SHARE

OPENING:

Blackhat (R) Chris Hemsworth stars in Michael Mann’s thriller as a convicted hacker who’s released from prison to help catch a cyber-terrorist. Also with Viola Davis, Tang Wei, William Mapother, John Ortiz, Wang Leehom, Ritchie Coster, Spencer Garrett, Jason Butler Harner, and Yorick van Wageningen. (Opens Friday)

Boyhood (R) Richard Linklater’s most radical experiment yet stars Ellar Coltrane as a boy who experiences life between ages 6 and 18. The director filmed the same group of actors for a few days each year over the course of 12 years to tell his story, and the passage of time proves to be a dazzling special effect. Instead of focusing on the usual tropes of coming-of-age films, Linklater finds resonance in the boy’s smaller moments. The performances by Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette (as the boy’s parents) are remarkably consistent over time. Despite its small scale and clearly marked time periods, this movie still manages to feel epic and infinite. The movie was filmed throughout Texas, so watch for familiar locations. Also with Marco Perella, Lorelei Linklater, Zoe Graham, Brad Hawkins, Jenni Tooley, and Steven Prince. (Re-opens Friday)

Cafe Modern - Copy

The Con Artists (NR) Kim Hong-seon’s caper film is about a gang of Korean thieves who band together to steal a fortune from a customs house in a 40-minute time frame. Starring Kim Woo-bin, Kim Young-cheol, Ko Chang-seok, Lee Hyun-woo, Jo Yoon-hee, and Im Joo-hwan. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Little Accidents (NR) Sara Colangelo’s drama tracks the effects of a coal-mine disaster on the residents of a small West Virginia town. Starring Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas, Alexia Rasmussen, and Chloë Sevigny. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Paddington (PG) Michael Bond’s beloved children’s stories are adapted into this harmless live-action movie. The talking, marmalade-loving, unfailingly polite but accident-prone bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) makes his way from Peru to move in with a London family. The comic hijinks are entirely predictable except for a few throwaway lines, and watching a sterling cast go through them is like watching bodybuilders lift toothpicks. Still, director/co-writer Paul King makes a few pointed and entirely appropriate parallels between Paddington’s situation and those of other immigrants in the U.K. This movie probably means more if you’re British. Watch for Bond’s cameo as a loiterer in Paddington Station. Also with Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Matt Lucas, Samuel Joslin, and Madeleine Harris. Additional voices by Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon. (Opens Friday)

Spare Parts (PG-13) George Lopez stars in this movie based on the real-life story of a group of Hispanic high-school students from Arizona who won a robotics championship over college teams from all over America. Also with Marisa Tomei, José Julián, Steven Michael Quezada, Carlos PenaVega, David Del Rio, Amber Midthunder, J.P. Villarreal, Alexa PenaVega, Esai Morales, and Jamie Lee Curtis. (Opens Friday)

Vice (NR) Not to be confused with Inherent Vice. Bruce Willis stars in this futuristic science-fiction thriller as the designer of a theme park where people can enact their violent fantasies on robots that look like humans. Also with Thomas Jane, Ambyr Childers, Charlotte Kirk, Bryan Greenberg, Colin Egglesfield, and Johnathon Schaech. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

The Wedding Ringer (R) Kevin Hart stars in this comedy as a man who hires himself out to perform best-man duties for grooms with no real friends. Also with Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Nicky Whelan, Josh Peck, Jorge Garcia, Jenifer Lewis, Ken Howard, Olivia Thirlby, Whitney Cummings, and Cloris Leachman. (Opens Friday)

Whiplash (R) A soft-headed melodrama that’s redeemed by its performances. Miles Teller plays an aspiring jazz drummer who gets into music school only to discover that the top professor (J.K. Simmons) is a classic bully who runs his band by humiliating his musicians. The movie is full of bromides about musical genius, and the romance with a movie theater employee (Melissa Benoist) is particularly badly handled. However, Simmons is fearsome as a man raging at the world’s embrace of mediocrity, and Teller does well in an atypically reserved, sensitive role. Writer-director Damien Chazelle takes a cubist approach to life at music school and crafts a climactic drum solo that will lift you out of your seat. Also with Paul Reiser, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton, and April Grace. (Re-opens Friday)

