A shinier, more calculated affair than the 1982 original, even if the bones are mostly the same. And while it's packed with winks for grownups, it's ultimately a kids' movie, designed for a generation of cyborgs who grew up perfecting their selfie game. The addition of cell phones, hashtags, and YouTube will no doubt be inherently horrifying to many adults; it's also a perfectly reasonable and target-audience-appropriate set of updates. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Hollywood's series features B-movies, with the audience marking down clichés on a custom-made bingo card. This month: T-Force, about a rogue group of police robots who rise up against their masters... and the one cybernaut cop MAN ENOUGH to put them down. Hollywood Theatre.
Australian horror movie The Babadook is gonna scare the babadook out of you. Writer/director Jennifer Kent's first feature is incredibly smart and insightful. Here's a horror film that's legitimately good (!), and has thoughts about the hardships of motherhood, the frustration of being a child, and the psychological dangers of tamping down feelings. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters, VOD.
The first live-action film Tim Burton has made without his bauble-spangled muse, Johnny Depp, since 2003, and a refreshing departure from the usual Burton world of guyliner and reaction shots. Big Eyes tells the (sorta) true story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), a plucky single mom who left her boring suburban '50s life for San Francisco, hoping to make it in the city as an artist. She quickly got married to a rich schemer, Walter (Christoph Waltz), whom she reluctantly let take credit for her kitschy paintings of saucer-eyed children—only to see them become a novelty success thanks to Walter's schemes. But as much fun is it is to see Burton warm up his frozen palette and leave goth camp for the sci-fi '50s (his perfect sandbox, strangely), he seems to have broken the knob off his volume control. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
There's no doubt that Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest is very clever about what it says. The question is if it has anything to say. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Once a year for 12 years, director Richard Linklater summoned a cast of actors to film Boyhood, an utterly unique story of an utterly conventional American childhood. Boyhood is set in the 21st century, so there are divorced parents and videogames; it's Texas, so there are guns. It unfolds over 12 years, from 2002 to the present, but there are no title cards to tell you that time is passing—instead, the years are ticked off with pop songs and Harry Potter book release parties, new haircuts and new best friends. The story is fictionalized, but the passage of time is real; the nearly three-hour result is an affecting, heartfelt masterpiece. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Burroughs: The Movie
Howard Brookner's 1983 documentary about William S. Burroughs. Clinton Street Theater.
A big chunk of the striking Citizenfour was shot in Edward Snowden's Hong Kong hotel room, and it's an up-close look at history being made (a seriously up-close look—the hotel room is small). But director Laura Poitras doesn't limit her focus: Pulling in NSA whistleblower William Binney, hacktivist Jacob Appelbaum, the NSA's gargantuan Utah data storage facility, and the Obama administration's unprecedented persecution of those who speak out against it, Citizenfour is an overview of where we are and how we got here—a surveillance state so surreal that Snowden feels the need to remind us "it's not science fiction." ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Dear White People
The central conflict in Dear White People is driven by Sam (Tessa Thompson, AKA Jackie from Veronica Mars!), a fired-up young activist who hosts a satirical radio show where she instructs white people on the nuances of how to behave in a multiracial world. There's entirely too much plot, but Dear White People shines interpersonally, as its characters navigate how race factors into relationships, self-presentation, and group identification. And it doubles as a catalog of how creepy even the most well-intentioned white people can be—if you haven't yet gotten the "don't touch black people's hair" memo, there are some skin-crawlingly effective scenes that will drive the point solidly home. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
"Oh man, I can't fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" Academy Theater.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
A big, loud, pompous retelling of a very familiar story. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Life is pain, even in the gorgeous French Alps. What starts as a perfect family vacation goes hideously awry in Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund's darkly hilarious and/or darkly horrifying tale of a marriage on the rocks. Or maybe that should be "on the slopes"? I don't know. The important thing is that these people are fucked. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A high-intrigue crime story based on a 1996 murder. (If you aren't familiar with the crime itself, I won't spoil it—in the movie's atmosphere of flat menace, it comes as a shock.) In adapting the story to the screen, however, director Bennett Miller (Moneyball) seems so determined to avoid salaciousness that he errs too far in the other direction. Miller's reserve is both commendable and frustrating, and the result is a chilly, distant film that observes its characters without explaining them. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Mark Wahlberg plays a rogue professor who's a dick to everyone, deliberately gambles away small fortunes of his family's money, exploits minorities, abuses his position of authority to bang his hottest student (Brie Larson), and worst of all, doesn't even seem to be enjoying himself. Wahlberg's Jim Bennett is basically Bad Professor (à la a bad lieutenant or a bad Santa), but instead of swearing and swagger, we get dilettantish navel gazing and boo-hoo freshman-year philosophy sermons. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the
Although the shortest film of the entire franchise, this Hobbit sure seems like the doziest. Coming from a filmmaker who is clearly weary of the Epic Elder Statesman crown, the results are a dramatically uneven, technically flabbergasting film, which often feels more dutiful than inspired. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
