Reviews

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.

Cinderella REVIEW

Cinderella (2015)

Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is such a gallant anachronism, such a grandly unreconstructed throwback, that it offers, without ever raising its voice, a ringing cross-examination of our whole era of dark, gritty fairy-tale revisionism.

Watership Down REVIEW

Watership Down (1978)

Newly remastered for Blu-ray and DVD, the classic animated adaptation of Richard Adams’ beloved tale is available from Criterion.

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.

Selma REVIEW

Selma (2014)

Selma achieves something few historical films do: It captures a sense of events unfolding in the present tense, in a political and cultural climate as complex, multifaceted and undetermined as the times we live in.

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.

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.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – 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?

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Deliver Us From Evil REVIEW

Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Why would a mother at the zoo throw her toddler over a railing into the moat of a lion enclosure? That’s the kind of horrible question that can look very different if you are a police officer or a priest.

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?