Movies now in theaters

Time Out goes to the movies to bring you film reviews from the latest showings in theaters and our top critics' picks

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Recommended movies in theaters

Red Army

The Soviet Union produced magnificent hockey players, even as its citizens starved and the Cold War wobbled toward a welcome if uncertain fizzle-out. Gabe Polsky’s Red Army does an energizing, often hilarious job of foregrounding the symbolism of these clean-cut men, shining examples of a superiority that, on the ice, was no mere bluff. Via bizarre footage and masculine choral music, we watch youngsters tumbling through arduous regimes, learning from a poetic and inspired coach (the legendary Anatoli Tarasov) and participating in the mythic showdown at Lake Placid’s 1980 Winter Games, at which the superhuman Russian squad fell, embarrassingly, to an upstart U.S. team that eventually claimed gold. Red Army, though, transcends a typical sports doc when it takes on the schism of heroism at home versus a natural gravitation toward Western freedoms. Defections, along with the elaborate style of Russian play, weren’t met warmly by North American hockey fans. (“They’re not here for the Bolshoi ballet,” one announcer snipes.) Yet these athletes find a way, despite moments of wounded national pride, to push through to dignity, climaxing with the surreal sight of an arena of Detroit Red Wings fans cheering on their all-Soviet A-team. Polsky is sometimes awkward in his questioning, but he spurs his interviewees to serious reflection and even nostalgia. Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

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The Epic of Everest

It is stunningly rare to be offered a quiet adventure these days—sure, there’s a time and place for digital enhancement and furious editing, but for a change, here’s a taste of something dangerous, wild and raw that hasn’t been sensationalized at all. Those seeking a break from the thrills ’n’ spills of such outdoor-adventure movies as 127 Hours or Alive would do well to investigate this 90-year-old treasure, a restoration of Captain John Noel’s 1924 documentary of a British team’s attempt to climb Everest. The expedition famously resulted in the deaths of two now-legendary climbers, George Mallory and Andrew Irving, and there remains controversy as to whether the men ever reached the summit. But while there is some tantalizing footage here of a cliffside rescue, the film’s mood is dreamlike, to say the least. Black-and-white footage of the Himalayan landscape is accompanied here by a beautiful new score from Simon Fisher Turner, featuring understated chamber orchestrations and authentic Tibetan clanging; watching the film is a quietly mesmerizing experience, along the lines of the Popol Vuh soundscapes in Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God. The Epic of Everest was a box-office draw in its time, offering a chance to see the mountains but also peek at the lives of Tibetan peasants, portrayed here as filthy and culturally unsophisticated. That upset the Tibetan aristocracy in Lhasa to such an extent that British-Tibetan relations were partially severed, which in turn mea

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Le Jour Se Lève

Originally heavily censored and then banned in its entirety for being “too demoralizing,” Marcel Carné’s classic work of poetic realism has been released in a glorious 4K restoration that invigorates the original. It also restores several cuts demanded by the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France, including a glimpse of a naked Arletty emerging from her bathtub. More importantly, the credits of Jewish crew members are reinstated, including that of Curt Courant, whose extraordinary cinematography, replete with chiaroscuro lighting and vertiginous shooting angles, prefigures American film noir. The film tracks the inevitable unraveling of factory worker François (Jean Gabin) after he kills the absurd vaudeville entertainer Valentin (Jules Berry), his romantic rival for the affections of Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent) and Clara (Arletty). A series of three flashbacks illuminate the events that precede Valentin’s death, as the police slowly close in on François, cornered and chain-smoking. Following on the heels of the recent restoration of Carné’s epic Children of Paradise, the final result is masterful, leaving only a couple of scenes lingering in slightly fuzzy focus.

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The Theory of Everything

At its best (which is often), director James Marsh’s affecting biopic of the cosmos-rattling astrophysicist Stephen Hawking plays deftly against schmaltz. Hawking, a great wit, has always seen the dark humor in his bodily predicament, the ALS-like disease that began robbing the intellectual explorer of his muscular function as early as his university years. The Theory of Everything embraces that irony: This is a Hawking profile in which you’ll see the wheelchair-bound, speech-impaired scientist happily rolling around his living room dressed up like a Dalek from Doctor Who, his children squealing. More substantially, it’s a movie that delivers science in an approachable Neil deGrasse Tyson–like way, one that might turn young people onto big theoretical ideas—as well as turn them onto the enjoyment of problem solving with the right partner. An early scene has a thoughtful professor introducing ruffled Cambridge student Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) to a lab where all the action happens; it’s a lovely moment of quiet inspiration. The film is filled with snazzy visual metaphors: A swirling cup of coffee becomes a symbol for dark and light matter. A formal dance, where Stephen twirls with the future love of his life, Jane (Felicity Jones), twinkles with glowing lights and a hint of the universe falling into place. The film is their story (the script is largely based on the second of Jane Hawking’s two memoirs), and even though it smooths out some of their domestic unease and eventual d