Winter Sleep (NR) The winner of the Golden Palm at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s drama stars Haluk Bilginer as a former actor-turned-hotelier whose relationships with his family and community are strained while his Turkish resort hotel shuts down for the offseason. Also with Melisa Sözen, Demet Akbag, Ayberk Pekcan, Serhat Mustafa Kiliç, Nejat Isler, Tamer Levent, and Emirhan Doruktutan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING:

Annie (PG) This misfiring new adaptation of the Broadway musical updates the story to the present day and stars Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) as the plucky foster kid who is adopted by a wealthy businessman (Jamie Foxx) who’s running for political office. The cast is full of funny actors and bits, and director/co-writer Will Gluck does well portioning out the laughs among his cast. The trouble is, nobody looks remotely comfortable bursting into song and dance, the music is so overproduced that you can barely hear the actors’ voices, and the numbers are staged without innovation. This could have succeeded as a comedy if it weren’t for those terrible musical numbers. Also with Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Zayas, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and Patricia Clarkson.

Big Eyes (PG-13) Better understood as a movie about domestic abuse than as one about art or a Tim Burton film. Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams star in this biography of Walter and Margaret Keane, the 1950s painters who achieved fame and riches through Margaret’s paintings of children with gigantic eyes, which Walter publicly took credit for. The filmmakers and the actors illustrate in fine detail how a husband can batter his wife without ever hitting her, as Walter’s ego, drinking, and hunger for fame balloon out of control. Waltz is revelatory in this non-Tarantino setting, but it’s Adams’ terrorized, self-disgusted performance that is the glory of this film. Also with Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman, Jon Polito, Madeleine Arthur, Delaney Raye, James Saito, and Terence Stamp.

Big Hero 6 (PG) Disney’s beguiling latest animated film is about a 13-year-old genius inventor (voiced by Ryan Potter) who uses a giant, inflatable, healthcare-providing robot (voiced by Scott Adsit) to find out who’s responsible for the death of his older brother (voiced by Daniel Henney). The animators have great fun with the fat, huggable, slow-moving robot and the setting, a city that’s a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo. The movie isn’t as deep as it would like to be, but it’s good fun. Additional voices by Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Genesis Rodriguez, Damon Wayans Jr., Alan Tudyk, Katie Lowes, James Cromwell, and Maya Rudolph.

Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (R) A hell of a ride. Michael Keaton stars in this theatrical satire as a washed-up Hollywood action star who risks the last of his fortune to mount a Broadway play that will get him taken seriously as an actor. This is easily the best work by director/co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu, who finally gets in touch with his sense of humor and stops trying to tell us about the state of the world in favor of telling us a story about a somewhat deluded showbiz guy. The long takes and cleverly disguised cuts create a hurtling sense of momentum that replicates its main character’s disintegrating sense of self. It also keeps the actors on their toes, with Keaton, Edward Norton (as a Method diva of a fellow actor), and Emma Stone (as the hero’s drug-addicted daughter) all delivering career-best performances. The movie’s ideas are undercooked, but at least González Iñárritu has discovered a sense of joy to go with his technical gifts. Also with Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Lindsay Duncan, Jeremy Shamos, and Amy Ryan.

The Gambler (R) Mark Wahlberg stars in this remake of Karel Reisz’ 1974 film about an English professor with a nasty gambling habit. There’s nothing really groundbreaking here, but William Monahan’s script offers up juicy nuggets of dialogue, and the cast (led by Wahlberg, slimmed down by about 60 pounds and looking at the end of his rope) is strong. Hollywood’s generic thrillers would be better if they were all made with the same care as this one. Also with Jessica Lange, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alvin Ing, Emory Cohen, Anthony Kelley, Domenick Lombardozzi, Richard Schiff, Leland Orser, and George Kennedy.

