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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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Jaap Buitendijk | Courtesy The Weinstein Company Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) returns to Burma, where he was a prisoner in a Japanese labor camp during World War II, in the drama "The Railway Man."
Friday movie roundup: Before the summer deluge

Before getting into this week’s new movies, The Cricket urges everyone to read the Tribune’s Summer Movie Preview — which covers 79 titles opening from May to August.

The preview also includes interviews with: Marc Webb, director of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"; "Guardians of the Galaxy" co-star Karen Gillan; "Earth to Echo" director Dave Green; and the makers of Disney’s "Planes: Fire & Rescue."

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One reason to read about the summer movies is that this week’s Hollywood releases are pretty awful.

The worst is "The Other Woman," a shrill and scattershot comedy starring Cameron Diaz as a lawyer who finds out her new financier boyfriend (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) is actually married — and she starts bonding with the wife (Leslie Mann), as well as another girlfriend (supermodel Kate Upton). Director Nick Cassavetes ("The Notebook") can’t settle on a consistent comic tone, or even whether this movie belongs to Diaz or Mann. Better choose Mann, who is consistently good throughout and deserves much better.

Paul Walker deserves better in one of his last roles, in the incoherent action thriller "Brick Mansions." Walker plays an undercover Detroit cop who teams up with a street thief (French star David Belle) to infiltrate the HQ of a drug lord (RZA). The movie is scripted by Luc Besson, and a remake of an insane French movie, "District B13," in which Belle starred. Belle’s a master of parkour, the building-jumping martial-arts discipline, and he dodges and weaves quite creatively — which would look better if director Camille Delamarre wouldn’t cut the action so frenetically.

Two more studio movies this week, without benefit of critics’ screenings: The horror-thriller "The Quiet Ones," and the World War II drama "Walking With the Enemy."

The good stuff this weekend is at the art houses.

Best of the bunch is "Jodorowsky’s Dune," a fun and eye-opening look at what some people call the greatest movie never made: Surrealist director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s trippy science-fiction classic. Jodorowsky, now 85, enthusiastically describes how he put together a team of "spiritual warriors" to make his movie — until it ran into Hollywood’s executives. This documentary is a delightful look at creativity in the face of failure.

Also really good is "Joe," which reminds us what Nicolas Cage can do with a good character in a good movie. Cage plays the title character, an ex-convict trying to stay straight, who must decide whether to get involved when he meets a 15-year-old teen (Tye Sheridan) who’s being battered by his alcoholic father (Gary Poulter). Director David Gordon Green creates a nicely observed look at hardscrabble people in rural Texas, and gives Cage room to give one of the best performances of his career.

Lastly, there’s "The Railway Man," an absorbing drama that boasts a powerful performance by Colin Firth, as a former British Army signalman who was tortured in a World War II Japanese prison camp — and must confront the possibility of taking out revenge, decades later, on the Japanese officer (Hiroyuki Sanada) who oversaw his mistreatment. The movie is genteel in its early romance, as Firth’s character meets a kindly nurse (Nicole Kidman), and harrowing in its wartime scenes (with "War Horse’s" Jeremy Irvine as Firth’s character as a young man)>

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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