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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Directed by David Fincher, 2011
Though he wrote one of the more harrowing rape scenes in popular fiction, Stieg Larsson clearly had more on his mind than sensationalism. It's a little jarring to learn, for instance, that the original title of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo translates unambiguously from the Swedish as Men Who Hate Women. It's a confrontational (and, you'd think, curiously uncommercial) phrase, but it's a clear signal of the seriousness of Larsson's intent. Violence against women is neither titillating or simply a convenient fear factor to work some urgency and shock value into a story that's primarily about Swedish industry, Nazis, 40-year-old crimes, and who gives a shit. (It does serve that function, of course.) In this book, and in the two that followed it, Larsson means to indict his own nation for its attitudes toward women. … [read more]
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A Dangerous Method

Directed by David Cronenberg, 2011
I almost spat Coke into my popcorn when I saw the trailer for A Dangerous Method. Biopic? check. Costume drama? Check. "A Film by DAVID CRONENBERG," huh? I knew Viggo Mortensen's main man had a new film coming out, but a Knightley-Fassbender period romance was hardly what I expected. It's not that the subject matter — Freud, Jung, and the birth of psychoanalysis — is a bad match. More like a redundancy. Cronenberg's body of work can already be partly understood as a compendium of his feelings on Freud and a century of psychoanalytic thought. What's to be gained from a straight take on material that he's twisted and transformed, so imaginatively and elegantly, time and again? I know it's obnoxious for a critic to insist that a movie should be something it isn't, but I can't fight the feeling. The English major in me is impressed by the intellectual ambition and writerly craft that went into this careful portrait of Jung, Freud, and their lesser-known sidekick Sabina Spielrein. It catches in the periphery of its gaze the plight of the Jews, the tragedy of the World Wars, and something about the mood of the 20th century. But it's more educational than compelling. The cinephile in me longs for a real Cronenberg screenplay, which might have made something odd and truly majestic out of this historical triangle. … [read more]
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Pina

Directed by Wim Wenders, 2011
With Pina, Wim Wenders aims to do for Pina Bausch and modern dance what Buena Vista Social Club did for Afro-Cuban music. In other words, it's utility cinema — this is the film you show someone who doesn't know much about modern dance, if you want them to learn quickly. That's not a slam against the film — I loved Buena Vista Social Club — but simply a description. As a documentary, Pina eschews analysis in favor of experience. It's not an overview of Bausch's career, or a statement on her art. It's a glowing celebration of the woman's work and of the dancers who bring it to life. Wenders doesn't dig into their personal stories, but his camera does dwell on their faces, often as they comment in disembodied voiceover on their experience with Bausch. The fact that they are, mostly, older men and women is both strange and refreshing — it made me think about how, if you watch enough films, you get your perceptions of beauty and physical grace tied up too closely with an expectation of youth. It's clear that Wenders sees Bausch's dancers conveying something mystical, or perhaps divine, as they move on stage. They seem serene, physically beautiful, and generally beatific. The time Wenders spends with them reminded me of those moments in Wings of Desire when the film passes briefly over the faces of ordinary Germans, their fragmented experiences standing out briefly from the pageant of everyday life. … [read more]
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The Artist

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, 2011
Shot mostly silent, in black and white, and with the squarish, Academy-ratio framing that predated widescreen cinematography, writer-director Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist is a Frenchman’s tribute to old-school Hollywood filmmaking. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, one of those silent-film actors who scoffed at the popularity of talking pictures until their careers hit the skids. Bérénice Bejo, who co-starred with Dujardin in Hazavanicius’s secret-agent comedy OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, is fangirl-turned-starlet Peppy Miller, who looks to George as a mentor. But George, a generation her senior, refuses to embrace the talkies and his career fades to black as Peppy becomes a marquee name in her own right. As you might imagine, this situation leads to professional jealousy, personal resentment and, eventually, redemption through the love of a good woman. … [read more]
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Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975

There’s a tradition among purveyors of BDSM pornography to append a coda to their project in which the participants in various potentially alarming scenarios are finally glimpsed, all smiles, reveling in the afterglow of a clearly consensual exercise. I assume this practice has very practical benefits — for one thing, it might help stave off prosecution for obscenity or sex-trafficking. But it’s also a signal from the community making the videos to the community watching them that the performances are undertaken with high spirits, lest there’s any misunderstanding about the actual circumstances of their making. Despite any apparent unpleasantness, dear viewer, all involved (top and bottom, dominant and submissive) are working toward the ultimate goal of pleasure, not pain.

