A couple interviews a choreographer, whose relation to them may be… MoreA couple interviews a choreographer, whose relation to them may be personal.
Patrick Stewart, known principally for his work in science fiction, is in fact an incredible actor. He is one of the last, best examples of gravitas, and yet in this film, he proves himself to be capable of profound vulnerability, deft comic charm, and disarming fortitude. His performance in this three-character comic drama is the glue that holds the whole thing together, and there are moments when the other two actors can barely catch up.
The story is fairly simple, and the plot unfolds predictably and even becomes a little maudlin by the end, but this is one film in which the journey truly is far more compelling than the destination.
Overall, Stewart's work in this indie gem is its most noteworthy attribute.
Bathsheba Everdene attempts to run an estate without the social… MoreBathsheba Everdene attempts to run an estate without the social benefits of marriage in this Thomas Hardy adaptation.
Director Thomas Vinterberg may have been well aware that late nineteenth century feminism may seem passe to a modern audience, so he spends the majority of this adaptation focusing solely on character development, particularly that of Bathsheba and Gabriel. As a result, the novel's criticisms of late Victorian society take a back seat to the rather pedestrian romance, which unfolds predictably.
Carey Mulligan is lovely and strong, but there's too much modern independence in her performance; we don't doubt for a moment that she has the capability of running the estate, yet for the original Bathsheba, this may have been a matter of some suspense. Matthias Schoenaerts is dreamy, and that's about all that can be said for his performance.
Overall, Far from the Madding Crowd is a competent adaptation of one of a great author's lesser novels.
Sonny attempts to buy another hotel while his guests have their own… MoreSonny attempts to buy another hotel while his guests have their own interpersonal dramas.
If the first film was all charming plot and aphorisms, the second one is all aphorisms with a hackneyed plot. As a result, the aphorisms seem much less deserved: this film is not good enough to preach. Douglas and Evelyn's stalled courtship has no plot events, Sonny's rivalry is underdeveloped, a problem easily solved but stretched out because it must fill the film's running time, Norman's plot is ridiculous and the climax is too easy, and the mystery evaluator is so predictable that I'm rather insulted this film felt the need to include that story-line. The performances are all wonderful, which is no wonder considering the talent involved, but obviously, that's not enough.
Overall, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a distant second to anything else you could spend two hours doing.
A secret organization of gentlemen martial artists with James… MoreA secret organization of gentlemen martial artists with James Bond-level gadgets battles a crazed media tycoon.
While I find it morally problematic to cheer and altogether have fun with gratuitous violence, I have to say that this film is a visual delight with a wit and charm and devil-may-care exuberance that sets it apart from the rest of the comic book genre. It's true that it delights in bloodshed to such a degree that it rivals the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, but it doesn't have the gall to do so without showing and, if even for a short moment, lamenting the resulting bloodshed. After all, it's better to show the gruesome consequences of violence than to gloss over it as simple good fun.
Colin Firth, most people's last choice for an action hero, actually makes an amazingly kick-ass action hero. Who would've thought? And Samuel L. Jackson is campy and hilarious, a Bond villain in the making, even as the film lampoons Bond villain stupidity.
Overall, I liked this film much more than I ever thought I would, and director Matthew Vaughn is proving to be an expert at the comic book action genre.
A middle-aged couple befriends a younger couple and embarks on a… MoreA middle-aged couple befriends a younger couple and embarks on a documentary project.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach fashions a simple but affecting story contrasting youth and mortality, balanced with a rather pedestrian story about the making of a documentary. It's clear that he wants to explore the former group of themes and occasionally digress into pedantry about the nature of art in documentary films, but While We're Young's primary strength is that it avoids too much didacticism.
Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried all give excellent performances, but it's Stiller who most clearly understands Baumbach's unique blending of character development and thematic exploration, and his performance is the most honed -- probably the result of his experience in other Baumbach films.
The film's resolution (its final moments, not the genius send-up of "the great detective's reveal") is far too pat for my tastes, but that doesn't besmirch the fact that so much of what came before hit all the right notes.
Overall, while not all that profound, Baumbach proves to be an excellent story-teller and fascinating artist.
