Let me start out by saying that the trailer for The Descendants essentially reveals the entire plot, so either don’t watch the trailer or don’t expect much at the theatre. The premise of The Descendants is refreshingly creative: a mother, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie), who has fallen into a coma because of an accident leaves behind a husband, Matthew (George Clooney), who is in charge of a large amount of land; a daughter, Alex (Shailene Woodley), who knows about the mother’s affair with another man; and another daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller), who imitates every rebellious act of her older sister starting with very obscene language. Despite the original plotline, however, I ended up leaving the theater rather peeved.
While many movies focus on the private life behind a public figure, The Iron Lady focuses on the private life of a woman already retired from the spotlight. In keeping with the recent trend of making films about contemporary (British) politicians and royalty, this Margaret Thatcher biopic skillfully weaves fact and a great deal of artistic liberties to create a portrait of the first female prime minister of the UK.
As married couples grow older, they gradually adopt a mindset that pits them against the world and makes them believe that everyone is out to get them. Families grow into units that each have their own ideals and ways of dealing with different situations, and this makes conflict amongst families inevitable. In Roman Polanski’s new film Carnage, this truth is put on display for viewers to evaluate and ridicule.
Movies today bombard us with a full battery of visual, sound, and even psychological effects just to keep us “entertained” and in our seats for up to three hours. French director Michel Hazanavicius has proven that intensity is not necessary, even for Academy Award material. The Artist, the only silent movie I have seen besides some Charlie Chaplin films, declares its excellence in less than two hours. The movie is refreshing as it revels in simplicity and wittiness.
Based on American poet Nick Flynn’s memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Being Flynn is everything a literary film should be, and director Paul Weitz executes it in a way that makes what is seen on-screen as fluid as reading a book. The movie follows the lives of a father and his son who are both struggling writers. The father, Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), had left his family early in his son’s life, and they don’t meet again until Jonathan loses control of his life and becomes homeless. The sudden presence of his father in his life makes Nick (Paul Dano) question everything he has become, and we are shown how his relationship with his father molds every aspect of his life. Although the film is essentially a coming-of-age story, it unfolds so that we can profoundly understand the process. At first glance, the plot seems banal and sophomoric, but this is pleasantly not the case.
The Hunger Games, like its prior fantasy predecessors, Twilight and Harry Potter, is a behemoth. It has the hopes and dreams of millions of tween fangirls and fanboys on the line. When I discovered that they were making the bestselling book series into movies, I could not say I was surprised — what I did not anticipate was being impressed by the first movie. Even for those who have not read the series, the movie is a solid standalone film. It has all the necessary elements: beautiful cinematography, breadth of colorful characters, and the right moments to pull the audience’s heartstrings. What makes premise of The Hunger Games so unique though is that the most monstrous creatures the protagonist faces are other humans.
With a mini-reunion of the cast of Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids had some high standards to live up to. Friends with Kids did succeed in telling the same old love story in a new way, but it did not compare in the comedy department. Still, the movie offers a cute and unique story, and the low budget makes the end result all the more charming.
In this loose adaptation of the 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street, high school enemies turned best buds, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are a motley pair of rookie cops who find themselves transferred to the Jump Street unit, a revived undercover police program from the ’80s. In an attempt to find a drug supplier at Sagan High, Jenko and Schmidt pose as students and find themselves awkwardly navigating the social waters of high school once again. Fortified by his glory days as ruthless bully and super-star jock, Jenko confidently approaches the high-school scene while Schmidt anxiously anticipates a repeat of his teenage misery. This time around, however, Schmidt fits in with the new-age popular crowd, while Jenko’s antiquated notion of “cool” quickly undercuts his chances of moving up Sagan High’s social ladder.
An admirable debut from writer-director-actor Patrick Wang ’98, In the Family examines the timeless story of a father’s love with a topical twist. The gay, Southern-born, Asian-American Joey Williams (Wang) lives in Tennessee with his partner, the schoolteacher Cody Hines (Trevor St. John), and Cody’s 6-year-old biological son, Chip (the talented Sebastian Brodziak). Joey’s an average guy with a big heart; he comes from a foster family background and changed his Asian birth name in memory of his foster parents. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn how Joey met Cody: A contractor by trade, Joey met the then-married Cody as a client; the two formed a close bond after Cody’s wife passed away, and both of them were surprised when it turned into a romance.
Remember being five and giggling about clumsy characters and silly scenes such as a vampire not seeing himself in the mirror while brushing his teeth, an orphan under a bed sheet trying to scare away a guest, or even a vampire chilling out with stoners before sucking their blood and perhaps inviting Alice Cooper to his house later that week?
When I found out that Marvel was making a movie called The Avengers where they dumped all their famous superheroes together, I figured it was just another franchise film. Marvel films are known for their explosions, ruggedly handsome actors, and romantic subplots. After watching so many of such films, I anticipated the typical formula. While The Avengers did follow that formula to some extent, it also showed Hollywood how real entertainment should be done.
The slew of Marvel superhero movies in recent years has culminated with Joss Whedon’s multimillion dollar brainchild, The Avengers. Each Marvel installment had a pleasant dosage of witty lines and heroic bravado, but when all of these characters come together, there is a little too much of everything. Still, the special effects, comical dialogue, and some stellar acting make the movie worth both the money and the time.
I had high expectations going into Prometheus. Ridley Scott finally took the director’s chair again to create a pseudo-prequel to Alien — one of my favorite sci-fi films — which he directed in 1979. Scott did such an amazing job with Alien, so how could Prometheus not be good?
If you like to laugh, you should see Ted. It’s Seth MacFarlane’s (Family Guy) first try at directing for the silver screen, and he delivers on what he does best — telling hilarious vulgar, racist, or sexist jokes. But MacFarlane’s gift is also a curse, because Ted seems to skimp on everything else, making it feel more like a big-budget vehicle to tell the same jokes you can get from an episode of Family Guy.
It’s always disturbing to see how quickly money (a lot of it) can persuade people to compromise their morals, and Nicholas Jarecki’s feature-length directorial debut offers a glimpse of this in the form of the glitzy, sometimes seedy, world of high finance. Arbitrage follows the story of Robert Miller (Richard Gere), a 60-year-old hedge fund executive getting ready to retire into full-time philanthropy. But, as in any Wall Street thriller, there are a few catches in the plan: Miller’s a fraud (he’s padding his company’s books with some $400 million of his friend’s money), and he needs to complete the merger of his company before he’s exposed. The stakes become even higher when Miller accidentally becomes involved in the death of his mistress, art gallery owner Julie (Laetitia Casta). A massive cover-up ensues, one that involves Miller keeping his family in the dark and enlisting the help of Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), the son of a former employee and the only guy who he knows from the other side of town.
Frank is enraged by the idea of having a robot nanny; a particularly hilarious scene in the movie is full of cursing and dramatic quips about killing robots. To be clear, this movie is not The Terminator or I, Robot, where robots gain artificial intelligence and revolt against their human makers. Rather, Robot & Frank follows the arc of the friendship between Frank and the robot — if you can even call it friendship at all, since technically the robot cannot feel — and the heart of this movie is about a family’s difficulty identifying and responding to an aging parent. The film’s main conflict, similar to other Sundance Film Festival winners, is rooted in human folly.
Despite the fact that Looper’s entire premise is time travel, it’s not your typical sci-fi film. It is hard to give a summary of the film without unraveling the plot, which speaks to how intricate the storyline is. Without giving too much away, the film centers on Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is meant to kill his future self (played by Bruce Willis). Little does he know that his future self has a plan of his own to both stay alive and prevent future events.
Once in a while, a film transcends its medium and stands alone as a work of art. Cloud Atlas is such a masterpiece. Of course there are details that can be critiqued, but it is useless to scrutinize these details because they are insignificant in comparison to the important message the film relays.
Oz The Great and Powerful is a prequel to Victor Fleming’s 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy. In keeping with this, Oz The Great and Powerful begins in gray scale and transitions to color, and the plot involves the Wizard making a medley of new friends. Like the musical Wicked, the film imagines the origins of an important but secondary character, in this case the Wizard of Oz. This version of events, too, explains how the Wicked Witch of the West became so wicked, and sets the scene for L. Frank Baum’s story in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
This is not the movie you expect it to be. You will see a more-than-adequate amount of scantily clad coeds and parties where someone ends up with a raw chicken on their head, but you will also experience discomfort at the sheer strangeness of the film and the message it thrusts in your face by constant voiceover repetition. The plot is simple enough: four girls rob a diner to afford a spring break trip, and people die (insert meme).
In 1993, Steven Spielberg accomplished the impossible, bringing what seemed like living, breathing dinosaurs to the big screen in the world-renowned movie Jurassic Park. Now, two decades later, Universal Studios is back to take another bite out of the movie industry as it releases Jurassic Park 3D, quite literally adding an entirely new dimension to this classic film.
