Movie Reviews

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.

Kenneth Turan : Roger Ebert doc 'Life Itself' deserves a thumbs up

Critics review films, sometimes they even appear in films, but films are not made about them. Roger Ebert, however, did things his own way, and "Life Itself," a fine and moving new documentary that tells his story, shows us how and why he stood out.

'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: 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.

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.

'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.

'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...

'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.

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.

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.

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."

'They Came Together' a so-so lampoon of boy-meets-girl

Every character in writer-director David Wain's romantic comedy parody "They Came Together" is a type and a joke: the "vaguely but not overtly Jewish" male lead (Paul Rudd), the cutely klutzy female lead (Amy Poehler), the wrong guy for her (Ed Helms), his hot and troubled ex (Cobie Smulders), and...

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...

'Under the Electric Sky' promotes Electric Daisy Carnival

For those lacking the funds, the time or the fake-fur leggings to attend the Electric Daisy Carnival, an annual electronic dance music bacchanal in Las Vegas, the new infomercial-style documentary "Under the Electric Sky," produced by the event's organizers, might suffice.

'Violette' shows French novelist Violette Leduc's daring life

Though its subject was real, the French biopic "Violette" feels more like a thought experiment: What if a brilliant and daring female artist was just as self-indulgent and self-pitying as the vilest of her male counterparts?

'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...

'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.

'La Bare' a feature-length ad for the Dallas male strip club

"La Bare," actor Joe Manganiello's documentary about the Dallas male strip club, gyrates to a familiar tune: the trendy interest in muscled dancers generated by the success of the film "Magic Mike," in which Manganiello appeared.

'Yves Saint Laurent' captures the fashion but not the feeling

"Yves Saint Laurent," the first of two French-made biopics being released this year about the iconic fashion designer, is a stylish, serviceable recounting of Saint Laurent's life from the late 1950s through the '70s. But watchable as it may be, this drama lacks intimacy and urgency. It's also...

Baseball hits a grand slam in 'The Only Real Game'

Mirra Bank's warmhearted documentary "The Only Real Game" drops us into an oasis of play inside a region of hurt: the baseball fanatics of strife-ridden Manipur state in northeast India.

Working-class drama 'Hellion' finds itself in cinematic limbo

No amount of jittery camera work, heavy metal music and explosive violence can erase the feeling that the Texas-based working-class drama "Hellion" is more of a curated exhibit about a broken family than an organically engaging film about one.