THE RAILWAY MAN Review

by     Posted 14 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my The Railway Man review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The Railway Man opens today in limited release.]

War is an undeniable certainty.  For as long as there is civilization, there will be war.  With conflict comes tragedy, but it does not end when the war concludes; the effects a human being are long lasting and not easily forgotten.  We’ve see countless aspects of war explored onscreen in various films, some focusing on the battles at hand, some zeroing in on the psychological experience, and some chronicling the lasting effects years after the actual conflict.  The Railway Man tries to have it both ways by telling two stories: one of atrocities during World War II and one of the after effects on man’s psyche nearly half a decade later.  By splitting its focus in two, though, the film fails to wholly capture either story, resulting in a disappointing feature all together.  Hit the jump for my full review.

JOE Review

by     Posted 14 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my Joe review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  Joe opens today in limited release.]

After watching Prince Avalanche earlier this year, I hoped that director David Gordon Green would continue with smaller, more intimate stories. With his follow-up, Joe, he has not only built on the palette-cleanser of Prince Avalanche, but also delivered one of his best movies. Featuring tremendous performances from stars Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan as well as a cast of non-professional actors, Joe is both compassionate towards its characters and non-judgmental towards their actions. It’s a story about men teetering between honest living and losing all restraint with their violent tendencies. Casually and with great subtlety, Green examines not only the inner struggle to maintain control, but also how much responsibility we owe to others and the limits of that responsibility.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 14 days ago

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As the Marvel movie juggernaut thunders on, we’re beginning to realize how carefully they’ve thought all this out. Kevin Feige and Co. have built their franchise for the long haul, which means pausing to take a breath every now and then instead of constantly trying to top the previous entries (and eventually crashing to the earth as a result). Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows us how that equation can expand this universe in unexpected directions, but the process also creates its share of placeholders: solid movies that nonetheless do little more than entertain us while their creators ramp up for the next mindblower. Case in point: Thor: The Dark World. Hit the jump for my full review of the Blu-ray.

DRAFT DAY Review

by     Posted 15 days ago

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I like football, and judging by the mammoth TV ratings, so does most of America.  I’m not sure what it says about us as a society that we celebrate what’s arguably the most violent major sport*, but to be fair, plenty of fans also get caught up in the details.  Like most sports, second-guessing is part of the game, and the guessing game is in full force in the NFL Draft.  It’s where the indentured servitude of the NCAA gives way to players actually getting paid, but no one knows if a player is going to be a bang or bust.  Unfortunately, Ivan Reitman‘s Draft Day may have the fiery setting, but the movie has trouble finding the spark.  It’s fun to go inside the offices of NFL teams, but the energy is lost in a listless protagonist and tiresome subplots.  Although it does manage to score at the end, the film is a tedious drive down the field.

Sonoma International Film Festival 2014 Recap and Reviews for BESIDE STILL WATERS, JADOO, and More

by     Posted 16 days ago

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Smack dab in the front of the city-square, white wooden 12-foot letters spell out the phrase “SONOMAWOOD”.  For a week in April, this bon mot feels particularly appropriate as filmmakers, producers, press and film fans converge onto the city for the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Over this past week, Collider attended the 17th iteration of the festival, a celebration of independent filmmaking from across the globe.  For a recap of the event and reviews of the features screened there, including Beside Still Waters, Jadoo, Tasting Menu, Roxie, and more, hit the jump.

ENEMIES CLOSER Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 16 days ago

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If you’ve always wanted to see Jean-Claude Van Damme as a French-Canadian Mountie/vegan drug-dealer, then Enemies Closer is the incredibly specific movie for you!  It’s a must-see film, not because it’s that great, but because it’s about as crazy a role as JCVD has ever played.  His one-liners are amazing, his antics are worth the price of purchase, and that hair just never quits.  Tom Everett Scott and Orlando Jones also star in the Peter Hyams-directed action thriller that’s available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  Hit the jump for my review.

Marvel’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap – “Turn, Turn, Turn”

by     Posted 17 days ago

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Welcome back, true believers!  Well, if you have yet to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, let me tell you that if you don’t want it spoiled for you, hold off on watching this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or, obviously, from reading this recap.  Major events went down that not only affected the agents, but also the Marvel Movie-verse at large.  How will these events affect the scooby gang?  Has the Clairvoyant’s identity been truly revealed?  Who is Agent May really working for?  All these questions and more may or may not be answered as you hit the jump for my Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap.

