Movie Meter: Reese Witherspoon is Back and Chris Rock Deserves a High Five

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Wild: Through the more than two decades of her acting career, 38-year-old Reese Witherspoon has gone from being totally unknown to known to overrated to supremely overrated, and now all the way back down to significantly underrated. Jean Marc Vallé’s film—based on an Oprah-approved memoir by Cheryl Strayed about an emotionally devastated woman who decides to hike the PCT from Mexico to Canada to reclaim her lost soul—gives Witherspoon a showcase opportunity to show the world what she’s capable of with the right material. Not unlike Matthew McConaughey, who starred in Vallé’s previous film, Dallas Buyers Club, and rode that performance to Oscar glory, Witherspoon is getting rave notice for her most welcome return to form. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

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Movie Meter: The Theory of Everything Is Ready for Award Season, Dumb and Dumber To Is Ready for the Trash

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The Theory of Everything: This biopic concerning the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking, stricken to a wheelchair from ALS as a young man, sagely avoids many of the common melodramatic liberties that so often plague the genre. James Marsh’s film — which stars the phenomenal Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, and the luminescent Felicity Jones as his long-suffering wife — is a shoo-in for Oscar-nom glory. Expect nominations for its two young stars and likely for the film itself, which is a good deal more honest in its warts-and-all depiction of its subject than you might expect. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

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Movie Meter: Interstellar Is Predictably Spectacular, Big Hero 6 Makes Disney-Marvel Magic

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Interstellar:  Please consider this a vote based more on the spectacle of the film—which director Christopher Nolan shot in wondrous 70mm—than the film itself. Essentially, a large, well-rounded cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine, receive a timely lesson in gravitational physics that involves ripping through space-time in search of a new planet for human beings to populate. Long-winded, stilted, and weirdly unsatisfying, the film’s brilliant effects and all-out audaciousness help save it from Nolan’s more fanciful notions about physics and quantum mechanics. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

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Movie Meter: Jake Gyllenhaal Goes Full-Creeper for Nightcrawler

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Nightcrawler: You have to give Jake Gyllenhaal some credit: Dude is not afraid to go full-creep if a role demands it. In Dan Gilroy’s scathing indictment of mass media and gore-celebrating TV journalism, Gyllenhaal plays a gaunt sociopath who looks as if he’s survived for months on Jolly Ranchers and cigarette ashes. Seeking some kind of direction in his life, he becomes an indispensable freelance cameraman for a desperate local L.A. affiliate. He films the city’s murders, fires, car accidents and other assorted horrors on his all-night shift to bolster their sagging morning ratings. The film is brilliantly unsettling. (Pearl, Rave, UA Main Street, UA Riverview) Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

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Movie Meter: Michael Keaton Makes a Comeback, John Wick Is Surprisingly Good

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Birdman: Despite the brilliant devastation of his film Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu has not received quite the same level of fame as other Mexican directors of his generation, like Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. That likely ends now. His new film is a complex allegory concerning the nature of art, fame, and soulful pursuit, but it’s also just a hell of a lot of fun. Michael Keaton plays a former big-star superhero actor who, many years past his prime, yearns to produce something of significance on the Broadway stage. Edward Norton plays the actor just talented and/or uncontrollable enough to ensure his success or failure. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

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Movie Meter: Brad Pitt Kills More Nazis, Channing Tatum and Zoe Saldana Get Animated

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Fury: Somehow, when Brad Pitt stars in a film it takes on a larger, more-important caste. It’s a good thing that David Ayer’s thoughtful WWII picture doesn’t shy away from its own gravitas. Moody, overcast and intense, the film—which follows Pitt as the commanding officer of a tank brigade making its way through bomb-blasted Germany in the last throes of the war—more than earns its stripes. Just a warning, though: It doesn’t spare much on the bloody, gruesome carnage of men killing each other. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

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Movie Meter: True Stories Win the Weekend with Nas’ Illmatic Doc and a Britain’s Got Talent Underdog

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Pride: Yet another uplifting, true story. This film is based on the mid-’80s United Mineworkers strike in England. The Mineworkers were joined in their efforts by unlikely comrades: a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists who saw an opportunity for solidarity in the oppressed, beleaguered miners. United by an opposition to ultra-conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the two parties eventually learn to stand together and support one another in their respective struggles. Pride stars Bill Nighy, Dominic West, and the redoubtable Imelda Staunton. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

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Movie Meter: Ben Affleck Gets Weird in Gone Girl, Nicolas Cage Gets Left Behind

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Gone Girl: My shaky endorsement for David Fincher’s hotly anticipated new thriller—based on the bestseller by Gillian Flynn—comes with a veritable wheelbarrow full of caveats. As good as Fincher is as a director and stylist—and visually, dude is in pretty rarefied air in my book—he can’t do much with essentially silly material like this. Gone Girl has an odd tonal register. Half the film plays as a twisty thriller and the rest pokes fun at itself, soaking in its plot-induced miasma. Those expecting something as all-out creepy (and enthralling) as Fincher’s The Game are in for more than a little disappointment. The result is functional, but generally pretty idiotic, and Ben Affleck really does seem like a weirdo. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

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Movie Meter: Kristen Wiig & Bill Hader Delight as Siblings in The Skeleton Twins

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The Skeleton Twins: You might miss them on Saturday nights, but there’s a lot more to this film than a welcome reunion of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. The former Saturday Night Live mainstays play estranged siblings in Craig Johnson’s insightful dark comedy. Though a decade has passed since they last met, the brother and sister reunite when they discover they both attempted suicide on the same day. Hader and Wiig’s chemistry is flawless and a joy to behold. The film actually has a lot to say about our ability to lie to ourselves as adults in ways that kids never need to do. The ending is a tad conventional, but there’s still plenty to admire here. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

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Movie Meter: Tina Fey’s This is Where I Leave You is a Tremendous Waste of Comic Firepower

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1. The Conformist: A most welcome re-release of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 classic about a cowardly Italian man in 1930’s Italy, who agrees to perform an assassination for the Fascist cause, even though the intended victim is his own former college professor. The film is known for its fiery political commentary—not for nothing does the film’s title suggest a complete weakness of moral character in the face of fashionable political movements—but also for its stunning production values, from the costumes and set design to the extraordinary cinematography by Vittorio Storaro. A chance to see the fully-restored version (the original U.S. print was cut by five crucial minutes) on the big screen is a huge treat for cinephiles everywhere. Playing at Ritz at the Bourse. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

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