Movie Review

Lucy

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“The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%.” That was the tagline seen on the posters for Lucy. It’s useless harp on the fact that this ” 10%” theory is absolutely untrue. What matters is that this myth well-known and widespread, and so captured the imagination of Luc Besson’s potential audience. Unfortunately, […]

Movie Review

Frank

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The room is dim. Four musicians tinker with their instruments as a fifth, the front man, walks onstage. A slight but noticeable crescendo accompanies his entrance. He is tall with a strong build. A large paper mache head rests on his broad shoulders, covering his face and giving him a nondescript expression. This is Frank. Frank feels for […]

Movie Review

The Guest

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With the door firmly closed behind him, the darkly sinister stranger has locked out any hope of escape with a stern push of the handle. Our female protagonist sits silently, frozen with fear at the thought of her imminent fate. The shady figure ahead lowers to her level and reassures the trembling girl that he’s a normal […]

Movie Review

Manakamana

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Manakamana is one of the most important films of 2014: not for greater culture or the world at large, but for cinema. Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s documentary about passengers taking a cable car to a Nepalese temple is one of the most unusual films I’ve ever seen. These filmmakers show an innate understanding of the power of […]

Movie Review

Magic in the Moonlight

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Amidst his sardonic ramblings, protagonist Stanley proudly exclaims, “When the heart rules the head, disaster follows.” What an apt description of Magic in the Moonlight. Woody Allen’s latest is a study in inauthenticity. Stanley (Colin Firth) is a white man whose job it is to convince audiences he is an Asian mystic. In his spare time, he travels […]

Movie Review

Snowpiercer

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Snowpiercer is a bullet train. The film, like its titular locomotive, races along at breakneck speed. It blitzes through its two hours and bursts through the earthly obstacles in its path. Joon-ho Bong packs a striking brutality into his English-language debut. The result is a unique and darkly compelling piece of speculative filmmaking. Crackling radio clips introduce […]

Movie Review

The Giver

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Jeff Bridges spent eighteen years trying to adapt The Giver for the big screen. I wish he had succeeded earlier. One thing that became achingly apparent while watching the film is that it would have been far subtler and far more affecting ten or fifteen years ago. Lois Lowry published her Newbury Award-winning novel in 1993, and […]

Movie Review

A Most Wanted Man

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Murky water sloshes quietly against a stone wall. The scene is peaceful with nothing but the quite ebb and flow of the river to break the silence. Suddenly, a disturbance: the water starts to rise and fall, angrily smashing against the stones. But no matter how hard it pushes, the wall stands unmoved. The opening shot of A Most […]

Movie Review

Calvary

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Everything is a portrait in Calvary. Each shot feels designed to stand on its own. Cinematographer Larry Smith often fills his frames with the thoughtful faces of characters staring at something just out of view. At first glance, their countenances seem mysteriously unadulterated. But these shots take on new meaning in context. As we learn about their […]

Movie Review

Boyhood

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Two children stare through the window as their parents argue just outside. The yelling is muffled and indistinct; vague words phase in and out of earshot as adult voices rise and fall. This whole scene is an exercise in good filmmaking. Innocent faces watch curiously as their parents exchange heated emotion. The window blocks out the argument but allows the kids to see their […]

Movie Review

Noah

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Darren Aronofsky, a director best known for Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Black Swan (2010), has fallen victim to that most dreaded art-versus-production trope of Hollywood: a big budget. Noah had financial backing north of $100 million and you can see every cent of it. Everything about this film is supersized – giant tracking shots, a […]

Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy

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For the first few moments of Guardians of the Galaxy, I worried. I saw elements of tropes rearing their head instantly. I sighed at a roguish hero whose existence screamed traits of other classic movie characters. I cringed at a villain whose antics veered well into the theatrical. I gaped as names of planets, new alien […]

Movie Review

Under the Skin

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It is a warm Friday afternoon in late April. I am sitting in a coffee shop having a conversation with an excellent teacher. He tells me to see a film called Under the Skin that’s just opened at the local Cinemark. I add it to the top of my ever-lengthening mental list, and on the following Wednesday, […]

Movie Review

Obvious Child

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I tried stand-up comedy once. I wasn’t very good at it. But as any successful comic will tell you, this is how everyone’s first, second, and hundredth attempts at stand-up go. Some have even gone so far as to call stand-up one of the world’s hardest professions. Still, the whole process terrified me. After that first […]

Movie Review

The Rover

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Eric is a bearded powder keg. He is more force than character, his short fuse adding tension to every encounter. Will his shouting end in an explosion of violence, or will he just walk away? We are never sure. A scowling road warrior takes off in a bloody quest to reclaim what’s his. We’ve seen this before; Mad Max […]

Movie Review

The Double

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Find a mirror, look at your reflection, and remind yourself that you exist. Now, imagine a world that shut you out so completely it made you question that basic fact. This is where writer-director Richard Ayoade takes you in The Double. The film is an utterly surreal marvel, a comedy so dark it’s equal parts […]