After watching the masterful biopic 42, about the struggles of Jackie Robinson, his wife, and his team’s owner, during Jackie’s first year in the Major Leagues, the truth in Alonzo Bodden’s bit called “First Black Anything” becomes clear: “If you are the first black anything, you can’t be good. Your ass better be miraculous. You have to be unbelievable.” Bodden bemoans — in a hilarious manner — the uphill battle that non-whites face to earn recognition when entering any new field. Even though he gets to the subject apropos of Barack Obama’s presidency, Bodden illustrates the point invoking Jackie Robinson, “the first black player in the Mayor Leagues.”
In director Terrence Malick’s latest project, we follow the relationship between Marina, a young Frenchwoman, (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil, her American boyfriend (Ben Affleck) from Paris to Oklahoma. Their intensely passionate love struggles against the frustration and isolation that accompanies Marina’s relocation. When Marina moves back to France, Neil reconnects with a childhood flame (Rachel McAdams), whose own experiences with love and loss add another layer of solemnity and sorrow to the narration. Along the way, we briefly glimpse into the lonely life of their local priest in Oklahoma, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), who currently struggles with a crisis of faith. Their intertwined stories create a heavy yet inspiring narrative on life, love, and God.
Mud is a reminder of how movies have the potential to be more than just entertainment. With a setting that is foreign to most, director Jeff Nichols tells the typical loss of innocence story through a new lens. By making Ellis (Tye Sheridan) the observer who eventually enters the world he observes, the audience is able to make the transition with him and live his adventure.
Some people have questioned whether their favorite Avenger is Iron Man or Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 seeks to unite the disparate personalities that are the cocky billionaire Tony Stark and the selfless armored hero Iron Man. It explores this theme through two hours of over-the-top action scenes and genuinely funny humor. As great as the special effects and jokes are, they leave little room for a cohesive or moving narrative. Still, I was having so much fun I barely noticed.
Let’s start with the pros. When I first saw trailers last year, I was offended by the choice of music. Yet, to my surprise, the music’s unexpectedness blends well with director Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical take on the story. In the elaborate party scenes, the hip-hop music by Jay-Z matches the craze, while also giving it a dimension of modernity. In another scene, a jazzy rendition of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” undoubtedly entertained the younger audience members. The best parts of the soundtrack, however, are the mash-ups of old and new. Motifs from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” are used a few times in the film, and once it is blended with Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” The soundtrack strategically pulls in the younger audience while tying in the classics for more seasoned moviegoers.
Now You See Me is the story of four small-caliber magicians that pop out of nowhere to form a magic troupe called “The Four Horsemen” and pull off a jaw-dropping magic trick: robbing millions of euros from the vault of a Parisian bank without ever leaving their stage in Las Vegas. The heist gets them the attention of the media, the public, and — since they promises even bigger acts in the near future — even the FBI and Interpol.
They’re back! The star-studded cast of the venerable 12-year-old franchise, with its explosive combination of fast cars and furious drivers, returns to deliver another high-octane action thriller. Justin Lin is once again at the helm of the movie, continuing his stellar directing performance on the franchise. Lin was in fact instrumental in resurrecting and rebooting the series after the first few mediocre sequels.
The latest big-screen installment of the Star Trek franchise is great news for all Star Wars fans (“Wait, wait... what?” In a minute.) Although as an action movie it may appeal to a broader audience, Into Darkness is designed to delight Trekkies, the more hardcore they are the better. It is the perfect Star Trek movie, with all the familiar trimmings of the old-school classics we have come to love.
Wedding crashers Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn team up again in Shawn Levy’s feel-good buddy flick about two underdogs with no technical skills who talk their way into a summer internship program at Google and show that spirit can overcome even the most difficult of projects. Nick (Wilson) and Billy (Vaughn) are watch salesmen who lose their jobs and face a bleak future in which their sales skills can’t translate into anything other than selling mattresses for a scumbag boss. Billy somehow lands them an interview for internships at Google, The committee decides that hiring two charismatic guys with “life experience” who humorously BS-ed their way out of actually answering the interview question represents a nod to diversity at a company where everyone else is too predictably educated.
The East is a movie for our times. It grounds its narrative in the complexity of the two ubiquitous evils of our capitalist societies. The first is negative externalities — power companies make more money if they skimp on environmental measures, thus polluting the water you have to drink. The other is moral hazards — a pharmaceutical company downplays the side effects of a drug in order to boost its sales.
Man of Steel is a Superman movie. I don’t mean just with regards to its subject, but as a definition of the genre. And, even though it is a good movie, the self-imposed constraints it followed to fall square within that genre make it a good-enough movie, when it could have been — or at least I was hoping it would be — a great movie. The plot of the movie suffices to keep it afloat, although I do think the city-wrecking fighting went on for too long. The special effects are well-executed, even if the shaky-camera trick may have been overused.
One afternoon during last fall, I came back from class exhausted and frustrated by the never-ending amount of studying and homework waiting for me. I decided to relax and watch a movie that would require minimum mental attachment, which for some reason always helps to clear my mind. I remembered my friend telling me to watch some romantic movie from the 90s called Before Sunrise. I wasn’t very picky at that moment, so I found the movie, made some mood-elevating dinner and sat down for a session of good old leisure.
The premise of The Heat is a simple one — an unlikely pair of detectives is forced to team up in order to take down a ring of dangerous drug dealers. With Sandra Bullock playing an FBI agent angling for a promotion, and Melissa McCarthy as a Boston police officer with anger management problems, The Heat begins to sound a little too much like Miss Congeniality 2 meets 21 Jump Street. But while the movie is predictable, it is far from stale — director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) steps back to let Bullock and McCarthy unroll their comedic chemistry.
Within the X-Men universe Logan/Wolverine enjoys a privileged sort of position, comparable to that of Iron Man in The Avengers universe. After multiple X-Men movies with the whole cast, Hugh Jackman was itching to make a movie or two about Wolverine. On his own. And the promise, the potential, of grandeur was there. This potential has only been partly satisfied.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that squeezed my heart and had me gripping my armrest, suffocating in the knowledge that my voice can never reach the actor on the screen. And all through the brilliant acting of a psychologically infused small-town drama.
An old haunted house in a semi-deserted suburban area, squeaky noises in the night, clocks stopping always at the same hour, a naïve and helpless family deciphering tortuous supernatural clues, possessions and exorcisms — you’ve seen it all before. Even if your knowledge of horror movies is limited to the few ones that turned your childhood nights into never-ending states of sleeplessness and convinced you to stick with comedies, you will be able to foresee the outcome of every scene in The Conjuring. Don’t be fooled though, because this movie will have you screaming in your seat, or at least jolting out of the unrelenting anticipation in case you grew inured to the images of unsightly demonic figures.
I love Jason Sudeikis. He’s one of my favorites in the SNL cast: I think he does a great Romney impression, and his Joe Biden is hilarious. I like Jennifer Aniston, too (I really do). And I like comedy movies (Meet the Parents killed me) and movies about drug trafficking (Traffic is among my favorite movies ever). So I was expecting to like We’re the Millers. You could even say I wanted to like it. But I didn’t. I am sorry to say, but I did not like it. Yes, I laughed a few times, but as a whole, as a package, the movie just didn’t fly for me.
Blackfish is, by far, the best documentary I have seen this year, and — I would say — it is in the top 10 best documentaries I’ve ever seen in my life. If you think I saying this because I am some sort of activist, think again. The reason I would recommend that you watch Blackfish has nothing to do with the any activism like saving the whales: it has to do with the truth, with the need that we as a society have for the truth, and with how interests converge to keep you away from this truth, in darkness.
Dennis Dugan and Adam Sandler’s latest film opens with Lenny Feder (Sandler) telling a joke comparing his wife’s (Salma Hayek) Mexican mother to a moose that has wandered into their house. Then — and here’s the kicker — the moose urinates on him. If you are not falling out of your seat laughing by this point in the film, you’re in for a long 101 minutes.
I convinced myself to go see Pacific Rim with the excuse that I’m a fan of its director, Guillermo del Toro. Both The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth blew me out of the water, so I said to myself, “I have to go see this.” But I think somewhere inside me I already knew that this movie would turn out to be what the banners and trailers advertised: a WWZ-like fighting fest of giant robots vs. giant monsters. Alas, my gut feeling was right.
Even though its A-list cast of Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg made me anticipate something along the lines of Man on Fire or Three Kings, it was clear five minutes into 2 Guns that, even though it would have lots of action and a maybe a pinch of drama, this movie was — plain and simple — a laugh-out loud comedy. So I quickly adapted my expectations accordingly, and I am happy to report that I had more fun watching it than any other movie I’ve seen in a long time. 2 Guns is a blast! It’s so honestly funny and packed with good, old action that I’d pay to see it again.
