I've been a fan of Spike Lee -- if not of all of his movies -- for 25 years. And I've found that, more often than not, he's at his best when he's directing someone else's material -- or someone else's story. It's absolutely true of Oldboy.
Given how much history this film has to cover, it tends to jump around. But Idris Elba is its anchor, physically and emotionally, just as Mandela himself held the movement that was the African National Congress together, even as he moldered in a jail cell on Robben Island.
Disney has had such a long winning streak with its animated comedies and musicals that it's almost possible to forgive the problems with Frozen, which opens in Los Angeles today and in wide release on Nov. 27.
It's interesting to see the way filmmakers stake out certain emotional territory as their own over the course of a career. Over the course of six films, Alexander Payne has created a body of work that focuses on the effects of and rebellion against disappointment.
Kenneth Branagh's Thor had a certain playfulness that pitted the ultra-serious world of Asgard, land of the Norse gods, against 21st-century USA. Now director Alan Taylor has taken the reins of the franchise and, with Thor: The Dark World, drains the fun from it.
The story is the time-honored trope of the martial artist who must decide between selling his abilities for money or using them to pursue spiritual goals. Can he find his way back to his own values once he's gone over to the dark side of raw capitalism?
I heard a lot of critics sniff at the inclusion of Richard Curtis' About Time in this year's New York Film Festival. The same cadre, no doubt, uses Curtis' Love, Actually as an example of what's wrong with romantic comedy.
You could think of Aftermath as a Polish version of 12 Years a Slave: a film that exhumes a shameful chapter in its nation's history which some people would just as soon leave buried, rather than confront.
Ridley Scott is one of those overrated directors who, every once in a while, puts together a hard-edged, lean little film that just delivers the goods. The Counselor, unfortunately, isn't one of those efforts.
Machete, which turned veteran character actor Danny Trejo into a leading man, was a wild and wildly violent action-comedy, a spoof of exploitation films of the 1970s. So, obviously, is Machete Kills. How much of a spoof?
Based on the title character's book recalling the 2009 incident -- in which an American cargo vessel in the Indian Ocean was captured by four Somali pirates -- Captain Phillips puts you right in the middle of the action and never lets you go.