Movie Reviews

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  • 'American Sniper' goes above and beyond war-hero tradition
    'American Sniper' goes above and beyond war-hero tradition

    Biopics about American war heroes are a Hollywood tradition going all the way back to Gary Cooper starring as the legendary World War I sharpshooter "Sergeant York" and World War II's highly decorated Audie Murphy playing himself in "To Hell and Back." "American Sniper" is squarely in that...

  • 'Unbroken' indeed, yet Jolie chooses agony over redemption
    'Unbroken' indeed, yet Jolie chooses agony over redemption

    Despite its many impressive elements, "Unbroken" plays incomplete and unbalanced. The film has made a decision not to tell all of Louis Zamperini's riveting true story, and that choice costs it in the end.

  • 'The Gambler' comes up short by failing to go all in
    'The Gambler' comes up short by failing to go all in

    A remake of the 1974 film of the same name, "The Gambler" stars Mark Wahlberg as a man who charts a course of self-destruction aiming to reset his life by losing everything, having found life as a college literature professor born to a wealthy family too much to bear. Everybody's got their...

  • Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' feels too paint-by-numbers
    Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' feels too paint-by-numbers

    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...

  • The trip 'Into the Woods' is spooky, thoughtful, delightful
    The trip 'Into the Woods' is spooky, thoughtful, delightful

    "Into the Woods," the deliciously arch, deceptively deep, fractured fairy tale with its soaring Sondheim showstoppers, has made it to the big screen virtually untouched by Hollywood's big, tall, terrible giants, whose meddling can so often make a mess of things.

  • Flat. Stagnant. Well, 'Goodbye to All That'
    Flat. Stagnant. Well, 'Goodbye to All That'

    A charming supporting cast fails to invigorate "Goodbye to All That," a relentlessly flat seriocomic take on contemporary relationships marking the directorial debut of "Junebug" scribe Angus MacLachlan.

  • 'After the Fall' drifts by on a 'Breaking Bad' motif
    'After the Fall' drifts by on a 'Breaking Bad' motif

    What the moody indie drama "After the Fall" struggles with is rapidly evident from its brush strokes setup: In a middle-class desert suburb, a mild-mannered husband and father's impending monetary crisis triggers a criminal side.

  • Bollywood musical 'PK' a radical film in extraterrestrial guise
    Bollywood musical 'PK' a radical film in extraterrestrial guise

    A biting, whip-smart satire on the thorny subject of organized religion, the Bollywood musical "PK" enlightens and provokes through outrageous slapstick.

  • 'Poker Night' deals a poor hand with few high cards
    'Poker Night' deals a poor hand with few high cards

    "Poker Night" brings to mind so many forgettable thrillers from the 1990s, films that aimed to impress stylistically but ultimately were met with indifference.

  • 'Ask Me Anything' answers teen questions deftly
    'Ask Me Anything' answers teen questions deftly

    The edgy coming-of-age tale "Ask Me Anything" begins with a snarky, bubble-gum vibe that gives way to something far deeper and meaningful. Writer-director Allison Burnett, who based the script on his 2009 novel, "Undiscovered Gyrl," masterfully immerses us into the life of a floundering...

  • Goodbyes abound in 'Night at the Museum' as trilogy comes to an end
    Goodbyes abound in 'Night at the Museum' as trilogy comes to an end

    "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.

  • 'Inside the Mind of Leonardo' tours Italy, not Da Vinci's head
    'Inside the Mind of Leonardo' tours Italy, not Da Vinci's head

    Peter Capaldi of "Doctor Who" performs excerpts from some 6,000 pages of Leonardo da Vinci's journals for the documentary "Inside the Mind of Leonardo," but what you actually glean from the artist's mind here seems peripheral compared with, say, J. M. W. Turner's personal and professional...

  • Atom Egoyan's kidnapping drama 'The Captive' baroque, ludicrous
    Atom Egoyan's kidnapping drama 'The Captive' baroque, ludicrous

    A snowy labyrinth of anguish and detective work, the kidnapping drama "The Captive" is Atom Egoyan's latest stab at arty, dignified pulp.

  • 'Mr. Turner' an unblinking portrait of British artist J.M.W. Turner
    'Mr. Turner' an unblinking portrait of British artist J.M.W. Turner

    J.M.W. Turner, arguably the greatest of British painters, was an uncommonly difficult man, and "Mr. Turner," the exceptional film Mike Leigh has made about him, does not do things the easy way either.

