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.)