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Movies

September 19, 2012 10:00 PM

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film keeps shifting, languidly and elegantly, as it runs its course. It’s a thriller of sorts, but quietly so; what makes it nerve-wracking is in large part what you bring to it as a viewer.

Elena begins with such a long, slowly shifting shot that the image — a bare tree branch, a black bird, an apartment balcony — becomes ominous. The branch blurs into the apartment, which comes into focus as a large, sterile, tasteful place, spacious and passionless, and clearly expensive.

September 12, 2012 10:00 PM

Mike Birbiglia’s life story is determined to come to you in all forms. In 2010, the comedian’s book Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories — a series of stories, half painful and half funny, about the comedian’s life, career and bouts with sleepwalking — was released.

Mike Birbiglia’s life story is determined to come to you in all forms. In 2010, the comedian’s book Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories — a series of stories, half painful and half funny, about the comedian’s life, career and bouts with sleepwalking — was released.

September 5, 2012 10:00 PM

Lawless, which follows Hillcoat’s 2009 adaptation of The Road, is cut from similar cloth. Once again, screenwriter Nick Cave’s story follows three outlaw brothers; once again, violence has a central place in their lives, and morality is a shifty thing that has little to do with governance and laws.

In 2006, director John Hillcoat blew my mind. I went into The Proposition knowing only that it was set in Australia and starred a lot of actors I admire; I came out half shellshocked and entirely awed. Bloody, ugly, intense, beautifully and intelligently made, The Proposition was a movie that wrestled with morality; put tough, deeply flawed characters front and center; and didn’t shy away from truly awful violence.

August 29, 2012 10:00 PM

“Likable” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you imagine a semi-romantic comedy about a pair of divorcing thirtysomethings, but it might be just the word for Celeste and Jesse Forever.

“Likable” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you imagine a semi-romantic comedy about a pair of divorcing thirtysomethings, but it might be just the word for Celeste and Jesse Forever. Writer and star Rashida Jones, who’s arguably most familiar from Parks and Recreation, turned what could have been a one-note role in I Love You Man into an actual character, and has a slippery, almost prickly warmth; she radiates a sense that she’s a lot of fun to be around until you piss her off.

August 22, 2012 10:00 PM

Moonrise Kingdom is so charming, so quaintly and perfectly designed, like a pretty diorama in which Wes Anderson carefully places his actor-dolls, that it feels curmudgeonly to dislike it. And I don’t dislike it, exactly; I’m just not sure I feel much of anything about it.

Moonrise Kingdom is so charming, so quaintly and perfectly designed, like a pretty diorama in which Wes Anderson carefully places his actor-dolls, that it feels curmudgeonly to dislike it. And I don’t dislike it, exactly; I’m just not sure I feel much of anything about it. Everything is in its right place; the shots are beautiful, the sets just so. Two kids set out separately across a New England island, toting impossibly stylish bags, outfitted in dashing Khaki Scout uniforms and white socks.

August 15, 2012 10:00 PM

Tony Gilroy directed Michael Clayton. Think about that, while you watch The Bourne Legacy, and ponder how it is that the writer-director of such a taut, effective film created something as skittish and incomplete as Bourne, which is about 45 percent prologue, and almost entirely unsatisfying.

Tony Gilroy directed Michael Clayton. Think about that, while you watch The Bourne Legacy, and ponder how it is that the writer-director of such a taut, effective film created something as skittish and incomplete as Bourne, which is about 45 percent prologue, and almost entirely unsatisfying. 

August 8, 2012 10:00 PM

The easy joke about Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is that it gives you so little to remember. You might recall the Blade Runner-esque neon-and-concrete vision of its future, or the look on Kate Beckinsale’s face as she tries to squeeze the life out of Colin Farrell’s Douglas Quaid. 

The easy joke about Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is that it gives you so little to remember. You might recall the Blade Runner-esque neon-and-concrete vision of its future, or the look on Kate Beckinsale’s face as she tries to squeeze the life out of Colin Farrell’s Douglas Quaid. But Wiseman, who cut his teeth as a director on two Underworld flicks, has plenty of experience directing Beckinsale at ass-kicking. Two hours of her and Jessica Biel fighting in an inexplicably complex bank of elevators would be considerably more memorable.

August 1, 2012 10:00 PM

Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Willis) lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in the Bathtub, a damp, wild, insular place at what feels like the edge of the world (but is more likely the edge of New Orleans).

Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Willis) lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in the Bathtub, a damp, wild, insular place at what feels like the edge of the world (but is more likely the edge of New Orleans). She tends to their chickens and pigs, goes fishing with her father, and draws creatures on cardboard boxes in her house — her own scrappy house, standing on crooked stilts like something out of a dark fairytale.

July 25, 2012 10:00 PM

High expectations sometimes lay you low, and the very word “superhero” spurs one’s anticipation of a movie adaptation to leap tall multiplexes in a single bound.

High expectations sometimes lay you low, and the very word “superhero” spurs one’s anticipation of a movie adaptation to leap tall multiplexes in a single bound and travel faster than a speeding bullet to the box office. It can’t be helped. Walking into the July 20 midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, my hopes were high. I assumed that this grand finale would be not only a step above all predecessors, but also well worth the particular discomfort of cramming into a packed theater at midnight. Neither of these assumptions panned out.

July 18, 2012 11:00 PM

I would like to see Bill Nighy be a nice guy in more movies. He’s so effective as a ragged, aging musician or as, say, a creepy ancient vampire that I forget what a wonderful actor he is in ordinary roles.

I would like to see Bill Nighy be a nice guy in more movies. He’s so effective as a ragged, aging musician (Love Actually) or as, say, a creepy ancient vampire (the Underworld series) that I forget what a wonderful actor he is in ordinary roles.

July 11, 2012 11:00 PM

Woody Allen is a great American filmmaker, though I’m not sure if I should place that somewhat queasy statement in quotation marks or simply note that, as an assertion, it drags the luggage of several qualifiers.

Woody Allen is a great American filmmaker, though I’m not sure if I should place that somewhat queasy statement in quotation marks or simply note that, as an assertion, it drags the luggage of several qualifiers.

July 4, 2012 11:00 PM

Many of us secretly harbor unreasonable dreams. Maybe you want to be an Olympic medalist at a sport you’ve never tried, or fantasize about starring in blockbuster action films but have never set foot on stage. I like to imagine that in some alternate word, I learned to dance at a young age.

Many of us secretly harbor unreasonable dreams. Maybe you want to be an Olympic medalist at a sport you’ve never tried, or fantasize about starring in blockbuster action films but have never set foot on stage. I like to imagine that in some alternate word, I learned to dance at a young age. (In reality, when I was little I wanted to be a librarian.)

June 27, 2012 11:00 PM

Oh, that hair. Rapunzel may have the length, but she has little else on the locks of Merida (Kelly Maconald), the Scottish princess in Pixar’s Brave.

Oh, that hair. Rapunzel may have the length, but she has little else on the locks of Merida (Kelly Maconald), the Scottish princess in Pixar’s Brave. Merida’s hair is sunset orange, vermillion, peach, candy-apple red, a riot of curls that never settles, bouncing around her shoulders in a glorious tangle. It streams behind Merida as she gallops through the forest on horseback, nailing targets with perfectly aimed arrows; it flounces and bounces, uncontrollable, when she shows up all of Scotland’s eligible first-born sons in an archery contest.

June 20, 2012 11:00 PM

At last, the white smoke wafts up from the Vatican chimney, and the exultant masses cheer Habemus Papam. Translation: We Have a Pope

At last, the white smoke wafts up from the Vatican chimney, and the exultant masses cheer Habemus Papam. Translation: We Have a Pope, a sly new comedy by Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti. The premise is delicious, like Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” filmed as broad satire by the late Hal Ashby: The Pope has died, and the international gathering of cardinals — each of whom fervently begs God not to be chosen — votes in the long-shot Cardinal Melville, played to sympathetic perfection by French actor Michel Piccoli.

June 20, 2012 11:00 PM

Director Bruce McDonald’s documentary Music from the Big House follows Canadian blues vocalist Rita Chiarelli as she journeys into the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

In 1968, Johnny Cash played Folsom State Prison, in what would become the definitive live performance of his career. It’s a show that will never be forgotten. This wasn’t, however, the first prison-bound performance to make history, and it certainly wasn’t the last.

June 13, 2012 11:00 PM

There’s simply too much circumstantial evidence to ignore the truth another minute: Tony Scott and Ridley Scott are the same exact person.

