Bible meets sci-fi in Aronofsky’s eco-parable ‘Noah’
Nobody named “God” ever appears in Noah. Darren Aronofsky’s massive drama is obviously inspired by the Bible story, but he handles it as sort of a non-denominational, philosophical disaster movie. Noah and his family retain their familiar names, and there are passing references to Eden, but no specific geography or time frame is ever suggested, while the mostly ravaged and desolate landscape could be either pre- or post-industrial, the ancient past or the distant future. This is the Bible as dystopian sci-fi epic.
Style overwhelms content in psychological thriller 'Enemy'
Doppelganger stories are perversely fascinating, the idea that each of us has an exact double somewhere living out a completely different, parallel life. There's a lot of potential for a compelling story in this premise, but it all depends on how it's handled. Sadly, the handling of the Canadian mystery thriller, Enemy, is its undoing. This doppelganger plot requires subtlety and kid gloves, but director Denis Villeneuve prefers to strap on a catcher's mitt and bludgeon it into submission.
In ‘Bad Words,’ Jason Bateman delivers a solid directorial debut and a surprisingly inventive comedy to boot
Chances are that if you were asked to come up with a word for “the action or habit of estimating something as worthless,” you would not pluck floccinaucinihilipilificate from the nether regions of your mind.
Playful and dreamy, director Wes Anderson delivers another memorable ride with ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’
Writer-director Wes Anderson continues to expand his creative palette and his courage to invent vibrant characters and indelible settings that few directors are capable of producing. These cinematic joyrides smack of color and whimsy (Rushmore, The Royal Tannenbums, Moonrise Kingdom), and never fail to walk a comedic tightrope between the ironic and the absurd.
‘Muppets Most Wanted’ keeps the recently rebooted franchise alive
You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when a movie features a Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga duet and a homage to Ingmar Bergman in the first 15 minutes. Welcome to the fractured fairy tale world of The Muppets, returning to the big screen in, Muppets Most Wanted, the second installment of their recently rebooted franchise.
Femme jazz musicians get their due in cheer-worthy 'Girls in the Band'
We're in a very fertile period for music documentaries at the moment, non-fiction films that explore hidden corners of our cultural musical heritage that too many of us never even knew existed. The latest case in point is Judy Chaikin's smart, informative, and rewarding The Girls In the Band. Her subject is the pioneering female musicians who have battled racism, sexism, and every other kind of obstacle to play jazz onstage, from the big band era of the 1930s and '40s, and on into the present day.
Art, technology meet in audacious 'Tim's Vermeer'
It's not the sort of declaration you hear every day. "I want to paint a Vermeer," announces self-described technology geek Tim Jenison. "And I'm not a painter." Why would a seemingly ordinary person who is not an artist even conceive of such a crazy goal, much less pursue it? You might find the answer surprising—or possibly infuriating—but absolutely fascinating in Tim's Vermeer, the new documentary by magicians and Renaissance men Penn and Teller. It's an eye-opening meditation on art, science, and the nature of the creative process.
Still room for surprises in this year's Oscar race
Don't look now, but it's time for the "O" word—and I do mean Oscars. The Academy Awards will be a little late this year, postponed to this Sunday, March 2, so as not to, er, compete with the Olympics, giving oddsmakers, Oscar party revelers, and other prognosticators a little extra time to try to predict the winners.
This isn't nearly as precarious, or as much fun, as it used to be. These days, by the time the Oscars roll around, the other showbiz organizations—Golden Globes, BAFTAs, the industry craft guilds, the Pampered Pooch Hollywood Dogwalkers Association (OK, I made up that last one)—have already handed out their awards, so there are already clear front-runners in several categories. Still, you can always count on the Academy for a few weirdsmobile selections, just to prove how unpredictable its voters are.
Modern pilgrims trek to Santiago in engrossing doc 'Walking the Camino'
You may require a tube of Ben-Gay after you watch Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago. Not that it's an ordeal to sit through this movie; far from it. Filmmaker Lydia B. Smith has crafted an engrossing documentary about the fabled medieval pilgrimage route from southern France across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and the international mix of modern-day pilgrims who choose to follow "the way."
But the pilgrimage itself is so enormous, and Smith so skillfully inserts the viewer into every twist and turn of the 500-mile, 35-day trek that the audience starts to feel as physically exhausted as the participants. Happily, as the individual stories play out onscreen, we also begin to share at least an inkling of the particular brand of madness and exaltation that drives these pilgrims on to achieve their physical, mental, and/or spiritual goals.