THE JUDGE Review

by     Posted 16 days ago

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David Dobkin previously directed broad comedies such as Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up, and now he’s moved to broad drama with his latest feature, The Judge, a movie that clumsily grasps at every heartstring you have.  It’s a soft-focus weepy that rarely elicits any emotion.  Instead, the film feels made to showcase Robert Downey Jr‘s acting ability by proving he can do more than play variations of Tony Stark.  While the movie succeeds in showing the actor’s range, it still feels indulgent as it piles on plotlines instead of keeping the focus on the chemistry between Downey and co-star Robert Duvall.

DRACULA UNTOLD Review

by     Posted 16 days ago

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For a movie with the title “Dracula Untold“, it’s a story that’s painfully vague.  We all know Bram Stoker’s classic monster.  Some may know that the character was loosely based on Prince Vlad the Impaler.  Director Gary Shore and screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless seemed content to keep it at that with a bit of an emphasis on Drac’s family and then mostly relying of CGI bats.  The film plays like a treatment rather than a real script.  It’s lean to the point of being anemic as Vlad’s transformation into Dracula doesn’t feel tragic but rather a slog towards the inevitable peppered with lame action and stock characters.  Dracula Untold proves some stories aren’t worth telling.

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 17 days ago

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During the Clouds of Sils Maria post-screening Q&A, Juliette Binoche pointed out, “Kristen [Stewart] just takes the text in the morning, she reads it two times and she knows it.”  Binoche on the other hand, noted that she requires far more prep time.   There are no biographical elements in Olivier Assayas’ latest, but there’s definitely some life imitating art (or art imitating life) going on and it adds yet another highly provocative notion to the already deftly layered and remarkably thoughtful feature.

STRETCH Review

by     Posted 17 days ago

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One of the things I like about Joe Carnahan‘s films is that they filter drama and action through a working-class lens.  Narc is on the down-and-dirty streets; The Grey is about a group of oil drillers trying to survive in the wild; and even his blockbuster feature The A-Team sides with guys just trying to make a living.  The outlier is Smokin’ Aces, an ensemble piece that ranges from cartoonish to somber as assassins compete to take out an informant.  Carnahan’s latest feature, Stretch, attempts to blend the slapdash attitude of Smokin’ Aces with a grounded, working-class character.  The result is a movie that still manages to be endearing despite how often it tries to remind you of its weirdness.

JAUJA Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 18 days ago

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Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja opens with a stunningly picturesque two-shot of Viggo Mortensen and Viilbjørk Malling Agger.  The two sit side-by-side, Agger facing the camera and Mortensen with his back to the lens, discussing her desire to own a dog.  The entire conversation plays out in that one shot, but it works.  The colors are so vibrant, the topic of conversation is relatable and their affection for one another is palpable as well.  Unfortunately, that’s the only time the performances and the beautiful backdrop can carry the minimal amount of coverage and sluggish pace.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Digital HD Edition Is a Worthy Addition to Your Digital Catalog

by     Posted 19 days ago

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In the near future, our world will undergo two drastic changes: firstly, mutants will be hunted to near extinction, and secondly, everyone will download movies to watch in Digital HD.  The heroes of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past do their best to prevent that first change from happening, but the excellent audio/visual quality of the film’s digital edition will help to ensure that second change still takes place.  Let’s be honest, it’s for the best.  Boasting a clear, crisp picture that is indistinguishable from watching a Blu-ray, along with instant access to special features and behind-the-scenes bonuses, it’s quite apparent that Digital HD downloads are the way of the future.  Hit the jump for my X-Men: Days of Future Past review in this particularly convenient format.

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT REVIEW | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 20 days ago

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Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne pose a number of very intriguing questions in their New York Film Festival entry, Two Days, One Night.  If you had to choose between getting a raise and laying off a colleague, which would you go for?  And what if you were that colleague?  Would you fight for your job even after being betrayed by your co-workers?  Those are the predicaments that the characters in the film face and while they are engaging to a point, the execution feels frustratingly lifeless, depressing and repetitive – although that’s likely the point.

INHERENT VICE Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 21 days ago

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After the New York Film Festival screening of Inherent Vice, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and a good deal of his cast took the stage for a brief Q&A.  At one point, Anderson discussed Howard HawksThe Big Sleep and noted, “I saw The Big Sleep and it made me realize, I could not follow any of it and it didn’t matter because I just wanted to see what was gonna happen next.”  Anderson does manage to achieve that to a degree in Inherent Vice, but it winds up making the film even more of a disappointment because what happens next is rarely satisfying.

