Movie Review

Dear White People

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I have a paradoxical love for Dear White People. On one hand, I wish writer/director Justin Simien had tackled such serious subject matter further along in his carer. On the other, I wonder if a more established director would have taken so many risks. A world post-Spike Lee – a man more concerned with strangely esoteric commentary and Korean […]

Movie Review

Interstellar with Nate and Søren

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Nate’s Review Interstellar surprised me. I walked into the theater expecting to see a bombastic space exploration flick. I did not expect the film to bring me to tears, but it did. The plot is centered on the final frontier, but Christopher Nolan’s latest is more than that. There’s a soul beneath the science-fiction spectacle. […]

Movie Review

Birdman with Josh and Søren

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Josh’s Review Birdman comes close to greatness. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s execution of the long take is so successful it almost makes me forget about everything else in the film. I love how it moves from supposed fantasy to supposed reality without cuts, removing the objectivity that comes with a shot change. Watching fantasy elements shift into reality within a […]

Movie Review

Mr. Turner

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As he slumps further into his seat, a numbing chill besets a visibly drained man. His eyelids uncontrollably waver between open and closed like a ship’s bow undulating in the sea. The abject look emblazoned across his face tells a tale of defeat, hinting at the effects of a grave and strenuous ordeal. He’s had enough; surely […]

Movie Review

Whiplash

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I made it to the theater just in time. As the clerk handed me my ticket, she said, “There may only be two or three seats towards the front.” So I sat down in the front row, made myself comfortable and uncapped my pen. If you see the film anytime soon, count on finding me in the […]

Movie Review

Nightcrawler

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What’s the dream footage to lead local morning news? A screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut, of course. That’s according to unscrupulous news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo). Her world is controlled by ratings which are in turn driven by suburban fear mongering and perverse images of death and violence. Nightcrawler takes us […]

Movie Review

Begin Again

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Begin Again was once called Can a Song Save Your Life? Most audiences will probably figure out the film’s answer to that question in short order. Writer/director John Carney’s latest proves again that music, like good food, is irresistible onscreen. The film is simple and earnest. It flows with the even pace of a relaxing summer song. Carney opens his film […]

Movie Review

Mommy

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Xavier Dolan is a 25-year-old writer and director from Canada. He’s already produced of five movies and won 36 awards  in festivals ranging from Toronto to Cannes. The phenomenal young filmmaker is back this year with Mommy. The film won the Jury Prize at the last Cannes Film Festival and was recently selected to compete in the Best Foreign Language Film category for Canada […]

Movie Review

Camp X-Ray

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Camp X-Ray isn’t as good as it seems. If you ignore the filmmaking and acting and instead focus on the screenplay, it’s absolutely abysmal. The characters are little more than mouthpieces for writer/director Peter Sattler’s political philosophy, and nothing about it is subtle. “Americans are the real terrorists!” says a Guantanamo detainee. “These guys just […]

Movie Review

Pasolini [London Film Festival ’14]

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Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last film was the infamous, and largely banned, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. The controversial 1975 picture sees four Italian libertines in the last throngs of Mussolini’s fascist wartime regime. They kidnap eighteen youthful, attractive men and woman whom they sexually abuse and torment. The degraded youths meet a horrific demise as they’re branded, hanged and […]

Movie Review

Kill the Messenger

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Curiosity killed the cat, and all of the good journalists along with it. I was just a kid when Gary Webb broke news on the Contra-cocaine scandal. I don’t remember it. My recollection of the 90s reeks of the Clinton fiasco and not much else. As we learn in the epilogue of Kill the Messenger, the government fully […]

Movie Review

Goodbye to Language 3D [London Film Festival ’14]

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I remember stumbling across artist Marcel Duchamp’s infamous piece, “Fountain”, in the Liverpool Tate Modern art gallery a few years ago. The sculpture, if you’re audacious enough to label it as such, is simply a urinal tipped on its back. The only indication that this slab of utilitarian porcelain is in fact a piece of art […]

Movie Review

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

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Heartache has never looked so beautiful. Ned Benson makes his filmmaking debut with an audacious splash, releasing The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby as not one film, but three. The writer-director debuted two other versions of the movie, subtitled Him and Her (told from the male and female protagonist’s perspectives, respectively), at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. The Weinstein Company […]

Movie Review

Gone Girl

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Please note that this review contains some vague and minor spoilers. Gone Girl is well-acted. Gone Girl is well-shot. Gone Girl is well-directed, well-edited and well-written. I hated Gone Girl.

Movie Review

The Riot Club

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“I’m sick to death of poor people!” the repugnant Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) roars to his comrades atop the opulent dinner table, sloshing his wine carelessly out of its vessel in the process. This loaded, incendiary harangue epitomises the deplorable attitude of The Riot Club. The film’s vulgar band of toffs are some of the most […]

Movie Review

The Boxtrolls

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When the first trailer for The Boxtrolls came out, it seemed pretty progressive. The trailer touts the idea that parents come in all shapes, sizes and forms (and yes, sometimes boxes). It intimates that not all families include a mother and a father. I was excited. The Boxtrolls is based on Alan Snow’s kids novel, Here Be Monsters! It follows […]

Movie Review

Samba

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As America has the Coen brothers, France has Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache.  While they found national success in the early 2000s (Those Happy Days, So Close), it was in 2011 that they became internationally renowned for their last movie, The Intouchables. They’re now easily the most famous and successful writer/director duo in France. In fact, The Intouchables is recognized as the […]

Movie Review

The Signal

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The Signal irritated me. I saw the film over three months ago, and time has not been kind to my impression of it. If I recall correctly, I left the theater this past June feeling slightly more positive than indifferent about this particular hodgepodge of sights and sounds. How things change. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last three […]

Movie Review

Pride

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There’s a wonderfully poignant scene in Pride where Imelda Staunton’s character, Hefina, sits with one of the elder statesmen of their small mining village buttering sandwiches. As they go about this mundane task facing the static, Ozu-esque camera, discussing their new found solidarity with gay pride, the man makes the bold admission he himself is […]

Movie Review

Night Moves

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For a film so thematically focused on aftermath and consequence, Night Moves spends a lot of time on build-up. The meat of the movie doesn’t appear until about an hour in, well after the eco-terrorists played by Jesse Eisenberg (Josh), Dakota Fanning (Dena) and Peter Sarsgaard (Harmon) execute their violent plan. The going is slow but […]

Movie Review

Bashir’s Vision

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It’s tough to think of a better documentary topic than “the Blind Boxer.” I’m not overly familiar with the sport, but I imagine it has to be something of a novel concept even to the most diehard fans. However, by the last scene in Bashir’s Vision, I began to wonder if the topic is a bit too rich – so much […]

Movie Review

The Drop

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The thing about liquid is that it always takes the form of its container. Thin, round, tall, squat – it doesn’t matter. The same could be said of Hardy. In Locke, he affects a peculiar, nasally UK accent and gruff persona. As a spy in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, he is a sharp, twitchy stud whose emotions rule his behavior. […]

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 […]