Gorgeous but uninvolving is “Empire of Silver,” writer-director Christina Yao’s ambitiously scaled period piece in which members of a powerful banking family experience social turbulence, business crises and personal shakeups caused by their own potboiler tendencies and occasional deeper stirrings.
Even an abacus gets an exquisite close-up in this melodrama set in China’s early-20th-century financial world. But the story just doesn’t come alive. Read More
Every so often, amid the watchable squiggles dominating his late-career output, Woody Allen produces a jewel, and “Midnight in Paris,” a comedy about a dissatisfied contemporary Californian who time-travels to 1920s Paris, achieves that distinction.
The film is mere pastry, and an ill-conceived major character dims the spark in spots. But an inspired confection, as this movie richly demonstrates, is itself a precious thing. Read More
A blast of fun with a Kiwi sensibility and an activist beat, the formulaic but thoroughly enjoyable “The Topp Twins: The Untouchable Girls” succeeds foremost as a showcase for its ebullient title subjects: a pair of farm-raised lesbian twins who write and belt out country songs, yodel with abandon, perform sketches that lampoon both rural and society folk, and champion political causes that collide with the leanings of many of their fans. Read More
While too mild and unoriginal to deliver the compelling mix of dark-comic bite and resonant sadness that its premise hints at, “Everything Must Go” succeeds nicely as a lighter brand of pleaser.
As its self-destructing protagonist sells off his material goods for beer money and slowly realizes his deeper assets thanks to a few fine neighbors, the movie’s gentle nature and appealing performances offset the cliches and result in an embraceable human-connection story. Read More
A premium mix of the sublime and the loopy is the cinema of Werner Herzog, and the filmmaker, explorer, philosopher and semi-celebrity goofball affirms that status with his latest documentary, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
Exploring prehistoric art, the film takes viewers both into a phenomenally treasure-filled cavern and back in time to the possible “beginning of the modern human soul.” Both journeys, despite a sometimes-hampering 3-D ingredient, prove extraordinary. Read More
In the French period romance “The Princess of Montpensier,” three noblemen fight enemies in France’s Religious Wars while, on the domestic front, they battle one another over their desire for the coveted title character. A fourth soldier, meanwhile, takes the higher ground in war and love.
Combining these potentially cliched dynamics into art-house spectacle, writer-director Bertrand Tavernier delivers freshness, vitality and intelligence. But he doesn’t achieve the emotional resonance essential for a story about l’amour. Read More
"Water for Elephants” is an ambitiously presented dramatization of the best-selling big-top novel, and, sadly, it amounts to basically a hunk, a trunk and lots of Hollywood gunk as its story of forbidden love unfolds amid too-pretty Depression-era decor.
A story of this sort needs grit, originality, tension and passion. Instead, we get a routine love triangle presented mildly, meekly and with artificial sunshine. Read More
“Circo” takes viewers into the world of a traveling Mexican circus whose members set up their tent in tiny rural towns, entertain shrinking numbers of locals, and deal with mounting debt and familial friction behind the scenes.
Combining unassumingly inimitable site specifics with resonant domestic dynamics, it is a small but memorable and satisfying film. Read More
A teen goes into the woods and the world and combats a witch and a wolf or two in “Hanna,” an internationally toned adrenaline ride that incorporates the Hollywood-popular ingredients of assassins and kick-ass girls into the fairy-tale recipe.
Directed by Joe Wright, this artful actioner pleasures the eyes and sizzles with vigor but lacks emotional impact between its opening and closing blams. Read More
Bonbon cinema it might be, but “Potiche,” written and directed by French shape-shifter Francois Ozon, triggers a smile as its heroine ascends from kitchen-appliance companion to CEO and beyond.
The director’s offbeat efficiency and his stars’ old-pro skills overcome the story’s dated feeling, making for a charming movie. Read More
Tom McCarthy makes modest, gently askew comfort films in which protagonists in need of a jump-start bond with seemingly incompatible strangers, with enriching results for all.
“Win Win,” his third outing following “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” doesn’t pave new ground and lacks boldness and depth. But the writer-director again delivers an irresistible helping of heart and uplift. Read More
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s mistreated orphan, gothic governess, romantic heroine and female-independence champion in no-horizons times, is back on the big screen, in a modern-styled version of Bronte’s 1847 novel, which already inspired a reported 18 film adaptations.
Presented by director Cary Joji Fukunaga, this latest presentation of “poor, obscure, plain and little” Jane’s story is a vital mix of the fresh and the familiar. Read More
Piecing together a patchwork in which resourceful rustics and high-rise sophisticates alike take action to create clean energy, “Carbon Nation” might be the most upbeat documentary ever to navigate the generally bleak terrain of global warming.
But while this is a friendly little film that radiates worthy intentions and should prove useful to young folks, it isn’t enlightening or inspiring enough to turn skeptics into warriors. And it won’t captivate viewers who are versed in hot-times issues or familiar with previous documentaries about the subject. Read More
As its deceased title character’s final wishes play out for a resentful ex-husband and a house full of quirky guests, “Nora’s Will” emerges as a winning pairing of a good gimmick and something genuinely lovely.
Written and directed by newcomer Mariana Chenillo, this modest charmer from Mexico both carries serious emotional power and qualifies as one of the most entertaining films about a suicide that you’ll ever see. Read More
“The Adjustment Bureau” is a metaphysical thriller about love, fate, free will and some rather novel hat tricks. It centers on a politician whose love for a dancer puts him in dangerous conflict with cosmic authorities when it bucks destiny’s master plan.
Buoyed by breezy direction and terrific actor rapport, the movie is a potential springtime sparkler. But a dearth of original ideas and a reliance on Hollywood hooey as a romantic condiment bring it down. Read More