As an actor, Tommy Lee Jones has been in some of the greatest films in the genre, from Lonesome Dove to No Country for Old Men, but few expected him to start directing great westerns, too: First there was 2005's fantastic The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which slipped under most people's radars and which most people should watch as soon as humanly possible, and now there's the similarly outstanding The Homesman, based on Glendon Swarthout's 1988 novel. Like Three Burials, The Homesman smooths over its pitch-black cynicism with a surprising amount of pitch-black humor—but there's no mistaking the film's central truth that life is hard and unfair and some of us aren't able to handle it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Hunger Games:
Mockingjay Part I
Mockingjay Part I is The Empire Strikes Back of The Hunger Games, which is to say that things don't look good for anyone. Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss finds herself in the cone-shaped underground city of District 13, where the seemingly trustworthy but definitely shifty President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, whose truly bizarre colored contacts distract from what is otherwise a solid performance) is in charge, assisted by game-master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose presence is reassuring, then sad). MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
The Imitation Game
This Alan Turing biopic is a big, sepia-toned war drama designed to make audiences feel things. What it makes us feel, though, is not War Is Hell or Brotherhood Is Eternal or Human Spirit Triumphs Against Impossible Odds. It makes us feel the acute shittiness of a world in which a gay genius kills himself (spoiler) because his sexuality was criminalized by the very government that should have protected and celebrated him. It's the kind of feeling that makes you want to be a little bit nicer to the people around you—a modest end, but a worthy one. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Inside the Mind of Leonardo
A 3D film that "re-creates the mindscape and ideas of mankind's greatest polymath." As befitting Leonardo da Vinci's final wishes, he is played in this film by Doctor Who. Living Room Theaters.
To say too much about the journey of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his small team of astronauts—Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), and two friendly robots (!)—would kneecap Interstellar's eye-widening moments of fear, excitement, melancholy, and above all else, discovery. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Into the Woods
Fellow musical theater dorks: Worry not! This movie is not only true to the original Sondheim production, but is perhaps better on screen, with bigger giants, scarier witches, and more of those woods they're always singing about. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Like the best Keanu Reeves characters, John Wick is a man of few words. He lets his actions speak for themselves. Given that John Wick is an action movie, he ends up saying quite a bit; given that John Wick is a really fucking good action movie, what he says is great. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Movies in Black & White
A series that brings people together to "watch movies and talk about race, featuring guest panelists from the worlds of film, art, and comedy." This time around: Selma, with panelists David Walker, Jason Lamb, and Shawn Levy. Hollywood Theatre.
Muppet Treasure Island
"Muppet Treasure Island is an unqualified triumph. This motion picture is undoubtedly the truest representation of my original intent." —Robert Louis Stevenson, 1893 Hollywood Theatre.
Night at the Museum:
Secret of the Tomb
Exactly one year ago, Ben Stiller was hoping for an Oscar with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Look how well that worked out for him. Various Theaters.
Point and Shoot
A 27-year-old " leaves his home in Baltimore and sets off on a self-described 'crash course in manhood' through the Middle East," filming as he goes. Living Room Theaters.
Longtime viewers of The Daily Show will recognize former Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari as a frequent guest on the program. In 2009, he appeared in a segment that also featured Daily Show contributor Jason Jones pretending to be a spy. It was meant as a joke, but it led, in part, to Bahari's incarceration. The Daily Show's host, Jon Stewart, felt kind of bad about it. So he took a summer off from the show and directed a movie about Bahari, writing the script with J.J. Abrams and casting Gael García Bernal as the Iranian Canadian journalist. Whatever greenness Stewart displays as a filmmaker is offset by his earnestness in telling Bahari's story. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The Skeleton Twins
Is it possible for estranged fraternal twins (Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader) to attempt suicide on the same day? Sure, it's possible, but it isn't especially believable. After Craig Johnson, who previously directed the Northwest-set True Adolescents, establishes this credibility-straining premise, The Skeleton Twins finds its darkly comic groove. KATHY FENNESSY Various Theaters.
The Theory of Everything
A romance about Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), and a not-that-smart movie about a really smart guy. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Chris Rock invited all of his friends to make a movie. And because his friends are Cedric the Entertainer and Jerry Seinfeld and Questlove and DMX, Top Five—like Rock himself—exists at the vibrant intersection of hiphop and stand-up comedy, drawing from both worlds without comment or conflict. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Angelina Jolie's film about Olympian Louis Zamperini's less-than-fantastic times during WWII. Like any smart amateur, Jolie surrounded herself with talent and experience: the Coen brothers adapted the script, and the relatively un-starry cast gives fine performances. She also, perhaps out of hobbling respect, takes very few risks, and the result is an unwavering hagiography. If you want approachability or nuance or anything, go away! Everything here is just totally fucking unbroken, forever. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
As a whole, Jean-Marc Vallée's adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's harshly beautiful memoir works phenomenally well, and at its best, it's as striking and intense as the book. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Woman in Black 2:
Angel of Death
Hey, what's this? Another crappy looking horror movie that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.