In his directorial debut, screenwriter Alex Kurtzman — known for blockbusters including “The Island,” “Transformers,” “Star Trek” and “Cowboys & Aliens” — has taken a 180-degree turn from popcorn movies. Opening Friday, “People Like Us” tells the story of a man who, after the death of his father, learns he has a half-sister.In real life, Kurtzman made a similar discovery, though it was as simple as a woman coming up to him at a party and saying, “I’m your sister.” The movie is a good deal more emotionally complex. Read More
According to industry buzz, Pixar’s new movie “Brave” was troubled, in that original director Brenda Chapman was replaced 18 months ago by Mark Andrews, though they share directing credit on the final film. But such changes aren’t necessarily bad. Something similar happened on “Ratatouille,” which opened to great acclaim and brisk box office, and eventurally won an Oscar. Read More
Directed by Lynn Shelton, “Your Sister’s Sister” is a rare beast — a low-budget movie about actual characters.The film, which opens today, is an example of an affordable model that has worked for Shelton over the course of several films. “This is my third movie in a row with three characters in one location and taking place over a long weekend,” she says, adding that the film was shot in just 12 days with a small crew.Without compromising her working methods, Shelton has graduated to a more recognizable cast than those of her earlier movies. Read More
Returning at long last to the sci-fi genre, Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” is part classic Ridley and part recent Ridley.Once upon a time, the director made great movies such as “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Thelma and Louise.” Back in those days, movies took time to explore characters and their relationships to the spaces around them. Then Scott grew more concerned about what his audience would like to see, rather than what he would like to say. Read More
Three years ago, writer-director Wes Anderson created “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” an amazing animated children’s film. His latest effort, the delightful “Moonrise Kingdom,” is about children.In some ways, Anderson always makes movies about children, whether they are high school students as in “Rushmore,” or simply lost, confused men trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Read More
The original “Men in Black” was an inspired summer popcorn movie. As Agent J, Will Smith was fleet of foot and mouth, and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K had a countenance like granite and a delivery like barbed wire. They clashed and complemented each other beautifully.The tricky visual effects didn’t overshadow the characters’ sublime chemistry. Read More
San Francisco filmmaker Philip Kaufman won the job directing the magnificent “Hemingway & Gellhorn” based on his experience with movies about lovers in times of social unrest (“The Unbearable Lightness of Being”) and writers’ tormented relationships (“Henry & June”). Not a retread, but a triumphant return to form, “Hemingway & Gellhorn” screens Sunday at the Castro Theatre and debuts Monday on HBO.Kaufman, whose last film, the underrated “Twisted,” was released eight years ago, feels lucky to have discovered cable TV. Read More
In some Hollywood pitch meeting, someone said “alien invasion” and “based on a popular board game” at the same time, and a green light went on faster than an exploding robot.
“Battleship” was born.
Alien invasion movies usually work based on three things: strong characters, cool aliens and a good idea. “Battleship” has boring characters, boring aliens and a couple of minor ideas stupid enough to elicit a temporary smile. Read More
Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” is not a typical biopic. Not devoted to facts, the comedy is deliberately and joyously rooted in gossip.
Jack Black stars as Bernie Tiede, a real man from Carthage, Texas. The mortician, singer of hymns and possible closeted homosexual was a well-loved citizen of the community. He also was convicted for murdering an 81-year-old widow in 1996. Read More
With a rich, luxurious stage set and props in place, director Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows” could have been one of his best movies — but it’s not.Based on the beloved cult soap opera on TV from 1966-1971, “Dark Shadows” is Burton’s deepest foray into tormented romance since “Edward Scissorhands.”In that film and others, he successfully combined cartoonish visual humor and a grand, operatic style. Yet while seemingly comfortable with opera, he balks at the notion of melodrama, diluting it with silliness. Read More
Lawrence Kasdan’s latest offering, “Darling Companion,” represents the end of a nine-year dry spell.Things were not always so dire.Kasdan, on the phone to promote the film, takes a moment to explain the rush of good luck that launched his career.Working in advertising, writing screenplays on the side for seven years, he finally sold “The Bodyguard,” a film that wasn’t made for decades. Read More
In “Sound of My Voice,” Brit Marling makes an unforgettable entrance, with blond hair spilling out from a white hood and an oxygen tank plugged into her nose.
She tops that look with a stunning declaration, playing Maggie, the leader of a cultlike organization, who may or may not be a dangerous crackpot. This psychological thriller leaves the notion open to interpretation. Read More
The new superhero movie “Marvel’s The Avengers” is unprecedented, with five summer blockbusters in four years setting up the characters for this super-blockbuster.
Since “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” hinted at the idea in 2008, anticipation has been intense. And fans will not be disappointed. In many ways, “The Avengers” — written and directed by Joss Whedon, best known for the beloved cult TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”— out-blockbusters its predecessors. Read More
Though presented in 3-D and likely marketed seven ways to Sunday, something at the core of “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is willfully, defiantly and wonderfully old-fashioned.
First are the pirates, as much a part of movie history as film stock, from many adaptations of “Peter Pan” and “Treasure Island” to characters the likes of Errol Flynn in “Captain Blood” and Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Read More