Movie Reviews

Betsy Sharkey: 'Whitey' documentary indicts more than just James J. Bulger

The bad guy in "Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger" is ostensibly Bulger. But Joe Berlinger's densely detailed new documentary about the legendary Boston mobster is disturbing on so many levels it's hard not to wonder why Bulger was the only one on trial.

Betsy Sharkey: 'Boyhood' a startling, intimate portrait of a child growing up

There is a telling scene deep inside "Boyhood" that gets at the essential core of the emotional appeal of Richard Linklater's startling new film. It takes place in a rural church with a pastor sermonizing about doubting Thomas and faith and those who believe without seeing.

'Audrey' definitely not worth waiting for

For the title character in "Audrey," an eager-to-please woman in her mid-30s who's smilingly fraught with superstition and anxiety, an all-important, relationship-testing third date becomes instead a testing ground for her self-respect. The comedy unfolds mostly in real time, but its grasp of real...

'The Battered Bastards of Baseball' a fun, true underdog tale

The Portland Mavericks, an independent minor league baseball team that played for five seasons in the 1970s, didn't run with the pack.

'Siddharth' exposes India's tragic, dark truths

Hope is an open wound in "Siddharth," the story of a man's search for his missing son. Taking his inspiration from the firsthand account of a father who was already a year into such a search, writer-director Richie Mehta has made a film of subdued but mounting panic and grief — an...

An easy, enjoyable journey on the 'Road to Paloma'

Though there's nothing terribly profound or unique about actor Jason Momoa's feature writing-directing debut, "Road to Paloma," it does prove an effective throwback to the loose-limbed, my-way-or-the-highway road movies of the "Easy Rider" era.

'Rage' is just another tired Nicolas Cage action film

'Rage' is just another tired Nicolas Cage action film

"Rage" is the latest in a parade of cheesy, derivative action-thrillers that erstwhile A-list actor Nicolas Cage has recently starred in, presumably as a quick cash grab. Why he can't find an equal payday in better pictures is perhaps a less vital question than how exactly the Academy Award-winner...

An inspiring and insightful 'Underwater Dreams'

With the debate over America's unresolved immigration policies at fever pitch these days, the inspiring documentary "Underwater Dreams" makes for quite the timely entry.

Betsy Sharkey: Roman Polanski knows the ropes in 'Venus in Fur'

"Venus in Fur," a whip-smart dissection of gender politics via some teasing S&M, is arch. So arch in fact that it is surprising it's a Roman Polanski film.

'Pleasures of Being Out of Step' a brisk look at Nat Hentoff

Anyone with even a casual interest in jazz knows the name Nat Hentoff. Look on the back of landmark albums like John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" or Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" and you'll see Hentoff's name, along with an articulate essay that will help you understand the music and feel it deeply.

Betsy Sharkey: 'Gabrielle' tale of first love is hard to resist

There is an infectious reality that is not accidental in "Gabrielle," Canadian filmmaker Louise Archambault's story of first love for an engaging young couple, who happen to have intellectual disabilities.

Kenneth Turan : 'A Hard Day's Night' continues to dazzle, 50 years on

It was up for two Academy Awards — original screenplay and adapted score — but amazingly none of the original songs the Beatles wrote for "A Hard Day's Night" was Oscar nominated. There's an oversight for you.

'Cinemanovels' falls short as homage to romantic melodramas

If the romantic melodrama were in need of vindication, it would find a stalwart defender in "Cinemanovels." Writer-director Terry Miles' revisionist homage is a thoughtful thesis on the melodrama but a letdown in its attempt to serve as an affecting example of that genre.

'Girl on the Train' goes off the rails in film noir journey

"The Girl on the Train" aspires to be a film noir in the vein of "The Usual Suspects," but it proves to be a paper-thin plot ornamented with distractions: a nonlinear narrative, unreliable narrators, flatulent dialogue and awkward post-production work.

'Earth to Echo,' an 'E.T.' knockoff, is pleasantly diverting

It's no "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." (What is?) But on its own modest terms, the alien adventure "Earth to Echo" is a lively and likable knockoff that should divert, if not exactly enthrall, tweens and young teens.

'Deliver Us From Evil' thrills with Eric Bana's haunted cop

Buckle up for the ride that is "Deliver Us From Evil," a highly intense and effective mash-up of police procedural and horror show. Boosting the story's thrill quotient is its air of authenticity: The film was inspired by actual paranormal cases described by former New York Police officer Ralph...

Kenneth Turan : 'Begin Again's' music more appealing than its story

Begin Again" is an insistent puppy of a movie, just about willing you to like it. And while it certainly has appeal — you'd have to be a troll to resist it completely — you may end up wanting to enjoy it more than its qualities will allow.

'Redemption Trail' bogs down in excessive restraint

The slow progress of a wound scabbing over and flaking back into smoothness is dramatized in writer-director Britta Sjogren's restrained trauma drama, "Redemption Trail."

'Nothing Bad Can Happen' contradicts itself: It's cruel

With its chapter-heading intertitles and overarching religious theme, director Katrin Gebbe's first feature, "Nothing Bad Can Happen," immediately brings to mind the works of Lars von Trier. But whereas Von Trier has the reputation of a provocateur habitually putting his heroines through various...

Convoluted 'Radio Free Albemuth' succumbs to dated sci-fi plot

"Radio Free Albemuth" is a sluggish, often cheesy sci-fi thriller based on the dystopian novel written by Philip K. Dick ("Blade Runner," "Minority Report") in 1976 and posthumously published in 1985.

Betsy Sharkey: Hurtling along in Bong Joon-ho's train movie 'Snowpiercer'

Survival, when the odds are desperate, breeds a certain mania, a kill or be killed ethos that we've seen played out in countless post-apocalyptic movies. By their very nature, these are dark, depressing, violent affairs beset by plagues, pestilence and all manner of unnatural and otherworldly...

'Code Black' a riveting doctor's-eye view of the emergency room

Anyone who has spent time in an emergency room, regardless of the hospital, knows it can be an exercise in frustration, confusion and Kafka-like bureaucracy, along with the physical and emotional strain of whatever put you there in the first place.

'Bound by Flesh' an absorbing look at famed conjoined twins

Writer-producer-director Leslie Zemeckis examines the strange, tragic, roller-coaster existence of famed conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton in the absorbing, well-crafted documentary "Bound by Flesh."

Kenneth Turan : 'Manakamana' an absorbing, voyeuristic portrait of humanity

Cultural opponents of fast food started a successful slow food movement several years back, and if there is ever a parallel slow documentary trend, the fascinating "Manakamana" could be classified as Exhibit A.

Review: 'Citizen Koch' is pure advocacy documentary

A lathering place for liberals, the money-in-politics documentary "Citizen Koch" arrives in theaters already juiced by conspiracy-minded controversy: a slated PBS airing that was pulled, many believe, because of skittishness over upsetting one of the movie's shadow villains, billionaire...