Movie Titles: B

Before Midnight

Before Midnight

When Before Sunrise came out way back in 1995, I skipped it. Even though I was part of the film's so-called target demographic, it just didn't seem like my cup of tea. Two young actors saying clever things to each other for a whole movie? I gave it a pass. In 2004, I gave Before Sunset a pass as well… read more!

Before Night Falls

Before Night Falls

A biopic about the dissident Cuban novelist Reynaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem), who alternately triumphed and suffered through Fidel Castro's revolution because of his homosexuality, Before Night Falls is entertaining if shapeless, with Spanish actor Bardem's convincing, low-key performance agreeably dominating the film. Of course, there are problems. For one, director Schnabel's notorious arrogance seeps into his film. Though Before Night… read more!

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Pitch black family drama about two loser brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) who, both in desperate need of money, agree on Hoffman's plan to pull off a simple heist of a suburban jewelry store – a store owned and operated by their own parents. As we quickly find out, the robbery goes horribly wrong, and the brothers and… read more!

Beginners

Beginners

I'm one of the few people who really liked – or even bothered to see – graphic designer/music video director Mike Mills's feature debut Thumbsucker. Though it was a little self-conscious, I think it showed promise for the filmmaker. So I was somewhat disappointed that his sophomore effort, the semi-autobiographical Beginners, toned down the imaginative visuals in exchange for that… read more!

The Beguiled

The Beguiled

It's been a few years since I watched Don Siegel's 1971 adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan's novel The Beguiled, a Civil War hothouse drama about a wounded Union soldier finding shelter in a Southern girls' school. I recall that film, starring a young Clint Eastwood just months before reteaming with Siegel to make Dirty Harry and history, as being surprisingly… read more!

Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos

Let's get this out of the way: Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, decent actors both, are distractingly miscast as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in writer/director Aaron Sorkin's docudrama about a week in the life of the hit 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. They don't look like their real-life counterparts, they don't move like them, they don't convince us of… read more!

The Believer

The Believer

The Believer falls into that weird, tiny category of films that, because nobody is interested in distributing them theatrically at first, wind up going straight to cable – and then, a year later, get that limited theatrical release after all. A hit at the 2001 Sundance Festival, The Believer tells the story – allegedly based on fact – of Danny… read more!

The Belko Experiment

The Belko Experiment

Although many accused The Hunger Games of ripping off the 2000 Japanese stunner Battle Royale, The Belko Experiment is the true heir to Kinji Fukasaku's nihilist bloodbath. Written by James Gunn long before Guardians of the Galaxy made him an A-lister, the film displays the same bloody, darkly humorous energy in Gunn's Super and Slither. With his attentions now focused on superhero franchises, Gunn… read more!

Best

Best

I caught this drama at a film festival, which is probably the only place in America that one will see it, being as it is all about George Best, the Northern Irish soccer player who, as Manchester United's superstar forward in the 1960s, is hardly a household name to those outside the UK. In the title role, Irish actor John… read more!

Best in Show

Best in Show

The folks who brought you Waiting for Guffman are back with another mockumentary, this one on dog shows and the people who enter them. Nearly the entire cast from Guffman returns, mostly in fine form, and once again Christopher Guest directs from a script he wrote with costar Eugene Levy. It's cute, but it's no Guffman, and it's certainly not… read more!

Better Luck Tomorrow

Better Luck Tomorrow

This much-hyped indie film about a group of affluent, college-bound Asian-American teenagers who get sucked into a life of crime plays out like a junior version of GoodFellas. It's still entertaining, especially for anybody who knew the National Honor Society kids back in high school. You know the type: speech and debate team, Academic Decathlon, all that business. Perhaps it's a uniquely Californian… read more!

Big Eden

Big Eden

I swear, I thought I was going to a free screening of Moulin Rouge! when I got stuck watching Big Eden instead. I was a little apprehensive about sitting through a gay romantic comedy, but I had a free evening, so I thought, what the hell. In the end, I wound up halfheartedly enjoying myself. Big Eden is the name… read more!

Big Eyes

Big Eyes

A year ago, Exene Cervenka, singer for the LA punk band X, sold off some of her old junk online, and I noted that she collected the same wacky '50s/'60s/'70s kitsch that my old CalArts roommates did. Little wonder: my roomies were born in 1961; Cervenka in 1956. They belong to a specific generation of artist-hipsters that simultaneously mock and… read more!

Big Fish

Big Fish

A curious thing about Big Fish: during its first three weeks of release, when it was playing in a small number of theatres, it was actually making more money per screen than Return of the King. Even twice as much! That's no mean feat, given the massive popularity of King, as well as other critics' underwhelming reviews for Burton's so-called… read more!

The Big Short

The Big Short

It's becoming a habit, but I'd like to start this review with a little anecdote: In 2010, my friend Bill Lebeda at Picture Mill hired me to research and write some statistics for the end credit sequence of the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy The Other Guys, directed by Adam McKay. (Bill does the titles for all of McKay's movies.) As the comedy… read more!

The Big Sick

The Big Sick

A movie like The Big Sick is usually not one I'd have high hopes for. To wit: a standup comic and his wife write and produce a movie based on their own relationship. And the standup comic stars in it, as himself. It screams of narcissism. But I have always enjoyed Kumail Nanjiani in his TV work, and I admired… read more!

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

I've seen a lot of documentaries lately – mostly through Netflix – and many have the same problem in that they pick an intriguing subject, but rarely get deep with it. So you get a portrait of something or someone, but you aren't shown the larger context surrounding the subject. Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is that rare documentary that actually succeeds… read more!

Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot

Set against the backdrop of the 1984 coal miners' strike in England, Billy Elliot follows its titular character, an 11-year-old boy raised by his macho father and older brother in a depressed Northern town, as he discovers a talent - and a love - for ballet dancing. You can pretty much guess every plot point from there on out, which… read more!

Birdman

Birdman

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a once-popular Hollywood actor best known for playing a fictional superhero named Birdman. It's been some 20 years since he turned down Birdman IV and thus killed his career. In an attempt to prove to the public that he's actually a great actor, Thomson decides to write, direct, and star in a Broadway adaptation of… read more!

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation

This earnest yet cliche-ridden dramatization of Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt takes a riveting moment in American history and sucks the energy out of it, leaving us with a rote and oddly unmoving biopic. Indeed, the public reaction to The Birth of a Nation has proven to be the more compelling story. Premiering at Sundance in the heat of the "Oscars So White"… read more!