Eleanor Ringel Cater

Movie column by Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Wild’ – Reese Witherspoon faces life’s challenges hiking Pacific Coast Trail

The first sounds you hear in “Wild” are gasps, moans, quick in-takes of breathe. It could be a woman having an orgasm.

Hardly.

It’s Reese Witherspoon, perched somewhere on the Pacific Crest Trail, pulling off her bloodied socks and shoes.
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‘Whiplash’ – drumming up jazzy conflicts with a march to the Oscars

“Whiplash” could well be called “An Officer and a Gentleman and a Drummer.”

The conflict is essentially the same. An outsider-ish youngster with “something special” runs into an enigmatic martinet who’s determined to tear the kid down so he can (ultimately) realize his own potential.
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‘The Homesman’ – as a director, Tommy Lee Jones delivers brilliance

As an actor, Tommy Lee Jones’ career has been hit and miss. For every “The Fugitive” or “Men in Black,” he’s had a “Man of the House” or “Men in Black 3.” (“MIB II” wasn’t all that either.)

But as a director, he’s batted it out of the park. Twice. First with the eloquent and little-seen “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” and now with the hardscrabble brilliance of “The Homesman.”
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Tribute to Mike Nichols: a talent who bridged Broadway and Hollywood

The glamour names were Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese. But not one of them contributed more to the cinematic zeitgeist of the last 50 years than Mike Nichols.

How did a Berlin-born Jewish refugee become the voice of a generation? A generation he wasn’t even part of. Nichols was in his late 30s when he made “The Graduate,” which became the iconic film for the “Never trust anyone over 30” crowd.
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‘Interstellar’ – director Nolan takes audience to infinity and back

“Interstellar” isn’t interminable. It only seems that way.

Further, it only seems that way during the second hour. That’s the Geeks Gone Wild part during which some intrepid astronauts do some extremely high-tech fiddling around with fancy dials. They also engage in daunting sci-fi dialogue about relativity, space-time continuums and all that other stuff that made many of us so very glad we’d chosen English Lit as our college major.
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‘Before I Go to Sleep’ – Colin Firth steals focus in suspense thriller

The last time we saw a movie about an amnesiac who needed to be reminded every morning who she was and what was what, Adam Sandler was courting Drew Barrymore in “50 First Dates.”

“Before I Go to Sleep” turns that concept on its head.  And casts it in a much darker hue.

This suspense thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth is an efficiently unpleasant little exercise in paranoia and manipulation and spousal abuse — though not necessarily in that order or importance.
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‘Birdman’ – a weighty and weightless movie that’s the best of the year so far

As its parenthetical subtitle implies, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” wraps a cautionary tale inside its pitch-black comedy. Be careful what you wish for — especially if it involves Hollywood or Broadway.

Sometime in the last century, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) seemed to have everything he could wish for.
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‘Kill the Messenger’ – movie reveals questions about ‘hell of a story’

In another time — say, another century — “Kill the Messenger” would be the talk of the town.  Or at least the talk of the water cooler.

It’s the true story of Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, who, in the mid 1990s, uncovered a hell of a story.
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‘Two Faces of January’ – with Dunst, Mortensen – has brilliant moments

When we first glimpse Chester MacFarland (VIggo Mortensen), the protagonist of “The Two Faces of January,” he could well be a Master of the Universe from “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe’s classic chronicle of greed run amok.

For that matter, he could be Wolfe himself, in his creamy white suit and snazzy broad-brimmed hat. Plus, on his arm, is the proper accoutrement: a drop-dead gorgeous blond. As it turns out, she’s his wife — much younger and properly adoring — Colette (Kirsten Durst).
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‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ – quiet hero Liam Neeson carries movie

The girl who’s gone in “A Walk Among the Tombstones” isn’t married to Ben Affleck. Her hubby is a drug dealer who, relatively speaking, is a pure-cut hero compared to the scum who kidnapped his wife.

She is also pretty much gone — aside from those lip-smacking bondage close-ups and tape-recorded screams so many thrillers traffic in these days — before the credits are over. She’s merely a catalyst to set the plot…make that, to set Liam Neeson … in motion.

Neeson has become quite the late-blooming action hero in recent years. “Taken,” “The Grey,” “Non-Stop,” and “Unknown” have catapulted the sensitive hunk from Oscar-bait roles to “Death Wish” material.
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