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Ty Burr
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  • Ty Burr

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  • Coming of age film is for the birders

    ** A Birder's Guide to Everything A coming-of-age comedy-drama about a shy birding fanatic (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who might have spotted an extinct Labrador Duck. Sweet as pie; also blandly written, acted, and directed, with strained attempts at raucous teen comedy. But it gets the birds right, and Ben Kingsley as a local legend helps lift the movie off the ground. (86 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)(   04/10/2014 4:41 PM )

  • What's 'Under the Skin'? Intrigue.

    *** Under the Skin A pretty good "Twilight Zone" idea -- a beautiful alien (blank-faced Scarlett Johansson) stalks Scotland searching for male prey -- is given a visionary midnight movie treatment by director Jonathan Glazer. The movie's a cinematic puzzle that snaps together surprisingly easily yet whose larger meanings remain tantalizingly out of reach. (108 min., R) (Ty Burr)(   04/10/2014 4:38 PM )

  • Fluid borders in documentary 'Watermark'

    *** Watermark "How does water shape us and how do we shape water?" That's the stated task of the new conceptual documentary from Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky ("Manufactured Landscapes"). The film hopscotches the globe to look at the fluid border between humanity and its most precious commodity. It's a gorgeous (if slightly unfocused) warning. (92 min., PG) (Ty Burr)(   04/10/2014 4:00 PM )

  • Anita Hill looks back in new documentary

    *** Anita Frieda Mock's documentary about Anita Hill, encompassing Hill's 1991 testimony about future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's alleged workplace misbehavior and her life as a law professor today, is a laudatory portrait of a reluctant spokesperson growing into her stature. The first half is useful history, the second long on praise and short on issues. (95 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)(   04/03/2014 4:03 PM )

  • Documenting an unfilmed 'Dune' and its influence

    Is Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Dune" the most influential movie never made? Late in the lively, anecdote-strewn documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune," director Frank Pavich enumerates the ways. The swordfights in "Star Wars," the cyborg POV in "The Terminator," the galaxy-spanning opening shot of "Contact" -- all were prefigured in the massive "Dune" storyboard book that circulated through studio suites in the mid-1970s. The core creative team all went on to work on 1979's "Alien," with H. R. Giger's designs for the creatures and sets dictating the dark look of movie science fiction for decades to come. Without Jodorowsky's "Dune," no "Blade Runner," no "Matrix"? Pavich makes a fascinating case, but his movie's much better at making you wish Jodorowsky's version -- "a massive asteroid that just missed Earth," in the words of one onlooker -- had come to fruition.(   04/03/2014 4:03 PM )

  • Von Trier, part 2: pain and pleasure

    *** Nymph()maniac: Vol. 2 In which Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the over-sexed heroine of "Vol. I," grows into a distraught adulthood, replacing pain for the pleasure she no longer feels. Less focused than the first part, but director Lars Von Trier still explores the intersections of bliss and shame, social duty and self-indulgence with grim artistry. With Stellan Skarsgård and Willem Dafoe. (123 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)(   04/03/2014 4:03 PM )

  • Movie review: 'Ernest & Celestine' enchantingly animated

    ***1/2 Ernest & Celestine An Oscar nominee and winner of France's César for best animated film, this tale of a misfit bear and an artistic mouse finding companionship and love is a Gallic delight. It's touching, funny, and almost magically beautiful to look at. And, like bears, it has bite. In French, with subtitles, or dubbed; check screening times. (80 min., PG) (Ty Burr)(   03/27/2014 4:08 PM )

  • Movie Review: In 'Noah,' a hard rain

    **1/2 Noah Equal parts ridiculous and magnificent, Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic elaborates on the Book of Genesis with subplots, additional characters, Russell Crowe as a fearsome patriarch, and computer-generated effects that would have Cecil B. DeMille drooling. The parts of "Noah" that don't work really, truly don't. But the parts that do almost sweep you away in the flood. (138 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)(   03/27/2014 4:00 PM )

  • Arnold and company do damage in stupid, sadistic 'Sabotage'

    The new Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle "Sabotage" is stupid, sadistic, misogynistic, confusing, and more than a little ridiculous. Here's the thing, though: It keeps you watching, if only to see how tortured the plot or characters are going to get. I'm not sure that "entertainingly awful" is a recommendation, but the shoe fits. It helps that some A-list talents are involved. Well, A-minus anyway. Director David Ayer, who co-scripted with Skip Woods, wrote Denzel Washington to an Oscar in "Training Day" and made a more than credible directorial debut with 2012's "End of Watch." Call "Sabotage" a case of sophomore slump, then, although sophomore sludge is more like it.(   03/27/2014 4:00 PM )

