Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Making a sequel to a cherished cultural totem is no easy business, but director Adam McKay and his muse Will Ferrell keep things very classy in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” a modestly less quotable but generously funny new adventure for scotch-and-mahogany-loving 1970s newsman Ron Burgundy, here catapulted into 1980 and the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle. Mindful that bigger isn’t often better, McKay and Ferrell have scaled up 2004’s “Anchorman” without compromising its core of freewheeling prankishness, while making a not-unserious movie about the devolution of TV news into pandering infotainment. (Imagine “Network” as directed by Mel Brooks, and starring Gene Wilder.) Sure to leave a smile on the faces of all but the overly botoxed, this early Paramount Christmas present should easily power past the original film’s $85 million domestic haul, and possibly even the $148 million earned by Ferrell-McKay’s 2006 “Talladega Nights.”
— Scott Foundas
Read the full review

<p>Evoking Passion With a Voice Alone</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p><strong>Sound Mixing: </strong>David Parker & Ren Klyce, re-recording mixers; Drew Kunin, production mixer</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p><strong>Sound Editing:</strong> Ren Klyce, sound and music supervisor</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Helmer Spike Jonze wanted deeply emotional dialogue for “Her” even though one of the characters is never seen on screen. “We tried making the woman’s voice sound more processed but it took a lot of feeling out of it,” says Ren Klyce, re-recording sound mixer. “Then we realized her voice should be left full and rich in the mixing process, like she’s there in the room with Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix’s character), not just in someone’s head.”</p>

(Warner Bros.)
Move over, HAL 9000. Take a hike, Skynet. After decades of being typecast as an agent of destruction or (at best) the harbinger of dystopian things to come, artificial intelligence gets a romantic lead in “Her,” Spike Jonze’s singular, wryly funny, subtly profound consideration of our relationship to technology — and to each other. A truly 21st-century love story, Jonze’s fourth directorial feature (and first made from his own original screenplay) may not be Middle America’s idea of prime date-night viewing, but its funky, deeply romantic charms should click with the hip urban audiences who embraced Jonze’s earlier work, with some cross-pollination to the sci-fi/fantasy crowd.
— Scott Foundas
Read the full review

<p>On paper, director Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to his 2011 foreign-language winner sounds like it could be a sequel to “A Separation,” in which an Iranian woman requests a divorce so she and her daughter can pursue better opportunities in the west. Here, an Iranian ex-husband (Ali Mosaffa) travels to Paris and struggles to accept his estranged wife and daughter’s new life abroad. Though written with the same eloquent, theatrical style that previously earned Farhadi a screenwriting nom, this new project feels more European, offering Berenice Bejo (a supporting actress nominee for 2011’s “The Artist”) several meaty scenes in which to show her acting chops, plus a complex role for the astoundingly talented Tahar Rahim, the Robert De Niro of his generation. — Peter Debruge</p>

The Past
(Sony Pictures Classics)
Asghar Farhadi may have left his native Iran to shoot a picture in Paris starring Berenice Bejo, but in all the ways that count, “The Past” couldn’t feel closer to home. Like 2011’s Oscar-winning “A Separation,” this is an exquisitely sculpted family melodrama in which the end of a marriage is merely the beginning of something else, an indelible tapestry of carefully engineered revelations and deeper human truths. If Farhadi’s sense of narrative construction is almost too incisive at times, costing the drama some focus and credibility in the final reels, he nonetheless maintains a microscopic attention to character, performance and theme that will make this powerfully acted picture a very classy specialty-division prospect.
— Justin Chang
Read the full review

Clio Barnard’s first narrative feature stars an unknown kid whose performance is light years beyond most of the big names getting touted for Oscars. And Barnard delivers a devastating examination of British poverty infused with the poetry of a master filmmaker/storyteller.

