‘Homesman’ takes a look at frontier brutality toward women (Our grade: A-)

Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank star in "The Homesman." Credit: Saban Films
Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank star in “The Homesman.” Credit: Saban Films

Ever since “The Homesman” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, people have been trying to label it as a western. If any label is required, then it would probably be best to call “The Homesman” a visceral, heart-breaking feminist pioneer tale.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for ‘The Homesman’

Alamo to screen, discuss ‘Star Wars’ trailer

The Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar will hold a special panel discussion at 9 a.m. on Friday about the new teaser for “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

After the screening of the 88-second teaser, Drafthouse honcho Tim League and a group of panelists to be named will discuss the teaser.

The Drafthouse says the plan is as follows: “We will watch it (the teaser), discuss it for two minutes, and repeat for an hour. That means we’ll be watching the trailer 17 times and discussing it 17 times with more and more fine granular detail each time.”

The event is free, but seats are limited. The first to get in will be a group of Alamo Victory members. And if other seats are available, the general public wil be allowed to attend. The panel will consist of four “Star Wars” experts, with one mystery slot to be filled by the biggest “Star Wars” fan in Texas. If you think you’re that person and want to attend, then you need to tell the Drafthouse via Twitter or Instagram, with one photo. Use the tags @drafthouse and #AlamoJedi to qualify.

You need to act fast, however. The winner will be announced at 5 p.m. today. The winner will also get to bring nine friends to a Drafthouse screening of the new “Star Wars” movie when it is released next year.

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‘Horrible Bosses 2’ isn’t about bosses at all (Our grade: C-)

Charlie Day, from left,  Jason Sudeikis, and Jason Bateman appear in a scene from "Horrible Bosses 2." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, John P. Johnson)
Charlie Day, from left, Jason Sudeikis, and Jason Bateman appear in a scene from “Horrible Bosses 2.” (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, John P. Johnson)

By Roger Moore | McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Your enjoyment of “Horrible Bosses 2” is almost wholly dependent on your tolerance for clusters of funny actors, babbling, riffing — and in the case of Charlie Day, screeching — all at once. That’s how they communicate. And if we get headaches listening to them, imagine how they’re suffering for their art.

» Read the full review on MyStatesman.com | Showtimes for ‘Horrible Bosses 2’

‘Penguins of Madagascar’ has plenty for kids and parents (Our grade: B+)

From left, Kowalski, voiced by Chris Miller; Skipper, voiced by Tom McGrath; Rico, voiced by Conrad Vernon; and Private, voiced by Christpher Knights in a scene from "The Penguins of Madagascar." (AP Photo/DreamWorks Animation)
From left, Kowalski, voiced by Chris Miller; Skipper, voiced by Tom McGrath; Rico, voiced by Conrad Vernon; and Private, voiced by Christopher Knights in a scene from “The Penguins of Madagascar.” (AP Photo/DreamWorks Animation)

By Roger Moore | McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Blame it on lowered expectations for the umpteenth cartoon starring those commando penguins from “Madagascar,” over-exposed little darlings who stole all those movies and went on to star in their own spinoff TV series. Or lay it at the feet of the DreamWorks Animation trademark style — slapstick for the kids, and a boatload of wisecracks aimed at the parents who also sit through these farces aimed at the younger-than-8 crowd. But “Penguins of Madagascar” is as cute and cuddly as ever, and often downright hilarious.

» Read the full review on MyStatesman.com | Showtimes for ‘Penguins of Madagascar’

Austin scores big in Indie Spirit noms

Austin was all over the nominations for the 30th Film Independent Spirit Awards. The nominations were announced today.

While “Birdman” led with six nods, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” took five nominations, including best feature (along with “Birdman,” “Love Is Strange,” “Selma” and “Whiplash”), best director for Linklater, best supporting nods for both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke and best editing for the almighty Sandra Adair.

“Nightcrawler” and “Selma” also received five nominations each.

Austinite David Zellner also received a best director nomination for “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter,” while that film’s producer, Austin-based producer Chris Ohlson, is one of three finalists for the 18th annual Piaget Producers Award, which comes with a $25,000 grant.

Austin director Chris Eska was one of three finalists for the 21st annual Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award for “The Retrieval,” while Houstonian Darius Clark Monroe was one of the finalists for the 20th annual Lenscrafters Truer Than Fiction award for his documentary “Evolution of a Criminal.” Both of those also come with $25,000 grants.

The Drafthouse Films-distributed Nick Cave documentary “20,000 Days on Earth” received a best documentary nomination.

Winners will be announced Feb. 21, one day before the Oscars.

