Picks of the week
(R, 119 minutes, Fox): This film tops the Oscar nominations with nine, including Best Picture, Actor and Director. It already has Golden Globes for Michael Keaton, in the title role, and screenplay, and a SAG award for the ensemble cast.
Narcissism, ambition, insecurity and the wages of celebrity are addressed in one fell swoop in “Birdman,” which writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, have filmed to resemble one long, unbroken take.
Once a superstar, hyper-aware, RigganThomson (Keaton) moves through the world on a different frequency than his peers, or so he thinks. He walks the boards and Broadway streets like a hungry ghost, searching for the potency his cartoonish persona once conferred, while simultaneously trying to escape the culture of pandering and cynicism he helped to create.
Edward Norton, as pretentious actor Mike Shiner, gleefully, even courageously, throws himself into a performance that showcases the subtleties of acting nuance.
Contains throughout some sexual content and brief violence.
‘The Theory of Everything’
(PG-13, 123 minutes, Universal): “The Theory of Everything,” a stirring if conveniently cosmeticized portrait of physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane, drew five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne) and Best Actress (Felicity Jones).
This handsome, ultimately very moving drama winds up subtly upending as many genre conventions as it obeys. Based on Jane Hawking’s memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen,” the biopic doesn’t dwell too long on Hawking’s most famous intellectual achievements.
Instead, filmmaker James Marsh has created a spirited, affecting meditation on marriage, specifically how Hawking’s affliction with a brutally degenerative disease and Jane’s mostly unflinching support and motivation throughout its worst predations resulted in a relationship that, while far from ideal, bears celebrating.
Contains thematic elements and some suggestive material.
(R, 112 minutes, Sony): This genial, occasionally incisive, generally lackadaisical comedy about a dunderheaded journalist tasked with assassinating Kim Jong Un is aimed squarely at fans of the low-brow humor perfected by Seth Rogen and his frequent collaborator, James Franco.
That “The Interview” landed amid a hacking scandal, geopolitical crisis and First Amendment case study is as improbable as one of Rogen and Franco’s absurd plots. As it turns out, the satire isn’t nearly as sharp or politically pointed as the kerfuffle suggested.
But they make some germane points about life in North Korea and the repressive leadership of the Kim dynasty.
Contains pervasive profanity, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use, and bloody violence.
(PG-13, 102 minutes, The Weinstein Company): Bill Murray musters every ounce of goodwill that he’s earned as a lovably gonzo free spirit in “St. Vincent,” in which he plays a grouchy, alcoholic ne’er-do-well who hires out to babysit the 12-year-old son of his new neighbor (a toned-down Melissa McCarthy).
“St. Vincent” faithfully follows every trope and cliche of the ingratiating kid-and-curmudgeon genre. Throw in a hooker with a heart of gold (Naomi Watts), a wisecracking Catholic school teacher (Chris O’Dowd) and some touching surprises in Vincent’s backstory, and writer-director Ted Melfi hits a trifecta, shamelessly soliciting laughter, tears and sentimental sighs.
Contains profanity and mature thematic material, including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use.
(R, 122 minutes, Lionsgate): In his latest effort as director, star and co-writer, Tommy Lee Jones won’t concede that “The Homesman,” set in 1854 on the harsh Nebraska frontier, is either a Western or a feminist movie. And although it has elements of both, those words don’t do the drama justice.
Supporting cast includes standouts Hilary Swank, John Lithgow, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld and Meryl Streep.
Contains nudity, troubling scenes, sexual situations and violence.
‘Dumb and Dumber To’
(PG-13, 109 minutes, Universal): Like the original 1994 “Dumb and Dumber,” the 20th anniversary sequel “Dumb and Dumber To” involves a transcontinental road trip with dim-bulb buddies Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. And yet despite scenes taking place in Rhode Island, Maryland, Kansas, Texas and spots in between, the story rarely turns its attention away from a region of a few square inches.
With the persistence of an annoying brat hammering away on your front door, the film relentlessly focuses on the human body’s locus of excretory and sexual functioning.
Contains pervasive crude and sexual humor, obscenity, views of bare buttocks and drug use.