The Selfish Giant
(IFC Films)
Oscar Wilde is uncharacteristically muffled in “The Selfish Giant,” an abstruse contempo interpretation of Wilde’s Christian fairy tale, but writer-helmer Clio Barnard’s voice comes through loud and clear. A jaggedly moving study of a feral adolescent (astonishing newcomerConner Chapman) on a rough journey to grace, the pic is ostensibly more conventional than Barnard’s acclaimed hybrid-doc debut, “The Arbor,” but exhibits stunning formal progress nonetheless. Though her tender-tough worldview arguably hews closer to that of Shane Meadows, this demanding but eminently distributable art film should elevate Barnard to the bracket of streetwise femme compatriots Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay.
— Guy Lodge
Read the full review

Paradise: Hope
(Strand Releasing)
Austrian weirdmeister Ulrich Seidl’s sometimes grueling but consistently compelling “Paradise” trilogy concludes on a surprisingly wistful, tender note with “Paradise: Hope,” an account of a teenager experiencing first love at fat camp. This is the most accessible, commercially viable installment of the three, even allowing for the fact that it pivots on the taboo subject of desire across a 40-year age gap, handled here with discretion, sensitivity and admirable honesty. Takings have been strictly niche in the few territories where the other chapters have bowed theatrically, but the full set will find peace in the ancillary afterlife with arthouse auds.
— Leslie Felperin
Read the full review

All the Light in the Sky
(Factory 25)
With his homemade aesthetics, meandering narratives and seemingly invasive filmmaking methods, it’ll be a while before prolific microbudget auteur Joe Swanberg finds safe harbor in multiplexes. But his latest work, “All the Light in the Sky,” displays a striking new willingness to meet his audience halfway, buttressing his signature style with clever pacing, solid technique and a deeply soulful lead performance from co-scripter Jane Adams. Though the film’s reach will be limited to fests and the director’s cult fanbase, this is Swanberg’s most accessible work to date, and ought to open doors for him outside the mumblecore ghetto.

— Andrew Barker
Read the full review

Wrong Cops
(IFC Films)
Only the most forgiving connoisseurs of le bad cinema will find much right about “Wrong Cops,” a monstrously unfunny “Police Academy”/“Reno 911” knockoff directing with just enough winking self-awareness to seem both insipid and pretentious. Originally presented as a 45-minute work-in-progress at Sundance this year, this latest provocation by French electronic music artist and filmmaker Quentin Dupieux shows little of the off-kilter savoir faire that earned his previous “Rubber” and “Wrong” a not-undeserved cult of admirers. Outside the odd midnight screening here and there, the pic should head straight to movie jail without passing Go.
— Scott Foundas
Read the full review

Personal Tailor
(China Lion Film Distribution)
Top-grossing Chinese helmer Feng Xiaogang has alternated between romantic comedies and big-budget historical epics with remarkable consistency in recent years, padding out two pleasant servings of “If You Are the One” with an earthquake-themed tearjerker (“Aftershock”) and a wartime famine drama (“Back to 1942″). Back in the laffer realm with “Personal Tailor,” a sly bit of satirical whimsy about a company that brings people’s fantasies of wealth and power to life, Feng has not only continued the trend but fashioned an unofficial sequel to one of his early hits, 1997′s “The Dream Factory.” An easy-on-the-eyes trifle with a few pleasingly sharp edges, “Tailor” is likely too mild and episodic to catch on offshore, though domestically it’s off to a fine start with $13 million — the second-highest opening of all time for a mainland release.
— Justin Chang
Read the full review

The New Rijksmuseum
(Films Transit)
Clocking in at four hours, Oeke Hoogendijk’s “The New Rijksmuseum” may sound like the ultimate treat for culture hounds, who have been deprived access to the Amsterdam fixture’s robust collection for the duration of its decade-long renovation. However, the process-oriented docu is actually better suited to an even more rarefied breed — namely, those bemused by bureaucracy and fascinated by the vise it holds on fine art. With its emphasis on ugly inner workings over superficially pretty pictures, this hefty project is best served anywhere that dialogues might follow, as opposed to cold viewings at New York’s Film Forum, where it opened Wednesday.
— Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Two Lessons
(Nonfiction Cinema Releasing)
Two hourlong documentaries by Wojciech Staron — 1998′s “Siberian Lesson” and 2011′s “Argentinian Lesson” — constitute the feature “Two Lessons,” spanning 15 years and two continents as the director follows his wife, Malgosia, to her teaching assignments abroad. Glimpses of life under extreme conditions in both regions (economic in Argentina, economic and climactic in Siberia) maintain interest in two diaristic efforts that nonetheless offer only limited insight into the people and cultures depicted. Of primary appeal to students of ethnographic film, the pic made its theatrical debut Dec. 16 with a weeklong run at New York’s Maysles Cinema, and may announce further U.S. dates in coming weeks.
— Dennis Harvey
Read the full review