I was a fan of Danish writer/director Refn's previous English language effort Bronson, the highly theatrical portrait of the crazed British jailbird known as "Charles Bronson". So I was looking forward to Valhalla Rising, even though – my Norwegian roots notwithstanding – I have never held much interest in Viking movies. Different on almost every level from Bronson, Valhalla Rising… read more!
Movie Titles: V
I had low expectations walking into this film, as I think Tom Cruise is a bad actor and Cameron Crowe is a bad writer. Everything they do is so obvious, so forced, and so unnatural. For their first post-Jerry Maguire collaboration, they chose to adapt Alejandro Amenábar's labored twist-ending Spanish movie Open Your Eyes. Crowe pads Amenábar's original story with… read more!
Peter O'Toole plays Maurice, an elderly London actor of moderate renown whose cranky best friend (Leslie Phillips), another aged thespian, is beset upon by his grandniece (newcomer Jodie Whittaker), a snotty Northern girl with a taste for alcohol. Maurice, a lifelong ladies' man, finds himself instantly smitten with the impolite young niece and, even as he acknowledges that he is… read more!
I never got around to seeing this film when it first came out because of some slightly negative word-of-mouth amongst snooty critics, calling it a good effort but finding fault with Mike Leigh's portrait of a cheery middle-aged abortionist, deriding the character as a bit too "saintly". But then the Academy surprised everybody by bestowing Vera Drake with Oscar nominations… read more!
From the maker of The Scent of Green Papaya comes another lush slice-of-Vietnamese-life. In contemporary Hanoi, four grown siblings go through their days running their cafe, lying exhausted in the summer heat, eating, drinking, and yearning for love outside their stifled lives. The two oldest sisters are having issues with their husbands' (and their own) infidelity. The youngest sister (Tran… read more!
The ever-stylish Jeunet reteams with his Amélie star Audrey Tautou to tell another tale of a puckish young woman obsessed with finding her man; however, those expecting the sweet comedy of Amélie will be disappointed: A Very Long Engagement is a mostly somber drama, set against the horrors of World War I, and while it contains many examples of Jeunet's… read more!
The unpredictable trajectory of Adam McKay's career continues, as the former helmer of silly Will Ferrell comedies, after pivoting with the startlingly relevant The Big Short in 2015, now doubles down on the politics with Vice, a no-holds-barred takedown of Dick Cheney. If The Big Short occasionally broke the fourth wall in order to educate the audience about the complicated… read more!
It says much about the slim pickings of 2008's late summer movie season that this slight, though not insulting, comedy-drama would become one of Woody Allen's biggest hits. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are two American tourists who decide to spend a few weeks hanging out in sunny Barcelona before Vicky's impending marriage to a rich, dull New… read more!
Sofia Coppola went to CalArts with me for a year. One day in film history class, she sat behind me, annoying me throughout The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with her incessant popcorn munching. A friend later suggested that I should have turned around and shouted "You sucked in Godfather III!" Regardless of her past, can she cut it as a… read more!
Charming chamber piece about a family of strong-willed working class women in the windy La Mancha region of Spain, outside of Madrid. While Almodóvar semi-regular Penélope Cruz is the official star, this is really an ensemble piece, with Cruz's character's sister, daughter, dotty aunt, and even dead mother (Almodóvar's onetime muse Carmen Maura) sharing the story with her. Almodóvar has… read more!