Read the best movie reviews for the latest films showing in N Hollywood movie theatres including Regency Theatre North Hollywood, Century 8, and Laemmle NoHo 7.
Years ago when I was a wee lad, I looked forward to the Oscars; my parents would allow me to stay up way past my bedtime and watch what was then a program running a mere 2 ½ hours. I would enjoy the appearances of the “old-time stars” and the opening monologues whether they were delivered by Bob Hope or Johnny Carson; later I would have the same fondness for Billy Crystal’s appearances (and truth be told, I enjoyed David Letterman’s gig).
In accordance with the cinematic drought commonly known as February, these are some of my favorite 2014 releases that were generally neglected by the Oscars—and are well worth a first—or second—look.
American Sniper is a riveting, wrenching drama based on Chris Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Expertly directed by Clint Eastwood from a taut, perceptive script by Jason Hall, American Sniper paints a harrowing portrait of a man committed to serving his country (or as he might see it, saving his country) yet fundamentally unprepared to cope with domestic life on the home front. This isn’t exactly uncharted cinematic territory, (Jeremy Renner’s protagonist in The Hurt Locker had some of the same issues), but, bolstered by stellar performances from Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, this film succeeds in being equally gripping in war or peace.
While some have been waiting for the screen version of Wicked, I guess we’ll have to make do with the anticipated adaptation of Into the Woods. With a beautiful score by Stephen Sondheim and well-crafted screenplay by James Lapine (adapting his own “book”), Into the Woods approaches a beloved story (or two) in a different manner.
A female hiker with bleeding feet howls in the wilderness as one of her ill-fitting boots plunges into the abyss; so begins Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir recounting her efforts to reverse the downward spiral that had become her life by hiking a thousand miles (or more) of the Pacific Coast Trail.
Dispiriting, disappointing, discouraging, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay –Part 1 is my nominee for the non-event of 2014, a film that will be used as ammunition for those who believe that movies are more crassly commercial than ever. In this needlessly protracted preamble to the finale, the only “hunger games’ going on here are the producers’ hunger for your hard-earned money, which supersedes any desire to provide anything resembling satisfying entertainment.
In Christopher Nolan’s ambitious, eagerly awaited, and extremely flawed sci-fi epic Interstellar, Earth is on borrowed time and it’s Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway to the rescue. If that isn’t enough to send your hopes hurtling through the cosmos, let me whet your appetite a little more.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of ignorance) puts Michael Keaton back where he belongs: at the center of a comic, edgy, exhilarating cinematic endeavor that makes full use of his expansive talents. Containing certain parallels that are impossible to ignore, Birdman casts Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a has-been Hollywood actor whose main claim to fame is that he portrayed the superhero Birdman, only to desert the franchise after only two films.
Gone Girl, David Fincher’s eagerly anticipated adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, is the cinematic equivalent of a page-turner…and one whose pages I did indeed turn during the summer.
The Equalizer reunites Denzel Washington and his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for another 1980s television reboot, and a fairly entertaining one at that. If you remember the series with fondness, as I do, you’ll recall it was about retired agent Robert McCall and how he offered help, free of charge, to desperate folks who were usually trapped in life-or-death situations. McCall had, at his disposal, a wealth of experience, contacts, weaponry, and in the hands of that superb actor Edward Woodward, a formidable, occasionally stentorian approach to dealing with miscreants, murderers, and mayhem-makers: “LEAVE HER ALONE—OR I—WILL--KILL--YOU!”
Kevin Kline may not be the first one to admit (except perhaps when pressed--on camera) to his nickname, Kevin De-Kline (spelling mine—I don’t know how he spells it), so it was exciting to learn that he would be gracing the bijous with star turns in two independent films, The Last of Robin Hood and My Old Lady. Both are enjoyed if flawed, and provide glimpses into Kline’s considerable skills as an actor.
The premise of the beautifully acted Love is Strange might remind some viewers of Leo McCarey’s 1937 Make Way for Tomorrow. In that classic drama, an aging couple is forced to live separately with different relatives after they lose their home, and despite the hardships that ensue, what abides is their undying love and devotion.
There’s plenty of action in Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest Marvel cash cow to enter the multiplexes, but what might really win you over is the lighthearted, often funny nature of the enterprise.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a satisfying sequel in practically every way to 1911’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There is no need to fret if you missed the first movie, as the sequel immediately sets the scene with a lethal virus (dubbed the Simian Flu), as well as all kinds of war and civil unrest, leading to devastation all over the world, with the survivors living in fragmented communities—and one community in particular engaged in a very uneasy truce with the intelligent apes who have made the Muir Woods their home.