This weekend the movies take a breather between the Spring Break crowd pleasers and the big summer blockbusters, offering a mix of small-focus comedy, documenatry, and thriller.
For No Good Reason
You’ll recognize the style of gonzo artist Ralph Steadman right away—his work was long associated with the writing of his pal Hunter Thompson. But this documentary, filmed over the course of the last 15 years, fails at its most basic level: We never really feel like we’re learning anything about the guy. Johnny Depp, who played Thompson twice, is on hand to ask questions, but he seems to be too much of a friend to really probe. FULL REVIEW
How riveting can a film be when we see just one character and he never leaves his car? In the hands of star Tom Hardy and writer/director Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), Locke hits the gas and never lets up. Hardy plays the manager of a billion-dollar construction project who, on the day before groundbreaking, finds himself juggling crises personal and professional from his car phone. For him, it’s the ultimate case of distracted driving; for audiences, it’s a white-knuckle ride from start to finish.
The Other Woman
Three betrayed women (Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton) seek revenge on the guy who done them wrong (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). But First Wives Club got here first, and it was a whole lot smarter.
Still Out There . . .
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The good news: in this latest piece of Marvel superhero bombast, Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson are on hand. The bad news: There’s not enough of them. Chris Evans is the titular hero and Scarlett Johansson is his kick-butt sidekick, but after the last bad guy has been vanquished and the final fireball has burned itself out, all we’re left with is fond memories of those two veterans showing the kids how real stars don’t just make movies…they inhabit them.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
No filmmaker has a more fiercer following than Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom). But if you’ve been on the fence (or clear on the other side of it) regarding Anderson, this may be the film that makes a believer of you. A dazzling vision of Europe between the wars serves as the backdrop for a dizzy story about a grand hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes), the lobby boy he takes under his wing (Tony Revolori) and their unwitting involvement in a murder mystery. FULL REVIEW
Heaven is For Real
Based on the New York Times best-seller, the true-life story of 4-year-old boy’s account of his visit to Heaven could have gone cinematically wrong in oh-so-many ways. But under the sure direction of Randall Wallace, Greg Kinnear gives one of the best performances of his career as the boy’s conflicted dad. FULL REVIEW
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
Narrator Morgan Freeman does for lemurs what he did for flightless Antarctic birds in March of the Penguins—which isn’t hard, because with their huge eyes, banner-like tails and tendency to amble around on their hind legs, lemurs are cuter than penguins ever were. This IMax adventure will have you booking the next flight to Madagascar before you can say, “Awwwww!”
A whole lot more substantial than the lighthearted ads would have you think, this small, quietly lethal film is a poignant look at a long-married couple, Nick and Meg (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan), returning to the scene of their Paris honeymoon in a bid to recapture a bit of the magic of their early years together. As the former colleague whose hospitality leads to a mine-strewn dinner party, Jeff Goldblum is very, very Jeff Goldblum-ish. FULL REVIEW
The Lego Movie
There’s a lot more for grownups here than you’d expect: Packed with gags and clever toy-world references, it’s the story of a nondescript LEGO minifigure (voiced by Craig Berry) saving his world from an evil villain (Will Ferrell) who wants to (gasp!) glue all the blocks together, stifling creativity forever. Written and directed by a bunch of guys from TV Sitcomville (How I Met Your Mother, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), it’s fast, funny and feel-good.
Russell Crowe gives one of his strongest performances and co-writer/director Darren Aronofsky provides a thoughtful, challenging script in a movie that’s full of surprises—and mostly good ones. The faithful will quibble with the film’s flights of extra-Biblical fancy; skeptics will scoff at its overall respect for the Book of Genesis story—and that means everyone leaves the theater with something to talk about. Anyone who’s ever sat in a Sunday school class and seriously considered the consequences of a worldwide flood has found themself, along with Crowe’s conflicted hero, asking the same difficult questions.
Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 and 2
Lars Von Trier (Melancholia) is one of Europe’s most respected directors, so we guess it’s okay to mention this sexually explicit tale of a 40-something woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who tells her sordid life story to a man (Stellan Skarsgard) after he rescues her from a street beating. Shia LeBourf, Christian Slater, and Uma Thurman play folks she’s, uh, encountered along the way.
Rob the Mob
Andy Garcia is a mob boss and Ray Romano is a New York reporter out to nail him in a true-story crime flick that focuses on a young couple (Michael Pitt and Aida Turturro) who pull off a string of daring hold-ups of Mafia social clubs.
Hey, Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s back (again), this time as the tough-as-nails leader of a take-no-prisoners DEA squad. Fans of thoughtful parlor dramas will stay away anyway; for devotees of the Governator, Sabotage is a solid entry in Schwarzenegger’s career renaissance.
Now on DVD and VOD…
12 Years a Slave
Oscar Winner: Best Picture
Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery, leads a powerful cast. Movies from Roots to Django Unchained have shown us the evils of slavery; 12 Years a Slave makes us feel the lash. FULL REVIEW
You won’t have more fun at the movies than you’ll find here with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Louis C.K. and Jennifer Lawrence as assorted con artists and Feds conspiring to bring down crooked politicians. Though the film is based on the 1980s Abscam scandal, but we have a feeling that writer/director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) made up the more hilarious stuff. FULL REVIEW
Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga are charming in this warmhearted grownup love story. They play two strangers who meet on the day they bring their respective children to a college tour day—and fall into love at first sight. It takes real screen chemistry to draw viewers into such a headlong romance with any sense of believability, and the stars pull it off, almost magically.
Dallas Buyers Club
At the height of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, a tough heterosexual Texas electrician (Matthew McConaughey) gets the dreaded diagnosis — then sets up a lucrative business smuggling alternative anti-AIDS drugs into the state. McConaughey, who has been rising from beefcake idol to accomplished actor, won his first Oscar for his compelling performance.
By now the animation wizards at Disney have this spunky-young-woman-defeats-evil thing down pat, but the real reason to duck into this film is the Oscar-nominated cartoon short that precedes it. Get a Horse! is a hand-drawn Mickey Mouse cartoon done in early Disney style (think Steamboat Willie). While you savor that, the grandkids will love the main feature.
The King of Comedy (1982)
The team of Lewis and Martin—Jerry Lewis and Martin Scorsese, that is—created this prophetic dark comedy about a deranged loser (Robert DeNiro) who kidnaps a late-night talk show host (Lewis) to guarantee his own 15 minutes of TV fame. The idea that absolutely anybody could become a celebrity seemed absurd 32 years ago; time has proven Scorsese and company didn’t know the half of it.
Mr. Magoo: The Theatrical Collection
If you remember Mr. Magoo (and his voice, Jim Backus) only as a mildly amusing TV ‘toon character, check out these theatrical shorts from the old boy’s heyday, when he was an Oscar-winning big-screen star. These shorts are masterpieces of the old UPA studio, which proved to the world that you could make beautiful cartoons that didn’t have the Disney stamp all over them.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Teaming for the fifth time with Leonardo DiCaprio, director Martin Scorsese lets loose a cannonade of sex, drugs and no-holds-barred avarice in telling the mostly true story of a New York stockbroker who made an outrageous fortune by swindling investors in the 1980s and ’90s. Like his central character, Scorsese once again proves that nothing succeeds like excess. FULL REVIEW