If this documentary looks like something you'd see on PBS, that's because it is something you'd see on PBS: Sketches of Frank Gehry is an American Masters production that surprisingly got a theatrical release by Sony Pictures Classics. While I agree that Gehry, who in recent years has become the most famous architect in the United States, deserves the big-screen… read more!
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Although I used to love James Bond movies as a kid - cheesy as they were, with a lazy Roger Moore smirking through most of his scenes - they've done little for me as an adult, and I've only seen a couple of the post-Moore entries. (I finally saw some of the Sean Connery Bonds a couple years back. And… read more!
The first feature film produced by the popular NPR radio program This American Life is more or less what you'd expect, given the imprimatur. Director/cowriter/star Birbiglia is a standup comic who had told his story about his bizarre sleepwalking condition on TAL years ago. Finally, working with TAL creator/host Ira Glass (who co-produced and co-wrote this film), Birbiglia transforms his… read more!
Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy's adaptation of Vikas Swarup's novel Q&A is a Dickensian melodrama set in contemporary Mumbai where Jamal (Dev Patel), an uneducated "chaiwalla" (tea server) from the slums, has just made it to the final round of India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - but the show's host, and the cops, think he's cheating.… read more!
My heart goes out to Philippe Mora. Snide and Prejudice was obviously shot a long time ago: we see Brion James in a small role, and Brion James died in August 1999. Only in November 2001 has the film finally seen the light of day - in a dingy Hollywood theatre, no less. In a mental hospital in the middle… read more!
[Note: I wrote this review while employed at Paramount Pictures.] A movie starring Chevy Chase, Chris Elliott, and a bunch of obnoxious kids. Why even watch this film, much less review it? You may well ask. Answer: It's a Paramount product, I'm a Paramount employee, so I got to see it for free at work. Besides, I always say that… read more!
After seeing the difficulties his countrymen had with their own English language debuts - Kim Jee-woon's reviled Schwarzenegger vehicle The Last Stand and Park Chan-wook's divisive Stoker (fine direction, lousy script) - it's no wonder why Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho fought his American distributor Harvey Weinstein for a full year, in order to retain final cut over this, his own… read more!
I admit, I am a sucker for feature films about the very recent past. I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen, Breach, United 93, and to a lesser extent Invictus. Older releases such as The Best Years of Our Lives and All the President's Men retain a relevance even now, when one considers how fresh their subject matter was when they were… read more!
Majid Majidi remains one of the more accessible Iranian filmmakers for American audiences. His films are paced, shot, and edited like Western features, unlike those of most of his contemporaries. And after seeing his excellent The Color of Paradise (about a blind child and his intolerant father) and Children of Heaven (about a boy who enters a footrace in order… read more!
There's not much to say about Song to Song that I haven't already said about Terrence Malick's previous two films, To the Wonder and Knight of Cups. If those films didn't endear you to Malick's increasingly experimental cinematic input, this one certainly won't. Here we have the same setup as the two predecessors: take today's hottest actors (here, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, and Michael… read more!
Nanni Moretti is another of those Italian "treasures" that make a dozen films before anybody in America ever hears about them. Known for his low-budget, politically-tinged semi-autobiographical comedies, Moretti does a turnaround - and wins American distribution, surprise surprise - by concocting a tender tear-jerker about a middle-class Italian family torn apart by the sudden death of their teenage son.… read more!
Jake Gyllenhaal is a helicopter pilot whose last memory is fighting in Afghanistan. When he suddenly wakes up on a Chicago-bound commuter train - in another man's body, no less - he is understandably disoriented, and even more so when the train explodes eight minutes later, warping him into some strange armored capsule where an Air Force officer (Vera Farmiga)… read more!
First of all, I freely admit to being one of the few people who didn't go for Richard Kelly's 2001 debut film Donnie Darko. I found it a weak attempt at David Lynch-esque pop surrealism, aimed at angsty teenagers. Years later, I agreed to watch it again, after reading all the notes on the film and after Kelly's "director's cut"… read more!
An ultra-low-budget variation on Mystery Men, in which a ragtag group of unlikely superheroes does battle with... each other. Absent the huge sets, big-name cast, and special effects of the not-very-good Mystery Men, this film must rely on its two chief assets: costar James Gunn's original, fairly witty (if overly vulgar) script, and a likeable cast of mostly unknowns (except… read more!
Thoroughly wonderful documentary that follows eight junior high school students from around the United States as they head for The National Spelling Bee Championship in Washington, DC. That these kids come from various ethnic and economic backgrounds is as significant as the fact that four of them have immigrant parents, for Spellbound is not only a portrait of kids in… read more!
Boring psychological drama about a mentally deranged Englishman (Ralph Fiennes) who, recently transferred from a psychiatric hospital to a halfway house, finds himself lost in the memories of his troubled childhood, in which he believed his father (Gabriel Byrne) was cheating on his mother (Miranda Richardson) with a prostitute (Richardson again!). An intriguing premise, but one that goes nowhere; even… read more!
Has everybody on earth seen this movie already? Good. Then I'll be brief: I enjoyed Spider-Man. As comic book movies go, it has wit, strong characters, and some freshness about the age-old archetype of the dual identity crisis. The entire film really rests on Tobey Maguire's ability to create a sympathetic character, and thankfully he delivers (which, in my opinion,… read more!
Spider-Man 2 is a fine sequel to a fine superhero movie, and anybody who enjoyed Spider-Man will find more of the same pleasures here. Taking care to preserve what made the first movie so special - comic book action taking a back seat to character - Spider-Man 2 further evolves the complicated story of guilt-plagued Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), whose… read more!
The latest entry in Sam Raimi's series of blockbusters about the dorkiest superhero in New York, Spider-Man 3 pretty much works on the same level as its predecessors - no better, no worse. Even as more characters get added and more twists get worked into the story (more on that later), it adheres to Raimi's goal of delivering the quintessential… read more!
Why did I see this movie, you might ask? Well, first of all, my girlfriend wanted to. But the other reason is that the film's director is an old classmate of mine from CalArts. There are few people who have become fabulous successes about whom I can say "I knew them when", and Steve Hillenburg is one of them. What… read more!