  • Movie review: 'The Lunchbox' is Indian food for the soul

    ***1/2 The Lunchbox A hot lunch is mis-delivered from a neglected wife (Nimrat Kaur) to a lonely widower (Irrfan Khan); letters and something that might be love ensue. A humanist fable from India, the film is actually a romance in the old-school tradition, a "Brief Encounter" transposed to the rhythms and flavors of modern-day Mumbai. Charming and, in its quiet way, revolutionary. (104 min., PG) (Ty Burr)(   03/20/2014 6:00 PM )

  • Movie review: 'The Lunchbox' is Indian food for the soul

    ***1/2 The Lunchbox A hot lunch is mis-delivered from a neglected wife (Nimrat Kaur) to a lonely widower (Irrfan Khan); letters and something that might be love ensue. A humanist fable from India, the film is actually a romance in the old-school tradition, a "Brief Encounter" transposed to the rhythms and flavors of modern-day Mumbai. Charming and, in its quiet way, revolutionary. (104 min., PG) (Ty Burr)(   03/20/2014 4:06 PM )

  • Movie review: 'Face of Love' looks back, sees double

    **1/2 The Face of Love Annette Bening plays a chic Los Angeles widow who loses her marbles after meeting her dead husband's double (Ed Harris). The kind of movie they don't make anymore, with Bening channeling the spirit of Joan Crawford; it's a great performance in a movie that's not sure what to do with it. A fine guilty pleasure nevertheless. (92 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)(   03/20/2014 4:06 PM )

  • Movie review: Von Trier's tenderness as shocking as the sex in 'Nymph()maniac: Vol. 1'

    "Nymph()maniac: Vol. 1," Lars von Trier's latest shot across the ramparts of taste is the saga of a teenage sex addict (newcomer Stacy Martin) as told by her older, more bruised self (Charlotte Gainsbourg). From title on down, the movie is calculated to shock, but what's most disquieting is how funny, tender, thoughtful, and truthful it is, even as it pushes into genuinely seamy aspects of onscreen sexuality. Von Trier's exploration into how we punish ourselves with pleasure, and why, is as more metaphysical than physical: It's a turn-on, but not that way. OK, maybe that way, too. Christian Slater and Uma Thurman turn in emotionally naked supporting performances; Shia LaBeouf is mostly just naked. With Stellan Skarsgård.(   03/20/2014 4:06 PM )

  • Betrayal and trust in the West Bank

    "Omar," one of this year's nominees for the best foreign language Oscar, is set in the moral quagmire that is the occupied West Bank, but it's told with a stark, pitiless clarity that leaves you with fewer answers than before. A pilgrim's progress in reverse, it follows an idealistic young hero (charismatic newcomer Adam Bakri) on a trajectory in which everything he knows and trusts is stripped away, and it suggests that this is simply what it means to be Palestinian in Israel. Written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad (2005 Oscar nominee "Paradise Now"), the film is humanist instead of political, plot-driven rather than a polemic; it moves like a thriller and lands like a punch. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles.(   03/20/2014 4:05 PM )

  • 'Divergent' plays to fans of disposable dystopia

    ** Divergent The adaptation of Veronica Roth's sci-fi fantasy novel is almost good enough to make you forget what a cynical "Hunger Games" knock-off it is. Director Neil Burger ("The Illusionist") improves on the book with intelligence and visual flair before the overplotting and sequel-mongering take over. With Shailene Woodley, likeable but miscast in the lead, Theo James, Ashley Judd, and Kate Winslet. (139 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)(   03/20/2014 4:00 PM )

  • Movie review: Wes Anderson's imagination checks into 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

    With "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Wes Anderson is up to his old tricks but with a magnanimous new confidence that feels like a gift. Set in the fictional country of Zubrowka between the wars, it's the story of a world-class concierge named Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, achingly fine), his adoring acolyte Zero (Tony Revolori), and the hive of intrigues, subplots, and character actors that buzz around them in all directions as the international stormclouds gather. It's a lovely film, steeped in a vanished world, and if it doesn't quite tap the emotional depths of "Moonrise Kingdom," it offers countless delights of its own. Among the players: Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, and lonesome Bill Murray.(   03/14/2014 5:22 PM )

  • Kickstarting a return for 'Veronica Mars'

    They're calling "Veronica Mars" a movie, but no matter which way you squint at it, it's a TV show. This is very good news for fans of the original 2004 - 2007 suspense-comedy series about a girl detective, but, in practical terms, it's irrelevant to anyone else. Veronica (Kristen Bell) has fled the sleepy, corrupt town of Neptune, CA, to go to law school but events in Neptune yank her back: Ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is accused of murdering his rock-star girlfriend. Creator-director Rob Thomas treats the occasion as a Very Special Reunion rather than a chance to expand the show visually or thematically. If you're among the converted, the movie's proof that you can go home again -- if you're willing to pony up on Kickstarter.(   03/14/2014 3:23 AM )

