Yes, filmmaker Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) spent 12 years--off and on--shooting this coming-of-age tale. Instead of being gimmicky, though, the film is comfortingly real and quietly observational. We simply watch as young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grows from age 5 to age 18 and experiences all that life throws at him. His parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) are divorced, and he drifts from video games to ogling lingerie catalogues to dealing with awful stepparents to navigating high school. The free-flowing narrative never tries to impose a "story" on the proceedings--and yet it's never dull. Instead, it's a lesson in regression for audiences as they recall all the funny, sad, rough, joyous, confusing moments that make up pre-adulthood. A wonderful, empathetic film. 165 minutes R.
Jon Favreau (now famous as the director of Iron Man) returns to his indie film roots, writing, directing and starring in this humble comedy about a famous chef who loses his fancy restaurant job and starts over with a food truck. John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofía Vergara, Amy Sedaris and Robert Downey Jr. drop by to help out their pal. 115 minutes R.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) was a not-half-bad attempt to reboot a classic film series without really rebooting it. The sci-fi actioner fits neatly in amongst the '60s and '70s Planet of the Apes films. Now things get a little more ... ape-like, with Caesar and his army of genetically modified apes threatening to wipe out the last surviving band of humans. Bottom line: Apes with machine guns riding horses=good times. 130 minutes PG-13.
This well-meaning but entirely uninspired family sci-fi flick glues the entire plot to E.T. the Extraterrestrial onto the handheld, found-footage style of Chronicle. The result is a cheap, nostalgic imitation of mid-'80s Steven Spielberg-inspired wonderment. J.J. Abrams' Super 8 did the exact same (and I mean, exact same) thing 50 times better. 91 minutes PG.
Sylvester Stallone's retirement home for old action stars returns. The overcrowded cast list this time around includes Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Antonio Banderas, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Jet Li, Robert Davi and Kelsey Grammer. Mel is the bad guy. Go figure.
Chadwick Boseman (42) stars in this musical biopic chronicling musician James Brown's rise from poverty to stardom. The plot is your basic "Behind the Music" episode, but Boseman is terrific. Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer and Craig Robinson fill out the cast list. 138 minutes PG-13.
Lois Lowry's much-loved teen lit sci-fi novel finally makes it to the big screen. In a futuristic dystopia--seemingly without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice--a young man(Brenton Thwaites) is chosen to learn from an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) the true pain and pleasure of the "real" world. Note to all future dystopian leaders: Get rid of the teenagers. If YA literature is any indication (Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Delirium, Unwind, The Maze Runner), two photogenic teenagers in love will invariably bring down your society. 94 minutes PG-13.
Marvel Comics' superhero movies take off in a different direction, heading into outer space for this buoyantly comic, endlessly entertaining sci-fi romp. A band of misfits, criminals and brash adventurers is conscripted into saving the galaxy when a powerful alien warlord comes looking for a weapon of cosmos-threatening proportions. Cult filmmaker James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet, Dawn of the Dead, Slither, Super) writes and directs. Chris Pratt ("Parks and Recreation"), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) and Lee Pace (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) star. 121 minutes PG-13.
Wrestlin' thespian Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as legendary demigod Hercules, hired to protect the King of Thrace and his daughter from a tyrannical warlord. Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Peter Mullan and Joseph Fiennes mill around in the background trying to look Greek. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2, Rush Hour 3) directs this musclebound fantasy based on the comic book Hercules: The Thracian Wars. The trailers are sort of false advertising, but the film does a semi-commendable job of bringing the mythical hero down to earth. 98 minutes PG-13.
After the untimely death of their matriarch, a brokenhearted Indian clan wanders Europe looking for a place to open up their family restaurant. They end up in an impossibly picturesque French town where Papa (Om Puri) decides to hang up his shingle across the street from a Michelin Star restaurant. Gifted young chef Hassan (Manish Dayal) falls in love with the rival sous chef (Charlotte Le Bon), while Papa starts up a love/hate relationship with the fancy French restaurant's uptight owner (Helen Mirren). This is exactly (exactly) the sort of semi-exotic foodie romance you would expect from the director of Chocolat. 122 minutes PG.
We've had found-footage horror films (The Blair Witch Project et al), found-footage monster movies (Cloverfield), found-footage cop movies (End of Watch), found-footage superhero films (Chronicle) and found-footage kids' films (Earth to Echo). So why not some found-footage disaster porn? Into the Storm takes the basic plot of Twister, throws in some handheld camera and adds a whole bunch more CGI destruction. It comes to us from the director of Final Destination 5 and the writer of Step Up All In. 89 minutes PG-13.
