Meet Mr. Gruesome
You wouldn’t think the guy who produced the Oscar-winning music drama Whiplash could also be the brains behind the Purge horror movies — the third of which has just arrived in theaters. Yet producer Jason Blum is responsible for both. In this 60-second clip he cheerfully explains why blood and guts is his bread and butter.
Sam Emerson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Country and Crumpets
British star Tom Hiddleston sees nothing odd about playing country legend Hank Williams in the biopic I Saw the Light, coming to DVD and Blu-ray this week. The long, lanky London-born owner of a fine singing voice also pulls off a convincing Southern accent.
The fact is, Hiddleston tells Movies for Grownups, the British dote on Dixie.
“For us, it’s exotic,” he says. “It feels authentically American, like an ancient aspect of American culture. The Beatles loved it; the Rolling Stones loved it. They were listening to the blues. They were listening to Hank.”
New in theaters
Viggo Mortensen is splendid as a latter-day Thoreau who raises six children in a Pacific Northwest forest, hectoring them about the superiority of their lifestyle compared with us space-age softies. After a while, though, the backwoods boasting starts to chafe like wood chips in your hiking boots. Think of it as Into the Wild meets Little Miss Sunshine, with handfuls of The Great Santini thrown in for good measure.
Albert Brooks, Laraine Newman, Louis C.K. and Dana Carvey are among the familiar voices in this animated tale of what goes on when dog and cat owners make the naïve mistake of leaving them home alone.
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* Designates a Movies for Grownups Editors’ Choice
Angelina Jolie-Pitt, a masterly technician as a director, delivers this somber study of a troubled couple (herself and real-life husband Brad Pitt) trying to unkink their problems in a hotel on the coast of “France” (Malta, if you must know). There are solitary strolls against stunning backdrops and abundant contemplation of the horizon, but the truth about what’s eating these gorgeous people proves anticlimactic.
Director-star Jason Bateman probes the darker corners of family relationships in the story of a brother and sister (Bateman and Nicole Kidman) enduring an uneasy homecoming with their world-famous performance-artist parents (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett). Bateman skillfully steers the proceedings from unsettling comedy to intriguing mystery.
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Still Out There
* Designates a Movies for Grownups Editors’ Choice
Loud, chaotic and utterly alien to the quiet whimsy of Lewis Carroll, this dreadful sequel to 2010’s only-marginally-less-terrible Alice in Wonderland once more stars Johnny Depp as a strangely morose Mad Hatter. FULL REVIEW
* The BFG
Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) brings a ton of heart to the titular character, a Big Friendly Giant. Director Steven Spielberg expertly balances his appetite for sentiment with author Roald Dahl’s rascally sense of delightful danger, creating the best-ever screen adaptation of a Dahl book.
In this action buddy comedy, Kevin Hart stars as a meek accountant who reconnects with an old high school classmate (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and gets swept into a dangerous case of international espionage.
Ellen DeGeneres leads an A-list of veteran stars — including Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy — giving voice to the endearing aquatic characters in Pixar’s latest animated masterpiece. There are laughs aplenty, but also — as in every Pixar epic — moments of genuine sentiment and transcendent beauty.
Matthew McConaughey stars as a Mississippi farmer who leads a rebellion of whites and escaped slaves against the Confederacy during the Civil War. He gives a powerful performance, and the movie oozes earnestness. By including too many storylines, though, writer-director Gary Ross has created an overstuffed cotton bale of a movie. FULL REVIEW
Colin Firth and Jude Law star in this uncommonly literate and unexpectedly moving account of legendary book editor Max Perkins (Firth) and his stormy mentorship of author Thomas Wolfe (Law). The story portrays art being forged in the crucible of clashing personalities; the film is about the inscrutable mysteries of creativity. FULL REVIEW
It’s been 20 years since aliens tried to destroy our planet in the 1996 original — and now, wouldn’t you know it, they’re ba-a-a-ack. Veterans of that first battle, including Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox and Brent Spiner, return to save us again.
This live-action version of the 1967 Disney cartoon is about as close to Kipling’s literary classic as Angry Birds is to Audubon’s Birds of America. Still, the computer animation is jaw-dropping, and Bill Murray enjoys himself as the voice of Baloo the Bear.
The Legend of Tarzan
It’s been 98 years since a former Arkansas cop named Elmo Lincoln played history’s original swinger on screen, but it’s a cinch that 1918 version didn’t cost $180 million. Alexander Skarsgård plays Tarzan this time, returning from his adopted home of London to set things right in his old jungle home. Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson costar.
Hmm, a laff riot from Jane Austen? Kate Beckinsale stars as a scandalous 1790s British noblewoman who, on a visit to her in-laws, sets out to score a husband for herself — and a rich aristocrat for her comely daughter (Morfydd Clark). FULL REVIEW
Julianne Moore is a hoot in this latter-day screwball comedy. She plays Georgette, the wife of a philanderer (Ethan Hawke) who leaves her for Maggie (Greta Gerwig), a clueless home-wrecker. Fast-forward three years, and Maggie wants to give the hubby back. But does Georgette accept returns?
Pack your pockets with tissues before settling in for this unapologetic weepie, the story of a young woman (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) determined to make life worth living for a handsome quadriplegic (The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin). Charles Dance and Janet McTeer are touching as the hero’s furrowed-browed parents. FULL REVIEW
Susan Sarandon shines as the overinvolved mother of a TV writer (Rose Byrne). She smothers the poor girl with attention — until Mama catches the eye of a charming ex-cop (J.K. Simmons) who rides a Harley and raises chickens. FULL REVIEW
George Clooney is the host of personal-finance TV show. Julia Roberts is his producer. Jack O’Connell is the desperate viewer who takes them hostage after losing everything by following their advice. Jodie Foster is the director. FULL REVIEW
This slam-bang buddy-cop flick harks back to the best of them (think Lethal Weapon or 48 Hrs.). In 1977 L.A., Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are mismatched detectives searching for an MIA porn star. The jokes are just one form of the rapid-fire killers here. FULL REVIEW
The prodigious prestidigitators who participated in the primary part of this pair of pictures proffer a perfectly presentable postscript. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Lizzy Caplan are back as the Four Horsemen, a renegade stage magic team.
Andy Samberg expands on his old SNL Digital Shorts music formats with a feature-length mockumentary about a clueless rock star. He appears alongside a galaxy of his old TV buddies including Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Tim Meadows and Jimmy Fallon.
* The Phenom
If we ever need to see a shrink, please let it be Paul Giamatti. Here the masterly actor plays a sports psychologist trying to help an insecure young pitcher (Johnny Simmons) overcome anxieties rooted in his relationship with an abusive dad (Ethan Hawke).
Luis Guzmán and Edgar Garcia are fun as a pair of NYPD cops dispatched to the City of Light to nab some fashion pirates. It would have been more fun if the guys had brought along their costars, Rosie Perez and Rosario Dawson, utterly squandered as their better halves back home in Noo Yawk. FULL REVIEW
The Purge: Election Year
No, silly, it’s not about America’s current presidential campaign — it’s a horror movie.