Read the latest film reviews, the most recent releases at the top.
10:53 AM EST, January 29, 2015
Is there anything more dispiriting than a sentence beginning with the phrase "It means well, but …"? Here's a variation on that, and a dispiriting movie to go with it. "Black or White" may not be racist, exactly, but it patronizes its African-American characters up, down and sideways, and audiences of every ethnicity, background, hue and predilection can find something to dislike.
11:20 AM EST, January 29, 2015
"Black Sea" is a submarine movie, so to many moviegoers of a certain age, that's two-and-a-half stars right there. Nothing promises old-school pressure-cooking the way the subgenre of the sub thriller can, and while director Kevin Macdonald's drama springs all sorts of leaks in its second half, there are modest satisfactions along the way.
11:58 AM EST, January 15, 2015
When we listen in on one-sided telephone conversations in the movies, often the behavior is not quite human. Rather, it becomes an actor's showcase for histrionic tears or smiling through tears — a good old-fashioned wallow in capital-O Overacting.
7:50 AM EST, January 29, 2015
Time travel meets "found footage" in "Project Almanac," a "Blair Witch/Chronicle" tale about pretty teens tampering with all things temporal.
11:01 AM EST, January 15, 2015
Writer-director J.C. Chandor has made three good movies in a row, and they're his first three. He's a heartening exception to the usual percentages.
11:39 AM EST, January 22, 2015
As the song from "Meet Me in St. Louis" put it, in a different story context: How can she ignore the boy next door?
12:08 PM EST, January 22, 2015
There are good things in the animated musical fantasy "Strange Magic": the ultra-detailed, photorealistic animation; the name-that-tune pleasures of a mashup jukebox soundtrack; fine vocal performances from the cast's actor-singers; and a transcendent sequence featuring the 1975 title song.
11:09 AM EST, January 22, 2015
Why didn't Jennifer Aniston get an Oscar nomination for "Cake"? The short answer to that question: With one of the five best actress slots taken by Julianne Moore for "Still Alice," there was simply no room for another routinely made health-crisis indie, salvaged by a strong, confident, unfussy turn from its female lead.
12:41 PM EST, January 22, 2015
Should the recent surge in male facial hair as a fashion accessory stall in 2015, barbers would be within their rights to blame "Mortdecai," a perky but obstinately unfunny heist caper with a hero irksome enough to make any happily mustachioed man reconsider his life choices. Directed by an off-form David Koepp, the film shoots for the swinging insouciance of '60s farce, but this story of a caddish art dealer enlisted by MI5 to assist in a knotty theft case is longer on frippery than quippery. Only particularly dedicated devotees of Johnny Depp's latter-day strain of mugging — here channeling Austin Powers by way of P.G. Wodehouse — will delight in this expensive-looking oddity.
12:21 PM EST, January 22, 2015
It's common Hollywood practice to follow an Oscar win with a trip to big budget land, where the paychecks, the trailers and the impact on the culture are potentially huge. So Sandra Bullock did "Gravity" right after "Blind Side," and Anne Hathaway did "Interstellar" not long after picking up an Oscar for "Les Miserables."
3:20 AM EST, January 23, 2015
The documentary "Manny" chronicles Manny Pacquiao's rise from a starving kid in the Philippines to a multimillionaire and internationally famous fighter, but it touches on everything without getting too deep into anything.
10:37 AM EST, January 15, 2015
People will take what they want to take from "American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's latest film. Already it has turned into an ideological war to be won or lost, rather than a fictionalized biopic to be debated.
January 15, 2015
Never judge by appearances. The poster image for "Paddington," already a hit in Britain, depicts the valiant little bear in the red hat and blue jacket careening down a flooded staircase in a bathtub, and the image (from the first of creator Michael Bond's 26 "Paddington" books) is rendered in such a way as to make the film look pushy and twee and eminently skippable.
11:35 AM EST, January 15, 2015
"The Wedding Ringer" is "Wedding Crashers Redux," a "Hangover Lite" that softens manic funnyman Kevin Hart's persona into someone almost as funny, but more sentimental than abrasive. That helps "Ringer" work as a bromantic comedy that feels like a romantic comedy.
12:19 PM EST, January 15, 2015
"Blackhat" is a thickly plotted disappointment, yet it has three or four big sequences proving that director Michael Mann, who gave us "Thief," "Heat," "Collateral" and others, has lost none of his instincts for how to choreograph, photograph and edit screen violence.
12:06 PM EST, January 15, 2015
"Spare Parts" is a pleasant enough run-of-the-mill outsiders-beat-the-odds dramedy in the "Race the Sun" mold.
12:41 PM EDT, October 23, 2014
As a filmgoer, do you require an admirable, likable protagonist? If you're in league with a large percentage of the populace, the answer is simple: yes. Life's too short to spend it in abrasive company, with characters who test your sympathy or make you examine your own worst impulses in a revealing light.
11:25 AM EST, January 8, 2015
It takes a genuine film artist to create an alternate-reality version of a familiar place — real enough to make us feel we've been there, or somewhere near there, unreal enough to push it over the edge of familiarity and even sanity.
1:05 PM EST, January 8, 2015
Running out of kidnapped relatives for Liam Neeson's ex-CIA killing machine to rescue, scribes Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen turn him into a fugitive framed for murder in "Taken 3," a mind-numbing, crash-bang misfire that abandons chic European capitals for the character's own backyard. French director Olivier Megaton, who at least paced "Taken 2" with workmanlike efficiency, executes the pedestrian plot without a shred of tension or finesse.
12:44 PM EST, December 30, 2014
You can scan any director's resume at your peril, because their work is on the screen, and in the right circumstances, as with director Ava DuVernay's fine, full and confident "Selma," the work speaks for itself.
8:20 AM EST, January 5, 2015
"Predestination" is a clever, quotable twist on the age-old sci-fi trope "time travel." The Spierig brothers' adaptation of a Robert A. Heinlein story touches on love, death and morality as it ventures back and forth with a time-traveling Ethan Hawke.
