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Movies: ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ reviewed and other new, recent films

X marks the spot: Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Hugh Jackman in
X marks the spot: Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Hugh Jackman in "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

OPENING

CHINESE PUZZLE

Not reviewed

Rated R for sexual content, nudity and language

Stars: Romaine Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cecile De France

A French novelist (Duris) relocates to New York after the mother of his children (Tautou) moves there with them. The third in a series of romantic comedies written and directed by Cedric Klapish.

MALEFICENT

Not reviewed

Rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images

Stars: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley

After placing a sleeping curse on an infant princess, a vindictive fairy (Jolie) realizes the girl is the only one who can restore peace in her kingdom. Oscar-winning visual effects artist Robert Stromberg makes his directorial debut with the action fantasy.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

Not reviewed

Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman

A cowardly farmer (MacFarlane) in the Old West is forced to confront a gunfighter (Neeson) after falling in love with his wife (Theron). MacFarlane (“Ted”) co-wrote and directed the comedy.

STILL PLAYING

BLENDED

★ ★ 1/2

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content

Stars: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore

The mere fact that it isn’t “Grownups 3” is reason enough to view the latest Adam Sandler comedy as an improvement, but it also helps that Drew Barrymore is part of the mix. Barrymore has a way of bringing out the best in Sandler. She did it in 1998’s “The Wedding Singer” and 10 years ago in “50 First Dates.” And she does it here as single mom with two boys forced to share a family vacation with widower Sandler and his three girls. Still, every time “Blended” starts to achieve a little sophistication it quickly devolves to dumb default mode.

THE IMMIGRANT

Not reviewed

Rated R for sexual content, nudity and some language

Stars: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner

After immigrating to America in the 1920s, a woman (Cotillard) falls victim to a charming pimp (Phoenix) before falling in love with a stage magician (Renner). James Gray (“The Yards”) co-wrote and directed the drama.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

★ ★ ★

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Lawrence

The superhero action is as mega-spectacular as you might expect and quite nicely handled by director Bryan Singer, returning to the franchise after 10 years. But the greatest entertainment comes from the 1970s setting, where Wolverine (Jackman) has traveled to prevent an assassination that messes up the future for man and mutant alike — think lava lamps, water beds and hairstyles that make Wolverine look right at home. As a bonus, there’s also a satisfying emotional component as the aging professor Xavier (Stewart) helps his younger self (McAvoy) make some difficult choices.

CHEF

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Rated R for language, including some suggestive references

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

After hit-and-miss results in big budget land, (hits including “Elf” and the first two “Iron Man” movies, misses such as “Cowboys and Aliens” and “Zathura”), writer/director Jon Favreau returns to his roots with this small-scale, artistically nourishing charmer. And you can almost sense his relief to be making a movie entirely devoid of special effects. Favreau also stars as an upscale LA chef who takes advantage of career disaster to start over with a food truck — rediscovering what he loved about cooking in the first place. And reconnecting with the people he loves.

FOR NO GOOD REASON

★ ★ ★

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

Stars: Johnny Depp, Ralph Steadman

Apparently 15 years in the making, this working portrait of artist and illustrator Ralph Steadman is both welcome and long overdue. It’s just a shame it doesn’t include a little more personal revelation — or a little less unquestioning admiration. Depp, a buddy of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, whose work provided the greatest outlet for Steadman’s savage vision, offers little but star-power and mumbled appreciation as the kindly, soft-spoken artist creates new pieces from scratch. But the work speaks vividly for itself.

GODZILLA

★ ★ 1/2

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

★ ★ 1/2

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 nationwide talent contest. And then has to learn valuable lessons about life, love and What Really Matters Most. Hint: it’s not money.

BELLE

★ ★ 1/2

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.

LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN

★ 1/2

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.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

Not reviewed

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.

FADING GIGOLO

★ ★ 1/2

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.

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.

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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