Scene from “A Birder’s Guide to Everything”


“A Birder’s Guide to Everything” (PG-13) —  To 15-year-old David (Kodi Smit-McPhee), bird watching (or birding) is his passion, his lifeboat in a confusing sea of hormones. When David snaps a blurry photo of a duck once thought to be extinct, he and his friends quest to get a clear image before their mentor (Ben Kingsley) can swoop in and steal the discovery. All of this birding excitement makes a convenient distraction from the imminent remarriage of David’s father.

As a coming-of-age comedy, the film hits every note. David and his friends have the right level of quirkiness to make authentic teenage awkwardness fun to watch on screen. This is the first feature-length offering from director Rob Meyer, and it shows genuine affection for his characters.

“Journey to the West” (PG-13) —  Stephen Chow lands another hit, solidifying his title as the master of kung-fu comedy. In this adaptation of a Chinese classic, shape-shifting demons, big-footed warriors, monster fish and slapstick action collide into one fun movie experience. Xuan Zang (Wen Zhang) is a bumbling young Buddhist monk on a mission: hunt demons from India to China and ultimately confront the Monkey King. In his travels, he befriends a rival demon-hunter, the beautiful and ferocious Miss Duan (Qi Shu). With the right blend of over-the-top animated special effects and real-deal action, this goofball adventure can throw a punch.

“Run & Jump” —  A working-class Irish family faces a difficult transition after the father suffers a rare frontal lobe stroke. The once-strong patriarch of the family is now a collection of confusing behaviors, unable to relate to other people. Complicating things just a bit more is the observer, an American doctor (Will Forte) who asks to stay with the family and document the father’s difficult rehabilitation. The doctor can’t help being drawn into the family drama. Before last year, Forte was best known for his work on “Saturday Night Live.” Since the Oscar nominations for the black-and-white dark comedy/drama “Nebraska,” it seems he’s successfully branching out into more serious roles.

“Endless Love” (PG-13) —  This remake of a novel adaptation (that’s right, a remake of a remake) takes Hollywood’s most boilerplate teen romance and somehow manages to make it even blander. There isn’t any real conflict or controversy separating the young lovers, David and Jade (Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde), except that she’s rich and he’s blue-collar. They just graduated high school, and only recently discovered that the two of them are by far the best-looking people in town. Much of their romance consists of the 20-something-aged actors snuggling in good lighting.

In the second half of the film, however, the plot devices attack. Jade’s father is clueless about feelings (but he’s a heart doctor!) and takes a villainous stance against the purity of Young Love.

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© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.