10:48 AM EST, December 22, 2014
In the generation since "Into the Woods" opened on Broadway, the entertainment world has recycled a forest's worth of enchantress-based, princess-dependent and fairy tale-steeped mythology for mass consumption, from Disney's "Frozen" and "Maleficent" to the smaller screen's "Grimm," "Once Upon a Time" and "Charmed." And let's not forget the theatrical extravaganza "Wicked," whose anthemic, full-bore sensibility and songs (full-bore in both senses) are exactly what you do not find in "Into the Woods."
11:32 AM EST, December 18, 2014
"Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," otherwise known as "Night at the Museum 3," rates as more determinedly heartfelt than the first and not as witty as the second (and best). Also, no Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart in jodhpurs this time around.
11:21 AM EST, November 20, 2014
A skiing holiday in the French Alps: What could possibly spoil that? In the terrific black comedy "Force Majeure," the question is answered early in the picture. With an extraordinarily dry and confident way of telling its story, the Swedish entry for this year's foreign language Academy Award becomes a recreational nightmare, driven (and riven) by panicky male behavior under duress.
10:34 AM EST, November 20, 2014
Does extreme privilege point, like an arrow, to a sort of rot within the true-blue American spirit? Putting criminal insanity aside for a moment, the answer's a qualified, sorrowful yes in director Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," a true-crime drama hailed in many quarters as a modern classic since it debuted six months ago at the Cannes Film Festival.
11:30 AM EST, December 24, 2014
Whether leaving his mark with the bizarre yet sweet sentimentality of "Edward Scissorhands" and "Beetlejuice," the brilliant Oscar-nominated stop-motion animation of "Frankenweenie" and "Corpse Bride," or the brashness of his "Batman" reboots, Tim Burton has always been one of film's boldest visionaries. Except when it comes to women.
1:00 AM EST, December 24, 2014
3.5 stars (out of four)
5:09 PM EST, December 15, 2014
There is a moment late in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," after what may be the longest on-screen battle in movie history, when Ian McKellen's Gandalf sits quietly beside Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins and starts fussing with his pipe. No one fusses with a pipe more fussily than a great veteran English character actor, and as McKellen carefully scrapes out the bowl, getting it ready for a nice little smoke, you wonder if director Peter Jackson is going to turn this bit into his next three-film trilogy.
6:12 PM EST, November 28, 2014
Alan Turing, the pioneering British mathematician who cracked Nazi Germany's Enigma code and helped win World War II, gets the deciphering treatment himself in the new biopic "The Imitation Game" (opening today in limited release). Norwegian director Morten Tyldum's film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, examines Turing's personal and professional struggles as a brilliant but aloof man and a closeted homosexual at a time when being gay was a crime in England.
1:58 PM EST, December 4, 2014
Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir "Wild" has become a swift, solidly built movie capturing most of its author's most interesting baggage stuff — the weedy tangle of regrets, the reckless bumper-car behavior borne of grief — while offering a rather different experience of what Strayed called "radical aloneness."
10:45 AM EST, December 18, 2014
Those interested in the health and well-being of the screen musical are advised to wait a week for "Into the Woods" rather than take a flier on the wobbly, unsatisfying new update of "Annie."
11:03 AM EST, November 19, 2014
In honor of the title we'll break this part of the sentence with a colon, and then use a portentous dash:
November 13, 2014
Relationally, you can't entirely trust what you're seeing in "The Theory of Everything," the romanticized portrait of astrophysicist superstar Stephen Hawking and his many years spent with his first wife, Jane Hawking. Yet biopics are funny this way: Even satisfying ones can fudge and elide and gloss over any number of difficulties, while in this instance offering a steadily absorbing and movingly acted depiction of a marriage whose time comes, and then goes.
1:05 PM EST, November 13, 2014
Twenty years after they permanently lowered the bar on broad and dumb character comedies, Lloyd and Harry are back, "Dumb and Dumber" than ever in "Dumb and Dumber To."
12:41 PM EST, November 13, 2014
How many casual American moviegoers would be interested in "Rosewater" if an unknown Jon had written and directed it, instead of Jon Stewart, famous "Daily Show" host and first-time feature filmmaker?
11:30 PM EST, November 13, 2014
From the writer-director of the beloved "Love & Basketball," Gina Prince-Bythewood, "Beyond the Lights" seems like it will follow the tried-and-true celebrity-and-commoner formula seen in "The Bodyguard" and "Notting Hill."
11:59 AM EDT, October 22, 2014
"Birdman" proves that a movie — the grabbiest, most kinetic film ever made about putting on a play — can soar on the wings of its own technical prowess, even as the banality of its ideas threatens to drag it back down to earth.
November 6, 2014
In "Big Hero 6" we have a robot considerably more beguiling than his movie. Yet there's enough visual invention afoot, and enough spirited interplay among the human characters, to keep things bobbing along.
3:19 PM EDT, October 14, 2014
Whatever the ripping melodrama "Whiplash" says about artistic torment, or the price of ambition, or mentor/student relationships from hell or thereabouts, it's too busy providing serious excitement — both as an actors showcase and a confirmation of writer-director Damien Chazelle's cinematic chops — to get hung up on conventional uplift.
11:29 AM EST, November 6, 2014
In "Laggies," Keira Knightley tries on a generic American dialect. Based on the results, the actress defines that as "nasal, and how!"
1:13 PM EST, November 4, 2014
A knockout one minute, a punch-drunk crazy film the next, "Interstellar" is a highly stimulating mess. Emotionally it's also a mess, and that's what makes it worth its 165 minutes — minutes made possible by co-writer and director Christopher Nolan's prior global success with his brooding, increasingly nasty "Batman" films, and with the commercially viable head-trip that was "Inception."
4:38 PM EDT, October 29, 2014
Jake Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds for his new movie, "Nightcrawler," and the result is simple and eerie, much like the film itself. He appears to be wearing a Jake Gyllenhaal mask, all cheekbones, sallow complexion and unblinking laser-beam eyes.