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Melancholia

Directed by Lars Von Trier, 2011
“No more happy endings,” joked Lars Von Trier, still smarting from the beating he took upon the release of Antichrist. Late in 2009, the director said he was planning a science-fiction film about the end of the world, fueling speculation that the new one would be a departure from the dark, junk-crushing epic that had earned him such scorn at Cannes. But now that Melancholia is here, it plays like an obvious companion piece to the earlier film. There are some tweaks, sure. Antichrist depicted a marriage racked by a woman’s guilt, while Melancholia features a wedding wrecked by a woman’s depressive disorder. But both films probe the nature of depression and the ways it can inspire people to withdraw, lash out, and sabotage their own chances at happiness. … [read more]
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The Phantom Carriage

Directed by Victor Sjöström, 1921
The Phantom Carriage, a seminal achievement in silent filmmaking from that other great Swedish auteur, Victor Sjöström, is a stern, supernatural moral drama that rails against social problems of the day by enlisting an emissary from the Great Beyond to lecture the feckless, abusive protagonist on what a rotten shit he is. Sjöström remains best known internationally for his later Hollywood films, made with the likes of Lillian Gish and Greta Garbo, but The Phantom Carriage already testified to genius behind the camera as well as in front of it. When the movie finished playing, I picked up the disc's keepcase and squinted at it, in all my ignorance, to determine who so expertly essayed the central character of the alcoholic David Holm. When I read the answer (Sjöström himself), I wanted to fling the box across the room. Show-off. … [read more]
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The Dead

Directed by Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford, 2010
The third feature film by the brothers Howard and Jon Ford is an unabashed throwback -- fan service for horror buffs who long for the glory days of George Romero zombies. The dilapidated shamblers of The Dead dominate a post-apocalyptic African landscape ravaged first by war and again by a walking dead (of unspecified origin, natch) whose population is slowly overwhelming its still-living counterparts. Avoiding their bite is a full-time job for an American engineer (Ron Freeman) who was the sole survivor of a failed evacuation attempt that left him stranded on the barren West African countryside. Having liberated an old pickup truck, he connects with an African sergeant (Ghanaian actor Prince David Osei) who’s trudging toward a fortified military base where he believes his young son is living as a refugee from the dead. The two men forge an alliance and press northward together, conserving food, water and ammo as they head toward an uncertain salvation. … [read more]
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Scarface

Directed by Brian De Palma, 1983
One of the most powerful moments in Scarface is the culmination of a violent, perfectly judged sequence of events crafted for maximum impact by screenwriter Oliver Stone and staged with ferocious efficiency by director Brian De Palma. It takes place at the end of a night when Al Pacino's Cuban gangster, a feisty little hard-on named Tony Montana, has survived an attempt on his life that left him with a bullet in his shoulder. He has overseen the execution of his boss, who was behind the hit. He has shot dead a corrupt cop who was extorting his cash and favours. And he has just been upstairs to collect from between satin sheets his boss's woman, a sleek blonde dressed in white who is his prize. The camera zooms out from a medium close-up on Pacino's face as, still bleeding, arm in a sling, exhaustion writ large across his face, Tony Montana peers through 20-foot-tall glass windows, staring dumbly into a Giorgio Moroder sunrise as an advertising blimp floats over the water, its pithy slogan an empty promise of greatness yet to come: "The World Is Yours...." Read the rest of this review at FilmFreakCentral.net
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Rote Sonne

Directed by Rudolf Thome, 1970
Women are absolutely fabulous and also out to get you in Rote Sonne (Red Sun, an artifact of Munich, circa 1969, that puts an alluring, unnerving, yet weirdly dispassionate spin on social unrest. Shot at a time in German history when student protests and leftist communes were subverting the longstanding post-World War II status quo, Rudolf Thome’s film has a go at the country’s nascent feminist movement by taking as its subject a women’s commune populated by man-eaters. There are four of these succubi, and they’re submissive enough for five days of courtship and good times. But woe be to the who shows up for a sixth day with love on his mind and ends up with a bullet in his brain. … [read more]
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Tabloid

