Anders Nelson

Associate Editor



"Free Fall" Plunges Into Well-Covered Territory, But Meaningfully Review

The archetypes of gay movie romance were firmly established by the time of Brokeback Mountain's release, and Free Fall does little to subvert them. Advertised as Germany's answer to that most famous Oscar winner (and loser), Free Fall brings together a straight-laced man's man uncomfortable with gay identity and his out and proud foil with no less conviction than its American counterpart, but does so with somewhat less artistry and feeling of social import. Nevertheless, Free Fall is a perfectly well-acted, well-written, and well-directed exercise, and captures something of the truth about living in an era that is progressively moving forward, but where being gay is still, as much as anything, massively impractical.

Mar
18
2014
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"Concussion" Won't Rock Your World, But It Might Shake You Up Review

In many ways, Concussion feels like a big step forward: its sex scenes are frank without being sensational, and its portrayal of lesbianism never stops to congratulate itself on how ‘edgy’ it is. As something of an update on Belle de Jour, however, it registers as a bit of a disappointment. Filmed in a shadowy, verite style that seems to be legally mandated for all independent films shot in New York, Concussion never truly asserts a tone, feeling oddly distant from its own actions, despite an excellent lead performance by Robin Weigert.

Mar
17
2014
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"House Of Versace" Has Many Rooms, All Of Them Filled With Crazy Gina Gershon Review

At about the time that she claims that Armani makes dresses for wives and Versace makes them for mistresses, you might realize how much you've missed Gina Gershon (bear in mind, this is within the first 5 minutes). So few actors can find that sweet spot between self-parody and melodrama that it's almost shocking to find someone who can land lines like "if you want to put me on a leash, it better be diamond-studded" with Shakespearean conviction the way Gershon can. Paired here with Raquel Welch and mountains of cocaine, she proves in House of Versace that she's nothing less than the modern Mae West.

Mar
13
2014
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You Can Still Have A Good Time In "Chicago" Review

Chicago is the ultimate kind of magic trick: the kind that you can only do once. By the time cinema moved into its second century, few once popular genres had fallen quite as precipitously into disrepute as had the musical. Antiquated, stage-bound, and redolent of a time when film and theater were thought of interchangeably, breaking out into song at critical junctures clashed harshly with the newer, harsher sensibilities of post-70s cinema. The only way to plausibly market one would be to bill it as a musical “for people who don’t like musicals”, and stage and edit it in such a way that it played more as a music video than an import from the great white way. Enter Chicago. Even when the movie’s firing on all cylinders (which it frequently is), it still feels oddly skittish about embracing what it is, making it perfectly entertaining but also unsurprising that, more than ten years after the fact, the musical revolution this was supposed to herald never truly materialized.

Mar
11
2014
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A Sense Of Familiarity Keeps This "Best Man Down" Review

At about the time that you reach the half-way point, Best Man Down starts to seem like writer/director Ted Koland's attempt to sweep some sort of Sundance bingo contest. Of the two dozen or so elements that have come to characterize mainstream independent film (troubled teenagers, acoustic guitar music, Justin Long), at least half make an appearance here. Had it been played as a parody (think Not Another Independent Film), this might have been pretty hilarious, but as straight drama, Down doesn’t hit the mark.

Feb
15
2014
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Let's Hope This Is The "Last Love" Review

Of all the movies in which an old man rediscovers a will to live (after the typical disaster of the death of his wife), there probably isn't one quite so dour as Last Love. Obviously, you need to have your characters go through something fairly tragic to make their eventual catharsis at all interesting, but a sense of doom so pervades the film that even when things start looking up, you can’t help but think that they had the right idea when they wanted to end it all.

Feb
14
2014
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"Robocop"'s Tin Man Has A Brain And A Heart, But Not Enough Courage Review

Should you decide to binge on every published review of the new Robocop before it comes out tomorrow, you'll likely find that the prevailing sentiment is that it's a lot better than it had any reason to be, and indeed it is. Against all odds, Jose Padilha's remake has assembled the best cast for such an unwanted 'look back' since 2004's The Manchurian Candidate, synthesized a modern (if not ground-breaking) aesthetic that's still reverent to the original's future-scape, and made the action relevant to the modern day without visible strain. It is, however (with the exception of Samuel L. Jackson's Fox News-esque pundit), a singularly humorless film, something that might not work to its detriment so clearly if the original were not name-dropped as distractingly as it is. This new movie is a surprisingly solid in the action department, but it's not capital-R Robocop in the way that we have come to know it; it wants to have its old Detroit and blow it up too.

