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Now Playing in Theaters: June '14

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Chef - Jon Favreau wisely returns to the world of personal, low-budget filmmaking after wiping out with Cowboys & Aliens three years ago. Chef is a pleasant, if predictable, character study about following your passion and trusting your instinct. Writer/director/star/producer Favreau casts himself as a romantic lead opposite Scarlett Johannson and Sophia Vergara. If you can swallow that, the rest of Chef will go down smooth and easy.

X-Men: Days of Future Past - If you're at all invested in the ongoing (and seemingly endless) saga of Marvel's uncanny mutants, Bryan Singer's DOFP brings enough energetic spectacle and movie star-power to make you forget about any of those limp Wolverine spin-offs.


Maleficent - I'm not sure what the expectations could've been for a live-action character spin-of to a 30+ year-old property. Whatever they were, surely it wasn't this: a lifeless and pixelated piece of nothing. Angelina Jolie may have been born to play this role, but she's abandoned by a filmmaking team more interested in conjuring digital landscapes than tending to the human performances. This is one seriously lifeless and wooden feature film. Most unfortunate is that the filmmakers actually BETRAY the essence of the original character by making her a 'misunderstood' heroine. As a kid, the coolest part of watching Sleeping Beauty was when Maleficent turns into a giant, fire-breathing dragon. You would assume the filmmakers could, at the very least, pull off a similar feat in this modern and big-budget update. You would be wrong.

A Million Ways to Die in the West - After Ted became one of the highest grossing comedies ever, writer/director/actor/producer Seth MacFarlane was essentially given a blank check for his next project. That's the only explanation for this loopy and scattershot comedy western, which puts the Family Guy creator front-and-center, much to the film's detriment. A few isolated laughs aside, Million Ways mostly just pokes along aimlessly for two hours. MacFarlane the director makes a fatal mistake by allowing MacFarlane the actor to play a romantic leading man. Much like Favreau's Chef, this is a writer/director who's essentially cast himself in a lead role opposite Hollywood's most beautiful women (in this case, Amanda Seyfried and Charlize Theron). Too much of the film's running time is dedicated to scenes of Theron making googly eyes at the bland-faced MacFarlane and laughing hysterically at his sophomoric jokes.


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