EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK: As you’d expect from a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, the new romance The Choice features young, pretty people played by Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker. But there’s also a lovely storyline involving Tom Wilkinson as a local veterinarian. The movie opens February 4, and the folks at Lionsgate kindly passed along this sneak peek at a scene featuring the delightful Mr. Wilkinson (along with Walker, who plays his son, and Sharon Blackwood as his office manager).
This Weekend at the Movies
New in Theaters
The Finest Hours
A good old-fashioned adventure flick about the crew of a crippled oil tanker and the Coast Guard officer (Chris Pine) who sails to their rescue through a raging nor’easter. There’s peril aplenty, but the heroes prevail. Director Craig Gillespie spews neither red blood nor blue language to tell his thrilling true story, and they’re not missed a bit.
Jane Got a Gun
Natalie Portman is Jane; she needs that gun because she and her wounded husband (Noah Emmerich) are being hunted down by an outlaw gang. Its desperado-in-chief, the ruthless Ewan McGregor, is mean, alright, but kinda purty too.
New at Home
Straight Outta Compton
Criminally snubbed by the Oscars, this splendidly gritty story of the rise of rap group NWA chronicles the 1980s growth of hip-hop. The ensemble playing Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and company is perfect, while Paul Giamatti shines as Jerry Heller, the producer who saw artistry in the group’s anger.
Learning to Drive
She’s an elitist Manhattan literary critic. He’s an Indian cab driver. Together, Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley make a charmingly odd couple in a film about perfect strangers who discover they’re just what the other one needs. (FULL REVIEW)
Mega-epic director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) sharpens his focus for this account of the historic 1969 Stonewall Riots, in which gay and lesbian activists protested police brutality at a New York bar; the gay rights movement ensued.
Spike Lee’s best movie in nearly a decade is based on, of all things, the Greek play Lysistrata: The women of Chicago post “No trespassing” signs on their bedrooms until the city’s gangsta men swear off violence. The fine cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Wesley Snipes and Angela Bassett.
Still Out There
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Action master Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers) directs this politically charged war drama about the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. John Krasinski (The Office) stars. Will you sit on the left or right side of the aisle?
With an intimacy verging on the voyeuristic, this portrait of a long-married couple (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) confronting an issue they thought was buried in the past is one of the most finely realized visions of marriage ever put on screen.
The Big Short
Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt star in this account of the investors who saw the 2007 financial crash coming — and cashed in while everyone else lost their shirts. Director Adam McCary literally stops the action to put the likes of chef Anthony Bourdain and Selena Gomez before the camera to explain the mechanics of ARMageddon.
Bridge of Spies
In this true-life Cold War-era story, Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks as a modest lawyer thrown into negotiating the swap of a Soviet agent for captured U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. FULL REVIEW
Cate Blanchett will break your heart as a 1950s wife and mother who finds herself falling in love with a young shopgirl (Rooney Mara). The actresses’ total commitment to their roles — along with Kyle Chandler’s sensitive turn as Carol’s hurt and confused husband — lifts the story blessedly clear of its sudsy premise.
Are you ready for some football? Maybe not, as Will Smith transforms himself before our eyes into the Pittsburgh medical examiner who discovered pigskin players are susceptible to brain injury from repeated blows to the head. Albert Brooks is a delight as the doc’s seen-it-all boss. FULL REVIEW
And the seventh (Rocky film, that is) shall be the best: Creator Sylvester Stallone turned the writing and directing duties over to Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), who cast the wonderful Michael B. Jordan as a young boxer who asks Rocky to mentor him. A Golden Globe ensued for Sly. FULL REVIEW
There’s a good — meaning bad — reason this comedy wasn’t screened for critics. Robert De Niro stars as a crass old guy looking for one last hedonistic road trip with his uptight grandson (Zac Efron).
Keanu Reeves stars as a cop investigating his partner’s death. Naturally, his probe reveals a rat’s nest of corruption and a dangerous secret involving a beautiful young woman (Cuba-born Ana de Armas).
The Hateful Eight
Eight armed, murderous characters are trapped together in a snowbound mountain cabin. What could go wrong? Let Quentin Tarantino and his all-stars (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, et al.) count the deadly ways.
A snappy script and energetic performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rossellini keep things popping in this fact-based story of the woman whose Miracle Mop became a QVC sensation.
The Lady in the Van
Maggie Smith is the lady in question, a homeless woman who parked her van “temporarily” in the driveway of London playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) and stayed for 14 years. Smith’s bravura performance is heartbreaking and hilarious. FULL REVIEW
Late January is often a fertile time for nifty little thrillers, and Oscar-winning writer William Monohan (The Departed) may have one here. He also directs this story of a drifter (Oscar Isaac) who seems determined to destroy the life of a troubled artist (Garrett Hedlund).
Fearing that the Apollo 11 landing may fail, the CIA sends an agent (Ron Pearlman) to enlist Stanley Kubrick — the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey — to create a plausible fake landing for TV. Instead the spook gets duped into hiring a total stoner (Harry Potter’s goofy Rupert Grint) and his potted pals.
Mauled by a bear and left for dead by his Wild West pardners, a grizzled frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) survives against the odds to wreak vengeance on those who abandoned him. Grizzly Adams this ain’t.
Bring a hanky. Belay that — bring a whole box of ’em. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are extraordinary as a mother and her 5-year-old son who escape after being held captive in a single small room for the youngster’s entire life. With Joan Allen and William H. Macy. FULL REVIEW
In one of the year’s best films, Michael Keaton stars as the Boston Globe editor who coached his ace reporters (Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams are two) through their outing of pedophile priests. FULL REVIEW
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Warriors, you can all exhale now: Writer-director J.J. Abrams has created a sequel worthy of George Lucas’s original. The new cast members (notably Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac) are immensely appealing, but the true draw is the return of the original Force field: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and, fleetingly, Mark Hamill. FULL REVIEW
Bryan Cranston is galvanizing as Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter jailed and blacklisted during the Red Scare of the 1940s. Instead of demonizing Hollywood commie-hunters, the film shows how demagoguery can force good people to make devastating choices. A tale for our stange times? FULL REVIEW
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