Tag Archives: limited

Wish I Was Here

Wish I Was Here Movie Review

R, 106 m., 2014

Zach Braff (Aidan Bloom), Kate Hudson (Sarah Bloom), Joey King (Grace Bloom), Pierce Gagnon (Tucker Bloom), Mandy Patinkin (Gabe), Josh Gad (Noah Bloom), Ashley Greene (Janine), Jim Parsons (Paul). Directed by Zach Braff and produced by Matthew Andrews, Adam J. Braff, Zach Braff, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher. Screenplay by Adam J. Braff and Zach Braff.

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Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas Movie Review

R, 88 m., 2014

Anna Kendrick (Jenny), Melanie Lynskey (Kelly), Mark Webber (Kevin), Lena Dunham (Carson), Joe Swanberg (Jeff). Written and directed by Joe Swanberg. Produced by Peter Gilbert and Swanberg.

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I Origins

I Origins Movie Review

R, 106 m., 2014

Michael Pitt (Ian), Brit Marling (Karen), Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (Sofi), Steven Yeun (Kenny), Archie Panjabi (Priya Varma), Cara Seymour (Dr. Simmons). Written and directed by Mike Cahill. Produced by Cahill, Hunter Gray, Alex Orlovsky.

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Boyhood

Boyhood Movie Review

R, 165 m., 2014

Ellar Coltrane (Mason), Patricia Arquette (Mom), Ethan Hawke (Dad), Lorelei Linklater (Samantha). Written and directed by Richard Linklater. Produced by Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland.

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Begin Again

Begin Again Movie Review

R, 104 m., 2013

Mark Ruffalo (Dan), Keira Knightley (Gretta), James Corden (Steve), Hailee Steinfeld (Violet), Mos Def (Saul (as Yasiin Bey)), Adam Levine (Dave), CeeLo Green (Troublegum (as Cee Lo Green)), Catherine Keener (Miriam). Written and directed by John Carney. Produced by Tobin Armbrust and Anthony Bregman.

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Life Itself

Life Itself Movie Review

R, 120 m., 2014

Featuring Roger Ebert. A documentary directed by Steve James and produced by Garrett Basch, James, and Zak Piper.

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They Came Together

They Came Together Movie Review

R, 83 m., 2014

Paul Rudd (Joel), Amy Poehler (Molly), Cobie Smulders (Tiffany), Melanie Lynskey (Brenda), Max Greenfield (Jake), Ellie Kemper (Karen), Jason Mantzoukas (Bob), Ed Helms (Eggbert), Michael Ian Black (Trevor), Bill Hader (Kyle), Christopher Meloni (Roland). Directed by David Wain and produced by Michael Showalter. Screenplay by Showalter & Wain.

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Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer Movie Review

R, 126 m., 2013

Chris Evans (Curtis), Jamie Bell (Edgar), John Hurt (Gilliam), Tilda Swinton (Mason), Alison Pill (Teacher), Octavia Spencer (Tanya), Ewen Bremner (Andrew). Directed by Joon-ho Bong and produced by Tae-sung Jeong, Tae-hun Lee, Steven Nam, Chan-wook Park. Screenplay by Bong and Kelly Masterson (in English, Korean, Japanese and French), based on an original story by Jacques Lob & Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, and a screen story by Bong.

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Venus in Fur

Venus in Fur Movie Review

UNRATED, 96 m., 2013

Emmanuelle Seigner (Vanda), Mathieu Amalric (Thomas). Directed by Roman Polanski and produced by Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde. Screenplay by Polanski & David Ives (in French and German).

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Third Person

Third Person Movie Review

R, 137 m., 2013

Liam Neeson (Michael), Mila Kunis (Julia), James Franco (Rick), Olivia Wilde (Anna), Adrien Brody (Scott), Maria Bello (Theresa), Kim Basinger (Elaine). Written and directed by Paul Haggis. Produced by Paul Breuls, Haggis, and Michael Nozik.

