Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Phoenix Movie Review

There’s a current movement in German cinema. I’m not sure if it’s acquired a catchy name yet. “The Berlin School” is the closest I can find, but that’s not descriptive in the way that “film noir, “French New Wave,” or “Italian neo-realism” were. From my own observations it’s something like neo-German historical realism. But that’s a little clunky. At any rate, the movies, which tend to focus on post-war Germany or Communist Bloc East Germany, have been making their way stateside, illuminating the ways in which a new generation of German filmmakers and their audiences are responding to the important historical markers that shaped Gemany and its people today.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Irrational Man Movie Review: Woody Allen's 45th Feature

Correction 10 August 2016 - I originally labeled this as Allen's 50th feature. I think I pulled that number from a crude count of his IMDb credits which include TV work and one of the three vignettes in New York Stories. This was actually his 45th theatrically released feature film as a director, including What's Up, Tiger Lily?

Abe and Jill accidentally overhear a troubling story in a diner.
I’ve thought Woody Allen was washed up and done as a filmmaker for almost twenty years, but then every now and then he throws a curve ball of Vicky Christina Barcelona or Midnight in Paris, so I’m not about to make any big pronouncements, but Irrational Man is one that makes me desperately hope he doesn’t close out his career now lest the stink linger forever. That’s not really fair, I guess. No matter how bad an artist’s latter-day sins might be, the great stuff will always maintain a redemptive quality. Just look at Stevie Wonder.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Blackhat Movie Review

I have found myself over the years consistently enthralled by Michael Mann’s movies. He creates stories of men entirely dedicated to their professions, seemingly without limits. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro faced off as detective and thief, two men who would stop at nothing (including the loss of a relationship) in completing the mission in Heat. Daniel Day-Lewis was a frontiersman trying to save the woman he loved in The Last of the Mohicans. Tom Cruise was a fiercely professional hitman toying with Jamie Foxx’s cab driver in Collateral. And Foxx and Colin Farrell lived the lives of undercover narcotics detectives in Miami Vice. Mann sets these stories amid the allure of gorgeous cinematography, often making well-known cities look like brand new tailored playgrounds for men with fast cars and guns, whether it’s L.A., Miami, or Hong Kong in his latest, Blackhat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ex Machina Movie Review

It’s worth admiring a movie that attempts to tell a story of big ideas and deal with philosophical challenges, even if the execution isn’t what one might consider perfect. If there’s at least a modicum of kill and effort put into the craft of the storytelling and filmmaking, any missteps are easy to gloss over. Alex Garand’s Ex Machina, a science-fiction thriller takes the issue of artificial intelligence and cuts to the core of meaning behind consciousness and, by extension, humanity.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service Movie Review

I continue to fall victim to these early-in-the-year releases that get good reviews, forgetting every year that for the most part, these films are not very good. It’s just that critics are desperate to grasp at something remotely interesting in the early months on the calendar. Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of these movies. It’s all flash and panache, giving the illusion of something stylish and innovative. This is Matthew Vaughn’s second film adapted from a Mark Millar comic. Kick Ass was the first and, truth be told, violence is treated equally in both films, which tells me that Millar and Vaughn see no difference between violence committed by and against a twelve-year old girl and English gentlemen.

Wild Tales Movie Review (Relatos salvajes)

Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales is a package film comprised of six short films united by the common theme of human nature’s propensity to resort to animal instincts of violence and moral turpitude at the slightest hint of transgression. The original Spanish title of this Argentine film (which was nominated for the Foreign Language Film Oscar this year) is Relatos salvajes which is more aptly translated as “Savage Tales.” These six stories are not just wild, as in a little crazy and beyond the pale. They are savage and occasionally brutal in the way wild animals have no regard for the violence they inflict on each other.