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movie reviews

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 »

February 20, 2014

The Wind Rises

7

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Listen up: Japan's Hayao Miyazaki, a world-class master at hand-drawn animation, is hinting that The Wind Rises may be his last full-length feature. The hell, you say. In a Hollywood world of animation flash and glitz (did you endure The Nut Job?), the delicacy and dazzle in the work of Miyazaki, 73, is to be treasured. Among his 11 features (2001's Spirited Away earned him an Oscar), The Wind Rises may come as a shock for fans of the kid-friendly, pro-feminist, deeply pacifist Miy... | More »

February 14, 2014

About Last Night

5

Kevin Hart, Regina Hall

Directed by: Steve Pink

Of all the date movies available for Valentine's weekend, About Last Night has the edge. That edge is mostly Kevin Hart, riding the box-office crest of Ride Along and able to spark laughs even while slogging through a sea of cliches (Grudge Match, anyone?). About Last Night, way better than the limp 1986 film of the same name with Demi Moore and Rob Lowe, benefits from a sharp script by Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), who catches the subversive spirit of the original source material, Dav... | More »

Endless Love

3

Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde

Directed by: Shana Feste

Why does Hollywood continue to starve audiences longing for a good romantic tearjerker? Endless Love didn't have to be this godawful. In 1979, Scott Spencer's novel about impediments to the true love between a teen girl and a mental patient, won deserved raves. As Spencer said: "It may be time for serious, literary novelists to take back some of the subject matter we abandoned to hack novelists and the movies." Amen to that, brother. Expectations were high when the great filmmaker F... | More »

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