AUTHOR | Kevin Bowen

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RACE

Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons and William Hurt
Directed by Stephen Hopkins

The story of Olympics legend Jesse Owens has always stuck with me. Not because of the glory of winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin games, setting records in front of Adolf Hitler. It has stuck with me because it haunts me – that a man could be a national hero one day and then struggle in the longer RACE of life. RACE doesn’t cover much of Owens’ life outside of his athletic peak. Being ... more >

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YOUTH | It’s always fantastic when God pitches in as production designer

"La Giovinezza" (Italy)
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

There is a moment in Paolo Sorrentino’s YOUTH when the aging conductor and composer, played by Michael Caine, stops in a beautiful European meadow to watch the cows. At first we are listening to each dong of a cowbell as a separate sound. Slowly he begins to hear the music hidden inside them. With a bit of imagination, the conductor soon raises a hand to conduct. If the film has a metaphor, this ... more >

An erratic but underwhelming “Chappie” hit theater screens

Low marks for Blomkamp's latest effort
Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman
Directed by Neill Blomkamp

The opening of Neill Blomkamp’s “Chappie” sweeps across multiple stories in multiple places in early stage apocalypse-Johannesburg, South Africa. A helicopter fleet of robocops dives from the sky and blasts through a collection of menacing gangsters. It’s a lovely, frantic movement of action, editing and scoring. And then everything goes wrong after that. It’s common for critics to wish that ... more >

As new doc “RED ARMY” shows, the most successful sports franchise in history was Soviet

[Gabriel Polsky Productions]

Why do oppressive regimes always wear such awesome uniforms? The national hockey team of the Soviet Union, also known as the Red Army team, wore the best crisp red sweaters. The letters “CCCP” on their chests looked way more intimidating than when they started “Chris” or “Peter.” For a generation of Americans, those letters might as well have spelled “KGB,” and the players should have skated in ... more >

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A supremely Dolanesque kind of MOMMY

The character of "Steve" is a rosebush of thorns and charisma
Anne Dorval, Antoine Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clement
Directed by Xavier Dolan

If you have ever watched a televised murder trial and wondered why the family would support the killer, then Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” is the film for you. This provocative French-language Canadian film (it had its world premiere at the 2014 Cannes Festival) zeroes in on the extreme relationship of a mother and her child. At times violent at others tender and finally doomed to tragedy Dolan's ... more >

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Inherent vice

Based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon
Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Kathleen Waterston
Directed by P.T. Anderson

In college I wrote a paper on the subversion of the detective novel in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. I got an A, although the paper received its highest compliment in 2009. That’s when Pynchon finally lived up to my astonishing insight and published a detective novel, “Inherent vice.” This survey of Los Angeles weirdness circa 1970 is brought to the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson. The ... more >

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Under Angelina Jolie’s direction “Unbroken” plays out nice and slow but peters out

Released on December 25th
Jack O'Connell, Miyavi and Domhall Gleeson
Directed by Angelina Jolie

While watching "Unbroken," the World War II survival film directed by star-of-the-moment Angelina Jolie, one question stood out among the rest: How can such an extravagant, provocative personality turn in such a normal, even traditional film? Here is a woman who built her career on shock value. Where are the shocking moments in "Unbroken"? This isn't entirely a bad thing, as the classical, ... more >