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The Rover

The Rover Movie Review

R, 103 m., 2014

Robert Pattinson (Rey), Guy Pearce (Eric), Scoot McNairy (Henry), Tawanda Manyimo (Caleb), David Field (Archie). Directed by David Michôd and produced by David Linde, Michôd, and Liz Watts. Screenplay by Michôd, based on a story by Joel Edgerton.

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The Signal

The Signal Movie Review

PG_13, 97 m., 2014

Brenton Thwaites (Nic), Olivia Cooke (Haley), Laurence Fishburne (Damon), Beau Knapp (Jonah), Lin Shaye (Mirabelle). Directed by William Eubank and produced by Tyler Davidson and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Screenplay by Carlyle Eubank, William Eubank and Dave Frigerio.

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The Sacrament

The Sacrament Movie Review

R, 95 m., 2013

AJ Bowen (Sam), Amy Seimetz (Caroline), Joe Swanberg (Jake), Kate Lyn Sheil (Sarah), Gene Jones (Father). Directed by Ti West and produced by Molly Conners, Jacob Jaffke, Peter Phok, Eli Roth, Christopher Woodrow. Screenplay by West.

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We Are the Best!

We Are the Best! Movie Review

UNRATED, 102 m., 2013

Mira Barkhammar (Bobo), Mira Grosin (Klara), Liv LeMoyne (Hedvig), Johan Liljemark (Kenneth), Mattias Wiberg (Roger), Jonathan Salomonsson (Elis), Alvin Strollo (Mackan), Anna Rydgren (Bobos mamma), Peter Eriksson (Bobos pappa). Directed by Lukas Moodysson and produced by Lars Jönsson. Screenplay by Moodysson (in Swedish), based on a story by Coco Moodysson.

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Filth

Filth Movie Review

R, 97 m., 2013

James McAvoy (Bruce), Jamie Bell (Lennox), Eddie Marsan (Bladesey), Imogen Poots (Drummond), Brian McCardie (Gillman), Emun Elliott (Inglis), Joanne Froggatt (Mary), Jim Broadbent (Dr. Rossi), Kate Dickie (Chrissie), Shirley Henderson (Bunty), Martin Compston (Gorman), Iain De Caestecker (Ocky). Directed by Jon S. Baird and produced by Mark Amin, Christian Angermayer, Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler. Screenplay by Baird, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh.

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Chef

Chef Movie Review

R, 114 m., 2014

Jon Favreau (Carl Casper), John Leguizamo (Martin), Bobby Cannavale (Tony), Emjay Anthony (Percy), Scarlett Johansson (Molly), Dustin Hoffman (Riva), Sofía Vergara (Inez), Oliver Platt (Ramsey Michel), Amy Sedaris (Jen), Robert Downey Jr. (Marvin). Directed by Jon Favreau and produced by Sergei Bespalov, Favreau, and Karen Gilchrist. Screenplay by Favreau.

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The Railway Man

The Railway Man Movie Review

R116 m., 2013

Colin Firth (Eric), Nicole Kidman (Patti), Stellan Skarsgård (Finlay), Jeremy Irvine (Young Eric), Hiroyuki Sanada (Takeshi Nagase), Sam Reid (Young Finlay). Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky and produced by Chris Brown, Bill Curbishley, Andy Paterson. Screenplay by Paterson and Frank Cottrell Boyce, based on the book by Eric Lomax.

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The Immigrant

The Immigrant Movie Review

R, 120 m., 2013

Marion Cotillard (Ewa Cybulska), Joaquin Phoenix (Bruno Weiss), Jeremy Renner (Orlando the Magician / Emil), Dagmara Dominczyk (Belva). Directed by James Gray and produced by Gray, Anthony Katagas, Greg Shapiro, Christopher Woodrow. Screenplay by Gray & Ric Menello (as Richard Menello).

