pick of the week
Genre: Science Fiction
Director: J.J. Abrams (Star Trek)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Simon PeggThe Story: Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew of the are sent on a mission to deal with a terrorist out to destroy Starfleet. The Lowdown: The plotting gets clunky and the action could be handled more effectively, but the characters — improved from the first film — keep this Star Trek entry mostly worth watching.
Director: Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla FisherThe Story: Film version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The Lowdown: A big, daring, audacious interpretation of the novel that brings it to life in ways you probably never dreamed possible. It's every inch a Baz Luhrmann film, so that will probably tell you a lot. You may not like it, but I'm calling it a must-see. Truly visionary filmmaking is so rare.
Genre: Biographical Drama
Director: Gilles Bourdos (Afterwards)
Starring: Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, Vincent Rottiers, Thomas DoretThe Story: Biographical drama about the aged painter, his future filmmaker son and the young woman who inspired them both during the summer of 1915. The Lowdown: An almost impossibly beautiful-looking film — one so visually arresting that it more than makes up for the leisurely nature of its approach. Actually, the story itself is much deeper and revelatory than may be suggested at first glance.
Director: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Sam ShepardThe Story: Two boys in a small Southern river town help a fugitive fix up a boat for his getaway with the woman he came back for. The Lowdown: An altogether exceptional film about Southern life as seen through the eyes of two boys on what seems to them a romantic adventure. Highly recommended.
Genre: Animated Adventure
Director: Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon) and Kirk De Micco (Space Chimps)
Starring: (Voices) Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Ryan Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, Clark DukeThe Story: A Stone Age family must learn how to adapt to a drastically changing world that threatens to become — literally — a thing of the past. The Lowdown: Spectacular-looking, exciting and (I dare say) even moving animated film with extremely good voice casting. It's nothing at all like the film the trailer suggests and even though it's not Chris Sanders' earlier Lilo & Stitch or How to Train Your Dragon, it's still very good indeed.
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.
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru PotoceanThe Story: Set in 1987 Romania, a college girl helps her roommate get an illegal abortion. The Lowdown: Bleak, damning social commentary about a repressive society, with compelling drama in the relationship of its two leads.
Director: Paulo Morelli
Starring: Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen, Rodrigo dos Santos, Camila MonteiroThe Story: Two young men living in the slums of Rio find themselves at odds with warring factions of drug lords. The Lowdown: A frequently intense and powerful drama of friendship and becoming an adult under the worst possible circumstances.
Director: Alex Gibney
Starring: Alex Gibney (narrator), Mozzam Begg, Jack Cloonan, Tim Golden, Clive Stafford SmithThe Story: A documentary about U.S. government use of torture and human-rights violations. The Lowdown: A thoroughly cogent, researched and relevant treatment of a hot-button topic that should be seen by everyone.
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