Spielberg's epic portrait of Abraham Lincoln focuses primarily on January 1865, shortly after Lincoln's re-election and during his feverish attempt to pass the 13th Amendment, which would formally abolish slavery in the United States, before his political opponents could stop it. This is serious history book stuff, and if Spielberg and co. can't entirely keep their film from feeling like… read more!
Movie Titles: L
I didn't much care for Little Children during its first half hour. A tale of bored suburbanites in Massachusetts, I detected something portentously American Beauty-like in its opening minutes - and I hated American Beauty. The initial meeting between unhappy stay-at-home spouses Sarah and Brad (Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson) is contrived. The gossipy housewives in the playground where Sarah… read more!
This, the breakout hit from the 2006 Sundance Festival, is about a comically dysfunctional family from Albuquerque whose awkward 8-year-old daughter surprisingly makes it into the finals of a beauty pageant for little girls. They then gather together to embark on a two-day road trip to Redondo Beach, California for the finals. And while the kooky characters and zany yellow… read more!
In a contemporary Czech city, an ordinary couple is desperately trying to have a baby, despite their own stubborn biology. In a lighthearted effort to cheer up his wife, the husband, a wood-carving hobbyist, fashions a baby out of an uprooted tree stump. To his dismay, his wife, whose sanity had apparently long been on the breaking point, starts treating… read more!
This bare bones indie about a Japanese tourist stuck in a listless California town has much more going for it than meets the eye. The film opens with the brother-sister duo of Atsuko and Rintaro (played by Atsuko Okatsuka, who also cowrote the story, and Rintaro Sawamoto) arriving in the titular Littlerock - just an hour east of Los Angeles… read more!
One of the few surprises at the February 2007 Oscars was the award for best Foreign Film. Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth - which caused some upsets itself by winning three Oscars in art-related categories - was the clear front-runner in this category, but his sumptuous, gory fantasy got trounced by this quiet, low-budget drama from Germany about the East… read more!
Yorgos Lanthimos may be the spiritual child of David Lynch, but the Greek filmmaker has already proven to have a unique, distinctive voice. The Lobster, his English language debut, is reminiscent of his earlier Dogtooth – the only one of the director's features I've seen – in that it infuses an obviously absurdist setup with bone-dry humor and punctuates it with unexpected outbursts of gruesome… read more!
An R-rated superhero movie. Who woulda thunk it? Well, Deadpool did, in 2016. As did Watchmen in 2009. Hell, you can go all the way back to Marvel's crappy non-starter The Punisher (starring Dolph Lundgren!) in 1989. Nevertheless, taking one of Marvel's most popular characters and plunking him into an ultra-violent, potty-mouthed thriller is a milestone. And audiences were clearly receptive: Logan was an instant hit,… read more!
Because I am such a fan of writer/director Rian Johnson's first film Brick, and have been long convinced that he is a major talent, Looper is one of those films that I purposefully went to see without watching any trailers or reading any reviews beforehand. I knew only its basic premise: that Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hit man whose targets… read more!
I don't know what to say about this film other than it is, as expected, perfectly made. But I will fill a little column space with biographical trivia: When I was a kid, I saw the Ralph Bakshi animated version of the Lord of the Rings saga, in a feature film that only covered the first book and a half… read more!
The celebrated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy ends here, with a movie bigger, bloodier, longer, and, yes, better than its fine predecessors. Jackson and company pull out all the stops, with huge battle sequences, intense emotional drama, and new levels of evil and madness. The computer-animated Gollum assumes his rightful place as one of cinema's great villains, and the interplay… read more!
I won't fill this review with autobiographical notes as I did in my review of Fellowship of the Ring. But I will say again that it's nearly pointless to review this. If you liked Fellowship, you will surely see The Two Towers. If you didn't, you won't. Because although I enjoyed The Two Towers more, it's hard to critique it… read more!
Witness a film director's worst nightmare - the director in this case being the revered Terry Gilliam, whose ten-year quest to bring Cervantes' Don Quixote to the big screen floundered after just one week of production. But what a week! Flash floods, Spanish jets, a lead actor's prostate problems... everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and while I… read more!
Meandering comedy-drama about two lonely Americans stuck in a Tokyo hotel, with nobody to talk to but each other. Bill Murray plays a fading Hollywood star who's been brought to Japan to film a Suntory Whiskey commercial for a couple million dollars. Scarlett Johansson plays the young wife of a hotshot photographer (Giovanni Ribisi) who's in town to shoot some… read more!
Non-prolific writer/director Whit Stillman – this is only his fifth feature in 26 years – tackles his first screenplay based on previous material, in this case the Jane Austen novella Lady Susan. It's a quirky choice, but perhaps predictably so, considering the filmmaker's reputation. Heaven knows, Austen's six novels have been bled dry by screen adaptations. Yet her sole work of short fiction has never before been filmed. Stillman, whose own modern-day… read more!
This is the very definition of "summer counter-programming": in the middle of 2015's array of superhero movies, dinosaur blockbusters and the like is this little biopic about an unlikely subject: the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. I say "unlikely" not because Wilson isn't a fascinating or important individual – he is both – but because it's curious to imagine who would feel… read more!
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play Ben and George, a long-term gay couple in Manhattan who finally get married, after same-sex marriage laws pass in the state. However, they didn't expect that George would lose his job teaching music at a Catholic school because of this development, even though everybody at the school long knew he was gay. The duo,… read more!
Ever since François Truffaut's Jules and Jim, there's been this weird thing in French cinema where suicide is depicted as a quirky and romantic end to an amour fou - "mad love" - story. It's been a common shtick in Gallic hits from Betty Blue to The Hairdresser's Husband, and it's always bugged me. It's an invented psychology, a state… read more!
Many moons ago, I went to CalArts with The Love Witch's creator Anna Biller. Although nobody makes films like she does, her latest feature displays a loyalty to that '90s CalArts sensibility that I remember so well, and I found it oddly touching. Even Love Witch cinematographer M. David Mullen – Biller does pretty much everything except shoot her films – graduated from CalArts… read more!
Jackson's long-awaited adaptation of Alice Sebold's runaway 2002 bestseller, about a murdered teenager who looks down on the people she left behind (including her killer) from her own private heaven, was perhaps a doomed venture from the start. Although Sebold optioned the film rights to her novel back in 2000, before she was even finished writing, the story ironically lacks… read more!