A German-Jewish philosopher covers the Eichmann trial and garners fury… MoreA German-Jewish philosopher covers the Eichmann trial and garners fury for her reporting.
It's quite rare to highlight philosophers and their work because it's difficult to raise academic concerns to the level of high drama. This film succeeds because it's a smart film for smart people -- people who can understand Arendt's concept of the "banality of evil." But it doesn't fully commit to its trust in the audience. While we get to see elements of the Eichmann trial from newsreel footage, we don't get inside the process of Arendt's observations. What about Eichmann led her to re-form how we think about morality and evil? Where does she see it, and how can the film show us her evidence?
The performances are all strong in a steely-eyed, hyper-intellectual way but without much vulnerability from any of the characters.
Overall, this is a strong, intelligent film.
A skeptical magician who specializes in disproving fake spiritualists… MoreA skeptical magician who specializes in disproving fake spiritualists meets a charming woman claiming to speak to the dead.
Rather than a real exploration of reason versus spiritualism, Magic in the Moonlight is a thesis-driven, philosophical treatise about how reason does and should triumph despite the fact that we all have a soul-deep hope that there is "more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy." In this sense, the film works because it captures both the desire for faith at the same that it professes the supremacy of reason.
Colin Firth is very good as the epitome of reason, and the second act climax is an example of Firth's acting at its finest. Unfortunately, Emma Stone's job is to be beautiful, and lit the way Allen lights his leading ladies and in front of the luscious south of France, she accomplishes this goal, even if her character lacks the depth we've come to expect from Woody's women.
The love story is admittedly slap-dash and under-developed. I don't believe that she would fall for him or that his third act decisions would lead to the film's conclusion, but there is an incredibly well-written third act scene that almost makes the impossible-to-believe believable.
Overall, unquestionably this is a minor Woody Allen film, but most people would dream of reaching the level of Allen mediocre.
An eleven-year-old girl comes of age against the violent backdrop of… MoreAn eleven-year-old girl comes of age against the violent backdrop of her neighborhood.
Director Rufus Norris resorts to some cheap tricks with non-sequential narration, but the central story is pretty good. After violence erupts in her neighborhood, Skunk, wonderfully played by Eloise Laurence, wonders why adults behave with such cruelty, and her father seems to have as much understanding as she does. At its core, Broken is about violence and dread and the mystery of cruelty and prejudice. These are interesting themes, and while they're not fully realized, the film remains basically compelling.
Overall, this isn't a bad film, but Norris's gimmicks wore on me, especially after he went to the same bag of tricks for the third time.
A troubled young boy meets a convict on the run on a deserted island… MoreA troubled young boy meets a convict on the run on a deserted island and works as a liaison between he and his estranged girlfriend.
This film defies Hollywood conventions because the name actor, Matthew McConaughey isn't the main character. Really this film is about the young boy, and his main conflict is about whether or not he can believe in love, which is remarkably compelling and subtly rendered.
The performance by young Tye Sheridan is good, not great; he's able to convey the character with some maturity, but the je ne sais quoi that it takes to carry a film is absent at this early stage of his career.
Overall, I've heard people bemoan this film as slow, but I think analyzing its structure makes it more interesting than it might seem at first blush.
A family, a man, and a woman hold up in a farmhouse as they try to… MoreA family, a man, and a woman hold up in a farmhouse as they try to survive an attack of zombies.
I should forgive this 1968 classic for its poor special effects, its misogyny, its predictable character types, it plot holes, its overwrought performances, and its lack of any ethical raison d'etre. But I don't. The female characters are all useless fools, and why doesn't the old lady in the attic ever wake up and attack the group of survivors? If the dead are walking and she's dead, why isn't she walking? Was her brain damaged? If so, that wasn't clear.
Overall, while it's a horror classic, there have been improvements on this genre that have made it archaic.
When a scientist kidnaps a brute's sister, he must join a group of… MoreWhen a scientist kidnaps a brute's sister, he must join a group of urchins to retrieve her.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of our most imaginative and interesting filmmakers, throws all his cards on the table in this film. At each turn, Jeunet's world unfolds, and it's a dark vision in which a mad scientist can steal children's dreams, clones vie to be the Original, and a muscle-bound, monosyllabic tough finds his heart of gold. The film is an experience - a convoluted and occasionally hard-to-follow one, and I can imagine some people finding this film to be a collection of gimmicks, but I found it compelling and interesting.
Overall, Jeunet is a unique filmmaker, and good or bad, his films are always interesting.
A intergalactic thief joins with a group of mercenaries to battle a… MoreA intergalactic thief joins with a group of mercenaries to battle a powerful villain who seeks an infinity gem.
Despite the fact that Rocket Raccoon and Groot are Marvel's rip-offs of Han Solo and Chewy, this film is an entertaining two acts of a full film. I found the characters delightful, the action sequences well-choreographed, and the plot fast-paced. The last act of the film is a list of action film cliches. The villain gives a speech instead of destroying the planet, a sacrificial act isn't really sacrificial, and the conflicts that propelled the rest of the film dissipate magically. Zadie Smith, in her book of essays Changing My Mind, writes about how much pleasure one can garner from a film on one axis and how stupid one must be in order to garner said pleasure, and this film requires me to be too stupid to enjoy it at the end.
Overall, as summer event films go, this one isn't as bad as most of them, and two-thirds of enjoyment is worth three stars.
A comedienne gets pregnant from a one-night stand and resolves to get… MoreA comedienne gets pregnant from a one-night stand and resolves to get an abortion, but when she encounters the father of her unborn child, she is torn about whether to confront him.
There's a lot to like about this film. Jenny Slate gives a remarkably charming and funny performance, and the plot unfolds organically. What is more, it's one of the first pro-choice films I've ever seen. In almost all films, abortion is considered bad, weak, or otherwise undesirable. But Obvious Child treats abortion as a choice and a viable solution to a difficult, life-changing event.
Also, the film's milieu is hipster chic. But unlike HBO's Girls, which from what I've seen is nothing more than a trite, deliberately shocking soap opera for hipsters by hipsters, Obvious Child doesn't require knowledge of, acceptance in, or agreement with hipster culture in order to enjoy the film. It's hipster without be too asshole about it.
Overall, hipsters love mirrors, and here's a very flattering hipster mirror.
Two boys attempt to define masculinity in response to their respective… MoreTwo boys attempt to define masculinity in response to their respective family dramas.
This Danish film is oddly both ambitious and contained. Its plot centers around only two families, one wracked by divorce, the other by death, but as the two male children of these families mature, we see that they're struggling with deep and difficult questions. What constitutes "being a man?" What examples do fathers and mothers provide their kids? Where is the line between being a disciplinarian and being a child's friend? What are parents' roles in preventing violence? These are ambitious ethical questions the plot brings up, but as a result of the film's reach philosophically, the plot starts to suffer when each of the film's conflicts resolve too conveniently.
Overall, this is a fine, ambitious, and interesting film until its pat conclusion.