  • A need for a lot more than speed

    "Need for Speed," a tricked-up, morally dubious videogame spin-off about driving really, really fast while cops and citizens crash into trees behind you, is made possible by three things: The success of the "Fast and Furious" series, the rise of "Breaking Bad" co-star Aaron Paul, and a 1971 vroom-vroom classic called "Vanishing Point." If you know your muscle cars and supercars and don't care too much about other people, the movie will be your bottle of Yahoo, so pardon the rest of us if we look on these self-absorbed camshaft brats and wish them a speedy flat tire. Paul will survive but he's an actor who needs comedies, dramas, and other slow-moving vehicles. With Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, and an absurdly manic Michael Keaton. In 3D.(   03/13/2014 4:01 PM )

  • '300' takes a sidetrip, in 3-D

    "300: Rise of an Empire" is a belated 3-D sequel to the 2006 action hit that pioneered a new genre: Ancient Bro History. The focus this time is on Athenian hero Themistocles (Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton) as he tries to keep the Persian invasion at bay during the battles of Marathon, Artemisium, and Salamis while whipping the fractious Greek city-states into, you know, a nation. Basically, if "300" was a pep-talk from Coach on how to lose with dignity, "Rise of an Empire" is an inspirational speech on the value of teamwork. Mostly it's about kicking butt in ultraviolent, heavily computerized battle scenes. With Eva Green as Persian commander Artemisia, seducing Themistocles like the class bad girl jumping a high school jock.(   03/10/2014 1:05 PM )

  • 'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me' looks at the grand old broad of Broadway

    "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me," a fine new documentary by Chiemi Karasawa, deals with the 89-year-old stage star's final cabaret show and subsequent retirement to Michigan. Stritch is the Grand Old Broad of Broadway, and the movie's a portrait of tough yet vulnerable woman fighting age with everything she's got, giving in, getting scared, fighting some more. She's a diva, but over the years Stritch seems to have learned that the only way to deal with that is honestly. So she's a paradox: a diva with no illusions about herself. Interviewees include Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, and the late James Gandolfini, who muses that if he and Stritch had been the same age, they might have had a great, messy affair.(   03/06/2014 6:00 PM )

  • Miyazaki's swan song? It's complicated.

    If "The Wind Rises" is Hayao Miyazaki's final film, as the great Japanese animator has claimed, it also may be his least typical. "Typical" isn't a word usually associated with Miyazaki, whose work encompasses timeless children's classics, surreal folk-lore fantasies, and aeronautic pigs. But he has never tackled a real-life subject before, and "The Wind Rises" is -- on the face of it, anyway -- a biopic about Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of Japanese fighter planes used during WWII. Should you see it? Of course: Anything Miyazaki does is worth your time. But the movie's a gorgeous, problematic anomaly in an illustrious career -- a case of rapturous artistic blindness. The excellent English dub includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Werner Herzog(!) among the voices.(   03/06/2014 4:03 PM )

  • Treasure, mushrooms, and 'A Field in England'

    "A Field in England" is the latest and most fiercely strange film from Ben Wheatley ("Kill List," "Sightseers"), who is himself the most fiercely strange filmmaker currently working in England. A black-and-white psychological horror drama, set during Britain's 17th century Civil Wars and involving buried treasure and hallucinogenic mushrooms? All in a days work for Wheatley and his co-scripter wife Amy Jump. Four men flee from battle to a rural meadow where a lordly malefactor (Michael Smiley) forces them to dig for gold. It's about shifting power games, mostly, and suggests a period film made by Samuel Beckett in one of his more playful moods. At times the film threatens to buckle at the seams under the assault of audiovisual wackness. With Reece Shearsmith.(   03/06/2014 4:03 PM )

  • Movie review: 'Jimmy P.' is not ordinary therapy film

    In Arnaud Desplechin's odd, moving "Jimmy P." -- subtitled "Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian" after the 1951 case history on which it's based -- Benicio del Toro plays a World War II vet and member of the Montana Blackfeet Nation who's plagued by visions and dreams. Unable to treat him, doctors at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka bring in an ethnologist named Georges Devereaux (Mathieu Amalric, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"), himself in exile from his native Hungary, and the two men struggle to find common ground over a great divide. Avoiding the usual therapy-drama story beats, Desplechin has made a densely satisfying drama about Freud, racism, and sympathy in its largest sense. With Misty Upham and Gina McKee.(   03/06/2014 4:03 PM )

  • A French documentary that forges a sense of timelessness

    "Cousin Jules" is one of those experiences that's rooted in the past yet feels very much of the moment. Even the film's appearance in 2014 is a joke played on history. Shot over five years in the Pierre-de-Bresse area of Burgundy, Dominique Benicheti's documentary about an elderly farmer, Jules Guiteaux, won the top prize at the 1973 Locarno Film Festival and promptly dropped from sight. Who would expect a slow, uninflected, non-narrative portrait of French peasants to find a theatrical release? Four decades on, this exquisitely shot movie fits right in to the school of Slow Cinema. Benicheti alternates between macrocosm and microcosm, giving us painterly images of the landscape before focusing on the small, momentous act of sewing a button on a shirt. In French with subtitles.(   03/05/2014 9:13 AM )