Gone Girl (R) This movie tastes like death, and I mean that in a good way. David Fincher’s complex, black-as-the-grave murder mystery stars Ben Affleck as a man who becomes the publicly demonized prime suspect when his wife (Rosamund Pike) disappears. Gillian Flynn adapts this from her own bestselling novel and writes like a seasoned veteran, while Fincher expertly tightens the screws. Supporting actors (Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, and Carrie Coon especially) give tasty performances, and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide a fearsomely detached score. Both Fincher’s nihilism and Affleck’s talent for playing flawed, self-loathing guys receive a great showcase in this movie that flatly dismisses the illusions peddled by romantic movies. Also with Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Fugit, David Clennon, Lisa Banes, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski, Boyd Holbrook, Lola Kirke, Scoot McNairy, and Sela Ward.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (PG-13) Not bad, necessarily, but all it made me feel was, “Oof, that’s over.” The last chapter involves the slaying of the dragon, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) going insane with greed, and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) trying to avert an all-out slaughter over the dragon’s treasure hoard. This is the most action-packed of the installments, and the fight sequences are performed ably by the actors here. Still, none of the characters’ relationships rings true, and the villains remain one-dimensional. J.R.R. Tolkien’s book gained focus from being brief, but Peter Jackson has blown this up into a 474-minute saga because that’s all he knows how to do now. Also with Ian McKellen, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Manu Bennett, Billy Connolly, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, and Ian Holm.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (PG-13) The latest installment does a perfectly fine job of setting us up for the series’ end. Newly installed as the face of the anti-government rebellion, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) leverages her position to get the rebels to rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the other captured former Hunger Games winners. Director Francis Lawrence botches the climactic scene and runs into trouble with pacing early on, but the filmmakers keep adding telling details to Suzanne Collins’ novels that deepen our understanding of her fantasy world, and Julianne Moore is a nice addition as the rebels’ leader. Bring on the big finale. Also with Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Natalie Dormer, Mahershala Ali, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Jena Malone, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Imitation Game (PG-13) Like The Social Network with British accents and Nazis, this biography of Alan Turing posits its hero as a computer genius who’s driven by memories of lost love. Brooding like Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing, who was persecuted by the British government for his homosexuality. His awkwardness and self-contained fury are the best reasons to see this movie. The rest of it isn’t nearly as substantive, despite Keira Knightley’s strong turn as Turing’s fiancée who knows about his orientation. Also with Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance.

Inherent Vice (R) Paul Thomas Anderson makes a happy union with Thomas Pynchon in adapting the author’s shaggy detective novel. Joaquin Phoenix stars as an eternally stoned Southern California private detective in 1970 whose ex (Katherine Waterston) disappears and sucks him into a plot with hookers, Black Panthers, neo-Nazis, the FBI, and his LAPD nemesis (Josh Brolin). The plot is impenetrable by design, and it’s often an excuse to put the detective together with all manner of weird people. The murkiness is cut with insane, broad comedy and characters sporting Pynchon’s otherworldly names. If you’re not an Anderson fan or a Pynchon fan, 149 minutes of this might be a bit much, but there’s ultimately enough to keep the movie from being an exercise in random weirdness. Also with Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Michael Kenneth Williams, Sasha Pieterse, Hong Chau, Jeannie Berlin, Eric Roberts, Serena Scott Thomas, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short.

Interstellar (PG-13) Wonderful, but also not so good. Matthew McConaughey plays a pilot who leads a small crew of astronauts outside the galaxy to save the human race from going extinct on Earth. It’s hard to blame Christopher Nolan for wanting to make something hopeful and optimistic the way his Batman movies were doom-laden and despairing, but the material about an astronaut separated from his daughter needed a refined understanding of domestic relations, and that’s just not what we go to Nolan for. He and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema do an amazing job of creating the different planets in outer space, and their visual virtuosity will root you to your chair, especially if you see this on IMAX with the sound cranked up. Still, a movie that’s supposed to be uplifting instead turns out stubbornly unmoving. Also with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, Mackenzie Foy, William Devane, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, and Matt Damon.