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Palo Alto

Palo Alto Movie Review

R, 100 m., 2013

Emma Roberts (April), James Franco (Mr. B), Val Kilmer (Stewart), Colleen Camp (Sally Grossman), Jack Kilmer (Teddy), Keegan Allen (College Boy #1), Nat Wolff (Fred). Directed by Gia Coppola and produced by Vince Jolivette, Miles Levy, Sebastian Pardo, and Adriana Rotaru. Screenplay by Coppola, based on a story by James Franco.

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God’s Pocket

God's Pocket Movie Review

R, 88 m., 2014

Christina Hendricks (Jeanie Scarpato), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Mickey Scarpato), Eddie Marsan (Smilin’ Jack Moran), Richard Jenkins (Richard Shellburn), John Turturro (Arthur ‘Bird’ Capezio), Caleb Landry Jones (Leon Hubbard), Eddie McGee (Petey Kearns), Lenny Venito (Little Eddie), Sophia Takal (Temple Graduate), Peter Gerety (McKenna). Directed by John Slattery and produced by Lance Acord, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Sam Bisbee, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Slattery, Emily Ziff. Screenplay by Slattery and Alex Metcalf, based on a novel by Peter Dexter.

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The Double

The Double Movie Review

R, 93 m., 2013

Jesse Eisenberg (Simon / James), Mia Wasikowska (Hannah), Wallace Shawn (Mr. Papadopoulos), Noah Taylor (Harris), Rade Serbedzija (Frightening Old Man), Yasmin Paige (Melanie Papadopoulos), James Fox (The Colonel), Nathalie Cox (Jack’s Wife), Phyllis Somerville (Simon’s Mother), Sally Hawkins (Receptionist at Ball). Directed by Richard Ayoade and produced by Amina Dasmal and Robin C. Fox. Screenplay by Ayoade and Avi Korine, based on a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

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Locke

Locke Movie Review

R, 85 m., 2013

Tom Hardy (Ivan Locke), Ruth Wilson (Katrina (voice)), Andrew Scott (Donal (voice)), Olivia Colman (Bethan (voice)), Tom Holland (Eddie (voice)), Ben Daniels (Gareth (voice)), Bill Milner (Sean (voice)). Written and directed by Steven Knight and produced by Guy Heeley and Paul Webster.

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Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin Movie Review

R, 90 m., 2013

Macon Blair (Dwight), Devin Ratray (Ben Gaffney), Amy Hargreaves (Sam), Kevin Kolack (Teddy Cleland), Eve Plumb (Kris Cleland). Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier. Produced by Richard Peete, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani.

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A Promise

UNRATED, 94 m., 2013

Rebecca Hall (Lotte Hoffmeister), Alan Rickman (Karl Hoffmeister), Richard Madden (Friedrich Zeitz), Toby Murray (Otto Hoffmeister), Maggie Steed (Frau Hermann), Shannon Tarbet (Anna). Directed by Patrice Leconte and produced by Olivier Delbosc and Marc Missonnier. Screenplay by Leconte and Jérôme Tonnerre, based on the novel Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig.

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Fading Gigolo

Fading Gigolo Movie Review

R, 90 m., 2013

John Turturro (Fioravante), Woody Allen (Murray), Vanessa Paradis (Avigal), Sharon Stone (Dr. Parker), Sofía Vergara (Selima), Liev Schreiber (Dovi). Written and directed by John Turturro. Produced by Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte.

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The Raid 2

The Raid 2 Movie Review

R, 150 m., 2014

 

Iko Uwais (Rama), Julie Estelle (Alicia ‘Hammer Girl’), Arifin Putra (Uco), Tio Pakusodewo (Bangun), Oka Antara (Eka), Ryûhei Matsuda (Keichi (as Ryuhei Matsuda)), Ken’ichi Endô (Hideaki Goto (as Kenichi Endo)). Directed by Gareth Evans and produced by Nate Bolotin, Ario Sagantoro, Aram Tertzakian. Screenplay by Evans.

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Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive Movie Review

R, 123 m., 2013

Tom Hiddleston (Adam), Tilda Swinton (Eve), Mia Wasikowska (Ava), John Hurt (Marlowe), Anton Yelchin (Ian), Slimane Dazi (Bilal), Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Watson). Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Produced by Reinhard Brundig and Jeremy Thomas.