Glen Campbell doc has triumph amid tragedy (Our grade: B+)

"Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me" documents the final tour of the legendary country singer. A23a
“Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” documents the final tour of the legendary country singer. A23a

By Roger Moore | McClatchy-Tribune News Service

“Cheerful” and “triumphant” aren’t words that come to mind when you think of Alzheimer’s, the debilitating illness that destroys memory, mind and body. But darned if country star Glen Campbell doesn’t manage that in “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.”

It’s a moving documentary that follows him through the last halfway good year or so of his life. He was diagnosed in the spring of 2011. He hit the road later that year, a decision with the potential to tarnish his legacy.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Showtimes for ‘Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me’

‘The Theory of Everything:’ The Ballad of Stephen and Jane (Our grade: B+)

Felicity Jones, left, stars as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking in 'The Theory of Everything.' Liam Daniel/Focus Features/MCT
Felicity Jones, left, stars as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything.’ Liam Daniel/Focus Features/MCT

Most of us know Stephen Hawking as a physically desiccated genius; his body, ravaged by a version of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, seems a mere vector for one of the great physics minds of his age.

Directed by James Marsh, the biopic “The Theory of Everything” reminds us that Hawking was once a vibrant, able-bodied young man who careened around early ’60s Cambridge on his bicycle.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Showtimes for ‘The Theory of Everything’

 

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1’: Mostly setup, which is fine (Our grade: B)

Commander Paylor (Patina Miller), Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), and Pollux (Elden Henson) in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1." Murray Close / Lionsgate
Commander Paylor (Patina Miller), Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), and Pollux (Elden Henson) in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1.” Murray Close / Lionsgate

“Part 1” is the rare adaptation that also solves a bunch of its source material’s problems… But frustratingly, “Part 1” is very much that: a preface to a final confrontation. Audiences are left at a rather grim moment with knowledge of, as Snow puts it, “moves and counter-moves” yet to come. See you this time next year.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Showtimes for ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1’

» Read about a Q&A with the producer and director of the film on MyStatesman.com

Five essential Mike Nichols movies

The comedy world went into mourning Thursday morning with the news that legendary comedian, theatrical producer and filmmaker Mike Nichols had died Nov. 19 of a heart attack. He was 83.

Mike Nichols and wife Diane Sawyer in 2010
Mike Nichols and wife Diane Sawyer in 2010

Nichols was one of 12 people in the world who can claim an EGOT. Here are five essential Nichols movies (and yes, there are more than five).

1. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966): The debut. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor star in an adaptation of Edward Albee’s brutal play. One of the most exhausting movies ever made, it won five Academy awards (though not one for Best Director) and has freaked out married couples for nearly 50 years.

2. “The Graduate” (1967): The career-maker and the Best Director Oscar winner. Of course Dustin Hoffman was entirely too old to play Benjamin Braddock, but Hoffman’s presence remains one of the canniest bits of casting of the era — nobody from Southern California had ever looked like that on-screen before (and, frankly, not all that many since). From its tight script to its visionary use of pop music to the way it nails down an apparently ageless sense of 20-something ennui, generations of filmmakers have been remaking “the Graduate” or stripping it for parts ever since (hello, Wes Anderson!).

3. “SiTHE+GRADUATE+-+American+Re-Release+Poster+3lkwood” (1984): The oddly forgotten drama. Meryl Streep plays nuclear power whistle-blower Karen Silkwood, who died in 1974. A nerve-wracking film even if you know exactly how it ends (spoiler: not well) featuring strong performances from everyone involved, including Kurt Russell and Cher. Not a bad movie to watch when you are feeling nostalgic for 70s and 80s left-wing activism.

4. “The Birdcage.” The underrated comedy masterpiece (1996): After a few duds (“Wolf” is hilariously weird, “Regarding Henry” is just plain lousy), Nichols reteamed with his former comedy partner Elaine May, who wrote the script, on this English language remake of the French farce “”La Cage aux Folles.” The result contains what might be Robin Williams’ single finest performance. As Armond Goldman, Williams is forced to play it straight (literally, for a spell) and creates something wonderfully nuanced and thoughtful. As Nathan Lane flutters about like, well, an uncaged bird, Williams has to keep it together, which makes his comic explosions (“MarthagrahamMarthagraham Marthagraham!”) all the funnier. Stellar performances abound, including Gene Hackman, Dianne Weist and Hank Azaria.

5. “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007): The last blast. Nichols final film as director hasn’t entered the same rarefied air as “the Graduate” or anything, it’s a terrifically enjoyable movie, with top flight turns from Tom Hanks as the hard-partying Texas Congressman who almost personally amped up American involvement in Afghanistan, Julia Roberts as conservative socialite  and an amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman as a blustering CIA agent.

Thanks for everything, man.