Pornography and cannibalism are the subjects of two interesting new movies this week, but it may be time to see a true classic: The Wizard of Oz is in IMAX3-D theaters through this weekend; it was in the top ten moneymakers last weekend. Go see it for the popping poppies and flying monkeys.
The New Stuff:
This is a tour-de-force for actor, writer, director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but see the story of Jon, a guy whose addiction to online porn is ruining his real-life relationships, for the superb supporting grownups, including Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, and Glenne Headly. Unfortunately, the film seems a tad too comfortable wallowing in the sexual excesses of the Web.
We Are What We Are
Director Jim Mickle’s gothic tale of a family steeped in secret cannibalism begins in a dark, drenching downpour and never lightens up; not one bit. Go for the one bright spot, a neighbor played by the rarely seen Kelly McGillis, who brings a measure of pleasant humanity to the family’s otherwise impenetrable darkness.
Metallica Through the Never
If Boomers don’t turn out for this extended music video from the quintessential ’80s Heavy Metal band, who will? Go for the music, stay for Kirk Hammett’s hair.
Still Out There . . .
20 Feet From Stardom
A stand-up-and-cheer documentary about the backup singers who make music’s biggest stars sound their best.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Lovers don’t get a lot more star-crossed than those played here by doomed small-time crooks Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). But director David Lowery has created a visually poetic yarn that recalls 1970s movie visionaries like Terrence Malick and Arthur Penn.
One of the great truisms about grownup movie lovers, at least of the female persuasion, is that they’re nuts for all things Jane Austen. Here, Keri Russell plays a modern woman who, in search of her own personal Mr. Darcy, visits a Jane Austen theme park.
If you’re an actress, get yourself directed by Woody Allen: Here he casts Cate Blanchett as a latter-day Blanche DuBois, depending on the kindness of strangers in San Francisco. Smart, tragic, and funny, it’s Woody and Cate at their best. FULL REVIEW
Briskly paced and smartly directed by John Crowley (Boy A), this political thriller is propelled by its ripped-from-the-headlines premise – terrorism and over-the-top government surveillance – and undeniable chemistry between stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. FULL REVIEW
Neither comedy nor nail-biting action flick, this story of a mobster and his family relocated to France under the Witness Protection Program catches stars Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer in the crossfire. Director Luc Besson seems to be going for something new: cruel whimsy. As the French would say, c’est tres terrible. FULL REVIEW
Not to be confused with Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 shoot-em-up starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, this action flick has Ethan Hawke as a retired race car driver who steals a sweet Shelby Cobra Mustang (along with its owner, played by Selena Gomez) in the course of trying to save his wife from a cruel criminal, played by the always-interesting Jon Voight.
Ashton Kutcher has some genuine moments as Steve Jobs, but this biopic never seems to get the core of Apple’s founder.
Jayne Mansfield’s Car
Billy Bob Thornton wrote, directed, and costars in this quiet, shambling story about two families – one from London, another from Alabama – colliding in the South of 1969. Thornton gives himself a meaty role as a disturbed World War II vet, and the rest of the cast, including Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, John Hurt, and Tippi Hedren add extra ingredients to create a tasty family stew.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The title might have worked better as Forest Whitaker Is the Butler, or maybe Oprah Winfrey Is the Wife of the Butler. No matter; audiences are flocking to see Whitaker as White House butler Cecil Gaines, Robin Williams as President Eisenhower, and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. FULL REVIEW
One Direction: This is Us
This movie puts you in the place of your parents, rolling their eyes as they accompanied you to a matinee of “A Hard Day’s Night.” The British boy band One Direction will never be another Fab Four, but they are the hottest thing on the planet right now, so if your kids or grandkids need a grownup companion for this concert/documentary flick, feel free to volunteer for 90 minutes of harmless, well-scrubbed pop.
A by-the-numbers plot ultimately foils this would-be thriller, but there’s still some fun to be had in watching Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford (in a skull-baring buzz cut!) go mano a mano as big business rivals.
This gritty crime drama stars Hugh Jackman as a distraught Georgia dad who kidnaps the guy he believes abducted his 6-year-old daughter. It’s the old vigilante dad story, all right, but get a load of the rest of the cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Paul Dano.
Director David Twohy (The Fugitive) has helmed all three Riddick movies, starring Vin Diesel as the gravel-voiced interplanetary convict/adventurer. Here we go again with Riddick, well into middle age, still kicking butt like a muscle-bound, bald-pated pro.
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl are great fun as James Hunt and Niki Lauda, rival kings of Formula 1 racing in the 1970s. Ron Howard, who cut his directing teeth with Grand Theft Auto in 1977, seems right at home depicting the brutal beauty of high-octane racing.
Almost everyone has to read The Catcher in the Rye in high school, and in 1965 all those kids buying all those books enabled its author, J.D. Salinger, to retire to his New Hampshire home and hide from view for the rest of his life. This documentary studies the enigma of Salinger – and the obsession of those who insisted on following him into his solitude. FULL REVIEW
This big-hearted drama traces the story of a duck hunter (Jim Caviezel) in Savannah, Ga., and his lifelong friendship with a freed slave (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The terrific supporting cast includes Sam Shepard, Hal Holbrook and The West Wing‘s Bradley Whitford, but the real star is the lavishly photographed Savannah marsh wilderness, sprawling and lovely as the story itself.
James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential, The Artist) gives the performance of a lifetime as an 87-year-old man who builds a small house for his ailing wife (a radiant Genevieve Bujold) with his own two hands. That is, until local bureaucrats start butting in. FULL REVIEW
The Way, Way Back
It’s a coming-of-age comedy starring Liam James as a confused 14-year-old kid, but he’s surrounded by one of the great grownup casts of the year: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, and Sam Rockwell.
The Ultimate Life
Director Michael Landon Jr. continues the story begun in the successful 2006 film The Ultimate Gift. Sadly, the original’s James Garner is absent, but there is a fine grownup cast on hand nevertheless, including Peter Fonda, Bill Cobbs, and Lee Meriwether.
Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson plays the wife of Nelson Mandela (Terence Howard) in a biopic that traces the entire arc of her life – from a village child to social worker to sometimes brutal anti-apartheid activist. Hudson is impressive and Howard is handsomely stoic, but the real beauty here is South Africa itself, lushly photographed by Mario Janelle.