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Joe

Joe Movie Review

R, 118 m., 2013

Nicolas Cage (Joe), Tye Sheridan (Gary), Gary Poulter (Wade a.k.a. G-Daawg), Ronnie Gene Blevins (Willie-Russell). Directed by David Gordon Green and produced by Green, Lisa Muskat, Derrick Tseng, Christopher Woodrow. Screenplay by Gary Hawkins, based on the novel by Larry Brown.

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The Unknown Known

The Unknown Known Movie Review

PG_13, 103 m., 2013

Featuring: Donald Rumsfeld (Himself), Errol Morris (Himself – Interviewer (voice)). A documentary written and directed by Errol Morris and produced by Amanda Branson Gill, Mike Charlton (Baghdad), Ali El Chami (Baghdad), Robert Fernandez, and Morris.

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Nymphomaniac: Vol. II

Nymphomaniac: Vol. II Movie Review

UNRATED, 123 m., 2013

Charlotte Gainsbourg (Joe), Stellan Skarsgård (Seligman), Shia LaBeouf (Jerôme), Jean-Marc Barr (Debtor Gentleman), Udo Kier (The Waiter), Jamie Bell (K), Willem Dafoe (L), Mia Goth (P), Michael Pas (Old Jerôme), Stacy Martin (Young Joe). Directed by Lars von Trier and produced by Marie Cecilie Gade, Peter Aalbæk Jensen, Louise Vesth. Screenplay by von Trier.

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Alan Partridge

R, 90 m., 2013

Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge / Jason Statham / Jason Bourne / Jason Argonaut), Anna Maxwell Martin (Janet Whitehead), Nigel Lindsay (Jason Tresswell), Simon Greenall (Michael), Colm Meaney (Pat Farrell), Felicity Montagu (Lynn Benfield), Phil Cornwell (Dave Clifton), Darren Boyd (Martin Finch), Tim Key (Side Kick Simon). Directed by Declan Lowney and produced by Kevin Loader and Henry Normal. Screenplay by Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, and Armando Iannucci.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Review

R, 100 m., 2014

Ralph Fiennes (M. Gustave), F. Murray Abraham (Mr. Moustafa), Tony Revolori (Zero), Mathieu Amalric (Serge X.), Adrien Brody (Dmitri), Saoirse Ronan (Agatha), Willem Dafoe (Jopling), Edward Norton (Henckels), Léa Seydoux (Clotilde), Jeff Goldblum (Deputy Kovacs), Jason Schwartzman (M. Jean), Jude Law (Young Writer), Tilda Swinton (Madame D.), Harvey Keitel (Ludwig), Tom Wilkinson (Author), Bill Murray (M. Ivan), Owen Wilson (M. Chuck). Directed by Wes Anderson and produced by Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, Scott Rudin. Screenplay by Anderson & Hugo Guinness.

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is, perhaps above all else, a film about intrusions. It is about the intrusion of war upon an otherwise peaceful world, and of its refugees upon a land to which they are strangers. It is about the intrusion of an interloper into a would-be grieving family’s lives. In the case of said interloper, it is even about the vulgar intruding into the otherwise elegant.

Take, for instance, the first scenes, in which a young girl goes to the statue of a man labeled “Author” and begins to read a book. The narration, by Tom Wilkinson, is first intruded upon by the image of the man himself seemingly reading his narration to the camera and then of a little boy shooting a BB handgun at the Author as he’s trying to explain his part in the story. This framing device is then intruded upon by another framing device involving a flashback to the 1960s in which a young “Author” (Jude Law) first visits the Grand Budapest Hotel and, with little help from the inattentive concierge (Jason Schwartzman), meets Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the hotel’s reputed owner. This triggers the elongated flashback that will take up the bulk of the film’s scant 100 minute running time.

