The Big One

The Big One

San Andreas pits The Rock against an earthquake, and you know who's gonna win
The nail-biting begins less than a minute in, when a young woman driving along a twisty elevated road meets up with a big rockfall, and she and her vehicle go hurtling halfway down a mountainside. Thank goodness Ray Gaines (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), chief pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department, is nearby in his chopper, ready to rappel down a long rope to save the dangling damsel in distress.

Manifest Destiny

Michael Fassbender gives us the spirit of golden-age Eastwood in Slow West
A folksy fable defined equally by its whimsy and wistfulness, director John Maclean's Slow West unfolds in the wake of the American Civil War as a collection of natives, outlaws and settlers often meet violent ends in pursuit of land, money, and love. Our innocent surrogate in this hostile domain is smitten 16-year-old Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who's fled his wealthy Scottish family in pursuit of working-class crush Rose (Caren Pistorius).

Happily Ever After?

Tomorrowland's fantastical vision of the future may leave you wanting more — or less
Former animation wizard Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) delivers his second live-action film, after Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, with mixed results. Tomorrowland certainly has lots going for it, including a wholly original plot line, terrific visuals and surprisingly good performances from its young actors.

Wiiging Out

Kristen Wiig's performance in Welcome to Me is funny, but squeamishly so
Welcome to Me is not sure if it wants to be an uncomfortable comedy or a wry drama. The film stars Kristen Wiig, who switched over to making films after concluding a popular stint as a longtime regular on Saturday Night Live, where she created a stable of peculiar characters whose lack of social affect was matched by their inappropriate enthusiasm.

Desert Rage

Mad Max: Fury Road will restore your faith in action movies
The action genre requires a refreshening every dozen years or so (the last one was 1999's The Matrix), so we're overdue. Mad Max: Fury Road might not be that refreshening, but if it isn't, it's most definitely a reminder that it's desperately needed, and a hint of what that might feel like.

Buddy Flop

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon don't quite click in Hot Pursuit
OK, we get it. This is a girl-power film: female director, two female leads doing a riff on the usual male road trip-buddy movie.

High Style

Dior and I takes us inside the often absurd world of fashion
A piece of Dior haute couture to hang in the closet is probably not in most of our futures, but this enthralling documentary allows viewers to finger the hem, so to speak, of some grand designs indeed. The film chronicles the 2012 arrival of new artistic director Raf Simons at the Parisian House of Dior and the mere eight weeks he had to produce his first collection for an audience of fashionistas and their perfectly manicured talons.

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.

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