I’ve been told Tony Scott, the shameless pimp responsible for such box-office bait jobs as Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop 2, is the younger brother of Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott, but I’m not so sure. Where’s the proof? I want to see a birth certificate. Because, just having sat through Prometheus, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hollywood has hatched the boldest conspiracy since they sealed Uncle Walt’s nuts in a Mason jar of formaldehyde.

June 6, 2012 11:00 PM

If it’s true that nationalism and immigration are the most dangerous issues confronting the planet in this early 21st century, it’s reasonable to suggest that, at the spiritual level, our soul’s greatest peril now lies in the tension between belief and nothingness.

If it’s true that nationalism and immigration are the most dangerous issues confronting the planet in this early 21st century, it’s reasonable to suggest that, at the spiritual level, our soul’s greatest peril now lies in the tension between belief and nothingness — a crisis of faith that finds the New Age con pitted against the death of God, where our need to believe is crucified by our suspicion that all our myths are shattered lies. It’s the curse of the Enlightenment.

June 6, 2012 11:00 PM

When a movie poster trumpets not the film’s stars but that it’s “From the producers of Alice in Wonderland,” we should see that as a bright and telling signpost.

When a movie poster trumpets not the film’s stars but that it’s “From the producers of Alice in Wonderland,” we should see that as a bright and telling signpost: The film to come will be full of brief flashes and thin shadows, hollowness and pretty costumes, a mass-produced print hung in an antique frame. 

May 30, 2012 11:00 PM

Chris Thile, the obsessive genius behind prog-bluegrass pioneers Punch Brothers, first picked up the mandolin at age 5, and is now hailed by many as the finest player in the world.

Chris Thile, the obsessive genius behind prog-bluegrass pioneers Punch Brothers, first picked up the mandolin at age 5, and is now hailed by many as the finest player in the world. In Mark Meatto’s new documentary, How to Grow a Band, there is scarcely any footage of Thile without his instrument; he’s always off in the corner, perfecting some lickety-split chromatic run. At one point in the film, Punch Brother banjoist Noam Pikelny recalls a family legend about his colleague’s daunting dedication.

May 23, 2012 11:00 PM

First Position is an unfussy, enjoyable documentary that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: an inspirational sports movie about young dancers.

First Position is an unfussy, enjoyable documentary that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: an inspirational sports movie about young dancers hoping to enter the highly competitive world of professional ballet.

May 16, 2012 11:00 PM

Nothing could be simpler, more pat and shrink-wrapped, than the plot of The Raid: Redemption.

Nothing could be simpler, more pat and shrink-wrapped, than the plot of The Raid: Redemption, a new Indonesian beatdown flick by writer/director Gareth Evans. Like a plain wire hanger holding up a Dior cocktail dress, Evans’ screenplay pitches just enough narrative ballast to support this breakneck epic of cops and bad guys indulging in an orgy of wham-bam gunplay and jittery fisticuffs (and karate chops, eye gouges, head butts, pile drivers, evisceration, vivisection and defenestration).

May 9, 2012 11:00 PM

It’s possible that Joss Whedon’s true calling in life is to write dialogue for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark.

It’s possible that Joss Whedon’s true calling in life is to write dialogue for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Or maybe RDJ was born to speak Whedon’s quippy, pop-culture-laced dialogue, which sounds as natural coming from Downey’s mouth as it did from Sarah Michelle Gellar’s when she played Whedon’s best-known creation, vampire slayer Buffy Summers.

May 2, 2012 10:00 PM

Kevin, the sullen-faced first child of wealthy parents, is a piece of work. As a baby, he screams so fiercely that his mother finds a jackhammer soothing.

Kevin, the sullen-faced first child of wealthy parents, is a piece of work. As a baby, he screams so fiercely that his mother finds a jackhammer soothing; as a toddler, he’s resistant to everything; as a teen, he’s destructive and aggressively surly. There’s nothing redeeming about the kid, but his father, Franklin (John C. Reilly), sees nothing wrong. It’s just how boys are, right? 

April 25, 2012 10:00 PM

As an archetypal resident of L.A.’s shadier streets, the Dude abides, a latter-day California Buddha in the Holy Temple of Slackerdom, plum mystic and stoned immaculate, a knocker of pins, drinker of Caucasians. “He’s the man for his time and place,” says the man in the cowboy hat, his purple baritone of a voice rumbling like warm milk in your stomach.