COMING THIS WEEK
By Steven Rea
Danny Collins Al Pacino is a Neil Diamond-ish superstar forced to question his life, his career, and his songwriting chops when a long-lost letter from a True Rock God, addressed to him, is finally handed over. Leaving L.A. for his home turf in Jersey, the titular singer/songwriter tries to reconnect with his estranged son. Annette Bening plays the manager of the hotel where Danny checks in - indefinitely. R
Furious 7 Vin Diesel and pals, including the late Paul Walker and his body doubles, drop out of airplanes (in their cars) and crash through high-rise windows (in their cars) in the seventh Fast & Furious installment. Jason Statham is an ex-Special Forces assassin bent on avenging his brother's death, and Diesel's Dominic Toretto and crew are the primary targets. Rev engines, rev Shakespearean dialogue. PG-13
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter A Tokyo girl (Babel's Rinko Kikuchi) heads to Minnesota in search of a buried treasure she learned about from watching a grainy VHS tape of an American film about murder and loot in the snowy upper Midwest. A breakout hit at Sundance, an Independent Spirit Award nominee. No MPAA rating
Effie Gray This period drama looks at the relationship between a Victorian art critic and his much younger bride. Greg Wise, Dakota Fanning and Emma Thompson star.
The Hunting Ground Director Kirby Dick looks at the issue of rape on college campuses.
Marfa Girl A teen copes with daily existence near the Mexican border with the help of his girlfriend.
The Riot Club First-year students at Oxford join an infamous club.
Woman in Gold Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altmann, a Holocaust survivor who fought the Austrian government for years to reclaim art work that was stolen from her family. Opens Wednesday
Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.), Tirdad Derakhshani (T.D.), Dan DeLuca (D.D.), and Molly Eichel (M.E.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.
Birdman Michael Keaton is a faded Hollywood star trying to reclaim his career by mounting a Broadway drama in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's fierce, funny, breathless dive into the head of a man in deep trouble. An exhilarating, out-of-the-blue masterwork that ranks as one of the best films of the year, the decade, the century. Academy Awards for best picture and director Iñárritu. With Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts. 1 hr. 59 R (profanity, violence, sex, adult themes) - S.R.
Red Army Madly entertaining documentary about the dynastic days of the Soviet ice hockey team nicknamed the Red Army, and the charismatic player at its center, Vyacheslav Fetisov. But this is much more than a sports movie. It's about Cold War politics, about national pride, about how we fix our hopes and dreams to athletic competitions, how we identify with sports and how sports identifies us. 1 hr. 16 PG - S.R.
Still Alice Shot through with piercing detail, and devoid of cheap sentimentality, the sad, beautifully realized story of a linguistics professor, a mother, a wife, diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. One of the defining performances of Julianne Moore's career, winner of the best actress Oscar. With Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart. 1 hr. 53 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem Unexpectedly gripping Israeli drama, starring, and co-written and co-directed by Ronit Elkabetz, as an Israeli woman who goes before the rabbinical court to seek a divorce from her long-oppressive husband. Shot in intense close-ups, the better to study the emotions burning in the characters' eyes, the film is all talk and gesture, but it begins to take your breath away like a chase movie, a suspense film, would. 1 hr. 55 No MPAA rating (adult themes) - S.R.
A Girl Like Her Harrowing, insightful and unsentimental, writer-director Amy S. Weber's superior drama about teenage bullying features Lexi Ainsworth as a high school sophomore who attempts suicide after being subjected by her one-time childhood friend (Hunter King) to an intense six-month ordeal of intimidation and humiliation. 1 hr. 32 PG-13 (profanity, sexual references, disturbing thematic material involving teens) - T.D.
It Follows A masterfully creepy and beautifully turned variation on the teen horror formula, starring Maika Monroe as an unfortunate coed being followed by a shape-shifting entity bent on evil and carnage. Her friends don't know what to do - is she having a breakdown, or is this thing for real. It appears to be the latter. 1 hr. 40 R (violence, sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Merchants of Doubt Robert Kenner's smartly packaged documentary about climate change deniers and the coordinated efforts - modeled on the tobacco industry's decades-long public relation campaigns - to challenge real science with pseudo-science, real concern with discord. 1 hr. 33 PG-13 (adult themes) - S.R.
Queen and Country John Boorman's buoyant and personal film, a coming-of-age story, picks up a decade after the events of his Oscar-nominated Hope and Glory: the young boy of the London Blitz is now a young man (Callum Turner), drafted into the army and sent to training camp, expecting to be shipped off to the Korean War. A thwarted romance and regimental hijinks ensue. 1 hr. 55 No MPAA rating (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Seymour: An Introduction Ethan Hawke's winning documentary about Seymour Bernstein, the octogenarian pianist, composer and teacher, is full of insights into music, life, art, how we define ourselves. An inspirational portrait of a great teacher, full of humility and humor. Hawke, in the angsty throes of a mid-career crisis, looks to his subject for answers to life's big questions - and gets some. Audiences will feel a little wiser, too. 1 hr. 24 No MPAA rating (adult thermes) - S.R.