GONE GIRL Review

by     Posted 23 days ago

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There’s nothing that makes us as emotionally blind as love.  Because we crave is so badly, we’re willing to distort reality and distort others so that they meet our needs.  And when the veil lifts and the truth is exposed, everything breaks apart.  Our emotions can surpass hate.  At least hate is outright rejection.  David Fincher‘s Gone Girl is a vicious, nasty, and bitingly funny look at anti-love.  It’s a dark, twisted, borderline celebration of how deluded people can be in what they demand of others be it morally, emotionally, or truthfully.  Perhaps Fincher’s most cold, pitiless, and acerbic movie to date, Gone Girl is not without its flaws, but even those flaws serve this bitter, captivating, knives-out picture of marriage as a violent crime.

LEFT BEHIND Review

by     Posted 23 days ago

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I am not a Christian, and I never thought Left Behind would ever convert me or appeal to my faith, but I hoped I could at least admire the courage of its convictions.  Instead, Vic Armstrong‘s adaptation of the best selling novel uses Christianity as nothing more than a ham-fisted plot point in a laughably cheap-looking movie that isn’t reaching movie theaters because of the source material or the premise.  The movie doesn’t exist by God’s will.  Left Behind exists because, God willing, people might go see Nicolas Cage in a religious picture that’s not all that interested in religion.

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN Review

by     Posted 24 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my review from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.  Men, Women & Children opens today in limited release.]

It’s comforting to view the Internet as a force. Things existed one way, the Internet came along, completely changed everything, and now—for better or worse—those things are barely recognizable. We’re all looking down, clacking into our smart phones, so the Internet must have transformed us, right? It’s just so powerful, and we were caught in its wake. Current communication technology has changed us, but Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children wryly, wisely, and astutely observes our fears and insecurities long preceded our smartphones. The film is a sharp commentary on the decay of intimacy as we, isolated in the cosmos, have now become isolated from each other. Woven together with well-crafted storylines, sharp performances, and convincing drama, Reitman’s latest film mostly avoids being a cautionary tale and instead provides an insightful look on how online communication changes our relationships but doesn’t define our lives.

The Films of David Fincher: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

by     Posted 25 days ago

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[With the upcoming release of his new film Gone Girl, I’m taking a look back at the work of director David Fincher.  These articles contain spoilers.]

Up to this point in this series, I’ve mostly sided with Fincher, his decisions, and his thoughts on his movies.  But even by his own metric and intentions, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is almost a complete and utter failure.  I understand why Fincher would feel a kinship with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), but his reasons for making the movie—the prospect of an R-rated franchise and the relationship between Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Salander—are, respectively, superficial and underdeveloped.  Looking over the making-of documentary and his commentary track, I’m astonished at the gulf between Fincher’s intentions and what the movie presents.

The Films of David Fincher: THE SOCIAL NETWORK

by     Posted 26 days ago

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[With the upcoming release of his new film Gone Girl, I’m taking a look back at the work of director David Fincher.  These articles contain spoilers.]

If The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a director and a screenwriter working at cross-purposes, then The Social Network are the two sides working in perfect harmony.  Fincher’s cold, austere tone was energized by Aaron Sorkin‘s fast-paced, witty dialogue, and Sorkin’s grandiloquent verbiage was grounded by Fincher’s realism.  In some ways, the movie is highly stylized and yet it’s indisputably honest when it comes to the characters, stakes, environment, and tension of the story.  The facts may be in dispute, but this much is true: The Social Network is one of the defining works of the 21st century.

The Films of David Fincher: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

by     Posted 27 days ago

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[With the upcoming release of his new film Gone Girl, I’m taking a look back at the work of director David Fincher.  These articles contain spoilers.]

Across his filmography, David Fincher’s work has been noted as dark, foreboding, chilly, cynical, cutting, and irreverent.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a striking anomaly in his filmography as the allure of the project makes some sense, but the execution is a lush, unabashed romance bubbling with mawkish sentiment.  The movie is graceful, beautiful, poetic, and yet oddly distant.  The whole production feels gilded as Fincher made a deeply moving film out of a fairly terrible script.  The most curious thing about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is how it manages to be a tearjerker despite its craven desire to elicit emotion from a director who rejects sentimentality.

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE Review | NYFF 2014

by     Posted 27 days ago

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I’d like to consider myself someone who’s open to all styles of art, unique forms of expression and storytelling techniques, but perhaps I have to draw the line at Jean-Luc Godard’s latest, Goodbye to Language. The thing only clocks in at 70-minutes long, but the screening felt like an eternity and even after it finally ended, I was stuck with the frustration of having wasted a morning and was left with a nasty headache to go along with it.  This movie is playing in some of the most prestigious film festivals around the world yet has claimed a top spot on my worst of the year list and is pretty high up amongst my worst of all time selections as well.

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