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REVIEW

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

In the end, in its easygoing, nonpolemical way, Brokeback Mountain is nothing less than an indictment not just of heterosexism but of masculinity itself.

Gravity REVIEW

Gravity (2013)

Gorgeous, nerve-racking, literally awesome, Gravity takes us to a world much nearer in both time and space than Duncan Jones’ Moon; nearer even than the layer of satellites that our mobile phones and GPS devices talk to every day: only about 350 miles away, in the low Earth orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope. Roughly the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco — but oh, that’s far enough.

Interstellar REVIEW

Interstellar (2014)

If you love art and science, and in particular if you love astrophysics, space travel and movies about them, it will be hard not to love Interstellar. By this I mean not that you will be bound to love it, but that you will take it hard if you don’t. A film like Interstellar is a rare event, and if such a film falls short, it stings in a way that the day-to-day failures of conventional Hollywood fare don’t.

A pair of 1940s classics from Criterion ARTICLE

A pair of 1940s classics from Criterion

New this week from the Criterion Collection are the Blu-ray debuts of a pair of classic films from the 1940s — each arguably its director’s masterpiece, and one of two films for which the director is best known.

Sullivan’s Travels REVIEW

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

The comic genius Preston Sturges believed that laughter is the best medicine, and that what people in hard times want is to forget their troubles and escape for 90 minutes or so into a world of lighthearted comedy, snappy repartee and slapstick silliness.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies REVIEW

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

What I can say is that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (a title strangely stuffed with too many the’s, at a time when movie titles often dispense with articles) includes — amid overinflated spectacle and cynical fan service — some of the best stuff of any of this prequel trilogy.

Unbroken REVIEW

Unbroken (2014)

Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is an honorable movie about an inspiring true story. It is impeccably crafted, with a raft of remarkably talented people behind it. It is a celebration of the old-fashioned virtues of duty, grit, fortitude and honor. In the end, it tips its hat to faith, forgiveness and reconciliation. The film I just described is a film that, on paper, I should love.

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Annie [video] POST

Annie [video] (2014)

I want to say I love the idea for Little Orphan Hushpuppy … but I’m not convinced there’s actually an idea here.

REVIEW

Babette’s Feast (1987)

In the end, Babette’s Feast is a quiet celebration of the divine grace that meets us at every turn, and even redeems our ways not taken, our sacrifices and losses. Whatever we think has been given up or lost, God gives back in greater abundance, one way or another. It may not be till heaven that we truly become all that he intends; but his grace is here and now, whatever our circumstances, and with him all things are possible.

Big Hero 6 REVIEW

Big Hero 6 (2014)

At the intersection of Disney and Marvel, in a pan-Pacific megalopolis spanning San Francisco and Tokyo, in a world with one foot in science fiction and one in superhero adventure, is Big Hero 6. By my lights, this is a very good place to be.

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) [video] POST

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) [video] (2014)

Cinematically, Birdman is sort of an anti-Boyhood, at least with respect to how they each play with time. That’s not necessarily to pit them against one another, although at the end of the day my feeling is that Boyhood tells me about life, whereas Birdman only tells me about Alejandro Iñárritu.

REVIEW

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

A loosely structured coming-of-age story, Kiki’s Delivery Service features one of Miyazaki’s most personable protagonists, a delightful cast of supporting characters, and a rambling, episodic storyline full of charming incident and irresistible imagery.

The Boxtrolls REVIEW

The Boxtrolls (2014)

The Boxtrolls is so defiantly weird and bleak, so committed to the bitter end to its grotesque aesthetic and chilly story, that even as the film crashes and burns you can’t help being moved by the hardworking stop-motion animators’ devotion to their craft.

Boyhood [video] POST

Boyhood [video] (2014)

I’m not sure we get to know any characters in all of cinema quite the way we get to know Mason Evans, Jr. and his family.

Calvary REVIEW

Calvary (2014)

Sometimes misleadingly described as a dark comedy, Calvary is certainly dark, and there are sporadic bits of absurdist humor. In keeping with its title, though, it really is a passion play, with Father James as an innocent victim to be sacrificed for the sins of the Church.

