½

Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril

Stars: Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, Kelsey Grammer

If you’re going to make a movie with “Oz” in the title, you’d better be prepared to kick in at least a little inspiration. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what’s missing in this painfully unimaginative musical animated adventure. After briefly touching base in Kansas, Dorothy (Michele) is whisked back to Oz to rescue her friends and save the kingdom from the menacingly manic Jester (Martin Short). Who’s more than a little reminiscent of a certain comic-book super villain whose name also begins with a J.

MOMS’ NIGHT OUT

★ ★

Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action

Stars: Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins

A lot of effort clearly went into making this wholesome, middle-class suburban-nightmare comedy appealing for a broad general audience despite its religious agenda. But it’s hard to imagine anyone other than an audience of true believers feeling good about sitting through the increasingly aggravating “Moms’ Night Out,” especially when it finally gets around to driving home its moral and spiritual lessons. Sarah Drew of “Grey’s Anatomy” stars as a stressed young mom desperate for a night out with her compadres, but of course things don’t go according to plan. The initially pleasant comic mood shifts from stressed to frantic, then strident, overbearing and wearisome.

NEIGHBORS

★ ★ ½

Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout

Stars: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco

A couple with a newborn baby (Rogen and Byrne) have neighbor problems after being forced to move in next door to a frat house. Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) directed the comedy.

BLUE RUIN

★ ★ ★ ½

Rated R for strong bloody violence, and language

Stars: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves

You couldn’t ask for a more unlikely avenger than the ill-equipped, sort-of hero of “Blue Ruin” and that’s precisely why it’s far, far more suspenseful than the typical violent revenge thriller. It’s also why it functions equally well as a potent reflection on the futility of revenge. When reclusive, homeless Dwight (Blair, first long-haired and bearded, then looking like a nervous accountant after a haircut and bath) learns that the man who murdered his parents is being released from prison, he’s terrified — but he immediately tracks him down. Then he has to cope with the rest of the man’s redneck crime family. The low-budget Southern thriller was a major winner at last year’s Cannes Festival.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

★ ★ ★

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx

There’s too much of everything in “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” from emotional agony to ultra-spectacular super-combat, and at least one too many super-villains on the loose. But it still manages to amaze more often than not. As in 2012’s unnecessary yet still enormously entertaining reboot “Amazing Spider-Man,” director Marc Webb takes the dramatic content seriously while still delivering the requisite superheroic thrills. If only he’d only made do with Electro (Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and not let the Rhino (poor, pachyderm-suited Paul Giamatti) out of his pen.

LOCKE

Not reviewed

Rated R for language throughout

Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson

Nine months after having sex one time with a woman he barely knows, a man (Hardy) makes a long drive to the hospital where she’s giving birth, destroying his career and his marriage along the way. Screenwriter Steven Knight (“Redemption”) directed the drama.

WALK OF SHAME

Not reviewed

Rated R for language and some sexual content

Stars: Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Gillian Jacobs

After an impulsive one-night stand, a TV reporter (Banks) is stranded without a phone, car, ID or money before the most important interview of her career. Steven Brill (“Drillbit Taylor”) wrote and directed the comedy.

BRICK MANSIONS

★ ½

Rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material

Stars: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA

Having the chance to see French stuntman David Belle do his truly amazing Parkour thing is enough to make sitting through the eye-rollingly stupid “Brick Mansions” worthwhile. Sadly, the last film completed by affable “Fast and Furious” star Walker (before dying in a car crash last year) is an overblown remake of the much-more-exciting French thriller “District B-13,” which mainly existed as a Parkour showcase. The plot about taking down an evil urban drug lord (RZA) is identical, but most everything else is a trade-down.

FADING GIGOLO

★ ★ ½

Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity

Stars: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara

Woody Allen pimps out John Turturro with Sharon Stone as a customer in Turturro’s oddball comedy romance, among even wilder unlikelihoods, but if you can set stuff aside there are things to enjoy here. It’s also a bit strange that Turturro casts himself, un-ironically, as a ladies’ man supreme, but never mind. The emphasis is on old-fashioned romance, with Allen providing the comedy in a role written for him, as an aging New Yorker who turns to procuring when he’s forced to close his bookstore, figuring his middle-aged florist friend has always had a knack with the ladies. He gets in considerable trouble when he decides to add a lonely Hasidic rabbi’s widow (Vanessa Paradis) to the client list.