Ip Man, the legendary martial arts master that popularized the wing chun style of kung fu and mentored Bruce Lee as a child, has been the subject of several biopics before. The two directed by Herman Yau, Ip Man: The Legend is Born (2010), didn’t make much noise on this side of the world; its continuation, Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013), will be released next month. The two directed by Wilson Yip, with a serene and solid Donnie Yen in the main role, Ip Man (2010) and Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (2011), were warmly received by the public and critics alike. With these still warm from the oven, we are presented with yet another take on the life of the master. Written, directed and produced by Wong Kar Wai, The Grandmaster (2013) is an artistic retelling of the already familiar story, with familiar faces in the main roles: Tony Leung (Hero; Lust, Caution; Red Cliff) plays Ip Man, and Ziyi Zhang, (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; House of Flying Daggers; Hero) plays Gong Er, his fierce antagonist and platonic love interest.
Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 cinematic debut, District 9, took the world by surprise. I, for one, was blow out of my socks by the crispness and realism of the special effects that this young director managed to conjure, and by the originality and the depth — nay, the poetry — of the story he had written. It remains one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time, and I can’t wait for the sequel, District 10. But with Elysium, Blomkamp has committed the same sin of his godfather, Peter Jackson, who followed the triumph of his filmmaking career, The Return of the King, with the painfully vacuous King Kong: letting ego and ambition get in the way of artistic integrity, and failing to see that a story — even one from his own pen — can be cheesy and unworthy of being made into a film.
The first feature-length biopic about Steve Jobs, the iconic entrepreneur of our times, hit the theatres last week. While the movie comes out a year and a half later than the approved Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, it is not, in fact, an adaptation of the book. Director Joshua Michael Stern managed to beat the establishment by releasing his own emotional tribute to the creator of Apple computers, an ingenious movie that strays from your typical boring biopic, both in content and in the manner of presentation. The intense criticism that this movie met recently left me very disappointed, as it was clear that neither the critics nor the audience truly got it; most people seemed to get bogged down disputing the factual accuracy of scenes and individual lines, or the prominence of various characters, while ignoring the artistic merits of the movie itself. This movie is a compelling, thought-provoking drama, full of nuance. Akin to Steve Jobs, it challenges the biopic genre, going further on innovation and originality. Whether you’re a Steve Jobs worshiper or not, an Apple fan or a Linux nerd, this movie is a must see.
Prince Avalanche was shot in secret, at the request of director David Gordon Green who wanted to return to his roots in independent film after making his last three works with major film studios (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, Eastbound & Down). But, he went too far. Prince Avalanche felt like a graduate film student thesis, with unnecessarily long scenes and increasingly portentous music accompanying events that lead nowhere, or were just arbitrary.
I have a feeling that Robert Luketic, the director of Paranoia, may be feeling a bit paranoid himself lately, after his movie was mauled mercilessly by the critics. You know you are not bound for the Oscars when your Rotten Tomatoes score is lower than that of The Adventures of Pluto Nash. I will grant Luketic this much: there is nothing grotesquely bad about Paranoia. Unfortunately, there is nothing good about it either. And this may be his sin: we were expecting something, a saving grace. When you have Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman in the cast, and build anticipation by — as I heard — multiple postponed release dates, great expectations are created.
The World’s End, directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, is the third British comedy in the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” along with Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). Aside from the creative team and similar themes, each film in the trilogy stands on its own. Shaun of the Dead was a romantic comedy and a zombie horror flick mashup; Hot Fuzz was a cop action comedey; and finally, The World’s End is science fiction, by way of a brilliant and dark comedy about the balance between growing up and fears of conformity.
Near the beginning of The Family, Giovanni (Robert De Niro) narrates his life story. A former mafia boss who snitched on the mob, Giovanni is forced to become “Fred Blake” and enter witness protection in Normandy with his wife “Maggie” (Michele Pfeiffer), daughter “Belle” (Diana Agron) and son “Warren” (John D’Leo). Though he’s committed untold numbers of murders, tortures, and other devious schemes, he somehow sees himself as a misunderstood “good guy” living with his own moral code. And this absurd delusion seems like an apt metaphor for The Family, a movie convinced that gruesome murders and thin laughs can create a good gangster movie.
Jason Blake (Josh Holloway), a once successful basketball coach who turned to alcohol after the death of his wife and son, is recruited by his hip-hop big shot friend Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) to form a “Dream Team” of the best b-boys from cities all over the U.S. to compete in the largest international breaking competition, the eponymous Battle of the Year.
I walked into this movie determined that I would not laugh harder than the eager, soda-sipping, snot-flinging kids that surrounded me. I walked in with my head high and my ego puffed, confident that I would not shed a tear at the emotions on screen until little Timmy and his barely coherent sister next to me were bawling with sentimentality. I walked in, steadfastly thinking that this was a silly animated flick that had no power over me.
In case you have not seen the trailer — because if you have, you already know the whole plot — Captain Phillips is a movie about how Captain Richard Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) sailed a U.S.-flagged merchant ship, Maersk Alabama, too close to the coast of Somalia, and was hijacked by four Somali pirates with machine guns. The pirates were not too competent in the operation and had to abandon the ship, but not without taking the good Captain with them as a hostage. A few days later, the pirates were killed, and the Captain was rescued by a team of Navy SEALs. That’s it.
The film opens with sobering facts about space written on a black screen, while a sound like a rocket launching grows deafeningly loud, so it is clear from the very beginning that Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity will be merciless. But the brutal facts and gripping story are set against the incredible beauty of Earth as seen from space, with sleight-of-hand special effects, and gorgeously rendered scenes of sunrises and the northern lights from orbit.
When you go to see a movie starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and 50 Cent, you know you are in for an action-packed, blood, bombs, and guns style movie. This movie did not disappoint, but did add an unexpected and thoughtful plot.
I admired Princess Diana when I was a kid because she was nice when she didn’t have to be. She could have just attended the requisite state functions, but instead she made an effort to reach out to less fortunate people, and she set the bar for later celebrity activists. In the 1980s, she famously shook the hand of a man with AIDS, despite the widespread fear and misunderstanding of people who were HIV positive at the time. Her complicated personal life became tabloid fodder, but to her fans her flaws only made her more relatable. But the afternoon before her fatal car accident, I remember wondering aloud to my friends as we wandered between the rides at a local amusement park whether Princess Di was really a nice person, in real life, not just on the news.
Richard Curtis has written several charming romantic comedies, including Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones’ Diary. With About Time, it’s clear that Curtis hasn’t lost his magic touch; it’s yet another beautiful, funny, sentimental tale about love and life.
Blue is the Warmest Color, or La Vie d’Adèle, chapters 1 et 2 in its original French title, is a tender, wrenching, heart-gripping love story about a teenage girl Adèle, her coming of age, falling in lesbian love for the first time, and subsequent devastating heartbreak. A loose adaptation of the graphic novel by Julie Maroh, it is melancholic, raw, emotional, powerful, and yes, it is sexy, but it is the loving that makes it so, the traumatic loving.
I had high hopes for this movie. Ridley Scott, Cormac McCarthy, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz? A-List all the way, right? I was so, so very disappointed. From just viewing the trailer, you pretty much get the entire movie minus the endless and mostly dull dialogue.
American history is extremely messy. It is often hard to believe that a country founded on the idea of freedom and equality for all denied these freedoms to women and minorities for so long. But the movie 12 Years a Slave forces us to confront one of the greatest evils in the history: slavery.
My mother bought me a copy of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game when I was in the third grade — I have been waiting for this movie ever since. The story is set on Earth, many years in the future. The planet is recovering from a devastating attack from the Formics, an alien race that appeared to try to invade Earth. In order to protect humanity, the world government trains brilliant children at The Battle School, hoping they will become new leaders of the International Fleet and save the world from another attack. The Fleet is looking for their next legendary commander, and they think that this is to be Ender Wiggin.
The movie opens with a glimpse of New York in the 1950s and “The Flatbush Four,” a gang of agile, smart-aleck 10-year-olds who assert themselves after punching, stealing, and getting a cute girl. The movie then fast forwards to their current reality, and we meet four decrepit old men: Archie (Morgan Freeman), who is recovering from a stroke and under the care of an overprotective son; Sam (Kevin Kline), who is the lucky husband of a beautiful, considerate, and permissive wife, but has suffered his share of the quotidian married life; Paddy (Robert De Niro), who is depressed because his adored wife passed away and he has not been able to recover; and Billy (Michael Douglas), a successful businessman who is about to marry a Barbie doll half his age. They are pathetic, and they know it.
Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney began filming a documentary about Lance Armstrong’s comeback at the 2009 Tour de France, four years after his last win in 2005. But after the infamous 2013 interview with Oprah, Gibney realized that Armstrong had just been using his documentary to bolster his already crumbling story. Gibney was ultimately able to weave the damning footage of his previous interviews into a story of betrayal to deliver a play-by-play of one of the farthest falls from grace in the history of sports.
You know you are in for an interesting movie when it is narrated by Death himself. Death first sees our main character Liesel on a train, when he comes to take the soul of her sick and dying younger brother. He is intrigued by her for some reason he cannot place, and follows her life story as it progresses.