Wild Tales Six vignettes about people on their best behavior: out for vengeance and out of control. Madly entertaining and just plain mad, from Argentinian director Damián Szifrón, and one of this year's foreign language Oscar nominees. 1 hr. 54 R (sex, violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Whiplash Miles Teller (the student) and J.K. Simmons (the teacher) star in Damien Chazelle's propulsive drama about an aspiring jazz musician's torturous mentorship at a prestigious New York conservatory. It's a hyperventilated nightmare about artistic struggle and ambition - as much a horror movie as a keenly realized indie about jazz, art, and what it takes to claim greatness. Oscar for best supporting actor for Simmons. 1 hr. 46 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
The Barber **1/2 Scott Glenn is mesmerizing in this wildly uneven thriller as an aging serial killer with a body count of 17, who likes to bury women alive. Dormant for two decades, the killer is goaded into killing again by a young fan (Chris Coy) who claims he wants to be schooled in the art of killing, but who clearly has a hidden agenda. 1 hr. 35 R (violence, profanity, sexuality, smoking) - T.D.
Cinderella *** A winning re-do of Disney's 1950 animated classic, directed by Kenneth Branagh with a sprinkling of stardust, dashes of good humor and a respect for the corniest kinds of romance. Lily James ("Downton Abbey") and Richard Madden (dazzling dentition) star as the woebegone heroine and the handsome Prince. Cate Blanchett chews scenery as the gleefully cruel, cackling stepmom. 1 hr. 52 PG (adult themes) - S.R.
Deli Man *** David "Ziggy" Gruber, carrying on the tradition of his grandfather, guides this charming documentary of the decline in numbers but expansion through the country of kosher delicatessens, including his own much-loved Kenny & Ziggy's New York Delicatessen Restaurant in Houston. 1 hr. 31 PG-13 (language) - W.S.
Focus **1/2 Will Smith is a seasoned grifter, Margot Robbie his eager protege, in a slick, glossy con artist caper that walks the walk and talks the talk but disappoints just when you don't want it to. With glammy pit stops in New York, New Orleans and Buenos Aires. 1 hr. 44 R (profanity, sex, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Get Hard ** Will Ferrell plays James King, an investment banker sentenced to prison for defrauding his financial clients. To survive his decade-long term, King hires Darnell (Philly's Kevin Hart), a car wash business owner who King assumes has gone to prison, even though Darnell hasn't even gotten a parking ticket in this comedy that relies far too heavily on the easy and crude. 1 hr. 40 R (pervasive crude and sexual content, profanity, some graphic nudity, and drug material) - M.E.
The Gunman ** Sean Penn stars as an elite ex-Special Forces op who seems to have forgotten his tradecraft basics as he runs around Europe trying to figure out who wants him dead - before he is dead. With Javier Bardem, Jasmine Trinca and Idris Elba. Intriguing le Carré-esque possibilities are thwarted by heavy-handed direction and obvious plot twists. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, action, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
An Honest Liar *** The Amazing Randi spent his life debunking the claims of psychics, faith healers and channelers. The real joy of Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein is an intimate look at Randi's personal life, including his partner of 25 years. Featuring James Randi, Bill Nye, Alice Cooper, Penn Jillette. 1 hr. 32 No MPAA rating - M.E.
Insurgent **1/2 The action-heavy second installment in the Divergent Series, about life in a post-apocalyptic dystopian Chicago where society is divided into five factions, and Shailene Woodley is the upstart who doesn't fit in. With Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller and a lot of trippy virtual reality mind games, too. PG-13 (violence, action, adult themes) - S.R.
Run All Night ** A grim, jumpy, violent noir, with Liam Neeson as an aging mob enforcer regretting his crimes - and regretting that his son (Joel Kinnaman) wants nothing to do with him. But then the estranged duo are thrown together, when crooks and cops and Albanian thugs start hunting them down. Surprise: Neeson has to save his kid! 2 hrs. 02 R (intense violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel **1/2 The John Madden-directed follow-up to his surprise 2012 hit quickly settles into a familiar, familial groove. The ex-pat pensioner gang played by Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie pick up where they left off, and new guests, most notably one beamy, white-maned Richard Gere, check in, while the eager-to-please young manager played by Dev Patel runs around Jaipur, antic, frantic and full of oddball aphorisms. 2 hrs. 02 PG (adult themes) - S.R.
Serena *1/2 What were Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence thinking? A Depression-era drama about timber barons, with one calamity rolling in after another. Love, greed, clear-cutting and murder - all of it laughably bad. 1 hr. 49 R (violence, sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.