THE OTHER WOMAN

★ ★

Rated R for some sexual references

Stars: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton

For a movie that preaches sisterhood and empowerment, “The Other Woman” takes a low-common-denominator approach that suggests a sad lack of respect for its target audience, unless you think it’s fiendishly clever for a wronged woman to take revenge on a no-good philanderer by substituting depilatory cream for his shampoo. Mann, at her best here, almost makes up for it as the naïve wife of the aforementioned womanizer (Coster Waldau of “Game of Thrones”) who discovers he has not one but two women on the side (Diaz and supermodel Upton). That inspires all three to team up for summer-camp-style revenge.

THE QUIET ONES

★ ★

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout

Stars: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke

Semi-villainous paranormal researcher Jared Harris purrs “I hope you don’t scare easily” at one point here but it seems likely the producers of this tedious exercise in retro-horror were hoping for just the opposite. In addition to relying on the old-fashioned, atmospheric approach to horror (handled better in other recent thriller such as “The Conjuring”), “The Quiet Ones” is set in 1972, a combo that makes it seem doubly dated. Harris intends to find a cure for mental illness by debunking the supposed demon possession of a deeply disturbed young woman (Cooke) he’s borrowed from an asylum, but, of course, that doesn’t quite go the way he plans.

BEARS

Not reviewed

Rated G

Stars: John C. Reilly

A year in the life of an Alaskan bear family is chronicled. Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey (“African Cats”) directed the Disney documentary.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2

★ ½

Rated R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violent images

Stars: Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Cedric the Entertainer

While it’s every bit as stupid, offensive and shamefully pandering as last year’s original, this sub-lowbrow horror-parody actually represents a bit of an improvement in terms of watchability. Meaning it’s still an exercise in awfulness but it moves along at a decent clip. Producer/co-writer/star Wayans (no one tops him for shrieking hysteria) returns with a new girlfriend in a new house for more degenerate silliness about demonic infestation.

DRAFT DAY

★ ★ ½

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual references

Stars: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner

Though mainly a baseball kind of guy (“Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams”), Costner acquits himself reasonably in this wannabe nail-biter about behind-the-scenes machinations leading up to the NFL draft. As the embattled general manager of the Cleveland Browns, he contends with a girlfriend (Garner) who announces she’s pregnant, a mom who wants to bury his dad’s ashes on the 50-yard line and other distractions while trying to decide whether or not to bet everything on a golden-boy first-round pick. Director Ivan Reitman (of “Ghostbusters” fame) emphasizes drama but uses a light touch trying to emulate the insider appeal of “Moneyball.”

TRANSCENDENCE

Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality

Stars: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman

After being fatally wounded, a scientist uploads his consciousness onto a super-computer and becomes dangerously powerful. Cinematographer Wally Pfister (“The Dark Knight”) makes his directorial debut with the sci-fi drama.

CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER

★ ★ ★

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

Stars: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson

You can’t fault this high-energy/high-drama follow-up for being unambitious since it ups the ante on both adrenaline-pumping action and factoring serious socio-political issues into the plot. Ultimately, it goes a bit too far and bogs down in both areas, but if you can factor that out, “Winter Soldier” is as impressive as it is entertaining. Evans returns as the anachronistically wholesome, old-fashioned World War II hero thawed out after 70 years on ice and faced with major new challenges: His ethical opposition to a S.H.I.E.L.D. involvement in grand-scale surveillance and drone warfare, and a Cold War Soviet super-assassin with whom he has personal history.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

★ ★ ★ ★

Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody

If you admire director Wes Anderson at his best (“Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” 2012’s “Moonrise Kingdom”), there’s a good chance you’ll be delighted by this masterfully executed, highly stylized, occasionally perverse farce. “Grand Budapest Hotel” is the story of Gustav H (Fiennes in a rare comic role), legendary concierge of the hotel in its 1930s glory days. He’s embroiled in an increasingly complicated struggle involving murder, a priceless stolen painting, young love, an evil aristocrat with a homicidal henchman (Brody and Dafoe), more murders, a prison break and a climactic cross-country chase. It’s strange to think of Anderson turning out a crowd- pleaser given his eccentric work (on display here), but this may be as close as he gets.

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