Anthropoid Is An Uneven Slowburn Aug17

Anthropoid Is An Une...

Overview: A telling of the titular operation, in which Czechoslovakian rebels planned the assassination of the third highest ranking SS Officer. Bleecker Street; 2016; Rated R; 120 minutes. A True Story: The word “anthropoid” signifies a physical resemblance to human-kind. It is appropriate...

Criterion Discovery: A Touch of Zen

Background  A Touch of Zen (Spine #825) is one of the pinnacles of Chinese cinema from none other than director King Hu. It is his only film in the collection, though more are expected to arrive soon enough. Film historian David Bordwell, in the essay attached to the release credits the film with bringing “Chinese martial arts cinema to a western audience.” Story If you’re jonesing for an epic, look no further than Criterion’s latest batch of releases; visionary Taiwanese director King Hu’s A Touch of Zen has finally received a transfer worthy of the film’s high stature within filmic culture. With 45 retrospective years to...

The Childhood of a Leader Offers a Promising Directorial Debut Aug08

The Childhood of a L...

Overview: An American child grows up in post-war France. IFC; 2016; Not Rated; 113 minutes. Running Before Walking: Brady Corbet, who is particularly well known for his work with other extremely controversial but still well-regarded auteurs (Lars Von Trier, Michael Haneke, Antonio Campos),...

Lights Out Reignites Our Fear of the Dark Jul25

Lights Out Reignites...

Overview: A mother’s mental state conjures up a violent entity which only exists in the dark, and her two children struggle to overcome it. Warner Bros.; 2016; Rated R; 81 minutes. On: David Sandberg’s Lights Out, based on the 2013 viral short of the same name, is quite an ingenious horror...

Free State of Jones is Watchable By Way of Relevence Jul06

Free State of Jones ...

Overview: Newt Knight, a deserter from the Confederate Army, returns home and forms a small militia to fight back against the rebel government. STX Entertainment; 2016; Rated R; 139 minutes. The Historical Figure: The recurring pattern of McConaughey’s white Newton Knight taking command of...

Swiss Army Man Could Save Your Life Jun30

Swiss Army Man Could Save Your Life

Overview: A shipwrecked man finds hope in a washed up corpse. A24; 2016; Rated R; 95 minutes. Beginning Before the Beginning: The sheer satisfaction of Swiss Army Man begins before the film does. That a movie with such an absurd premise can exist deserves applause and perhaps hints that Hollywood (or at least production studio extraordinaire A24) is becoming bolder in rewarding new and similarly audacious ideas. The Players: Daniel Radcliffe, once The Boy Who Lived, finds himself in the role of farting corpse here. Somehow, his performance is perfect. His Manny, so dubbed by Paul Dano’s struggling shipwreck survivor Hank, has forgotten his...

Cannes Review: The Last Face is Insultingly Bad May21

Cannes Review: The L...

Overview: Physicians work together in West Africa with a relief organization. FilmHaven Entertainment/Gerber Pictures/Matt Palmieri Productions/River Road Entertainment; 2016; 132 Minutes. Utter Failure: The Last Face is not a film built to do well at Cannes, but it’s not really a film that...

Cannes Review: Neon Demon is a Tone Poem May21

Cannes Review: Neon Demon is a Tone Poem

Overview: A young model’s beauty make her vulnerable to danger in the modeling industry; Amazon Studios/Broad Green Pictures/ Scanbox Entertainment/The Jokers; 2016; 117 Minutes. The Surface: Neon Demon begins with bursts of light and color and a pounding electronic score. Shards of fractal glass decorate the opening credits sequence. At its core, under slick surface appearances, Neon Demon is a giallo horror movie about a superficial industry and this structure is also its commentary. The artifice of the model industry is replicated in the film’s heavily-lit aesthetic and extremely theatrical performances. Beauty is a deception that leads...

Cannes Review: Graduation Presents Moral Question and Social Commentary May20

Cannes Review: Gradu...

Overall: A father processes an untimely attack on his daughter; Les Films du Fleuve/Mobra Films/Romanian Film Board; 127 Minutes. Hope: Whereas it is common for Romanian New Wave films to cynically chastise the nation’s politics and government – Director Christian Mungiu’s earlier 4...

Cannes Review: Julieta is Almovodar Light May19

Cannes Review: Julie...

