Creed smartly builds on the 40-year legacy of Rocky
If anything should be painfully clear as we approach the release of a new Star Wars film, it's how impossible it is to separate a movie from what we bring to it as viewers. The feverish anticipation is part of a 40-year-history, and an emotional connection that may be only incidentally connected to whatever J.J. Abrams ends up putting on the screen.
Bryan Cranston does what he can with the flawed Trumbo
Nobody ever confused the 1997 Bond spoof Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery with a historically accurate portrayal of the swinging '60s. And yet, in his first feature film — that groovy-baby, tsunamic success — director Jay Roach did catch some of the flavor, the randy fever, of the times: Call it history-adjacent.
Spotlight makes the work of journalism both heroic and human
If you're skeptical about all the praise heaped on Spotlight from journalist film critics, it's understandable. We've all got our sweet spots, and those of us who sometimes wonder if our own dead-tree outlet will be the next one to start hemorrhaging employees are bound to gravitate toward a story about how important these publications are, and what can be accomplished through time-honored shoe leather and paper chasing.
Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen brings the Hunger Games series to a thrilling end
There are many ways in which the Hunger Games movie series has been groundbreaking. It has given us a world-changing heroine in the mold of the countless boys and men Hollywood has cast in such a role, and showed up the caricature by depicting her as more human than most of them: more conflicted, more unsure, more afraid, yet also more brave for overcoming all that... and also simultaneously more principled and more selfish.
Carey Mulligan spices up a meat-and-potatoes historical drama in Suffragette
In Suffragette, director Sarah Gavron keeps her camera tight on the faces of her cast. For real — a lot of this movie is shot in serious close-up, to the point where people who suffer from personal space issues might start to feel a little uncomfortable.
The 33 goes horribly wrong in turning real-life tragedy to generic uplift
Let's assume — just for the sake of argument — that you bought a ticket for The 33 without knowing anything about the story behind it. Let's say you were just introduced to several characters who worked at a mine in Chile in the summer of 2010: Mario (Antonio Banderas), who wasn't scheduled to work on this particular day, but asked to take an extra shift to earn some extra money; Alex (Mario Casas), who is blissfully happy, as his wife is pregnant with their first baby; Darío (Juan Pablo Raba), an alcoholic who is estranged from his sister, María (Juliette Binoche); and even a grey-bearded veteran who is just about to retire.
Spectre is likely to leave Bond fans wanting more
The opening gambit of Spectre — the fourth outing in the reinvigorated-for-the-21st-century James Bond franchise — is absolutely spectacular. It begins with a long sequence in which the secret agent and a lady friend wend their way through raucous Day of the Dead revelers in Mexico City, through streets heaving with partiers, into a fancy hotel (where the party continues), up to a room.
The Peanuts Movie celebrates the original spirit of its creator
"The Peanuts Movie by Schulz" reads the title card of the new animated feature based on the beloved comic strip — and it feels like there's something of a dare in that designation. On one hand, the creators could argue that it's literally correct, in that two of the three credited screenwriters are Craig Schulz and Bryan Schulz, the son and grandson, respectively, of Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz.
The Assassin is the slowest, quietest kung fu flick you'll ever see
Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's lethargic drama set in 9th-century China is arguably the closest a movie can come to being a museum-worthy painting. That's both good news and bad news.
Our Brand Is Crisis showcases Sandra Bullock at her prickliest
The older Sandra Bullock gets, the better she gets as a performer. Now that she's done her time in the romantic comedy coal mines, Bullock can make space for pricklier performances, like her OCD cop in The Heat, or her emotionally stripped-down turn as an imperiled astronaut in Gravity.
In He Named Me Malala, inspiration trumps substance
Inspirational figures hardly come more heroic and ready-made than Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban three years ago for espousing education for girls. The youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Yousafzai is an international icon who now makes her home in England with her family.
The uneven Steve Jobs would work better as a stage play than a movie
Even the most ardent Bill Gates fanatic or Android fanboy, deep down in some dark little corner of their hearts, must admit that Steve Jobs changed the culture in a profound way.
He promoted the idea of technology as something friendly and approachable and, yes, touchable.
We've finally arrived at "the future" in Back to the Future II, and it's disappointing
Next week, we will arrive at October 21, 2015, which may seem like just another Wednesday to some of you. But for those of us who sat in wonder at a movie theater back in 1989, it's more than just a day — it's the future.
In Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks makes moral clarity compelling
The first time we see Tom Hanks as insurance attorney Jim Donovan in Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, he doesn't seem like the kind of Tom Hanks character we've come to know and love. He's wrangling with an opposing attorney about the disposition of a case he's working on, a car accident in which Donovan's client — the insurance company — has argued that it's on the hook only for one specific accident in which five separate motorcyclists were injured, limiting the monetary compensation.
Whatever Pan is supposed to provide a backstory for, it's not Peter Pan.
"Sometimes, to understand the end, you have to know the beginning," goes the early narration in Pan — and it's hard to imagine a 2015 movie that fails so spectacularly at fulfilling its own thesis statement. We've become accustomed to movies that attempt some new spin on a familiar pop-culture character, whether it's the seemingly infinite brand extensions in Disney's live-action versions of their animated classics, or relatively sedate tales like Mr. Holmes.
Rosenwald reintroduces us to a great American hero
Despite its overlong running time and a tendency toward the dreaded PBS Effect (during which the viewer fears that a fall fundraising drive may break into the narrative at any moment), this documentary about a Chicago-based Jewish philanthropist who spent his fortune building schools for impoverished Southern blacks during the Jim Crow era is dependably fascinating. I say "dependably" because director Aviva Kempner has made a career out of uncovering semi-forgotten areas of 20th-century Jewish history and turning them into memorably witty and historical documentaries, chief among them the story of television's very first (and unquestionably Semitic) sitcom, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.