Movie Review

Palo Alto

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Artists fear an indifferent audience. But the middle of the road is also the most deplorable position for a critic to be in. It is far easier to shrewdly and bluntly tear a work apart based on its sheer lack of merit. Yet Palo Alto, from writer-director Gia Coppola, does have its merits. It simply fails to build […]

Movie Review

Locke

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There’s a contention among certain writers that leaving characters by themselves is detrimental to a story. Writer-director Steven Knight’s latest subverts that alleged rule beautifully. Less a character study and more a multivalent character revelation, Locke is a tremendous, inspiring narrative feat. Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a construction supervisor who gets into his BMW late […]

Movie Review

Godzilla with Josh and Søren

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Søren’s Review Most of us went through that phase in our life where we liked to break things. We would build big cities or towers out of Legos or blocks, and then we would walk through them like giants. With this in mind, the old Ishirō Honda and Toho films engaged with the audience on […]

Movie Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Time is unstoppable. That much is clear in Marc Webb’s second outing with everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. The director opens this film with a close up on the gears of a watch, focusing on time slipping second by second. His use of foreshadowing is blatant, especially if you know a thing or two about a certain […]

Movie Review

Transcendence

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“Artificial intelligence is bad, mmkay?” That’s what Wally Pfister, the cinematographer and frequent Christopher Nolan-collaborator, wants you to believe in his directorial debut, Transcendence. The death-by-sentient-computers tale is familiar ground, and it’s covered in much better fashion elsewhere. If you’re in the mood for a good tech scare, skip this film and re-watch Terminator. That film is […]

Movie Review

Divergent

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It’s easy to see where Divergent borrowed from other young adult franchises. As a movie adaptation of Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel Divergent, can check all the same boxes as the juggernaut that is The Hunger Games. Comparisons between the franchises are inevitable, but frankly, Divergent doesn’t make much effort to avoid them. Sharp-shooting female protagonist? Check. Dystopian North American Fascist regime? Check. Culture […]

Movie Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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The Grand Budapest Hotel bubbles with verve. Wes Andersons’s aesthetic melts over every frame of the movie. His trademark zooms and pans give his latest film an almost documentarian feel, echoing the faux-nature special look of a Jaime Uys film. But unlike Uys, there is no pretense of realism in Anderson’s world. Instead, we see into […]

Movie Review

Kill Your Darlings

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Destruction is necessary for creation. Art comes at a price. This is the lesson of debut director John Krokidas’ Kill Your Darlings, which takes Faulkner’s philosophy of artistic ruthlessness to a murderous extreme. The title of Kill Your Darlings comes from a famous piece of writing advice from William Faulkner, advising writers to “kill your darlings,” to mercilessly […]

Movie Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Times have changed. Idealized, hokey but self-aware World War 2 imagery has been replaced with high-tech suspense, political allegories, and twists and turns that’ll alter how viewers see the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you were expecting more of Captain America: The First Avenger, then prepare to be shocked. Iron Man may have been the start […]

Movie Review

Nymphomaniac

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There’s been a minor debate over the proper way to review Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. While it was released in Denmark in a full-length five hour cut last December, the film has been split into two volumes for its American release. However, the volumes are being released in theaters two weeks apart from each other. To […]

Movie Review

The Wind Rises

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Wind is fickle. One day it erodes mountains, and the next it softly grazes your cheek. It bends the largest trees, but then offers quiet respite on a hot day. Harnessed, it can be the substance of power, offering utility to humanity. But left to its wild nature, wind can devastate and kill. Humanity is […]

Movie Review

The Lego Movie

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Style is so often substituted for substance in film that seeing something as synergistic as The Lego Movie is truly marvelous, and even more of a joy to look back on. Writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have built a multifaceted, visually stunning film. The Lego Movie is at once a brilliantly subversive satire, a heartfelt ode to […]

Movie Review

Frozen

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What a nice surprise. Childhood years overfilled with Disney movies have left me feeling queasy at the slightest mention of the brand. However, after seeing Frozen on a whim, I’m glad I gave the company another chance. Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee have crafted a fresh, fun film, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow […]

Movie Review

300: Rise of an Empire

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Zack Snyder’s 300 moved me. The film has fallen prey to biting parody in recent years, but I knew then that 300 was one of the era’s great cinematic experiences. Movies like that demand to be seen on the big screen. Like both The Matrix and Gravity, 300 was a masterpiece of visual splendor. And it was […]

Movie Review

Pompeii

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Let me set the scene. You’re a wealthy young woman from Pompeii. You’re traveling for days in an uncomfortable horse-led caravan, finally returning home after a strenuous visit to Rome. Along the way, one of your steeds drops to the ground with a desperate whinny. And because for some reason neither you nor any of […]

Movie Review

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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I saw this Anchorman sequel twice, and both times I could not stop laughing. It’s been a while since I’ve a seen a film with as much pure manic energy as this one. Rest assured, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was well worth the wait. Everyone from the powerhouse comedic team behind the first film is back; […]