October 30, 2014
"Before I Go To Sleep" is a risky title for a genre exercise intended to keep viewers bolt upright in their seats, handing mirthful critics a ready-made punch line at the first sign of lethargy. The good news is that Rowan Joffe's adaptation of S.J. Watson's 2011 publishing phenom is far from a snooze; the bad news is that it's the film's escalating ludicrousness that holds our attention.
8:40 PM EDT, September 18, 2014
In the showy sci-fi fantasy "The Zero Theorem," a man spends his life waiting for an elusive phone call that will explain the meaning of life and, as a result, learns he has led a meaningless life. That kind of elliptical thinking permeates way too much of this latest carnival ride from idiosyncratic filmmaker Terry Gilliam, who directed based on a ponderous if undeniably ambitious script by Pat Rushin.
11:39 AM EDT, October 30, 2014
If "Horns" had the zip of the source novel's first two paragraphs, we'd have a movie instead of a mess. The book, published in 2010, begins by laying out the dilemma author Joe Hill invents for his protagonist. Ignatius "Ig" Perrish has a hangover, and the morning after a night of unspecified "terrible things," he puts his hands to his temples and realizes he has a "pair of knobby pointed protuberances" where none used to be.
October 16, 2014
For all the boozed and abusive amusement provided by the great Bill Murray in the good-enough "St. Vincent," the moment I liked best was Naomi Watts as a pregnant Russian stripper, manhandling a vacuum across the Murray character's ancient carpet. In movies as in life, it's the little things.
11:48 AM EDT, October 23, 2014
So many movies come out of the Sundance Film Festival, and others like it, laden with praise but oddly short on narrative invention, visual instincts and a story with something on its mind. Heartiest congratulations to "Dear White People," which is equipped with all three. It's a slyly provocative achievement and a serious calling card for its writer-director, Justin Simien.
12:56 PM EDT, October 23, 2014
9:51 AM EDT, October 16, 2014
"Fury" is a mixture of sharp realism and squishy cliches that combat movies don't really need anymore. It stars Brad Pitt as a 2nd Armored Division sergeant known as Wardaddy, commander of a battle-scarred Sherman tank whose nickname, painted on its gun barrel, gives writer-director David Ayer's film its title.
1:02 PM EDT, August 21, 2014
If Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon were even 7 percent less amusing, "The Trip to Italy" would have no reason to exist, even with its casually gorgeous scenery and shattering close-ups of seafood pasta fresh out of the kitchen.
10:56 AM EDT, October 2, 2014
Jason Reitman's serenely panic-stricken "Men, Women & Children" pushed every single one of my hot buttons as a parent while simultaneously setting off every single one of my warning bells as a critic. Based on Chad Kultgen's debut novel, it depicts modern-day America as the land of scarily unlimited digital opportunity. It is a place where honest personal communication without the filter, the crutch or the dodge of a personal electronic device has become a distant memory.
10:49 AM EDT, October 9, 2014
Of the 141 minutes in "The Judge," roughly 70 work well, hold the screen and allow a ripe ensemble cast the chance to do its thing, i.e., act. The other 71 are dominated by narrative machinery going ka-THUNKITA-thunkita-thunkita. This is the same sound a clothes dryer makes when a half-dozen John Grisham hardcovers are tossed in with an iron-plated movie star and 30 pounds of rocks.
10:55 AM EDT, October 9, 2014
Now that folks can get gay-married in Wisconsin and Indiana, it's safe to say a genial, fact-based British heart-warmer such as "Pride" can enter the U.S. marketplace without threatening the stability of the republic.
4:41 PM EDT, September 16, 2014
A pretty crafty genre pastiche until it stalls, director Adam Wingard's "The Guest" introduces its title character after he knocks on the front door of a small-town New Mexico family that recently lost their older son in the Iraq War. Door opens, a man's head is turned away from the camera …
9:30 PM EDT, September 30, 2014
September 30, 2014
David Fincher's film version of the Gillian Flynn bestseller "Gone Girl" is a stealthy, snake-like achievement. It's everything the book was and more — more, certainly, in its sinister, brackish atmosphere dominated by mustard-yellow fluorescence, designed to make you squint, recoil and then lean in a little closer.
10:52 AM EDT, October 2, 2014
The devil-doll lark "Annabelle" exists to make its host movie, last year's excellent "The Conjuring," look even better by comparison. As prequels go, it's not bad, though a couple of things keeping it from amounting to more are worth discussing, briefly, before we all get back to our lives.
11:23 AM EDT, October 2, 2014
And away we go! A little traveling music, please, for the Rapture, the special guest star of "Left Behind," starring a sadly becalmed Nicolas Cage as a married airline pilot whose unconsummated lust for a cheap harlot of a flight attendant, played by Nicky Whelan, is enough to bring on God's wrath, the end of days and a cycle of protracted calamity, starting with the film itself.
2:09 PM EDT, September 25, 2014
In "Hector and the Search for Happiness," a bedtime story for the eternal man-child, Simon Pegg plays a psychiatrist who lives in a world of WASP male privilege yet remains dissatisfied with his existence.
1:32 PM EDT, September 25, 2014
Fans of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," the deft, eccentric supernatural fairy tales created by Oregon-based Laika animation house, have every reason to anticipate "The Boxtrolls." Laika's latest feature is based on Alan Snow's 2005 book "Here Be Monsters!" part one of "The Ratbridge Chronicles." For the film's purposes, the mythical hilltop town of Ratbridge has changed its name to Cheesebridge.
1:10 PM EDT, September 25, 2014
Based loosely on the 1985-1989 television series, on which Edward Woodward never stuck garden shears in an enemy's throat and never, ever stabbed anyone through the neck with a corkscrew, "The Equalizer" smells like a hit. But I wish it had one completely honest scene, where (for example) someone asks the avenging angel-hero: "Who are you?" And he answers: "I'm Denzel Washington. And Denzel Washington can make even this thing watchable."
4:39 PM EDT, September 10, 2014
Some weeks at the movies are like this. You settle for wonderful actors doing some wonderful acting with scripts that support those efforts even as they limit them.
