Monday, December 30, 2013

Lone Survivor, The Invisible Woman, The Selfish Giant

Lone Survivor

The Invisible Woman

The Selfish Giant

A trio of discommendations round out the year in film. Call it Bleaker, Bleak House, Bleakest.

Labor Day

Writer-director Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" is like a short story you can't put down, with an immediacy born of a deeply felt sense of time and place and a leanness and economy of storytelling.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller's update of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" achieves more of what it sets out to do than most of the better-pedigreed Christmas releases this year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Past

You have to take Bérénice Bejo’s Best Actress award at Cannes with a grain of salt. They’re gonna give it to a Frenchie anytime it’s remotely conceivable.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Camille Claudel, 1915

In a world in which progress toward equality often comes only when enough people witness an injustice that nobody ought to be made to bear, Bruno Dumont's austere and demanding "Camille Claudel, 1915" is in its own way a proto-feminist rallying cry.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tim's Vermeer

The glow and play of light suffuses the work of Johannes Vermeer like that of no other painter in the pantheon.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lenny Cooke

Brothers Ben and Joshua Safdie - the directors of the basketball documentary "Lenny Cooke" - offer not so much a piece of filmmaking as a data dump.

American Hustle

It's getting to be an annual tradition.

Liv and Ingmar

Cinephiles won't want to miss the tender and touching documentary "Liv and Ingmar," about the five-year working (and romantic) relationship between actress Liv Ullmann and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (20+ years her senior), and the lifelong friendship that only fully blossomed after they'd gone their separate ways.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis

"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the first Coen Brothers movie by way of Wes Anderson, and that's most definitely not a good thing. This lethargic evocation of the New York folk music scene circa 1961 is highly stylized and handsomely mounted, with unimpeachable production design, but totally lacking in human feeling. 

Narco Cultura

Los Angeles audiences have just a couple days left to catch Shaul Schwarz's harrowing documentary "Narco Cultura" at the Royal.

Monday, December 9, 2013

One Chance

"The Devil Wears Prada" director David Frankel returns with the true story of Paul Potts, a London cellphone salesman who won "Britain's Got Talent."

Out of the Furnace

It doesn't surprise me to learn that CinemaScore audiences assigned "Out of the Furnace" an average grade of C+ this weekend. It's bleak and unremitting, as far from a crowd pleaser as mainstream movies get. But the first half is very good, and even the second half - which becomes a fairly standard revenge story - contains some of the riveting scenes that merit a recommendation for true film fans.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bettie Page Reveals All, These Birds Walk, Sweet Dreams

Bettie Page Reveals All
Sweet Dreams

These Birds Walk

Finally, a trio of documentaries, in each of which the filmmaking falls short of the interest of the subject.

Reaching for the Moon

Another biopic, this one of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop, is the best of the week’s offerings.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

It’s something of an accomplishment that Idris Elba’s vocal intonations as Nelson Mandela are as listenable as Morgan Freeman’s in “Invictus” – after all, Freeman’s voice is an industry unto itself.

Delivery Man

Vince Vaughn has remade the jaw-droppingly bad French-Canadian comedy “Starbuck,” about a former sperm donor who has inadvertently fathered 500-some-odd children (so perfectly multicultural they could be a Benetton ad), into an almost equally bad English-language French comedy called “Delivery Man.”


A lot of would-be cineastes have reflexively pooh-poohed Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean film “Oldboy,” but I prefer Lee’s version.


“Frozen” falls squarely (so to speak) within the classic mold of Disney animation, though it’s several rungs short of the studio’s early-1990s run that reached its zenith with the eye-popping visual imagination and nonstop inventiveness of “Aladdin,” and well below the 21st-century benchmark set by “Tangled” a few years ago. (Of course, Pixar’s “Up” and “Wall-E” occupy another level entirely.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird

Steven-Charles Jaffe’s documentary “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird” lifts the veil on the 83-year-old cartoonist for The New Yorker and Playboy magazines, known for his lovingly rendered monsters and child’s-eye view of the world.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Approved for Adoption

"Approved for Adoption," a childhood remembrance by director Jung Henin, is a stylistic mishmash composed mostly of animation, with a few archival newsreels and a bit of newly-shot video footage of Henin today.

Geography Club

Half a dozen years ago, Lifetime ran a reality show called "Gay, Straight or Taken?" in which a bachelorette spent a day with three men and had to determine who was gay, who was straight and available, and who already had a girlfriend.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Having set the bar for least screen time in an Oscar-winning performance in "Shakespeare in Love," Dame Judi Dench occupies almost every scene of the new tearjerker "Philomena," about an English nurse's search for the boy she was forced to give up for adoption fifty years earlier.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Alexander Payne is the director of "Citizen Ruth," "Sideways," and "The Descendants." And now he's made a good movie.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Motel Life

Brothers Alan and Gabe Polsky make their directorial debut with an adaptation of the fraternally themed Willy Vlautin novel "The Motel Life," about the peripatetic Flanagan boys, Frank (Emile Hirsch) and Jerry Lee (Stephen Dorff).

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Broken Circle Breakdown

The better the movie, the harder it can be to put into words. Such is the case with Belgium’s entry for foreign-language Oscar consideration, the bluegrass-and-cancer uniquity “The Broken Circle Breakdown.” 

The Book Thief

"The Book Thief," based on Markus Zusak's bestseller, takes us to Germany before and during WWII, where Rosa (Emily Watson) and Hans (Geoffrey Rush) await their two new foster children.

The Armstrong Lie

Alex Gibney is the preeminent, and perhaps the most prolific, documentarian in the current cinema.

The Wind Rises

The legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has avowed that "The Wind Rises" will be his last film, and what a strange swan song it is.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Square

It pains me to hear "The Square" talked about as a documentary Oscar front-runner, because to me "Blackfish" is the most important and moving documentary in years.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" is the kind of movie that, even if you like, you wouldn't want to see more than once a year.

The New Black

Director Yoruba Richen brings solid production values and a commendable sense of fairness to the documentary "The New Black," about the black community's views on LGBTs and their rights, as seen through the prism of Maryland's Question 6, the first statewide marriage-equality voter referendum to prevail at the polls.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Costa-Gavras has come out from under some rock to make "Capital," a corporate thriller that clearly establishes he's never spent in a minute in a boardroom.

Last Vegas

There are a few laughs in the sexagenarian WHIVSIV comedy "Last Vegas," flashes of wit among the warmed-over sentiment and tiresome plot machinations.

About Time

I was surprised how much antipathy I'd mustered by the end of "About Time," Richard Curtis' stupid and sexist British romcom.