“Divergent,” the latest outcast-teen-battles-The System thriller, is similar enough to “The Hunger Games” that hardcore Katniss fans may dismiss it. But it’s a more streamlined film, with a love story with genuine heat and deaths with genuine pathos.
We should all be so lucky as to live in a world designed, peopled and manipulated by Wes Anderson. His latest film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is a dark, daft and deft triumph of design details. From the purple velvet with red piping hotel uniforms to the drinks, colognes and artwork of Europe between the World Wars, Anderson ensconces his eccentric characters and us in a time of baroque, imaginary 4-star hotels run on what used to pass for 4-star service.
It was too much to hope that someone with Gerard Butler’s charismatic, bellowing swagger would be around for the sequel, “300: Rise of an Empire.” His Leonidas and his oiled-down eight-pack are sorely missed, as are the quotable quatrains of that famous fight, the Spartan trash talk that sings through the ages. So many Persian arrows will rain on them that they will “blot out the sun”? “Then we shall fight in the shade.” There’s nothing that moving in “Rise of an Empire,” a more visually stunning but less thrilling ...
LOS ANGELES — Perhaps atoning for past sins, Hollywood named the brutal, unshrinking historical drama “12 Years a Slave” best picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards. Steve McQueen’s slavery odyssey, based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir, has been hailed as a landmark corrective to the movie industry’s virtual blindness to slavery, instead creating whiter tales like 1940 best-picture winner “Gone With the Wind.” “12 Years a Slave” is the first best-picture winner directed by a black filmmaker.
On Sunday night screenwriter Bob Nelson will be seated in the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards. His movie “Nebraska” is up not only for his screenplay but for five other Oscars, including Best Picture. Heady stuff for a self-described “boy from Kent.”
“Pompeii” is half sword-and-sandal epic, half disaster movie and all guilty pleasure. Director Paul W.S. Anderson, taking a break from cranking out “Resident Evil” movies, has a strong command of CGI technology and 3-D effects, and the movie is so grand in scale that you can’t help surrender to the spectacle, even if the stuff that’s going on with the people in the film is often close to risible.
“The Monuments Men” is the “Last Vegas” of World War II movies. A roughly true/fictionally embellished account of the efforts of American arts scholars drafted into the Army to preserve the artistic patrimony of Europe from the scourge of combat and theft by the Germans, it is a cute but clunky ensemble piece that director George Clooney rarely bestows with the gravitas and jauntiness this material demanded.
The funniest unintentional laugh in “Labor Day” is the way adaptor/director Jason Reitman treats this eye-rolling, melodramatic romance novel as if he’s got his hands on the works of Dostoevsky or Tolstoy. A genteel escaped convict hides out with a grieving divorcee and offers another chance at love? It’s “The Prisons of Madison County.”