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 […]

Movie Review

Quartet

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Quartet is a quiet drama-comedy that tells the story of four older men and women living at Beecham House, a home for retired musicians, and their struggle to maintain their identities as they reach old age. Well-known as a prolific and successful actor, Dustin Hoffman decided to step behind the camera for Quartet, his first […]

Movie Review

Warm Bodies

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Warm Bodies shares a lot in common with last year’s Chronicle, a film I really enjoyed. Like Josh Trank’s debut, warm Bodies is a film with surprisingly large scale that somehow managed to slip under the radar of most film buffs and journalists; I had heard nothing about it until a trailer was released, and it […]

Movie Review

The Beast and The New World

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Director Peter Dukes has been making budget short films since 1999. In this piece, Tim and I review two of his more recent efforts. The first is a horror/fantasy werewolf film entitled The Beast starring Bill Oberst, Jr. The other is an award-winning fantasy/science fiction short entitled The New World starring Katy Townsend. The Beast One criterion on […]

Movie Review

Django Unchained

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2012 has been a year of surprises for me. I’m known to be pretty anti-Nolan, and yet I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises. Likewise, and I know this sounds like heresy, it has been a long time – probably since Pulp Fiction - since I walked out of a Tarantino film content with what I had just seen. Nevertheless, just […]

Movie Review

Searching for Sugar Man

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My father is a white South African who moved to the United States around 20 years ago. Because of him, I grew up listening to Sixto Rodriguez’s album Cold Fact on loop for most of my childhood. While most of the artist’s very adult metaphors were lost on me as a kid, I was nevertheless […]

Movie Review

Cloud Atlas

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After seeing Cloud Atlas, I completely understood why it received such mixed reviews from critics. From the moment the film opens, it is immediately apparent that it is no ordinary Hollywood story. But does the risk of “uniqueness” make or break the film? Personally, I believe it was a brilliant choice. I can definitely say audiences […]

Movie Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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It’s been nine years since The Return of the King. Nine long years filled with lawsuits, lost directors, politics, and health issues all conspiring to keep The Hobbit from being made. And now, finally, Peter Jackson’s done it: it’s time to return to Middle-Earth. But after all these years, after all these delays, and after […]

Movie Review

Lincoln

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Lincoln could have been a terrible film. Steven Spielberg has little left to prove at this point, having directed some of the very best genre films ever made. As if to confirm my fears about the film, the first trailer for Lincoln sported cheesy melodramatic dialogue hammed up by a boring stock orchestral track. Sitting down at […]

Op-Ed

Cloud Atlas and Life of Pi

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Cloud Atlas and Life of Pi are two films based on novels which critics and fans alike initially considered “unfilmable.” Audience reception so far has shown those critics to be dead wrong. For those of you looking to get your fantasy adventure movie fix this weekend, Zack Mandell of Movie Room Reviews has got you covered […]

Movie Review

Skyfall with Tim, Søren, and Todd

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Tim’s Review Though it contains many of the high-energy action sequences and traditions that we’ve come to expect from Bond flicks, Sam Mendes’s movie plays more like a thriller/art-film, than an action movie, exploring death, resurrection, and an underlying theme of old versus new. Despite the obviousness of these themes, I never felt like I […]

Movie Review

Argo

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Ben Affleck has had a strange career. As far back as his early films with Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), he’s taken a lot of flack for his acting. But the moment he got behind the camera with Gone Baby Gone, audiences and critics put away their complaints as they […]

Movie Review

The Master

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Paul Thomas Anderson is a director who thrives on being pensive. This, unfortunately, tends to clash with his directorial style. His stories often feel like twigs strewn across a body of water, loosely tied together by vague ideas and tangential connections. Sometimes that underlying body of water is a puddle, shallow and superficial, while at […]

Movie Review

Dredd

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I confess that I am not intimately familiar with John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s Judge Dredd comics, nor did I have the privilege of experiencing the so-bad-it’s-good Judge Dredd starring Sly Stallone that came out in 1995. Because of this, I was completely ambivalent about the fact that Judge Dredd was getting a reboot. And yet, even as […]

Movie Review

Premium Rush

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When I first saw the trailer for Premium Rush, I was somewhat taken aback. Here were Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon – two phenomenal, top-of-the line actors who have thrived both in independent and Hollywood films – both choosing to star in what looked like a cliché chase film for the hipster generation. But while […]