Instead of a predictable reach for low-hanging fruit, Chris Rock's "Top Five" is a movie that refuses to cheapen itself with the obvious gag and instead ends up a surprisingly thoughtful reflection on the soul of a comedian. Though not a breakout success, "Top Five" cleverly delves into the celebrity age and even manages to do the impossible: make Adam Sandler funny again.
Though a bit bloated at nearly two and a half hours, Paul Thomas Anderson's oddball crime picture "Inherent Vice" is an unconventional and often hilarious menagerie of schemers and lowlifes. As characters get lost in their own tangled web of plots, we end up with a detailed and spontaneous meandering through 70s drug culture.
Considering how many things could have gone wrong, it's amazing just how many things go right in James Marsh's absorbing drama "The Theory of Everything." Though it never really penetrates the theories behind legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, or really tries, "The Theory of Everything" is a naturally uplifting film about a gifted scientist who was dealt a seemingly losing hand.
Flinging itself into darker territory than the previous entries, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" is another impressive chapter in a series that has proven to be much more complex and thoughtful than the genre typically allows. Though it's certainly much lighter on the action than previous entries, "Mockingjay" still brings a compelling story that wisely limits the melodrama.
There's no stopping the revolution in Jon Stewart's directorial debut "Rosewater." Though a bit uneven and a little light on the final act, "Rosewater" is a loving homage to the nature of bearing witness and an occasionally touching celebration of the journalists who fly in the face of regimes all over the world.
In an effort to make a mind-blowing space epic, director Christopher Nolan delivers an entertaining jaunt to the edge of the abyss with "Interstellar," only to leave the audience stuck halfway in between Hollywood fantasy and the finer details of space travel. Still, considering its foundation is based on big ideas about where we're headed as a species, "Interstellar" is an easy movie to respect.
"Birdman" is 119 minutes of pure chaos, a lyrical comedy with a dark streak that delves deeply into the mind of a fading movie star on the tip of insanity. While certainly not for everyone, "Birdman" is the type of offbeat comedy that is perfect for those tired of the slapstick-heavy comedies of the mainstream, complete with an audacious and pitch-perfect performance from Michael Keaton.
More than anything, "John Wick" might just be the antidote for the dull routine of action. Even though the action choreography is far from groundbreaking, "John Wick," like all of the best action movies, is at its best in between the gunshots, taking a story that could have been a mindless retread and turning into an entertaining and often hilarious piece of pulp moviemaking.
If nothing else, "Fury" is a movie that certainly lives up to its title. Writer/director David Ayer's latest, a WWII film about a close-knit tank unit, dives headlong into the gore and brutality of a global war winding down amidst a shocking backdrop of slaughter and inhumanity.
"The Judge" follows a long line of movies that have used the courtroom as a battleground, though even with a top-notch cast it struggles to get through a meandering narrative that simply tries to tell too many different stories.
Don't let the routine premise of "Gone Girl" fool you. Though there have been plenty of thrillers about husbands and wives, "Gone Girl" isn't really like any of them, blazing off into new territory with the dark satirical vision of director David Fincher and the cynical wit of novelist Gillian Flynn.