In said bulk, Ralph Fiennes plays Monsieur Gustave H., an only mildly effeminate (old) ladies’ man who runs the titular mountain estate by day and seduces lonely, elderly women by night. From his carefully crafted speech patterns to his royal purple wardrobe to his cologne, the aptly named L’Air de Panache, Gustave H. has cultivated a meticulous way about himself and navigates the film’s setting, a fictional middle-Eastern European country on the precipice of fascist occupation and war, walking on eggshells with remarkable self-possession and poise.

When one of Gustave’s lady friends, credited as Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), is found strangled to death, he is sent to prison and it is up to he, some cellmates and his own young lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) to bust out of the prison and find the real culprit. But then, this is an oversimplification of this film’s plot.

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Bad Words

Bad Words Movie Review

R, 89 m., 2013

Jason Bateman (Guy Trilby), Kathryn Hahn (Jenny Widgeon), Allison Janney (Dr. Bernice Deagan), Philip Baker Hall (Dr. Bowman), Rohan Chand (Chaitanya Chopra), Ben Falcone (Pete Fowler), Patricia Belcher (Ingrid), Beth Grant (Bedazzled Judge). Directed by Jason Bateman and produced by Bateman, Jeff Culotta, Ted Hamm, Sean McKittrick, Mason Novick. Screenplay by Andrew Dodge.

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Nymphomaniac: Vol. I

Nymphomaniac: Vol. I Movie Review

UNRATED, 118 m., 2013

Charlotte Gainsbourg (Joe), Stellan Skarsgård (Seligman), Stacy Martin (Young Joe), Shia LaBeouf (Jerôme), Christian Slater (Joe’s Father), Uma Thurman (Mrs. H), Sophie Kennedy Clark (B), Connie Nielsen (Joe’s Mother). Directed by Lars von Trier and produced by Louise Vesth. Screenplay by von Trier.

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Blood Ties

Blood Ties Movie Review

R, 127 m., 2013

Clive Owen (Chris), Billy Crudup (Frank), Marion Cotillard (Monica), Mila Kunis (Natalie), Zoe Saldana (Vanessa), Matthias Schoenaerts (Scarfo), James Caan (Leon), Noah Emmerich (Lieutenant Connellan), Lili Taylor (Marie), Domenick Lombardozzi (Mike), John Ventimiglia (Valenti), Griffin Dunne (McNally), Jamie Hector (Nick), Yul Vazquez (Fabio De Soto), Eve Hewson (Yvonne). Directed by Guillaume Canet and produced by Alain Attal, Canet, John Lesher, Hugo Sélignac, Christopher Woodrow. Screenplay by Canet & James Gray, based on the film Les liens du sang by Jacques Maillot and Pierre Chosson and Eric Veniard, based on the novel Deux freres, un flic, un truand by Bruno Papet and Michel Papet.

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Le Week-End

Le Week-End Movie Review

R, 93 m., 2013

Lindsay Duncan (Meg), Jim Broadbent (Nick), Igor Gotesman (Montmartre Receptionist), Olivier Audibert (Taxi Driver), Sophie-Charlotte Husson (Plaza Receptionist), Etienne Dalibert (Hotel Porter), Mauricette Laurence (Old Lady in Church), Gabriel Mailhebiau (Chez Dumonet Waiter), Violaine Baccon (Girl on motorbike), D. Damien Favereau (La Dame de Pic Maitre), Jeff Goldblum (Morgan), Déborah Amsellem (Hotel Shop Assistant), Stéphane De Fraia (Waiter at Morgan’s Apartment), Brice Beaugier (Robert Ertel), Charlotte Léo (Dominique Ertel). Directed by Roger Michell and produced by Kevin Loader. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi.

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The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal Movie Review

R, 90 m., 2013

Kurt Russell (Crunch Calhoun), Matt Dillon (Nicky Calhoun), Jay Baruchel (Francie Tobin), Kenneth Welsh (‘Uncle’ Paddy MacCarthy), Chris Diamantopoulos (Guy de Cornet), Katheryn Winnick (Lola), Jason Jones (Interpol Agent Bick), Terence Stamp (Samuel Winter), Devon Bostick (Ponch), Elle Downs (Female Border Guard), Durward Allan (Julius Friedman), Rob deLeeuw (Van Der Beer), Karyn Dwyer (Ginger), Christopher Dyson (Ranking Officer), Jasmin Geljo (Detective Brodowski). Written and directed by Jonathan Sobol. Produced by Nicholas Tabarrok.

