Good Goes Bad

Good Goes Bad

The Avengers have to fight themselves in the CGI-happy Age of Ultron
Sneaky superhero movie! It was another caped-crusader tradition which gave us the idea that heroes who don't die in the line of duty live to become villains, but it took The Avengers to let it play out onscreen.

Student and Pupil

Ethan Hawke's documentary Seymour: An Introduction mediates long and hard on artistry
As he explains in Seymour: An Introduction, Ethan Hawke had the great fortune to be seated next to Seymour Bernstein at a dinner party. Best known as an Oscar- and Tony-nominated actor, Hawke is a modern multi-hyphenate who has also authored a couple of books, co-authored screenplays (with Richard Linklater and Julie Delpy) and directed several movies and plays.

War Games

In Country unpacks Vietnam by recreating it
We're forgetting about Vietnam and perhaps we're doing that on purpose. Today's American history textbooks all but skip over the conflict, which lasted a decade and claimed the lives of nearly 60,000 Americans.

Oscar Winner

One killer performance overrides the high-concept sci-fi of Ex Machina
Oscar Isaac doesn't exactly make an "entrance" in Ex Machina, at least not in the conventional sense that we think of a character's first appearance. We see him as computer programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) enters the massive, isolated Alaskan compound of his boss, search engine entrepreneur/billionaire Nathan Bateman (Isaac), who's pounding away at a punching bag.

Real Fiction

True Story sees James Franco and Jonah Hill telling a true story about fakers
Two disgraced men seek redemption through their relationship with each other. Or maybe something less lofty... perhaps the shamed congress of sinners or the mutual gratification of stroked egos.

No Country for Old Hipsters

Noah Baumbach explores aging clumsily in While We're Young
In the American societal script, the energetic, wild freedom of youth eventually pivots to the structure and responsibility of parenthood. Noah Baumbach's latest feature While We're Young focuses on a couple in the purgatory between these poles, while feeling the strong magnetic pull of that youthful zeal.

Fight for Rights

Gett is an unflinching look at one woman's struggle in Israel
The unequal status of women in the face of Israeli law is put on trial in this award-winning film from the brother/sister team of Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz, the latter of whom also stars as the titular character Viviane Amsalem. The film is a carefully calibrated courtroom drama about Viviane's five-year struggle to obtain a divorce from her husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian), a battle marked by the kind of tragic and absurd blend of events that can only be labeled as Kafkaesque.

Rock Memories

Al Pacino shines as titular rock star Danny Collins in a sadly predictable film
It's easy to see why Al Pacino took a shine to this project: It provides the veteran actor with a role that requires him to dial his performance up and down — unlike much of his work over the past couple of decades, in which he always seems to be going at full tilt. Hooah!

Frenetic History

The Troubles of Northern Ireland come to life in the white-knuckle '71
Yann Demange's debut feature is a ferociously kinetic chase movie as well as a white-knuckle piece of profoundly moving (in every sense of the word) filmmaking, but a bit of background may be in order for American audiences. In 1971, Belfast wasn't on anyone's dream vacation-destination list, although it's not hard to imagine World's Most Dangerous Places author/adventurer/maniac Robert Young Pelton eying the Provisional Irish Republican Army stronghold and booking a flight.

Furious Debate

Two critics go head-to-head over their differing perspectives on the Fast & Furious series
Scott Renshaw: As we approach what may or may not be the finale of this particular incarnation of the Fast & Furious series (review of the new Furious 7 was not available at press time), I wanted to try to wrap my head around why it's such a big deal to so many people. Because while vroom-vroom and boom-boom is always going to have a certain hard-core fan base, I struggle to understand how people think that this series has done those things particularly well.

Between the Bread

Deli Man gives us a colorful look at the Jewish delicatessen, but some fat could have been trimmed
The pastrami looks and tastes great in this loving documentary about Jewish delicatessens, but the meal would go down even better if some of the excess fat were trimmed. The anchor for this love song to the Jewish deli is Ziggy Gruber, a third-generation deli man who currently operates Kenny & Ziggy's in Houston, Texas.

Lock it Up

Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart's buddy comedy Get Hard is too soft
You've got to wonder how Will Ferrell makes career choices. There have been great roles, ones that he's absolutely owned: in Zoolander, Elf, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, The LEGO Movie.

Dance Lessons

Ballet 422 takes you inside a world of dedication and beauty
In the gorgeous, glorious 2010 performance film NY Export: Opus Jazz, co-directed and shot by Jody Lee Lipes, Jerome Robbins' dance choreography was almost overshadowed by Lipes' camera movements ­— be they elegantly gliding, laying low to focus close-up on footwork, or spiriting high for a bird's-eye big picture. With the documentary Ballet 422, Lipes' first return to dance after notable narrative cinematography work (on HBO's Girls and the upcoming Trainwreck, among other projects), he's somewhat boxed himself into a corner with the cinema verité directive to capture the moment and keep out of the way.

Sequel Success

Insurgent is more creative than a lot of sci-fi — and that doesn't say a lot about today's movies
Is it convoluted, perhaps as a result of adhering too closely to the novel it's based on? Maybe.

Not So Golden

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a shadow of its predecessor
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is proof, if any were necessary, that sequelitis is rampant even among those rare films aimed at an elder demographic.

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Blah

Cinderella finds a version of the Disney classic stripped of its charm
It's time for those of us who write about film to admit it: The war for Hollywood's soul is lost. It was lost a long time ago.

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