Tolkien fans have been eagerly awaiting the release part two of The Hobbit, and that day has finally come. The Desolation of Smaug was as exciting, funny, and adventurous as to be expected from a Tolkien universe brought to life by Peter Jackson. The main cast from the first movie returns so this movie is as full of great actors as before. Of course the scenery is breathtaking, featuring incredible spans of mountains and forests — just as magical as Tolkien describes in his series.
Inside Llewyn Davis focuses on the life of a young folk singer in Greenwich Village during 1961. But the titular Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is extremely unlikable. He is a homeless travelling musician, dependent on his successful friends who allow him to sleep on their couches. Yet he believes it is his right to lecture them on selling out. At times he’s so cruel that I couldn’t help feeling repulsed by his narcissism and neediness.
It should come as no surprise that a movie with the Walt Disney Company imprimatur shows their founder as a kindly fellow, who insists that he only wants to make a film adaptation of Mary Poppins to fulfill a promise he made to his daughters when they were children.
Walking With Dinosaurs draws on what is currently known in paleontology to tell a coming-of-age story about a young Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (Justin Long), who tries to win over his crush, Juniper (Tiya Sircar), while being bullied by his brother, Scowler (Skyler Stone). The directors, Barry Cook, who is best known as an effects animator with Disney, and Neil Nightingale, who was the executive producer of several nature documentaries, teamed up to create a fictional extension of the acclaimed BBC miniseries of the same title. The 3D computer animated dinosaurs roam a beautiful live background filmed in Alaska and New Zealand while they face predators, fires and teenage drama.
Jack Ryan, a dashing blue-eyed young man eager to serve his country suffers a terrible — and grossly depicted — helicopter accident. While recovering, he falls in love with his nurse, future fiancée Cathy (Keira Knightley). But we all know that. Jack Ryan is a character created by Tom Clancy, previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, though this time the story is not based on a Clancy novel.
Enter Gloria, brilliantly performed by Paulina García, a joyful charmer who sings along to sappy tunes while driving, a divorced woman on her second wind, adapting to the awkward stage in life when her children start having children of their own and at an age when couples seldom remain married.
Labor Day is Henry’s (Gattlin Griffith) reminisces of Labor Day weekend in 1987 when he was 13. His mother Adele (Kate Winslet) has become a nervous shut-in after her divorce from Henry’s father, and has isolated Henry and herself. But on a monthly shopping trip, they are forced to harbor Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped fugitive.
Is there anything more overdone than a wealthy, overachieving, pretty girl falling for the charming boy from the wrong side of the tracks? Endless Love follows Ivy-League-bound Jade’s predictable escape from the grips of her overprotective father and into the arms of bad boy David the summer after she graduates from high school.
Tim’s Vermeer follows American inventor Tim Jenison as he tests a novel theory about how 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer used scientific methods and equipment to paint. Produced and directed by the Penn and Teller illusionist duo, it occasionally takes a cut-and-dried documentarian tone about Jenison’s experiment, but eventually switches to a more intimate examination of Jenison himself. Its big themes, thoughtful editing, and memorable characters put it in a class of films somewhere between History Channel specials and Hollywood dramas.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the recently debuted film Son of God is that it’s earnest. The actor portraying Jesus, Diogo Morgado, came off as a bit too heavy-handed, but still undoubtedly genuine. This depiction of the life of Jesus Christ feeds the viewers a highlight reel of miracles, from Christ walking on water to the resurrection of Lazarus without much storyline in between.
Bethlehem follows 17-year old Palestinian Sanfur (Shadi Mar’i), the brother of a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and Razi (Tsahi Halevi), the Israeli Shin Bet (secret service) officer who has recruited Sanfur as an informant. Set in Israel and the West Bank around 2004 near the end of the Second Intifada, the film explores the region’s broader conflict by examining the social connections surrounding the central characters.
Scott Waugh directs a film that only a former stuntman like himself would be able to pull off so well. Need For Speed is a modern homage to classic car films like “American Graffiti,” with all of the racing and stunts you’d expect and some depth that you might not.
This movie is a real mixed bag. It has the makings of a good story: we follow Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman), who has found a loophole in the rules of The Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. A contestant can’t have completed 8th grade by February 1st, and 40-year-old Guy never finished the eighth grade at all. He makes it all the way to nationals while dodging everyone’s questions about why he’s pulling this stunt, brushing off even Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), a reporter from the news website that’s sponsoring him. On the way, he meets ten-year-old Chaitainya Chopra (Rohan Chand), a seemingly innocent foil.
I went into this movie with high hopes and low expectations, and I came out feeling pleasantly surprised. Given that this movie is the newest in a long string of teen sci-fi romance novels adapted into movies, I figured that it was likely to be overly simplified, strangely cast, and poorly acted. Fortunately, for the most part, this was not the case.
If you liked Rio, you absolutely have to watch Rio 2. The first movie was great, but its sequel is nothing short of extraordinary. Honestly, I do not think an animated comedy — when constrained to have a blue macaw as its main character — can get any better than this. I took my whole family to see it, and we had a blast!
There are known unknowns — that is, things that you know you don’t know. Back in 2003, Robert McNamara was for me, an unknown when I saw him standing awkwardly in a khaki raincoat on the poster for The Fog of War. I had at best a very vague idea of who he was, and I had never even heard of Errol Morris, the film’s director.
Dom Hemingway, written and directed by Richard Shepard, stars Jude Law as the title character, a career criminal on parole after 12 years in prison. Dom is vengefully determined to claim what he thinks is rightfully his, and heads to the grand French villa of a powerful crime boss (Demián Bichir), hoping for a big payday as remuneration for his years of silence while in prison. Along the way, Dom gets himself in and out of trouble — most of it comical and amusingly mischievous, some of it brutal and truly menacing, and almost all of it involving copious amounts of drink and drugs — before turning his efforts to a reconciliation with his estranged daughter, and perhaps, a slim chance at redemption.
Cameron Diaz stars in the new comedy The Other Woman as Carly, a no-nonsense, successful Manhattan lawyer. We know she is successful because both her apartment and corner office feature floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing spectacular, geographically implausible views. Also, she has pretty shoes. Carly is dating a seemingly perfect guy named Mark. He is perfect, the film tells us, because he has great hair, sometimes sends flowers, and has what looks to be a very expensive watch (and no apparent need for a day job). Carly’s nicely ordered life is overturned, however, when she unexpectedly discovers that Mark is actually married, and, even more unexpectedly, strikes up a friendship with his wife Kate (Leslie Mann) and his other mistress Amber (Kate Upton).
Feel free to call Godzilla (2014) — by far and without contention — the best Godzilla movie ever made after the 1950s. The reference to the 1950s should spare you the thorny task of comparing this new work with the first Gojira (1954), and its American remake, Godzilla, King of Monsters! (1956), which are now well-established classics. So, if you are a Godzilla groupie, this is a five-star movie for you.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the most satisfying fantasy action movies I’ve seen in years. Director Bryan Singer has managed to build upon the storylines of many previous X-Men movies and generally maintain narrative consistency (except where it would limit his artistic freedom) in order to create what many critics consider the best entry so far in the successful X-Men franchise.
I am unsure whether Boyhood is one of the greatest films ever made. I am certain Boyhood could be many times better. But I agree with film critic Joe Williams in saying Boyhood is “the closest thing to a lived life that fictional cinema has yet produced.”
Like so many elementary school children, I read The Giver for the first time in fifth grade. In 11th grade, I picked up the book again, but I found myself reading through a much more intricate book than I had remembered. Its concise yet terrifyingly vivid portrait of a dystopian community left me wrestling with complex questions about society and modern culture.
With a gang of Russians, a fair amount of blood, and shot after shot of Denzel Washington in slow motion, The Equalizer checks off every stereotype for the action movie genre. Washington stars as McCall, a man with a mysterious past trying to return to a quiet life. When he finds out that a young girl, Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), is brutally controlled by a Russian gang, McCall seeks justice in the form of violence. He must once again take up his role as “The Equalizer,” punishing those who do harm.
With plenty of dark humor strung throughout the film, St. Vincent narrates the touching relationship between a grumpy, old alcoholic named Vincent (Bill Murray) and his young neighbor Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). As Oliver tags along with Vincent during his daily routine, Vincent quickly takes Oliver under his wing, showing him the local race track, protecting him from a gang of bullies, and teaching him how to fight. As their relationship develops, Oliver realizes that despite Vincent’s miserable outward appearance, the old man’s heart is still in the right place.
Based on a true story, Foxcatcher tells the story of schizophrenic millionaire John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) and his involvement with Olympic Gold medalists David (Mark Ruffalo) and Mark Schulz (Channing Tatum). Du Pont, heir to the du Pont chemical company, invites Mark, who has been living under his older brother’s shadow, to train for the 1988 Olympics at his private horse breeding farm, Foxcatcher. Powered by family feuds, personal ambitions and strong performances, Foxcatcher is a thrilling recount of an American tragedy.
