Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I've been a fan of filmmaker Peter Strickland ever since, as part of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Films That Got Away committee, we programmed his debut, Katalin Varga, at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2010. His third film, The Duke of Burgundy, was one of the best reviewed offerings out of Toronto. I reviewed it for Paste.
Monday, September 15, 2014
While We're Young is the second collaboration between filmmaker Noah Baumbach and actor Ben Stiller. Less caustic than Greenberg, it concerns a married, childless couple in their 40s and the twentysomethings that enter their lives. (And it also has Charles Grodin.) My review is up at Paste.
Friday, September 12, 2014
What I've realized ever since missing Cannes this summer is that life now feels like an endless game of catch-up. Going to Toronto, I wasn't just needing to see new movies -- I also had to see what had premiered on the Croisette. Therefore, these below rankings (which also include a few films I caught at Sundance) are even less definitive than normal. Links leads to individual reviews.
29. Tokyo Tribe
28. Welcome to Me
27. The Good Lie
26. Infinitely Polar Bear
25. Mary Kom
24. The Judge
23. Black and White
20. The Last Five Years
19. Men, Women & Children
17. Maps to the Stars
16. 99 Homes
15. The Voices
14. Sunshine Superman
13. Tales of the Grim Sleeper
10. The Imitation Game
9. Charlie's Country
8. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
7. While We're Young
6. The Duke of Burgundy
5. The Theory of Everything
4. Two Days, One Night
3. The New Girlfriend
2. Still Alice
Also, I'd like to thank my roommates Jordan Hoffman, David Ehrlich and Matt Patches for being such fun company during the festival. And now...sleep.
One of the narratives you're going to be hearing about this fall is that Reese Witherspoon is "back." She has two high-profile films out soon: Wild and The Good Lie. I haven't seen Wild yet -- it just looked so Oscar bait-y that I resisted -- but I did review The Good Lie for Screen International (subscription required). I hope Wild is better than this well-meaning, slightly dull inspirational drama.
Ramin Bahrani was once a much-touted indie filmmaker (Chop Shop), but his recent movies have been mild disappointments. First was At Any Price, and now comes 99 Homes, an intriguing look at the collapsing U.S. housing market. It stars Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, who are both quite fine. Sadly, though, the film is only good-enough. I reviewed 99 Homes for Paste.
When I return from a film festival, I tend to dedicate my Friday Video to the song that made the biggest impression on me because of how it's used in one of the movies I saw. Fresh from Toronto, I remain smitten with Katy Perry's six-year-old "Hot N Cold," which director Francois Ozon incorporates so winningly in The New Girlfriend.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Kevin Smith's latest, Tusk, is a very cheeky little horror film. It's also kinda shocking in parts. And it features a cameo from possibly Hollywood's most irritating current A-list star. My review is up at Screen International. (Sorry, it is behind a paywall.)
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
The Dardenne brothers returned to Cannes this year with Two Days, One Night, and it was the first time one of their films didn't win any prizes. That's no knock on its quality: I caught up with the film, which stars Marion Cotillard, at Toronto. My review is up at Paste.
I had a very enjoyable time chatting with Luke Wilson, who's costarring in The Skeleton Twins. We talked about that, but we also discussed the end of Enlightened, how Bottle Rocket's shaky beginnings scarred him and whether or not he has a game plan for life. My cover story for Backstage can be read right here.
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Nick Broomfield, the documentary filmmaker behind Kurt and Courtney (and plenty of other movies), turns his attention to a serial killer who plagued South Los Angeles for 25 years in Tales of the Grim Sleeper. But what's most interesting about this film is the spotlight it shines on a struggling African-American community. My review is up at Screen International.
The Imitation Game tells the story of how ace mathematician Alan Turing helped the British (and, by extension, the Allies) defeat the Nazis during World War II. The secret was code-breaking, which is dramatized entertainingly in this tasteful drama. I reviewed the film, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch, for Screen International.
Julianne Moore's finest performance, as I've mentioned before, is in Safe. But her portrayal of Alice Howland in the tearjerking drama Still Alice is absolutely stunning as well. She plays a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's, and the film watches what happens to her and her family after the diagnosis. Folks, this movie just about killed me: This is how you do an intelligent melodrama. My review is up at Screen International.
Sunday, September 07, 2014
Writer-director Mike Binder creates great parts for Kevin Costner. He did it first in The Upside of Anger, and he's done it again in Black and White. But this custody-case drama doesn't deal with racism as well as I'd hope. My review is up live at Screen International.
Jake Gyllenhaal is getting a lot of praise for Nightcrawler, but I'm one of the few who's underwhelmed by this would-be Los Angeles satire. I reviewed the film for Screen International.
Anna Kendrick remains one of our best young stars, but the best thing that can be said about The Last Five Years is that she makes it almost recommendable. This two-hander musical about a marriage that's just ended is filled with singing, singing, singing. I wish I liked it more. I reviewed The Last Five Years for Screen International.
The surest Oscar contender I've seen so far at this year's Toronto Film Festival is The Theory of Everything, the graceful, lovely drama about the marriage between Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane. The film certainly smacks of "prestige," but I very much enjoyed it anyway. My review is up at Screen International.
I haven't done a Midnight Madness screening at Toronto in a while. I got back on the proverbial horse for Sion Sono's Tokyo Tribe. I was not a fan, although its rambunctious energy can be a hoot. (I can imagine what my father will say to me after he reads this review: "I don't think your parents will be seeing that movie.") I reviewed the hip-hop musical-cum-gangland epic for Screen International.
Robert Downey Jr. puts away Iron Man for a bit to play a hot-shot, big-city lawyer in The Judge. It's well-made, well-acted hokum. I reviewed the film for Paste.
As I get older, I have become a vertigo-sufferer in movies. Man on Wire, the last Mission: Impossible: Oh, they did a number on me. The documentary Sunshine Superman chronicles the life of Carl Boenish, the founder of BASE jumping. So, yes, there's some amazing footage. My review is up at Screen International.
As one of the few human beings who actually liked Labor Day -- I wrote a whole thing about it -- I wasn't predisposed to hate Jason Reitman's new film, Men, Women & Children, which is about the ways that social media impacts the lives of several families. Alas, despite some strong performances, the movie stumbles badly while trying to teach us lessons. My review is up at Screen International.