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Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s overwhelming, immersive and time-bending space epic, Interstellar, makes Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity feel like a palate cleanser for the big meal to come. Where Gravity was brief, contained and left the further bounds of the universe to our imagination, Interstellar is long, grand, strange and demanding—not least because it allows time to slip away from under our feet while running brain-aching ideas before our eyes. It’s a bold, beautiful adventure story with a touch of the surreal and dreamlike, yet it always feels grounded in its own deadly serious reality. It’s hard to talk about the story without ruining its slow drip of surprises. So let’s be vague: Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) lives with his family—his father-in-law (John Lithgow) and two young kids—in a not-too-distant future where living off huge fields of corn is the only business around. Dust storms brew, and there’s an apocalyptic vibe, as if the Depression of the 1930s has been transplanted to a dying Earth. Cooper has a strong bond with his daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), but when the former pilot is given a chance to head a mission into space, he grabs it. It’s all very messianic. This rough-and-ready everyman’s destiny is to join a secret project to save the Earth, directed by the aging professor Brand (Michael Caine). He blasts into orbit in the company of Brand’s daughter (Anne Hathaway) and two other scientists. This is no bus hop to the Moon: Their aim is to slip through a wormhole near S

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National Gallery

Critics' pick

For his latest institutional exploration, the great documentarian Frederick Wiseman turns his inquisitive lens on the employees, patrons and paintings in London’s National Gallery. Time-wise, it’s a midrange production: three hours, longer than cut-to-the-quick features like High School (1968) and Boxing Gym (2010) but shorter than such epic-sprawl tapestries as four-hour-plus Belfast, Maine (1999) and At Berkeley (2013). Stylistically, it keeps with Wiseman’s preference for showing, not telling: no explanatory titles, no talking-head interviews. Just in-the-moment action, observing as the viewing public wanders the galleries and the museum staff—restorers, tour guides, executives—goes about its business. Thematically, however, this is among Wiseman’s densest and best works—one that, after a profoundly emotional start, becomes a much stranger, slippery beast. (Its greatness is cumulative.) The film begins with several heady and moving odes to the viewing public: A museum guide explains to an attentive crowd how a Middle Ages church mural might have seemed alive to its spectators in the dimness of candlelight. (The parallel to cinema is wholly intentional.) A curator discusses with gallery director Nicholas Penny the need to make the various exhibitions—beyond a sure thing like Leonardo da Vinci—more accessible and inviting to the general public. In the most poignant scene (one that a lesser movie would make its tear-jerking finale), a group of legally blind people study Camil

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Nightcrawler

It's no news to anyone who watches TV—especially local crime coverage—that the beat has devolved into a cesspool of gore, jittery witnesses and "hot content." What was once prophetic in movies like Network and Broadcast News is now commonplace. Writer-director Dan Gilroy's supercharged Nightcrawler, a viciously funny film, starts from that premise and wisely avoids making the same points. Instead, it twins the frenetic, sleazy hunt for shocking footage with the career ambitions of a closet psycho who, naturally, rises to the top. Closer in spirit to the media-amplified perversity of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, Nightcrawler feels like a major portrait of a sick, insatiable appetite. The hungry wolf at the center is Louis, impressively played by a wire-thin Jake Gyllenhaal, who right off the bat doesn't feel like your everyday L.A. loner. Bug-eyed, upbeat and frustrated by his nighttime excursions fencing stolen goods, he strolls up to a burning car on the highway, the rescue in progress. As he watches the swarming cameramen (freelancers who provide smut to stations for quick payouts), a light bulb goes off over Louis' head. Soon enough, he's out there with his own camcorder, getting closer than anyone—he nearly runs over a victim with his car—and sneaking through bullet-strewn homes without permission Initially, Nightcrawler plays like a darkly comic how-I-made-it story. Louis marshals an impressive (if slightly cracked) discipline to his new passion.

