Beginning with a roar as a speeding motorcycle races by, director Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" injects nerve-jangling excitement into a tried-and-true drug trafficking disaster. The set up is elegant and quick. The Counselor, committing to marry his adored Laura, agrees to participate in a routine drug deal. His greed will, unsurprisingly, connect him with a ruthless drug network.
A visually gorgeous film, "Mother of George" tells a very personal story through an impressionistic style that foregrounds moods and emotions. Minimalist and slow by Hollywood standards, it explores profoundly and carefully the cultural and familial expectations dictating that newly married Andenike is expected to bear a child. When she fails to become pregnant, Nike's world threatens to shatter.
Minimalist to the extreme, "All Is Lost" proves the adage that less certainly can be more. Under the astute direction of J.C. Chandor, with a mesmerizing performance by Robert Redford, the pared down, unpretentious story is simple. Alone on a 39 foot yacht, the central character finds himself stranded in the Indian Ocean, 1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits.
First the title: the fifth estate refers to a class of society beyond the clergy, the nobility, the commoners and the press. In this relatively stodgy film, the fifth estate is personified by Julian Assange accompanied by Wikileaks.
There's both wisdom and wit as well as annoying moments in director Doris Dorrie's documentary "How to Cook Your Life." It interrogates the principles of Zen Buddhism practiced and preached by Edward Espe Brown in his preparation of food that nurtures the soul as much as the body. A bracing counterpoint to our fast-food obsession, How to Cook Your Life gives food its due, sometimes humorously, but always with a respect too often absent from contemporary practice.
The film "Captain Phillips" conscientiously dramatizes the true story of Somali pirates' capture of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama that Richard Phillips commanded and his subsequent kidnapping as the four pirates fled in a lifeboat. Most of us remember that March 2009 incident in the Indian Ocean with events and an ending more unbelievable than a Hollywood movie.
Far too often, IMAX technology is used for films that could just as easily fit on a disc in a laptop, but "Jerusalem," the latest film in the OMNIMAX theater of the Saint Louis Science Center, exploits the technology into a stunning and inspirational exploration of that sacred site.
"The Summit" chronicles a tragic loss of life on K2, the Himalayan mountain, second highest in the world at 28,251 feet. On August 1, 2008, 25 climbers left Camp Four to climb K2. Eleven would not survive the descent, always the most dangerous part of the climb.
"Sign Painters" is a documentary that raises the quintessential post-doc question: "Who knew?" Behind every sign is a painter -- at least, behind signs not slapped together with vinyl letters from a computer. Those painters are opinionated, fiercely in favor of the real thing. They value their history and their art but they know, realistically, that their work is always for someone else.
As "Gravity" opens, astronaut Commander Matt Kowalski works over 300 miles above Earth on the Hubble Telescope with his co-worker, medical engineer Ryan Stone. Quickly and unexpectedly, disaster strikes when debris from a communications satellite destroyed by Russia hurtles toward them at phenomenal speed. And through the 3-D magic created by director/co-writer Alfonso Cuarón, a breathtaking film begins.
An unnamed woman sits in a war-ravaged room, her husband comatose, a bullet in his neck from a quarrel after an insulting exchange with fellow Jihad fighters. She can't afford any more serum so devises a sugar water substitute. Her husband's brothers have fled the fighting, the militia moves through periodically, and she talks, unburdening herself as never before.