I've never read the work of Thomas Pynchon, but I understand it to be incredibly dense, packed with far-out ideas, and, while brilliant, definitely not for the casual reader. If that's true, then I assume Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Pynchon's 2009 novel Inherent Vice is very faithful to the book. A marijuana-fueled riff on the detective genre, the 1970-set… read more!
Movie Titles: I
By now most filmgoers have decided whether they love what David Lynch has to say, are simply baffled by his oblique and fractured storylines, or think his work is overrated and pretentious. To let you know where I stand, I'd actually call him a genius. But I don't use that word lightly. A genius, in my mind, is someone who… read more!
Inside Llewyn Davis begins with its titular character (played by Oscar Isaac), a folk singer in 1961 Greenwich Village, wrapping up a gig at a small venue. After he finishes his lovely take on a rather mundane old folk tune, he's told to go outside where a "friend" is waiting. This "friend" turns out to be a mysterious stranger in… read more!
Isn't it nice to see Pixar back on top again? The stunning critical and commercial success of Inside Out – which, other than the muddled Brave, is the first non-sequel the studio has released in six years (since Up, also directed by Pete Docter) – is a welcome sign that what audiences really want from Pixar isn't cute characters or toy-friendly franchises, but solid storytelling and genuine… read more!
Surprisingly tense morality tale, based on recent events, about tobacco industry insider Jeffrey Wigand (a terrific Russell Crowe), who blows the whistle on his employer Brown & Williamson - and by extension the entire tobacco industry - by exposing their unethical practices of increasing nicotine levels in their tobacco blends. Goaded by 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (a fine Al… read more!
I get suspicious of remakes of foreign films, especially when they come so soon after the original release. In this case, Norwegian filmmaker Erik Skjoldbjærg's 1997 cop thriller Insomnia barely had time to relax after its limited art house run before getting snapped up by the Hollywood adaptation police. This time, however, it's not a case of a great film… read more!
Highly original film with a story that defines "good luck" as a physical - indeed, a supernatural - trait which but a select few possess. These few - sole survivors of plane crashes, earthquakes, etc. - have the ability to drain ordinary people of what little luck they have with a mere touch of the hand, thereby increasing their own… read more!
I am not a Christopher Nolan apologist. In fact, I'm usually among the first to point out his films' plot holes, contrivances, and overall self-seriousness. So when, during the very first days after Interstellar's release, I began seeing people complaining about the same things I usually complain about, I thought, Oh well, here we go again. I still see all… read more!
A French film starring English-speaking actors and set in London, Intimacy has been getting a bit of attention in art house circles for its frank sexuality: At last! High art porn! This shouldn't be that big an achievement, yet there's been nothing close to this since the Japanese film In the Realm of the Senses heated up art house screens… read more!
An unhappily married woman (Sandrine Bonnaire) enters the office of a psychiatrist for the first time, and immediately starts spilling her darkest sexual secrets to the man behind the desk. The problem: she's unwittingly wandered into the office of a tax accountant (Fabrice Luchini) instead. Even though the accountant eventually comes clean - after at least one more visit under… read more!
The least typical of the Coen Brothers' output, owing to the unusual participation of another producer (blandmeister Brian Grazer, responsible for producing Ron Howard's endless output of unmemorable, financially successful pictures) and no less than three other screenwriters (all hacks, judging by their filmographies), Intolerable Cruelty is thus their least satisfying. One gets the feeling that, after nine wholly idiosyncratic… read more!
Unhappy document of the decline of British novelist Iris Murdoch's mental acuity due to Alzheimer's, and the stress it put on her loving husband John Bayley. Based on Bayley's memoir, the film seems almost too intimate a look at their relationship: not because it's shocking or anything, but because nobody stopped this project along the way to ask, "Do you… read more!
Back in the '80s, Steven Spielberg produced a short-lived "anthology" TV series called Amazing Stories, which were mostly sci fi or fantasy shorts, often with interesting directors. It's ironic, but I thought the best Amazing Stories episode was one that had nothing to do with sci fi or fantasy, and was in fact the series' lone animated episode. It was… read more!
I remember when Die Hard first came out in 1988. The reaction my friends and I had to the ads was, "Bruce Willis, the smarmy guy from Moonlighting, starring in the sort of action picture that usually features Arnold Schwarzenegger? What a joke!" We went to see it for a laugh at Willis's expense, and were shocked at how much… read more!
This fun if ultimately slight chapter in the Iron Man franchise gets a significant goose in the comedy factor, thanks to director/cowriter Shane Black, taking over for Jon Favreau after Iron Man 2's tepid critical response. Black, who made his name as the screenwriter for Lethal Weapon and who later cast IM3 star Robert Downey Jr. in his overrated (in… read more!
A full eight years after its initial release in its native Hong Kong, one of the finest - and final - examples of HK's "golden age" of action cinema finally sees the light of mainstream American movie theatres, thanks no doubt to the acclaim Yuen Woo-Ping has recently earned for his martial arts choreography in The Matrix and Crouching Tiger,… read more!
This year's front runner in the "Most Assaultive Motion Picture" category. Most easily described as an extreme variation on Memento, Irreversible tells a story in reverse chronological order about a woman who is savagely raped and her boyfriend who seeks revenge against the man who did it. So the movie opens (after a strange prologue that I think has something… read more!
The latest in the "official" Dogme films from Denmark, Italian for Beginners starts off in dark vein similar to the other entries in this mini-genre, but it brightens up as it rolls along, following a motley band of adults in small-town Denmark whose only fun comes from a weekly Italian class at the local college (and even then, they don't… read more!
A strange little film, shot entirely on High Definition video using only available lighting, that updates Leo Tolstoy's classic short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich and places it in contemporary Los Angeles. Here Ivan (Danny Huston, John's son) is no longer Tolstoy's mid-level bureaucrat but a high-powered talent agent. Which, I'm sure Rose (and partner/producer/costar Lisa Enos) wants to… read more!