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Citizenfour

In June 2013, after several months of coded messages back and forth, U.S. security worker Edward Snowden summoned three people to a hotel room in Hong Kong to reveal who he was and what he wanted. Two of the three were journalists: freelancer Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill. The third was documentary maker Laura Poitras (The Oath), who has now turned 
the behind-the-scenes story of Snowden’s revelations into this movie. Her film’s quiet, matter-
of-fact sobriety is as chilling as 
the information Snowden revealed—that the U.S. and U.K. governments were spying on their citizens to an extent beyond most paranoiacs’ wildest nightmares. Even if you know Snowden’s story, it’s doubly striking when heard here, straight from the horse’s mouth and shared for 
the first time. Partly, Citizenfour 
serves as a concise refresher of 
a complicated story that has 
been developing for over a year. 
Poitras offers helpful background, 
opening her film with the testimony of other whistle-blowers and repeated high-up denials of
their allegations. But Citizenfour is at its most eye-opening—and essential—simply as a portrait of the then-29-year-old at a point of absolute no return as he spends almost a week hiding out before disappearing into an entirely new existence. He talks about his motivations, about leaving his girlfriend a note in their Hawaii home saying that he had gone on a long work trip, about cutting all ties with friends and family, about the near-inevitability th

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All movies in theaters now

The Interview

Despite making a career of playing slight variations on the same pasty manchild, Seth Rogen (together with longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg) has consistently leveraged his broad appeal as a vehicle for laughing at the great crises of our times: cancer (50/50), the apocalypse (This Is the End), Zac Efron’s abs (Neighbors). But if Rogen has always been unafraid to go places that most people won’t, The Interview marks the first time he goes to a place that most people can’t: North Korea. Fashioning The Great Dictator and Inglourious Basterds into a cross joint and then lighting it from both ends, Goldberg and Rogen’s second directorial effort follows the hysterically violent misadventures of idiotic talk-show host Dave Skylark (James Franco, hamming it up) and his underachieving producer, Aaron (Rogen). When they land an interview with Skylark superfan Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park), the CIA enlists the bumbling duo to assassinate the world’s most reclusive tyrant. Cut to Pyongyang, where Skylark and Kim are singing Katy Perry’s “Firework” to each other inside the cockpit of a tank. It’s Park’s performance that elevates the premise of a routine SNL sketch into the stuff of a compelling and genuinely radical feature, the actor portraying Kim as an endearingly deranged despot with nuclear daddy issues. But Goldberg and Rogen are most enamored of the idea that Kim’s subjects see him as a living god, and the character’s insecurities soon form the cornerstone of the film’s halfhearted

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Release date: Thursday December 25 2014

Annie

Updating the title character from the Great Depression to the Great Recession, director Will Gluck’s thoroughly modern Annie is a candied corporate fantasia that could only take place in Taylor Swift’s New York. Although the film might have been a fun holiday diversion, its admirably revisionist spirit is undermined by the same proto-Randian contempt for the poor that first defined the story of America’s most optimistic orphan when she was introduced in a 1924 comic strip. Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is now a plucky Manhattan foster child who, after a chance encounter, becomes the live-in ward of an antisocial billionaire (Jamie Foxx, terrific as mayoral candidate Will Stacks). At first, Stacks is literally allergic to poor people—he’s “germophobic”—but after singing a few songs with Annie, he learns that the 99 percent might be human after all. At the very least, they can be domesticated, especially when in the service of a political campaign. As a character, Annie has always reflected the sense of hope that greases the wheels of capitalism. But Wallis’s pathologically upbeat Annie is so divorced from reality that her saga doesn’t inspire optimism so much as it parodies upward mobility. Although the young actor delivers the same rambunctious moxie that defined her performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, her character’s robotic contentedness makes it hard to tell if she is bullish or brainwashed. The default shrillness of the musical’s familiar numbers doesn’t help, but at

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The Babadook

Who would bring a children's book called Mister Babadook, rife with illustrations of toothy terrors peering around bedroom doors, into their home? The answer to that is left deliciously vague in this slow-building, expertly unsettling horror film, but it's probably safe to assume that it wasn't the broken Australian family at the heart of the story. Amelia (Essie Davis), a tired-looking caregiver working in a nursing home, grapples with single motherhood in the wake of a car accident that killed her husband while he was driving her to the maternity ward. Samuel (Noah Wiseman), the surviving child, now six, is stuck in his shrill phase, has a hyperactive imagination and is obsessed with building weapons. These are precisely the wrong people to be reading dark bedtime stories, yet mysteriously, there's the book on the shelf. And there goes your peaceful night's sleep. Maybe the better question is: Who thinks up a film like The Babadook? Actor turned debuting feature director Jennifer Kent has the narrative chutzpah to show her entire hand in the pop-up story and then make us squirm as foretold events come true. Even more impressively, Kent (expanding richly on her 2005 short, "Monster") doesn't shy away from Amelia's off-putting mental state, an internal battle between parental love and palpable resentment. (Young Sam will always be a reminder of her marital loss.) The Babadook is female-centric in ways that other horror movies, while often dominated by tough "final girls," rar