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Grand Piano

Grand Piano Movie Review

R, 90 m., 2013

Elijah Wood (Tom Selznick), John Cusack (Clem), Kerry Bishé (Emma Selznick), Tamsin Egerton (Ashley), Allen Leech (Wayne), Don McManus (Reisinger), Alex Winter (Assistant), Dee Wallace (Marjorie Green), Jim Arnold (Janitor), Jack Taylor (Patrick Godureaux), Beth Trollan (Emma’s Publicist), Ricardo Alexander (Executive (as Richard A. Newby)), Rachel Arieff, Angie Arieu (Emma’s admirer), Chris Bobrowski (Chaz – The Lords of Uifam band member). Directed by Eugenio Mira and produced by Rodrigo Cortés and Adrián Guerra. Screenplay by Damien Chazelle.

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The Lunchbox

PG, 104 m., 2013

Irrfan Khan (Saajan Fernandes), Nimrat Kaur (Ila), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Shaikh), Lillete Dubey (Ila’s Mother), Nakul Vaid (Rajeev), Bharati Achrekar (Auntie), Yashvi Puneet Nagar (Yashvi), Denzil Smith (Mr. Shroff), Shruti Bapna (Mehrunnisa), Nasir Khan (Ila’s Father), Lokesh Raj (Duke’s Owner), Sadashiv Kondaji Pokarkar (Dabbawallah at Ila’s House), Aarti Rathod (Saajan’s Neighbor), Krishna Bai (Toothless Woman), Raj Rishi More (Ila’s Brother). Directed by Ritesh Batra and produced by Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Arun Rangachari. Screenplay by Batra (in Hindi and English with subtitles).

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The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises Movie Review

PG_13, 126 m., 2013

With the voices of: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Jirô Horikoshi), John Krasinski (Honjô), Emily Blunt (Nahoko Satomi), Martin Short (Kurokawa), Stanley Tucci (Caproni), Mandy Patinkin (Hattori), Mae Whitman (Kayo Horikoshi / Kinu), Werner Herzog (Castorp), Jennifer Grey (Mrs. Kurokawa), William H. Macy (Satomi), Zach Callison (Young Jirô), Madeleine Rose Yen (Young Nahoko), Eva Bella (Young Kayo), Edie Mirman (Jirô’s Mother), Darren Criss (Katayama). An animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Toshio Suzuki. Screenplay by Miyazaki, based on a comic by Miyazaki.

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In Secret

In Secret Movie Review

R, 107 m., 2013

Elizabeth Olsen (Thérèse Raquin), Oscar Isaac (Laurent), Tom Felton (Camille), Jessica Lange (Madame Raquin), Shirley Henderson (Suzanne), Matt Lucas (Olivier), Mackenzie Crook (Grivet), John Kavanagh (Inspector Michaud), Lily Laight (Young Thérèse), Matt Devere (Therese’s Father), Dimitrije Bogdanov (Young Camille), Aleksandr Ivanovic (Coachman #1), Filip Dedakin (Coachman #2), Richard Sharkey (Chief Clerk), Miodrag Milovanov (Funeral Priest). Directed by Charlie Stratton and produced by William Horberg, Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon. Screenplay by Stratton, based on a play by Neal Bell, based on the novel Therese Racquin by Émile Zola.