Overview: A film based on three short stories from Alice Munro’s book Runaway. Warner Bros.; 2016; 96 Minutes. Minor Key: Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta represents a muted return to form. It holds all of the trademarks of the directors more powerful films: the twists, the feminine focus, and the...

Cannes Review: Personal Shopper is Driven by a Powerful Performance and Creative Vision May18

Cannes Review: Personal Shopper is Driven by a Pow...

Overview: A woman who works as a personal shopper for a model deals with the death of her brother. Les Films du Losange; 2016; 110 Minutes. Reunion: In Clouds of Sils Maria, Writer/Director Olivier Assayas helped elevate Kristen Stewart to a critical acclaim that had previously been stubbornly withheld in spite of (or perhaps due to) her popularity. Like her character Valentine, a secretary to a famous aging actress, Stewart was initially overshadowed by the performance of costar Juliette Binoche. Eventually, within both the film and its critical reaction, Stewart and her character stole a majority of the spotlight. So it makes sense that...

Cannes Review: Loving is an Early 2016 Favorite with Oscar Potential May17

Cannes Review: Loving is an Early 2016 Favorite wi...

Overview: An interracial couple are sentenced to prison in 1958. Focus Features; 2016; 123 Minutes. A Star Still Being Born: Jeff Nichols has quickly become one of film’s strongest and most reliable dramatic directors, concerning himself with small but powerful core values in big narrative ways. Loving, a biopic about an interracial couple in 1958 – the white Richard Loving and his half-black, half-Cherokee wife Mildred – falls directly in line with the Nichols’ trend, tackling a landmark court case but focusing primarily on the individual lives of those involved. After the couple is exiled from their home in...

Cannes Review: From the Land of the Moon is a Laughable Anomaly May16

Cannes Review: From ...

Overview: A woman in a marriage of convenience falls in love with another man. Studiocanal; 2016; 120 Minutes. Too Familiar: From the Land of the Moon offers ageneric French period piece melodrama. The premise is too familiar: forbidden and unrequited love disrupts the life of a young and at...

Cannes Review: The Handmaiden Is Erotic and Gorgeous May15

Cannes Review: The Handmaiden Is Erotic and Gorgeo...

Overview: A con man hires a pickpocket to help him, but things go awry when unexpected love develops. CJ Entertainment; 2016; 145 Minutes. The Web: Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden builds a web of deception and manipulation, a story in which the roles of puppeteers and puppets are indistinguishable. The film tangles the relationships between three primary people. Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) is a wealthy Japanese heiress promised to her predatory uncle.  Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri) is a young thief disguised as Lady Hideko’s eponymous servant. And con man Count Fujiwarawho (Ha Jung-woo) who hires the pickpocket to sway the heiress into falling...

Cannes Review: Toni Erdmann Succeeds in Its Simple Ambition to Entertain May15

Cannes Review: Toni Erdmann Succeeds in Its Simple...

Overview: A man plays pranks on his daughter to address her seriousness. 2016; 163 Minutes. A Feel Good Film: When Winfrey Conradi is sent home after a disappointing weekend attempt to reconnect with his daughter Ines, he realizes the extent of which her life is consumed by her work. He returns, as the titular alternate persona, the life coach Toni Erdmann, and attempts to instill a more zestful life energy into her monotonous routine by playing pranks and tricking her friends. Toni Erdmann is as feel-good a movie as one can expect to see at Cannes. The film explores the beauty of life and the necessity to maintain a good sense of humor in...

Cannes Review: American Honey is a Rapid Fire Dream May14

Cannes Review: American Honey is a Rapid Fire Drea...

Overview: A teenage girl joins a group of travelling magazine salespeople; A24/Focus Features; 2016; 162 Minutes. The Crew: Andrea Arnold’s 162-minute road trip movie is an absolute joyride through the American Midwest, brimming with the spontaneity and energy of modern youth. American Honey follows Star, portrayed with a naked vulnerability from newcomer Sasha Lane. With no responsible parents and two siblings under her care, she finds an easy escape as a member of a door-to-door magazine sales troupe. She becomes smitten with Jake, the star-salesman who recruited her and another extremely committed performance from Shia Laboeuf. The rest...

Cannes Review: Ma Loute is Monotone, But Lastingly Funny May14

Cannes Review: Ma Loute is Monotone, But Lastingly...

