Ordinarily I shy away from musician biopics, and from biopics in general. The human life just doesn't adapt well to a two-hour dramatic narrative. But I'd heard that Born to Be Blue, about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker in the late 1960s, was so fictionalized that you couldn't even really call it a biopic. I'd also heard that Ethan Hawke, as… read more!
Movie Titles: B
In 1976, a struggling British wine seller in Paris named Steven Spurrier decided to publicize his business by hosting a blind taste test competition where the great wines of France would be up against wines produced in California's then-obscure Napa Valley. The small Napa wineries surprisingly won both the red and the white categories, and thus was born the classic… read more!
Fairly entertaining, but nothing to write home about, this espionage-centered actioner tries to capture the paranoid cool of 1970s thrillers like The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, and The Day of the Jackal. It succeeds, to a certain extent, but it doesn't have a compelling enough political context to drive the point home. We all know there's plenty of shady people… read more!
After his 1989 documentary Roger & Me put Michael Moore on the map, he has emerged as America's lone media-savvy liberal spokesman. Which is pretty discouraging in a nation of 260 million. There must be somebody out there who can probe deeper and less divisively than Moore, but in the meantime I'm thankful that he exists. He is smart enough… read more!
This, the third slice of spooky whimsy from Laika, the Oregon-based stop-motion animation studio who gave us Coraline and ParaNorman, is simultaneously more of a kiddie movie than its predecessors, and more of an atrocity exhibition. Set in a Victorian English town called Cheesebridge, The Boxtrolls concerns itself with the eponymous characters, who grunt like some sort of cross between… read more!
Boyhood, as you may have heard, is a special film because it was shot over the course of a 12-year period with the same cast and much of the same crew. It's gimmicky, sure, but it's also a testament to writer/director Richard Linklater's commitment and ambition (as well as that of his collaborators). And it just so happens that his… read more!
Based on the real-life case of Brandon Teena, a young Nebraska man who was born a girl named Teena Brandon, changed her sexual identity, fell in love with a local girl, and was raped and murdered by two friends when her real sex was discovered, this film is a thoughtful, honest look at a true American tragedy. There's no way… read more!
Something happened to Pixar Studios in 2011. After 11 consecutive artistic and commercial successes, peaking with Toy Story 3, their all-time box office champ (on paper, anyway; Finding Nemo sold more tickets), they released Cars 2. And suddenly, for the first time, Pixar wasn't cool. It wasn't just because they were following up mature, emotionally gripping set pieces in Up… read more!
I really liked Billy Ray's first feature, the somewhat underrated Shattered Glass, a dramatization of the downfall of pathologically lying New Republic reporter Stephen Glass. Breach is the perfect follow-up: Like Shattered Glass, it explores a recent American scandal involving a corrupt, deluded, and possibly insane individual placed in a high position of trust, who exploited that position to his… read more!
Brick is a special film, a jazzy, surreal hybrid of high school drama and classic film noir. Writer/director Johnson's script is filled with a heavily stylized dialogue, influenced by '30s crime writer Dashiell Hammett (in fact the story reminds me of Hammett's 1929 novel Red Harvest), that is so baroque and poetic that it's hardly even English anymore. Some viewers… read more!
The latest Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks collaboration stars Hanks as James B. Donovan, an insurance lawyer who, in 1957, was tasked by his firm, and the US government, to defend captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (a wonderfully laconic Mark Rylance), even though Abel had already been found guilty in the court of popular opinion. Although I don't recall the film explicitly specifying this detail, five years… read more!
It seems Miramax has now officially given up any pretenses of distributing challenging films, and is now quite happy to serve up an endless array of trite romantic comedies set in foreign countries. After the worthless Chocolat, we now have Bridget Jones, a predictable bit of fluff with a terminal case of the cutes. There was apparently a bit of… read more!
When my girlfriend and I went to see this movie, our audience was neatly divided into two groups: elderly couples and middle-aged gay men. Such should be expected with a fawning documentary about the heyday of the Broadway stage, which according to filmmaker McKay spans the two decades between the mid-1940s and the mid-'60s. This film consists mostly of talking-head… read more!
While I wish I could avoid jumping on the Brokeback Mountain bandwagon - when everybody and their sister starts raving about how great some movie is, I become skeptical - this film is so well-made and contains such depth that it's hard not to. By now everybody knows about "The Gay Cowboy Movie", and you can't get much more high-concept… read more!
This entertaining Almodóvar melodrama is more in the mold of his High Heels and Volver than in the kinky cross-dressing or S&M movies that made him famous. Broken Embraces begins in 2008, when a blind screenwriter (Lluís Homar) hears the news of the death of a wealthy Spanish financier and reflects back on 1994, when he still had his sight… read more!
An aging lothario (Bill Murray) receives an anonymous letter from a woman who claims that he had fathered her son twenty years earlier, and that the son would soon be looking for him. Reluctantly following the advice of his goodhearted but meddling Ethiopian neighbor (the always-welcome Jeffrey Wright), Don Johnston - Murray's character's name, a play on the "Don Juan"… read more!
Highly stylized biopic of criminal Michael Peterson, who later rechristened himself Charles Bronson and quickly earned a reputation as Britain's most violent prisoner. A belligerent, eccentric testosterone (and publicity) generator, Bronson's life outside of prison was brief and unmemorable: in the film, this unrepentant thug - portrayed brilliantly by English actor Tom Hardy - will have you believe that he… read more!
Easily my favorite movie of 2015, Brooklyn is a good old-fashioned romance told with great warmth and dignity. Saoirse Ronan, seemingly born for the role, plays Eilis, a shy Irish immigrant who arrives in New York City in 1951 to make a better life for herself, and who eventually wins the heart of a local boy (Emory Cohen). There are a few complications, which… read more!
Under his stage name "Beat" Takeshi, middle-aged Japanese superstar Kitano plays Yamamoto, one of his typical tough guy characters, a Yakuza warmonger who is forced to flee Japan after a Yakuza alliance decides he's better off dead. So where else should he go but Los Angeles, where his younger half-brother (Claude Maki) has adopted hip hop style and deals drugs… read more!
If you liked La Femme Nikita - which was junk - you will probably enjoy this silly, sadistic thriller, which is also junk. Brotherhood of the Wolf, reportedly based on legend, tells the story of a ferocious wolf-like creature terrorizing the countryside in 18th-century France, and the two men (a Parisian libertine who looks like a young Bruce Willis with… read more!