Ordinary people have never been as funny as when they're in an Alexander Payne movie, and that trend continues with his superb comedy/drama "Nebraska." With a soulful performance from Bruce Dern and some of the sharpest dialog you'll hear in a comedy, "Nebraska" is both a hilarious satire of everyday America and a searing drama about father and son.
To be an issue movie without feeling like one takes a certain restraint, and it's what makes "Dallas Buyers Club" much more than the simplified period piece you might be expecting. Backed by transformational performances from both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club" is both a satire of dubious FDA practices and an entertaining film.
Even if "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" struggles at times to fit in the tidy PG-13 rating, it's another impressive example of character building in a genre that usually doesn't allow it. The plot surrounding Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) may be a little obvious at times, but it's still a heart-felt story that ends up being much bigger than the usual lazy teen romance.
It's been a very good run for the on-screen Marvel universe, with a series of releases that have managed to be both intelligent and broadly entertaining at the same time - a delicate balance that many fail to produce. Even though "Thor: The Dark World" is too predictable by half and nowhere near as witty as "Iron Man 3" was over the summer, it's still another fun and whimsical action flick.
Though certainly challenging to watch at times, "12 Years a Slave" is a remarkable journey into the dark soul of slavery, leaving us a parable that perfectly captures a time period that many would love to forget. Director Steve McQueen's latest is refreshingly unconventional, defying the typical Hollywood formula and refusing to settle for the arm chair version of history and morality.
Neither a success nor a disaster, "Ender's Game" flashes moments of inspiration and brilliance, yet it is nearly undermined by some hokey action that it barely recovers from. While lovers of the Orson Scott Card sci-fi novel might find plenty to like, here we have another movie that takes a bold idea and mainly plays it safe.
Even with some memorable dialog and developments that nicely attempt to defy convention, "The Counselor" is a film that never quite lives up to the talent behind or in front of the camera. What could have been an enticing parable of a man who threw it all away out of greed turns into a topsy-turvy mess that wants to be cooler than it is.
Even though "Carrie" is a bit too straight-forward and lacking in some of the chills from the original, it's still a fun little movie in which star Chloe Grace Moretz steps under the bucket of blood to announce she could be a star on the rise.
It was inevitable that someone was going to make a Somali pirate movie, but you'd be forgiven for expecting a lame rehashing of the good guy versus bad guy routine. Swimming in the opposite direction, director Paul Greengrass' "Captain Phillips" delves into complex subject matter with the hope of finding a level of understanding, not just your typical explosion-heavy thrills and gunfire.
Even with a few cheap emotional tricks and an ending that may not quite live up to the opening act, director Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" is a jaw-dropping space adventure film that takes the rules of the typical thriller and throws them out the window. By bringing the pace down to a human speed, here is a movie that knows how to entertain without the need for sensationalism.
Sports movies can really go downhill pretty quickly if they're not in the right hands, as they are prime suspects for cheap melodrama and laughable detachments from reality. But not with "Rush," director Ron Howard's thrilling and well-acted action film that has enough character development and reality to allow us to forgive some of the brief dips into familiar territory.
From the opening shot of "Prisoners," you can tell that we're not in for the typical thriller routine. By promising a big plot twist but not relying upon one, director Denis Villeneuve builds an elegant mystery based on natural performances, smart dialog and visual creativity, allowing us to get sucked into the story instead of spending our time guessing what the ending is going to be.
Despite being a bit of fun at parts, "Insidious: Chapter 2" is a feebly written horror rerun slapped together with every trick in the book, leaving the audience wondering whether any of it was ever intended to be taken seriously. Director James Wan does his best to create a vision out murky sequel material, but most of the time "Insidious: Chapter 2" feels like it's on autopilot.
Even though "Riddick" is occasionally a disaster, often stunningly simple-minded and filled with plot question marks, it's also a return to the type of gritty, adult-geared sci-fi action that made "Pitch Black" so much fun more than a decade ago. Sure, we're not talking about pushing the limits of sci-fi into new territory, but "Riddick" is a mostly competent action flick.
Even if you think that watching a group of out-of-shape guys beat down robots like they were Bruce Lee gets a little tiresome, "The World's End" still offers so many hilarious one-liners and off-the-wall comedic observations that you might just forgive some of the worst action scenes in recent memory.