4:19 PM EDT, September 24, 2014
‘Field of Lost Shoes’ ✭✭
They marched into battle — teenagers and younger — in parade order, and charged the enemy like the schoolboys they were. And when the smoke had cleared, there were shoes — sucked off their feet in the mud, torn from bodies yanked by cannonballs, Minie balls and bayonets.
10:35 AM EDT, September 18, 2014
Forever indebted to H.G. Wells, William Golding and other cranky visionaries, the hardy, cockroach-like "Hunger Games"/"Divergent" genre has a nickname: "dyslit," after the dystopian best-sellers in which young adult protagonists must prove their physical and mental prowess and lead the revolution to save what's left of their crummy old world.
11:39 AM EDT, September 18, 2014
Based on the international bestseller by Agota Kristof, "The Notebook" represented Hungary in the Academy Awards' foreign-language film competition but failed to garner a nomination.
11:21 AM EDT, September 18, 2014
Going by the new ensemble comedy "This Is Where I Leave You," you'd think Tina Fey was a medium acting talent at best, prone to overstatement and eye-rolling. Performers can't do it alone; they need guidance. But in the movies, very often performers end up doing solo acts in proximity to other solo acts, and the camera's either in the wrong place or the director and the editor hack up simple two-person conversations into frantic, competing moments.
10:49 AM EDT, September 18, 2014
Civilians and critics alike, a lot of them, loved "Tusk" in Toronto, where it played the Midnight Madness sidebar of the international film festival earlier this month. And it's fun to have writer-director Kevin Smith, of "Clerks" and "Dogma," whose filmmaking star has fallen while his podcasting prowess has risen, once again at the center of a debate or two.
12:36 PM EDT, September 18, 2014
You can't complain about the cast in "My Old Lady" — Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas going at one another in high style — and the setting of Paris at its most atmospheric is charm itself. The film in question, however, doesn't live up to the expectations its elements create.
11:38 AM EDT, September 4, 2014
Aubrey Plaza is so deadpan she's undeadpan, and not just in her new zombie movie. Playing April, Indiana's snarkiest state employee on "Parks and Recreation," the actress who'd be most likely mistaken for the MTV animated show goddess "Daria" slings so many bizarrely timed and unpredictable line readings at her skillful cohorts, with such straight-faced topspin, sometimes you don't know if you're in the company of an actress's extraordinarily practiced shtick or some kind of genius.
10:55 AM EDT, September 18, 2014
Films aren't so much born as worried into existence, and with some films the worrying — the concern that the audience won't get it, or get out for it, or make the required time commitment — never stops.
11:42 AM EDT, September 4, 2014
"The Last of Robin Hood" is the latest film starring the dashing Kevin Kline. It's also the latest of Kline's period pictures that wastes no time in dashing your expectations.
11:09 AM EDT, August 7, 2014
Think of them as Lazarus moments.
September 4, 2014
There are moments in any bad movie when an actor, conveying a character's anguish or disdain, suddenly appears to be critiquing the movie itself and expressing the actor's internal struggle with the material. Such is the case with Ray Liotta in the not-good new film "The Identical," which only an Elvis impersonator (sorry, "tribute artist") could love.
10:44 AM EDT, August 21, 2014
As long as this planet provides the roads, real and metaphoric, and the pals, the road-trip buddy movie may well outlive the movies themselves.
10:40 AM EDT, August 7, 2014
Scene: a confessional, somewhere in Ireland. The camera stays on Father James while an unseen male, the victim of clergy abuse long ago, speaks in seething tones about having "tasted semen" at a terrifyingly young age. Well, says the momentarily stunned priest. "Certainly a startling opening line."
1:15 PM EDT, August 21, 2014
I'm not sure what mood I'd have to be in to truly enjoy "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." But I'm not in it.
1:15 PM EDT, August 21, 2014
Artfully assaultive, "If I Stay" is better than average young adult material, cleverly adapted from Gayle Forman's 2009 novel about a teenage cellist experiencing true love, a terrible car crash and magical realism for the first time.
5:31 PM EDT, August 13, 2014
At this point in the dystopian movie cycle, I'm ready for a story about a teenager with zero interest in questioning the system, let alone starting a revolution. A spineless conformist — that's what the genre needs.
11:02 AM EDT, August 7, 2014
"What If" brings up the distinctions among wit, jokes and robotic banter, and this new romantic comedy has a bit of the first and a few of the second, but it's largely a case of the third.
August 12, 2014
The laughs are loud, lewd and low in "Let's Be Cops," a spoof of cop "buddy pictures" that is pretty much the definition of an August comedy.
10:39 AM EDT, August 7, 2014
The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise earns a Michael Bay-produced 3-D reboot that spares no expense in special effects and spares no decibels in the volume that is the soundtrack to all their new mayhem.
July 24, 2014
Among recent Woody Allen films, the crabby but pretty "Magic in the Moonlight" is a well-thumbed playing card from the middle of the deck, not one of his fully good ones ("Midnight in Paris," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), not one of the whiffs ("Cassandra's Dream," "Scoop," "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"). The new one's set in 1928 in the south of France, where people really do seem on the verge of asking, "Tennis, anyone?" every second. Coldblooded British illusionist Stanley, played with a tight grimace by Colin Firth, has been invited by a fellow magician (Simon McBurney) to debunk a celebrated American mystic working her way through the Cote d'Azur.
11:18 AM EDT, July 24, 2014
In Mike Cahill movies, bad things happen to good people, and other good people are guilt-ridden as a result. But the human connections and the spare sci-fi logic that characterized "Another Earth," Cahill's ethereal romantic dramatic debut, are muddied in "I Origins."
August 7, 2014
Like "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki" and "Dude, Where's My Car?" "Into the Storm" is a movie. And like the wind, this particular movie blows tall, unstable columns of hot air willy-nilly.
10:46 AM EDT, July 31, 2014
Everything about "Get on Up," a provocatively structured and unusually rich musical biopic, is a little better, a little less formula-bound, a little sharper than the average specimen in this genre.
