Abraham Lincoln is one of our most beloved presidents, and an incredibly complex figure. Steven Spielberg’s new film wisely focuses only on the last four months of the man’s life, and still has more than enough material to fill the film’s two and a half hours. This is a powerhouse of a movie, and it manages to be at once a historical piece, a commentary on modern politics, Oscar bait, and a fascinating study of people living in impossibly difficult times.
“The Raven” is one of those movies that never quite seems to figure out what it wants to be. Is it a gothic thriller, all period costumes and hushed terror? Is it a splatter movie, like so many modern horror films? Is it a black comedy? A silly, over-the-top piece of camp? Sure, plenty of movies manage to be more than one thing at a time, but “The Raven” tries to be things that are incompatible, and winds up being nothing at all, just a jumbled mess of a film. I suspect the reason can be found in one simple fact: it was directed by James McTeigue, whose last film was the trainwreck “Ninja Assassin” — a flick with the same problems.
Hammer Productions was synonymous with horror movies once upon a time. The brought us “The Horror of Dracula,” “Twins of Terror,” “The Devil Rides Out,” and scores of others. They’ve made a comeback in recent years, bringing us “Let Me In,” “Wake Wood,” and “The Resident.” Now, with “The Woman in Black,” they bring us a classic ghost tale sure to please fans of films like “The Others” and “The Orphanage.”
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
Rated: R for sexual content and brief language
The birth of psychoanalysis was as painful and difficult as most births seem to be — but it involved several people rather than one surrounded by midwives and caretakers. The fraught relationships between Sigmund Freud, C. G. Jung, and Sabina Spielrein pushed and pulled the science into the complex, widely-differing field we know today. Based on the nonfiction book by John Kerr, “A Dangerous Method” is a dramatization of the early years of psychoanalysis.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Judy Dench, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts
Rated: R for brief strong language
J. Edgar Hoover was the face of the FBI for decades, the man who fought against gangsters, kidnappers, and bank robbers, who gave us the FBI as we know it today. “J. Edgar” is an awkward, uncomfortable film profiling this often awkward, uncomfortable man. Eastwood is a gifted director, and here he works with gifted actors to create a thoughtful, thorough character study.
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Robin Wright, Stephen Bishop
Rated: PG-13 for some strong language
A movie about the pioneering use of cost-benefit analysis in baseball shouldn’t be exciting, but somehow, “Moneyball” is. It traces the efforts of general manager Billy Beane to turn around the failing Oakland A’s using the statistics knowhow of Yale economics geek Peter Brand. For all its math geekery and talking, it’s really an underdog sports movie. This is a flick that will crack you up and make you clutch your armrest in equal measure.