Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock.
Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock.

At the movies

by / Nov. 26, 2014 12am EST


HORRIBLE BOSSES 2—Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day in a sequel to the 2011 comedy. With Chris Pine, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Kevin Spacey. Directed by Sean Anders (That’s My Boy). See the review in this issue. Flix, Maple Ridge, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

PENGUINS OF MADASCAR—Animated spinoff of Madascar. With the voices of Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Werner Herzog. Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith. FlixMaple RidgeRegal ElmwoodRegal Niagara FallsRegal QuakerRegal TransitRegal Walden Galleria

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING—Biopic of the early career of physicist Stephen Hawking focusing on his marriage and early years with ALS. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, and Emily Watson. Directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire). See the review in this issue. Amherst, Eastern Hills


CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (2007)—The final film from the just-deceased Mike Nichols (from a script by Aaron Sorkin) is a feel-good war movie about the real-life Texas congressman (played by Tom Hanks) who used his office to help fund Afghan forces fighting against the Soviet Union’s occupation of their country in the 1980s. Amusing and deftly managed, the movie glides, often merrily, along the corridors and into the offices of Washington power holders. But it also exaggerates his importance while ignoring some of the more dire consequences of Wilson’s old-fashioned reckless American anti-communism. It’s entertainment that should not be taken seriously as history. With Amy Adams, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. (GS) Presented by the Buffalo Film Seminars. Tues 7pm. Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St. (834-7655)

HITCHCOCK (2012)—Of the two biopics of the late director that appeared in 2012, this is the one to see if you liked Hitchcock. (The Girl, with Toby Jones as Sir Alfred, is the iconoclast’s choice.) Anthony Hopkins doesn’t much resemble his character but provides a puckish impersonation that also draws on Hannibal Lecter. The focus is on his efforts to produce Psycho over the objections of pretty much all of Hollywood, with the aid of his wife and collaborator Alma (Helen Mirren). With Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. Directed by Sacha Gervasi (Henry’s Crime). (MF) Fri-Sat 7pm, Sun, Tues 7:30pm. The Screening Room, Northtown Plaza in Century Mall, 3131 Sheridan Drive, Amherst (837-0376)

JOYEUX NOEL (France, 2005)—Handsomely produced drama based on the true story of the Christmas Eve in 1914, the first year of World War I, when British, French and German soldiers entrenched in a French battlefield lay down their arms for the day to celebrate the holiday as best they could. Writer-director Christian Carion uses that near-mythic event as a starging point for an examination of the means through which governments rouse their people to war, enlisting teachers, clerics and the media to whip the public into a frenzy of bloodlust. As an antiwar film it ranks with Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. Don’t miss it. (MF) Free and open to the public. Fri 8 pm. Burchfield Penny Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA (1985)—Newly restored release of Shirley Clarke’s acclaimed documentary about jazz performer/composer Ornette Coleman, seen visiting his Texas birthplace in 1983. Interview participants include William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Buckminster Fuller, Don Cherry, Yoko Ono, Charlie Haden, Robert Palmer, Jayne Cortez and John Rockwell. Thurs Dec 4 7 pm. Hallwalls, 341 Delaware Ave. (854-1694)


ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY—Adaptation of the popular children’s book. Starring Ed Oxenbould, Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner. Directed by Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids). Four Seasons, Movieland

ANNABELLE—Prequel to The Conjuring, which either means something to you or doesn’t. At least it’s not another “found footage” horror film. Starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton and Tony Amendola. Directed by John R. Leonetti. McKinley

BIG HERO 6—Animated children’s film. Flix, Maple Ridge, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

BIRDMAN—Too much and not enough. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s “meta-movie” stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a once famous actor whose career took a downturn after he stopped playing the superhero character he was famed for. In need of a comeback vehicle and artistic validation, Thomson mounts a Broadway play as a vehicle for himself, a troubled production that forms the basis of this film’s increasingly wild proceedings. It’s certainly challenging, dynamic and technically fluid. But it’s also erratic, lurching from scenes of banal domestic confrontation and confession to deliberate comic excess to surreal flights. In the end it’s too much structural complexity for one film to handle. Co-starring Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough. (GS) Amherst, Eastern Hills, Regal Quaker

