Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies review

Note: This review originally ran on December 9. We’ve republished now that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is in theaters.

Every time Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth, we expect something special. All of his Lord of the Rings films got Best Picture nominations and while The Hobbit films haven’t lived up to the achievement of the first three movies, they’ve had their moments. In my reviews of An Unexpected Journey, and The Desolation of Smaug I found things to like about each film, despite their flaws.

So, following the trajectory of the first trilogy, I hoped The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies would be the best of the bunch. Imagine my disappointment to find out it was the opposite. Below, read our Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies review. Read More »

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Comet Emmy Rossum Justin Long

Editor’s note: This review originally ran in June, but the wonderful Comet opens in limited release this weekend, so we’ve republished it. It’s also on demand. Watch the trailer here.

Imagine you’re watching your relationship on TV. It is playing on five channels, with each channel airing a different stage of the relationship. When things get too uncomfortable, awkward or emotional, you just flip the channel. On that next channel, you’d continue to watch your relationship unfold, maybe from a point a few years later. The cumulative result of the experience would probably put into perspective the whole of what you and another person can be together. Loving in one moment, hateful in another, caring, selfish and more.

That metaphor is an elaborate attempt to describe Comet, the directorial debut of Sam Esmail, which had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival this weekend. Comet stars Emmy Rossum and Justin Long as the central couple. While there is absolutely no TV channel surfing involved, the film’s complex and fascinating structure feels like that, from the audience perspective. It’s a dense, funny, insanely well-written and well-acted film. Unlike most romantic films, it keeps you guessing. Simultaneously, it raises questions about the nature of love, life, and truth, all disguised in an semi-conventional love story told in the most unconventional of ways. It’s a special movie. Read More »

Babadook review

(Note: this review originally ran in January during the Sundance Film Festival; we’ve republished it now as the film opens in theaters and on VOD this weekend.)

The Babadook is one of the best horror movies in years, a vigorous and hellishly intense story about a family on the edge of sanity. This isn’t a gore showcase, but a wild emotional roller coaster. (If you need a tonal touchstone, look to Polanski films such as Repulsion and The Tenant.) There is a monster of sorts, but the movie would almost be just fine without him — the actors put each other through fire and pain, and writer/director Jennifer Kent drops us right in there with them. Read More »

Hunger Games MockingJay part 1 review

Note: This review was original published on November 10. We’ve bumped it up now that the film is in theaters. 

It’s a shame The Hunger Games series gets filed into the “young adult” category. Sure, there’s some dystopian young romance in there, but with each subsequent film, the series proves it is about much more than unattainable love with sporadic action. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 takes the series to its furthest point from YA stereotypes yet.

However, what’s most interesting about this latest installment — the first part of a two-part finale — is just how different it is from the rest of the franchise. Is that a good thing? Below, read why The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 feels like a different franchise. Read More »

Inherent Vice movie review

Paul Thomas Anderson never ceases to amaze. He makes a rain of frogs look plausible, turns Adam Sandler into an actor, and makes an iconic image out of drinking milkshakes. He’s always doing something surprising and wonderful. Anderson’s latest film, Inherent Vice, is two hours of those moments loosely strung together with a detective narrative.

Based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice stars Joaquin Phoenix as Doc, a ratty detective whose mysterious ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) asks for help with a supposed plot against her new squeeze. Doc obliges, as Doc does with many people in the film, but the movie never really cares about solving this mystery. It’s more interested in Doc’s pot-infused, Choose Your Own Adventure lifestyle where he says “yes” to everything and takes the ride that follows.

That ride introduces some absolutely insane, memorable characters played by the likes of Josh Brolin, Martin Short, Reese Withersooon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph and Jena Malone, all of whom pop in and out of Doc’s life on a whim. Some play significant roles, others do not, but Inherent Vice isn’t a movie about connecting these points. It’s pretty much just about the trip.

Inherent Vice had its Los Angeles Premiere at the AFI Fest presented by Audi and you can continue reading our Inherent Vice movie review below.

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American Sniper poster header

Director Clint Eastwood has great aspirations for American Sniper. First and foremost, he hopes to make a movie paying tribute to the most deadly sniper in the history of the United States. That’s the late Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper. He also hopes to show Kyle not as only a heroic solider, but a complex man confident in his actions and concerned about of their results. The film paints a grim picture of post-traumatic stress disorder and what it does to our veterans, especially in regards to their families. Finally, there’s also a drive to keep things exciting, so there are many gun battles in the deserts of Iraq.

Yes, American Sniper is an incredibly ambitious film with many moving parts. All of those parts work in certain instances, but only on rare occasions do they all come together at once. The disconnection makes the film fall just short of those great aspirations.

American Sniper had its World Premiere on Veterans Day at AFI Fest presented by Audi and you can read the rest of our review below. Read More »

final interstellar trailer

There’s no denying the visceral power and prowess of Christopher Nolan‘s Intersellar. The ninth film from the popular director is his most ambitious, and it looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The sets, miniatures, and images of space travel and planets all combine to make a film the scope of which rivals any other space movie.

Emotionally, the film comes close to achieving a similarly momentous effect. Interstellar follows Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a father forced to leave his family in a possibly mad attempt to preserve the future of humanity by finding another habitable planet. The tale is filled with drama, humor, intense action and surprising plot twists. There’s rarely a dull moment in the movie because the story is so compelling and poignant.

But maybe it’s all a bit too much. The script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, packs ideas and theories in every single scene. Concepts about love, survival, physics, and time burst from the film more prominently than the emotion and visuals. Even with a nearly three-hour runtime, so many ideas are presented that the film rarely has time to focus on one over another. The result is a technical marvel with a powerful narrative that ends up feeling a tad empty because we aren’t sure exactly which point it’s trying to make. Read More »

Interstellar daughter

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is one of the most ambitious, visually spectacular films I’ve sen this year. But it’s also a film with some really deep problems. In many ways, it highlights Nolan’s best and worst tendencies: his penchant for intricate, convoluted stories, his tendency to elide character work to move the plot along, and his knack for breathtaking visuals.

Hit the jump for my full video review of Interstellar. I discuss basic plot details about the film, but nothing I would consider spoilers. That being said, consider yourself warned.
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