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movie reviews

Chef

7

Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr.

Directed by: Jon Favreau

As writer, director, producer and actor, Jon Favreau has toiled for so long on the epic Hollywood battlefields of the Iron Man franchise and Cowboys & Aliens that you may forget his unique indie start with Swingers and Made. Chef marks Favreau's triumphant return to personal filmmaking. It's an artful surprise and an exuberant gift. Once you get past the big names in the cast, Chef sits you down to the modest pleasures of a dish served with simplicity and loving finesse. It'... | More »

Fed Up

6

Narrated by Katie Couric

Directed by: Stephanie Soechtig

Forget zombies and vampires, the scariest thing onscreen anywhere right now is Fed Up. Even Godzilla can't rival Big Sugar as a weapon of mass destruction. In this no-frills, no-bull documentary, executive producer Laurie David, a prime force behind the Al Gore doc An Inconvenient Truth, teams up with director Stephanie Soechtig and narrator Katie Couric to tell it like it is about obesity in America. It's not a pretty picture. Since 1980, we've doubled our sugar intake, seen a... | More »

Palo Alto

6

Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer

Directed by: Gia Coppola

Delicate business is being transacted in Gia Coppola's gravely lovely interpretation of a collection of deeply-felt short stories by James Franco. Despite the cool vibe – she's the 27-year-old granddaughter of Francis Ford and niece of Sofia making her feature directing debut; he's 36 and, well, everywhere – Palo Alto doesn't hit you over the head with hipness. It sidles up to you, gets whispery close, then sidles away again, leaving behind an enveloping vapor ... | More »

May 1, 2014
April 24, 2014

Locke

7

Tom Hardy

Directed by: Steven Knight

A guy in a BMW. Alone. Talking on the wireless. Voices on the speaker. He's Ivan Locke, a Brit, driving from Birmingham to London. In real time – 85 minutes. No flashbacks. Just this guy. Juggling crises. Don't freak out. Locke only sounds like a trap. It's a powerhouse of claustrophobic suspense and fierce emotion, mostly because Tom Hardy, best known as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, is a blazing wonder as Locke. Writer-director Steven Knight has given Hardy the task of... | More »

Transcendence

2

Johnny Depp

Directed by: Wally Pfister

Remember when paycheck-hungry actors were accused of phoning in a performance? Johnny Depp spins that for millennials in Transcendence by Skpying in his performance. After a few brief scenes in the flesh as Dr. Will Caster, the foremost expert in Artificial Intelligence, Depp virtually disappears. Before poison kills Dr. Will, he downloads everything he knows and feels into a computer. So when his loyal wife (the talented but criminally wasted Rebecca Hall) misses him, she just logs on and vo... | More »

April 11, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive

6

Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

How does this strike you? Hang out with a pair of centuries-old vampires in a digital-free apartment in depressed, depopulated Detroit while they listen to vinyl records on a turntable. Before you stop reading, let me point out that this movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, flows from the mind and bruised heart of Jim Jarmusch, the indie pioneer of laidback lyricism. Jarmusch movie titles sound like an incantation when you say them aloud: Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery Train, Night On Earth, Dead ... | More »

Joe

6

Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan

Directed by: David Gordon Green

If you need a reminder of what a fine, nuanced actor Nicolas Cage can be, take a look at Joe. This is the kind of artful character study that marked Cage's work in Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona and Adaptation. Cage's Joe Ransom is an ex-con, living in the rural South, where he runs a tree-poisoning detail for a company that wants to replace sick trees with the healthier variety. Joe is fair to his crew, played by real-life laborers. He even gives a job to Gary Jones (Tye Sherid... | More »

April 3, 2014

Nymphomaniac, Volume II

4

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Directed by: Lars Von Trier

With raw shock and a riveting Uma Thurman absent this time, Nymphomaniac: Volume II is a metaphoric limp dick. As in Volume I, filmmaker Lars Von Trier keeps the same themes at play about female sexual power and male attempts to tame and abuse it. But repetition dulls the edge of insights that are meant to be, um, penetrating. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, a true fascinator) is still telling her tales of wonder and woe to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), the older man who gives her shelter an... | More »

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