Once upon a time there was a shuttle humanity sent out in the space-time loom. Imagination and curiosity have always been the longitudinal threads that allow for the shuttle’s expedition. The crew was full of storytellers, including many grandmothers, Stanley Kubrick, and a 44-year-old screenwriter, film director Christopher Nolan.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, has sucked up over $700 million in global box offices, if only because the film is director Peter Jackson’s final trip to Middle-earth. But the movie, despite its expectedly breathtaking cinematography, is a mediocre lobster roll — there’s not much meat and quite a lot of filler.
In Still Alice, Julianne Moore plays Dr. Alice Howland, 50, a celebrated psycholinguistics professor at Columbia. During the middle of a lecture, she draws a blank on a word related to her research. She apologizes, smiles and after a long pause fills the sentence with the word “thingy”. Shortly after, as she is jogging around campus her vision becomes blurry and she becomes absolutely disoriented. She tries to find known places, but nothing looks familiar.
From Snow White and Mulan to Ratatouille and Frozen, I have always associated animated movies with Disney and Pixar — movies with bold colors and characters with big eyes. These movies’ characters shared a distinctive cartoonish look that practically begged to be placed into a coloring book complete with a pack of crayons. I have been so used to this style of mainstream animation that when I watched Song of the Sea, I was taken aback by the mesmerizing watercolor animation that filled the screen with beautiful gradients and intricate Celtic patterns. Not only did the plot engage me until the end, but the film was simply gorgeous. No coloring book could do this justice.
ISIS and the radicalization of Islam should be deplored. We know this. But what are the crimes? Facile answers include the beheadings and mass killings that have the immediate shock value needed to attract media attention. (Our world is one of noise, to echo Polish director Pavel Pawlikowski at the Oscars.) The injustices perpetrated against everyday Muslims living under jihadist militants are both more pervasive and more insidious: abrogations of freedoms not only to life, but to liberty, personal and cultural. Attacks on not only the body, but the soul.
Evil stepsisters, a pumpkin-turned-carriage, and a lost glass slipper? It’s a fairy tale we all know and love. While watching Disney’s latest film, Cinderella, a warm hug of nostalgia wrapped around me as I recalled my fond memories of the animated version I popped into the VHS player as a child. This live-action film followed the original Disney plot with a couple of twists. Not only is there a beautiful prologue introducing Cinderella as a cheerful child with a perfect family, but there is also some added romantic tension, where Cinderella and the prince encounter each other before the ball. Despite these modifications, the plot was evenly paced, and aside from a few uncomfortably drawn-out romantic stares, the scenes efficiently captured the essence of the classic fairy tale.
I felt an overwhelming amount of empathy while watching Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter — both for Kumiko and the characters who interact with her. Kumiko is more than a little crazy, but she is brave enough to depart on a journey that most of us would only dream of. She is extremely depressed in Japan, so she leaves her job and her family behind in search of a hidden treasure she believes she will find in Fargo, Minnesota.
A cast full of teenage heartthrobs? Check. Based on a popular Young Adult dystopian book series? Check. Was the book better? Probably.
Christian Dior was a renowned French fashion designer who founded one of the world’s top fashion houses (named after himself). Dior and I follows the newly appointed creative director Raf Simons as he works under the pressures of the fashion industry and keeping up with Dior’s legacy. Everyone is familiar with image of models strutting down runways, wearing the latest designer fashions; this film offers a rare and up-close look at the work preceding the exhibition. We witness the stages of production: sketching, prototypes, modeling, right up to the big reveal on the catwalk.
Virtual reality has always been framed as the next big thing in gaming, but if the United Nations has anything to do with it, it will be the next big thing in humanitarian aid.
I had the opportunity to attend a screening of The Grief of Others with the director Patrick Wang ’98. Wang studied economics and concentrated in music and theater arts at MIT, and went on to direct theatre and recently, film. His first film, In the Family, was critically lauded and rightly so. The Grief of Others, his latest film, just showed at the Cannes Film Festival. Wang left early from the screening I attended at Harvard to go to the Festival; as a result, I did not get the chance to ask him about the film. But I did get the chance to ask the author of the eponymous novel on which the film is based, Leah Hager Cohen, about one of the film’s final shots.
This remake of Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist (1982) sees a jobless couple and their three children move into a new home that fits their budget. Griffin, their ten-year-old son, lives in the attic, where he experiences frequent nightmares and finds frightening clowns in the closet. To make things worse, he also finds his younger sister Madison talking to mysterious objects through the TV in the middle of the night. “They’re here,” she claims ominously. His parents disregard his nervousness and their youngest daughter’s sleepwalking until one night, their house is attacked and Madison is taken. The Bowens discover that their house was built on what was an old cemetery, moved to make way for construction. To cut costs, the construction company moved the headstones but left the bodies — leaving the Bowens to deal with some extremely unhappy poltergeists looking to move out of the limbo they are stuck in.
Pitch Perfect 2 is the long-awaited sequel to Pitch Perfect, released in 2012. The film opens with the Barden Bellas, now seniors in college, performing for Barack Obama. The performance goes terribly wrong after a wardrobe malfunction results in Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) flashing the audience. This incident leads to the team’s suspension, and Beca (Anna Kendrick) strikes a deal that will allow the Bellas to be reinstated under the condition that they win the Acapella World Tournament. The rest of the film follows their shenanigans and mishaps as they make it through their final year of college and prepare for the final competition.
As far back as I can remember, Pixar films have been a part of my childhood. I grew up watching Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, etc. — films that fueled my imagination, filled me with wonder, and most importantly, kept me amused. I loved these films as a child, and it is safe to say that this love has never diminished. Unlike many other childhood favorites that I now dismiss as being simpleminded, vapid, or even wholly unenjoyable, I still cherish Pixar’s entire repertoire because they create visually beautiful, heartfelt, and timeless movies.
Oscar and Susanne Angulo were terrified of living in New York City — terrified of the government, and terrified that their children wouldn’t learn to think for themselves and would be bullied into using drugs. Oscar forbade his children to leave the apartment or to have contact with anyone outside of their immediate family. He believed that employment would make him a slave, so the household’s only income was what Susanne received from the government for teaching her homeschooled children. Oscar imposed strict rules on the family’s life in isolation, going so far as to specify which rooms of the house the kids could occupy at any given time. In one particularly heartbreaking scene, Susanne hints that the rules were even more oppressive for her (if one can imagine such a thing), and the children reveal that their mother had suffered violent abuse at the hands of her husband. Perhaps the only thing the kids liked about their dad was that he brought thousands and thousands of movies into the home for them to watch and memorize (some of their favorites include Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Dark Knight).
Max is a touching story about a marine dog who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after losing his handler, Kyle, in Afghanistan. As Kyle’s family tries to figure out the circumstances leading to his death, the movie tugs at heartstrings with its portrayal of the agile, strong, and loyal dog, Max, helping them at every stage. Max is the highlight of the film, which is very aptly named — the plot and acting are not extraordinary.
It was about 1 a.m. the night before the screening, and I had just put down John Green’s Paper Towns. I had read his other books in high school, but for some reason, Paper Towns had evaded my bookshelf. Of course, reading the book could have been a huge mistake, biasing my view of the movie — after all, book fans seem to be set up for eternal disappointment at the theater. As expected, there were changes, additions, and some things that were integrated differently or left out completely. But John Green was an executive producer for the film, so fans can rest assured that the heart of the novel has been carefully transplanted from paper to the big screen.
Self/less isn’t a boring film, but the trailer suggests a film more philosophically engaging than it ended up being. In fact, if you see the trailer, you don’t really have to attend the movie to know what it’s about, and most people will be able to predict each turn of events. Like I said, it isn’t boring — there are some exciting scenes that attempt to add mystery and thrill — but don’t expect to be too surprised. The film presents some entertaining (though mostly unoriginal) ideas, but ultimately doesn’t deliver. For example, the concept of transferring consciousness from one body to the next in an attempt to achieve eternal youth is pretty cool to think about. However, I was supremely disappointed with the lack of imagination regarding this process — apparently if you go into a huge MRI-esque machine with a strange net on your face, you can transfer your mind into another body. Make sure to bring your suspension of disbelief into the theater with you along with your smuggled-in candy.
If you’re a fan of Steve Jobs, you probably won’t like this incredibly unflattering documentary about the iconic tech innovator. For full disclosure, I’m typing this review on a Macbook Pro and I have an iPhone in my pocket, but after watching Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, I have to say, I sort of resent myself for purchasing them. To be fair, this documentary is incredibly opinionated, but after watching it you will certainly get a feeling that Steve Jobs was not a very nice person, to say the very least.
There are few genres as enduring in American cinema as the gangster film (see The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Casino, for starters). These films collectively explore our cultural fascination with violent, charismatic criminals — self-made figures who operate outside the system to great personal gain and at the expense of law, order, and often many lives. Generally, these films portray the gangster’s world as governed by highly intricate systems of hierarchy, fealty, and unwritten yet brutally enforced codes of behavior (no snitching!).
When I first saw the theatrical release poster for The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, I thought that I was in for a Devil Wears Prada part two — but I was only partially right. While The Intern is vaguely reminiscent of Hathaway’s breakout film, the roles are reversed. Hathaway plays the role of Jules Ostin, the hard working CEO and founder of an online clothing retail site, About The Fit. De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old widow who joins the company as a senior intern after deciding that retirement was not for him.
