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Friday movie roundup: Time travel and terminal illness
A ferocious action movie and a sensitive teen romance lead the slate of this weekend's movies.
The best of the weekend — and one of the best movies of the summer — is "Edge of Tomorrow," a smart and exciting science-fiction thriller set in a near-future Earth where scary aliens have invaded most of Europe. Tom Cruise plays a reluctant soldier who dies in the first wave of conter-attack, and wakes up back where he started, having to relive the battle over and over and over again. Director Doug Liman ("Mr. & Mrs. Smith") takes a tight script, based on a popular Japanese manga, and creates a cleverly executed action movie.
On the other hand, "The Fault in Our Stars," director Josh Boone's moving adaptation of John Green's young-adult best-seller about two teens who meet in a cancer support group. The movie is blessed with the great Shailene Woodley ("Divergent," "The Spectacular Now") as the female lead, Hazel, who meets the confident Augustus (Ansel Elgort) and soon, in spite of her defensiveness, they fall in love. The movie fights valiantly to keep sentimentalism at bay, and for a good stretch it succeeds.
The best of this weekend's art-house slate is "Ida," a moving and austere drama set in Poland, 1962. A novitiate (Agata Trzebuchowska) is set to take her final vows, but first she must meet her last living relative, a cynical aunt (Agata Kulesza) who knows some deep family secrets. Writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski sets up stunning tableaux, creating a quietly effective gem.
Less engaging is "Chinese Puzzle," the third in French filmmaker Cedric Klapisch's comedy series about the lives of former college roommates. (The first two were "L'Auberge Espagnole" and "Russian Dolls.") Again, we find Xavier (Romain Duris), the economist-turned-novelist, dealing with romantic problems — as his English wife Wendy (Kelly Reilly) leaves him for another man, taking the kids to New York. Xavier follows, and must deal with immigration issues and cross-cultural misunderstandings. Meanwhile, he's also donating to help his lesbian friend Isabelle (Cecile de France) have a baby, and he finds his ex-lover Martine (Audrey Tautou) re-entering his life. The laughs are scattershot, and the movie doesn't bear any fresh insights about turning 40.
Lastly, there's "Filth," a hog-wallow of a movie based on a novel by Irvine Welsh ("Trainspotting"). James McAvoy gives a hellacious performance as an Edinburgh Police detective who will stop at nothing to win a promotion — even as his life is spiraling in waves of drugs, sex and insanity. The story is lurid and repetitive, and unworthy of McAvoy's powerhouse acting.