Movies: ‘Obvious Child’ reviewed, and other new, recent films

No laughing matter: Jenny Slate in
No laughing matter: Jenny Slate in "Obvious Child."

OPENING

OBVIOUS CHILD

★ ★ ★

Rated R for some thematic elements, violence and language

Stars: Jenny Slate Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffman

Not entirely a romantic-comedy, a coming-of-age story or an issue-driven message movie, the unplanned-pregnancy-centered “Obvious Child” draws elements from all three with mixed results — a little funny, a little touching, very mired in hipster self-absorption. Struggling comic Donna Stern (“Saturday Night Live” alum Jenny Slate) discovers she’s pregnant and decides on an abortion, but can’t figure out what to do about the hopelessly unhip potential dad (Lacy) who keeps showing up.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

★ ★ ★

Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor

Stars: Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrara, Kit Harrington

The 3D animation is dazzling, but also a tad overwhelming, and the action may be a bit too brutal for smaller kids, but this ante-upping mega-sequel still soars, mainly because it’s still basically the story of a boy and his dragon. Five years after saving his Viking village in the 2010 original, the beefed-up Viking lad Hiccup (Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless set out to explore the world — and come into conflict with a dark dragon master intent on enslaving it.

THE GRAND SEDUCTION

Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material and drug references

Stars: Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Liane Balaban

In order to entice a new factory to settle in their town and save it from financial ruin, the residents of tiny Tickle Cove attempt to convince a young doctor (Kitsch) that it’s the most wonderful place in the world to live. Don McKellar (“Childstar”) directed the comedy.

THE SIGNAL

Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence and language

Stars: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Laurence Fishburne

A teenage hacker (Thwaites) is enticed into a face-to-face meeting with a mysterious computer genius, only to find himself in a waking nightmare. William Eubank (“Love”) directed the sci-fi thriller.

SUPERMENSCH: THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON

Not reviewed

Rated R for language, some sexual references, nudity and drug use

Stars: Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone

A portrait of the legendary Hollywood manager and entrepreneur. Mike Myers directed the documentary.

22 JUMP STREET

Not reviewed

Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence

Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens

After busting a major drug ring in a high school, two undercover cops (Hill and Tatum) go undercover as college students. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return as directors in this sequel to the 2012 hit comedy.

STILL PLAYING

EDGE OF TOMORROW

★ ★ ★

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

Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson

This smart, funny, wildly inventive sci-fi time-twister is a major score for the mildly self-mocking star and a return to fine form for director Doug Liman (“Bourne Identity,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) and co-screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”). After being killed moments into a disastrous battle with invading aliens, smarmy army PR guy Cruise discovers he’s reliving the battle over and over and over again (a la “Groundhog Day”) with the fate of mankind riding on him — and the film’s true action hero, a female super soldier (Blunt, terrific).

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

★ ★ ★

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language

Stars: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern

“The only thing worse than biting it from cancer is having a kid bite it from cancer,” observes the teenage protagonist of “The Fault in Our Stars,” though it’s worth bearing in mind that it clearly doesn’t hurt in terms of selling books. Or movie tickets. This satisfactorily heart-rending adaptation of John Green’s young-adult mega-seller features Woodley (quite good, as she was in last year’s somewhat weepie “The Spectacular Now”) as a brainy, literate, snarkily inclined 16-year-old girl in remission from terminal cancer, who meets grinning cockily charming Gus (Elgort) at a support group and embarks on a doomed romance.

WORDS AND PICTURES

Not reviewed

Rated PG-13 for sexual material including nine sketches, language and some mature thematic material

Stars: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Bruce Davison

A burned-out high-school creative writing teacher (Owen) and the school’s new art teacher (Binoche) become involved in an emotionally charged rivalry. Fred Schepisi (“SixDegrees of Romance”) directed the romance.

CHINESE PUZZLE

Not reviewed

Rated R for sexual content, nudity and language

Stars: Romain 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 Klapisch.

MALEFICENT

★ ★

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

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

It’s disappointing to learn that in Disney’s new, visually impressive but dramatically bankrupt rethink of the evil sorceress from “Sleeping Beauty,” she’s really not so bad after all. Not even a witch when you get right down to it. Just a fairy gone wrong. Oscar-winning production designer Robert Stromberg makes “Maleficent” look great, but that’s about all, despite a fabulous performance from Jolie when she’s allowed to be bad, though that’s not nearly long enough.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

★ ★ ★

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

It’s not “Blazing Saddles” or even “Evil Roy Slade,” but Seth MacFarlane’s rude and raunchy old-west comedy is more clever than you might expect, now and then, and it’s even funny at its stupidest thanks to an exceedingly game supporting cast. MacFarlane himself is oddly bland and hipster-inexpressive in his in-person acting debut (after playing the voice of the titular foul-mouthed teddy bear in his mega-hit “Ted”) as a sheep farmer in the high-mortality-rate town of Old Stump, where he falls for the wife (Theron) of the territory’s baddest outlaw (Neeson).

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 a 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 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 (James 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.

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.

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.

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