  • 'Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' too often overwhelms
    'Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' too often overwhelms

    There are three big Middle-earth lessons in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," Peter Jackson's final film tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien's literary fable.

  • 'Anything for Alice' mixes chemistry, old formula for success
    'Anything for Alice' mixes chemistry, old formula for success

    "Anything for Alice" handily demonstrates how there's no need to divert from the dog-eared romantic-comedy playbook when you've got a pair of ace players in your corner.

  • 'Exodus' follows its own path
    'Exodus' follows its own path

    "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is one film where spoiler alerts aren't necessary. Both the Bible and the big screen have so prominently featured the story of fearless prophet Moses and hard-hearted Pharaoh's refusal to let his people go that the events depicted in this latest reenactment will not...

  • 'Inherent Vice' a trippy beach noir set in '70s L.A.
    'Inherent Vice' a trippy beach noir set in '70s L.A.

    "Inherent Vice," Paul Thomas Anderson's trippy, trenchant satire, is very much a creature of Thomas Pynchon's biting deconstruction of the final daze of peace, love and understanding that gives the film its inspiration and its name.

  • Chris Rock a rough, raw, rare diamond in 'Top Five'
    Chris Rock a rough, raw, rare diamond in 'Top Five'

    Movie critics irritate Chris Rock. So do obsessed fans, reality TV, celebrity culture and Hollywood in general. Frankly, I'm thrilled that all these things push Rock's buttons.

  • Effective 'Difret' looks at abhorrent practice in Ethiopia
    Effective 'Difret' looks at abhorrent practice in Ethiopia

    The compelling "Difret" is a small film with a lot on its mind. Authentic and affecting, this drama about fighting against the Ethiopian tradition of abducting young girls into marriage is potent enough to be that country's official Academy Award submission and gain the support of Angelina...

  • 'Salt of the Earth' captures photographer Sebastiao Salgado
    'Salt of the Earth' captures photographer Sebastiao Salgado

    When he looked over the edge of Brazil's massive Serra Pelada mine, about to take one of the 20th century's most iconic photographs, Sebastião Salgado said, "every hair on my body stood on edge. The pyramids, Babel, the history of mankind unfolded. I had traveled to the dawn of time."

  • 'Monk With a Camera,' though devoted, is blurry at its center
    'Monk With a Camera,' though devoted, is blurry at its center

    As a documentary, "Monk With a Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland" is as unassuming as its subject. It seems to demand nothing as it goes about sketching out Vreeland's unusual religious and creative quest.

  • In '100 Days,' a familiar rom-com setup charms nevertheless
    In '100 Days,' a familiar rom-com setup charms nevertheless

    Set in the Taiwan Strait's scenic Matsu Islands, "100 Days" may echo dozens of formulaic American romantic comedies — "Sweet Home Alabama" instantly comes to mind — but still manages its own distinct brand of sweetness and light.

  • 'My Name' offers glimmer of hope about Alzheimer's
    'My Name' offers glimmer of hope about Alzheimer's

    A Japanese treatment for dementia patients has transformative effects on the residents of a Cleveland nursing home profiled in the moving documentary "Do You Know What My Name Is?"

  • 'The Color of Time,' with James Franco, lacks meat
    'The Color of Time,' with James Franco, lacks meat

    While teaching at New York University's graduate film program, James Franco tasked 12 students with directing short adaptations of poems from C.K. Williams' collection "Tar."

  • 'She's Beautiful' gets the word out
    'She's Beautiful' gets the word out

    Those who bristle at the term "feminist," which inexplicably has fallen out of fashion among many young adults, might find a vibrant new documentary enlightening and inspiring.

  • Friendship finds its step in 'Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks'
    Friendship finds its step in 'Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks'

    "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks," adapted by Richard Alfieri from his international hit stage play, is that rare bird: a story that gives equal weight to both the trials of growing old and the struggles of youth. Though the movie may initially seem like one for the senior set, it's an...

  • 'We Are the Giant' gives a fractured view of Arab Spring
    'We Are the Giant' gives a fractured view of Arab Spring

    Profiling agitators on the front lines in Libya, Syria and Bahrain, the documentary "We Are the Giant" puts names and faces to the "Arab Spring" unrest.

  • 'Magician' serves up many tidbits about Orson Welles
    'Magician' serves up many tidbits about Orson Welles

    No single feature-length documentary on the director of "Citizen Kane" is ever going to fully portray the scope of Orson Welles' triumphs, deflations and career eccentricities. Even Welles biographer Simon Callow is taking three volumes with it.

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