Todd Solondz is one of those talented writer/directors whose work I don't personally like, but I'll watch nonetheless. (Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson are two others.) Maybe it's because I keep hoping he will finally make a film that truly speaks to me. Or maybe I'm just maintaining my cultural literacy. Known for his sadistic storylines, Solondz opens his latest… read more!
Movie Titles: P
Pitch-dark fable that takes place in 1944 Spain, shortly after Franco's Fascists won the civil war. A young girl is taken to a castle-like structure in the forest where she is to live with her pregnant mother and her stepfather, a particularly brutal captain in the Fascist regime who is overseeing the obliteration of the last few Republican partisans in… read more!
Childlike comedian Charlyne Yi, whose claim to fame heretofore has been a small but funny role as a stoner girl in Knocked Up, joins forces with director Nicholas Jasenovec to make a documentary about love, and why people fall in love, and why Yi is unable to. At least it purports to be a documentary. In what could be called… read more!
Quietly moving (and troubling) drama about two ordinary Palestinian men, good friends, who have been drafted by a secret "freedom fighting" organization to become suicide bombers in nearby Tel Aviv - the very next day. Agreeing to the job without argument - as much due to the frustration of their own personal lives as to any hatred of Israelis or… read more!
Another lovingly-shot tone poem about disaffected youth from Gus Van Sant, Paranoid Park will remind many of the director's earlier, stronger Elephant, though it is even more abstract and less disturbing. The movie follows a teenage skateboarder named Alex (Gabe Nevins, a newcomer like most of the rest of the Portland-based cast), basically a good kid, as he is quietly… read more!
Enjoyable stop-motion spookhouse adventure from Laika, the Portland-based animation company responsible for Coraline. If you dug their previous film, you'd probably enjoy ParaNorman - it's the Blue Boy to Coraline's Pinkie, with the titular 11-year-olds seemingly made for each other, even if their stories practically take place in different universes. With Norman the only kid in his Massachusetts town (clearly… read more!
This is an "omnibus" or "portmanteau" film, in which twenty international directors were assigned to each make a short filmed in one of Paris' 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods) - though two were dropped from the final film as their shorts apparently didn't fit in. Nevertheless, as with most features like this, you're not really watching one movie as much as you… read more!
After years of films containing varying degrees of violence and/or cynicism, writer/director Jim Jarmusch returns to his mellow-hipster roots with Paterson. Though the rigid formalism of Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law has long since been abandoned, this is still vintage Jarmusch, with its lackadaisical pacing, its focus on the "unimportant" moments of real life, its love of a well-timed fade-to-black, and… read more!
A truly unique film: A black and white animated autobiographical feature, and among the few comic book adaptations to actually be helmed by the comics' own creator (Satrapi). Adapting and condensing her four books of growing up in Iran during the '70s and '80s (with a few troubled teenage years in Vienna), Satrapi, with codirector Parronaud, lifts her stark, simple… read more!
Rene Liu plays Du, a pretty young ophthalmologist who suddenly quits her job and decides she wants a husband, so she places an ad in the local newspaper's personals section expressing her intentions. For the bulk of this quiet, low-budget film, Du meets a seemingly endless variety of Mr. Wrongs, all at the same teahouse that's like a second home… read more!
While walking away from the well-done The Pianist, I wondered aloud to my friend, "We've now been so saturated with Holocaust dramas, can anybody - even someone of Roman Polanski's caliber - really add any new angle, any fresh insight, as to what happened, or how it affected people?" The answer, of course, was "No." At least not unless you… read more!
The Piano Teacher is a gut-wrenching character study of its titular heroine (Isabelle Huppert, superb as usual), a sexually repressed woman who treats her piano students with the utmost contempt, has a hostile, unresolved relationship with her live-in mother (Annie Girardot), and, most notably, has a fondness for some seriously sketchy masochism. If you think that sounds like fun, try… read more!
This inscrutable, overtly dreamlike fable is only the second live action feature from celebrated UK-based stop-motion animators (and identical twins) Stephen and Timothy Quay in ten years; their first, Institute Benjamenta, was poorly received by many critics, some of whom called it "legendarily boring". Personally, I loved Institute Benjamenta, so I was quite excited to see The Piano Tuner of… read more!
Fast-paced Gallic suspenser about a nurse's assistant (Gilles Lellouche) whose pregnant wife has been kidnapped and who has been ordered to release a wounded criminal from his hospital if he ever wants to see her alive again. The thrills that ensue are non-stop, with plenty of dark little twists and turns and just the right amount of emotional manipulation. Point… read more!
Film critics have been hailing what they call the "Romanian New Wave" because of two recent films from the Eastern European nation: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Though both films were unsentimental and chilly, with minimal camera work and bleak location scenery, they were still effective, thanks to strong - even harrowing… read more!
[Note: I wrote this review while employed at Paramount Pictures.] Clocking in at just over 70 minutes, this movie has "studio favor" written all over it: My employer Paramount, so keen on making the sure-fire hit Down to Earth with Chris Rock, seems to have made a deal with him: if he agreed to star in their big comedy, they… read more!
Hard to believe, in this day and age, but somebody actually bankrolled a wide-release film about a pair of English literature researchers and a pair of Victorian poets. And not only that but the American filmmaker/playwright Neil LaBute, best known for his scathing sexual satires The Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, was chosen to direct it. We… read more!
Weird mishmash of a movie, based on Garrison Keillor's long-running cult radio show of the same name. Costarring (as himself) and written by Keillor, much of the film is a sort of valentine from this man to his own creation. How comfortable you are about that will surely depend on how big a fan you are of his show, an… read more!
I envy anybody who goes to see Predestination with absolutely zero idea of what it's about. If this is you, then stop reading this immediately, block out all other synopses and reviews, and watch the film. I post this warning not because Predestination is great. It's merely okay. But when a movie's enjoyment depends greatly on its plot twists, the problem is that you're always on the lookout for them. Twists… read more!
It's ironic that The Prestige would open in theatres hot on the heels of the sleeper hit The Illusionist. While it's not uncommon for two big-budget features about the same subject matter - in this case, Victorian-era magicians - to come out at the same time, what makes this coincidence especially interesting is that The Prestige is explicitly about the… read more!