Big-budget science fiction is experiencing something of a renaissance. Director Ridley Scott’s The Martian follows a string of commercially minded, studio-backed sci-fi movies, including Interstellar and Gravity, which play out small-scale personal dramas on a big-scale stage (outer space).
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala. This 18-year-old girl is known as an activist who speaks up for female education and equality. After learning the importance of education through her parents, who ran several schools in Pakistan, she blogged for the BBC and stressed educational equality to the public. She survived a shooting by the Taliban at the age of 15.
The story of Peter Pan is as ageless as Peter himself — what began as a 1904 play by J.M. Barrie is still culturally relevant a century later. There are musicals, movies, video games, and an entire Disney franchise based on the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Maybe it’s because we’ll always cherish the idea of eternal youth, or maybe we just really like pirates.
If you are a frequent reader of the comics section of The Tech, you’ll be familiar with Piled Higher and Deeper, the home of the chocolate-loving Cecilia, the consistently unproductive Mike Slackenerny, and our lovable, flawed, and forever lost-in-purpose Nameless Hero. These slice-of-life comics portray the unfortunate (for them) but hilarious (for us) day-to-day struggles of graduate students. A live-action film adapted from Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics, The PhD Movie 2 follows the paths of Winston, the Nameless Hero who is finally graced with a name, and Cecilia.
The Glienicke Bridge, today a mundane cantilever thoroughfare, was once a gateway between East and West Berlin, between two ideologies opposed for decades on the brink of war. Yet, instead of the Glienicke’s becoming a Cold War battleground, it was a symbol of freedom and diplomacy. At its midpoint, high above the Havel River, dozens of captured agents crossed over to their countrymen on the other side between 1962 and 1986. Its four prisoner exchanges between the Soviets and the West across two decades, seminal moments in Cold War history, gave rise to the Glienicke’s enduring alias — the Bridge of Spies.
The Pearl Button promised to be a poetic and thought-provoking documentary about Chile’s 2,670 miles of coastline and the significance of water for indigenous tribes in Patagonia (a region that includes Chile and Argentina as well as several South American islands). I didn’t know much about the history of Chile or its native peoples, but I was eager to learn. The documentary, however, did not live up to my expectations, and I was rather surprised by how uninspiring I found much of the film. Its slow pace and low information density makes each scene drag on — I often expected a scene to cut minutes before it actually did. Guzmán incorporates voice-overs, photographs, interviews with tribal elders, grainy black-and-white clips, outer-space CGI (which felt supremely out of place), and long takes of coastal scenery (which were beautiful, and perhaps the best part of the experience). However, the documentary’s biggest weakness is that it is abruptly split into two seemingly disjoint parts.
Anyone on this campus knows what it feels like to leave home for a new place. The sights and sounds are different, the culture unfamiliar, the knowledge eye-opening. Everything around you is new — but surprisingly, after some time, you discover that you are new as well. Every experience starts to impact what you believe, how you act, and eventually, the very core of who you are. And never has this evolution been so perfectly captured as in the film Brooklyn.
It seems more than a little fitting that Jay Roach’s new biopic, Trumbo, is classified as a ‘Drama’ for the forthcoming Golden Globes in spite of its studio’s preference for it to be considered in the less competitive Comedy category. This is fitting not only since Trumbo is a movie that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, but also because it betrays the navel-gazing, self-referential tendencies of Hollywood that the movie initially seeks to satirize but ultimately falls victim to itself.
The title of Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Where to Invade Next, seems to reflect ambivalence on the part of its creator. It is after all no coincidence that Moore’s trio of breakout box office hits — Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Sicko — appeared during the administration of his antagonist-in-chief, George W. Bush. Though no one would pretend that mass shootings have subsided since the release of Bowling for Columbine, the election of President Obama saw the formal end of the Iraq War and the passing of health care reform — the subjects of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, respectively. The working title of Moore’s latest project might as well have been, What To Tackle Next?
Deep in the Amazonian rainforest, we embark on a journey with Karamakate (Nilbio Torres), a shaman who is one of the only survivors of his tribe. Colombia is being torn apart and pillaged by the rubber plantation barons who control the country during the colonial era. Director Ciro Guerra’s The Embrace of the Serpent is an intricate and mournful examination of the ravages that this period in history wrought upon the indigenous peoples of Colombia. It is based on the travelogues of two explorers, German ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grünberg (Jan Bijvoet) and American biologist Richard Evans Schultes (Brionne Davis), who wrote some of the only existing accounts of many of these indigenous tribes.
Reviews often destroy movies, and only rarely, as in the case of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, do they create them. In 2011, a New York Times review of Kim Barker’s wartime memoir The Taliban Shuffle described Barker as “a sort of Tina Fey character, who unexpectedly finds herself addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.” This caught the eye of Fey herself, who began pulling strings to bring Barker’s story to movie audiences as Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Animated movies can be fun for adults, but they’re aimed at kids. And at first, Zootopia feels like purely a kid’s movie with a straightforward plot that we’ve seen before: two clashing personalities must come together to save the day. But as the plot shifts, building up to the movie’s core message, you find yourself engaging with it on a level uncommon to a typical kid’s movie. And that’s where the magic happens.
If you’ve ever seen a Sacha Baron Cohen movie, you should have an idea of what to expect when you walk into a theater to see his newest film, The Brothers Grimsby. The comedian and actor is known for pushing the boundaries of good taste with his work, and this is no exception. To describe some of the movie’s cruder jokes as obscene would be an understatement, and in fact, when I went to a screening in February, Baron Cohen said that it had only been a week since the film had been edited down enough to not be given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.
At this point, the plot turns into an avalanche of random fantastical events. We find out that the mirror has the equivalent effect of Medusa’s head (except people are turned into murderers instead of stone), goblins somehow become involved, and we even see Freya riding around on a polar bear.
In attempting to portray the Federation and Starfleet as anything less than a galactic utopia, Star Trek Beyond falls short. Director Justin Lin is clearly comfortable with breaking out of Trekkies' comfort zones (he destroys the Enterprise in the first act!), but he doesn't do enough to convince us that the Federation is actually vulnerable.
Ghostbusters is a hilarious action-filled remake of the critically acclaimed 1984 version. This one casts four women to compose the team of sharp Ghostbusting badasses. With Ghostbusters, MIT gains another notable fictional alum, Erin (Kristen Wiig), who sports a gold brass rat throughout the film.
There's no joy in Suicide Squad. There's only the loss of hope and a feeling of emptiness, regret, and filth like the one that follows a greasy Chinese buffet. You were drawn inside by the bright neon signs to feed, but the meal leaves you wondering whether you have any sense of self-respect.
Meryl Streep wins hearts in director Stephen Frear's latest film about a singing socialite.
Kubo’s ‘misses’ are slight and the ‘hits’ are smashing. Excepting the occasional awkwardly timed line, the characters are well written with personalities that play well together. Beetle and Monkey share a few cute, if unoriginal, ‘old married couple’ moments.
In Derek Cianfrance's romance drama, The Light Between Oceans, Janus is an isolated island lighthouse overlooking two oceans and the setting for an intriguing story of love and loss, a journey worthy of the lighthouse's namesake.
Picture a small, dusty town evocative of the American Wild West. Now, in lieu of cowboys, gunslingers, and rugged beards, imagine a small pack of women milling around town aimlessly, leaning dramatically against pillars, and stretching theatrically atop ladders, all while dressed in the finest haute couture more appropriate on a Milan or Paris runway rather than in the Australian Outback. It is precisely this sort of visual and contextual dissonance successfully powering the darkly comedic engine of The Dressmaker, an Australian film directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, that keeps the viewer engrossed and laughing for the majority of its 118-minute runtime.
Storks presents a new twist on the classic notion of “storks delivering babies.” After a human girl named Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown) is orphaned in a stork-related disaster, storks give up their high-pressure gig and now deliver for an online store reminiscent of Amazon.com. Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg), is up for promotion, but in order to get the job, he has to fire Tulip, working at the warehouse due to a lack of a human home, who doesn’t fit in with the storks — after all, “birds of a feather flock together.”
North Korea is a black box that always seems to be lurking in the news with headlines that range from the shocking to the downright bizarre. The Lovers and the Despot, directed by Rob Cannan and Ross Adams, straddles both the shocking and the bizarre as this documentary unpacks the compelling true-crime story of Kim Jong-Il’s kidnapping of famed South Korean actress Choi Eun-Hee and her ex-husband, the accomplished South Korean director/producer Shin Sang-Ok.
On September 18, 1980, Arkansas was almost obliterated when a mechanic dropped a heavy socket down a shaft, puncturing the fuel tank of a Titan II missile carrying a nuclear warhead. If nothing else, Command and Control will inspire engineers striving to build redundant, foolproof safety measures on their dangerous devices.
