An aspiring dancer with more optimism than talent tries to find her footing in "Frances Ha," and her clunky attempts to do so, which constitute most of the action in this serio-dizzy comedy, add up to an 86-minute puff of joy.
Credit the collaborating talents of writer-director Noah Baumbach and his star and cowriter, Greta Gerwig, for providing the brightness and the buoyancy.
With its depiction of college graduates not quite ready for adulthood, the film recalls Baumbach's "Kicking and Screaming." Read More
Notorious criminals who inspire movie biopics rarely are colder or nastier than Richard Kuklinski, the high-achieving contract killer who likely killed more than 100 people while working for the mob.
In “The Iceman,” Kuklinski comes alive, courtesy of actor Michael Shannon, as an intensely unembraceable protagonist while displaying just enough humanity to be watchable and sometimes riveting.
Unfortunately, the movie undermines his superb performance by failing to treat Kuklinski with adequate depth. Read More
The formula is as false as ever in the romantic comedy “Love Is All You Need.” But between cliches, director Susanne Bier supplies wonderful sparkle as her characters fall in love amid wedding-party minidramas in an Italian landscape overly conducive to sunset scenes.
Bier is known for making tragedy-laced family-centered melodramas such as “Brothers” and “In a Better World.” Changing gears, she now presents a semi-Danish pastry containing a Hollywood rom-com recipe shaded with signature serio-touches. It’s lightweight but engaging enough. Read More
Narratively flawed but admirably ambitious and occasionally splendid, “At Any Price” details trouble in the heartland. Established indie writer-director Ramin Bahrani delivers some uncharacteristically phony melodrama in this most commercial film he’s made to date. But his trademark human shades and social textures prevail, and the result is a gripping look at the cutthroat world of modern farmers. Read More
Dark are the workings behind the amiable visage of the central character of “Simon Killer,” an amoral psychodrama about an American in Paris and his unsavory unraveling.
Credit character-focused direction, a stirring lead performance and an efficient use of style for making a potentially off-putting film compelling.
Writer-director Antonio Campos, who directed the disturbed-teen drama “Afterschool” and produced the cult-escapee story “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” also displays an interest in disaffected and disturbed souls this time around. Read More
Its title and story may stem from “Snow White,” but “Blancanieves” is nothing like the soulless, effects-laden action spectacles that the thought of yet another fairy tale-rooted movie brings to mind.
This Spanish melodrama is a modestly scaled, exquisitely black-and-white, emotionally rewarding take on the Brothers Grimm fable.
It is also a classy, quirky salute to silent-era cinema.
Written and directed by Pablo Berger (“Torremolinos 73”), the film, like “The Artist,” celebrates silent movies and presents itself in the form of a silent movie. Read More
Three morally slippery protagonists form a shaky alliance in an effort to get their hands on a valuable painting in director Danny Boyle’s “Trance,” a sensorially dazzling but dramatically disappointing brio-noir thriller from the usually efficient British director.
Too many twists obscure the human element in this movie in which Boyle — who made the 1990s decorum-busting black comedies “Shallow Grave” and “Trainspotting” and 2008’s crowd-pleasing “Slumdog Millionaire” — explores heist-drama and “Inception”-style brain-twister terrain. Read More
As its fishmonger protagonist slides down toward madness while pursuing a shot at TV stardom, the Italian fable “Reality” contains nothing unique or revelatory. But between the plot dots, this fantastical journey and neorealist comedy (yes, there is such a thing) is a skillfully spun, entertaining tale about how people equate fame and flash with human worth. Read More
With its terrific central performance and 1960s soul tunes, the musical dramedy “The Sapphires” scores undeniable irresistibility points. But they’re not enough to give the movie the emotional resonance that a story about soul singers needs as its heroines bicker, shimmer and belt out their way to Supremes-like glory. Read More
“Spring Breakers” is a bikini, beer and bong romp in which writer-director Harmony Korine colorfully embraces the silliness of beach-party flicks while simultaneously enhancing and warping the material into something darker, bolder and deranged.
As his four heroines experience wild times in the Sunshine State, Korine’s film, at first, is promising. But by allowing luridness to dominate over story and character, he ultimately dooms the day. Read More
Likely to become known as the Romanian exorcism drama that nobody saw, “Beyond the Hills” is an inimitably harrowing and immensely human story about friendship, devotion and what happens when faith goes horribly wrong. A wealth of merits compensate for an excessive running time in this serious, satisfying 152 minutes of world cinema.
The director is Cristian Mungiu, who made “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 days,” an abortion-themed thriller. Read More
Playing a formidable, crusty history maker in supporting mode, Tommy Lee Jones keeps things watchable, but a dull lead character and a fabricated romance doom vitality and credibility in “Emperor.”
This latest release from Hollywood's history-as-entertainment tap dramatizes an investigation led by U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur into whether Japan Emperor Hirohito should be tried for war crimes. Read More
Almost a miniature genre, the factually challenged but dramatically winning moment-in-history drama comes in Chilean form this week.
The film is called “No,” and like “Argo,” “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” this Oscar nominee depicts the strategies and dramatizes the execution of a mission of historical importance. The results are intelligent, entertaining and, credibility imperfections notwithstanding, nicely edifying. Read More
A Mexican-American boy processes his spiritual and earthier experiences into a vivid childhood, guided by his medicine-woman mentor, in “Bless Me, Ultima,” a magical-realist drama based on Rudolfo Anaya’s popular novel.
Directed and adapted by Carl Franklin, the film is a coming-of-age tale, a mentor-pupil story and a supernatural village-life adventure set in a distinctive place and time. In all of these arenas, it is too colorful to fizzle but not compelling enough to triumph dramatically. Read More
It’s that time again — the “Up” series is back — and both the kids and the series are going strong. The latest installment, “56 Up,” is another worthy addition to this documentary catalog that illustrates the modern human experience through the stories of 13 Brits who, every seven years, share their lives in front of the movie camera.Falling somewhere between anthropology and melodrama, the “Up” series began in 1964 with “7 Up,” a TV experiment designed to assess the impact of class on British schoolkids. Fourteen 7-year-old children were interviewed. Read More