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.
A gay couple is forced to move into separate apartments when their… MoreA gay couple is forced to move into separate apartments when their marriage threatens the sensibilities of one's employer.
An acting master class by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina with a fine supporting performance by Marissa Tomei highlight this softly moving story. The main conflicts are sometimes funny and sometimes quite dramatic and always genuine. Both main characters' loneliness figures prominently in the film's action, and its rendering is quite touching. While the film is "issue-driven," dealing with the injustices inflicted against gays and the affordability of real estate in Manhattan, it stays focused on the characters, which is its primary strength.
Overall, Lithgow and Molina together create a gem.
Sal Paradise goes on the road with Dean Moriarty and company.
This… MoreSal Paradise goes on the road with Dean Moriarty and company.
This film is less than the sum of its parts. In his effort to get the feeling of the Beat Generation, director Walter Salles has some quick edits and some free-wheeling music and some of the lines lifted from Kerouac's novel - all cinematic tricks that should work, but yet there's still something staid about this film. Perhaps it's the gravelly voiced Garrett Hedlund, who seems more focused on the image of Sal than the character, or perhaps it's the hackneyed shoe-horn of a script. Or perhaps Kerouac was never meant to be adapted.
Overall, it was worth a shot, but this is one book-to-film adaptation that missed the mark.
James "Whitey" Bulger teams with the FBI to set up the… MoreJames "Whitey" Bulger teams with the FBI to set up the Italian mafia, but Bulger's ruthlessness gets out of control.
Despite the fine performances by Johnny Depp and the rest of the cast, there's not much to recommend about Black Mass. It is a testosterone-filled style parade that sacrifices character development for coolness. There is nothing special about Bulger except his extreme ruthlessness, and so he becomes a rather uninteresting, flat character. Even Joel Edgerton's FBI agent John Connolly, the most developed and conflicted character in the film, doesn't compel much attention.
On a scene-by-scene basis, the film isn't bad - there is some really good acting in the scene between Depp and Juno Temple and between Depp and Bill Camp - but each scene is a man trying to intimidate another man or occasionally a woman. It's a string of intimidations that don't add up to a real story.
Overall, my birthday movie this year wasn't much to celebrate.
A young drug dealer falls into debt, so he trades his sister for the… MoreA young drug dealer falls into debt, so he trades his sister for the services of a hitman, who will kill his mother for insurance money.
Tracy Letts and William Friedkin follow up their relentless, paranoid thriller Bug with an even more relentless thriller in Killer Joe. Like Bug, it's almost impossible to tell where the plot is going, yet each turn is logical and character-driven. The action moments seem shoe-horned in, but the interactions between the characters are profoundly disturbing and occasionally disarmingly funny.
The performances by Matthew McConaughey (the first film in his insurgence toward Oscar-worthy work), Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple, and Gina Gershon are all fantastic. Hirsch and Temple are especially good with characters stripped of dignity and gazing wide-eyed at the world's depravity.
Overall, Letts and Friedkin are great together, and Killer Joe is a wonderfully disturbing follow-up.
A New York drag queen's relationships are disrupted by prejudice,… MoreA New York drag queen's relationships are disrupted by prejudice, violence, and AIDS.
A tour de force performance from Harvey Fierstein propels this remarkably written and acted film. Fierstein's talents as an actor are only matched by his intelligent, insightful, and inspiring screenplay. The conflicts must have felt so fresh and timely in 1988, but it's a compliment to Fierstein's writing that they feel just as important now.
Anne Bancroft's performance as Fierstein's character's mother is also very strong. She's not a horrible mother, just a flawed, human, 1980s mother, and her final scene with Fierstein is an acting master class.
Overall, Fierstein is a great talent, and it's a shame there isn't more of him to see.
A young girl befriends an ill, bed-ridden boy, much to the chagrin of… MoreA young girl befriends an ill, bed-ridden boy, much to the chagrin of his over-protective parents.
The first act of this film is boring, and the second and third acts fall into boring and predictable thriller genre traps that fail to thrill. The prodigious acting talents of Michael Shannon and Samantha Morton are criminally wasted on poorly conceived surface conflicts, and the child actors are equally uninspired.
Overall, this is a poor effort from all involved.