The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Directed by: Peter Jackson Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Ian McKellan, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett Review: 2.5 stars (of five) The third Hobbit move is an extended—seriously extended—fight scene, a brutal, exhausting third act to the lengthy adaptation of the Tolkein novel. As a third act to a story, it works (it’s just that the whole story is too long). As a stand-alone film, it’s crap, unless you’re buying a ticket solely to explore the state of the art in CGI faux-medieval combat. The movie picks up en media res, with no effort made for at least 20 minutes to explain...

Wild

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern Review: 4 stars (out of five) Wild adapts Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 autobiographical account of a thousand-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, and the graphically screwed-up life that got her there. In a fairly...

The Theory of Everything

Directed by David Marsh Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox Review:  3.5 stars (of five) The Theory of Everything is a decently engaging biopic whose main flaw–not getting deep enough into either the importance of Stephen Hawking’s science or the mechanics of a powerful love–is mitigated by terrific performances from its lead actors. Eddie Redmayne is amazing as Hawking, from doctoral student on the verge of physical decline to utterly immobilized genius, that astonishing mind trapped in a twisted, mute body.  There are three phases to Redmayne’s performance. At the film’s beginning,...

Interstellar (and in...

Cowritten and directed by Christopher Nolan Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine Review: Incomplete, but leaning toward 2.5-3 stars This isn’t quite a review of Interstellar. My IMAX screening of the film broke down three-quarters of the way through...

The November Man

Director: Roger Donaldson Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey Review: 2.5 stars (of five) 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. ...

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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

Directed by James Gun Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, David Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice), John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, a lot of CG guys in globally dispersed cube farms Review: 2.5 stars (of five) Guardians of the Galaxy was a letdown, a frenetic mix of CGI action and tired “badass antihero” cliches. If a computer algorithm were applied to every action movie of the last half-decade, then used to generate a script off the keywords “science fiction,” “body count” and “antiheroes,” this script would’ve come out, with all its gunfire and teen-level...