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14 articles


He Brought Down the Wrong Empire: Seth Rogen's The Interview Won't Show in Theaters

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Editor's Note: Sony has officially canceled the theatrical release of The Interview following terrorist threats against theaters, and the announcement that several major theater chains had opted not to exhibit the film. The following review was written before Sony pulled The Interview– and stands as a reminder that world-shaking art is not necessarily great art. The big selling point of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen's The Interview is a jaw-dropper: When the producer and the star of a sensationalistic talk show -- played, respectively, by Rogen and James Franco -- get a chance to interview wackbird North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the CIA butts in and persuades them to assassinate him. Building a comedy around the plan »


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The Night at the Museum Movies Are Better Than Critics Say

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Critics aren’t supposed to like the Night at the Museum movies. We’re supposed to see them out of duty and then write stuff like, “It’s Ok for the kiddies, if you must.” I admit to turning a blind eye to their tendency to get excessively noisy or manic. I just...like...them. It’s a pleasure to see what Big Hollywood comes up with when writers, production designers, and special-effects people are turned loose and challenged to conjure new ideas for what dinosaur bones, Teddy Roosevelt statues, and Native American maidens modeled out of synthetic material are wont to do when they’re given the gift of life.

The third installment, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb may be the best, and even the generally woun »


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Marion Cotillard Wins -- Twice -- in Our 2014 Film Critics' Poll

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

What kind of circle is time again? A year after blowing the doors off our annual critics’ poll, golden boy Matthew McConaughey won just a single vote for his turn in the loudest movie of the year, Christopher Nolan’s tears-in-space effort Interstellar, which has tied with the unprescient Transcendence as 2014’s worst film. (Transcendence dreamed that Johnny Depp’s character would take over every screen in the world — that didn’t happen.) But his margin of victory lives on, this year in the form of Marion Cotillard, who wins best actress twice: first for the Dardenne brothers’ vote-gathering drama Two Days, One Night, then besting second-place Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin) with her turn in Ja »


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Ten Films to Look For in 2015

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

As the year in moviegoing draws to a close — and as critics busy themselves drawing up lists and handing out awards — it seems time at last to look ahead. Here are the 10 films to get excited about over the year to come. 1. Jauja (Dir. Lisandro Alonso) Revered Argentine filmmaker Lisandro Alonso returns after 2008’s exquisite Liverpool with Jauja, his most astonishing film yet. While no less oblique than its predecessors, Jauja finds Alonso working for the first time with an international star: Viggo Mortensen, an intriguing wrinkle in Alonso’s minimalist approach. Mortensen plays a Danish general adrift in the badlands of 19th-century Patagonia, and his wearying travails form the bulk of the action. A cryptic and f »


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Scary Funny: Seth Rogen Learns What Frightens a Dictator

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Update: 5 p.m., December 17 Sony has officially canceled the theatrical release of The Interview following terrorist threats against theaters -- and the announcement that several major theater chains had opted not to exhibit the film."

Sony assumed North Korea would hate the movie. The question was: What would it do? Pyongyang had just tested its atom bomb and threatened “preemptive nuclear attack.” And the Supreme Leader with his finger on the trigger was barely over 30, with less than two years of experience.

But Kim Jong Un didn’t care about Olympus Has »


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You'll Surrender to Basilica-Building Doc Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

God is not in a hurry," we're told late in Stefan Haupt's Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation, a peaceful and gently stirring documentary that considers faith and architecture and human achievement in something like geologic time. More than 125 years after Antoni Gaudí first dreamed it up, Barcelona's glorious, glittering basilica Sagrada Família remains unfinished — but it's getting closer, with now eight of Gaudí's envisioned 18 towers scraping up against the heavens. As it tells the unlikely story, and showcases passionate sculptors and architects and backers of the ongoing construction, Haupt's film allows us time to soak up the place, both inside and out: the older façades so filigreed and exposure-browned that they look like they've l »


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Song of the Sea Is a Beautifully Rendered Children's Tale

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Tomm Moore's touching Song of the Sea is not anime, but it shares elements with some of the best anime films of recent years, particularly Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children. Then again, certain kinds of legends pop up in every culture. In this iteration, young Saoirse (Lucy O'Connell) was born on the night her mother, Broanch (Lisa Hannigan), disappeared into the waves surrounding their lighthouse home. After their father, Conor (Brendan Gleeson), sends the seemingly mute Saoirse and her brother Ben (David Rawle) away for getting too close to the mystery — Saoirse is half-Selkie, a woman who's human on land but a seal in the ocean — the brother and sister must travel back to the ocean to save Saoirse's life and possibly all of humanity, discoverin »


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The Latest Annie Doesn't Seem Interested in Children

