Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard in 'The Immigrant,' directed by James Gray.

‘The Immigrant’ with Marion Cotillard on Amazon Prime

Marion Cotillard earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in the Dardenne Brothers’ Two Days, One Night but I think her best performance that year was in The Immigrant (2014). Cotillard plays Ewa, a Polish immigrant in 1921 New York who, turned away by relatives, is dependent on a mercenary burlesque producer and pimp (played […]

‘A Most Wanted Man’ free on Hoopla

A Most Wanted Man (2014) is the final film completed by Philip Seymour Hoffman before his untimely death in 2014. That alone is reason enough to see the film, adapted from the post 9/11 novel by John le Carré and directed by Anton Corbijn, a music video veteran who becomes more accomplished with each feature. […]

‘Big Hero 6’ on Disney+

Big Hero 6 (2014) is an adaptation of a Marvel Comics title but the filmmakers thoroughly transform it into a Disney feature, complete with issues of loss and family at the center of the creation of a student superhero team, with the spark of Pixar in its visual invention and knowing wit. The comic book […]

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ on Disney+

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is based on one of the more obscure Marvel Comics to get the big screen treatment, but everything about the film suggests a filmmaker trying to recapture the sense of energy and color and sheer fun of Star Wars and the pop space opera. That’s a pretty good marriage and […]

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ – a superhero conspiracy thriller on Disney+

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) is my pick for the best Marvel Universe superhero movie to date. Picking up where The Avengers left off, it’s a superhero adventure by way of a political conspiracy thriller that teams up Cap (Chris Evans in all-American integrity mode) with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) when S.H.I.E.L.D. is infiltrated […]

Angelina Jolie is ‘Maleficent’ on Disney+

Maleficent (2014) does sort of a “Wicked” number on the story of Sleeping Beauty’s evil sorceress, casting her as the tragic figure of a dark fantasy (but not too dark for children—barely) of a revisionist fairy tale. Angelina Jolie plays the adult Maleficent, a fairy who watches over and defends the natural and supernatural wilds […]

Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke in Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood'

Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ on Criterion Channel

It’s common knowledge that filmmaker Richard Linklater and his four central actors—Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the parents, Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) as the older sister, and Ellar Coltrane as Mason, a six-year-old boy as the film begins—shot Boyhood (2014) over the course of 12 years to watch not just Mason but everyone […]

‘Listen Up Philip’ on Amazon Prime Video and Peacock

Philip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman), an abrasive, narcissistic thirtysomething New York novelist who follows up his acclaimed debut with a sophomore effort he doesn’t want to promote. That’s simply the first of the self-destructive impulses he follows down the rabbit hole of arrogance in Listen Up Philip (2014), the third feature from indie filmmaker Alex […]

Jake Gyllenhaal is Louis Bloom in Dan Gilroy's 'Nightcrawler'

‘Nightcrawler’ on Netflix

Nightcrawler (2014) earned an Oscar nomination for director Dan Gilroy’s screenplay, a wicked satire of the tabloid news television that chases sensationalistic stories for ratings (the cliché “if it bleeds, it leads” is the guiding philosophy). It should also have earned a nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal, whose Louis Bloom is a twisted Horatio Alger with […]

Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina

‘Ex Machina’ on Showtime Anytime and free on Kanopy and Hoopla

Ex Machina (2014) plays the man-vs.-machine story as a chamber drama. Domhnall Gleeson is the socially naïve computer programmer Caleb who wins a company contest to spend a weekend in the private retreat of visionary company CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a software genius who can’t wait to show Caleb his new project: a sophisticated artificial intelligence […]