Hail, Caesar! has been marketed as a zippy farce. It is not. Coen Brothers devotees might expect a cutting, surreal black comedy. It is not that either. Truth is, I don't know what Hail, Caesar! is, though I can tell you what it isn't: very good. The film is set in 1951 Hollywood at the fictional Capitol Pictures. The plot – the MacGuffin, really – has the star (George Clooney) of… read more!
Movie Titles: H
One problem with the Sundance Film Festival is that its humorless selection committee has an incredibly narrow idea of what an American independent film should be about: dysfunctional families and/or substance abuse. But because Sundance is one of very few paths that an indie filmmaker can take to get his work theatrically released, many such filmmakers bend over backwards coming… read more!
Michael Almereyda hopes that people make quite a lot out of his slick interpretation of the Shakespeare classic, which entails resetting the play in present-day Manhattan (Denmark becoming "The Denmark Corporation" and so on). However, this Hamlet is as serious and reverent as most old-fashioned productions of the play, adding no fresh insight in the retelling. Ethan Hawke in the… read more!
In 1930s Korea, during the Japanese occupation, a grifter (Ha Jung-woo) sets his sights on a beautiful Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) with an aim to woo her, marry her, commit her to an asylum, then abscond with her vast fortune. To this end, he finagles a naive apprentice (Kim Tae-ri) to get a job as the heiress' handmaiden and encourage the heiress to wed this so-called "Japanese count". A… read more!
My friend Bill, who I went to college with and who designed the credits for my two features, has also designed the credits for most of M. Night Shyamalan's films. He not only returns to the fold with a dramatic opening title sequence, he was also hired by Shyamalan as The Happening's second unit director. This means that Bill got… read more!
More crazed output from the fevered mind of Japanese auteur Miike, who directs literally half a dozen features each year. Usually known for his ultraviolent yazuka and horror movies, in which people have a tendency to explode, Miike put himself on the art house map recently with his austere ick-fest Audition, which at least has opened the doors to more… read more!
After works like The Piano Teacher and Funny Games, Austria's Haneke has developed a reputation as a sadistic scold. Settling in to watch one of his films, you kind of prepare yourself for the worst. Even his relatively tame and moving Amour concluded with a shocking act of violence. So when Happy End opens with mobile phone footage of a 12-year-old… read more!
Another of Leigh's trademark British slices of life, the result of working with his cast for months in improv workshops in order to develop fully lived-in, realistic characters. This time, Happy-Go-Lucky follows a 30-year-old Londoner named Poppy (Sally Hawkins) who is thoroughly unflappable in her optimism no matter what. Leigh gauges our tolerance for such an exuberantly cheerful person early on: shortly… read more!
Although Happy Times doesn't strike the nerves as deeply as most of Zhang Yimou's other films do, even mediocre Zhang is good cinema. With this film he continues his move away from his earlier tragic, beautifully-shot melodramas towards a fresher, less-measured approach, and his subject matter lightens up too (though it still has great emotional pull). Happy Times tells the… read more!
At this point, the saga of everyone's favorite boy wizard feels like it's on autopilot - but that's okay. David Yates, helming the second half of the eight Potter features, may lack the personal vision that Alfonso Cuarón and Mike Newell brought to their installments, but he's a smart guy who knows why audiences keep coming back: It's the cast,… read more!
And so we come to the end of the most successful book and film franchise history has ever known, with the surprisingly short Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (well, at two hours, it's comparatively short for a Potter movie). Picking up right where Part 1 left off - so quickly that I had actually forgotten several key… read more!
Another lengthy but entertaining entry in the ongoing Harry Potter saga, Goblet of Fire succeeds mainly thanks to J.K. Rowling's ever-engrossing storyline. Director Newell, the first actual Englishman to direct a Potter film, doesn't have much of a background in visual effects, but he seems very comfortable with them here. In fact, Goblet of Fire far outdoes its predecessors in… read more!
The sixth entry in the Harry Potter series brings back some of the humor and awkward teenage romance of the underrated Goblet of Fire as well as the solving-a-mystery gimmick of the first three Potter films. Which is my way of saying that, having recently seen it for a second time, I didn't much care for the fifth Potter film,… read more!
The fifth entry in the Harry Potter series, this is the shortest of the films, yet it's based on the longest of J.K. Rowling's books. Which is interesting, and I might have more to say about that had I actually read any of the books. But as I haven't, I can only review Order of the Phoenix on whether it… read more!
I'm a latecomer to the Harry Potter franchise. I never read the books, and I eschewed the first two movies because I'd heard they were unimaginative, if slavishly faithful, adaptations. But I had heard such advance praise of Azkaban that my curiosity was piqued; no less so because of its director, Alfonso Cuarón. So I rented the first two Potter… read more!
I have to hand it to Quentin Tarantino: two decades into his career, he's still trying to find ways to turn his movies into theatrical events. This hasn't always worked out for him: his four-hour Kill Bill was sliced into two separate films for its theatrical run, and his experiment with Robert Rodriguez, Grindhouse, designed to emulate the fun of watching a double feature at a sleazy repertory theater (such… read more!
Aksel Hennie, a ginger-haired Steve Buscemi lookalike, plays a smooth-talking corporate headhunter who sizes up his executive clients in order to find out a) if they collect valuable art, and b) when they're not home, so he can steal that art and fence it, in order to keep his Nordic queen of a wife in diamonds and furs. It's a… read more!
After his final film Red, the renowned Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski announced to the world that he was retiring from filmmaking. Secretly, however, he and his frequent collaborator Krzysztof Piesiewicz were writing a new trilogy of films, to be titled Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, respectively. Unfortunately, Kieslowski died after writing Heaven, and so never got the chance to personally… read more!
Writer/director/star Mitchell takes his lauded Off-Broadway musical to the screen, with all the accolades in tow. You know to be suspicious when a film wins two major awards at the often-misled Sundance Film Festival, and although Hedwig is getting positive press, I fear much of it is knee-jerk – not enough people are taking a step back and asking, "But… read more!
This modern-day Western, about two bank-robbing brothers in West Texas, may be all cliché at its heart: you've got the unpredictable ne'er-do-well (Ben Foster), the handsome divorcé trying to do right by his family (Chris Pine), and the grizzled old Texas Ranger, on the very brink of retirement, who doggedly pursues them (Jeff Bridges). Yet Hell or High Water works wonderfully.… read more!