A group of actors perform Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.
Andre Gregory and… MoreA group of actors perform Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.
Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn combined with director Louis Malle to create one of the great talk-only films, My Dinner with Andre, and now they add David Mamet translating Anton Chekhov to the mix, and the result is just as compelling. By itself, Vanya is a great character drama, and what Malle and company show is that great material requires great actors, not necessarily beautiful scenery. You probably wouldn't cast impish Wallace Shawn in the main role of Vanya opposite the younger and "beautiful" Jullianne Moore, but it works because Shawn's talent as an actor goes beyond his looks. The rest of the actors are equally good, including Moore, whose work usually fails to compel me.
Overall, this is a great introduction to one of Russia's greatest writers.
A woman suspends her life to support her imprisoned husband.
There is… MoreA woman suspends her life to support her imprisoned husband.
There is without a doubt something profound, personal, and authentic about this film, which is to the credit of Emayatzy Corinealdi and writer/director Ava DuVernay, but the plot is plodding and slowly rendered. it's hard to make an exciting film about waiting, so part of the film's problem is the story it's trying to tell. Nevertheless, the film has important things to say about gender roles, race relations, and personal growth.
Overall, Middle of Nowhere tries to rend the most out of its actors and story, but the film's pace ultimately dooms it.
When Kyle Reese goes back in time to save Sarah Connor, he finds her… MoreWhen Kyle Reese goes back in time to save Sarah Connor, he finds her expecting him and in the company of a Terminator who saved her life as a little girl.
This is the type of film that seems really clever until you think about it. I mean, how many Terminators did they send back? Why not just send back a whole damn factory? There are two T-800s, a T-1000, a human, and another new Terminator that all go back at various times, and none of that takes place within the action of the film. And all of that is ignoring all the paradoxes in this lazily written time-travel action film.
I like Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor; she's got the look and the bad-assery, and Jai Courtney has all the action chops for this new franchise. But the actors aren't the problem.
Overall, once upon a time, Terminator was an intelligent addition to the science fiction corpus.
A teenager in a tough innercity neighborhood mistakenly receives a… MoreA teenager in a tough innercity neighborhood mistakenly receives a satchel of drugs.
For the first act of Dope, I was compelled by the plot and the unique and interesting narrative voice, but by the middle of the second act, so many themes, characters, plot-lines, and over-wrought sequences had been stuffed into the film that my head started to spin. It seems to me that director Rick Famuyiwa bit off more than he could chew -- as though this may be his first and last chance to say everything that needs to be said about race, African-American culture, pop culture, inner-city life, Twitter-addiction, and life, the universe, and everything.
The performances are all excellent, acting as not-acting at its best.
Overall, I liked the potential of the talent behind Dope more than I liked the movie itself.
Henry VIII falls for Anne Boleyn, and ... well, you know.
Of all the… MoreHenry VIII falls for Anne Boleyn, and ... well, you know.
Of all the dramatizations of the Henry VIII story that I've seen (and that's almost in the double digits), Richard Burton is the most human Henry of them all. Sure, he gets Henry's antics, and there are enough scenes where Burton can strut and fret and be manly, but Burton shines the most when he's quietly imploring, full of human weakness and pleadingly hopeful that his illusions are his reality.
The rest of the film is a dull effort, giving us no new insights into the story, and Genevieve Bujold is not worth sacrificing a kingdom for.
Overall, it's Burton that keeps this film from being just another entry into the Henry VIII library.
A prosecutor's mistress is murdered, and he becomes the prime suspect.… MoreA prosecutor's mistress is murdered, and he becomes the prime suspect.
Throughout the majority of this film, I was bored. Harrison Ford was not at his most dynamic, charming, or interesting, and the supporting players were also relatively bland; when Raul Julia is bland in a film, you've got a story. I was all set to give it two stars or lower, and then the end happened. It got me. I'm usually pretty good at predicting the ends of films, especially mysteries, but I was truly stumped, and I don't mind admitting it. What's great about the reveal is that it's not unfair. All the clues are there, but they're so subtly placed that it's understandable that I didn't pick up on them.
