Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Secret

There's a surprising amount of blood coursing through the veins of "In Secret," director Charlie Stratton's film of the Émile Zola novel Thérѐse Raquin.


One of the five nominees for this year's foreign language Oscar, the Palestinian "Omar" stars Adam Bakri as the title character, a baker we first see scaling a tall separation wall to see his secret girlfriend, Nadja (Leem Lubany), sister of Tarek (Eyad Hourani), his best friend since childhood.

Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Days to Kill

Luc Besson's script for "3 Days to Kill' attempts to recreate the hit-man by day/dad by night magic of "The Professional" (1994), but Kevin Costner is no Jean Reno and, more importantly, Hailee Steinfeld is no Natalie Portman.

Child's Pose

"Child's Pose," the new film by Romanian New Wave pioneer Calin Peter Netzer, spends much of its two-hour runtime at or near a four-star level, anchored by the tremendous performance of Luminita Gheroghiu as the well-connected, domineering Bucharest architect Cornelia Keneres (her browbeaten husband calls her "Controlia").

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

About Last Night

I'm frequently asked for a recommendation for a good date movie, and too often have to point folks to titles on DVD. Not right now. "About Last Night" is a terrific date movie for all audiences, sexy, sweet, and, thanks to a gem of a performance by Regina Hall, often riotously funny.


The collaborators behind the celebrated "Qatsi" trilogy - director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass - reunite for the much less successful new photo album "Visitors."

The Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shorts: 2013

This year's five Oscar-nominated documentary shorts are all fair but forgettable (and, as ever, interrupted by Shorts HD with needless and unenlightening interviews with previous nominees). From worst to best:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In Bloom

Two 14-year-old girl friends - pretty Natia (Mariam Bokeria) and homely Eka (Lika Babluani) - come of age in 1992 Tbilisi in "In Bloom," directed by Simon Gross and Georgian native Nana Ekvtimishvili.

The Last of the Unjust

In 1975, "Shoah" director Claude Lanzmann conducted a series of interviews with Benjamin Murmelstein (then living in Rome), the third and only surviving (he died in 1989) President of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Monuments Men

In the flat and turgid "The Monuments Men," George Clooney turns WWII into a painted set, a mere backdrop for a series of vapid speeches (by him, natch) about art as the cornerstone of civilization, the thing we were fighting for most.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Great Flood

Commissioned by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, "The Great Flood" documents the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, the most destructive in our nation's history, in which she broke out of her embankments in 145 places, inundating 27,000 square miles, including wide swaths of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. The flood displaced sharecroppers, who left the plantation to migrate north, bringing (among many other things) new musical sounds and styles to Memphis, Detroit, Chicago.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

That Awkward Moment

A slow start to 2014 continues with writer-director Tom Gormican's fish-nor-fowl "That Awkward Moment," which produced no laughter and only stony silence from the small audience at my late show.

Monday, February 3, 2014

At Middleton, Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air
At Middleton

If you'd told me I'd see two romantic comedies in one day and that the one starring Ludivine Sagnier (on the strength of "Love Crime," perhaps the worst actress working today) would be less cringe-worthy than the one starring Vera Farmiga (one of the best), I'd have taken that bet for any amount of money.

Stranger by the Lake

Alain Guiraudie's approach to the men cruising for gay sex along an unspecified French lakeshore in "Stranger by the Lake" is purely anthropological, and on this occasion I mean that in a good way.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts: 2013

The second package of Oscar-nominated shorts playing at the Nuart for the next two weeks (each requiring separate admission) are the animated shorts. From worst to best: