The Surprise May Just "VANish" Review

VANish would have seemed at home at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, when the first wave of Tarantino imitators were shelling their wares to a studio system that couldn’t pay our fast enough. Of course, as history has taught us, that trend of fast-talking, gun-waving slacker criminals didn’t die out then, but it’s hard to imagine who exactly director Bryan Bockbrader thought he was going to shock. All of the characters play hard at getting the highest decibel intensity that they can, but even the actors seem to know that this schtick is long past its shelf life.

Jun
06
2015
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When I Was 17, It Was "A Most Violent Year"... Review

You'll never do anything harder than staring someone in the eye and telling the truth.

J.C. Chandor has had one hell of a start as a writer-director. First came his film about the financial collapse, Margin Call (2011). Then All is Lost (2013), his film with Robert Redford struggling to survive a yachting misadventure. Then, late last year, came his third film, A Most Violent Year (2014), an American tale of a semi-crooked businessman making a land deal during the most violent year in the history of New York City. Next year, he's slated to release a film about the Deepwater Horizon disaster. When people bemoan the lack of original voices and serious subject matter in films, point them to J.C. Chandor and the unbroken string of subtle, interesting, and brilliantly acted movies.

Jun
03
2015
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Pryor Omits "The Logic", But Never the Truth Review

When Richard Pryor first burst onto the comedy scene in the mid-Sixties, he was hardly the man most of us know today--the edgy and occasionally uncomfortable stand-up and actor who shocked people with his frank and funny takes on race in the United States. Rather, he was a nervous guy who suffered from stage fright and modeled his act on Bill Cosby’s mainstream, family-friendly brand of humor. If he had remained that man, we probably would not still be talking about his life and his work today. However, Pryor eventually threw caution to the wind, embraced the counterculture and built a reputation as someone who wasn’t afraid to tell the bold truth under the guise of entertainment. 

Jun
03
2015
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"To Write Love On Her Arms" Is To Take Her At Face Value Review

All this is for me?

Renee (Kat Dennings) is an imaginative and special person with a couple of very close friends Dylan (Mark Saul) and Jessie (Juliana Harkavy). She's been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and is barely managing her demons when a terrible incident leads her into a two year vicious death spiral of addiction, abuse, and self harm. When things hit rock bottom in Daytona, Renee gets back in touch with Dylan and Jessie. This leads her to Dylan's boss, David McKenna (Rupert Friend), who is a recovering addict and alcoholic. Together, they try to get Renee into rehab, but they won't take her until she detoxes. So, for the next five days, Dylan, Jessie, David, and his friend Jamie help her stay clean.

Jun
02
2015
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There Are Many Kinds Of "Life Partners" Review

Nothing changed for you.

It would be slightly unfair to prattle on about Life Partners (2014) in the context of gay/lesbian films. First and foremost, it's a comedy and the lesbianism of one of the characters is, in some ways, incidental and mostly uncontroversial. That is to say, there's no struggle with sexual identity or coming of age or dark psycho-sexual elements to the film that dominate most of its consœurs. That said, it does have a scene where they play a game called "How many lesbians can you fit in a Subaru?" so I think we can say this is a lesbian film. If director Susanna Fogel and her writing partner Joni Lefkowitz can ironically bring up stereotypes, then I can point out that they do a grand job of undermining the stultifying stereotype that lesbians (and films about them) can only be solemn or tokens. Life Partners is well-rounded, carving out its own collection of issues of interest while also being pretty damn funny.

Jun
02
2015
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"The Missing" Never Finds What It's Looking For Review

I found something.

Miniseries of the mysterious variety are about as thick on the ground as period English adaptations were a decade ago. Like those adaptations, quality is pretty consistent while breaking through is rather more difficult without a dampened Colin Firth. The Missing (2014) goes back to the well to come up with this story of a missing child and jumbles up the litany of suspects enough to come out with eight episodes. Kind of like a fat free version of The Killing (2007-2012). Like that Danish series, The Missing concerns a single case, the victim's family, the police, the politicians, and a simple episode formula where a clue is planted, a suspect is cleared, and a surprise at the end makes you hungry for more. These formulae continue because they're so damn effective and if you've got a uniformly solid cast behind you--unlike, say, The Bridge (US) (2013-)--you've got something above average.

May
28
2015
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If The "L.A. Apocalypse" Happens, See Who Notices Review

Say what you will about the end of the world and how it will come about, but one thing is generally for certain: it won’t be boring. Nuclear war and mass annihilation, natural disasters, unstoppable plagues, a big old meteorite hitting Earth...none of these events are pleasant, but they are also not boring. They are the opposite of boring. They are so jam-packed with unwanted adrenaline, excitement and anxiety that if you were actually experiencing them you might just die of an apocalypse-induced heart attack. But, you would not be bored.

May
28
2015
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"Let's Kill Ward's Wife" Turns Out To Be Sage Advice Review

Scott Foley has been a silver screen star for some time, kicking off with a long run on Felicity before turns across all genres in Scrubs, The Unit, True Blood, and, most recently and recognizably, on Scandal. With the cache to pull some clout to his feature directorial debut, he does quadruple duty as writer, producer, director, and star of Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife. A black comedy that still manages to keep the tone light, even as a body is being chopped to pieces, the flick joins a perverse pantheon of ensemble humor with moderately well known casts that may have hit its high-water mark with 1998’s Very Bad Things. That crass little outing saw Jon Favreau, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, and Daniel Stern trying to dispose of a dead prostitute after a bachelor party in Vegas goes south.

May
28
2015
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"Selma" Marches On Review

There are films that we want to watch, and there are films that we need to watch. Goodness knows I am constantly overwhelmed by things I want to watch, especially during the summer months; I’m currently counting the minutes until I can see Mad Max: Fury Road and trying to plan a date to see Ex Machina before the over-the-top hype kills the buzz for me. Yet sometimes a film tells a story so important, you feel it is your duty to buy a ticket and hear what it has to say. It might not have the cinematic draw of a one-armed, bald badass played by Charlize Theron, or an unbelievably believable A.I., but it needs to be seen--and by as many people as possible--nonetheless. It is a very rare movie that achieves this quality of necessity, but Selma is most definitely one of them.

May
28
2015
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"Vice" Has its Virtues Review

Paul Thomas Anderson has never been shy about his influences. While on the press tour for Inherent Vice, the writer/director listed films as varied as The Big Sleep and Airplane as contributing to his approach (though everything from Dragnet to The Big Lebowski is visible to the discerning eye), and at various points during Vice’s 149-minute running time, they all glimmer briefly before circling around, like horses on a carousel (which may or may not be caught in a tornado). The mixture is not always consistent, but it is frequently electric, and with its sprawling cast of Angeleno squares, burnouts, activists, and noir archetypes (most of whom under some form of chemical influence), it weirdly reflects the cacophonous landscapes of 70s America. Indeed, for all his bold ventures into the past, Anderson has always felt most comfortable in the Watergate decade, free from the strictures of big statements, serious themes, or even coherent plotting. This may not be his best film, but it’s almost certainly his friendliest, in which he opens himself up to be something other than what we’ve come to expect.

May
27
2015
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