‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and other new movies, reviewed

★★★★ “Guardians of the Galaxy” (PG-13) “Under normal circumstances, the mere presence of a talking raccoon might serve as a cleaver, effectively dividing the moviegoing public into those who hate such digital chimeras — think Gollum and Caesar the chimp — and those who love them. But I suspect that even some of those on the far side of the divide might find something else to love about 'Guardians.' It manages the trick of being both an unironic sci-fi action-adventure flick and a zippy parody of one. It’s exciting, funny, self-aware, beautiful to watch and even, for a flickering instant or two, almost touching.” – Michael O’Sullivan


From left, Zoe Saldana, the character Rocket Racoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, the character Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista in a scene from "Guardians Of The Galaxy." (AP Photo/Disney - Marvel)

★★★ “Get On Up” (PG-13) “One could describe Boseman’s performance in “Get on Up” as electrifying, and that would not be wrong. But it’s more accurate to say that watching Boseman transform into James Brown, who died in 2006 at 73, is like watching a dude invent electricity while the idea for electricity is still occurring to him. Tate Taylor — the director of this film, the follow-up to his 2011 late-summer hit, “The Help” — needed a vibrant, convincing Brown to make this movie work. Lordy, oh lordy, did he get one.” – Jen Chaney

★★★ “Happy Christmas” (R) “As in his previous low-budget, mumblecore efforts, including “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and last year’s astute “Drinking Buddies,” (Joe) Swanberg’s filmmaking style here is free-wheeling and naturalistic. Though some scenes were sketched out before cameras rolled, the dialogue in “Happy Christmas” is largely improvised, with much of the action unfolding in Swanberg’s real-life Chicago home. That approach gives the movie an easygoing, organically developing quality that makes it believable. Yet with a running time of 82 minutes, the story is concise enough to ensure that all that meandering doesn’t wear out its welcome.” – Jen Chaney

★★ ½ “A Five Star Life” (Unrated) “The final destination of “A Five Star Life” is well worth the wait, but the service is so slow that some viewers may check out early.” – Michael O’Sullivan

★ “Louder Than Words” (PG-13) “The subject of “Louder Than Words” — how a young girl’s death devastates her family but ultimately restores it — is inherently poignant. Unfortunately, director Anthony Fabian and writer Benjamin Chapin do dumbfoundingly little with it. At every turn, the movie is less moving than the real-life events that inspired it.” – Mark Jenkins

★★★ “Child of God” (Unrated) “As Lester, an angry, violent homeless man who may be borderline developmentally disabled, mad, or both, Scott Haze is both riveting and revolting. Named by Variety as one of the magazine’s 10 “Actors to Watch” last year, Haze first appears on screen glowering like Malcolm McDowell on the poster for “A Clockwork Orange” as an auctioneer prepares the sell the house Lester grew up in. In his second scene, he’s shown defecating in the woods, like a wild animal.” – Michael O’Sullivan

★★ ½ “Mood Indigo” (Unrated) “The way the story is told by (Michel) Gondry (who also plays Chloé’s quackish doctor), there’s a universality to unhappiness. (Boris) Vian’s text, snippets of which appears on screen in typewritten form, is shown being entered by an army of stenographers tapping away at vintage typewriters that have been attached to moving conveyor belts. The fatalistic moral of “Mood Indigo,” it is suggested, is one we are all writing in some form: Everything, including love, withers and dies.” – Michael O’Sullivan

Macy L. Freeman is an editorial aide for the Weekend/Going Out Guide section at The Washington Post.
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