Unbroken is a "triumph of the human spirit" story that forgets the spirit
A life story generally doesn't fit a neat dramatic arc; this much is a given. When you're telling the cinematic tale of a real-life person — as Unbroken does with the tale of Louis Zamperini — you're going to be deciding what part of a cradle-to-grave timeline is part of your narrative, and what part isn't.
Into the Woods brings a dark set of tales to the screen
I can't recall the last time a film I enjoyed as much as this one also infuriated me. Watching it was the best part: Terrific acting and singing, Oscar-worthy costumes and production design, a wholly imaginative transformation of very familiar stories into something new. The smash stage play, written by James Lapine, and with songs by Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, took a batch of Grimm fairy tales — say hello to Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack (of beanstalk fame) — introduced an original story about a baker and his wife who want only to have a baby, then mashed them all up into something new.
Peter Jackson bids farewell to his hobbits with one last, great movie
Peter Jackson has left Middle-earth. The series is done.
Why an Australian indie called The Babadook became one of 2014's creepiest films
"If it's in a word, or it's in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook," reads weary Amelia (Essie Davis) to her frightened son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) from a book that has mysteriously appeared in the young boy's bedroom. Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent makes a stunningly assured feature filmmaking debut with this unnerving thriller, which has been racking up numerous awards on the festival circuit and in year-end tallies.
Exodus: Gods and Kings fails when it tries to humanize its spectacle
It's... big. Whatever else you might want to say about Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings, you can't deny that it's big.
Citizenfour brings Edward Snowden's revelations back to the forefront
After watching Pulitzer Prize winner Laura Poitras' new documentary about the early-on brouhaha surrounding government whistleblower Edward Snowden, you've got to wonder why his story — and its devastating revelations — have faded into mere background murmurings in these United (kinda, sorta) States. Unlike the title of this film, which refers to the email handle Snowden first used to contact journalist Glenn Greenwald and then Poitras, Citizenfour is an intimate look at Snowden's life in the days just before his spooky treasure trove went public, then viral.
Happy Valley takes a deeper, more nuanced look at the Penn State scandal
There is no bombshell of new information in Amir Bar-Lev's documentary about the Penn State sex abuse scandal. You might have temporarily forgotten some of the squeamish details, but Happy Valley will readily remind you of all the unbelievable stories that came out of State College, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 2011.
The familiar Penguins of Madagascar takes to the big screen
What's black and white and, at first, a bit of a blur? That'd be the penguin leads of this latest feature from DreamWorks Animation.
Eddie Redmayne is transcendent as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything delicately observes the boundless universe of love's possibilities — what we're willing to give, what we're willing to take, what we're willing to endure. Inspired by Jane Wilde Hawking's memoir about her life with former husband Stephen Hawking, the brilliant theoretical physicist (A Brief History of Time) diagnosed with motor neuron disease at age 21, the film's heart beats with a romantic optimism, even when each of them finds new soulmates and their union ends.
Horrible Bosses 2 depends on the most predictable kind of transgressive humor
In the opening scene of Horrible Bosses 2, our returning protagonist trio — Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) — appear on a happy-talk Los Angeles morning news show to promote their entrepreneurial idea, a shower head that includes a shampoo dispenser. Kurt stands in a makeshift shower in the studio to demonstrate the device, but darn it, the water won't work.
The next installment of the Hunger Games series is sequel gold
Don't tell Hollywood I said this, but chopping the final novel of the Hunger Games trilogy into two films might be the best thing that could have happened to this franchise. I mean, it didn't work for Harry Potter — the first Deathly Hallows film was terrible — and Peter Jackson is already two-thirds of the way (with the final third almost upon us) toward demonstrating that turning the brief Hobbit book into three long films was not artistically warranted.
Seattle director Lynn Shelton delivers another unpredictable story with Laggies
Ten years after high school, 28-year-old Megan Burch (Keira Knightley) is floating through life, unable to settle into a career and new family attachments like her teenage BFFs have. Those pals are planning weddings and baby showers, and Ellie Kemper's inclusion as the bride-to-be in the film's opening setup helps create an expectation that Laggies is going to be another Bridesmaids-like comedy.
Jon Stewart tries his hand at directing with the true story Rosewater
Students of recent Iranian history, or pretty much anyone who's turned on a TV newscast in recent years, will be familiar with the absurdity of the country's presidential election in 2009.
Whiplash features some excellent jazz, but struggles with its message
If recent release Birdman borrowed a cup of energy from its drum score, then Whiplash, about a young jazz drummer at a cutthroat-competitive conservatory, steals a whole quart.
Michael Keaton's bummed-out movie about movies delivers big-time
Michael Keaton is going to win an Oscar for Birdman. OK, got that out of the way.
Interstellar gives us hope for the future of big movies — and humanity
This is big. It's huge.