July 16, 2014
By the midpoint of writer-director Richard Linklater's gentle marvel "Boyhood," the round-faced young Texas boy played by Ellar Coltrane has become a lanky, plaintive teenager. Already an hour or so of screen time has floated by. Linklater made the film with a core group of actors over a 12-year period, starting with the kids played by Coltrane and Linklater's daughter, Lorelei Linklater, at ages 7 and 9, respectively.
11:30 AM EDT, July 30, 2014
Like the '70s cassette mix tape so dear to its hero, "Guardians of the Galaxy" scavenges all sorts of "greatest hits" precedents, from "Iron Man" on down, to come up with its own summertime fling. It's looser, scruffier and more overtly comic than the average Marvel action fantasy. And despite the usual load of violence, not all of it properly handled, the film owes its relative buoyancy above all to Chris Pratt as the wisecracking space rogue at the helm.
July 24, 2014
It's impossible to watch the character anchoring Anton Corbijn's cool, clear-eyed film version of "A Most Wanted Man" without forgetting the fate of the bleary-eyed but fantastically vital actor who plays him.
12:30 PM EDT, July 24, 2014
Le schlockmeister Luc Besson has no beef with men and guns, or he wouldn't have made the "Transporter" movies with Jason Statham. Or written "Taken." But in the world according to Besson, older girls ("La Femme Nikita") and young women in wee skirts and stiletto heels, gliding in slow motion toward their latest deserving victims of firearm violence, carrying nicely polished automatic weapons in each perfectly manicured hand — that's the stuff, that's what makes Besson Besson.
1:01 PM EDT, July 24, 2014
"And So It Goes" is going for "cute," as in: "Oh, well, you know. It was cute." Michael Douglas stars as the grumpy old real estate agent with the broken heart, with Diane Keaton as the lounge singer next door. The title "And So It Goes" belongs on a list with "That's Life!" "Whatever Works" and "Enough Said," each film's moniker evoking that feeling of here-we-go-again and isn't-love-a-funny-thing.
12:58 PM EDT, July 17, 2014
Like "2001: A Space Odyssey," Jake Kasdan's "Sex Tape" is a grim cautionary fable about the evils of technology, in this case pitting its desperate protagonists against an unseen force people refer to as "the cloud."
1:50 PM EDT, July 17, 2014
"Scrubs" alum Zach Braff made his directorial feature debut a decade ago with "Garden State," and now, as writer, director and star, he has managed a second film about actors and their insecurities. This one, "Wish I Was Here," he co-wrote with his brother, Adam.
1:49 PM EDT, July 1, 2014
Small favors, but in "Tammy" we have a less grating road-trip comedy than "Identity Thief," the one Melissa McCarthy did with Jason Bateman, and a more deliberately heartwarming vehicle than "The Heat," featuring McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.
11:28 AM EDT, July 1, 2014
"Earth to Echo" is an engagingly unassuming "E.T." knockoff, a kids movie that serves up a similar alien-with-kids story in a "Blair Witch"/ "Paranormal" shaky-cam package.
11:27 AM EDT, July 1, 2014
Classed up by its cast, "Deliver Us From Evil" concludes with a deliverance from evil in the form of a rip-roaring exorcism, simply staged in a police interrogation room, though goosed up with the usual barrage of digital effects. Routine in nearly every aspect, the movie cannot be accused of holding out on its audience. The evil's delivered, and then dealt with.
12:40 PM EDT, July 1, 2014
"Begin Again" is an insistent puppy of a movie, just about willing you to like it. And while it has appeal — you'd have to be a troll to resist it completely — you may end up wanting to enjoy it more than its qualities will allow.
1:39 PM EDT, June 12, 2014
Not so many administrations ago, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Dirty Dancing" and a handful of other films dared to deal with abortion, off-camera and usually a little off the main plotline, as a medical option chosen by a sympathetic young woman dictated by the machinations of the screenplay, usually with the help of sperm donated by a dislikable supporting character.
10:46 AM EDT, June 19, 2014
"Jersey Boys" the movie is a different, more sedate animal than "Jersey Boys" the Broadway musical. Often this happens when a stage success comes to the screen, even with many of the same performers and artistic team members on board. Changes are made; ardent fans of the original are variously pleased or disappointed. And in this case, those who missed the theatrical edition of the tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — how they found their sound and wrestled with temptations — may wonder what the fuss was about.
9:57 AM EDT, June 19, 2014
A 105-minute ad for Caesars Palace, the passably engaging sequel "Think Like a Man Too" allows Kevin Hart, the ensemble's hottest potato, to hijack whole sections of the Las Vegas-set hijinks as he lets loose with his little verbal tsunamis of braggadocio. The way this comedy has been edited by Peter S. Elliot, presumably at the urging of director Tim Story, the shots barely hold themselves for two or three seconds before slam-cutting away to a pushy reaction shot. This isn't momentum; it's agitation, and antsy pacing such as this has a way of giving the impression of energy, rather than truly energizing a scene.
11:32 AM EDT, June 19, 2014
Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's ... You get the idea.
11:57 AM EDT, May 29, 2014
Only in Texas could the neo-noir of "Cold in July" be so believable.
12:15 PM EDT, June 12, 2014
The peculiar sweetness of "21 Jump Street" has taken a hiatus in "22 Jump Street," a brazen sequel that's both slightly disappointing and a reliable, often riotous "laffer" in the old Variety trade-magazine parlance. No question about it, I laffed, more at the little things — Channing Tatum trying to cut glass with a laser pointer, for example — than the brawls.
June 12, 2014
Toothless it's not.
10:31 AM EDT, May 15, 2014
Written and directed by Gia Coppola, "Palo Alto" is adapted from a collection of short stories by James Franco and conjures a delicate, very specific sense of middle-class adolescence, the indeterminate, nascent feelings of the teenage years. Small moments can feel epic in scale, such as when a boy almost sending a girl a text message is an emotional turning point.