REVIEW

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is enough to make any fan of Roald Dahl’s most beloved novel cry — with delight at all the film gets so magically right, and with frustration that in spite of that the film is still nearly ruined by Burton’s obsessions and a spectacularly miscalculated performance by star Johnny Depp.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes REVIEW

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Wait, where did this movie come from? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is so not the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes I expected or was prepared for.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes REVIEW

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Wait, where did this movie come from? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is so not the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes I expected or was prepared for.

<i>Exodus: Gods and Kings</i>: Theological reflections ARTICLE

Exodus: Gods and Kings: Theological reflections

It’s a movie with many problems, like most of Scott’s recent epics (Prometheus, Robin Hood, Kingdom of Heaven), but Scott has a better story to work with here and adds something of value to the world of Bible cinema.

REVIEW

The Grey (2012)

The Grey is a thoughtful, tough-minded little tale of survival and attrition that sets its sights a bit further than its firepower takes it.

POST

Guardians of the Galaxy [video] (2014)

If you’re not into turtles, and you have half a brain, this may be the movie for you.

Guardians of the Galaxy REVIEW

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians is a romp, a lark — rare descriptors for a popcorn summer movie, alas, in these days of dark, grim tentpoles from Maleficent to Hercules, Edge of Tomorrow to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

POST

Hercules [video] (2014)

A question I couldn’t get to in 60 seconds: What’s the real story with the creepy, green spaced-out tribal warriors? Can anyone explain that?

How to Train Your Dragon 2 REVIEW

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

The first film related how Hiccup changed his village’s way of life forever, winning the love of the girl of his dreams, the approval of his authoritarian father and the respect of everyone in town — not to mention the loyalty of his magnificent new draconian friend, Toothless. Where do you go from there?

POST

Magic in the Moonlight [video] (2014)

Watching Woody Allen’s latest, starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone, is like watching your uncle doing a card trick you’ve seen him do a hundred times.

Maleficent REVIEW

Maleficent (2014)

It’s fair to say that Disney’s Maleficent plays to an extent as warmed-over Frozen. This is not a good thing, even, I think, if you are a fan of Frozen.

REVIEW

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

Over and over the movie drives home one conclusion: Larry was born to wear the uniform of a museum night guard. The inventions, the managerial decisions, the corny televised banter with cameo-role celebrities … that’s not the real Larry. The real Larry, much like an artifact in an Indiana Jones movie, belongs in a museum.

Penguins of Madagascar [video] POST

Penguins of Madagascar [video] (2014)

Stick a fork in them, they’re done. Or maybe that’s just me.

REVIEW

Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014)

With this sequel to last summer’s spin-off from the franchise that descended from Pixar’s Cars, the World of Cars has left behind not only stock cars, the open road, specific real-world settings and Larry the Cable Guy, but racing itself. Practically nothing is left of John Lasseter’s original vision, except those blasted windshield eyeballs. In this melancholy year without Pixar, it’s worse than no reminder at all.

REVIEW

Porco Rosso (1992)

Seaplanes combine Miyazaki’s twin gravity-defying loves of water and sky, flying and floating, as well as his affinity for vintage technology — and the movie’s haphazard, kitchen-sink style suggests that the director just wanted to kick back and have fun with this one. There are aerial dogfights, star-crossed romance, gorgeous scenery, a hat tip Fleischer-style vintage animation, a rip-roaring escape sequence set in Milan, a nightclub where enemies sit at adjacent tables like Rick’s in Casablanca and the proprietress sings torch songs, and a showdown between the titular hero and an American antagonist that plays like the ultimate Humphrey Bogart / Errol Flynn smackdown that never was.

REVIEW

Return to Me (2000)

The pious, folksy Irish and Italian Catholicism of Carroll O’Connor and his cronies isn’t there for the sake of either mockery or preachiness, but is simply taken for granted, just as it might have been in a film of this sort from fifty years ago, when they still made them. The story also takes for granted (indeed, depends upon) the fact that the hero and the heroine manage to fall in love and grow together without taking their clothes off.

