This week’s new releases: The Fault in Our Stars, God’s Pocket, Godzilla, Palo Alto, and Think Like a Man Too.
Running Time: 126 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (mature themes, language)
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, and Mike Birbiglia
Verdict: It could be boiled down to a love story between cancer-stricken teenagers, but The Fault in Our Stars is ultimately a story of the value of falling in love, even when the very concept seems pointless or extraneous. (The whole cast is good, but Woodley is particularly devastating and powerful.) It may take you on a really emotional journey, but despite its Nicholas Sparks-ian premise, The Fault in Our Stars belongs in the same conversations as Garden State, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and 500 Days of Summer. (4 stars / 5)
Running Time: 88 mins.
OFRB Rating: Not Rated
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Marsan, and Caleb Landry Jones
Verdict: The directorial debut from Mad Men’s John Slattery wants to be a Coen brothers or Sidney Lumet movie so badly, but doesn’t realize its plot covers ground already well-worn by neo noirs from Blood Simple to Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his final performances, seems to just be there to help out friends, sleepwalking through the movie alongside Turturro. It’s not bad, but it will only impress those who haven’t seen already seen the simple-plan-gone-awry plot used in other movies. (2½ stars / 5)
Running Time: 123 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (frightening scenes, violence)
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Juliette Binoche
Verdict: The new Godzilla tries its best to satisfy both the fans of the long-running series and viewers unfamiliar with the monster beyond its cultural parody value – and it mostly succeeds. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, taking a break from his Kick-Ass franchise, stars as a military grunt trying to make his way home and warn everyone of the nuclear mutant, constantly almost being killed as he crosses paths with the giant. The last third of the movie devolves into monsters battling monsters while people flee, but even with an excessive finale and boring characters, 2014’s Godzilla erases all the bad tastes left from 1998.
(4 stars / 5)
Running Time: 100 mins.
OFRB Rating: 14A (coarse language, sexual content, substance abuse)
Starring: Jack Kilmer, Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin, James Franco, Chris Messina, and Val Kilmer
Verdict: Palo Alto received publicity earlier this year when Franco tried to pick up a teenager on Instagram, just like his character does here, but the controversy (since revealed to be a planned stunt) is really the sole interesting this about the movie. The stale (though admittedly well shot) landscape of intertwining stories in disaffected suburbia rips off everything from Dazed and Confused to Happiness to American Beauty, but never really finds a voice of its own.
(2 stars / 5)
THINK LIKE A MAN TOO
Running Time: 106 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (sexual content, language)
Starring: Terrence J, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Jerry Ferrara, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Meagan Good, Gary Owen, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Hart, Wendy Williams, Jenifer Lewis, Dennis Haysbert, Cheryl Hines, Adam Brody, David Walton, Carl Weathers, and Kelsey Grammer
Verdict: While the first Think Like a Man was a cookie-cutter ensemble rom-com that existed solely to sell Steve Harvey’s book of the same name, the sequel doesn’t even have that going for it. Everything about the Vegas-set comedy is painfully unfunny and lazily predictable. The characters are broader, the story is wafer-thin, and the soundtrack isn’t even that good this time around. It’s just a waste of a good cast, especially with new additions like Weathers and Grammer, who barely serve any function beyond recognisability. (1 star / 5)