Last year, Clint Eastwood, at the age of 84, directed his highest-grossing film to date. “American Sniper” grossed $543 million worldwide and also became the highest-grossing war film of all time. So chances are, you’ve probably seen it, but if you haven’t, you can check out the film that garnered equal part accolades and controversy. See for yourself if “American Sniper” is a sensitive portrayal of veterans or a celebration of U.S. jingoism, or maybe it’s something a little more complicated than that binary consensus. But for those who are looking for something a little more depressing, there’s the Russian drama “Leviathan.” Described by director Andrey Zvyagintsev as a contemporary riff on the story of Job, the film follows the life of Kolya (Alexei Serebriakov) and his struggle to keep his family home from being expropriated by a corrupt mayor (Roman Madyanov). It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and won the Golden Globe in the same category.
The other releases this week consists of an acclaimed portrayal of adolescence, a Shakespeare adaptation, a George Lucas story inspired by Shakespeare, and “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.” There’s Celine Sciamma’s “Girlhood,” a intimate, empathetic coming-of-age story about a girl navigating the difficult waters of growing up. Next, there’s Michael Almereyda’s “Cymbeline,” his second Shakespeare adaptation starring Ethan Hawke. Though Almereyda gets credit for trying to adapt one of the Bard’s weaker efforts into a successful film, he unfortunately gets lost in the complexity of its plot. Finally, there’s “Strange Magic,” a Lucasfilm production starring Alan Cumming and inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.” Both were critical and commercial flops, but the former wasn’t “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.”
The classic releases this week are a diverse group. Charlie Chaplin’s “Limelight” and Mark Rydell’s “The Rose” both get the Criterion treatment. “Limelight” was Chaplin’s last film for United Artists and was released amidst controversy when Chaplin was refused re-entry to the U.S. based on allegations that he was a Communist sympathizer. It also features the legendary Buster Keaton and marks the only time Keaton and Chaplin worked together. Loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin, “The Rose” stars Bette Midler in her film debut as a successful rock ‘n’ roll diva struggling with the pressures of her career. The classic melodrama about fame and addiction made Midler a movie star. Finally, Anchor Bay is releasing Sam Peckinpah’s final film “The Osterman Weekend” on Blu-Ray. Based on Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name, the film stars Rutger Hauer as John Tanner, a TV journalist tasked by the CIA to convince three Soviet spies to defect to the West. The catch? The three Soviet spies are his best friends from college.
Criticwire Average: B
Keith Phipps, The Dissolve
Cooper’s performance keeps undercutting the bravado, though. The actor, who also served as one of the film’s producers, bulked up considerably for the role. He looks little like the nervous, stringy-haired character he played in “American Hustle,” but the muscle does nothing to obscure his expressive eyes, which suggest uncertainty even as he takes aim at another target. He’s believable both in scenes that capture Kyle’s acumen in battle and in which he has trouble adjusting to life back home. Read more.
Criticwire Average: A-
Jared Mobarek, BuffaloVibe
It doesn’t get much bleaker or more cynical than Andrey Zvyagintsev’s [Leviathan]. He and cowriter Oleg Negin were inspired by many stories — “killdozer” rampage orchestrator Marvin Heemeyer, the Bible’s Job and King Ahab, and Heinrich von Kleist’s novella Michael Kohlhaas — all of which I know nothing about. Reading a little of Heemeyer’s tale, however, has me believing each dealt with the tragic circumstances befalling common man and the uphill climb necessary to overcome oppression. Read more.
Criticwire Average: B+
Matt Prigge, Metro
Sciamma explored, with great sensitivity and a remarkable lack of sensastionalism, young lesbianism in films like “Water Lillies” and “Tomboys,” so it’s not surprising that questions of sexual and gender fluidity arise in “Girlhood.” But it’s a more mysterious exploration of these ideas, one rooted less in character and more in a free-form, heady idea — as though the film had reinvented itself, just as Marieme has repeatedly reinvented herself, and in less than a year’s time (as opposed to a dozen). Read more.
Criticwire Average: C+
Hemanth Kissoon, Filmaluation
Cymbeline (Harris) is king of the motorcycle gang and, after the title “Keep your head” materialises on screen, is seen tooling up with loyal servant Pisanio (John Leguizamo). Machine gun cocking suggests a showdown that breaks off before the meat. Strapped to a table is Posthumus Leonatus (Penn Badgley), where his dead father, Sicilus (Bill Pullman), appears to him, and then a cut back to a week earlier. Playing with Shakespeare might raise hackles, but being a slave to the source is too dull. Read more.