REVIEW

Return to Me (2000)

The pious, folksy Irish and Italian Catholicism of Carroll O’Connor and his cronies isn’t there for the sake of either mockery or preachiness, but is simply taken for granted, just as it might have been in a film of this sort from fifty years ago, when they still made them. The story also takes for granted (indeed, depends upon) the fact that the hero and the heroine manage to fall in love and grow together without taking their clothes off.

Song of the Sea REVIEW

Song of the Sea (2014)

Like Miyazaki, Tomm Moore isn’t afraid to take the time to breathe deeply, savor moments of silence and beauty, and open the door to wonder and mystery.

REVIEW

The Song (2014)

A faith-based romantic drama with a country music milieu, The Song is couched as a contemporary reimagining of the life of King Solomon, son of David.

REVIEW

St. Vincent (2014)

When a Hollywood comedy pairs a dissolute, misanthropic curmudgeon with a cute young kid, you expect a story of redemption — particularly when the movie is called St. Vincent, and the curmudgeon’s name is Vincent. When the curmudgeon played by Bill Murray, it’s a done deal.

REVIEW

St. Vincent (2014)

When a Hollywood comedy pairs a dissolute, misanthropic curmudgeon with a cute young kid, you expect a story of redemption — particularly when the movie is called St. Vincent, and the curmudgeon’s name is Vincent. When the curmudgeon played by Bill Murray, it’s a done deal.

REVIEW

Tales From Earthsea (2006)

Does Tales From Earthsea, the latest Studio Ghibli release brought to North American theaters by Disney, have the Miyazaki touch? Well, yes and no.

POST

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [video] (2014)

Thanks to this film, I’ll be adding “Shrinking World Syndrome” to SDG’s Very, Very Little Movie Glossary.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay &#8211; Part 1 REVIEW

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Propaganda and symbolism have always been a crucial weapon in the arsenal of any campaign, but their value increases exponentially in the information age. This isn’t a particularly radical idea, although this may be the first time it’s trickled down into a blockbuster franchise. Can you imagine Luke Skywalker making subversive videos calling out Darth Vader and coining popular slogans about fighting the Empire?

The Overnighters REVIEW

The Overnighters (2014)

Jesse Moss’s The Overnighters is an existentially probing documentary with more layers than a twisty Hollywood thriller, at turns inspiring, challenging, sobering and finally devastating.

The Sound of Music REVIEW

The Sound of Music (1965)

Half a century later, The Sound of Music is probably still the world’s favorite big-screen stage musical adaptation. Joyous, gorgeous, comforting, full of (almost) uniformly spectacular songs, the film’s emotional power is irresistible, even for the many critics, such as Pauline Kael, who hated its shallowness and emotional manipulation.

POST

The Theory of Everything [video] (2014)

Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde’s 30-year-marriage gets the Wikipedia treatment, if Wikipedia were prettier, and sanitized.

POST

The Theory of Everything [video] (2014)

Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde’s 30-year-marriage gets the Wikipedia treatment, if Wikipedia were prettier, and sanitized.

REVIEW

When the Game Stands Tall

Sports movies love underdogs scrapping their way to the top. When the Game Stands Tall is about what happens when a ridiculously successful team finally stumbles.

REVIEW

When the Game Stands Tall

Sports movies love underdogs scrapping their way to the top. When the Game Stands Tall is about what happens when a ridiculously successful team finally stumbles.

X-Men: Days of Future Past REVIEW

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the geekiest comic-book movies ever made — and one of the best. It’s easily the best superhero movie since The Avengers — and, like The Avengers, it plays as a triumphant climax to an uneven series of earlier films.

REVIEW

X2: X-Men United (2003)

Where other super-hero movies, like James Bond movies, take place in a static universe in which nothing really changes and the essential mythology remains the same, X2 is set in a world in flux. The plot is part of an ongoing story-arc reaching back to X-Men and building toward a future X3.