Breathe easy, halfling: the middle installment in Peter Jackson's Hobbittrilogy is a huge improvement over the first film. Also new this week: Emma Thompson turns in a cranky-yet-lovable performance as the woman who wrote Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks (with Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney); Liev Schreiber battles oddly familiar space monsters in The Last Days on Mars; and Tyler Perry celebrates the holidays as only he can, with A Madea Christmas. Read on for reviews and trailers.
FILM Consider the giants of ho-ho-horror. Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974) boasted an above-average cast (Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, John Saxon). Christmas Evil (1980) was dubbed "the greatest Christmas movie ever made" by no less an authority than John Waters, who recorded an audio commentary for its 2006 special-edition DVD.Read more »
This week, we feature a pair of excellent documentaries: Frederick Wiseman's At Berkeley (review here) and The Punk Singer, about riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna (review and interview here). Read on for short takes on this week's new releases!
FILM Clad only in a dingy T-shirt and tighty-whities, with an overgrown beard and a hollow look of defeat in his eyes, shut-in Ian (Adrian DiGiovanni) spends his days channel-surfing and plotting ways to commit suicide. When his beloved vintage TV ("His name was Kent," he tells the camera, in the first of many direct addresses) fizzles, smokes, and goes dark, he finally takes action.Read more »
This week, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stands poised to crush all who dare step to it, but there are some alternatives out there. There's the San Francsico Film Society's weekend-long Cinema By the Bay festival (my overview here), as well as the latest from acclaimed director Alexander Payne, the small-scale but still very moving Nebraska (Dennis Harvey's review here.)
Plus: a festival favorite from Belgium, and Vince Vaughn's sperm-bank comedy. Reviews for both (plus guaranteed big kahuna Catching Fire) below.
This week, doc lovers are in luck: not only is Chris Marker's seminal 1962 Le Joli Mai making a return to theaters (Sam Stander's take here), but Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney delves into cycling's greatest scandal in The Armstrong Lie (my review here).
If something appears too good to be true, the saying goes, it probably is. Take Lance Armstrong, who beat cancer to become a cycling superstar, winning the grueling Tour de France a record seven consecutive times. He vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs until January 2013, when he 'fessed up during a tastefully choreographed sit-down with Oprah. By that point, the big reveal wasn't that he'd doped his way to athletic glory — it was that he was finally admitting to it.Read more »