  • Liam Neeson braces for 'Non-Stop' suspense and mid-air mayhem

    Is there an actor who has ever looked more miserable about kicking butt than Liam Neeson? In "Non-Stop," the star's latest effort as the thinking man's Chuck Norris, he plays a US Marshal who receives threatening text messages while working a New York-to-London night flight. The faceless culprit wants $150 million wired into an offshore bank account or he'll kill a passenger every 20 minutes. A cross between a drawing room mystery and an airplane-of-fools drama, the movie's preposterous, complicated, and a fair amount of fun until it tries to make sense in the final ten minutes. Big mistake, Featuring a broad range of character types played by a rogue's gallery of talent: Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery from "Downton Abbey," Lupita Nyong'o, Corey Stoll.(   03/01/2014 8:12 PM )

  • In 'Monuments Men,' battling Adolf Hitler, art thief

    Where's the art? That's the mystery that propels the plot of "The Monuments Men," a WWII drama about a ragtag team of curators in uniform searching for Nazi troves of stolen paintings and statuary. Sadly, it's also the question bedeviling the movie itself. How can this be? George Clooney has proved he can direct and write as well as act, and the cast seems bullet-proof: Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, and that's for starters. It's a great story, and much of it's true. The movie should work like a pip. Instead, "The Monuments Men" is a labored mishmash of tones: Half "Hogan's Post-Doctoral Heroes," half "Saving Private Rembrandt," and half "Ingres's 11." That's three halves, so you can see the problem.(   02/27/2014 9:31 AM )

  • Robocop review: Remake doesn't hold a candle to the original

    Paul Verhoeven's "Robocop" was plenty ahead of its time in 1987, but the new remake, directed without much zest by Brazil's Jose Padilha, is content to simply be of its time. Set a few steps into tomorrow, it opens with a scene of US Army robo-warriors "pacifying" the people of Tehran and closes with a satiric pro-drone warfare speech delivered by a strutting Samuel L. Jackson. In between those pointed bookends, the movie is business as usual: An acceptably muscle-bound B-movie whose few fresh plot twists and solid supporting cast (Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman) are drowned out by dull action choreography and a flavorless lead actor (Joel Kinnaman). But the film doesn't embarrass itself or dishonor its predecessor, which is something.(   02/27/2014 9:31 AM )

  • 'The LEGO Movie' is a real blockbuster

    My fingers rebel, but type it I must: "The LEGO Movie" is the first great cinematic experience of 2014. Shot with a mixture of CGI and stop-motion animation and using 3-D to invite us into its brightly knubbled world, the film is a witty, exuberant series of comic riffs on creativity, and it divides the world into two kinds of people: Those who like to snap things together and keep them there and those who prefer to pull it all apart and start from scratch. The control freaks and the dreamers, in other words, and the movie knows which side it's on. Voice talent includes Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, and Shaquille O'Neal as a tiny plastic Shaquille O'Neal.(   02/27/2014 9:31 AM )

  • 'Three Days to Kill' is fatally flawed

    "3 Days to Kill" is pretty terrible, but it's not really Kevin Costner's fault. He plays a grizzled CIA hitman who learns he has brain cancer and a few months to live so he drops in on his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and ex-wife (Connie Nielsen) in Paris while simultaneously trying to track and kill an international evildoer named The Wolf (Richard Sammel) so his hotsy-totsy agency handler (Amber Heard) will give him an experimental CIA brain cancer cure and -- oh, the hell with it. Every so often a bad movie will become so mind-bogglingly, existentially bad that it turns perversely good. Unfortunately, "3 Days to Kill" isn't that bad. It's just not any good. Too bad. Directed by McG and co-written by Luc Besson.(   02/21/2014 9:48 AM )

  • 'Tim's Vermeer' is a debunker's delight

    Some movies are great because of their artistry; "Tim's Vermeer" achieves greatness -- OK, semi-greatness -- by placing the act of artistic creation itself under a microscope. Texas inventor Tim Jenison tries to replicate "The Music Lesson," by the great 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, using period optics the artist himself may have used. On the surface, the documentary is a debunker's delight: a rigorous, humorous essay on how a sainted artist may have been more ingenious trickster. And it comes to us from a team known for pulling the rug out from under mysteries only to reveal more mysteries and further rugs: The conceptual magic-comedy duo Penn and Teller. Yet the deeper "Tim's Vermeer" takes you, the peskier and more profound the questions get about art, process, and genius.(   02/20/2014 4:01 PM )

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