The November Man clearly has a noble goal—to be a James Bond film for grownups—and on an emotional level, on a shut-up-and-go-with-it level, it succeeds quite entertainingly. Unfortunately, if you slow down to consider its story, you realize that the plot is shot through with confusion, omission and implausibility. It’s a shame, because this could have been an excellent movie, one that succeeded by feeling more real, and more emotionally accessible, than a Bond or Jason Bourne flick, yet more adrenaline-based than a cerebral John Le Carre story.
Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Starring: Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe
Review: 4 stars (of five)
The long-in-coming sequel to 2005′s Sin City is in some ways a better film than its predecessor. While it does not quite have the mania for mayhem and gross bodily injury that made the original a weirdly obsessed meditation on genre tropes, it has a better sense of story and character, and better balance.
I recently described the first Sin City to a friend as: “Did you ever wish you could watch a Jim Thompson novel come to life while you’re...
Guardians of the Galaxy is hack storytelling amid frenetic action from director James Gunn. It's a jackhammer disguised as cinema. It might be what you want this summer, but you should want something more than this superficial collection of cliches and shortcuts.
It's a good movie, not a great one, and in a sneaky pivot to make its ultimate point, it risks disappointing audiences who came to see traditional bad guys get caught in the traditional way by traditional good guys. Keep an open mind, and raise a glass (or your $8 jumbo cola) to Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Boyhood is phenomenal. The 12-year shoot can be seen as a gimmick--except that it's in perfect service to the story, and adds an element of emotional connection with the characters and events of the film that no other technique could duplicate. Linklater presents a life (four lives) as a collection of episodes, and yet allows us to draw meaning from them. Perfect balance. When the lights came up, I wanted the film to roll again.
The Immigrant will probably stand as the best film of 2014 that almost no one will see. You'd have to make up a formula, the inverse relationship between box office revenue and sheer artistic quality. (Thus, it's the anti-Transformers). Make sure you're one of the enlightened who does catch Marion Cotillard's beautiful performance in a film that is, admittedly. too bleak for the average cineplex junkie.
Well, who saw that coming? After a series of diminishing returns from Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies, his return to the franchise with the promise of a convoluted, character-saturated time-travel story should have been the biggest X-Mess ever. Instead, we get a taut, compelling tale that focuses on a handful of key characters while serving up a broader background cast to delight fans of both the movie series and the long-running X-Men comics. A victory by all measures.
Meh. On strictest critical judgment, this movie is terrible. Taken as a super-hero effects adventure, it's mediocre, with strong and charming lead actors all but overwhelmed by an unfocused script, an excess of storylines and characters, and absolutely no reason to exist.
Good ideas, good acting, the makings of a good thriller, or a good sci-fi think piece, or a good love story. However, none of the elements come together to satisfy in any of these categories, so a promising start fizzles. It is a film you can enjoy in a comfortable chair with your brain turned off, but it should be more.
Most superhero movies are a con, a sleight of hand trick. While everything's moving, you're fascinated, but when it's over, you're left with nothing but a lighter wallet. The Winter Soldier's pleasures linger a little longer, because amid too many bullets and explosions, there's a bit of character work and an expanding set of complications that never quite collapse under their own weight.
Way better than most of the early 2000s TV series, largely because it's concentrated into a single film rather than permitted to sprawl across a season of television. Kristen Bell is an engaging lead facing an interesting mystery, a decent personal conflict, and many familiar faces.
The Grand Budapest Hotel has a superficial resemblance to the Wes Anderson films you'd rightly roll your eyes at, but the story and a delightful performance from Ralph Finnes inspire Anderson to his best work to date. While Finnes' M. Gustave is a flamboyant dandy when he's not punching faux Nazis in the face, this is not a twee hipster handjob--this is a seriously entertaining piece of cinema.
Martin Scorcese's new film is a long, amoral mess. The story has no moral compass whatsoever, and after the Wall Street led recession of 2008, there's no excuse for that--Scorcese should be ashamed. And yet, The Wolf of Wall Street is a thrilling 180 minutes that very nearly makes up for lack of a soul through sheer filmmaking bravado.
It's murky, incoherent, slapdash, and sort of off-putting to the uninitiated. It's what moviemaking is like when a generation of children raised on sugary cereal gets a chance to play with cameras and computers. It has its charms, but if you're not already a fan of Marvel's superhero movies, this ain't your gateway drug.
12 Years a Slave is a powerful, brutal piece of filmmaking that wins entirely on the careful eye and discipline of its director, Steve McQueen, and star, Chiwetel Ejiofor. It is a relentless chronicle of nearly unimaginable brutality that manages to make that brutality seem almost routine, rather than sensationalized.
Controversial as all hell, winner of unprecedented accolades at Cannes, and clocking in at a solid three hours long, Blue is the Warmest Color is not the easiest film to review.
In short, the actresses are excellent and the direction is, in many ways, wonderful. But at the same time that Abdel Kechiche does marvelous things with a constantly roving, claustrophobically intimate camera, his storytelling choices are often a bit bewildering.
It's cold, it's artificial, it's not bothering to explain itself. But a powerful cast and Ridley Scott make Cormac McCarthy's stark, unyielding scrips come to life. It's a film that will have a hard time finding an audience, but it definitely deserves to find it.