Movie Reviews

Starring: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Emily Watson, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington


The Story: Yet another recounting of the 1996 disaster on Everest that claimed the lives of eight climbers, at that time the greatest loss of life in the mountain’s history. The Lowdown: Shortchanging story in favor of spectacle, Everest should be seen in IMAX 3D or not at all.
Starring: W.C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Jessie Ralph, Franklin Pangborn, Grady Sutton, Russell Hicks

The Bank Dick

In Brief: Often cited as W.C. Fields' best movie — or at least as the equal to 1934's It's a Gift — The Bank Dick (1940) is probably the purest expression of the great comedian's humor. Fields himself wrote the screenplay — under the preposterous name of Mahatma Kane Jeeves (a groan-worthy pun if ever there was one)…
Starring: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Michael K. Williams, Mimi Rogers, Leonor Varela


The Story: The true story of a woman who’s kidnapped by a murderer and racist, and her attempts to be free of him. The Lowdown: More warmed-over sermonizing and flat drama undermined by treacly faith-based motives.
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, Hiroyuki Sanada

The White Countess

In Brief: The White Countess (2005) is the final film from the partnership, both professional and personal, of director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (who died before this was released). The film marks something of a return to form after their disastrous Le Divorce and tepid The Golden Bowl. In fact, this is probably the most satisfyingly realized…
y tu 3
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Maribel Verdú, Marta Aura

Y Tu Mamá También

In Brief: World Cinema is revisiting Alfonso Cuarón’s masterful Y Tu Mamá También (2001), a film I’ve written about several times. In the original review, I wrote in part: “Following two English-language films — Great Expectations and A Little Princess — director Alfonso Cuarón returned to Mexico to make this brilliant, challenging and unorthodox film. That’s obviously in part because Y…
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lily Rabe, Robin Weigert

Pawn Sacrifice

The Story: Biopic on chess master Bobby Fischer centered around his 1972 championship match against Boris Spassky. The Lowdown: It may not be the most cinematically adventurous film, but this fact-based drama more than makes up for it with an intelligent script and exceptional performances.
Starring: Ravi Patel, Geeta Patel, Champa V. Patel, Vassant K. Patel

Meet the Patels

The Story: Combination documentary and rom-com about Ravi Patel trying to find his ideal bride through the traditional marriage market. The Lowdown: It's nothing new under the sun, but this is a charmingly unassuming and often very funny little movie.
Starring: Johnny Depp. Joel Edgeton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard

Black Mass

The Story: Straightforward account of the criminal career of Whitey Bulger. The Lowdown: It's well-made. It boasts a lot of good actors. It proves (if proof were needed — and it wasn't) that Johnny Depp can underplay. But it's also neither particularly compelling, nor exciting.
Starring: Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler

20 Feet from Stardom

In Brief: Tickets are now on sale for two screenings (7 p.m. Thu., Sept. 17 and 4 p.m. Fri., Sept. 18) of 20 Feet from Stardom at the Fine Arts Theatre, which is co-sponsoring an appearance by Lisa Fischer who will also be performing at the Diana Wortham Theatre on Friday, Sept. 18. In addition…
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Sam Elliott, Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Peña


The Story: An outspoken widowed lesbian helps her granddaughter secure the money for an abortion. The Lowdown: Fast-paced, funny, filled with witty lines and yet suffused with a deep melancholy, Grandma provides Lily Tomlin with her best role in ages — and audiences with a must-see movie.
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould. Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn

The Visit

The Story:  Two teenage kids are shipped off to the spend a week with grandparents they've never met. Strange events ensue. The Lowdown: Though hailed in some corners as a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan, this is just the same old thing dressed in cheap found-footage clothing. The tag line ought to be,…
Starring: Adolphe Menjou, Pat O'Brien, Mary Brian, Edward Everett Horton, Walter Catlett, Mae Clarke

The Front Page

In Brief: Fresh from All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Lewis Milestone tackled the job of bringing Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 1928 Broadway hit newspaper comedy The Front Page to the screen. Nothing could be more different. All Quiet had been naturally cinematic, but The Front Page was set mostly — in the play, completely — in the press room of…
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley, Grace Gummer, Jake Weber, Sarita Choudhury, John Hodgman

Learning to Drive

The Story: A middle-aged woman whose husband has left her becomes unlikely friends with her Indian driving instructor. The Lowdown: Despite a contrived set-up, this turns out to be a warm, human, charming small-scale drama about two lonely people whose lives are suddenly changed. Great? No, but emotionally honest in ways we don't often see.
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth, Dwight Yoakam, Fred Thompson

90 Minutes in Heaven

The Story:  A pastor severely injured in a car accident is presumed dead for an hour and a half, time he believes himself to have spent in heaven. The Lowdown: A tedious, predictable and overlong attempt to extract cash from evangelical Christians and, apparently, McDonald’s.
Starring: Tod Slaughter, Marjorie Taylor, D.J. Williams, Eric Portman, Graham Soutten

The Crimes of Stephen Hawke

In Brief: Something a little different — and very much the same, too — from Britain's horror meister Tod Slaughter, The Crimes of Stephen Hawke is a pure melodramatic delight. Released barely two months after his most famous film, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936), Stephen Hawke is one of the few Slaughter vehicles not based on a…
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo


In Brief: World Cinema revisits Pedro Almodóvar's Volver (2006) — perhaps the filmmaker's most accessible and mellow work. It should be noted, however, that mellow is a relative term. The film contains child abuse and no less than three murders (understandable murders), but when put up against such Almodóvar fare as Bad Education (2004) or…
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, L. Scott Caldwell, Charles S. Dutton

The Perfect Guy

The Story: A woman thinks she’s found the perfect man, until he turns violent and controlling. The Lowdown: An incredibly unimaginative “woman in peril” thriller in the vein of a Lifetime movie, but with a better budget, though that’s really the only difference.
Starring: Edward Arnold, Walter Huston, Anne Shirley, James Craig, Jane Darwell, Simone Simon

The Devil and Daniel Webster

In Brief: I've been a champion of director William Dieterle for over 30 years (at least from his first American film in 1931 through 1948), citing him as the last "golden age" director yet to be seriously assessed. (That status remains true.) But I have to admit that I have never quite warmed to his…
imitation of life stahl
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Louise Beavers, Ned Sparks, Fredi Washington

Imitation of Life

In Brief: John M. Stahl’s Imitation of Life (1934) is unashamedly a soap opera, but it’s not only an excellent example of that too easily dismissed form — it’s a soap opera with an agenda. It is, in fact, one of the very few films of its era to tackle racism head-on with its story of…
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Sean Young, Brad Dourif, Dean Stockwell, Freddie Jones, Patrick Stewart, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Sting, Kenneth McMillan


In Brief: Generally considered a science-fiction film, David Lynch's Dune is really an epic operatic horror fantasy that owes more to cockeyed myth-making and grotesque — often disturbing — imagery than to sci-fi. When it was released in 1984, it was not a hit with critics or audiences. It was considered confusing to the point of incoherence.…
Starring: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury, Richard Anderson

The Long, Hot Summer

In Brief: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles (and his perpetually melting fake nose) and a collection other stars got together in 1958 — along with their phony (and often wavering) southern accents — to bring this mash-up William Faulkner to the screen under the direction of formerly black-listed Martin Ritt. The resulting movie —…