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Inherent Vice

Ever since Boogie Nights, the untamable Paul Thomas Anderson has thrilled us with the mania of self-made men—porn stars, game-show hosts, oil prospectors and cultists. Now, for a change, the director grabs you by the nose: Inherent Vice, Anderson's sexy, swirling latest (based on Thomas Pynchon's exquisite stoner mystery set at the dawn of the '70s), is a wondrously fragrant movie, emanating sweat, the stink of pot clouds and the press of hairy bodies. It's a film you sink into, like a haze on the road, even as it jerks you along with spikes of humor. "Go back to the beach, you smell like a patchouli fart," growls Josh Brolin's flat-topped L.A. detective, Bigfoot Bjornsen, to our dazed hero, Doc (Joaquin Phoenix), an unlikely private eye but one you can't help rooting for. We're in a semifictionalized version of California, sort of like the real thing but scented with hallucinogenic behavior, weird restaurant menus and Manson-era paranoia. (Maybe that's not so altered at all.) Inherent Vice is the first time that Pynchon's elaborately dense prose has made it to the screen, and for good reason. With this novel, a recognizable thrust could be seen: an us-versus-them hippie fantasia decked out in the trappings of noir. Anderson doesn't so much adapt the book as hawk it up on the screen proudly, in faithful chunks. (His screenplay is said to have received the author's blessing.) And the movie he's ended up with is astounding: literary, loose-limbed and simply impossible to make h

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It's a Wonderful Life

The only Yuletide favourite to pivot around an attempted suicide, Capra’s post-war fable is a fascinating melange of social and personal impulses and the questionable charms of home. James Stewart is impeccable as George Bailey, the Bedford Falls boy-next-door whose dreams are continually deferred by the demands of family and national upset: rather than exploring and building new worlds, he runs a building society, marries and raises children. Mapping his frustrations and joys onto the contours of recent US history, It’s a Wonderful Life puts individual and group interests in tension. Denied the opportunities for individualist enterprise that are the stock in trade of American cinematic heroism, George is pulled towards communal effort and self-effacement. Yet the film’s bravura fantasy sequence, imagining the hellishly licentious Bedford Falls that would exist without George, makes the grandest possible case for the importance and uniqueness of individual agency—Battleship Potemkin this ain’t. Funny, compelling and moving.

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Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus, more so than any other episode of the Old Testament, is a story that exists in order to be retold. While most of the major milestones on the Jewish calendar are observed via one-way conversation with God, only on Passover do we so explicitly recite history to each other. By that logic, I can’t fault Ridley Scott for wanting to stage a version of this saga, just as I can’t ignore the fact that my dad tells the same tale every spring, but much more engagingly, in half the time and drunk on Manischewitz.  Framing the story as a parable about how the men who lust for power are often the least equipped to wield it, Exodus: Gods and Kings begins in medias res, introducing Moses (Christian Bale) as a reluctant hero and a nonbeliever until his past comes to light and he’s banished by his adoptive brother, the paranoid Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton: bald, bronzed and palpably uncomfortable in the role long before God starts to make his skin blister). Recalling the truncated theatrical cut of Scott’s 2005 Kingdom of Heaven (but absent that movie’s raw promise), Exodus plays like a miniseries that’s been disemboweled of its drama and imagination with a butter knife. The handful of revisionist touches that survive to the screen are enough to make you glad there aren’t more: Instead of parting the Red Sea, Moses watches it wipe out the pursuing Egyptians in a single CG tidal wave, a glaring reminder that iconography doesn’t endure for thousands of years by accident. The ultimate t

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Mr. Turner

Twice before, first with Topsy-Turvy and then with Vera Drake, Mike Leigh has punctuated his bittersweet studies of contemporary life with period dramas. Now, with Mr. Turner, the British director of Naked and Secrets & Lies takes us back to the 19th century and the later years of the celebrated, groundbreaking, difficult painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Sad and joyful, Mr. Turner offers a wonderfully rich tapestry of experience, digging deeply into a complicated, contradictory life. Timothy Spall—a veteran of Leigh’s films—plays this eccentric, determined London bohemian like a bronchial, cantankerous, randy old toad with a bad back. He grunts and grimaces and gropes through life. Leigh, meanwhile, explores Turner’s life unburdened by any sense of purpose other than an intense, contagious fascination with this man, his work and, increasingly, the inevitable, slow, irresistible trudge toward death. We observe Turner’s fondness for his elderly father; his sexual relationship with his meek housekeeper (Dorothy Atkinson); his rejection of his children and their mother; his arm’s-length acceptance by the lions of the Royal Academy; his late-life relationship with a Margate widow (Marion Bailey); and the mockery of the crowd when his work turns experimental. “Vile” and a “yellow mess” concludes Queen Victoria at an exhibition. The presence of royalty in a Mike Leigh film is just one of its many welcome surprises. Mortality hangs heavily over Mr. Turner, which covers roughly 25 y

