Weekend: Big-Name Bombs and an Indie Gem

Two big-studio misfires take up theater space this weekend. What to do? Catch a surprisingly charming documentary about a 1950s screen icon, or catch up on some Oscar hopefuls still out there.


Designates a Movies for Grownups Editors’ Choice


Our Brand Is Crisis
Sandra Bullock’s new film about American political strategists helping a Bolivian presidential candidate rebrand himself could have been a funny film that made a serious statement about politics. As it is, Crisis mopes along with a glum outlook, only rarely giving us wacky scenes that feel airlifted in from another movie. With his shaved head, Billy Bob Thornton seems born to play political hired gun James Carville.


Bolstered by a welcome appearance from Emma ThompsonBradley Cooper stars as a chef desperate to gain his third Michelin star — but we’ll always be partial to the far-tastier Chef with Jon Favreau and Big Night with Stanley Tucci.



Tab Hunter Confidential
Warner Brothers’ biggest star of the late 1950s — the heartthrob icon of films, TV shows and even records — managed to conceal his homosexuality throughout his big-screen career. Narrating this funny and disarmingly honest documentary, Tab Hunter is a good-natured guide through his own ups and downs. In a refreshing change from most tell-alls, Hunter harbors no grudges, relishes his successes and waxes philosophical about his failures. Along for the ride are friends Robert Wagner, Clint Eastwood, Robert Osborne and Debbie Reynolds.


New on DVD, Blu-ray and Video on Demand

The Gift
Jason Bateman stars in this crackerjack thriller about a newlywed guy who believes he’s never hurt anybody in his life...until the arrival of a high-school acquaintance (Joel Edgerton) bearing unsettling secrets.

When 1980s video-game characters try to destroy the world, only a team of middle-age former gamers can save us.  Adam Sandler, Josh Gad,  Peter Dinklage, and Kevin James (as the President!) try to evoke  Ghostbusters, but we ain’t afraid of these ghosts. Save your money — and instead watch  this ingenious three-minute short on which the overblown feature is based.

Jake Gyllenhaal transforms himself to play Billy “The Great” Hope, but his scarred muscle mass and punch-drunken slurring can’t excuse the predictable script and derivative characters of this Raging Bull wannabe.


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Still in theaters (Click on Titles for Movie Trailers)

Black Mass
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)

Bridge of Spies
Yes,  Steven Spielberg is our latter-day Frank Capra and  Tom Hanks 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.

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.




VIDEO: 1950s Icon Tab Hunter chats with us about living in the closet at the height of his fame...and what he thinks of the Pope’s outreach to gay Catholics.






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.

The Martian 
NASA’s announcement this week that there’s  flowing water on Mars would have been welcome 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 he coolly  MacGyvers his way through one crisis after another.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
The producer of this horror series swears that this, the fifth iteration, will be the last. But with the  Paranormal films generating supernatural sums at the box office — close to $1 billion — we suspect there’s more found footage to be found.

Rock the Kasbah
If it’s  Bill Murray you want, this one’s for you, Bud: He’s front and center in this shaggy-dog tale about a shady music promoter who discovers a beautiful teen singing in an Afghan cave. How he came to be in that cave and how he gets home barely matter; instead, director Barry Levinson unleashes his star to do whatever he wishes. With fun appearances by  Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel and Kate Hudson.

Bring a hanky. Make that a box of ’em. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are extraordinary as a mother and her five-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. Based on the book-club favorite by Emma Donoghue.

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.



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Steve Jobs
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.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
This is  not the much-buzzed-about fictionalized story of Jobs (see above); it’s a new film from master documentarian Alex Gibney. Still, 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.

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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. Scorning 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.

The Walk
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.

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