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Friday movie roundup: Turtles, tornadoes, tandoori
Can four pizza-loving reptiles dethrone the "Guardians of the Galaxy" this weekend?
In terms of movie quality, no way, dude.
A Michael Bay-produced reboot of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" arrives in theaters, and it's the sort of idiotic chaos that has become associated with Bay's name. The four masked vigilante turtles — Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo — are rendered with performance-capture and computer graphics, but they never register as interesting characters. The action is frenetic, the plot ridiculous, and Megan Fox's turn as reporter April O'Neil does her no favors.
The other action movie this weekend is "Into the Storm," a contrived "found-footage" disaster thriller about tornadoes hitting an Oklahoma town. The effects are impressive, but the contrivances director Steven Quale and screenwriter John Swetnam use to set up plot exposition strain credulity.
The best Hollywood product this weekend is "The Hundred-Foot Journey," a heartwarming comedy-drama. The story, based on Richard C. Morais' novel, follows an immigrant family from India — led by a bulldog patriarch (Om Puri) — as they relocate to Provence, France. There, they open an Indian restaurant, across the street from an acclaimed French restaurant run by the imperious Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). The two restaurant owners feud, until Madame Mallory reluctantly realizes that one son in the Indian family, Hassan (Manish Dayal), has a real talent for cooking. Director Lasse Hallström keeps the focus on the food, and gives plenty of room for Mirren and Puri to get the most out of the pedestrian script. (Read this week's Cricket column, which features an interview with one of the film's producers, Juliet Blake.)
Two more studio movies opened this weekend without being screened for Utah critics: "Step Up: All In," the fifth in the dance-movie franchise; and "Deepsea Challenge 3D," a documentary showing director James Cameron's expeditions in the Marianas Trench.
The best movie on the art-house slate is "A Summer's Tale," a luminous comedy-drama by the late French director Eric Rohmer, made in 1996 and just now being released in the United States. It tells of Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), a shy 20-something who goes to a Brittany beach town for vacation in search of a summer fling — and ends up juggling three women at once. Rohmer's touch is feather-light, as he captures the awkwardness of young love.
"Yves Saint Laurent" is a by-the-numbers biography of the legendary fashion designer (played by Pierre Nimey), focusing on his rising career and his relationship with his lover and business partner Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne). Director Jalil Lespert concentrates less on Saint Laurent's groundbreaking designs and more on the typical sex and drugs and excess that came with fame.
Lastly, there's the French romance "Mood Indigo," in which director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") gets more surreal than ever, with lackluster results. The story, based on a beloved novel by French author Boris Vian, tells of a happy-go-lucky inventor (Romain Duris) and his whirlwind romance with a woman (Audrey Tautou) — and how, after they marry, their relationship turns dark when she contracts a debilitating disease. The wacky visuals, including stop-motion cooking and long-legged dancing, keep the audience at an emotional distance from the characters, who need all the sympathy they can get. (Fun fact: The young actress Charlotte le Bon has supporting roles in "Mood Indigo," "Yves Saint Laurent" and "The Hundred-Foot Journey" — quite a hat-trick on the same weekend.)