A woman with Borderline Personality Disorder wins the lottery and buys… MoreA woman with Borderline Personality Disorder wins the lottery and buys off a TV station in order to produce a daily talk show.
Kristen Wiig gives an excellent performance in both the dramatic and comedic/dramatic sections of this film. Her deadpan delivery was never more appropriate, and she mines soul-depths to create an interesting and compelling character.
However, the film simply doesn't have enough plot events. It contents itself with scenes wholly motivated by Alice's (Wiig) disorder, occasionally interrupted by scenes of the TV execs arguing about whether it is ethical to display Alice's disorder despite her financial largess. It's a collection of the same scenes on repeat, so the plot doesn't advance, and the deus ex machina at the end is as unmotivated as the rest of the film. Why should the receiving character so spontaneously switch her stance? As a result, the film is a stagnant character study and is too thin on plot.
Overall, Wiig is excellent, but the story isn't.
A charming singer woos a wealthy widow and slum-woos a chorus girl.… MoreA charming singer woos a wealthy widow and slum-woos a chorus girl.
The only good thing about this film is the music. Hearing Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, and Kim Novak sing standards is a close second to a conceivable and interesting plot and dynamic characters. It is unfortunate that Pal Joey features such an asshole as its main character and two female supporting characters whose attachment to Joey make us question whether we should care about their interests at all. The entire story relies upon how charming you think Sinatra's old blue eyes are, and while it's true that it's hard to find a more dreamy leading man, it's much easier to be affected by his allure when he's not so callously "trading up" at the expense of others' feelings.
Overall, Pal Joey is a better soundtrack than it is a film.
A group of gay activists organize a protest in support of Welsh miners… MoreA group of gay activists organize a protest in support of Welsh miners who have been victimized by Margaret Thatcher's policies.
It's hard to make a heart-warming movie. With too many positive scenes a film can flounder for conflict and fail to progress. But Pride manages to be thoroughly heart-warming and keep moving. The film progresses from intra-group interpersonal conflicts, which are funny and occasionally moving, to inter-group awkwardness, which are just as funny. The film's serious moments don't ward off its charm, and the cast is equally accomplished throughout.
Overall, this is an excellent, uplifting film.
An immigrant's business is threatened by crime just as he has… MoreAn immigrant's business is threatened by crime just as he has over-leveraged his assets.
Oddly, A Most Violent Year is one of the least violent movies I've seen in a long time, but that doesn't mean that it's not incredibly tense and compelling. Jaw-clenching Oscar Isaac and icy-staring Jessica Chastain make compelling scene partners, and this plot puts them through the ringer.
The film has been favorably compared to the work of Sidney Lumet, one of American cinema's most underrated masters, and I can see why: both director J.C. Chandor and Lumet use long, slow shots, framed in shadowy backgrounds to subtly establish a pervasively sinister mood. Anything can happen in the threatening worlds of Chandor and Lumet, and even when it doesn't, there's the feeling that the characters have only temporarily escaped tragedy. This mood leads to what I think is one of the film's great sequences. It's a chase sequence in which Abel, Isaac's character, must run down a lead on who has been stealing his business's trucks. With most chase sequences, it's easy to tell how it's going to end - the plot event has to be resolved by the character either catching the prey or not - but in this sequence, even though we know that Abel will catch the guy, we don't know whether Abel will fall further from grace and become a murderer. This moment of unpredictability is masterfully built and becomes an example of how good films can take a familiar construct - the chase - and make it fresh and exciting.
Overall, A Most Violent Year is a phenomenal film, and it solidifies Isaac and Chandor as two of our most promising talents.
A father discovers a box of tapes and joins a band which covers his… MoreA father discovers a box of tapes and joins a band which covers his dead son's songs.
With a soaring, remarkable soundtrack, fantastic, touching performances by the whole cast, and an almost unmatched story, William H. Macy's directorial debut is a tour de force. The first act is a compelling story about recovery, and the second act explores the relationship between Sam, Billy Crudup's grieving father, and Quentin, Anton Yelchin's young, insecure musician, but it's the third act that turns the entire story on its head in a reveal that's both surprising and completely natural.
Overall, this indie drama is incredible.