THE BOOK OF LIFE—Animated fantasy produced by Guillermo del Toro. Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez. Four Seasons, McKinley

THE BOXTROLLS—Animated children’s movie from the studio that created ParaNorman and Coraline. Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. McKinley, Movieland

DUMB AND DUMBER TO—A few chuckles at the end aren’t worth the agonizingly dull 100 minutes preceding them in this sequel to a hit from 20 years ago. Creators the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary) seem to have lost the light touch they used to have with bad taste; combined with the noticeable aging of stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, it makes for a desperately unfunny comedy. With Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle, and Laurie Holden. (MF)  Flix, Maple Ridge, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

THE EQUALIZER—The title for this Denzel Washington vehicle comes from the 1980s TV show that starred Edward Woodward as a retired intelligence operative who hires himself out to people who need help against life’s villains. But forget about that; any resemblance is purely to pacify the lawyers. After a controlled (if self-consciously pictorial) start, Washington’s avenger goes from helping out an abused Boston hooker to battling the entire Russian mafia. It’s fun as far as this kind of thing goes. Unfortunately, it just keeps going until we’ve been as beaten into submission as the bad guys. With Marton Csokas, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo. (MF) Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen). Movieland

FURY—War has seldom been portrayed more hellishly than in writer-director David Ayer’s (Training Day) film that follows an American tank crew in the very last days of the Second World War’s European Theatre operations. Brad Pitt plays the sergeant leading this crew as a quasi-mythic figure, a profane but all-American warrior-saint. His philosophy is presented as he trains a green kid (Logan Lerman in a sensitive, persuasive performance) in the cynicism and savagery that are natural consequences of war. The theme of brothers-in-arms fades under all the juvenile pulp-fiction fantasy, and by the last overblown, drawn-out, catastrophic battle scene, it has become impossible to take seriously. With Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jason Isaacs. (GS) Four Seasons, Movieland, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

GONE GIRL—Ben Affleck as a husband who becomes a suspect in the disappearance of his wife. With Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry. Directed by David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Four Seasons, Maple Ridge, Regal Elmwood, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY—Disney gets into the Marvel adaptation business with this Star Wars wannabe. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Lee Pace. Directed by James Gunn (Slither). McKinley, Movieland

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1—The sequel that ate the multiplexes. Aurora, Flix, Hamburg Palace, Lockport Palace, Maple Ridge, New Angola, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

INTERSTELLAR—That Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus, about the search for a planet capable of supporting human life, is the most argued-about movie of the year has less to do with reaction to its content than with its inconsistency. Your own opinion likely to hinge on what you most want in a movie, visual effects, provocative ideas or fleshed-out drama. The ideas are there, though whether they’re plausible or merely fantastical is likely to be over the heads of most viewers. Nolan and his co-scripter brother Jonathan alternately withhold information that you want (about the demise of our planet in the near future) while rushing science at you too quickly to digest. Matthew McConaughey performance demonstrates that it’s possible to overact quietly, though he’s still effective in the occasional tear-jerking moments. It’s worth seeing, but don’t expect anything as dazzling as The Dark Knight or Inception. With Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, and Topher Grace. (MF) Flix, Maple Ridge, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

THE JUDGE—As you might expect in a dramatic offering from auteur David Dobkin, best known for Vince Vaughn vehicles like Fred Claus and The Wedding Crashers, this is insistent hokum, grabbing your lapels to get your involvement and sympathy. Robert Downey Jr. gives a technically impressive but emotionally uninvolving performance as a cynical big city trial attorney defending his cranky father (Robert Duvall), a small town judge accused of vehicular homicide. Duvall still has his acting chops, and he sometimes manages to evoke a dignity and sympathy that the movie doesn’t really deserve. Between the overheated, dysfunctional family complications and the courthouse collisions, the movie has a certain crude power, but 140 minutes of it is mostly exhausting. With Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dax Shepard and Grace Zabriskie. (GS) Four Seasons, Movieland