Feb
11
2014
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"The Rutles" Will Please Please You Review

If ever a comedy film deserved a pass on the basis of its cast alone (other than It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, naturally), one could make a pretty strong case for The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, the centerpiece of The Rutles Anthology. A collaboration between major figures of both Monty Python and the early Saturday Night Live crew, the Rutles serve as a clear forerunner to Spinal Tap, and Cash an early entry in the musical faux-documentary genre.

Feb
08
2014
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You'll Want To Be There When "The Long Day Closes" Review

Few and far between are the directors able to look upon the era of their childhoods with any kind of objectivity, easy as it must be too lapse into uncritical nostalgia, self-aware namedropping, or outright hostility to the process of aging. Interestingly enough, the most successful entries in this subgenre are those that make no bones about their respective directors's rose-colored perspective, and charge head first into the past without so much as a glance forward; The Long Day Closes certainly belong in this category. Similar to Fellini's Amarcord, Day is as nostalgic as anything that Reiner, Spielberg, or Allen ever made, but largely divorces itself from narratives about former glories in favor of sensory details; what writer/director Terrence Davies saw and heard as a young man, rather than anything in particular that he did. It's an absolutely hypnotic experience, and one that evokes youth in terms that a youth will respond to.

Feb
07
2014
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You Won't Laugh At "Carrie", But You Probably Won't Scream Review

The aesthetic of Kimberly Peirce's Carrie (taken from Stephen King's and originally produced by Brian De Palma in the mid-70s), is defined in the first few minutes. The scene is taken almost directly from the 70s adaptation (which serves as a greater influence here than the novel), as the titular character does her best to blend in to her gym class, caught unprepared by her first menstrual cycle. In 1976, her classmates strutted around comfortable in their nudity, their bodies hairy, unevenly shaped, strikingly organic to a generation raised on Maxim magazine. Here, they are toned and fit, as if photoshopped in motion, but never nude, resembling nothing so much as pubescent Barbie dolls. It is this very discomfort with the body that prevents Carrie from fully distinguishing itself from its source material, even as it sits near the top of the pile of recent horror remakes. It may evoke horror in its mayhem and bloodletting, but likely not in its depiction of puberty.

Jan
31
2014
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"Danguard Ace" Makes Giant Robots Kind Of Boring Review

The box for Danguard Ace promises a "war in space", a simple, juvenile, and almost completely irresistible proposition. In the strictest possible terms, it delivers, but it serves to highlight just how disappointing anime can be when done wrong. There's nothing unworkable about Danguard's premise involving a future Earth, jet fighters, and interplanetary warfare, but its execution highlights the limits of just how far your eight-year-old reptile brain will take you.

Jan
27
2014
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Make 'Em Laugh: Kathleen Madigan's "Madigan Again"

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Madigan Again opens up with Kathleen Madigan palling around with Lewis Black, who also introduces her set on stage; the pairing was clearly deliberate. Black is the more famous comedian, and his presence serves to acclimate those familiar with his work to the sensibilities of Madigan. The comparison is apt (they’re both dry and cynical, though perhaps that’s simply a condition of modern comedy) but not perfect (Madigan does not scream and wave her hands throughout her set). Instead, she seems to view the world around her with something closer to bemusement than contempt.

Jan
27
2014
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Some Heavy Atmosphere Sheds Light On This "Darker Dawn" Review

Children of a Darker Dawn was a risky proposition from the start. Sort of a reverse Children Of Men, Dawn takes place in a post-apocalyptic hellscape in which a virus has wiped out all adults (and civil authority along with them), leaving children to rebuild the world in their absence. Resting such dramatic weight on an ensemble of child actors is far more likely to fail than to succeed, and Dawn clearly didn't have the budget to compensate in menacing production design. It's worth noting that the film never fully overcomes those liabilities, but it has a patience and a handle on atmosphere sorely lacking in the genre as a whole that will justify the interest of many viewers.

Jan
24
2014
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Someone Else Should Have Been Working The Puppet Strings On Cassadaga Review

Somewhere deep inside Cassadaga, there's probably a moody thriller trying to claw its way out; if there is, it's well past the point where a woman is dismembered and then reassembled to look like a marionette puppet. Certainly, there are  horror-thrillers that have managed to retain their menace despite their sheer implausibility, but one would be hard-pressed to think of a genuinely frightening film with imagery as ridiculous as this. The story of Lily (Kelen Coleman) might have been compelling enough on its own, but there's no way to retrieve it from the surroundings that it's been placed in.

