Writer/director Jeffrey Blitz is the man behind one of the most entertaining documentaries in recent memory: 2002's Spellbound. After the runaway success of his geeky-kids-in-a-spelling-bee movie, it was expected that Blitz would soon be getting offers to direct a non-documentary, and his choice of subject matter for his first dramatic feature seemed like a perfect fit: geeky kids on a… read more!
Movie Titles: R
If The Force Awakens was a shallow exercise in nostalgia, and the George Lucas-directed prequels were abominable CGI showcases, then Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie to feel truly connected to the original trilogy, especially the 1977 feature that started it all. Part of this is by design: the bulk of Rogue One takes place mere days before Star Wars, so unlike the… read more!
This entertaining Gallic diversion is part romantic comedy, part murder mystery, part suspense thriller, and part meditation on professional jealousy. The story opens with a famous novelist (Fanny Ardant) being questioned by the police about a couple of her "victims". We have a handful of brief flashbacks to indistinct points in the novelist's life, and then settle into what seems… read more!
Room is the little indie that could. Released to critical acclaim but meager audience interest, it had been slowly chugging along at art houses for three months before I finally caught up with it, shortly after it received surprise Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, along with a less surprising nomination for Best Actress. These accolades are precisely… read more!
Enjoyably weird pseudo-documentary about Stanley Kubrick's 1980 cult horror film The Shining, and five obsessed fans with conspiracy theories about what it "really" was about. Although these fans are never shown on camera, they are allowed to ramble at length about their ideas via voiceover narration, with footage from The Shining (indeed, from all of Kubrick's work, and from various… read more!
Wes Anderson's second feature Rushmore reminded me, in its tale of a wise-guy prep schooler frightened of his own loneliness, of J. D. Salinger's classic novel The Catcher in the Rye. Only much lighter and shallower. So when I heard that Anderson's next film involved a family of child prodigies who grow up to be unhappy adults, I figured this… read more!
Paul Dano plays a lonely young novelist whose lone literary success is already ten years behind him. Suffering from writer's block, he acts on the advice of his therapist (an underused Elliot Gould - hard to believe now that Gould was a huge star in the '70s) and starts writing a description of his dream girl. Then one morning, he… read more!
Rudo and Cursi are the nicknames given to two poor, dumb banana farmer brothers (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, respectively, performing together for the first time since 2001's Y Tu Mamá También made them famous) who, rather improbably, become Mexican soccer superstars after a sports agent finds them kicking the ball around on a dirt field. The film follows… read more!
Warren Beatty has led one of the most charmed lives in Hollywood, and does not need my pity. Yet pity him I did when I saw that his long-gestating passion project, a biographical fantasy about Howard Hughes, opened to an abysmal $667 per-screen average, making it the biggest flop of 2016. (Why it even opened on over 2,000 screens, instead of… read more!
[Note: I wrote this review while employed at Paramount Pictures.] Out of all the Hollywood studios, my employer Paramount has a tendency to churn out the most conservative/reactionary motion pictures around these days. Case in point: The Rules of Engagement. The studio decided to play it completely safe, combining several sure-fire elements from their recent hits: the hero and villain… read more!
Hyperkinetic adventure where the titular heroine (the charismatic Franka Potente) has just 20 minutes to find the equivalent of $60,000 in order to save her ne'er-do-well boyfriend's life from the gangsters he's indebted to. In a wonderful twist, the film gives Lola three chances to get it right. Writer/director Tykwer - who also co-composed the film's catchy techno score (with… read more!