NIGHTCRAWLER—It could be called Skincrawler for Jake Gyllenhaal’s viscerally creepy performance as sociopath Lou Bloom, pitched somewhere between Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin. (A younger Robert DeNiro would clearly have been the first choice for the role.) An LA bottom feeder looking for a path to success, Bloom finds it selling video footage of crime and accident scenes to a television station where the overnight news director (Rene Russo) is desperate to save her career. Writer/director Dan Gilroy keeps his examination sharply focused, shooting mostly at night on streets that crackle with danger and excitement. Bloom’s recitations of speeches learned from internet self-improvement classes add a satirical edge to story that is no less unsettling for being somewhat obvious. With Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton. (MF)  Regal Elmwood, Regal Transit

THE MAZE RUNNER—Yet another movie adaptated from a series of dystopian teen novels. Four Seasons, McKinley, Movieland

OUIJA—Teens are terrified when they mess with a Hasbro toy. Calling Count Floyd. With Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto and Daren Kagasoff. Directed by Stiles White.  Four Seasons, Regal Quaker, Regal Walden Galleria

ROSEWATER—Jon Stewart’s directorial debut is a respectful, solidly crafted drama about Maziar Bahari, the Iranian-Canadian journalist who was jailed in Iran after reporting on that country’s 2009 presidential election. He was charged with spying, and part of the evidence used against him was an appearance on The Daily Show. Perhaps sensitive to possible charges of glibness, Stewart avoids any use of humor, even when it would be useful in portraying a ridiculous if tragic situation. The result is adequate but rather bland. Starring Gael García Bernal and Kim Bodnia. (MF) North Park

ST. VINCENT—Bill Murray may shout to the heavens that he doesn’t want an Academy Award, but it’s hard to see this mawkish comedy-drama as anything other than a calculated shot at an Oscar. His performance is fine enough, but there’s only so much you can expect from a story about a curmudgeon saved from a life of whoring and gambling by his friendship with a lonely boy who movies in next door with his harried mother (Melissa McCarthy). Plausibility is never the film’s strong point, but contrived finale is so shameless that it looks like an old SNL parody. Written and directed by Theodore Melfi. With Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd and Terrence Howard. (MF) Amherst, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES—Re-reboot, for anyone keeping track. Starring Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Will Arnett and William Fichtner. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans). McKinley, Movieland

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU—Watching Jason Bateman as a poor schlub trying to navigate the plots and plotzing of his toxically narcissistic and criminally unreliable Jewish family, you may be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered into an alternate world version of TV’s Arrested Development. Assembled to sit shiva after the death of their atheist father three brothers, a sister, spouses, and at least temporarily significant others, crowded into the family home to trade angry best-kept-secret revelations and accusations, and, of course, reach long-delayed conciliations. The movie barrels along on a steady supply of crass, crude, scatological and otherwise offensive humor, much of which works in a crazy burlesquing way, at least until it ill-advisedly tries to mix sentimentality and poignance into the vulgarity. With Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, and Rose Byrne. Directed by Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther remake). (GS) McKinley

WHIPLASH—Inspired by his own experiences at a musical conservatory, writer-director Damien Chazelle’s film about an obsessed drum student and his even more obsessive teacher takes its cues less from movies about the arts or academics than the military, starting in An Office and a Gentleman territory before plunging unexpectedly toward Full Metal Jacket. An excellent performance by Miles Teller as the student is overshadowed by J.K. Simmons in the role of a lifetime as the teacher who believes in pushing students past what they think their limits are. The finale arguably undercuts everything the rest of the movie stands for, but it’s so well executed it’s hard to complain. (MF) Amherst, Eastern Hills

X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST—You know they’re going for the baby boomer audience when they start naming sequels after old Moody Blues albums. Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. Directed by Bryan Singer (Jack the Giant Slayer). Movieland