Being a teenager is hard. While experiences may vary for each individual, most are at least familiar with the idea of the angst-ridden, hyper-aware emotional upheaval that the stereotypical adolescent experiences.
The Birth of a Nation depicts the story of Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a Bible-educated slave who comes to believe that he is a messenger of God, destined to lead his fellow slaves in a rebellion for freedom.
Looking through a train window and wondering what’s going on in the houses that we pass — it’s something that we’ve all done. The Girl on the Train digs into this curiosity, and follows Rachel (Emily Blunt), a 30-some year-old alcoholic who rides the train everyday to do just that. She stares out the window to watch a seemingly happy couple enjoying themselves on their porch at 15 Beckett Road, narrating that “they’re everything I want to be.”
Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant centers around Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), an autistic, mathematically gifted, gun-slinging, martial arts master who, when not running his own small accounting firm, is uncooking the books for major drug-lords, kingpins, and other nefarious criminal organizations.
Among the twelve victims, Paper Lanterns centers around Normand Brissette and Ralph Neal, two American POW victims, including interviews with members of their families, who shared their gratitude to Mori for his compassion and dedication.
Blood, death, dirt, flames, and shattered bodies arc across the screen in a depraved, slow-motion waltz of wartime gore that is sickeningly captivating.
Contingent on a successful suspension of disbelief, Arrival delivers a thought provoking and understated drama with an astonishing denouement.
The film follows Ea, God’s disgruntled 10-year-old daughter, who is of course, Jesus Christ’s (JC for short) younger sister. Groyne instills each dead-eyed stare with both weariness and willfulness, playing the role with a quiet gravity that belies her age. Her voice-over narrations are pitch perfect, too, in their monotonous tone and quintessentially blasé teenage demeanor.
Like any good Disney movie worth its salt, Moana tethers its lighthearted comedy and rousing action to a central, uplifting theme.
For those who frown upon the illogicalness of random fits of song and dance, La La Land with its mix of the trivial and the real dares to reinvent the musical as a genre.
Illumination Entertainment’s latest animated film, Sing, is jumping on the singing competition train, following the journey of theater owning koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) as he tries to revive his theater’s financial woes by staging a city-wide singing competition.
Hidden Figures follows the struggle of three African American women working for NASA in the 1960s. Even faced with rampant sexism and racism at work and in society, with dogged perseverance and a firm belief in themselves, they overcome barrier after barrier. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. That our plucky protagonists will emerge victorious is no surprise in this feel-good dramatization of historical events.
The film I, Daniel Blake is a declaration. These words, spray-painted across the walls of the job centre, capture the compelling story of 59-year-old carpenter Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) who is forced to fight for his welfare rights after a heart attack.
Watching The Space Between Us is akin to the sitting through an unintelligible lecture. Not quite sure where the logical jumps were, you merely nod and move on, understanding that it would take some work to decipher the mess of notes you scrawled.
Song to Song is a movie about relationships in all its forms: familial, platonic, romantic, etc. It is about the mistakes we make and the uncertainties we face in life.
Tenaglia and Bourdain manage to create a cohesive character piece that takes a personal and honest look into the life story of a culinary icon.
The Only Living Boy in New York is a misnomer, because within this film, no one is truly living, let alone a single boy.
The film version of The Dark Tower is a solid narrative that I enjoyed as a stand alone film and, at times, impressed me with its quick pacing and cohesive writing, but it was too riddled with mediocre writing to watch favorably.
The film loves using the Dutch angle so often that it’s a fantastic opportunity for a drinking game. You might need it when you watch this.
When the credits roll, we are left in a hazy fugue in the wake of a movie that is emotionally devastating and structurally resonant. Aranofsky does a fine job in a powerful and explosive conclusion, and it is left to us to marvel at the leftover carnage.
Mitch lacks Bond’s class — “Rapp, Mitch Rapp” doesn’t roll off the tongue — but he certainly makes up for it in kill count and his entertainment factor.
While Stranger Things does not return to Netflix until October, you can still experience the 1980s with It, the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel.
A good movie is like a good sandwich — solid context on the outside with juicy conflict filling the center. A Year by the Sea, if a sandwich, is a bit dry. While it contained numerous micro-conflicts, it lacked a strong plotline: a sandwich filled only with bread.
The thought-provoking film, culminating in a chaotic and disjointed final scene at the real Disney World, lifts the veneer of the “happiest place on Earth” and sheds a darker light on the devastating childhood poverty that exists in America.
This is a central question to the movie; what does it mean to be a ‘real’ human being? Is it to be of woman-born? Is it to be mortal? The film proposes interesting, if somewhat unsatisfying, resolutions to these, and a host of other problems.
Instead, the bits and pieces from various scenes seem intentional to the point of the film; we are constantly shown the dehumanization of the refugees by various subconscious and external forces. We are reminded that the crisis is not isolated but rather an immediate and immense issue for human beings and countries around the world.
If you’re trying to decide whether you should go watch Thor: Ragnarok — if you want a stimulating plot or breathtaking acting, this movie might not be for you. But, if you want a few fun hours with a movie chock-full of action and simple jokes that makes you laugh, Thor: Ragnarok will definitely not disappoint.
The Breadwinner is an undeniably beautiful movie and story. The strength of the women in the family to survive is evident by all the sacrifices they make.
Throughout the movie, Lady Bird and her mother’s conversations slip to and from endearing moments of mother-daughter synchronicity to irate bickering in a way that is both hilarious and entirely familiar.
Sold as a legal thriller, this movie is actually a moral-drama and a character study. Denzel Washington, known for his badass roles in blockbuster movies, plays the socially awkward, clumsy, idealistic character of Roman J. Israel, who is dedicated to leading a life of resistance, fighting for the civil rights of the weak, the downtrodden and the impoverished.
Two-time national champion Harding was infamous in the early 90s for her association with the knee-smashing of her biggest skating competitor, Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan.
In what begins with a lurch but slows to a crawl, director and writer Scott Cooper’s film ‘Hostiles’ has us wishing for dynamic dialogue and a more succinct and surprising script.
Twice, Molly Bloom falls from grace: first her Olympic skiing accident that puts her out of the contest; next, her arrest for running poker games that marks her as a felon. Brilliant law student turns criminal as she buries herself deeper into the world of the elite.
From the people who brought you Ice Age (and Ice Age 2, 3, 4 and more….) comes Ferdinand, the story of “a giant bull with a big heart.”
A Higgs Boson powered particle accelerator sent to space to solve our energy crisis but instead, rips the space-time continuum?
When a massive energy crisis plunges the world population into a hellish existence, the Cloverfield Station is the last hope for our humble planet. Now, if only solving the energy crisis was so simple.
T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), the Black Panther and king of Wakanda, doesn’t get through the movie unscarred, but the complexity of questions he asks and the breadth of help he needs from his team and his people cement his place as one of the major heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Her brilliant mind and her strong will led her daughter to call her “ahead of her times as a feminist.” In addition to her inventions, she produced 18 films, something unheard of from a woman, in addition to being a single mother to her two kids.
Yes, it’s campy and over the top, but it’s also a bucketful of fun. If you can’t handle absurdity — don’t go; otherwise, you will have a great time!
‘Gringo’ combines a story full of drugs, corruption, and action with an all star cast to somehow create a movie that is not equal to the sum of its parts.
'Love, Simon' was difficult to watch and far poorer than the book it was adapted from. While I’m happy that Hollywood is diversifying content, addressing current issues, and promoting a culture of acceptance, I’ll have trouble recommending this movie to anyone.
In the sequel to the 2013 movie, 'Pacific Rim,' large monsters, called Kaiju, once again attempt to wipe out all life on earth, and humanity’s only hope is the return of the Jaegers: larger-than-skyscrapers, killer, fighting robots. While audience might be impressed with the incredible fight scenes, they will be left hanging in all the other scenes where metal isn’t crushing monster.
Like every good story, The China Hustle has its compelling characters. What’s funny is the slight comical dimension that some of these characters take on, with the Loeb & Loeb lawyer embodying the slimy “greed is good” archetype, and General Wesley Clark serving as the symbol for the “figurehead for hire.”
I first heard of Unsane while I was on YouTube; I was taking pset break by watching some videos when the trailer popped up. My first instinct was to press the “Skip Ad” button, but as the summary unfolded, I couldn’t help but finish watching.
Wes Anderson’s new film, Isle of Dogs, combines Japanese culture, dogs, and a different kind of social commentary. What does it mean to love unconditionally? Should we give dogs the same kind of respect that we would give our fellow humans? Are humans deserving of such respect?
What could otherwise be a raunchy teen comedy becomes a feel-good film about parenting and the process of watching your children become adults. Yes, parents: young adults can have sex, try drugs, or move to college, or all three.
Due to their adorable appearance, pandas have embedded themselves in human society as cute icons found in advertising and media. Embracing the cuteness of these animals, ‘PANDAS’ depicts the challenges of panda conservation as Chinese and US biologists collaborate to train panda cubs for success in their natural habitat.