June 5, 2014
In the discreetly assaultive film version of "The Fault in Our Stars" there's a scene, faithful to the one in the best-selling John Green book, where Hazel and Augustus visit the Amsterdam home of a novelist whose cancer-related novel holds great personal meaning for two teenage Indianapolis cancer patients in love.
June 5, 2014
Insanely derivative, frenetically enjoyable, "Edge of Tomorrow" takes gaming to a new level of big-screen indulgence, sending Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt through the same alien-invasion scenario over and over until they learn how to win, put down the consoles and get off the couch for a little lunch and some fresh air, maybe.
1:51 PM EDT, June 5, 2014
"Words and Pictures," starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, is a romantic comedy masquerading as a war between literature and art.
4:08 PM EDT, May 29, 2014
The formula works. It worked with "Wicked" on stage and it worked with "Frozen" on film — tilting the storytelling prism so that a new angle on a well-known fairy tale appears in the light. The strategy depends on humanizing characters formerly known as evil, so that another tale of conflicted impulses emerges from the story we know, driven by female antagonist/protagonist hybrids who aren't bad, just misunderstood.
4:20 PM EDT, May 29, 2014
"A Million Ways to Die in the West" is a grim vanity project for, by and about its creator, "Family Guy" guru Seth MacFarlane, determined here to prove himself capable of carrying his own movie in a romantic-comic leading role. He hits his marks; he's just not funny or interesting. Don Knotts made "The Shakiest Gun in the West"; MacFarlane is the smuggest.
12:18 PM EDT, May 22, 2014
One of the year's gems, photographed in velvety, expressive black-and-white by two different cinematographers working as one, "Ida" accomplishes so much, so surely in its 80 minutes, it's as if the director Pawel Pawlikowski had dared himself: How can I tell this fascinating story efficiently yet without rushing and abridging the narrative?
1:16 PM EDT, May 22, 2014
About midway into the latest X-Men flick, Bryan Singer’s generous, delightfully convoluted “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” there is a prison break so exuberant and uncharacteristic of superhero movies that you sit up a bit in your seat. You feel the audience around you snapping to. Not because Singer’s return to the 14-year-old film franchise feels undernourished (it doesn’t). Or what comes before seems perfunctory (it’s not). But because the sequence — Wolverine, the Pentagon and “Sanford & Son” — is so eccentric you’re reminded that a little charm has been in the contract between audiences and superheroes all along:
10:45 AM EDT, May 15, 2014
Jon Favreau's "Chef" has one goal: to make you want to eat Cuban sandwiches twice a day for the rest of your life. Meat-eating moviegoers of all palates will have a difficult time controlling their drool, thanks to writer-director-star Favreau's close-ups of a snazzy food truck grill in action, sizzling, sizzling away, the ham looking like heaven, to say nothing of the bread and the pickles.
12:34 PM EDT, May 22, 2014
"The Immigrant," starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, is one of those prickly period pieces about hard times that gets under your skin and leaves you unsettled long after.
11:28 AM EDT, May 14, 2014
In one fell swoop, and a pretty swell fell swoop it is, the new "Godzilla" makes up for the 1998 Godzilla movie, the one with Matthew Broderick up against the sea beast klutzing around New York like Jack Lemmon in "The Out-of-Towners." The latest "Godzilla," fine and fierce, removes the camp (though it's not humorless) and takes the smartly considered step of not over-exploiting its star.
10:44 AM EDT, May 15, 2014
Partly it's the granite chin, and the ever-so-slightly self-congratulatory grin just above it. Partly it's his signature role, the duplicitous hollow man Don Draper on "Mad Men," the role Jon Hamm has been fortunate enough to explore the past few years.
11:23 AM EDT, April 17, 2014
With the YA swoon of "Twilight" safely in the rearview mirror, movie vampires get their mojo back in the sensuous dreamscape of "Only Lovers Left Alive," one of the strongest films yet from Jim Jarmusch.
1:13 PM EDT, April 10, 2014
Quiet nobility is all very well, but what actor doesn't relish a good bad boy now and then?
11:08 AM EDT, May 1, 2014
"Locke" is a solo act, and Tom Hardy is its superbly talented soloist. Throughout writer-director Steven Knight's nocturnal drama, the actor, deploying a Welsh accent, keeps his voice in a calm, determined register, suggesting a born manager and innate control freak whose life has spun atypically out of control.
1:05 PM EDT, May 8, 2014
One part smart, one part stupid and three parts jokes about body parts, the extremely raunchy "Neighbors" is a strange success story. It's nobody's idea of a well-structured and logically detailed screenplay, even though its premise — new parents battling frat house neighbors — springs from a high-concept idea that could've come from scriptwriting software or a research facility. Which brings us to one of the movie's better early jokes: Sizing up the perpetually shirtless kegmeister played by Zac Efron, Seth Rogen wonders if his adversary was "designed in a laboratory."
12:35 PM EDT, May 8, 2014
"Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" is a harmless but almost charmless adaptation of a book by L. Frank Baum's grandson. It's a derivative hash of grandpa's story, set in the present day, given forgettable new tunes by pop songsmiths such as Bryan Adams sung by the likes of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Hugh Dancy and the operatic Megan Hilty of TV's "Smash."
11:44 AM EDT, April 24, 2014
Hollywood years are like dog years, which means 17 years is a long time. Seventeen years ago Cameron Diaz played the chipper second banana, the other woman, in the Julia Roberts vehicle "My Best Friend's Wedding." While that movie really belonged to Rupert Everett, the sunny goodwill flying out of every single one of Diaz's pores cast a nice warm glow over the Chicago-filmed diversion.
3:20 PM EDT, April 10, 2014
”Joe” is the movie that will make you remember how good Nicolas Cage once was and can be again.
11:14 AM EDT, April 17, 2014
The concept of manly grief leads into so many dark areas and cultural expectations — questions about how men are expected to bury their trauma long after the traumatizing event. Or else, how men are expected to examine it, reckon with it emotionally, when everything in their DNA and their upbringing tells them to keep it in.