Directed by Errol Morris, 2010
First-tier documentarian Errol Morris finds himself slumming a bit with Tabloid, a clear departure from his recent tendency toward rigorous, serious-as-a-tumor inquiry. He describes it as “sick, sad and funny.” His attention has somehow been drawn to Joyce McKinney, a former Wyoming beauty queen who fell in love with Kirk Anderson, a young Mormon from Utah. Anderson’s family (and the church) disapproved of the relationship. Anderson left the states to work as a missionary in Britain, and McKinney eventually followed him there. That much, at least, is not in doubt. What happened next is open to some question. … [read more]
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X: First Class

Directed by Matthew Vaughn, 2011
I'm generally sick of remakes and relaunches and reboots — it seems borderline obscene that it only took 10 years for Sam Raimi's awesome Spider-Man movies to get kicked to the curb in favor of new blood — but this revamped X-Men origin story is kind of fun. Set a couple of generations ago, when fear of the Cold War still cast a long shadow over the swinging 60s and memories of the Holocaust still festered like an open wound, it's a period piece into which has been injected a tale of two mutants. … [read more]
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Midnight in Paris

Directed by Woody Allen, 2011
There's an irony in the fact that, while Woody Allen's latest movie explicitly rejects nostalgia, it's also his comfiest throwback in years. Midnight in Paris feels exactly like the kind of modest picture Allen might have made back in the 1980s — a gently played, loosely extended lark that culminates in a prescription for life well lived. … [read more]
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The Tree of Life

Directed by Terrence Malick, 2011
As films go, The Tree of Life is a huge thing — a movie by a man with the audacity to take as his apparent subject all of human existence. "I know something about the cosmos," Terrence Malick seems to declare, "because I grew up with two brothers under the parentage of a gruff father and a beaming, adoring mother in sun-dappled environs of Oklahoma and Texas." He's not wrong. The greatest filmmakers have shown us again and again that there is no story that cannot, in the right hands and with the right gestures, be spun out to dimensions that encompass questions of love and faith, life and death, regret and longing. … [read more]
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Blow Out

Directed by Brian De Palma, 1981

Blow Out begins with a broadly visual joke, nearly four minutes long, about filmmaking. It ends with a second joke on the same subject, this one more complex, pointed, and black as tar. Over the course of the narrative, the material has turned rancid, so discoloured and malodorous that it's hardly funny. That's because, between the two grand gestures that bookend the film, writer-director Brian De Palma has traced a hero's journey from idealism and optimism to disillusionment and despair. If cynicism were a superhero franchise, Blow Out would be its origin story.

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Unknown

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, 2011
Whenever I tell a certain kind of movie buff that Unknown is pretty good, they immediately want to know how it compares to Taken, that Liam-Neeson-as-killing-machine movie that made serious bank in the U.S. in 2009 despite having sat on the shelf for ages as bootleg copies proliferated on the Internet. The answer is that for all their similarities — the old-school action vibe, the European settings, the generally focused efficiency of narrative — they are also quite different. … [read more]
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Hall Pass

Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 2011
Neither as resolutely crass nor as offensively sexist as buzz might suggest, Hall Pass is pretty much what you'd expect of a remarriage comedy from the conservative Farrelly Brothers – a dopey but earnest endorsement of monogamy. Here, they cast Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as Rick and Fred, 40ish suburban horndogs of the stripe that fantasize about the vigorous sex lives they might be enjoying had they remained single. Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate are the wives who tolerate their ogling, childishness, and other dopey dudebro behavior, eventually issuing them hall passes in hopes of getting the overtly raffish behavior out of their systems. … [read more]
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The Housemaid

Directed by Im Sang-soo, 2010
I don't believe in guilty pleasures, but if I did, Im Sang-soo's The Housemaid would surely be among them. This remake undermines the unsettling achievement of the iconic original film, made in 1960 by Kim Ki-Young, by constructing an explicitly classist framework for its characters. It replaces the Korean everyman at the center of the earlier film with a sexually smug cartoon character for whom wine and blow jobs are totems of his boundless leisure and power. By doing these things, it panders to an audience that craves victims and villains. It's a lesser achievement, and a more simplistic one. But it's glossy and lush and full of gorgeously decadent people doing their gorgeously decadent thing. In its way, it's a delight. … [read more]
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Repo Chick

