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Martha K. Baker

Thursday, 25 December 2014 00:00

'Unbroken' chronicles a life of gristle

When Angelina Jolie appeared on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart asked her to summarize the life of Louis Zamperini, the subject of "Unbroken," which she directed. Jolie rapidly ran through the highlights and then collapsed on the desk, exhausted from retelling Zamparini's biography.

Thursday, 25 December 2014 00:00

'Big Eyes' focuses on art: whose?

There are those who look at Margaret Keane's paintings of waifs with big eyes and gag. They are the ones wondering why anyone would care who actually painted those ghastly, stunningly manipulative paintings. And then there are those who take the pictures at face value as sentimental or kitsch.

Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00

'Top Five' talks jive and reaches for stars

The plot line before: aging star of comic movies wants to be taken seriously. That is the skeleton of "Stardust Memories" and, currently, of "Birdman" as a former superhero goes to Broadway. "Top Five" offers a variation on that theme as a former stand-up comic doffs his franchise bear suit.

Ideally, the filmmaker, James Marsh, would have named this film, "Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen," for "The Theory of Everything" is based on Jane Wilde Hawking's memoir. However, Marsh's movie tries to tell her domestic story as well as scientist Stephen Hawking's professional and personal history.

Matthew Vandyke had no friends. He was the only child of an only child and was doted on by his divorced mother and her parents, who lived with them and did his laundry. Matt has obsessive-compulsive disorder and fears harming another person. He did not feel manly.

Yes, "St. Vincent" is a formula, but oh! does it honor the guidelines. The formula is about the old gar and the young child. The geezer is usually a man, and the boy is usually a runt. The old guy is usually grumpy and grungy; the little man is polite and bullied.

The trailer suggests that "Whiplash" is a film about an abusive teacher, who terrorizes students into stretching for their talent, always wondering if the pedagogy is worth the trauma. But "Whiplash" is so much more than its trailer, so much more complicated. It's violent and percussive and orgasmic and profound.

Friday, 07 November 2014 00:00

'Laggies' lags way behind

The title refers to that group of people who lag behind their contemporaries in figuring out what they what to be when they grow up and in finding their place in the world. This can be an interesting time of exploration, but more often it's a test of patience.

Justin Simien would prefer that you not think of black people as having one single, unified point of view. As writer and director of the satire, "Dear White People," Simien presents four black people with four points of view, each a strong reflection back and projection forward looking in to the black culture and out within the white culture.

Much of "Big Hero 6" is charming. Much of it supports STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum. Much of it, while it deals with loss and death, also deals with healthful responses to same. But way too much of it is overstimulating and way too much.

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