After an acclaimed reboot that successfully shed the sillier trappings of the long-running James Bond franchise, the creators of the recent Spectre have now curiously chosen to embrace the clunky clichés and cartoon villains not only of the 007 canon but seemingly every thriller of the past decade. Big Brother has arrived! It’s the death of privacy! “We must stop this doomful technology before it goes online, or it will be too late!” (Not an actual quote, but you get the idea.)
We often live in a locked-down world of dread these days, especially when the subject of the World Trade Center arises. But in the summer of 1974, one week before his 25th birthday, Philippe Petit made headlines with a self-propelled trip between the rooftops of the Twin Towers, and it has become a modern legend almost too daring to be believed. Driven by an all-consuming passion for his wire-walking art and unable to resist the majestic pull of those magnificent skyscrapers since first learning of their construction, Philippe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) truly risked everything to fulfill his dream.
Andy Weir’s bestselling novel The Martian was justly lauded for its clever use of hard science facts to tell a thrilling yet believable tale of science fiction. Of course, the characters needed to be compelling as well if this bold survival epic was to work, and on screen as well as on the page, the futuristic drama is a smashing success. We begin a couple of decades from now as a manned Mars expedition is cut short due to a violent storm on the surface of the Red Planet.
When a government strike against the Mexican drug cartel on American soil proves fruitful but costly, a dedicated FBI field agent (Emily Blunt) joins an interagency task force to help bring the men responsible to justice. She quickly learns, however, that her new colleagues have a disturbing tendency to bend or break the rules, or even write their own. They’re an effective bunch, albeit mysteriously motivated. The dangerous transport of a high-value prisoner to the U.S. yields valuable information, including the whereabouts of a crucial cartel tunnel under the border.
As if their world-saving missions weren’t hard enough already, the entire Impossible Mission Force is shut down by an overzealous CIA director, and the IMF’s best agent, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), is now an international fugitive. Of course, those setbacks don’t stop him from continuing his search for the Syndicate. The Syndicate is ruthless, frighteningly effective, and worst of all, the CIA refuses to believe that it even exists, so the pursuit is uphill all the way.
Truman Capote’s career-defining “nonfiction novel” In Cold Blood recounted with fastidious nuance a violent crime that shocked America. Absent Capote’s masterful prose, the movie adaptation gives us a precise chronicle of the events with laudable authenticity. But under the inspired guidance of director/screenwriter Richard Brooks, the film goes beyond rote police procedural, introducing us to killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock as a couple of troubled, down-on-their-luck ex-cons.
Growing up is tough enough for any eleven-year-old, but when Riley finds out that her family is moving, her idyllic life is turned upside down. She must now contend with a new house, a new school, and a host of new feelings. Fortunately, the five main emotions that share control of her mind—Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger—are at the ready. But when partners Joy and Sadness find themselves cut off from headquarters, confused little Riley’s situation quickly goes from bad to worse.
Once again, writer/director Pete Docter has crafted a tale that entertains the youngest viewers while also challenging even the smartest adults in the room. The underlying psychology is brilliantly laid out, allowing
us to explore the relationship between emotions, memories, and personality. Dialogue is deliciously witty (star Amy Poehler is comedy gold in any medium),
and in revealing the delicate balance between happiness and sorrow, the story achieves its greatest poignancy.
The still-thrilling Terminator franchise has certainly experienced its share of highs and lows over the last 30-odd years. And so creator James Cameron’s ringing endorsement for the latest installment, Terminator Genisys—in which he had no direct involvement—carried a lot of weight with fans. While giving major respect to the classic canon, this fifth movie is superbly smart, inventive, and even quite funny at times.
Author Walter Farley’s sweet, timeless tale of a young boy and his special bond with a spirited horse was brought to cinematic life with irresistible visual and sonic beauty, more appreciable than ever on Criterion’s fantastic new Blu-ray. Our boy, Alec (Kelly Reno, what a find), is washed ashore on a remote island after a shipwreck, and the only other survivor is a magnificent Arabian stallion. Their time alone together is a prolonged marvel of wordless storytelling, while the post-rescue second half is quite a different animal, as a grizzled old trainer (a wonderfully cast Mickey Rooney) agrees to prepare the horse to race. It’s a thrilling adventure for kids, but without the sap that might otherwise send the adults fleeing.
In an era when Glee was everywhere, moviegoers understandably didn’t flock to see the seemingly similar Pitch Perfect on the big screen, but Blu-ray/DVD and TV showings ultimately brought the charming comedy the audience it deserved. Three years later, the mettlesome young songstresses from Barden University are back, eager to win an international competition with the help of a new recruit. Returning co-star/producer Elizabeth Banks also makes a triumphant directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2, seamlessly maintaining the ongoing franchise’s breezily mean-spirited humor while staging many memorable new cover versions of eclectic pop tunes.