It's such a pleasure to see Shirley MacLaine back on screen
in a leading role that I'm almost tempted to say it's worth sitting through something
as formulaic and painfully contrived as "The Last Word." But let's not get
American white collar office workers become the subjects of a
sadistic, bloody, social exercise in "The Belko
Experiment," a horror movie that has aspirations of satire, but isn't sharp or
smart enough to decide what point it's ultimately trying to make. The day begins much like any other at a remote outpost of the
Belko Corporation, in Bogotá, Columbia.
"Kong: Skull Island" director Jordan Vogt-Roberts clearly
paid attention to the criticisms leveled at Gareth Edwards, whose 2014 "Godzilla"
reboot used a less-is-more approach to the massive, atomic lizard. By contrast,
Vogt-Roberts gets the human-smashing, monster action going early and often.
Turkish filmmaker Ceyda Torun turns
her cameras on the infamous street cats of Istanbul in "Kedi,"
a charming, warm-hearted documentary tailor-made for cat people (or animal
lovers of any stripe). For thousands of years, these mysterious creatures have
ruled the streets of Torun's hometown, and in that time they've grown to be an
integral part of its citizens lives.
The latest entry in the recent resurgence of horror anthology,
"XX" benefits from an inspired hook: each of its four stories were written and directed
by and star women in the lead roles (hence the female chromosome-referencing
title). Made in direct response to the lack of opportunities for women
filmmakers, particularly in the frequently male-dominated horror genre, the
entertaining film has shivers and style to spare.
With "Logan," Hugh Jackman makes his (supposedly) final
appearance as Logan, a k a Wolverine, a character he's played to perfection for
17 years and across nine "X-Men" films. The third solo outing for Wolverine,
this sad, stirring film focuses on the humanity and emotion of its story,
making "Logan" a gory and surprisingly affecting elegy for the franchise's most
by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok
De Wit, "The Red Turtle" is at first fairly straightforward Robinson
Crusoe-like fable about a sailor shipwrecked on a deserted tropical island. But
what begins as a simple survival tale slowly grows into something much deeper
and more enigmatic as it progresses.
Dark emotional terrain is contrasted against adorably
whimsical style in "My Life as a Zucchini," the lovely stop motion animated
film that was one of the five stellar Best Animated Feature nominees at this
year's Oscars. After the death of his alcoholic mother, a shy, young boy
named Icare (he prefers to go by "Zucchini," the
nickname given to him by his mom) is sent to live in a group home.
It's a relatively clever concept for a comedy: a group of
strangers meet when they're assigned to the "randoms"
table at an acquaintance's wedding (reserved for courtesy invites no one
actually expected to attend). As the day wears on, the band of misfit guests
forge an unlikely bond, enlisting one another's help as they each face down
their own personal crises.
A touching historical romance, "A United Kingdom" is inspired by
the true story of Seretse Khama, the crown prince of the Bechuanaland Protectorate (later known
as Botswana) who unexpectedly fell in love with a white Englishwoman, Ruth Williams
German director George Mendeluk takes a stab at historical
melodrama with "Bitter Harvest," a tale of star-crossed lovers swooning against
the backdrop of real-life tragedy. Set in Ukraine in the early 1930's, the film
follows a young peasant farmer and aspiring artist named Yuri (a bland Max
Irons) desperately fighting to maintain his connection to childhood sweetheart,
Natalka -- portrayed by Samantha Barks, who made a great screen debut in 2012's
"Les Misérables," but isn't given much to work with here.
CITY presents its alternative take on the Oscars. These films might not up for golden statues, but they definitely deserve the Golden Everything Burrito
The premise of "Toni Erdmann" -- a practical joke-loving
father tries to reconnect with his tightly-wound daughter by adopting a goofy
alter ego and insinuating himself into her life -- sounds like the recipe for a
broad, over-the-top comedy. But "Erdmann," from writer-director Maren Ade,
exists on a wavelength all its own: the film is at turns funny, messy, absurd,
sad, and very, very German.
The original "John Wick" was the biggest and most pleasant
surprise of 2014. Stylish, smart, and exciting, it's a B-movie executed with
The latest from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar,
"Julieta" finds its inspiration in a trio of connected short stories by author
Alice Munro that center around the titular woman as she reflects on her life
and her relationship with her long-lost daughter, Antía.
The story is a Douglas Sirk melodrama by way of a Hitchcockian thriller, but the filmmaker manages to combine
elements of each together in a way that's completely Almodóvar. The film begins with middle-aged Julieta (Emma Suarez) on the
verge of leaving Spain and moving to Portugal with her boyfriend, Lorenzo (Darío Grandinetti).
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year's Academy
Awards, Raoul Peck's extraordinary "I Am Not Your Negro" uses as its framework
an unfinished 30-page manuscript by author and essayist James Baldwin. The book
proposal was started in 1979, and the final work was to explore the experience
of being black in America viewed through the prism of the deaths of Baldwin's
friends, and legendary figures of the civil rights movement, Medgar Evers,
Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.