Overall, while it's no The Usual Suspects, this film gets bonus points for its unpredictable and compelling ending.
After his parents divorce, a boy grows up in Texas.
I really wanted to… MoreAfter his parents divorce, a boy grows up in Texas.
I really wanted to love this film; going into it, I was prepared to call it the best film of the year and maybe even the best film of the decade. After all, Richard Linklater accomplished a technical feat - making a major motion picture over twelve years - that has never been achieved in American cinema. And this kind of film is right up Linklater's alley, small-scale, human interest drama.
However, the film never gets going. I kept wondering what the primary conflict was. Is it just growing up? Could that carry a three-hour film? Not really. And when Mason grows up to become an anti-establishment hipster, we see that Linklater returns to his familiar character types. In Linklater films, there are two characters: the sell-outs and the anti-establishment types, and when Mason starts spouting the normal Linklater speeches about the "over-determinedness" of modern life, I knew that the film was only an achievement of the technical variety, not a real expansion of his artistic palette. And while "anachronistic" is not the right word, there are numerous references to the flavor of the times in which the scenes were shot - Britney Spears songs and Harry Potter book signings - that work as the filmmakers winking at the audience and saying, "Look at what was hot during this time."
The best performance in the film belongs to Patricia Arquette whose final moment is chillingly heart-breaking.
Overall, if you know the backstory, Boyhood is a heck of a film, but if we just ignored that the film was shot over twelve years, it wouldn't be that much to write home about.
A con artist arrives in a drought-ridden town claiming he can bring… MoreA con artist arrives in a drought-ridden town claiming he can bring rain.
Burt Lancaster is a force. Perfectly cast as Starbuck, Lancaster chews the scenery with aplomb, and whereas any other actor might look like he's drawing attention to himself, Lancaster never looks like he's not playing the character honestly. This and his work in Elmer Gantry are the main reasons why he's such a eye-catching and dynamic. Katharine Hepburn is never quite believable as plain Jane Lizzie, but she makes it work and her scenes with Lancaster are the best in the film.
The last scene is confusing, and to avoid giving it away, I'll just say that the reasons why a character makes a decision aren't entirely clear.
Overall, The Rainmaker highlights Lancaster's incredible and vivacious talents.
A young man grows up seemingly deaf and mute and becomes pinball… MoreA young man grows up seemingly deaf and mute and becomes pinball champion and a leader of a religious cult.
If I were doing one-sentence reviews, I would simply write, "What the fuck?" and that would be that. Since I feel the need to write more substantive reviews - what the actual fuck? This film is nuts. The plot is weird and non-sensical, the cinematography is an LSD trip, and the acting is over-blown. That said, Tommy is also a hell of a ride. Consistently engaging, it kept me guessing, and some of the musical numbers are well-choreographed.
Overall ... what the actual fuck?
A directionless twenty-something hides away from her life with a… MoreA directionless twenty-something hides away from her life with a teenager and her divorced father.
A quirky film, Lynn Shelton's Laggies has its moments of chuckle-inducing charm, but the story is over-burdened by its theme. For example, when Craig catches Megan in his daughter's room, there is limited conversation about her invasion into his family; rather, they spend most of the time talking about the pressures of adulthood, which is the theme, not what would actually happen if these were real people. Another example is Gretchen Mol's character. There is no impetus for Annika to visit her mother, but she does because theme (as opposed to "because plot"), and Bethany is another adult struggling with the pressures of adulthood. Surprise, surprise. I'm not saying that theme is not something that belongs in this film, but it should emerge organically.
Keira Knightley's American accent is bad, but the rest of her performance is okay - just okay because I never really bought her as a younger, directionless adult. Compare her with Charlize Theron in Young Adult, and her deficiencies are blatantly obvious. Chloe Grace Moretz, on the other hand, continues to impress. I can't wait to see what she does next.
Overall, Shelton's effort has some good points, but it's over-burdened to the point of heavy-handed.