Breathe in the Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Things you should know by now: (1) All Peter Jackson-directed fantasy films near or top three hours in length; (2) there are deviations from the books because these are movies and not books—I’m told if you would like to read “The Hobbit,” you can still read “The Hobbit”—and (3) Ian McKellen is just the wickedly wizardy best. 

My tolerance for grousing about Jackson overstuffing his Hobitses...

entered on 12/16/13 at 06:30 PM | read more »



Evil Nuns and AIDS

Philomena

Nothing sets the box office ablaze quite like the quiet emotional journey of an 80-year-old Irish woman and a disgraced, pompous British journalist exploring murky ancestry across two continents! Philomena is kind of a tough sell. It’s not a feel-good holiday picture or a tour-de-force acting showcase destined to be christened with Oscar kisses. All the movie has to offer is the fact that it’s...

entered on 12/06/13 at 08:05 PM | read more »



Snow Coincidence

Frozen

Dangling from the edge of Mount Treacly, overlooking the icy abyss of Cliché River, Frozen hurls a Bechtel rope and swings itself to safety in the nick of time. And just in case you miss the climax’s blatantly obvious flipping of established Disney gender roles, which mandates female-on-female violence prior to male rescue, there’s a joke about how a dude will like his new “sled” because “it’s...

entered on 12/02/13 at 02:41 AM | read more »



You Say You Want a Revolution?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The “99% vs the 1%” analogy at work in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has all the subtlety of a funeral selfie. But it is precisely this lack of sophistication in message that may make this the most zeitgeist-capturing, intellectually resonant sci-fi series of this era. With a female protagonist, overt racial themes and a wonderfully literal “poor versus the poor while the rich look on”...

entered on 11/22/13 at 06:53 PM | read more »



Pronounce “Chiwetel Ejiofor”

12 Years a Slave

New rule: You can watch Django Unchained as many times as you want, but you have to watch 12 Years a Slave at least once first. What Quentin Tarantino sensationalized and spaghetti-Westerned up, writer John Ridley and director Steve McQueen pared down to its barest, most brutal essentials. Slavery, the ghost of American prosperity and invisible shackle that still pins down inner city...

entered on 11/15/13 at 06:24 PM | read more »



Sweet Stakes

Nebraska

I like Alexander Payne. I really do. His ability as a director to mine for subtle laughs others would leave buried is as pleasant as his now-signature genre of “middle-aged-and-older men having muted epiphanies.” I guess I just miss the Citizen Ruth/Election-era Payne, the one who found a way to wedge his unique and deft style into an issue as big as abortion or as out-of-place as high-school...

entered on 11/15/13 at 05:28 PM | read more »



Thor-sty for More

Thor: The Dark World

There is a second Thor movie.

Let that sink in for a second.

The comic book series is so niche and crazy that there’s actually a supporting character named Throg, who is a frog version of Thor. And that comic book has now spawned two big-budget movies…and they’re both pretty darn good. So, if you were looking to assess how latched we are to the teat of Marvel Studios entertainment, remember...

entered on 11/08/13 at 05:14 PM | read more »


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The Trip to Italy

Another affable outing with two British comedians.

GRADE
B+


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Still a fun place to visit, provided you're not a woman.

GRADE
C


The Giver

This adaptation of Lois Lowry's beloved award-winning classic will be none of those things.

GRADE
D


Boyhood

The only coming-of-age story anyone ever needs to make. 

GRADE
A+


Guardians of the Galaxy

A gleeful space opera that is as visually stunning as it is hilarious.

GRADE
A


Lucy

A girl ingests a drug that makes her God. For real.

GRADE
C+


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Those damned apes are back and anything but dirty.

GRADE
B+


We Are the Best

Set in Stockholm in 1982, this is punk rock female adolescence at its finest.

GRADE
A


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