Five compelling new dramas arrive in theaters, joining a full slate of recently opened gems.
Yes, Steven Spielberg is our latter-day Frank Capra, Tom Hanks is his Jimmy Stewart, and this is their latest triumphant celebration of an Everyman exemplifying everything that makes America great. This time, in a true-life Cold War-era story, Hanks is a modest New York lawyer assigned to negotiate the trade of a Soviet agent for U-2 spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.
At times as infuriating as the angry, selfish, abusive and brilliant figure at its center, Aaron Sorkin’s script visits the Apple founder (Michael Fassbender) at three pivotal moments in his life and career. Lining up to jawbone with him in classic Sorkin manner are his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston), his longtime partner (Seth Rogen) and the Apple CEO ( Jeff Daniels) who oversaw Jobs’s ouster from the very company he created.
The best part of this account of how CBS newsman Dan Rather was brought down by a scandal surrounding a story he reported in 2004 is Robert Redford’s performance as Rather. With nary a touch of disguising makeup, Redford channels the anchor with the subtlest of mannerisms, including a wisp of a Texas twang. Cate Blanchett is excellent as his embattled producer.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer, a New Jersey police lieutenant ( Julianne Moore) battles her bosses to gain pension benefits for her young domestic partner (Ellen Page). Steve Carell plays her champion, a civil-rights activist. Based on a true story.
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star as a mother and her five-year-old son who escape after having been held captive in a single small room for the youngster’s entire life. With Joan Allen and William H. Macy. Based on the book-club favorite by Emma Donoghue.
For everyone trying to shake the memory of the psycho that Rosamund Pike played in Gone Girl, this comic drama should help. Pike and David Tennant costar as a troubled British couple who travel to Scotland to celebrate the birthday of his father (the always wonderful Billy Connolly).
As director Brad Bird gives us a dazzling glimpse of an idealized future city, a grizzled, cantankerous George Clooney and perky, ever-optimistic Britt Robertson try to stave off the end of the world. (FULL REVIEW)
This just in from California: There is no California! Dwayne Johnson stars as a rescue-chopper pilot whirlybirding his way through a massive earthquake. As the seismologist who warned of the coming catastrophe, Paul Giamatti spends much of the movie hiding under a desk.
Still in theaters (Click on Titles for Movie Trailers)
Johnny Depp re-emerges as one of our best actors with his exquisitely calibrated channeling of James “Whitey” Bulger, the small-time Boston hood who became a big deal with the unwitting help of the FBI. As his G-man handler, Joel Edgerton seems too easily corrupted; we wish the film had spent more time with Whitey’s brother Bill, a respected and powerful president of the Massachusetts Senate, masterfully played by Benedict Cumberbatch. (FULL REVIEW)
And the year’s most devastating screen villain is…a 29,000-foot-high chunk of rock. In this re-creation of two doomed 1996 expeditions, Mount Everest is one monstrous monolith, swatting away frail humans like so many goggled, wool-capped flies. Jake Gyllenhaal stars.
Lily Tomlin stars as a grandmother trying to help her teenage granddaughter (Julia Garner) pay for an abortion. Crass, combative and vulnerable, Tomlin gives the performance of a lifetime in a film that suggests the planet might improve if all males were abducted by aliens. (FULL REVIEW)
He Named Me Malala
This documentary about Malala Yousafzai — the Pakistani teen who survived a bullet to the head after advocating education for girls — makes you wonder: What would you be willing to endure in the name of freedom?
Robert DeNiro is perfect as a 70-year-old retiree who attacks his boredom by enlisting in a “senior intern” program at a hip online-fashion company. The experienced newcomer has a lot to teach the young whippersnappers — especially company founder Anne Hathaway, scrambling to keep her footing in the office and at home. Writer-director Nancy Meyers ( It’ s Complicated) has a keen ear for each generation’s angst — and for how we can help each other cope in a world of nonstop change.
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)
NASA’s announcement this week that there’s flowing water on Mars would have been good news for Mark Watney (Matt Damon), the NASA astronaut stranded on the Red Planet in director Ridley Scott’s instant sci-fi classic. Damon’s as endearing as ever as the guy who coolly MacGyvers his way through one crisis after another.
In this retelling of the iconic 1972 square-off between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky, Tobey Maguire brings uncommon intensity to the role of the deeply troubled U.S. chess champion. As Spassky, Liev Schreiber isn’t asked to do much more than glare at his emotionally fragmented opponent, but his glowering is eloquent.
The Second Mother
Brazilian star Regina Casé is brilliant as a housekeeper whose modern-minded daughter comes to stay at the home where she works in São Paulo, only to scandalize Mom and her employers with her disregard for class boundaries.
She’s Funny That Way
Peter Bogdanovich returns to form in this frothy tale of a playwright ( Owen Wilson) caught in a love triangle with his wife, her old flame and a heart-of-gold hooker. Jennifer Aniston is funny as a shrink entangled in the mess. And look who else pops up: PB’s old gal pal Cybill Shepherd! (FULL REVIEW)
Unforgiving as a scorpion’s sting, director Denis Villeneuve’s brutal action film follows an idealistic U.S. border patrol agent (Emily Blunt) as she joins an elite task force bent on toppling a feared Mexican drug lord. Benicio del Toro, who won an Oscar for Traffic — the previous best film about drugs in America — is even better here as a shadowy advisor to the task force.
Sleeping with Other People
Jake (Rob Delaney lookalike Jason Sudeikis) is a hopeless womanizer; Lainey (totes-adorbs Alison Brie from Community) is a serial adulterer. The unlikely pair become platonic friends in hopes of straightening themselves out. Mutual attraction intervenes.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
This is not the much-buzzed-about new film coming October 9; instead it’s the documentary that, even after interviews with some of his closest associates (not to mention the mother of his daughter), can’t suss out what made Apple’s core tick.
Mega-epic director Roland Emmerich ( Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) narrows his vision 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. The story is told through the eyes of a young gay man (Jeremy Irvine) thrown out of his house by his parents.
Straight Outta Compton
Director F. Gary Gray ( The Italian Job) chronicles the 1980s growth of hip-hop in this splendidly gritty story of the rise of rap group NWA. 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.
Time Out of Mind
Richard Gere is easily recognizable — and that’s just the problem — in this drama about a homeless man trying to restore his relationship with his daughter (Jena Malone). With Ben Vereen, Steve Buscemi and Kyra Sedgwick. (FULL REVIEW)
See this on the biggest screen you can, and shell out the extra dough for those 3-D glasses: Robert Zemeckis’s thrilling account of how Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) walked a high wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 will leave you breathless. Acrophobics need not attend.
A Walk in the Woods
Robert Redford and Nick Nolte make endearingly quirky hiking companions in this comedy based on Bill Bryson’s 1998 account of his failed quest to walk the Appalachian Trail. (The script and direction, by contrast, feel aimless.) Emma Thompson is so darling as Bryson’s wife it’s clear he was a nut to leave her at home.
The latest faith-inspired film from the producing/directing team of Alex and Stephen Kendrick ( Fireproof, Facing the Giants) focuses on a family’s efforts to resolve their problems through prayer.
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