Hobbit Annie Foxcatcher (This Week’s Movies)

Martin Freeman, The Hobbit

Martin Freeman, The Hobbit

Links to reviews I published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

The Hobbit: The Battles of the Five Armies. “Jackson is as resourceful as ever in exploiting cool locations – crumbling bridges and iced-over lakes – for cartoony stunts.” (In case of Herald paywall, Seattle Weekly version here.)

Annie. “Actually kind of fun on its own terms.” (Weekly version here.)

Foxcatcher. “Exists almost entirely as a single, sustained, skin-crawling mood.”

Elsa & Fred. “A few dashes of vinegar around the general feel-good mood.” (Weekly version here.)

At the Overlook Podcast, I talk with Steve Scher about a few holiday movies that might be lesser known than the usual run. Give a listen here, and then find a copy of Remember the Night.

Thanks to all who participated in last night’s “Critics Wrap” at the Frye Art Museum. Along with good talk about the best films of the year, it was the final event in the Magic Lantern program, which I had the honor of curating for the last 10 years. We had a reception after the panel discussion, and some very generous things got said, led off by Frye Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, and the Frye gave me a lovely present. I owe a big debt of gratitude to Mary Jane Knecht for bringing me to the Frye, to the Frye people for supporting Magic Lantern all these years, and to our well-spoken contributors Kathleen Murphy, Jim Emerson, and Richard T. Jameson (sorry Andrew Wright couldn’t make it last night). The panel will be broadcast on Seattle Channel and online later, and thanks too to Seattle Channel and Shannon Gee for bringing us to a bigger audience all this time. I’ll post something else about Magic Lantern later, but right now I’m humbled and grateful.

2014 Critics Wrap; photo by Shannon Gee.

2014 Critics Wrap; photo by Shannon Gee.

Movie Diary 12/17/2014

Mommy (Xavier Dolan, 2014). This is the movie that shared a jury prize with the new Godard picture at Cannes this year. So that’s quite a thought. Super-intense character study with bravura performances by Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clément, and quite a few boosts from pop songs. (full review 1/30)

Thursday December 18, please join us at the Frye Art Museum for the 10th annual Critics Wrap, a panel of Seattle film critics sorting through the movies of 2014. The event begins at 7 p.m. and is free. More information here.

Movie Diary 12/16/2014

Annie (Will Gluck, 2014). The Broadway show gets a makeover and a present-day setting. People are going to lay waste to this adaptation, but the movie’s got a snappy rhythm, and some funny jokes. Also, “It’s the Hard Knock Life” (did everybody except me know it’s not “It’s a Hard Knock Life”?) is still a toe-tapper. (full review 12/19)

Elsa & Fred (Michael Radford, 2014). Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer in a soft-edged tale of older citizens finding each other. Pretty nice cast also includes Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Noth, and George Segal, and everybody has the best possible intentions. (full review 12/19)

Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh, 2014). This film is beautifully done and impeccably cast, with Timothy Spall excellent in the title role. Rather than a through-line, it offers a series of scenes from JMW Turner’s life, which is a kind of biopic I am intrigued by. Having said that, I still have to locate what exactly this movie is about.

Great Top Wild Exodus (This Week’s Movies)

Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson: Top Five

Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson: Top Five

Links to reviews I published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Exodus: Gods and Kings. “Scott’s grouchy approach falls short of the eager-beaver cornpone of Cecil B. DeMille.” (In case of Herald paywall, Seattle Weekly version here.)

Wild. “And people complained about the guy in Into the Wild being ill-prepared.”

Top Five. “Even playing opposite the lively Dawson doesn’t make Rock a more fluid actor.” (Weekly version here.)

The Great Invisible. “Doesn’t entirely succeed as either journalism or poetry.” (Weekly version here.)

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I talk about lesser-known holiday movies; will post here when the conversation goes live.

Thursday December 18, please join us at the Frye Art Museum for the 10th annual Critics Wrap, a panel of Seattle film critics sorting through the movies of 2014. The event begins at 7 p.m. and is free. More information here.

Movie Diary 12/10/2014

Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014). The director of Elena finds a world located in a seaside town, where corruption exists on many levels. There’s an impressive bleached skeleton of a great whale that figures in a couple of moments – this is a Russian film – and many fine-tuned scenes showing how systems and families operate.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014). Vampire picture from an Iranian-American director. And it’s black-and-white. Lots of early-Jarmusch feel, and a nice blend of the real and the completely artificial. It will surely not be shown in Iran.

Movie Diary 12/9/2014

Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014). Civil rights in Alabama, 1964-65. Lots of earnestness, lots of British actors, and a couple of very good scenes between David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo that hint at a different kind of personal history of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King. But this movie isn’t really that.

Cake (Daniel Barnz, 2014). Pretty good role for Jennifer Aniston, despite the obvious deglamorized trappings of an “award-worthy” performance.

Movie Diary 12/8/2014

Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014). Caught up with this one for year-end-list-making. And yes, this will make the year-end list.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Peter Jackson, 2014). There won’t be any more after this – what will Peter Jackson do with his life? Watching tip: You better know the previous five movies, because there are lots of references in play. (full review 12/17)

Top Five (Chris Rock, 2014). Man, is this what passes for a top-flight comedy now? I like Rock’s ambitions, but jeez. (full review 12/12)

A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbijn, 2014). A John le Carre story given a depressed but effective treatment. Almost painful at times watching Philip Seymour Hoffman, knowing he wouldn’t last much longer.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011). Yup, one of the best movies of recent years, all right. Now why hasn’t Alfredson directed a movie since?

The Great Invisible (Margaret Brown, 2014). The Deepwater Horizon disaster, and its aftermath – a story that feels only partly told at this point, which is hard on a documentary.

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