By Ray Pride
Climbing the steep, steep stairs to the top of Navy Pier IMAX to see “The Walk” in 3D, I anticipated, nay, hoped for kinetic, gyroscopic, balletic, vertiginous acrophobia, soaring sensation, but dammit, only a few minutes into the movie the sensation that occurred, recurred, resonated until the very end, was only a modest sinking feeling.
Robert Zemeckis’ astute, painstaking deployment of the widescreen frame is one of the most consistent technical accomplishments by a contemporary American filmmaker, but the story here is overripe with a forlorn eagerness to please. Read the rest of this entry »
The streamlined storytelling of Pixar’s “Inside Out,” directed by Pete Docter (“Up”), startles for many reasons, but most for the ease with which it executes its improbable premise—“mind workers,” or cartoon figures inside the head of eleven-year-old Riley, and how they define her emotional state—and makes it wholly accessible and very, very funny. Reportedly informed by extensive research with scientists in multiple fields, “Inside Out” is provocative about how emotions and memories drive the other characters as well. The quick glimpses inside Riley’s mother and father’s minds are terrific, too, and the device culminates in one of the most hilarious, logical, inspired, nearly perfect final scenes ever. Read the rest of this entry »
(Adieu au langage 3D) Roxy Miéville: superstar. With querulous, dark, liquid eyes, and a torso that extends from the back of the screen and a long, aquiline nose that juts out over the audience and nearly to your fingertips to be petted, the sleek, sniffulous mutt owned by Jean-Luc Godard is the most lustrous of special effects in his hectic, cryptic 3D provocation, “Farewell to Language.” Working with cinematographer Fabrice D’Aragno over the course of four years, the now-eighty-four-year-old Godard wreaks multidimensional effects other filmmakers wouldn’t dare, often created with only a couple of small consumer cameras strapped together and wielded by the filmmaker himself. Read the rest of this entry »
Admirers of “Lord of the Rings” left with lingering dissatisfaction from the most recent “Hobbit” movie, “The Desolation of Smaug,” should be pleased that director Peter Jackson wastes no time in the “Hobbit”’s final installment, transforming a meager amount of J. R. R. Tolkien’s source material into an impressive confrontation of gratifying saga-scale proportions. We’re thrown right back into the chaos where we were left hanging: Smaug awakened from his slumber, then descending from the mountain as Bilbo and his companions can do little more than watch as the dragon lays waste to Lake Town. The opening of “Battle of the Five Armies” is apocalyptic, engulfed in fire then darkness, all before the opening credits. When the smoke clears, split alliances of every race of Middle Earth clamor to stake claim to the now-vacated mountain. Read the rest of this entry »
Another Marvel left-field choice of a seemingly unlikely director pays off, in slightly different fashion than “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” directed by the Russo brothers as a politically charged gloss on 1970s paranoia thrillers. Co-writer-director James Gunn’s 2010 no-budget “Super” had its share of appalling violence, but he still manages to thread abrupt violence and casual malice into the huge expanses of the outright comedy and fine sarcasm of “Guardians.” And most of the meanness is funny, after a cartoonish fashion. Any moment that could be drenched in earnestness is either beautiful—a bereft child’s ascension in a beam of light to a spaceship that will wrench him from Earth—or mocked from the get-go. Chris Pratt plays the grown boy, Peter Quill, as a would-be cock-of-the-galaxy who describes himself at one point, hopefully, as “an a-hole, but not one-hundred-percent a dick.” Read the rest of this entry »
No big-budget action film about one kind of apocalypse or another is complete these days without a rapid-fire, melancholic montage at the beginning, invoking the present day, the beginning of these particular end times. “Snowpiercer,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” “World War Z,” and, of course, the end of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011). So it goes with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” In a few fleet images atop a murmurous soundtrack, the deed is done, “simian flu” eradicates nearly all of mankind, and ten years have passed. A few humans, led by a former law enforcement officer played by Gary Oldman, are left in the center of San Francisco, while miles away, up in the mountains, under the trees, a civilization of super-smart apes begins to, well, dawn. Matt Reeves’ skills as a director, and orchestrator of talents, show a fantastic advance from “Cloverfield” and the fine “Let Me In.” Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Bay and his backers have spared no expense with the latest “Transformers” movie, but he can’t help but fall afoul of genre conventions and his usual over-reliance on computer-generated special effects. “Transformers: Age Of Extinction” picks up four years after the big guys left Michigan Avenue and Streeterville in ruins. To keep this from happening again, the feds are now hunting all remaining transformers, good and bad alike. An injured Optimus Prime comes into the possession of financially struggling widower-inventor Cade Yeager, played by Mark Wahlberg. Cade repairs Prime, the government finds out, explosions ensue. We spend the rest of the movie’s punishing 165-minute running time tracking Wahlberg as he tries to keep his daughter (relative newcomer Nicola Peltz) safe from the elite CIA unit that’s hunting them down. Cue robots, car chases, space ships, massive explosions and over-elaborate action sequences. Read the rest of this entry »
Don’t we all want a furious, jumbled intelligence like Doug Liman’s to fashion memorable pop? The director of “Go,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” opens the snap-pop-crackerjack visual static of “Edge of Tomorrow”—a title which sounds like a lost Powell-Pressburger film—with a teeming montage, an immersion more than exposition of how the planet has arrived at apocalyptic war. We’re battling voracious aliens called “Mimics” and a surge on the beaches of France, Operation Downfall, seems to be humanity’s only chance for survival against the onslaught from the edge of the world. The 2013 meteor showers in Russia’s Ural region are one shard of the opening’s epochal busy-ness as is the image of a mute, pop-eyed Wolf Blitzer next to a “United Defense Forces” general played by Brendan Gleeson: a cruel portrait in a fraction of a second.
Read the rest of this entry »
At least one reviewer who’s kept closer watch on the franchise warns, “My advice to you is to not watch the previous ‘X-Men’ films before ‘Days of Future Past’ as the continuity problems will irritate you.” What I can offer is that “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” builds its own relatively coherent adventure without leaving non-aficionados in the dark. In other words, this largely 1970s-set installment functions as a standalone movie, and one that has several unexpected scenes of superhero glee that almost seem criminal to describe, and especially the period songs used to accompany them. Still, there are enough callbacks and hints of futures to come that a preview audience often purred in muted ruffles of chuckles, indicating director Bryan Singer and writers Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman did not neglect a key constituency. Read the rest of this entry »
Monsters! Second-time feature filmmaker Gareth Edwards’ investment in “Godzilla” is a nimble deployment of large-scale movie logic and illogic, spanning decades and bearing an unusually large cast of fine-to-galvanically-fine actors, including Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins. Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein don’t skimp on the nuclear cautions in so many of the twenty-eight Toho Co. “Godzilla” movies, with lovingly murmured mouthfuls like “The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around,” with which Watanabe makes sullen wonder. Add the clean lines of the widescreen images of Seamus McGarvey, cinematographer of “The Avengers,” “The Hours” and “High Fidelity,” and a magisterially sour theme by the compulsively productive composer Alexandre Desplat and you’re talking one slick package. Read the rest of this entry »