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Friday movie roundup: All the fine young mutants
The best new movie on Memorial Day weekend is a big mutant mash-up.
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" combines the casts of the early "X-Men" movies with the retro "X-Men: First Class," with a complex and engaging time-travel story. With mutants facing annihilation in a post-apocalyptic future, they send Logan, a k a Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to his 1970s self. His mission: Prevent the shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating a scientist (Peter Dinklage) — an action that will hasten the human war against mutants. He must reunite the feuding Prof. Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr, alias Magneto (Michael Fassbender), which is more complicated than you think. Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise to create a thoroughly exciting and emotionally engaging action movie.
The studios are also offering up "Blended," which isn't as awful as most Adam Sandler movies — which means it's only mostly bad. Sandler and Drew Barrymore reteam (after "The Wedding Singer" and "50 First Dates") as single parents whose families end up on the same vacation to an African resort. Barrymore works hard to humanize Sandler, who still can't resist the urge to undercut every relateable moment with a bad joke. (Read The Cricket column for a dissection of Sandler's "comedy.")
For a far better comedy, see "Chef," in which Jon Favreau ("Iron Man") gets back to his indie roots. He plays a Los Angeles chef who has a meltdown, leaves his restaurant job, and hits the road on a food truck with his 10-year-old son (Emjay Anthony). Favreau wrote and directed, and called in some favors (Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. make appearances) to create a warm tale of an artist rediscovering his passion. (The Cricket's colleague Kathy Stephenson interviewed Roy Choi, the real L.A. chef who was the film's culinary adviser.)
The historical drama "Belle" tells a little-known true story — of a half-black noblewoman (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) navigating racism and sexism in 18th century England. Director Amma Asante creates a lush look, a great backdrop for Mbatha-Raw's fiery performance.
"The Immigrant" is another period drama, this one set in 1921 New York, and focusing on a Polish woman (Marion Cotillard) who is forced into prostitution by a charismatic man (Joaquin Phoenix). The Cricket's colleague Scott D. Pierce says it's well-acted, but quite bleak.