11:30 PM EDT, April 1, 2014
Having hit the international jackpot with "The Woman in Black," the revived Hammer Films label follows up with a title that lacks that haunted-house pic's familiarity of source material, highly accessible premise and equivalently marketable star. Instead, "The Quiet Ones" presents rising actor Sam Claflin as an average guy participating in an ethically dubious scientific experiment into psychic disturbance. The 1970s setting offers a retro feel that should strike appealing chords for fans of old-school horror, but there's little here that's exactly new or fresh, indicating a challenge for Lionsgate to make the film's voice heard above the din. The pic opens April 25 Stateside.
11:43 AM EDT, April 24, 2014
The title "Walking With the Enemy" suggests a peculiar lack of urgency, so it's a disappointingly accurate handle indeed.
5:23 PM EDT, April 16, 2014
After an intriguing start, "Transcendence" — aka "The Computer Wore Johnny Depp's Tennis Shoes" — offers roughly the same level of excitement as listening to hold music during a call to tech support.
1:15 PM EDT, March 20, 2014
Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi burst onto the scene a generation ago with "My Beautiful Laundrette" (1985), and his latest script, "Le Week-End," may be the best he's written since then.
4:52 PM EST, March 6, 2014
To the small but choice list of films that gracefully mix a passion for food with other potent emotions — think "Babette's Feast," "Eat Drink Man Woman," "Big Night," even "Ratatouille" — you can add one more: "The Lunchbox."
4:18 PM EDT, April 10, 2014
Minds will be blown to the four winds. And — fair warning — a percentage of American ticket buyers may find themselves exasperated and/or exiting early.
12:41 PM EDT, April 10, 2014
Happily longer on chills than entrails, the crafty new horror film "Oculus" is about a haunted mirror. Three years ago, writer-director Mike Flanagan made the similarly low-budget "Absentia," which dealt with a haunted pedestrian underpass. In this genre, it's good to be specific.
7:55 PM EDT, March 27, 2014
There is a scene midway through Gareth Evans' action-crime thriller "The Raid 2" that exemplifies the excruciating and exhilarating experience of this gripping paean to the ballet, brutality and blood that courses through martial arts films. The players are not the key ones, but the action is exquisite as two attractive 20-ish Indonesian assassins, a brother-sister team, identify their target in a subway car.
2:58 PM EDT, April 2, 2014
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a better-than-average Marvel superhero bash, intriguingly plotted and pretty clever in its speculations about 21st-century life for Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, the greatest of the Greatest Generation warriors, as he contends with contemporary American geopolitical ideals run amok.
10:57 AM EDT, March 27, 2014
Neither fish nor fowl, neither foul nor inspiring, director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky's strange and often rich new movie "Noah" has enough actual filmmaking to its name to deserve better handling than a plainly nervous Paramount Pictures has given it.
11:09 AM EDT, March 27, 2014
There's a weird, bashful moment in "Sabotage" when Olivia Williams, atypically cast as a tough Atlanta police detective, is drawn like a moth to the flame of Arnold Schwarzenegger's lips. It's a quick bit, cut off with comical abruptness before director and co-writer David Ayer ("Training Day," "End of Watch") gets back to the business of slaughter.
10:19 AM EDT, March 27, 2014
For years, Chicago-born Michael Pena has been the guy behind the guy, doing good, subtle work with the roles he's landed — occasionally in color-blind, ethnically nonspecific casting situations, more often up against other Latino performers also deserving of a less hidebound, more open-minded casting process.
12:59 PM EDT, March 13, 2014
Ever since the moment in "Bottle Rocket" (1996) when Luke Wilson's character paused during a robbery of his own boyhood home to straighten a toy soldier on a bedroom shelf, writer-director Wes Anderson announced his intentions as an artist of serenely extreme exactitude.
11:22 AM EDT, March 20, 2014
High spirits and good times are hard to come by in "Muppets Most Wanted," the anxious follow-up to the commercially successful 2011 reboot ("The Muppets") and the seventh Muppet sequel to follow in the animal tracks of "The Muppet Movie" in 1979.
6:57 PM EDT, March 13, 2014
Sarcastic, sanctimonious, salacious, sly, slight and surprisingly sweet, the black comedy of "Bad Words," starring and directed by Jason Bateman, is high-minded, foul-mouthed good nonsense.
10:38 AM EST, February 13, 2014
Here's the theory. Well before the advent of photography, in paintings of paradoxically photorealistic light and detail such as "Girl With a Pearl Earring" and "The Music Lesson," 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer may have used a camera obscura and a couple of mirrors.
12:58 PM EDT, March 13, 2014
In the race between interesting, long-ish screen noses belonging to good young actors, it's simply too close to call between Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots.
1:02 PM EDT, March 13, 2014
Everything about the way the movie version of "Veronica Mars" came to pass is more intriguing than the movie itself.
11:12 AM EST, March 6, 2014
Even with a change in directors and a half-enlightened, half-salacious emphasis on the voracious Persian conqueror played by Eva Green, "300: Rise of an Empire" hews closely to the look, vibe and the casualty count of its sleekly schlocky 2007 predecessor, helmed by Zack Snyder.
11:10 AM EST, March 6, 2014
We bring to the movies whatever childhoods we had, and whatever television we watched to keep real life at bay, one half-hour at a time.
12:12 PM EST, February 27, 2014
All's right with the world on this late day in February. Liam Neeson, also known as Mr. Capable or Uncle Avuncular, is back headlining another entertainingly preposterous thriller, this one called "Non-Stop," directed by his "Unknown" collaborator, director Jaume Collet-Serra.
12:35 PM EST, February 27, 2014
Blame Mel Gibson for it if you like, but no Jesus movie these days is worth its salt without an utterly unflinching treatment of his torture and Crucifixion. And "Son of God" has stretches when the agony we watch this poor man endure is avert-your-eyes awful. If history ever produced a more excruciating form of punishment, it probably included lions at dinner time.
10:01 AM EST, February 20, 2014
Here's a beautiful apparent contradiction: a gentle, supple picture about the man who designed the Zero fighter plane.
