First and foremost, you must understand this: Guy Maddin makes very weird movies. In fact, he is a genuine underground filmmaker, so it's impressive that this, his latest feature, has not only gotten a US theatrical release, but is even playing on two screens at LA megamall the Beverly Center. (Though it must be said, the Cineplex Beverly Center, built… read more!
Movie Titles: S
Safety Not Guaranteed
This low-budget drama with a sci fi twist is by turns entertaining and enervating. A Seattle magazine writer heads out to the coast to investigate an oddball – played by 2012's ubiquitous indie actor/filmmaker Mark Duplass – who has placed a newspaper ad asking for a partner to go time traveling with. (This part was inspired by an allegedly true… read more!
The Same River Twice
In 1978, a group of friends in their late twenties, after working for several years as river guides in the Grand Canyon, decided to spend one last summer together on the Colorado – rafting, hanging out, and mostly being naked. One of them, Robb Moss, filmed the trip and made a little-seen documentary about it called River Dogs. Twenty years… read more!
Troubling but realistic comedy-drama about two neurotic siblings (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) who are forced to care for their dementia-addled father (Philip Bosco) after his girlfriend dies and he is left essentially homeless. We are briefly and succinctly informed at the beginning of the film that the father was an abusive, loveless man who drove his children's mother… read more!
Save the Last Dance
2001's first sleeper hit, this movie's box office success surprised everybody - even its own producers. I must admit, when I saw it (at a free employee screening at Paramount), even I wondered if anybody would go to it. It is, after all, a black-themed story with a white girl at the center. And it's about dancing! By the guy… read more!
A Scanner Darkly
There's a lot of reasons why I should've hated A Scanner Darkly: I don't normally like the cast, I find Richard Linklater a hit-and-miss director, and I definitely disliked Waking Life, his first foray into "digital rotoscoping", in which live actors are filmed and then painted over with a computer – a technique used again here. Hell, I'm not even that big a… read more!
School of Rock
Every once in a while, I can appreciate a formulaic Hollywood story, if it offers up enough charm to make the predictability palatable. School of Rock is such a movie – almost. I like Jack Black, but here he just plies his usual shtick: though his character's name is Dewey Finn, it might as well be Jack Black. Dewey is… read more!
The Science of Sleep
Celebrated weirdo music video director Gondry finally makes a feature film without a script by equally celebrated weirdo screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. The results are exuberant, kooky, disarming, and for the most part, successful. Stephane (art house staple Gael García Bernal) is an inventive young dreamer who returns to Paris after his father's death. Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is his standoffish new… read more!
Tense nail-biter about a professional thief (Robert De Niro) who agrees to take on the proverbial "one last job", even though it breaks two of his cardinal rules: partnering up with a stranger (Edward Norton, impressive as usual) and working in his home town (Montreal, a refreshing locale, well-used). But the money – a cool $6 million – is too… read more!
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
If you asked any urban hipster under 30 what movie he was going to see on August 13, 2010, he would have said Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and you might be excused for thinking the movie was thus going to be a huge hit. That it wound up bombing at the US box office tells you that most Americans… read more!
As I mentioned in a long-ago review for another film, I have a personal connection to Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, having once worked on a screen adaptation for more than a year. I was hired by Foreign Correspondents star Yelena Danova and her friend Olga Vodin, who envisioned a Seagull set in contemporary Malibu. The update wasn't that much of… read more!
It almost seems wrong to watch Searching on the big screen, since the entire film takes place on a computer desktop, in the form of FaceTime windows, YouTube videos, and so forth. It's a gimmick that has already been explored in a number of thrillers and horror flicks such as Open Windows and Unfriended, the latter of which was produced by… read more!
A young widow (Jeon Do-yeon) and her little boy leave Seoul for the smaller city of Miryang, where her late husband grew up, in order to begin a new life. As the woman tries to fit in with her new neighbors, a surprise kidnapping attempt changes her life and forces her through several crises of faith. I'm cautious not to… read more!
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee, a near-suicidal masochist recently released from the mental hospital and back into the suffocating folds of her family. Determined to get her life together, she applies for a job as a secretary. James Spader plays E. Edward Grey, her new boss, an attorney with a flair for command and punishment that Lee notices - and loves… read more!
See How They Run
This middling whodunit aims to be self-referential – it takes place behind-the-scenes of a famous theatrical whodunit, Agatha Christie's long-running play The Mousetrap – but while its script takes a few clever turns, much of its potential fun is leached away by flat direction and a miscast star. The year is 1953, and as The Mousetrap celebrates its 100th performance,… read more!
It's shocking that, despite Martin Luther King Jr.'s immense stature, he hadn't anchored his own theatrical feature until 2014. Thankfully, as the first proper MLK biopic, Selma doesn't drop the ball. In fact, it's a pretty great movie. Following the pattern of The Queen and Lincoln, Selma is not a hoary cradle-to-grave biopic, but instead locates the essence of its subject by narrowing in on one defining moment: in this case,… read more!
In the opening scene of A Separation, a couple makes their case for a divorce to an offscreen judge: the wife wishes to move to another country; the husband wants to stay in Iran to care for his elderly father, afflicted with Alzheimer's. In the middle is the couple's emotionally mature 11-year-old daughter. But the wife's real intentions remain cloudy… read more!
A documentary-style drama about the day in the life of a seedy Manila porno theater run by a frazzled family. This is the first 35mm feature by newly prolific Filipino director Mendoza, a former production designer who only directed his first feature (on video) in 2005, at the age of 45, and has since cranked out six more. (I should… read more!
First, let me say that I enjoyed Serenity. But I think writer-director Joss Whedon is a big baby. He originally wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a feature film, but when it fizzled at the box office, he blamed the studio for screwing up his vision and then took his creation to network TV, where it became the hit he… read more!
This film actually came out at the beginning of the year, and I avoided it, thinking it was just a cheap hipster bust on reality TV. Then last week it played at the local rep theatre, so I caught it - and I'm glad I did. For the record, it is a (not so) cheap hipster bust on reality TV,… read more!