Movie Review

American Hustle

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American Hustle opens with a balding, rotund, middle-aged man distastefully gluing a toupée to his head. You can taste the plaster fumes as little rivulets drip down his scalp. Then he takes his remaining strands of hair and pulls them over the furry piece now attached to his skin. The scene is uncomfortable, synthetic, difficult […]

Movie Review

Life Itself

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I was in pieces when Roger Ebert died. I have never felt so broken up about the passing of someone I had never met in person. Following his death, I picked up Life Itself, which has now become something of a holy book to me. It is an informative autobiography, manifesting itself as both an […]

Movie Review

Movie 43

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I decided to incur the wrath of the internet today. I have never been interested in contrarianism for its own sake; I have never defended or criticized a film that I didn’t feel strongly about. It is with this outlook that I say Movie 43, a sketch film that has earned universal derision from the […]

Movie Review

Inside Llewyn Davis

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Llewyn Davis is kind of a prick. He’s an immensely talented folk singer, but he’s selfish. He doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself. Yet, I enjoyed spending time with Llewyn. In his own self-involved kind of way, his story rings true. We all know someone like him: a friend with all the potential […]

Movie Review

Walking With Dinosaurs 3D

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I can sum up my thoughts on Walking With Dinosaurs 3D in just two words. If you know anything about the history of this production, you probably know what they are: Shut. Up. Walking With Dinosaurs, named after the television miniseries released by the BBC in 1999, departs from the naturalistic, documentary-style presentation of its […]

Movie Review

The Wolf of Wall Street

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I will make no apologies: Jordan Belfort is a greedy, shortsighted leech on society, and I hope The Wolf of Wall Street is his swan song. To me, this real-life Wall Street mogul represents everything that can go wrong with the human spirit. To quote him directly, he is nothing but pond scum. And yet […]

Movie Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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In my youth, I was a Tolkien acolyte. The Hobbit was always the bedtime story of choice in my house. When I got older, I read and watched all of The Lord of the Rings and became entrenched in Tolkien’s world. I took time to learn about the intricate relationships between the Valar and the […]

Movie Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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The first Hunger Games movie pissed me off. Series author Suzanne Collins helped pen the film’s script herself, but the adaptation was troublingly devoid of the substance that made the book so great. Perhaps the best thing about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is how it vastly improves on the first film. A much-needed changing of […]

Movie Review

12 Years a Slave

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For as long as cinema has existed, there have been movies about human atrocity. It’s one of our favorite things to tell stories about. The optimist would say that these films help us to heal wounds, to work through difficult cultural memories by recreating them in a dramatized context. The pessimist would say that these […]

Movie Review

Thor: The Dark World

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When I saw Kenneth Branagh’s Thor a few years back, I was confused. That isn’t to say I didn’t understand the movie, and I wouldn’t say it wasn’t badly made – I just had no opinion on its content. Perhaps it was the thin character development and gaping plot holes. Maybe it was the hokey […]

Movie Review

Rush

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Rush. A short title. Onomatopoetic, monosyllabic. It doesn’t suggest a specific time, place or personality. It simply evokes a feeling. And at its strongest, Ron Howard’s latest film is just that: an uncomplicated expression of raw emotion. That’s not to say Howard doesn’t do a good job with the rest of the storytelling. Howard and […]

Movie Review

Gravity

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A woman, short-haired and weightless, folds her body up in relief. Light pours in through a nearby window, and as she floats gently in the sunlight, at once the image of a fetus in utero is evoked. The frame lingers here. She recovers her breath and then, her energy restored, she swims through the air. […]

Movie Review

Enough Said

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It is sobering to know that this is one of the last times we’ll see James Gandolfini’s big, friendly face in theaters. From meteoric rise in the public consciousness with the HBO series The Sopranos to smaller roles in films like Zero Dark Thirty and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, he never missed a beat, bringing even […]

Movie Review

Austenland

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Austenland is sort of the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I say “sort of” because it’s actually based on Shannon Hale’s novel Austenland, which was inspired by the 1995 film version of Pride and Prejudice, which was itself adapted from Austen’s actual novel. After being dragged through a book, a movie, another book, […]

Movie Review

The Hunt

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What would you do if a child erroneously accused you of abuse? Nobody should have to answer a question like this. Unfortunately Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), the kindhearted protagonist in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, finds himself in this very situation. Following a direct accusation from a young girl named Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) in his kindergarten class, […]

Movie Review

Blackfish

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Filmmakers have long understood that animals garner more sympathy than humans. In a strange phenomenon of mass desensitization, the injury or death of a fellow Homo sapien just doesn’t have as much of an impact on moviegoers. Bucking that trend, Blackfish invests emotional collateral in both its human and animal subjects. In doing so, it becomes a […]

Movie Review

The To Do List

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There is a special place in our hearts for the coming-of-age film. Adolescence is a universal theme that reflects the ephemeral nature of modernity. Moreover, these movies always have the potential to reach new audiences by focusing on protagonists of varying age, race, and gender. So it is that The Way Way Back and The To Do […]