Directed by Alex Cox, 2009
Staged almost entirely on green-screened sets, which are combined with miniature photography to occasionally amusing DIY effect, Repo Chick's every shot is ersatz. It shouldn't even be watchable, but writer-director Alex Cox manages to keep the cheese factor low and even brings a modicum of pizazz to the proceedings. It's a nominal sequel to Cox's 1984 cult film Repo Man, updated as a funhouse reflection of the mortgage crisis. In the title role, Jaclyn Jonet plays a pink-party-dress-clad heiress who's disinherited by her family due to generally Hilton-ish behavior and lands a job in repossession. Eventually, she falls into the clutches of a group of anti-golf terrorists. (Really!) The production values are bargain basement, but the performances are fairly sharp from top to bottom. Unfortunately, there's not a lot to work with in this too-familiar semi-satire, which is agreeably droll but never funny enough, smart enough or even punk-rock enough to really compensate for its embarrassingly Tosh.0 virtual-set approach to filmmaking. Good for Cox getting this made -- it's a better film than the plusher, superficially similar Southland Tales, for instance -- but I miss the sense of time and place of his early films and really hope this type of cartoonish digital artifact doesn't point the new cheapjack way forward for marginalized indie filmmakers. … [read more]
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The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher, 2010

An opinion piece in The Daily Beast ignited a half-baked controversy in the blogosphere last October by taking The Social Network's screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, to task. Writer Rebecca Davis O'Brien perceived the film as misogynist — or sexist, or something — complaining about the absence of strong female characters in the film. On that count, she is largely correct. The Social Network is about a group of young men inventing something that became fundamental to how people communicate online. But is that, by itself, indicative of some kind of unfairness toward women?

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Black Swan

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, 2010

In Black Swan, Natalie Portman plays a prima ballerina with problems. She’s just been entrusted with a role she has no idea how to play. She lives with her mother, a bitter and broken-down control freak who comes on like Piper Laurie in Carrie. She’s scorned by her role model. She sees visions of her doppelgänger in mirrors, in construction walkways, and even in the bathroom. It’s possible that she’s growing wings. She may have an imaginary friend. She may be a virgin. She needs to get laid.

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Jackass 3D

Directed by Jeff Tremayne, 2010

Johnny Knoxville in <em>Jackass 3D</em>

This merry band of clowns, physical comedians each and every one, may have peaked with the outrageous, hilarious Jackass Number Two, the first installment in the popular TV/DVD/theatrical franchise to reckon with Father Time. The boys are even older here, of course, but Jackass 3D doesn’t feel quite as candid or revealing as the previous installment. Instead, it goes straight for the gross-out — I don’t recall Jackass ever being so fixated on bodily secretions and excretions as it is here. (They shit! They sweat! They piss! On each other!)

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Hereafter

Directed by Clint Eastwood, 2010

Matt Damon in <em>Hereafter</em>

Clint Eastwood doesn’t overthink his material. He grabs a screenplay he likes and starts shooting. Writer Peter Morgan said he was quite surprised that Eastwood started filming Hereafter without demanding rewrites, or even discussing the script much, and the resulting film has an obvious first-draft quality. It doesn’t really work.

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Certified Copy

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami, 2010
Juliette Binoche in <em>Certified Copy</em>

Note: Certified Copy screens October 1 and October 3 as part of the New York Film Festival.

Certified Copy, which opens on a lecture consigning the concept of originality in art to the Academy of the Overrated, is an awesomely playful intellectual romance (or is it a farce?) from the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. When I say playful, I mean confounding in the manner of Last Year at Marienbad, which basically dared viewers to say which competing, contradictory story threads represented real events in the film’s world. I mean bewildering in the style of Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire, which had two different actresses playing a single character. And when I say that, what I really mean is that it’s a bracingly reflexive exercise that flouts basic rules of narrative cinema and manages to come out ahead of the game. … [read more]
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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010

Confession: my only previous exposure to Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai director who's one of the most lauded auteurs currently working, was a DVD copy of Tropical Malady, which frankly bored my pants off. Watching Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives on the big screen at the New York Film Festival's Alice Tully Hall, it occurred to me almost immediately that waiting to see anything by Weerasethakul on DVD is a terrible idea. For Uncle Boonmee, the large theater screen works like a window onto a bigger world populated by larger-than-actual-size memories and myths. And the photography is not the kind of crisp, high-contrast work that translates well to home video (though Blu-ray might do OK by it) — shots taken within the Thai jungle, for instance, are unfailingly dense and moody, with different and ever-darker shades of green layered on top of each other like thick brush strokes in an oil painting. Sometimes it feels as if the whole film were shot at twilight, or using day-for-night shooting and processing trickery. When one of Weerasethakul's rare bright daylight exteriors hits the screen, you feel it like waking up at noon.

