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Martha K. Baker

Monday, 15 December 2014 01:00

'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 01:00

'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.

Few movies leave viewers as furious as "Kill the Messenger" does, for not only is the entire movie about betrayal and lies on several levels, but the final bits of the story, printed at the end, raise whatever hackles may have remained at rest. "Kill the Messenger" has no hope.

Friday, 24 October 2014 00:00

'Fury' presents the war sans merci

If you've ever wondered what it was like to be inside the belly of the beast of a Sherman tank, "Fury" takes you there and closes the hatch. It is a war movie, far gorier than "Saving Private Ryan" or "In Glorious Basterds." Unfortunately, "Fury" settles for cliché over insight.

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