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movie reviews

Muppets Most Wanted

5

Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey

Directed by: James Bobin

You can't hate on the Muppets. At least, I can’t. But after the delicious treat of 2011's The Muppets, with Jason Segel and Amy Adams joining Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang, Muppets Most Wanted feels like tasteless leftovers. Segel is especially missed as star and co-writer. The plot? A ruthless agent (Ricky Gervais) conspires to have Kermit sent to a gulag run by – yikes! – Tina Fey, while Kermie's evil Russian double replaces him on tour. The breaking point... | More »

Nymphomaniac, Volume One

6

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Directed by: Lars Von Trier

I refuse to render a final verdict on the latest cinematic outrage from Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier until Volume Two drops its undies on April 4th. But I will say this for Volume One: It's a mesmerizing mind game. Not for the sex. Reportedly, there is a 5.5 hour Nymphomaniac floating around somewhere with lots more good stuff. But the unrated international version presented in America still has its fair share of naked name actors, like Shia LaBeouf, who uses a penis stand-in for ge... | More »

March 13, 2014

Need for Speed

3

Aaron Paul

Directed by: Scott Waugh

What to say about a racing movie that's stuck in idle as drama? For starters, don't race to see it. Need for Speed is based on a racing video-game franchise that has sold 150 million copies. It stars Aaron Paul (Jesse on the immortal Breaking Bad). Paul is a good actor, with two Emmys to prove it, but he's not a screen-filling star presence in the muscle-bound mold of Vin Diesel (The Fast and the Furious). This stings because there's nothing to distract you from a plot so ... | More »

Bad Words

7

Jason Bateman

Directed by: Jason Bateman

Forget all the usual feel-good shit they're shoveling at the multiplex. Bad Words, starring Jason Bateman in a tour de force of comic wickedness, takes sinful pleasure in rubbing our noses in the toxic joys of revenge. Let me explain. Bateman, who also makes a killer feature-directing debut, plays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old proofreader, who decides to enter a kids' spelling bee. Guy plays hard. Gloves off. Sun Tzu's The Art of War has nothing on Guy for rules of intimidation. A... | More »

March 6, 2014

Grand Piano

6

Elijah Wood, John Cusack

Directed by: Eugenio Mira

This thriller set in a concert hall is a stunt, but a damn good one. Maybe risk hasn't died yet in filmmaking. Elijah Wood (yup, Frodo) gives one of his best performances as Tom Selznick, a pianist paralyzed from stage fright after playing an impossible piece ("La Cinquette") five years ago that wrecked his confidence. Tom is back onstage in Chicago, with his movie-star wife (Kerry Bishé) in the house, to sit at his piano and take on "La Cinquette" with a full orchestra. The Phant... | More »

February 27, 2014

Non-Stop

5

Liam Neeson

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Ok, who's kidding who? This tense, terrific thriller starring Liam Neeson as Bill Marks, a boozy U.S. air marshal coping with a terrorist on a transatlantic flight from New York to London, isn't new. It's "Taken" on a Plane. Accept that and you'll have a high old time. Neeson could play this paycheck stuff in his sleep, but he gives it something extra. Marks has skeletons in his closet, family affairs he hasn't managed to put in order. He's an emotional basket c... | More »

February 21, 2014

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

7

Elaine Stritch

Directed by: Chiemi Karasawa

If you know Elaine Stritch only for her Emmy-winning role as Alec Baldwin’s trash-talking mother on 30 Rock, you’re in for a surprise and a hell of a show. This dazzling diva of stage, screen and cabaret gets the dynamite documentary she deserves in Chiemi Karasawa’s Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. In 2011, the gifted Karasawa and her crew started following Stritch, then 86, still performing but preparing to pack it in and return to her Michigan hometown. No way does the acerbic,... | More »

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