pick of the week
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Still Walking)
Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Rirî FurankîThe Story: Two families have to deal with the fact that their 6-year-old boys were switched at birth. The Lowdown: Delicate, intensely moving family drama with strong performances — a subtle, yet provocative exploration of what it means to be a family and what makes a father.
Genre: Cheerfully Amoral Sometimes Fact-Based Comedy Drama
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy RennerThe Story: Vaguely fact-based (Abscam) comedy drama about not-very-bright people trying to out-con each other. The Lowdown: Funny, cynical and even a little demented, David O. Russell's latest boasts incredible turns from its high-powered cast, a genuine sense of the late 1970s and a pop soundtrack to die for.
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Javier Cámara, Lola Dueñas, Cecilia Roth, Raúl Arévalo, Carlos ArecesThe Story: On a plane with mechanical failures, a crew of quirky flight attendants and passengers deal with imminent doom in their own melodramatic and perverse ways. The Lowdown: Minor Almodovar that’s nevertheless wonderfully absurd and constantly in bad taste, and one of the year’s funniest films when it’s on its game.
Genre: Fact-Based Drama
Director: Peter Landesman
Starring: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, James Badge Dale, Marcia Gay Harden, Mark Duplass, Paul Giamatti, Colin Hanks, Jacki WeaverThe Story: Fact-based drama about the JFK assassination and its immediate aftermath. The Lowdown: Visceral, fast-paced recreation of the events that took place over the course of Nov. 22-25, 1963. Parkland opts to plunge the viewer into the chaos and confusion of the tragic events, and the results are remarkable.
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Keith StanfieldThe Story: A look into the lives of some young social workers and their charges in a foster care center. The Lowdown: Disarming in its honesty and simplicity, Short Term 12 arrives on the local film scene with little fanfare, which is too bad because it's a little gem of a movie.
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
Director: Nicole Holofcener (Please Give)
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi GevinsonThe Story: A woman finds her romance with a seemingly compatible man undermined when it turns out that he's the ex-husband of a new friend of hers. The Lowdown: Unfailingly pleasant but awkwardly plotted film that ultimately wins out on the strength of James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Genre: Legal/Political Thriller
Director: John Crowley (Is Anybody There?)
Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Jim Broadbent, Julia StilesThe Story: Defense lawyers for a sensitive case involving an alleged terrorist bomber find themselves embroiled in something more than they bargained for. The Lowdown: An unusually smart legal thriller that appeals more to the intellect than your standard action-oriented flick. (Think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.) A strong cast, solid direction and a well-rounded script make this one a must-see.
Genre: Fact-Based Drama
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin DurandThe Story: Based on the true story of Oscar Grant — specifically, the final day of his life — a young, black Oakland resident who was gunned down by a police officer on New Year’s Day 2009. The Lowdown: Despite verging a bit too much on ham-fisted melodrama, the film works on a purely emotional level, but isn’t an especially deep look at race, profiling or the use of excessive force.
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Comedy
Director: Joe Cornish
Starring: Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Luke Treadaway, Alex Esmail, Paige MeadeThe Story: A teenage gang in a London public-housing building team up with a nurse they recently mugged to fight off an alien invasion. The Lowdown: An absolutely perfect film of its kind -- tense, suspenseful, exciting, very funny -- and with an undercurrent of something more.
Genre: Fact-Based Comedy-Drama
Director: Randall Miller (Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School)
Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodríguez, Dennis FarinaThe Story: A Brit wine snob with a failing shop in Paris arranges a blind wine-tasting competition between French and California wines -- with an all-French panel of experts. The Lowdown: Based on fact and drowned in TV-movie level dramatic embellishments, this little indie offering has one thing going for it -- Alan Rickman -- and he may be enough.
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