Movie Reviews

Kenneth Turan : 'Guardians of the Galaxy's' heroes aren't what you'd expect

Hard as it is to believe, within the memory of those still living, Marvel was not always the movie establishment's billion-dollar behemoth but a scrappy, iconoclastic comic book gadfly. So one of the most pleasant surprises of the altogether pleasant and surprising "Guardians of the Galaxy" is...

'Calvary' takes a funny-serious look at life and death

It takes a moment. As "Calvary" opens, a small-town Irish priest sits to hear a confession. A few beats have likely come and gone before a viewer realizes that the image isn't cutting away, that the audience is being asked to watch a man listen. It's unusual but also unexpectedly riveting.

'4 Minute Mile' signals the fast rise of star Kelly Blatz

Though it has its formulaic elements, "4 Minute Mile" is a finely written and directed sports drama with a lead performance by rising star Kelly Blatz so deep and affecting it often evokes Timothy Hutton's Oscar-winning turn in "Ordinary People."

'Around the Block' comes off as more lecture than drama

The trope of the white teacher who explains to her minority students that poetry was just Shakespeare's way to rap is so self-evidently trite and problematic that even mocking that motif has become something of a cliché. Writer-director Sarah Spillane makes some attempt to sidestep the white-...

'Behaving Badly' certainly does

"Behaving Badly" is a dreadful sex comedy that gets worse and worse as its dopey story snowballs into relative incoherence.

Boredom stifles 'Cabin Fever'

Terrified ethnophobes spouting off about the supposed health danger posed by the displaced Central American child refugees might want to avoid "Cabin Fever: Patient Zero." The third movie in a completely useless horror franchise started by Eli Roth, this slack, dumb prequel posits that the flesh-...

An engaging journey through 'A Five Star Life'

For the fortysomething single woman at the center of "A Five Star Life," luxury travel provides a middle-class income. Her go-go globetrotting brings her to the world's premium resorts, armed with checklist, stopwatch and white gloves, to judge whether they get to keep that all-important fifth star....

'Raw Cut' is more sitcom than thriller

'Raw Cut' is more sitcom than thriller

In "Raw Cut," destitute former trust-fund baby Jack (Christopher Soren Kelly) and wife Amanda (C. Ashleigh Caldwell) arrive on the Wyoming ranch of their nouveau riche college pal Adam (Daniel Ponickly) and his oversexed sugar baby Stephanie (Zoe Quist). The reunion turns out to be a mere salvo...

Gabriel Iglesias in 'The Fluffy Movie,' good fun, standard film

If you've never heard of stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias, it seems you're part of a vanishing breed. The roly-poly performer, self-nicknamed Fluffy, has toured in more than 400 cities around the globe, sold more than half a million concert tickets worldwide and boasts 6 million-plus Facebook...

'And So It Goes' plays too cutesy with Douglas-Keaton match-up

What would "And So It Goes" be without Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton? It's hard to fathom, because even with these star wattage pros, Rob Reiner's senior citizen romantic comedy is about as engaging as a drooling nap on a porch.

Kenneth Turan : Taut 'A Most Wanted Man' showcases Hoffman's final performance

The last we see of Philip Seymour Hoffman in "A Most Wanted Man," he leaves his car and walks out of the frame. As it tragically turned out, he was exiting his acting career as well, and this taut, involving thriller, the late actor's final starring role, is a fitting film for him to leave on, not...

Betsy Sharkey: 'Magic in the Moonlight' is an amusing trifle of a film

In "Magic in the Moonlight," an amusing trifle and sugary truffle of a film, Woody Allen dallies with some of his favorite themes — true romance, magicians and spirituality — and favorite tropes — beautiful women and scenery.

Great cast but 'Very Good Girls' could be better

Screenwriter-turned-director Naomi Foner aims to capture what she calls "mythic" memories in her coming-of-age story "Very Good Girls." But little resonates as persuasive, let alone memorable, in the underwhelming sexual-awakening exploits of two Brooklyn friends. Despite a finely wrought lead...

Eerie 'Come Back to Me' borrows the best shocker bits

"Come Back to Me" is a sufficiently tense and eerie shocker that borrows bits from "Rosemary's Baby," "Psycho," "Paranormal Activity" and others while forging its own path. Writer-director Paul Leyden does a decent job holding our interest as well as providing a few intriguing twists and reveals....

'Le Chef' cooks up a comic fairy tale about what feeds us

"Le Chef" — not to be confused with the current Jon Favreau gastro-hit "Chef" — is an amusing soufflé of a comedy that pokes fun at foodies while honoring the art of those who cook for them.

'Premature' thinks crudeness is a teen's path to success

The "Losin' It" genre of sex-obsessed story lines receives a twist but not the revolution it needs with "Premature," a rapidly wearying comedy that mistakes crudeness with humor.

Betsy Sharkey: 'Begin Again' mends any broken heart in sight

There are many reasons why "Begin Again" continues to have such great staying power against the big guns this summer. Expanding its run in L.A. this weekend, the story is a catchy one, the music is great, and it is flavored by real musicians, including Mos Def, CeeLo Green and a star turn by...

Kenneth Turan : Michel Gondry's 'Mood Indigo' is wildly inventive

To call Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo" visually inventive is not even scratching the surface, something like characterizing Apple as a company that's had a certain amount of success.

Kenneth Turan : 'Planes: Fire & Rescue' soars amid blazing-hot visuals

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" sounds more like a category on Craigslist than the name of a new animated film. But what this Disney feature lacks in the title department it makes up for with fluid visuals and fast-moving action of the, yes, firefighting variety.

Betsy Sharkey: 'The Purge: Anarchy' ups the ante and the gore

"The Purge: Anarchy" is a good deal bloodier, but also — gulp — a good deal better than its predecessor. Make no mistake, a good "Purge" does not equal a good movie, but the post-apocalyptic thriller is slightly more interesting because it takes itself, and its menace, more seriously.

'Wish I Was Here' should have wished for insight

Has it really been 10 years? Are things so different now? Are we? Is Zach Braff's new "Wish I Was Here" a spiritual sequel to "Garden State," his 2004 directorial debut? Answer key: yes, yes, maybe, kind of but not really.

'Closed Curtain' a cry for openness and art in Iran

Since being banned from making films by the Iranian government four years ago, director Jafar Panahi has produced two works of artful defiance. The latter of the two, the self-reflexive, semi-confessional drama "Closed Curtain," finds Panahi weary yet resourceful under severe creative constraints.

'Video Games' just plays at seriously examining the industry

That video games — a technology-driven mix of art, commerce and competition — are here to stay is undisputed. It's now the biggest entertainment industry and an influential culture.

Betsy Sharkey: Director Aaron Fernandez makes 'The Empty Hours' worth the time

"The Empty Hours," Aaron Fernandez's balmy, blissful new film, is about an impressionable 17-year-old Sebastian, a mid-30s Miranda and an aging rent-by-the-hour beach motel nestled on a spare stretch of Veracruz, Mexico, coastline where their paths briefly cross.