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Every version of Annie since the Broadway original has aimed younger and younger. John Huston's 1982 movie cut the child-confounding songs "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover" and "New Deal for Christmas," and added two ditties about Annie's dog. This new flick scraps the 1933 setting altogether and plops Annie into contemporary Harlem, here a sunny bodega playground. Now, in "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," your clothes aren't "Beau Brummell–y," but "Chanel, Gucci." Producers Jay-z and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith must have beamed when they discovered that rhyme — and, to be fair, their three children are fashion-forward. There's a sense that neither they nor director Will Gluck know what normal kids — the kind they need to buy tickets to »


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A Marriage Crumbles, Beautifully, in Ceylan's Winter Sleep

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Twitter is doublestuffed with check-your-privilege messages for entitled men, but I've rarely seen one as potent as this singular line from Nuri Bilge Ceylan's out-of-time masterwork Winter Sleep, a Chekhovian drama of marriage and class and the way both can inspire insulated cluelessness. "Just once, I'd like you to defend something that might cost you, and have feelings that don't benefit yourself," says a miserable young wife (Melisa Sözen) to the wealthy older husband who has given her a life free of all wants — except those of the soul. The wife has devoted herself to charity, to the improvement of education in a nearby village on the Turkish steppe; the husband, a rare soft-spoken blowhard, has recently horned in on her fundraising, eager to show he »


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Timothy Spall Unearths the Man Beneath Mr. Turner's Gruffness

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

If you've ever loved a terrible person, Mike Leigh's quietly sensational Mr. Turner — a biopic, of sorts, covering the last 25 years of the life of the great 19th-century British painter J.M.W. Turner — is the movie for you. In his seascapes and landscapes, Turner found the perfect visual language for every possible combination of weather atmospherics, from soft swirls of ochre sunlight to the powdery whites and grays of treacherous ocean storms. Human beings don't figure largely in Turner's work, particularly in the later years of his career; when they appear at all, they're often small, blurred figures at the mercy of the sky above and the sea below. You can read that as a lack of interest in human nature, or as a kind of personal humility in the face of the vast ra »


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If You Don't, I Will Intelligently Portrays a Marriage in Crisis

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Perceptive and subtle almost to a fault, Sophie Fillières's If You Don't, I Will gingerly metes out insights against their dramatic payoffs. While you may be left craving more emotional fireworks than you get, Fillières's intelligent film is accomplished in its portrayal of a marriage in crisis, the union's last gasps rife with poignant exchanges. Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos are, as always, superb; they play Pierre and Pomme, a married couple whose fire seems fully extinguished. In one crushing moment, Pierre asks Pomme why she slept in the study the previous night; when Pomme replies that she actually slept in bed next to him, a surprised Pierre explains that he had no idea. Fillières manages plenty of comic touches as well: After »


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A Small Section of the World Is Cinematic Espresso

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

Even without the careful framing and exquisite camerawork, Costa Rica is gorgeous. Green mountains and a wet climate produce sweeping panoramas — and delicious coffee, when it's being produced. A global economic downturn and a coffee recession in the 1990s sent the men of a remote Costa Rican farming community to the city for work, while the women, seeking employment and purpose of their own, took up the dormant practice, knowing that if they didn't create jobs, their village, culture, and way of life would disintegrate. The result: a coffee roaster and, eventually, a sustainable income for their community. And the new documentary A Small Section of the World. The film is a pastiche of interviews with several generations of Costa Rican women, from the orig »

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Family Drama Goodbye to All That Strikes One Note

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

From the first moments of Goodbye to All That, when Otto Wall (Paul Schneider) is jogging past vibrant autumn foliage to the strains of a Haydn piano concerto, Angus MacLachlan's directorial debut feels like a 1980s Alan Alda dramedy (The Four Seasons, A New Life). Otto is a comfortably oblivious white-collar suburban dad who's unaware that tween daughter Edie (Audrey Scott) worries about his safety — or that his wife, Annie (Melanie Lynskey), is filing divorce papers. "Why do these things always happen to Daddy?" Edie asks after an Atv accident hobbles the marathon runner. "He doesn't pay attention," answers the weary Annie, and that's as insightful as MacLachlan's script gets. Otto's inattention is manifested in clumsiness and bad luck. Oth »


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Da Vinci Hams for the Camera in Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D

16 December 2014 9:00 PM, PST

An actor (Peter Capaldi) plays Leonardo da Vinci, standing before exposed brick, intently hamming at a 3-D movie camera, spouting words set down long ago in the real da Vinci's notebooks, truths about perspective and nature that the actor, who is game, speaks like he's just now figuring them out, the same way he might if this goof/stunt of a movie were instead a detective drama and he was putting together the clues that break the case open: To draw hair you must study water! Cut from that discovery to marvelous shots of waterfalls, the camera gliding above and under the cascade. That stuff, like the montages of steelworks and some of da Vinci's illustrations, are so marvelous you can almost forgive the way director Julian Jones builds to the Mona Lisa like it's a punchli »


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