film review

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / IFC Films

Based on its trailer and the reputation of its rowdy star, one might expect the new Jack Black comedy The D Train to be thick with predictable shenanigans involving the pot-bellied man-child at its center. But the writing and directing team of Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul give Black unexpected layers of complex emotion to make a profound statement about contemporary male sexuality.

Jerome Prebois / Courtesy Zeitgeist Films.

Before the end of Volker Schlondorff’s Diplomacy, two men are embedded in a clipped war of words fraught with horror. German General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup) is holed up in a luxurious yet besieged Paris hotel in 1944 as Allied forces close in on recapturing the city. On the day the Germans have scheduled a series of devastating explosions that would leave Paris in ruins, the General has a fortuitous visitor: Consul Raoul Nordling (Andre Dussollier), who has the inside scoop about the planned attacks as well as the kind of negotiating skills that could stop them.

Sony Pictures Classics

What starts as a seemingly benign spat over less than an acre of land turns toxic and deadly in Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's masterfully crafted Leviathan. A nominee for this year's Best Foreign Language Oscar, it focuses an intense gaze on a civil suit and the discordant parties whose lives are either pointlessly enriched or irrevocably destroyed.

Simon Mein / Sony Pictures Classics

Movies about artists typically stumble toward their most basic goal: to link the paint on the canvas to the psyche of the painter. Ed Harris’s Pollock worked masterfully, as does Mr. Turner, British director Mike Leigh’s complex portrait of the esteemed English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner.

Through beautiful cinematography (reflecting the artist's attention to light), Leigh’s learned script, and Timothy Spall’s robust performance, Mr. Turner presents a lush visual biography that’s strikingly relevant considering its subject died in 1851.

Jojo Whilden / Sony Pictures Classics

Dr. Alice Howland is at the top of her game as both a linguistics professor and a smart, sophisticated and sexy New York woman in her fifties, played by Julianne Moore in the wrenching new drama Still Alice.

At the family dinner that opens the movie, she carries herself like a bright and vibrant sunrise — until she has an uncharacteristic memory lapse so slight it goes unnoticed by her husband and adult children. Yet it is the first drop of the downpour about to wash away her faculties.

Fox Searchlight

Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail suggested to more than a million readers that the way to tame inner demons is to redefine what it means to navigate a wild life. Jean-Marc Vallee, the director of last year's Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club, has adapted Strayed's book into a beautiful and gritty film with a transformative performance by Reese Witherspoon at its core.

The Verge

"Science fiction is a laboratory for experimenting with ideas," says Chris McKitterick.

The film Interstellar stretches scientific knowledge to spark our imaginations and address not-so-fictional problems. What were the dynamic take-aways for an astrophysicist, a science fiction expert, and a movie critic?

Courtesy / Tipping Point Productions/Cinedigm.

In Kelly Reichardt’s astonishingly good thriller Night Moves, a trio of environmental activists gets trapped in a political and deadly morass of their own making. Played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard, they demonstrate to a fault what happens when passion for a cause is trumped by human frailty.

courtesy: IFC Films

There's a deliberate seediness to the Texas noir Cold in July that makes it both entertaining and calculating. Directed by Jim Mickle, it stars Michael C. Hall as Richard, an ordinary man around whom extraordinarily violent things happen, all triggered by an act of self-defense that leaves a home intruder dead and his living room splattered with brain matter like a Jackson Pollock.

The Weinstein Company

In Stephen Frears' heartfelt and moving Philomena, the most effective shots are among the simplest a filmmaker can employ: tight close-ups. In this case, the camera’s focus is on the furrowed, and inspiringly lived-in face of the great Judi Dench. Playing a woman who longs to discover the whereabouts of the son taken from her when she was a teenager, Dench gives the title character a strength and resolve that has gotten her through the fifty years since she last saw her son.

For years, it seems like Hollywood has been remaking the same films over and over and over again. Have they run out of original ideas? Or is it the movie theaters and the audiences themselves who keep paying for the same movie every summer?

Our movie critics Russ Simmons, Thom Poe, Loey Lockerby, and special guest Justin Scott, director of marketing for Standees theater, talk about the problem of putting all your eggs in one basket, as well as the new and unique movies that Hollywood is making.

It’s another summer of sequels!

With the release of Iron Man 3, The Hangover Part III, and Fast & Furious 6, it looks like Hollywood is attempting to once again attract people with the familiar and the established.

The movie critics, Russ Simmons, John Tibbetts, and Alan Rapp, discuss their favorite sequels, as well as the movies that never got a sequel, but deserve one (John Carter, anyone?).

Ever pretend you were Canadian in a foreign country? A new film based on a true story has a group of Americans doing just that to sneak past Iranian border guards.

Coourtesy of Magnolia Pictures

A dream house, the perfect woman, and one of our greatest singer-songwriters are among the topics of the films being reviewed today. 

Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin

Two new documentaries arrive in Kansas City this week that look at how a young person's capability for moxie and dedication can be advantageous in two seemingly disparate fields: high school football and ballet.

Deana Newcomb

Director Richard Linklater's terrific new film, Bernie, unleashes actor Jack Black from his Kung Fu Panda pajamas only to find -  lest we'd forgotten - that he's a really good actor.

On the heels of Downton Abbey, the National Theatre of London's HD broadcasts at the Tivoli, and Adele, it seems everything British is hot again.

"What defines deliciousness?" is the first line of David Gelb's splendid documentary about Jiro Ono, the oldest chef on the planet to be awarded three Michelin Guide stars, the restaurant world's top honor.

 An American audience spoon-fed on quick-paced television crime dramas may find the Turkish film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia a bit snoozy.

Rampart, featuring a shattering performance by Woody Harrelson as a messed-up Los Angeles cop with a mean streak and a pitiful capacity for self-harm, is the second Harrelson film to be directed by Oren Moverman (The Messenger brought Harrelson an Oscar nomination in 2011) and his first collaboration with former Kansas Citian James Ellroy.

Fans of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar either loved his last movie, The Skin I Live In, or found it cold and bereft of the mirth and merriment of most of his previous work.

When the Kansas City Film Critics Circle gathered in early January to honor the year in film, only about half the room had seen the Iranian movie A Separation, yet it managed to win the group's Best Foreign Film prize.