Joseph, the precocious younger brother, lets us in on his thoughts of his developing philosophy on living and why he chooses to live. We watch him grow up in Nazi-occupied France from the “crybaby” (as his brother calls him) who lost his blue marble to one who refuses to let go of his life.
Based on true events, Little Pink House succinctly and intelligently chronicles the fight one Connecticut woman undertakes to save her house from greedy political and corporate interests. However, while the plot holds sufficient drama, director Courtney Moorehead Balaker fails to effectively translate it to the big screen.
This is a superhero movie that breaks all expectations while abiding by every formula of making a good movie. With the intense feeling that kept me glued to the seats for a while even after the movie was over, I could tell that this movie might change the landscape of comic-book inspired movies as we know it.
In the case of historical blockbuster dramas, it seems Hollywood has not yet run out of ways to incriminate the Nazis during their reign in WWII or thereafter. With Operation Finale, we see the focus shift away from the infamous target of Adolf Hitler to one of his malicious organizers and the waiting game leading up to his capture and eventual trial in Israel.
‘Pick of the Litter’ follows a litter of five puppies as they train to become potential guide dogs under the organization Guide Dogs for the Blind. ‘Pick of the Litter’ is an edifying documentary beyond mere cutesy fare while occasionally suffering from tonal whiplash and lack of focus.
‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls’ focuses on the story of Lewis Barnavelt, who moves in with his Uncle Jonathan after losing his parents. After spending a short amount of time with his uncle, Lewis finds out that his uncle is, in fact, a warlock; together with the help of next door witch Florence Zimmerman, they must race against time to prevent the end of humanity as we know it.
MANDY came out amongst high praise from the film festivals it premiered at, and it has not disappointed. With top-notch performances from its leads, including the performance of a lifetime by Nic Cage, an evocative soundtrack from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, and gorgeous cinematography, this movie stands out as one of 2018’s greats.
If you like unhappy but unsad stories, this is the movie for you. 'Madeline’s Madeline' is volatile and chaotic but simultaneously grounding and hyperreal.
When a troubled child, John, who grew up within the tight grasps of a white supremacist gang, finally escapes juvenile prison, he ends up being fostered by an interracial couple. As John attempts to navigate through his new life, he finds unlikely solace in riding bikes.
As an animated children’s film, Smallfoot could have gone wrong. But it didn’t. Instead, ‘Smallfoot’ was an animated children film whose slapstick Tom-and-Jerry humor and catchy tunes mask its sensitive approach to criticizing censorship, discrimination, and the fear of the misunderstood.
Colette tells of the first marriage of the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. When Colette writes a widely famous book published under her husband’s name, her search for independence becomes the story of one young woman finding herself.
A Star is Born follows a talented singer Ally’s (Lady Gaga) the rise to fame, paralleled by country idol Jackson Maine’s (Bradley Cooper) downfall. First-time director Cooper tackles alcoholism, love, and deep insecurities in this tear-jerking story about keeping true to who you are.
Forget the turkey and pie — ‘The Oath’ will fill you up on laughs and reflection this Thanksgiving season
When the White House releases a loyalty oath and encourages Americans to sign it, the whole town becomes divided. Chris is a liberal who follows politics closely, and his family are no exception; they attempt to survive Thanksgiving despite the tension that permeates.
Based off the autobiographical memoirs Tweak by Nic Sheff and Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, Felix van Groeningen’s drama Beautiful Boy stars Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell as a drug-addict son (Nic) and his concerned father (David). What the film lacks in apt production choices, it at least partly makes up with beautiful acting by Chalamet and Carell alike.
The trailer is more brilliant than the film itself, where dramatic snippets against foot-stomping Queen songs promise everything you could ever hope for. This is a film made by and for Queen fans, created with so much love for Freddie Mercury that it disguises the film’s less than stellar foundation.
A green furry man attempts to exorcise his loneliness by picking on villagers. After he carries out his big plan, the man learns the spirit of Christmas.
Boy Erased is filled with passionate performances by the actors, beautifully shot, and genuinely thought-provoking. Without preaching about what is right or wrong, the movie exposes how horrifying conversion therapy can be and its toll on family and beliefs. Most of all, the film addresses how difficult but worthwhile it is to love, whether it concerns romance, family, or even oneself.
At the ripe age of 11 and a half, Flynn McGarry began to host a supper club called Eureka in his mother’s dining room. He enlisted his friends to staff his dinners, but after being invited to appear on the Today Show, star on the cover for New York Times, and cook with at pop-up restaurant events with the world’s most prestigious chefs, Flynn outgrew the walls of his home.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up a few months after Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and company chasing after Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) and Credence’s (Ezra Miller) trails. The overall tone of this movie is much darker than the first, though there are still plenty scenes of humor and charm that gives audiences a breather from worrying about the impending doom by Grindelwald.
Japanese society is defined by homogeneous organization. But beneath a shell of structure pulses a harsh underworld of oppression, overwork, and exploitation. 'Shoplifters,' a film directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu, poignantly uncovers the overlooked struggles of an oddball group of people who consider one another family, despite lacking biological relation.
'Becoming Astrid' gives the viewers a glimpse into the events in Astrid Lindgren’s formative years that shaped the children’s stories for which she is famous. Lindgren’s affair with her married editor and her subsequent teenage pregnancy serves as the fulcrum for the story and provides the background for her most beloved characters.
'Vice' tells the story of Dick Cheney, starting from his earlier life to his entry into politics to becoming the Vice President to George W. Bush Jr. Hilarious, thought-provoking, and totally unexpected, 'Vice' is a must-see movie this Christmas.
‘Bumblebee’ feels less like a ‘Transformers’ movie and more like a coming-of-age story of friendship and personal growth, set in the Transformers universe, with some awesome battle scenes and high-stakes civil wars thrown in for good measure. Whether or not you’re typically the type of person to enjoy ‘Transformers,’ this film has something for you.
19 years after Unbreakable, Glass sort of continues the cat and mouse game between David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) with another factor thrown in: Kevin Wendell Crumb and the Horde (James McAvoy). Thankfully, the movie didn’t completely let down my expectations.
During the first half of the film, there are multiple nebulous concepts that are constantly addressed by the inhabitants of Plymouth island: luck, morality, right and wrong. They way these ideas are thrown about feels arbitrary. Some inhabitants of the island criticize Dill’s obsession with catching tuna. “You just gotta catch the fish that’s in your head” is a common phrase that comes up.
After nearly a decade of vikings and dragons, Dreamworks’s ultimate installment delivers a powerful, satisfying conclusion to their beloved franchise. Fans who’ve grown up with the series will appreciate this poignant send off to a fantastically realized friendship.
Questionable writing of the film aside, the performances of the cast seem to be the only things that can save 'The Hummingbird Project.' Jesse Eisenberg plays the role of hustler Vincent well. It’s an iteration of a persona Eisenberg has proven to do well before, and this performance is no exception.
“It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little about it.”
I particularly enjoyed the musical aspect of the film. It was a great way of implementing some of Elton John’s greatest hits, such as “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “I’m Still Standing,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Even if it did lead to the film feeling more episodic, songs were often used to seamlessly transition between large moments in John’s life.
The horror in this movie is definitely disturbing, though I personally expected more. A good amount of the horror takes place off-screen, and we are only ever exposed to the aftermath, which leads to the film feeling less like a horror movie and more like a study of grief and its emotional impacts.
‘The Farewell’ provides a nuanced take on Chinese and American cultures and family dynamics. With an outstanding cast and beautiful cinematography, the film is emotional and personal in a way that reveals love and strength within a family despite tension and cultural differences.
From ‘Marley & Me’ to ‘A Dog’s Purpose,’ we’ve come to know what to expect with movies about man’s best friend: wholesomeness, innocent perspectives, and tears. ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ follows these trends while also introducing a dose of pensiveness via Enzo, sagely voiced by Kevin Costner.
The things that go bump in the night is a phrase that brings us back to our childhood days of fear. It makes us think of the creepy creatures hiding just beyond our periphery, waiting to sneak out from the back of our minds to confront us in the dark. ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ tries to capture the essence of this childhood fear.
URB: One of the most notable things in IT (2017) was its focus on the kids and their development throughout the story as they faced Pennywise’s scares. IT Chapter Two follows this trend as we follow the now grown up Losers’ Club, still the same but also slightly different as a result of their years in adulthood spent away from the ominous Derry.
The length of 'The Goldfinch' — two-and-a-half hours — drags the talented cast down, but it’s not that long movies are necessarily bad. The problem is that it does not have enough redeeming qualities or any reason to be that long, so you’re left wondering, “When is this going to end?”
As Astronaut McBride goes against all odds to journey into space to see his father one more time, the film accurately characterizes the bond between a parent and a child and how far we are willing to go for those that we love. Brad Pitt’s new space movie presents a not-so-distant future with stunning cinematography that leaves you excited for the future of space travel.
Director Takashi Miike truly goes all out here. Though ‘First Love’ dips into cliches on occasion, as a whole, it embodies that crazy, disordered, fast-paced fun of a great action movie.