The hit "jukebox musical" featuring all the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons makes the trip from Broadway to Hollywood with Clint Eastwood (of all people) behind the camera. Many of the Broadway stars (including Tony winner John Lloyd Young) come along for the ride. It sounds like a million bucks, but the standard rise-fall-rise story is basic "Behind the Music" stuff. 134 minutes R.
Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson (still hanging out off the set of FOX's "New Girl") are a couple of struggling pals who decide to dress up as cops for a costume party. Mistaken for real police officers, and afforded respect for the first time in their lives, the two decide to keep up the charade. Unfortunately a collection of real-life mobsters and dirty detectives put our dressed-up do-gooders in mortal danger. Yes, it's as silly as you're thinking. 104 minutes R.
French filmmaker Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element) gets back into the swing of action filmmaking with this monumentally strange, and epically silly sci-fi flick. Scarlett Johansson stars as a woman tricked into becoming a mule for an experimental drug. When the bags of illegal chemicals in her stomach break open, she instantly and mysteriously gains all the superpowers in the universe by using 100 percent of her brain. We're talking Jackie Chan, all of the X-Men and Neo at the end of The Matrix combined. Naturally she employs these powers to get revenge on the bad people. Given that she can control all of time and space, there's not a lot of tension. But if 2001: A Space Odyssey encapsulated mind-blowing cinema for drug-addled hippies in 1968, then this will surely melt the synapses of filmgoers currently using only 10 percent of their brains. 90 minutes R.
Woody Allen's 44th film is a lightweight charmer. Colin Firth plays a professional magician and debunker who travels to Southern France (circa 1920) to expose a fraudulent spiritualist. Our hero is shocked to find the charlatan is a wide-eyed American cutie (Emma Stone). Even more shocking, he can't figure out her tricks. Could it be that she actually has the ability to speak to the dead? The outcome of this period romcom is never remotely in doubt, but the cast is quite likable, and the setting is lovely to look at. 97 minutes PG-13.
The spy novels of John le Carré make for gripping reading, but they rarely translate well into film. The deglamorized, workaday espionage world le Carré portrays is in direct conflict with action-heavy modern cinema. Dutch director Anton Corbijn (Control, The American) gives it the old college try, though. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his last starring role, is a world-weary German counterterrorism agent tracking a Russian Muslim refugee through Hamburg. It's a smart, well-acted jigsaw puzzle, but a bit too slow-paced for its own good. 121 minutes R.
Against the better judgments of the Pixar folks, Disney released a chintzy, aerial knockoff of the Cars franchise last year. Despite the obvious lack of effort and the presence of Dane Cook, the film made money. So here's a sequel, which at least comes with better animation and adds the excitement of firefighting. Most kids like firefighting. 83 minutes PG.
Universal scored a surprise hit with last year's horror thriller/political satire The Purge. The near-future, right-wing libertarian fantasy continues as Uncle Sam gets out of our hair and suspends all laws for another 24 hours. Wouldn't you know it, some nice family runs out of gas on the streets of Los Angeles, just as the murder-filled lawlessness begins? 103 minutes R.
If you're a massive fan of the Step Up series ... (I really feel I should stop there, but I'll forge on) then this fifth film in the "classically trained dancers vs. hip-hop street dancers" series should prove very exciting for you. "All-stars" from the previous Step Up installments (I'm unable to identify them, but I'm sure they're there) come together for one massive, ab-bearing dance-off-to-end-all-dance-offs in glitter-filled Las Vegas. 112 minutes PG-13.
Melissa McCarthy, riding high after Bridesmaids and The Heat, plays a white trash woman who loses her job and finds out her husband has been cheating. In response she hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking granny (Susan Sarandon). Hijinks ensue. 96 minutes R.
Überproducer Michael Bay (Bad Boys, Armageddon, Transformers) has his grubby fingerprints all over this unnecessary reboot of the classic comic book/cartoon series. The special effects are a major upgrade, but the story--scarred by all the usual overworked, underwritten tropes of modern screenwriting--takes a lot of liberties with the original. It's not a travesty, but it's probably not what fans want either. 101 minutes PG-13.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter himself) and Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) star in this contempo, indie variation on When Harry Met Sally... Wallace (Radcliffe) is a romantically burned-out twentysomething who befriends spunky (and spoken for) animator Chantry (Kazan). But can men and women be platonic pals? I think you already know the cinematic answer. 102 minutes PG-13.