Into the Woods (PG) Stephen Sondheim’s musical is unforgiving on inadequate performers, so it’s good that the singing actors come through splendidly here. James Corden and Emily Blunt play a baker and his wife who try to lift a witch’s curse by getting things from Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack. Director Rob Marshall can’t make the forest setting look enchanted and seems uneasy adapting a show without much dance. Still, Blunt is an unexpectedly fine singer, Meryl Streep is both powerful and achingly vulnerable as the witch, and Anna Kendrick does a crushing version of “No One Is Alone.” With even the tiny roles so well cast, it’s hard to complain. Also with Chris Pine, Mackenzie Mauzy, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Billy Magnussen, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Simon Russell Beale, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, and Johnny Depp.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (PG) In its third iteration, the series looks ready to be put in mothballs. Ben Stiller returns as the New York museum security guard who has to travel to London to figure out why the magic in his own museum is fading. The series picks up Dan Stevens as Sir Lancelot and Rebel Wilson as a British museum guard going insane from her job’s solitude, but the special effects rob them of the chance to contribute as much as they should. The only thing really worth seeing is Teddy Roosevelt’s farewell bit, which functions as a valedictory for the late Robin Williams. Also with Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Ben Kingsley, Rachael Harris, Mizuo Peck, Skyler Gisondo, Rami Malek, Bill Cobbs, Dick Van Dyke, and the late Mickey Rooney.

Ode to My Father (NR) Korean soap opera played out on an international scale. Hwang Jung-min portrays a man whose father and sister are separated from the rest of the family in a panicked mass evacuation during the Korean War. His promise to take care of his remaining family leads him to work jobs abroad and survive a coal mine collapse in West Germany and bombings in South Vietnam. The material is boilerplate, but the foreign locations give this movie some heft that it wouldn’t otherwise have. Also with Kim Yun-jin, Jung Jin-young, Jang Young-nam, Ra Mi-ran, Kim Seul-ki, and Oh Dal-su.

Penguins of Madagascar (PG) Some of the best jokes in the animated Madagascar series came from the penguins (voices by Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, and Conrad Vernon), but they can’t carry their own movie. Here the birds find themselves battling a mad-scientist octopus (voiced by John Malkovich) who wants to turn all the cute animals of the world into hideously deformed creatures. Despite scattered jokes that hit home, the movie never takes off to stand on its own. The movie scores a few extra points for casting Werner Herzog as an overwrought documentarian making a film about penguins, but it’s not enough to make up the difference. Additional voices by Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru, Peter Stormare, and Andy Richter.

Selma (PG-13) This civil rights drama is a tad square and conventional, but is it ever so timely. Ava DuVernay’s film tracks the efforts of Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and his fellow ministers to enshrine voting rights for African-Americans by demonstrating in Selma, Ala. The movie succeeds gloriously at its hardest task — making King come alive as a dramatic character — by focusing on the details of his life and by a grand performance from Oyelowo. DuVernay succeeds both at epic sequences like the re-creation of the “Bloody Sunday” march and at small, domestic scenes. She also pays tribute not just to King but to the movement around him, with its other leaders and philosophical differences. After a year when America has been roiled by racial issues, this movie is a rousing call to thought and action. Also with Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, André Holland, Colman Domingo, Common, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tessa Thompson, Lorraine Touissant, Dylan Baker, Niecy Nash, Wendell Pierce, Stephan James, Trai Byers, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Roth, and Oprah Winfrey.

