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June 2014

Fully Steamed Ahead


Snowpiercer (2014)

Anyone coming to "Snowpiercer" as a fan of Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette's graphic novels may be in for an attack of sugar rush. Bong Joon-ho's film — less an adaptation than a parallel-universe tribute act — strips out the dour Holocaust-haunted imagery and discursive chat of the original in favor of broad sci-fi pastiche, night-vision axe fights and Tilda Swinton's comedy teeth.

The result loses something in translation, but gains a few thousand watts in the caboose. Question much (or any) of the logic behind the last of humankind riding a vast train around an uninhabitable ice-bound Earth, and it crumbles in your hands. Instead the film would prefer you to grasp its grand parable, restated at regular intervals: that political revolution requires the seizing of the proverbial engine car from the gilded layabouts in first class, something Curtis (Chris Evans) and his fellow peasants from the slum carriages at the back of the train set about doing.

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No Fluff, Just Laughs

Anthony Nunez/Open Road Films

The Fluffy Movie (2014)

A concert film documenting comedian Gabriel Iglesias’s two-night stand in San Jose, Calif., last year, “The Fluffy Movie” demonstrates just why the oversize top banana has cultivated quite the sizable following worldwide.

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A Very Long Adolescence

Jan Thijs/Sydney Film Festival 2014

The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet (2014)

Exactly what a film director is supposed to do with 3-D remains an open question, but "The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet" presents Jean-Pierre Jeunet with an open goal. The charts, diagrams, schematics and unlikely doodads of Reif Larsen's illuminated source novel are freed from their planar life and sent spinning in all directions, direct from the imagination of young Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet — a rare example of the technology perhaps adding something to the inner life of the character. Limiting the 3-D to just those flights of fancy might have made the point more effectively; instead it gets diluted by the usual cavalcade of pollen, protrusions and projectiles threatening to bean you between the eyes.

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Infernal Affairs

Andrew Schwartz/Screen Gems

Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

“Inspired by the actual accounts of an N.Y.P.D. sergeant,” “Deliver Us From Evil” draws from the book “Beware the Night” by Ralph Sarchie, here played by Eric Bana. Three Iraq war veterans — driven by horrific impulses apparently unrelated to post-traumatic stress disorder — perpetrate some bizarre crimes in the Bronx.

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Dating Game Over

Matt Kennedy/Screen Gems

Think Like A Man Too (2014)

Steve Harvey’s 2009 book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” served as the dating gospel for characters in its movie adaptation, “Think Like a Man.” While the original cast and crew reunite for the sequel, “Think Like a Man Too,” they no longer seem to practice what Mr. Harvey preached. Oddly, the film is even more by-the-book — just not Mr. Harvey’s — than its predecessor.

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A Fistful of Doo-wops

Keith Bernstein/Warner Brothers Pictures

Jersey Boys (2014)

Based on Des McAnuff’s Tony-winning musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the big-screen adaptation of “Jersey Boys” under the direction of Clint Eastwood seems like the antithesis of Rob Marshall movie musicals. With the meteoric rise, rock-bottom fall and all the fourth-wall breaking, the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice keeps hinting at its potential as the next “Casino” or “Boogie Nights.” But Mr. Eastwood seems oblivious to these thematic cues, and instead directs it in his typical B-movie low key as seen in “Million Dollar Baby.”

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Dial M for Murmur

David Koskas/Lucky Red

Grace of Monaco (2014)

Future scholars mapping the course of the celebrity biopic as the genre headed for the rocks will immerse themselves in "Diana," "Rush," "The Fifth Estate" and "Grace of Monaco," and be forced to concede — before they pass out — that the one with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly bucked the trend — just not in ways that made the slightest difference. Olivier Dahan's film limits itself to a brief window of Kelly's time as fairy-tale princess, sparing audiences from the dreaded template of rise and fall; and it puts its subject in a functioning historical context, rather than just fetishizing her inner pain. It even features a performance you can't look away from, although that happens to be Tim Roth's portrayal of Prince Rainier as a monarch chafing under the weight of history, who might at any moment stab Charles de Gaulle with a fish knife.

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Gotta Catch 'Em All

DreamWorks Animation

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” drifts even further away from Cressida Cowell’s book series: Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and friends have grown up, while Vikings and dragons coexist peacefully in Berk. Valka (Cate Blanchett) — long presumed dead after giving birth to Hiccup — turns out to be some reclusive conservationist jungle woman. Meanwhile, renegade Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) has been assembling a dragon army to wage war on Berk.

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