A Hike Becomes a Death March

A Hike Becomes a Death March

A Walk in the Woods lacks a cinematic smart-ass
We're a long way from the glory days of cinematic smart-asses. Hollywood once enjoyed a long tradition of wise-ass protagonists whose inability to let a dry witticism fly by unmolested often landed them in trouble, from Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Paul Newman in The Sting to... let's see...

Living in a Song

Noam Baumbach and Greta Gerwig gives us a familiar yet engaging story in Mistress America
In Noah Baumbach's second release in one calendar year, following the bitter-tasting, olds-against-the-millennials comedy While We're Young, he and co-screenwriter/star Greta Gerwig borrow bullet points from Breakfast at Tiffany's: A naïf writer falls under the spell of a self-invented Manhattan party girl who scrapes by on the largesse of others. Gerwig plays Brooke, the Holly Golightly type, getting a little long in the tooth.

Slaying The Shark

Meru is one outdoors doc that knows a great story trumps great stunts
Plenty of outdoor-adventure documentaries get by on stunning photography and flashy stunts that might be thrilling for backcountry skiers or weekend kayakers, but for many of us they come off as little more than 90-minute North Face ads. Meru, though, is one outdoorsy doc that knows how to get its audience emotionally invested in what's happening on screen, in this case the efforts of three mountain climbers to scale a 21,000-foot peak known as the Shark's Fin on India's Mount Meru.

Third-World Problems

Owen Wilson and Lake Bell take a stab at drama in No Escape
If you took No Escape for a light action movie, something like a flick in which Liam Neeson would beat up villainous cartoon foreigners, you're forgiven. It's certainly the way the film has been marketed.

No Winning Side

Cartel Land offers an intense look at vigilantes fighting Mexican drug gangs on both sides of the border
Cartel Land doesn't rely on deep historical research or the filmmaker's interrogation skills to be one of the most intensely watchable and shocking documentaries in recent memory. Instead, its effectiveness comes through the incredible access director Matthew Heineman gained to two vigilante groups — one on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border, both formed by fear of the havoc being wrought by Mexican drug cartels.

Express Yourself

Straight Outta Compton delivers some powerful nostalgia
The fact that I've slotted a track by Compton, California's original gangsta rap supergroup, N.W.A., into my upcoming wedding playlist (alongside other African-American sonic incendiaries such as Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone) speaks volumes about N.W.A's sustained cultural relevance and musical integrity. They took the fiery braggadocio of early-'80s East New York hip-hop, dialed it up to 11, busted the knob off, and then set it ablaze while flipping the bird to the LAPD and the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) in equal measure.

Consider the Author

The End of the Tour turns a David Foster Wallace literary conversation into enthralling cinema
EDITOR'S NOTE: The schedule for The End of the Tour's arrival in the Inland Northwest changed after The Inlander went to press.

Spy vs. Spy

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. carves out a unique space in a crowded espionage marketplace
It's understandable if your first reaction to a movie version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is, "Do we really need another movie version of an old television show?" This is a reaction one should have on a regular basis, and it only means that you are an emotionally healthy adult.

A Different World

Tangerine's unusual setup belies its essential human story
If you see only one transgender-prostitute buddy-flick action-comedy this summer, well, Tangerine is really your only choice. And it's a choice worth making to experience this bold effort to make a 90-minute narrative fill those multiple roles.

Return to Sender

The Gift is a mess of a psychological thriller
The Gift is an infuriating movie on so many levels. It can't decide if it wants to be serious drama or a salacious thriller, so it's nowhere near enough of either, and each aspect seems to be laughing at the other.

The Impossible Mission

Rogue Nation hits the sweet spot for Tom Cruise's weird appeal
In Ethan Hunt, the perfect super-spy at the center of the Impossible Missions Force, Tom Cruise has found his sweet spot. His inhuman intensity works in M:I films (and not, say, Jack Reacher or Knight and Day) because the movies are even more intense than he is, from the overblown score to the crazy set pieces to the genius conceit of handing each entry to a different high-profile director, from Brian De Palma to J.J. Abrams to Brad Bird.

Subtraction by Ad Dishin'

Vacation loses its comedic momentum through marketing overkill
Early in Vacation, as patriarch Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) tries to fire up his family — wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) — about taking a car trip to the Walley World amusement park just like the one he took with his parents and sister 30 years earlier, James interjects, "I've never even heard of the original vacation." "Doesn't matter," Rusty responds.

Surreal World

Think your parents are strict? See The Wolfpack
Imagine living in New York City, one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the world, but having parents so fearful of what lurked outside that they almost literally never let you out the front door of your house. Then imagine those same overbearing parents having no issue providing you with a nonstop stream of TV and movies, from the violent to the fantastical to the profane, to occupy your time between home-schooling lessons.

Outside the Box-ing

Southpaw upends familiar underdog sports-movie expectations
Thanks to Rocky, we all know how the story's supposed to roll in a boxing drama about a guy from the streets getting a title shot. The scrappy underdog, lacking the resources of his rival, has to make do with an old, never-quite-a-contender trainer who has the fighter punching meat, or whatever new equivalent a screenwriter can come up with.

Sad Clown

Trainwreck keeps derailing Amy Schumer's brand of comedy
About midway through Trainwreck, Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) gets a particularly emotional moment — sad, darkly funny and shot through with the messiness of her character. And all I could think was, "Where the hell is the whole movie that's actually about this character?"

Small Wonder

Ant-Man rediscovers some of the playfulness of superhero adventure
In the scene from Marvel Studios' latest superhero tale Ant-Man in which Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) first tries out the suit that can shrink him to the size of an insect, his greatest threat is being washed down a bathtub drain, or flung from a spinning record during a dance party. During one late action sequence, Scott flees from explosions that reduce the buildings and landscape around him to rubble — the exploding surroundings are only a scale model.

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