12:28 PM EST, February 27, 2014
"Stalingrad" is a huge, old-fashioned combat spectacle, a war story told on a vast scale and shown on vast Imax movie screens, in 3-D.
2:00 PM EST, February 27, 2014
It's not easy for a fantasy franchise to nimbly establish an elaborate back story, but "Odd Thomas" pulls it off with breezy matter-of-factness in its opening scenes. The titular character, who goes by "Odd" (Anton Yelchin), is an average guy who can't help being a hero. "I may see dead people," he explains, "But by God, I do something about it."
10:09 AM EST, February 20, 2014
Kevin Costner and director McG are plunged into the madcap mayhem of Monsieur Luc Besson in "3 Days to Kill," a seriocomic thriller about mortality, murder for hire and fatherhood.
10:22 AM EST, January 9, 2014
In an earlier Asghar Farhadi film, "About Elly," a divorcing character says: "A bitter end is much better than a bitterness without ending." Neither option provides much ease. In the right hands, however, both yield infinite dramatic riches.
10:07 AM EST, February 20, 2014
We keep coming back to "Therese Raquin" for the same reason Emile Zola's 1867 novel of adultery and murder, which ascribed its anti-heroine's amorality to her "hot" African blood, stirred the imaginations of Theodore Dreiser ("An American Tragedy"), James M. Cain ("The Postman Always Rings Twice") and a thousand other creative voyeurs with access to a printing press. Sex sells. It hooks us as partakers in someone else's fantasy of desire and comeuppance. We want to know what happens once the guards are lowered and the clothes come off and transgressions feed other transgressions.
1:11 PM EST, February 11, 2014
Intriguingly ambiguous in its rooting interests, the "RoboCop" remake doesn't really believe its own poster. The tagline "Crime has a new enemy" suggests little more than point and shoot — the same old cyborg song and dance. While nobody'd be dumb enough to reboot the original 1987 kill-'em-up franchise by holding back on the scenes of slaughter in favor of sly political satire about arm-twisting Fox News jingoism or American business ethics, Brazilian-born director Jose Padilha manages to do all that and still deliver the product.
10:38 AM EST, February 13, 2014
Alongside the reboots of "RoboCop" and "About Last Night," this week's bizarre "I Love the '80s" multiplex tribute continues with the remake of "Endless Love," a movie just begging to go up in the flames of camp. If only somebody had brought a match.
12:36 PM EST, February 13, 2014
"About Last Night," which is about hookups and relationships and the photogenic allure of the revitalized downtown Los Angeles, comes with a strange pedigree. First in its line was David Mamet's mean, sad, funny 1974 comedy "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," 100 percent Chicago all the way. Mamet saw no hope for his four characters, romantically speaking, and his view of men and women went far beyond Mars and Venus. House plants and rubber bands had a better shot at relating.
10:38 AM EST, February 13, 2014
In the movies, particularly in the case of best-sellers adapted for the screen, time travel and its next-door neighbor, reincarnation, seem like a good idea at the time. But very often something goes gooey. Even with Colin Farrell's soulful eyes, the tastefully cockamamie and increasingly gloppy new film "Winter's Tale," pulled from Mark Helprin's 1983 novel, refuses to take off in any of its eras.
5:09 PM EST, February 4, 2014
Finally! A comedy that works. An animated film with a look — a kinetic aesthetic honoring its product line's bright, bricklike origins — that isn't like every other clinically rounded and bland digital 3-D effort. A movie that works for the Lego-indebted parent as well as the Lego-crazed offspring. A movie that, in its brilliantly crammed first half especially, will work even if you don't give a rip about Legos.
5:18 PM EST, February 4, 2014
A genial disappointment about the preciousness of art amid the destructive horrors of war, "The Monuments Men" is scored to a military march by composer Alexandre Desplat. You hear what he was going for: jaunty heroics. The throwback sound of it suggests the director, co-writer and star George Clooney sat down with Desplat, gave him a smile and said: "Gimme some of that Elmer Bernstein 'Great Escape' magic, Al."
10:21 AM EST, February 6, 2014
There is a naturalistic charm to the truth-telling going on in "Gloria," Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's near-perfect film about the very imperfect world of a divorced woman of a certain age.
12:19 PM EST, January 23, 2014
It's hard not to be affected by a story about a pregnant, homeless teenager such as the one at the heart of "Gimme Shelter," which stars "High School Musical's" Vanessa Hudgens. But some movies, full of good intentions and cliches undermining those intentions, make it very hard indeed.
10:45 AM EST, January 23, 2014
Charles Dickens wrote often about people required by circumstance to skitter through double lives, none with more dastardly, compartmentalized determination than the secretive choirmaster at the center of his final, unfinished work, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."
11:48 AM EST, January 16, 2014
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and all that, but "The Nut Job" didn't work out that way. This 3-D animation job, a co-production of South Korea's Redrover Co. and the Canadian outfit ToonBox Entertainment, generates such little interest in the fates of its urban park critters, you may find yourself pondering mixed-use development schemes to rid the film of its key setting altogether.
11:51 AM EST, January 16, 2014
Early, bloggy reviews of "Ride Along" have rolled in this week with phrases such as "perfectly acceptable" and "been-there-done-that," suggesting the likely range of opinion. It'll probably be a hit: Audiences are getting precisely what they're promised.
11:52 AM EST, January 16, 2014
The best moment in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" allows the director and crucial supporting player Kenneth Branagh to set cars and guns aside for a brief, unblinking glare in a two-person scene at a dinner table. Branagh plays a heroin-addicted Russian terrorist in this routine franchise reboot, and when he's at dinner in Moscow with Ryan's fiancee, played by Keira Knightley, he's being duped into believing he's making meaningful progress in the sniveling-seduction department.
10:26 AM EST, January 9, 2014
Over and over, the negative reviews of "August: Osage County" have pulled variations on a sad theme, with various New York- and LA-based critics wrestling with the film without having seen, or read, the Tracy Letts play that came before it. Paraphrased, the theme goes like this: "Well, at least now I don't have to see the play. The movie doesn't work for me. Why would I ever take time to see the original?"
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