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Buried

Directed by Rodrigo Cortés, 2010

Ryan Reynolds is <em>Buried</em>

Throughout most of film history, it would have been inconceivable to mount a 95-minute mainstream film that took place entirely within the confines of a wooden coffin buried several feet underground. All hail the cell phone – with one of those gadgets helpfully stashed near his person, Ryan Reynolds is a one-man suspense movie. In Buried, an English-language film from Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes and writer Chris Sparling, he plays Paul Conroy, an American contractor who drove supply trucks across the Iraq desert until his convoy was ambushed by insurgents. He wakes up in a pine box – a fairly roomy one, actually – equipped with said phone and a few temperamental sources of light.

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Enter the Void

Directed by Gaspar Noe, 2009

Paz de la Huerta in <em>Enter the Void</em>

Whatever else its merits may be, Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void immediately enters the canon of first-person cinema. The highly subjective camera that depicts an experience from the point of view of one of the characters in a film has been a source of fascination and frustration in cinema for decades. Executed well, and in short bursts, it can be an effective tactic. For instance, there's a memorable sequence in Carl-Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) in which the camera seems to be placed inside a coffin and then carried through the streets. But 1947's The Lady in the Lake, a feature-length film noir shot entirely with a subjective camera, is an oft-discussed but somewhat goofy curio that is seldom actually dragged out into the light of day.

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The Town

Directed by Ben Affleck, 2010

Rebecca Hall and Ben Affleck in <em>The Town</em>

The Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, a series of pre-title cards inform us, is a fundamentally miserable but also beloved place, a rough-and-tumble environment where bank robbery has become a cottage industry. The Town is the story of bank robbers, and of the dilemma experienced by the people — Townies, they're called, affectionately and not-so — who dwell in a place they love, and from which they're desperate to escape.

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Easy A

Directed by Will Gluck, 2010
Easy A is a pleasant enough high-school movie, and it's certainly a sign of bigger things to come for the terrific Emma Stone, who tucks the whole film under her arm and runs with it. Stone plays the kind of teenaged girl who's as bright and hot as the noonday sun but is still a wallflower at her high school. In other words, she's a work of fiction – and one who starts getting noticed by her classmates only when she gains a reputation as a loose woman, displaying a red letter A on her chest. … [read more]
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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Directed by Edgar Wright, 2010
Michael Cera in <em>Scott Pilgrim vs. the World</em> Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an exotic multiplex confection – a romantic comedy with elements of its visual grammar swiped from comic books and videogames. It's tempting to say that people who are sick of conventional Hollywood love stories will find a bracing alternative here but, unfortunately, Scott Pilgrim isn't much of a love story, unless the affair you're interested in is the one between a boy and his cultural totems. If that's the case, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World should be hugely entertaining. It's a visual knock-out with the sensibility of a pinball machine, caroming from one set piece to the next, turning on lights and spinning little flippy things and ringing bells. It's not Speed Racer – it remains genuinely character-focused and never aims to overwhelm. But it's playful, borrowing concepts like power-ups and extra lives from the RPGs and adventure games that have made them an intuitive part of a certain kind of narrative grammar for a generation. … [read more]
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After.Life

Directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo , 2009
Perhaps funded and distributed on the promise of Christina Ricci in her skivvies and less, After.Life is weirdly compelling for such a marginal movie. Its premise is a little coy, toying with the expectations of audiences that have had their fill, lately, of stories with characters caught in some strange limbo between living and dying where they work out the psychological issues that hectored them in the real world. … [read more]
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Life During Wartime

