Directed by: Ryan Coogler Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture Marvel Studios debuted their Cinematic Universe (referred to as the MCU) ten years ago with “Iron Man.” Their first film out this year, “Black Panther” gives newcomers to the MCU a way into that setting without requiring them to go watch the previous 17 films (and 10 TV series!) first. This is an iconic film, one well worth watching whether you like superheroes or not. It breaks new ground in cinema, and that alone makes it worth checking out – but it’s also a really good movie. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the king of Wakanda, a hidden nation in the heart of Africa that was never colonized. They have developed amazing technology thanks to living above a massive
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Keen McRae Rated: R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language Cheryl Strayed is known on two axes: her popular advice column / essay column under the nom de plume “Sugar,” and her fiction writing under her own name. When her memoir “Wild” came out, she announced her identity to Sugar fans and put the column on hold to deal with the book. It’s understandable – “Wild” was a run-away success, with people like Oprah raving about it. Strayed knew it was a filmable book and sent a copy to Reese Witherspoon, who loved it and set about making the film happen. It’s a beautiful and moving film, full of lush wilderness and beautifully-shot but thoroughly un-beautiful itself squalor; of loving family interactions and screaming fights. The story is told through interwoven flashbacks as we follow Strayed on her 1,100 mile hike up
Directed by: Don Hall, Chris Williams Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez, Damon Wayans Jr., T.J. Miller, Daniel Henney, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell Rated: PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements. There are a couple of primary themes in “Big Hero 6,” Disney’s latest CGI kids’ adventure movie, but it has a lot going on besides that. There’s action, adventure, a wonderfully diverse set of characters, and a handful of lessons kids and parents can take away with them to talk about later. Saying that a movie is for all ages is a little trite, but this one really is. Kids too young to deal with some cartoonish action and the idea of people dying are about the only ones who should sit this out. “Big Hero 6” focuses on young Hiro (Ryan Potter), a child prodigy with robotics who is failing to follow in his older brother
Directed by: Michaël R. Roskam Rated: R for some strong violence and pervasive language Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz There’s a subgenre of crime films that linger over their characters, whose plots move slowly at first, but gradually become increasingly tense until the final confrontation is not only inevitable, but startlingly intense. “The Drop” is a shining example of this genre, and it seems a fitting final cinematic role for the late James Gandolfini, who gets to showcase both his sense of timing and his ability to layer complexity into seemingly simple characters. The film rotates around Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), a bartender who tries to hold himself aloof from the organized crime that surrounds him. Cousin Marv (Gandolfini) used to own the bar where Bob works, but now it’s owned by a Chechen crime family. The Chechens periodically use it as a “drop” – a place for their
Fans of Middle-Earth, rejoice! A new movie is out, ready to take you to that land of Elves, Hobbits, and Dwarves. It’s also making use of the new high frame-rate technology available for 3D projection, so if you’re a film tech nerd, it’s doubly exciting. This isn’t a non-stop action thriller, of course; as with “The Fellowship of the Ring,” it’s setting a trilogy in motion and starts off slow. Still, there’s a lot to love for all but the anti-fantasy crowd and hardcore Tolkien purists.
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.
Time travel is hard to handle well in fiction: it leads to paradox, weird philosophical discussions, and massive plot holes as often as not. Thankfully, “Looper” wisely gives us a firm footing to anchor our suspension of disbelief, tips its hat politely at the inevitable issues, and gets on with the business of telling an intense, thrilling science-fiction story.
First, in the interests of full disclosure: I am a huge Mike Birbiglia fan, and have been for years. His blend of self-deprecating humor and spot-on social (and occasionally political) commentary make him one of my favorite stand-up comedians working today. I’ve been looking forward to this movie since I first heard about it. I have the album it’s based on (like his other albums) virtually memorized. That’s always a risk — it’s easy for big fans to be disappointed.
I was not disappointed.
Directed by: Chris Butler, Sam Fell Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman Rated: PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language Laika, the studio behind stop-motion hit “Coraline,” have done it again with “ParaNorman,” another tale of a child who doesn’t fit in. This time, the protagonist must use his unique abilities to save his town and end a centuries-old curse.
It seems like just about every movie whose protagonist is a young woman has to have a love interest for her. In some cases (Disney, I’m looking at you), the young woman’s entire adventure revolves entirely around getting her man. Not exactly inspiring for young girls who are more interested in adventures than in boys.