Overview: Two inspectors investigate a series of disappearances in a coastal village. Memento Films distribution; 2016; 122 Minutes. A Comedic Turn: Following a summer’s worth of events on the beaches of the French coast, Bruno Dumont’s Ma Loute pits the wealthy, incestuous, vacationing Peteghems against the Bréforts, a cannibalistic family of anglers and mussel collectors composed of four sons, all lifelong residents of the island. Stuck in the middle, attempting to solve a series of disappearances, is the ditzy crime fighting duo of Investigator Machin and Detective Malfoy, a veritable Sherlock and Watson dipped in buffoonery. This is...

Cannes Review:  Rester Vertical (Staying Vertical) Defies Cinematic Boundaries May13

Cannes Review: Rester Vertical (Staying Vertical) ...

Overview: A filmmaker seeks inspiration while raising a child. Les Films du Losange; 2016; 100 Minutes. Rocky Start: Rester Vertical (Staying Vertical) begins as dreadfully boorish, before mutating into a hilarious absurdist comedy rich with symbolism and subtext. Alain Guiraudie presents a world in which relationship boundaries and definitions are blurred. The central father-son relationship offers an unpredictable, insane romp headfirst into some of the most unfathomable corners of cinema. This is the kind of film that divides audiences. To call it risqué cinema is to undersell the effort. It is bold, confident filmmaking that will either...

Cannes Review: I, Daniel Blake Has So Much Heart May13

Cannes Review: I, Da...

Overview: An unhealthy man in need of state assistance meets a homeless single mother. eOne Films/Le Pacte; 2016; 100 Minutes. A Familiar Setup: I, Daniel Blake tells the classic tale of man versus oppressive government and sadistic bureaucracy. The struggle for survival reveals beauty in...

Cannes Review: Sieranevada’s Realism Tests Viewers’ Patience May12

Cannes Review: Sieranevada’s Realism Tests V...

Overview: A family gathers to commemorate a deceased father with a shared meal. Mandragora Movies, 2016, 173 Minutes. A Slow Step Forward: When you consider that directors like Thomas Vinterburg and Christian Mungiu are able to capture the barebones viscera that Cristi Puiu strives for in Sieranevada (and his entire filmography) in under ninety minutes with The Celebration and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days respectfully, it becomes harder to appreciate Puiu’s style, which aims for the same painstaking reality through replicating exclusively the boring bits. Sieranevada, with a 173 minute run time, though an improvement from the terse and...

Cannes Review: Café Society is Standard Modern Woody Allen, for Good and Bad May11

Cannes Review: Café ...

Overview: A New Yorker moves to Hollywood to make it in film. Amazon Studios/Lionsgate; 2016; 96 Minutes. Woody Allen as an Adjective: Café Society is Woody Allen at his most Woody Allen. Whether he’s tackling the infectious nature of fame and success or even creating a plain, simple romance,...

Sing Street Is Incre...

Overview: A young musician in the 1980s starts a band in order to impress his crush and escape his difficult life. The Weinstein Company; 2016; Rated PG-13; 106 minutes. Relationships: Sing Street, with Once‘s heart and Begin Again‘s fine tune and budget hits all the right notes,...

Eye in the Sky Is Expertly Contained Apr06

Eye in the Sky Is Ex...

Overview: A mission to eliminate a group of terrorist leaders finds itself interrupted by heated debate after a young girl wanders into the blast radius. Entertainment One; 2016; Rated R; 102 minutes. Politically Sound: Eye in the Sky is a thrilling, uniquely small-scale war movie for the new...

Knight of Cups Is Another Malick Masterstroke Mar07

Knight of Cups Is An...

Overview: A screenwriter searches for himself and connections in Los Angeles. Broad Green Pictures; 2016; Rated R; 118 minutes. The Magician: Perhaps director Terrence Malick’s most abstract and unforgiving work, the enigma of the narrative of Knight of Cups is nearly impenetrable, but the...

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny Cares Little for its Characters Mar04

Crouching Tiger, Hid...

Overview: A new martial faction lead by the evil Hades Dai attempts to steal the Green Destiny and take over the world. Netflix; 2016; PG-13; 103 minutes. Different Director; Different Style: Lacking the grace and sensitivity of the first film, Sword of Destiny conforms to a different style....