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Nightcrawler

It's no news to anyone who watches TV—especially local crime coverage—that the beat has devolved into a cesspool of gore, jittery witnesses and "hot content." What was once prophetic in movies like Network and Broadcast News is now commonplace. Writer-director Dan Gilroy's supercharged Nightcrawler, a viciously funny film, starts from that premise and wisely avoids making the same points. Instead, it twins the frenetic, sleazy hunt for shocking footage with the career ambitions of a closet psycho who, naturally, rises to the top. Closer in spirit to the media-amplified perversity of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, Nightcrawler feels like a major portrait of a sick, insatiable appetite. The hungry wolf at the center is Louis, impressively played by a wire-thin Jake Gyllenhaal, who right off the bat doesn't feel like your everyday L.A. loner. Bug-eyed, upbeat and frustrated by his nighttime excursions fencing stolen goods, he strolls up to a burning car on the highway, the rescue in progress. As he watches the swarming cameramen (freelancers who provide smut to stations for quick payouts), a light bulb goes off over Louis' head. Soon enough, he's out there with his own camcorder, getting closer than anyone—he nearly runs over a victim with his car—and sneaking through bullet-strewn homes without permission Initially, Nightcrawler plays like a darkly comic how-I-made-it story. Louis marshals an impressive (if slightly cracked) discipline to his new passion.

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Gone Girl

Transformed into the kind of wickedly confident Hollywood thriller you pray to see once in a decade, Gillian Flynn's absorbing missing-wife novel emerges—via a faithful script by the author herself—as the stealthiest comedy since American Psycho. It's a hypnotically perverse film, one that redeems your faith in studio smarts (but not, alas, in local law enforcement, tabloid crime reporting or, indeed, marriage). No secrets will be revealed here, apart from an obvious one: Director David Fincher, also the maker of Seven, Zodiac and The Social Network, is more than just your everyday stylish cynic. Five years of matrimony haven't been kind to the Dunnes, a pair of formerly dazzling NYC writers rocked by layoffs, family illness and a resentful move to a Missouri dead zone. We learn this early on, after the disaster that kicks off the movie: Nick (Ben Affleck, never better) stops home after a neighbor phones him about his cat that's slipped out the front door. Inside, he finds shattered glass everywhere but no Amy (Rosamund Pike, delivering a ghostly yet dominant turn that's the year's biggest surprise). Has she been snatched? Cops gather, along with news trucks, Amy's snobby Manhattan parents and a dawning sense of media frenzy in need of a culprit. Nick, who's a touch too aloof, comes in handy in this regard. Toggling between the developing investigation and flashbacks to the couple's happier days in a Brooklyn brownstone (as did Flynn's original structure), Fincher brews an om

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Boyhood

Looking at it one way, Boyhood represents a spectacularly cheap way of saving on actors’ salaries: To capture his rambling yet absorbing Texas family drama, director Richard Linklater (Bernie, Before Midnight) received agreements from several performers—including his eight-year-old daughter, Lorelei—to shoot a movie with them over 12 years in dribs and drabs. Teenage voices drop, waists thicken and, in one turn nobody could have predicted, moppet Ellar Coltrane, playing the younger child of a divorced couple, develops into a magnetically internal student and heartbreaker. Cool as it sounds, this long-game gimmick doesn’t automatically guarantee profundity. Linklater, the least pretentious and most relaxed of American filmmakers, would probably say so himself. But amazingly, depth is what he achieves, by letting the years play out in an uninterrupted three-hour flow, and lingering on moments that most films would cut for pace. Boyhood feels unprecedented in its intimacy; the process is quietly radical (with a hat tip to François Truffaut’s 20-year Antoine Doinel series that began with The 400 Blows in 1959), but the unassuming script even more so. We’re introduced to the clan in impressionistic bursts. Olivia (Patricia Arquette), a single mother heading back to college, preps her kids for relocation to Houston, while cool dad Mason (Ethan Hawke) shows up in a muscle car on weekends for trips to the bowling alley. You root for their reconciliation, but the plot has other plans,

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Comments

1 comments
Linda R
Linda R

What kind of movie list is this? I want to see an alphabetical list of reviews for movies currently in theaters. This is just a mishmash