If there's such a thing as "Australian Gothic", this is it. Essie Davis, who looks like a cross between Laura Linney and Isabelle Huppert, plays a young widow named Amelia. Noah Wiseman, an amazing little actor who could be Damien from The Omen as played by Mick Jagger, plays her son Samuel, days away from his seventh birthday – which… read more!
Movies Released in 2014 (in alphabetical order)
A year ago, Exene Cervenka, singer for the LA punk band X, sold off some of her old junk online, and I noted that she collected the same wacky '50s/'60s/'70s kitsch that my old CalArts roommates did. Little wonder: my roomies were born in 1961; Cervenka in 1956. They belong to a specific generation of artist-hipsters that simultaneously mock and… read more!
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a once-popular Hollywood actor best known for playing a fictional superhero named Birdman. It's been some 20 years since he turned down Birdman IV and thus killed his career. In an attempt to prove to the public that he's actually a great actor, Thomson decides to write, direct, and star in a Broadway adaptation of… read more!
The third slice of spooky whimsy from Laika, the Oregon-based stop-motion animation studio that gave us Coraline and ParaNorman, is simultaneously more of a kiddie movie than its predecessors and more of an atrocity exhibition. Set in a Victorian English town called Cheesebridge, The Boxtrolls concerns the eponymous characters, who grunt like a cross between Mr. Bean and Gollum, and… read more!
Boyhood, as you may have heard, is a special film because it was shot over the course of a 12-year period with the same cast and much of the same crew. It's gimmicky, sure, but it's also a testament to writer/director Richard Linklater's commitment and ambition (as well as that of his collaborators). And it just so happens that his… read more!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Because Captain America: The First Avenger took place mostly in World War II, when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) turned from wimp to hero as he fought off the Red Skull and the HYDRA faction of the Nazi army (or were the Nazis merely a part of HYDRA?), and ended with Cap thawed out just in time for the 21st century… read more!
I'm late to the table – culinary joke! – to this sleeper hit, but after Chef received enough recommendations from trustworthy friends, I caved in and caught a matinee. If writer/directer/star Jon Favreau had not already helmed huge Hollywood films like Iron Man and Elf, one might expect Chef to be a reasonable directorial debut for the guy who wrote… read more!
At a time when documentaries load themselves up with fancy visual effects, dramatic reenactments, and Oscar-quality cinematography, Citizenfour is a no-nonsense, hurriedly-shot account of director Laura Poitras's role in Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations about the National Security Agency's rampant, illegal surveillance of hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans and foreigners. Poitras was originally contacted by Snowden himself: he'd known of… read more!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
This sequel to the, uh, prequel (to what, exactly?) Rise of the Planet of the Apes - and in retrospect, they should have named the previous film "Dawn" and this one "Rise", but no matter - is a satisfying blend of storytelling, action and Motion-Capture/CG effects, a blockbuster that may be even smarter than its predecessor. The story picks up… read more!
Edge of Tomorrow
Boy, I wish this movie had a better name. Its working title, All You Need Is Kill – like the Japanese novel on which it's based – is no better, but Edge of Tomorrow sounds like a soap opera. It's hard to say whether this bland title deterred audience interest in the film, or if people are just kind of… read more!
A bourgeois Swedish family – attractive thirtysomething parents (Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli) and their two young children – check in at a posh French ski resort for a five-day holiday in the snow. Early in the trip, the family is surprised by a terrifying but nonlethal avalanche during lunch. How the father reacts during those few snowblind seconds… read more!
I'm a little envious of anyone who might see Foxcatcher without knowing anything about the events surrounding millionaire John du Pont in 1996. I thought it was fairly common knowledge, but in the event that it's not, I won't reveal how Foxcatcher ends, even if it's almost immaterial to the bulk of the film's story, which unfolds across 1987 and… read more!
Domhnall Gleeson plays Jon, a naive would-be songwriter who rather abruptly – and randomly – is asked to join an avant-garde band called "Soronprfbs", led by a friendly but thoroughly mysterious frontman named Frank (Michael Fassbender in a bit of surprise casting) who hides his face behind an enormous papier-mâché head. Does this sound like insufferable quirk? At first, it… read more!
It sounded so promising: a reverent remake of Godzilla with top-notch actors, an indie director with rich potential, and a serious take on the story. Why, then, is this Godzilla so underwhelming? Most audience members may cite the general lack of Godzilla himself in the movie. Oh, if you wait around until the third act, you'll see plenty of him… read more!
I've never been a big reader. I can make it through six books per year if I'm diligent. This year, one of the books I read was Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl – because my wife read it and enjoyed it (except for the ending), and then she gave it to me, suggesting that I too would enjoy it (except for… read more!
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Can one call this movie anything other than a "confection"? After regaining art house box office relevance with his charming if twee Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson stays in the madcap period picture wheelhouse with this caper comedy, set in the 1930s in a fictional Eastern European country called Zubrowka. Ralph Fiennes, a newcomer to the Anderson stable of actors (many… read more!
Guardians of the Galaxy
Back during my Marvel Comics-reading days, when I was what you'd now call a "tween", I'd catch fleeting references to the Guardians of the Galaxy here and there. But they were obscure. They had no comic of their own, and members seemed to dart in and out. I was surprised to learn that the group that's gathered together in the… read more!
I've never read the work of Thomas Pynchon, but I understand it to be incredibly dense, packed with far-out ideas, and, while brilliant, definitely not for the casual reader. If that's true, then I assume Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Pynchon's 2009 novel Inherent Vice is very faithful to the book. A marijuana-fueled riff on the detective genre, the 1970-set… read more!
I am not a Christopher Nolan apologist. In fact, I'm usually among the first to point out his films' plot holes, contrivances, and overall self-seriousness. So when, during the very first days after Interstellar's release, I began seeing people complaining about the same things I usually complain about, I thought, Oh well, here we go again. I still see all… read more!
The Lego Movie
I'm not sure whether to describe this film as "The Matrix by way of Toy Story" or as "Toy Story by way of The Matrix". Either comparison is apt. The Lego Movie opens on a "minifig" named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), a friendly dimwit who, like everybody else in his happy little Lego-burg, follows the rules, does what he's… read more!