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Winning ‘American Ultra’ let’s its freak flag fly

As entertaining as it is flawed, ‘American Ultra’ is sure to divide audiences with its haphazard mix of ultra-violence and heartfelt romance. A gleefully-belligerent experiment in style that thumbs its nose at your expectations.

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ is possibly the best in the series

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ continues to up the ante for spectacular set pieces. More importantly, this is the fourth script penned for Tom Cruise by McQuarrie, who understands how to maximize Cruise’s particular skill set. Their collaboration, along with stunning cinematography and a solid supporting cast, makes this, arguably, the most entertaining entry in the series.

‘Pixels’ will steal your quarters

Nostalgia oozes from every cinematic pore of ‘Pixels,’ as director Chris Columbus weaves these videogame relics into a modern landscape. Unfortunately, rather than fully committing to his elegant premise, Columbus gets bogged down in unconvincing character development. Sandler fans and little kids might enjoy this rollcall of ‘80s game icons, but everyone else should just rent ‘Ghostbusters’ instead.

‘Ant-Man’ is late to the party, but still has its quirky charms

It takes 45 wobbly minutes for director Peyton Reed’s film to find its rhythm, but it closes with some ingenious action set pieces that leave you feeling satisfied. ‘Ant-Man’ is a quirky little orphan that will probably need some time and distance from its cinematic brethren to be fully appreciated.

‘San Andreas’ makes disaster boring

Even the reliably-watchable Dwayne Johnson can’t save a script riddled with missteps and half-starts. Ultimately, ‘San Andreas’ is less a disaster than a dud.

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ sacrifices fun for action, with mixed results

The Avengers clicked with both Marvel fans and general audiences because we loved watching these massive egos clash for the first time. It was the perfect blend of action and attitude, and its mastermind, Joss Whedon, was handed the golden ticket to Marvel’s keystone franchise. The long-awaited sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, shows the strain of trying to be bigger-and-better while still indulging the subtle pleasures of its predecessor. It succeeds, just barely, on the strength of a talented cast and our fondness for these characters. Still, it’s a decidedly somber affair that will turn off casual fans, and it stands as the most impersonal, and arguable weakest installment of Marvel’s vaunted “Phase Two.”

‘Chappie’ is gloriously bonkers

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp pushes all his chips onto the table with this fascinating sci-fi gamble that dares you not to be entertained. Derivative, ultra-violent, and completely baffling, Chappie also manages to be insightful and sweet at times. This technically-accomplished and thematically-suspect ­­­­­­robot melodrama has something for everyone to love (and hate). Mostly, it offers the giddy exhilaration of a movie that’s determined to tell its story, no matter how bat-shit crazy it is.

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