Jan
24
2014
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Take A Trip Back To "Grey Gardens" Review

If you ever needed any sort of yardstick to measure just how deeply the Kennedy legacy has burrowed into the American imagination, look no further than Grey Gardens. A documentary portrait of Edith Bouvier-Beale and her adult daughter Edie (better known as Big Edie and Little Edie), aunt and cousin to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Gardens plays like a companion to Sunset Boulevard, only untethered from the comforting realm of fiction. That two such bizarre, warped people could be even distantly related to the most glamorous woman of the twentieth century makes up much of the film’s intrigue, but only part of it; at its heart, it is most clearly a relationship drama about two people whose world is simply getting smaller and smaller as each day goes by. By the end of it, the mystique of the Kennedys seems greater than ever, and the Beales’s peculiar form of madness comfortable inside of it.

Jan
16
2014
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Once You Experience "The Act Of Killing", You'll Never Forget It Review

It's tempting to talk about The Act Of Killing in long-winded, dreamy maxims about the way that evil finds its way into the world, so shocking and so challenging to the very concept of decency itself is its parade of horrors both physical and moral (one can imagine a Mallick protagonist having a field day with it). Indeed, so much of what we see seems to defy any rationality that the mind reflexively pushes the nature of what it's seeing into the space of theory or pseudo-religiosity to make any sense of it, but the truth, regrettably, is far more insidious than that. Evil, both a perfect and wholly inadequate word for the world of Indonesia's death squads, exists here not as a metaphysical abstraction but as a practice, a point of honor, and finally, a way of life to which one becomes accustomed to avoid going insane. Nearly a century of genocide literature has asked (however hopelessly) where evil comes from; Act Of Killing responds unambiguously that it's already here.

Jan
13
2014
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"Violet & Daisy" Will Be Pushing Up Roses Review

There’s something indelible to the image of the paid assassin having a sudden crisis of conscience, due to a wrong target, a wrong client, or simply having been on the job too long. It shouldn’t need to be said that that image grows significantly less powerful when the assassin is a teenage girl, or even two of them whose ages when added together wouldn’t equal the age of someone growing weary of their trade, but someone apparently needed to tell Geoffrey Fletcher. It’s hard to tell what he wanted Violet & Daisy (which is alternately violent, wistful, and fantastic) to accomplish, but there’s virtually no argument that he achieves it.

Dec
13
2013
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The World Needs "Ambushed" Like It Needs A Haymaker To The Jaw Review

The crime epic (at least in film) has been on autopilot for a while now, so it’s hard to say why Ambushed, featuring Randy Couture and Vinnie Jones, is as distressing as it is (maybe because noted talking sandwich Dolph Lundgren easily turns in the strongest performance in the cast). In any case, there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen before (and in the case of most of you seen repeatedly), only done with less flair, less fun and less gravity than usual. It’s hard to imagine too many viewers will be clamoring for an earnest straight-to-video take on Scarface, but just in case, here it is.

Dec
09
2013
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"Dealin' With Idiots" Doesn't Swing For The Fences Review

Is there a softer target in all of comedy than sports parents? Maybe airline food and the things on the end of shoelaces (what are they? They don’t have a name), but rare is the class of people that inspires such a uniform mixture of resentment, anger, and pity (which usually translates into mockery). They’re probably so easy to mock that, even when it’s funny, Dealin’ With Idiots feels kind of lazy. You’re not likely to dislike Jeff Garlin’s film, but with the talent on board, it should be a whole lot funnier than it is.

Dec
09
2013
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"All The President's Men" Couldn't Put America Together Again Review

Even though its name has become synonymous with political controversies, the Watergate affair really is an anomaly among said group. Placed beside other Presidential transgressions, the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National headquarters seems miniscule, almost commonplace (does anyone think that it hasn’t happened since?). Furthermore, it was a tactically useless endeavor; with or without the burglary, Nixon won in an unprecedented landslide, only to be kicked out of office two years later. It was, instead, a byproduct of the cultural paranoia that had emerged in the decades following the Kennedy assassination, an atmosphere that dictated that you should keep all of your enemies under surveillance under the assumption that they were doing the same. It might be difficult for the modern viewer to understand this historical moment, which is why All The President’s Men is so valuable. Produced within the election cycle that it depicts, Men ably captures the moment when people stopped trusting their government.

Nov
30
2013
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