What do you do to get away when the vacation is worse than the stress you're vacationing to avoid? That's what a Swedish couple faces on a family skiing holiday in the Alps. A controlled avalanche, and one partner's perceived reaction in its wake, leaves the couple reeling for days and days, arguing, crying and raging in dead silence. "Force Majeure" is a dark comedy about those festering little moments that somehow threaten the fabric of every relationship. But the genius of the film is that it never flinches. It tapes off the crime scene, dusts for prints, marks the blood splatter patterns and even interviews witnesses. It's a clinical breakdown of a breakup. Usually when films get this petty and bitter, there's a release valve, or a comeuppance of some kind. Here, you just don't where this couple is going to go next. Who hasn't been there before? - Colin Boyd
The latest from writer-director Christopher Nolan is a triumphant piece of moviemaking, a science fiction film that dares to go outside the lines and actually create things and hypothesize. In the future Earth is getting swallowed up by dust, all the crops are dying, and the Yankees really suck (Wait...that's true now!). Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a farmer and former test pilot, is raising his two children after the death of his wife. He and his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy as a youngster) discover a strange site that just happens to be the remnants of NASA, where an old scientist (Michael Caine) is in the middle of a plan to save the human race. Cooper eventually winds up flying a mission to enter a wormhole and explore distant planets for their ability to sustain life. The major drawback being that time gets all warped during space travel, and the slightest delay can cost him many years back on Earth. The movie gets a little crazy, farfetched, and possesses more than its share of plot holes. I don't care. It's a terrific viewing experience that made me think, an all time great science fiction film, even if it is a little crazy. Nolan wrote the film with his brother Jonathan, and they come up with some ideas that seem quite impossible, perhaps illogical. Yet, within the context of this sprawling, great movie, it all works just fine. The movie offers many great surprises, performances and brain teasing concepts. It's also weird and insane, and I love it for that. – Bob Grimm
The California brown pelican was nearly driven to extinction by DDT in the 1960s and 1970s. Having survived that, pelicans are again in great peril thanks to ocean pollution. Nature documentarian Judy Irving heard about the plight of a pelican wandering through traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge and followed its journey, making "Pelican Dreams" along the way. She named the bird Gigi and uses her story as a microcosm of the larger unknown that faces pelicans. By extension, the pelicans are a microcosm of even more uncertainty about the viability of any number of animals around the world. "Pelican Dreams" is a thought-provoking little movie—little in the sense that it's only 80 minutes long and in the sense that it's not overly aspirational—but it's unquestionably a caring one. Don't see a lot of that these days. - Colin Boyd
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
The striking resemblance actor Eddie Redmayne bears to physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" definitely makes you take notice. And while the film takes great pains to show Hawking's diminishing physical abilities as a result of a motor neuron disease that struck him almost 50 years ago, as well as Redmayne's remarkable transformation, "Everything" is more the story of Hawking's first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). Now there's a patient woman, not buckling when the man she loves is diagnosed, and marrying him and bearing three children while his body withers and contorts.
It's a rare story of how much both people in a relationship can take, albeit from entirely different stimuli. Both young actors are wonderful, but you won't learn much about black holes. The story's a little soft and dewy, which you may have come to expect from tortured genius movies of Oscar seasons past. - Colin Boyd
Horror film lovers have been eating up a little franchise called "VHS" these last couple of years. An anthology series featuring up and coming horror directors helming their own segments, the franchise is already up to its third offering with "V/H/S: Viral." "V/H/S" (2012) and "V/H/S/2" (2013) were "found footage" films that are the exception to the rule for the genre. While I usually hate the whole "found footage" novelty, it's worked rather well within this franchise. Directors given a chance to play with the played out gimmick managed to take the whole enterprise to terrifying levels. "V/H/S: Viral" jettisons the whole idea of viewing deranged videotapes found in a strange place in favor of a confounding, interconnecting plot involving a kidnapped girl, an ice cream truck and some sort of Internet craze. I confess that the wraparound segments in this movie not only bored me, but confused me as well. It's some sort of pointless, poorly written effort to make a statement on the current state of media and the quest for fame. Whatever...it's very poorly done. As for the three short horror films, they are hit and miss, with the best of them being a riff on skate videos involving the undead. – Bob Grimm