Taken 3 (PG-13) Everybody is an idiot in this movie. Yes, that includes indestructible hero Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and the supposed genius cop (Forest Whitaker) who pursues him after Bryan is framed for his wife’s murder. Once again, Bryan uses his particular set of skills to take revenge on a bunch of faceless tattooed bad guys — Russian, this time — and while the movie tries to make use of the villain’s knowledge that Bryan is a mindless killing machine who can be pointed in the wrong direction, the filmmakers here aren’t nearly clever enough to make something meaningful out of it. Oh, and Bryan’s hovering over his daughter (Maggie Grace) is starting to look downright creepy. Also with Dougray Scott, Leland Orser, David Warshofsky, Jon Gries, Don Harvey, Dylan Bruno, Sam Spruell, and Famke Janssen.

The Theory of Everything (PG-13) A failure, despite two terrific performances. Eddie Redmayne stars in this biography of Stephen Hawking, as he meets his future wife Jane (Felicity Jones) when they’re still attending Cambridge, then finds her indispensable after he’s diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Director James Marsh is a brilliant documentarian (Man on Wire) who seems to lose his storytelling instincts in fiction. Though he tries to make Jane as fascinating as Stephen, the script renders her as yet another self-sacrificing supportive wife. Redmayne does a superb job of depicting Stephen’s physical deterioration, and Jones is even better as a frustrated, overshadowed spouse. Still, this movie’s imagination is way short of its subject’s. Also with Charlie Cox, David Thewlis, Christian McKay, Simon McBurney, and Emily Watson.

Unbroken (PG-13) Louis Zamperini lived an amazing life, Laura Hillenbrand wrote an amazing biography of him, and the Coen brothers adapted that book into a script. So how did this movie come out so boring? Jack O’Connell plays Zamperini, the former Olympic athlete whose plane went down over the Pacific in World War II and who survived months drifting at sea and then years being tortured in a Japanese prison camp. The British newcomer O’Connell gives the part a good whack, but director Angelina Jolie turns this into so much inspirational pabulum. On the strength of this unmoving epic, she really shouldn’t quit her day job. Also with Jai Courtney, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, and Alex Russell.

Wild (R) Maybe this movie’s biggest achievement is wiping Reese Witherspoon’s slate clean. She stars in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about pulling herself out of a downward spiral of drug use and promiscuous sex by hiking more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The material neatly fits director Jean-Marc Vallée and screenwriter Nick Hornby, who deal with the highly cerebral source by cutting Cheryl’s hike with flashbacks and filling the soundtrack with fragments of remembered conversations, poems, songs, and other thoughts that bubble up inside Cheryl’s head amid the walk’s tedium. Just as the walk boiled Strayed down to her essence, it seems to scrape away all Witherspoon’s baggage from her junky earlier films and leave behind her salient qualities. Also with Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, W. Earl Brown, Mo McRae, Brian Van Holt, Kevin Rankin, Cliff de Young, and Gaby Hoffmann.

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (PG-13) This exquisitely boring Daniel Radcliffe-free sequel to the 2012 horror movie is set 40 years later, as a young nanny (Phoebe Fox) brings a bunch of evacuated schoolchildren from a bombed-out London to the haunted house. The relative newcomer Fox is interesting as a caretaker whose cheery attitude hides a troubled past, but director Tom Harper can’t think of any creative ways to scare us. If you want horror tales set during World War II, read some of Elizabeth Bowen’s short stories and see what this movie is missing. Also with Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Oaklee Pendergast, Jude Wright, Amelia Pidgeon, and Adrian Rawlins.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

The Interview (R) Screw you, North Korea! Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen direct this comedy starring Rogen and James Franco as American journalists who attempt to assassinate dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). Also with Lizzy Caplan, Anders Holm, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons, Reese Alexander, James Yi, and uncredited cameos by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Lowe, and Eminem.

Mr. Turner (R) Timothy Spall stars in Mike Leigh’s biography of the 19th-century British painter J.M.W. Turner. Also with Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage, Karina Fernandez, Joshua McGuire, and Roger Ashton-Griffiths.

LEAVE A REPLY