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

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

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

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

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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Tom Hardy is a liquid. 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 […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 […]

Movie Review

The Way Way Back

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I had a much older trombone-playing friend growing up named Stan. He was someone I rarely interacted with outside of music, but I grew into an adult playing my upright bass right alongside him in my temple’s intergenerational klezmer band. Pointing to my now comically small quarter-sized bass, he always used to say, “I remember […]

Movie Review

Kids of the Rocket Siren

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Kids of the Rocket Siren is a short documentary that offers a personal look at the town of Sderot, a small town on the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip. In an community where schools, bus stops, and playgrounds are built to withstand the rockets fired daily over the border, the children who live […]

Movie Review

Pacific Rim

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In his recent review of This Is The End, Søren compared the comedy to 2011’s The Cabin in the Woods. These movies share characteristics that make them part of an exciting trend in Hollywood; films that exist as both satires and as superb examples of the genres they are satirizing. Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim does […]

Movie Review

20 Feet from Stardom

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The poster for 20 Feet from Stardom features impassioned back-up artist Judith Hill singing into a microphone. Below her is the title of the film in large pink and white text. Underneath the title, where one might expect to see the names of other back-up legends like Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, The Waters, Claudia Lennear, […]

Movie Review

This Is The End

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In a world where simple gross-out humor just isn’t enough to push the boundaries of funny, only people like Seth Rogen and his longtime writing partner, Evan Goldberg, seem to be able to surprise audiences enough to inspire fits of uncontrollable laughter. Some may lament that Hollywood filmmakers have forgone the sweet, vaudevillian humor of […]

Movie Review

Man of Steel

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Full disclosure: While I am a fan of superhero movies in general, I’m not a fan of Superman; I’ve always felt that he’s too campy, and that he doesn’t have enough weaknesses as a superhero or flaws as a character. He’s too perfect. Maybe this is why Man of Steel, for all its faults, still […]

Movie Review

Much Ado About Nothing

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Expectations are a funny thing, and they almost always get the better of us. Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a craftily made Shakespeare adaptation with great performances all around, but you would do well to expect more Bard, less Whedon. That Whedon was able to make this adaptation on a micro-budget, film it […]

Movie Review

Star Trek Into Darkness

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Despite a positive reception from both critics and general audiences, J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise was controversial amongst fans of the original series. While some embraced the film’s modern style, others were turned off by what they perceived to be a rejection of the spirit of the original. Star Trek the television show […]

Movie Review

Monsters University

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Phew. They’re back. Oh lord yes, they’re back. Monsters University doesn’t exceed the quality of its predecessor, but mostly because it isn’t trying to. For this second outing, Pixar has efficiently narrowed their scope, while applying the same dedication to world-building and character development that’s made them who they are. After two less than stellar […]

Movie Review

The Story of Luke

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In Alonso Mayo’s debut film The Story of Luke, Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci), a twenty-five-year-old autistic man, grew up never knowing his parents. His mother abandoned him when he was young, and he never knew his father. He was raised and sheltered by his grandparents. After his grandmother dies, he finds himself living alongside his […]