A grieving family regains its spark when working with a group of caring keepers to restore a run-down animal park in “We Bought a Zoo,” new from “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous” filmmaker Cameron Crowe.
Warm and fuzzy indeed is this drama, and when on target, it delivers those traits with a brightness and sincerity that affirm Crowe’s status as a wizard of positive spirit. But too often, it simply lays on the hokum. Read More
We don’t really need another version of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” John le Carre’s much-admired espionage novel received a superbly intricate and intelligent seven-part treatment in the 1979 British miniseries.
But le Carre aficionados and newcomers alike should, regardless, find lots to savor in director Tomas Alfredson’s big-screen version of the author’s Cold War story. The film is a splendidly moody period drama and a smartly crafted pleaser. Read More
A potentially disastrous tale of scheming, stalking and drunkenness, “Young Adult,” directed by Jason Reitman, isn’t dark or edgy enough to enable its comic material to achieve full sizzle. But it is funny, smart and on track as it goes on a warped journey with a horribly misguided protagonist.
Reitman, who also directed “Juno,” “Thank You for Smoking” and “Up in the Air,” makes films about people who aren’t quite as tough, cool or unbreakable as they envision themselves to be and who become transformed, but not too transformed, by meaningful human connections. Read More
Delivering charm over depth, but enchantingly so, “The Artist” celebrates silent cinema while presenting itself as a silent movie — a black-and-white melodrama with intertitles; mouthed dialogue; a dancing, swashbuckling, damsel-rescuing hero; and pantomime-proficient stars that include a vivacious dog.Executing the novelty superbly while also providing emotional current, writer-director Michel Hazanavicius has created a delightful tale of star-crossed soulmates rising, crashing and hoofing in an industry that, whether mute or sonic, can produce magic when inspired. Read More
“My Week With Marilyn” dramatizes the pairing of Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier on the 1956 comedy “The Prince and the Showgirl,” along with a brief intimacy that the troubled Monroe shared with that film’s 23-year-old assistant director, Colin Clark.
As director Simon Curtis brings to life this blip of 1950s popular culture — with its venerable British thespians, sex-bomb Hollywood icon, culture clashes and professional egos — his movie is star-struck fluff. But Michelle Williams’ multi-shaded, soulful portrayal of Monroe makes it a must-see. Read More
“The Descendants,” Alexander Payne’s lost-in-paradise dramedy, depicts the bumpy awakening of a failed family man, which begins when his wife suffers a terrible boating accident and follows him as he stumbles, sputters and struggles to parent his troubled daughters.
The movie is not only an awards- season highlight, it’s a modest miracle. Read More
Warm hearts beat beneath deadpan demeanors in Aki Kaurismaki’s “Le Havre,” the Finnish filmmaker’s French fairy tale about human goodness, working-folk solidarity and immigration laws. Creating a credibly fabular universe and serving up what registers as genuine optimism rather than artificial sunshine, Kaurismaki thwarts sentimentality in this rosy addition to his distinctive catalog. The movie’s a sparkler. Read More
The indie drama “Like Crazy” follows two 20-somethings who, separated by a visa problem and an ocean, struggle to determine if the electrically romantic relationship they experienced in college is worth pursuing.
Anyone fed up with weepy, phony love stories will likely root for this film, which deals realistically with the survival potential of young and long-distance romance and tells its story intimately, intricately and generally without contrivance. Read More
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” tells the story of a young woman struggling to repair her splintered identity after escaping from a cult, and in the vein of recent indies such as “Take Shelter” and “Winter’s Bone,” it is a smallish but powerful American drama distinguished by inspired, no-frills directing and a striking central performance. Read More
From post-Franco-era bad boy to art-house old-faithful, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar has made films that are outrageous and kinky entertainment, and at the same time good-looking and not offensive to the intellect. “The Skin I Live In,” his new melodrama, proves no exception.
But lacking his trademark ebullience and flamboyance and instead offering less-expressive calculated creepiness, this mad-scientist tale, a rare Almodóvar misfire, isn’t emotionally compelling. Read More
Part Western, part nostalgic adventure, part exile’s lamentation and part unintentional commercial for Bolivian tourism, “Blackthorn” plays on the unsubstantiated theory that famed outlaw Butch Cassidy survived the shootout with Bolivian soldiers and lived to old age in a village in the South American country.
While the film doesn’t have major firepower, it is a quietly enjoyable riff on a celebrity desperado made compelling by an electric central performance. Read More
Like the charm-exuding candidate at the center of the imbroglio it depicts, George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” has little to say, but says it so winningly that you can’t help but approve as it advances through the campaign trail and the related jungle. Clooney’s capable directing makes familiar political-thriller material absorbing and entertaining. A terrific cast sprinkles it with gold. Read More
Set both inside and outside the picture frame, “The Mill & the Cross” examines a semifamous painting by a Flemish master — Pieter Bruegel’s “The Way to Cavalry” — by dramatizing the creation of the 16th-century work and bringing to life a few figures pictured therein. Read More
“City of Life and Death” dramatizes the Nanking massacre with a focus on the war mentality that causes otherwise decent people to commit the kinds of horrors that happened in this 1937 tragedy. Chinese writer-director Lu Chuan (“Kekexili, Mountain Patrol”) aims high, both creating an epic-scale remembrance of the Nanking events and adding an ambitious war picture to the catalog. In both arenas, the film is extraordinary. Read More
Local filmmaker Tiffany Shlain presents a loving account of her final months with her father — surgeon and author Leonard Shlain (“The Alphabet Vs. Read More