Give J.J. Abrams credit for stones the size of bowling balls, because he practically gift-wraps the pike on which his science-fiction thriller 'Super 8' could be skewered. Early in the film, aspiring middle-school filmmaker Charles (Riley Griffiths) explains to his pal, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), why he has added new scenes to the zombie movie they're shooting with Charles' Super-8 camera. It can't be just about the creatures, Charles quotes from the screenwriting books he's been brushing up on; you have to care about the characters, so that you want them to live. Grade: B.
Midnight in Paris is a love letter to the city at night and the nostalgia for bygone days, but it realizes, even as it celebrates these elements, especially the past, that there is a trap in falling for the romance and old-fashioned romantic notions. Nostalgia, we are told, is denial of the present, the harsh realities, the swift movement forward that actually obliterates the now and seeks to erase everything that has come before.
Brilliantly constructed from the bountiful narrative fabric of Wajdi Mouawad's complex stage play about a familial legacy passed down from a mother to her fraternal twins, 'Incendies' is one of the most powerful dramas ever conceived. Grade: A.
"Best. Comic Book Movie. Evah!” So my inner fangirl is screaming at the moment as she does a little happy Snoopy dance. “X-Men: First Class is totally awesome!” The cooler, more rational part of my brain is looking upon that inner fangirl with something like indulgent, affectionate pity.
You might have seen various re-creations of pioneer journeys, but chances are you’ve never seen the stark realities of that kind of journey given the existential weight of Kelly Reichardt’s 'Meek’s Cutoff.' Screenwriter Jon Raymond draws from a real-life historical tale: an Oregon-bound wagon train led by guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) in 1845 that took an alternate route to the well-traveled Oregon Trail. Dissent soon begins to simmer, however, as the pioneers begin to suspect that Meek doesn’t really know where he’s going. Grade: A-.
Grand-scale animated spectacle in an atmosphere of China's exotic natural beauty is part and parcel to DreamWorks Animation's winning sequel to the 2008 original. Although the filmmakers only take full advantage of the film's 3-D aspect once to allow Jack Black's panda character Po to discharge dumplings across the fourth wall, the animation is gorgeous. Grade: B.
The comedic premise of the 2009 original was pure genius, executed with minimal imagination; it was like teenagers blessed with the power of invisibility who could only think to sneak into the girls’ locker room. This version copies the formula, to the same effect. Grade: C-plus.
Although not as witty in plot design as debut director Giuseppe Capotondi imagines, The Double Hour is an atmospheric suspense thriller that succeeds on the strength of its two leading actors. Grade: B-.
On the Oregon Trail in 1845, a wagon train of three families led by the mountain man Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) is perilously lost, even though none are yet fully aware of that fact. It’s here that director Kelly Reichardt’s film begins. Actually, Meek’s Cutoff opens in silence, or, more accurately, with the sounds that become prominent in the absence of conversation.
There’s nothing particularly strange about the latest outing of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Granted, many seemingly key elements have changed, yet there’s the sense that the general proceedings have remained more than vaguely familiar, which is not necessarily a good thing. Grade: D-plus.
Mel Gibson's cinematic mea culpa might not equate to a public apology to the countless people he's insulted in recent years. Still, and more importantly to moviegoers, the embattled actor turns in a memorable performance as a suicidal character grasping for straws in 'The Beaver.' Grade: B-.
How writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez got upper-crust actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Julianne Moore to take part in this unmitigated flop is a mystery. Everything about this movie is off. Grade: D.
There’s a sense of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants vibe to the approach of documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. In the case of 'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,' Spurlock entices several leading national brands to chain themselves together with him with often amusing results. Grade: B-.