BATES MOTEL Recap: “Plunge”

by     Posted 17 days ago

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In “Plunge,” Bates Motel starts the complicated unraveling of Norman.  There have been hints that have burst through the placid surface of how Norman would develop into the man known from Psycho, but the series has shown great restraint in keeping his weirdness present, without making it the only thing.  The expansion into the town of White Pine Bay continued this hour, with Dylan learning more about the business he’s a part of, and Norma making a play for the city council.  But the most shocking thing about Norman’s contribution to his own story this week was how it wasn’t shocking at all.  In a town like White Pine Bay, his actions (and reactions) should barely register.  Still, it makes his desire for anonymity that much harder.  Hit the jump for why, judging by the company you keep, I know all I need to know.

47 RONIN Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 17 days ago

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The story of the Forty-seven Ronin is well known in Japan, and has been since the historical event occurred early in the 18th century.  It’s not nearly as common knowledge on these shores, but that’s something that Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin adaptation looked to change.  Keanu Reeves stars in this tale that reimagines the factual story of revenge, honor, and loyalty as one set within a world rich with the fantastical elements of Japanese folklore.  In its theatrical release, 47 Ronin was a box office dud, never coming close to making its reported $175 million budget back.  Perhaps it was simply a case of the wrong movie at the wrong time.  Since the quality of the production is surprisingly high, 47 Ronin might find new life on home video.  Hit the jump for my 47 Ronin Blu-ray review.

SILICON VALLEY Series Premiere Recap: “Minimum Viable Product”

by     Posted 19 days ago

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Mike Judge‘s (Office Space) new series Silicon Valley is finely-honed satire.  It’s technically a comedy, but with so much to lampoon about the tech industry, the series shows restraint by taking its time and building in both visual and conversational jokes.  Comedy pilots can be a series’ weakest point, but “Minimum Viable Product” was (probably thanks to Judge’s experience and success) a strong start for a show that knows its purpose and the story it wants to tell.  Hit the jump for why you don’t even know the half of it (and neither does Congress).

GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Premiere Recap: “Two Swords”

by     Posted 19 days ago

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There’s a reason why HBO had a twenty-five-minute recap of Game of Thrones third season in preparation for the fourth: the tales have become more varied and twisted than the swords that make up the Iron Throne.  Picking up halfway through A Storm of Swords‘ story (the massive third book of the Song of Ice and Fire series), Game of Thrones‘ new season had a lot to catch up on, and a lot to explain moving forward.  The most powerful and meaningful sequence though was its first: the Lannisters are not just conquering their enemies, they’re gobbling them up and repurposing them.  Hit the jump for more.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 19 days ago

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Telling the true story of someone’s life in a film is a difficult task.  The trappings of the biopic genre become glaringly apparent when filmmakers try to chronicle an entire life in a two-hour film.  There are innumerable events over the course of a person’s lifespan that alter him or her, for better or worse, and humans are always undergoing change.  Trying to discern which events are most important is a futile effort, and more often than not, the cradle-to-grave biopic results in a droll feature.  However, when the filmmaker focuses on a constrained period of time in a person’s life and frames an entire film around that, the results can be fascinating.  Such is the case with writer/director John Krokidas’ drama Kill Your Darlings, which chronicles the early college years of poet Allen Ginsberg and the beginnings of the Beat movement, using that as a springboard to explore themes of rebellion, obsession, and self-discovery.

The result is an ambitious, bombastic debut feature for Krokidas, buoyed by a pair of fearless performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan.  My full Kill Your Darlings Blu-ray review follows after the jump.

NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. II Review

by     Posted 21 days ago

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[Note: This review is of a censored, abridged version of Nymphomaniac: Vol. II.  Director Lars Von Trier gave this version his approval, but did not create this cut.]

In Nymphomaniac: Vol. II, Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) nymphomaniac has gone from a lilting, slightly melancholy, comically punctuated romp to a place of loss and ruin.  She has passed “innocent” discovery and, like any addict, needs a bigger fix.  She can’t help herself, and she becomes self-destructive as a result.  In this way, writer-director Lars Von Trier is the same as his protagonist.  He can’t get away from his greatest flaws no matter how hard he tries, and in Nymphomaniac: Vol. II, he tries pretty damned hard.  There are still bouts of silly melodrama and off-kilter jokes, but Vol. II is far more brutal than Vol. I [my review], and Von Trier (unsurprisingly) seems to feel more comfortable in an environment of pain and suffering.  Nevertheless, for all the stumbles and false notes, he builds to something emotionally impactful.  And then he fucks it up.

UNDER THE SKIN Review

by     Posted 21 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Under the Skin opens today in limited release.]

Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is strange, visually absorbing, cerebral, and rarely compelling. The film attempts to obscure its fairly simple story and subtext in order to imply depth, and while it may take a while to figure out the movie’s motives, that’s due to the lethargic pacing rather than the complexities of the themes. Thankfully, there’s no pretentiousness as Glazer clearly knows what he’s going for, and has made some admittedly clever moves to get there. Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly fascinating beneath the surface.

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