Directed by Todd Solondz, 2009
Ciáran Hinds in <em>Life During Wartime</em> Count me among the great admirers of Todd Solondz’ Happiness. Some viewers complained that Solondz mocked his characters, but I never got that. As far as I could see, that was his achievement. Without passing judgment, he investigated the failures of some of the least among us -- the failed songwriter, the unlucky in love -- and dug out the humanity among the worst of us -- the obscene phone caller, the pedophile. The result was an uneasy mix of tone. It wasn’t quite comedy and it wasn’t quite melodrama. You weren’t sure whether to be amused or appalled, and the fact that Solondz could elicit a horrified titter of recognition at some of the most base material showed that he kept the human in human behavior. … [read more]
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Inception

Directed by Christopher Nolan, 2010
Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio in <em>Inception</em>

Note: If you're allergic to SPOILERS, you probably don't want to read this review before seeing the film. If you'd like to try anyway, or if you're willing to give it a skim, I've tried to keep them to the latter half of the review, and I've marked the spot where the spoilers begin in earnest.

Christopher Nolan’s films tend to be ruminations on loss and regret — tender morsels of bleeding humanity wrapped in an increasingly glossy, protective coating of hard-edged technical sophistication. When you get past the estimable Hollywood sparkle, you find simple dramas tightly wound around the center of each film. Leonard Shelby loses his memory and gains the capacity for infinite self-delusion. Bruce Wayne loses his parents and sacrifices his own life for the public good. Robert Angier nurtures a revenge scheme that blossoms into an endlessly cloned act of self-destruction. To be a Nolan protagonist is to perch on a razor’s edge between reason and impulse, between sanity and mania, between reality and dark dreams of aggrandizement and/or immolation of the self. The films are things of beauty, precisely constructed and expertly executed. But you wouldn’t want to live there. … [read more]
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Dogtooth

Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, 2009
Image from <em>Dogtooth</em> This no-frills film-festival favorite from Greece is a single-family scenario. Like last year's excellent Belgian film Home, with which it shares a certain dark comedy (but not the earlier film's reluctant optimism), it features a wife and children who exist largely apart from the larger world into which the male breadwinner ventures on a daily basis. But where that separation in Home was generally a question of geography, in Dogtooth it's a matter of patriarchy. … [read more]
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The White Ribbon

Directed by Michael Haneke, 2009
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The Killer Inside Me

Directed by Michael Winterbottom, 2010
Casey Affleck in <em>The Killer Inside Me</em>

It's impossible to really film The Killer Inside Me. It's a question of medium -- you can't replicate the book's suffocating interior monologue, the puffed-up rant and ramble of a serial killer, because as soon as you dramatize the events in question for a movie camera you make them real in a way that they're not, quite, when they're still sitting on the page. It's the old question of show versus tell.

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Winter’s Bone

Directed by Debra Granik, 2010
Jennifer Lawrence in <i>Winter's Bone</i> Opening with an understated, mood-setting vocal performance of "The Missouri Waltz" as a soundtrack for imagery captured deep, deep within flyover country, Winter's Bone hinges largely on the execution of a simple idea — it's a formula mystery story set in rural Missouri. … [read more]
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Splice

Directed by Vincenzo Natali, 2009

What happens when your child rebels against you? That's the subject at the emotional core of Splice, an unsettling and skillfully mounted psychodrama that has some of the flavor of 1970s body-horror (mainly Alien and early David Cronenberg) mixed up with a contemporary retelling of the Frankenstein story. The complexity of the question is notched up by the film's science fiction premise, which has the husband-and-wife team of Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) working in secret to create a new life form that jumbles human DNA in what seems to be a nearly random combination with that of other species.

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Exit Through the Gift Shop

Directed by Banksy, 2010
Banksy in <em>Exit Through the Gift Shop</em> No doubt at least a little bored with his status as the standard-bearer internationally for street art, Banksy takes his career to the next logical step with this documentary-essay film. Exit Through the Gift Shop purports at first to chronicle the street-art movement, vérité style, but eventually reveals itself as a treatise on Bad Art and a screed against what the film argues are tone-deaf patterns of consumption that drive trends in the art world. … [read more]
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Vincere

Directed by Marco Bellocchio, 2009
Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi in <em>Vincere</em> In the first scene of Vincere, Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timi), addressing a small gathering, borrows a watch, then declares that he is giving God five minutes to strike him dead. To Mussolini, God's failure to do so is proof that He does not exist. It's possible the film's writer and director, Marco Bellocchio, agrees with him on this point at least. … [read more]
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