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movie reviews

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 »

Winter's Tale

0

Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay

Directed by: Akiva Goldsman

A kick in the ass to Valentine's Day and the very notion of a satisfying Somewhere In Time kind of romantic wallow at the movies. What happens to Mark Helprin's 1983 bestseller at the hands of Hollywood is a crying shame. In his feature directing debut, Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), creates a beautiful mess, an embarrassment of epic proportions. On deck is a supernatural love story that spans a century and even death, Colin Farrell—sporting the ... | More »

Robocop

4

Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton

Directed by: José Padilha

This Robo-reboot tries fiercely to update the satirical punch and stylistic perversity Paul Verhoeven's 1987 original. It's a futile gesture. Brazilian director José Padilha (Elite Squad, Bus 174) soldiers on stolidly, but lacks the Dutch Verheoeven's abiding sense of mischief. Go ahead, skewer American jingoism and right-wing perspectives all you want – that never gets old – but do it with a specific point of view. Padilha seems content to just go through th... | More »

February 7, 2014

The Lego Movie

7

Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell

Directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Animated movies in 3-D are box-office bonanzas, and The Lego Movie is no exception. George Clooney's Monuments Men should prepare to be shot down. The brightly-imagined Lego Movie is also a wickedly smart and funny free-for-all, and sassy enough to shoot well-aimed darts at corporate branding. Satirical subversion in family entertainment is an unexpected treat, especially in a movie that also functions as a triumph of product placement. For plot, we get Chris Pratt voicing a block of pla... | More »

Vampire Academy

0

Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry

Directed by: Mark Waters

Since this movie wasn't screened for critics – usually a surefire sign of disaster – I bought my ticket today with everyone else (actually, the theater was near empty) and took a chance. Why you ask? Because it was directed by Mark Waters, who did the terrific Mean Girls, and written by his brother Daniel Waters, who did the script for the classic Heathers. If anyone might break the no-advance-screenings jinx it would be these guys. Not so. The only thing scary about Vampire ... | More »

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