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.

Point and Babadook (This Week’s Movies)

Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman: The Babadook

Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman: The Babadook

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

The Babadook. “Ignoring the timeworn horror-movie warning about chanting the name of the monster.” (In case of Herald paywall, the Weekly version is here.)

The Sleepwalker. “A northerly chill.” (Weekly version here.)

Point and Shoot. “Maybe each generation gets the Lawrence of Arabia it deserves.” (Weekly version here.)

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I respond to the PBS “American Masters” profile of Bing Crosby, and ponder the nature of Der Bingle’s stardom; listen here.

And put it on your calendar: The 10th annual Critics Wrap happens at the Frye Art Museum on Thursday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. See more info here.

Movie Diary 12/3/2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings (Ridley Scott, 2014). Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Moses, Ramses, plagues, passover, Red Sea. If you’re going to do this, you might as well have Ridley Scott guiding the chariot. The storyline also suggests that a society rife with dramatic economic imbalance will eventually drive the have-nots into an uprising. Ancient history, right? (full review 12/12)

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