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Nebraska

Nebraska Movie Review

R, 115 m., 2013

Bruce Dern (Woody Grant), Will Forte (David Grant), June Squibb (Kate Grant), Bob Odenkirk (Ross Grant), Stacy Keach (Ed Pegram), Mary Louise Wilson (Aunt Martha), Rance Howard (Uncle Ray), Tim Driscoll (Bart), Devin Ratray (Cole), Angela McEwan (Peg Nagy), Glendora Stitt (Aunt Betty), Elizabeth Moore (Aunt Flo), Kevin Kunkel (Cousin Randy), Dennis McCoig (Uncle Verne), Ronald Vosta (Uncle Albert). Directed by Alexander Payne and produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa. Screenplay by Bob Nelson.

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Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter Movie Review

PG_13 , 101 m., 2013

Vanessa Hudgens (Agnes ‘Apple’ Bailey), Brendan Fraser (Tom Fitzpatrick), Rosario Dawson (June Bailey), James Earl Jones (Frank McCarthy), Dascha Polanco (Carmel), Stephanie Szostak (Joanna Fitzpatrick), Emily Meade (Cassandra), Ann Dowd (Kathy), Candace Smith (Marie Abeanni), Tashiana Washington (Destiny / Princess), Rachel Mattila Amberson (Nicky ‘Pink Friday’ (as Rachel Mattila)), Eddie Schweighardt (Dustin), Hector Lincoln (June’s Boyfriend), Sheila Tapia (Officer Ganz), Peter Epstein (Taxi driver). Directed by Ron Krauss and produced by Krauss and Jeff Rice. Screenplay by Krauss.

Ron Krauss’ Gimme Shelter, or (as it should be known) Apple Bailey’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, continues the ‘deglamification’ of former High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens. Continue reading

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Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor Movie Review

R, 121 m., 2013

Mark Wahlberg (Marcus Luttrell), Taylor Kitsch (Michael Murphy), Emile Hirsch (Danny Dietz), Ben Foster (Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson), Yousuf Azami (Shah), Ali Suliman (Gulab), Eric Bana (Erik Kristensen), Alexander Ludwig (Shane Patton), Rich Ting (James Suh), Dan Bilzerian (Healy), Jerry Ferrara (Hasslert), Rick Vargas (Crew Chief), Scott Elrod (QRF SEAL), Gregory Rockwood (Chinook Pilot #1), Ryan Kay (Chinook Pilot #2). Directed by Peter Berg and produced by Sarah Aubrey, Randall Emmett, Akiva Goldsman, Norton Herrick, Stephen Levinson, Barry Spikings, and Mark Wahlberg. Screenplay by Berg, based on the book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson.

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Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis Movie Review

R, 104 m., 2013

Oscar Isaac (Llewyn Davis), Carey Mulligan (Jean), Justin Timberlake (Jim), Ethan Phillips (Mitch Gorfein), Robin Bartlett (Lillian Gorfein), Max Casella (Pappi Corsicato), Jerry Grayson (Mel Novikoff), Jeanine Serralles (Joy), Adam Driver (Al Cody), Stark Sands (Troy Nelson), John Goodman (Roland Turner), Garrett Hedlund (Johnny Five), Alex Karpovsky (Marty Green), Helen Hong (Janet Fung), Bradley Mott (Joe Flom). Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen and produced by the Coens, and Scott Rudin. Screenplay by the Coens.

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Her

Her Movie Review

 

R, 126 m., 2013

Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore), Lynn Adrianna (Letter Writer #1), Lisa Renee Pitts (Letter Writer #2), Gabe Gomez (Letter Writer #3), Chris Pratt (Paul), Artt Butler (Text Voice (voice), May Lindstrom (Sexy Pregnant TV Star), Rooney Mara (Catherine), Bill Hader (Chat Room Friend #2 (voice), Kristen Wiig (SexyKitten (voice), Brian Johnson (OS1 Commercial Lead), Scarlett Johansson (Samantha (voice), Amy Adams (Amy), Matt Letscher (Charles), Spike Jonze (Alien Child (voice) (as Adam Spiegel)). Directed by Spike Jonze and produced by Megan Ellison, Jonze, and Vincent Landay. Screenplay by Jonze.

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Movie Review

PG_13, 141 m., 2013

Idris Elba (Nelson Mandela), Naomie Harris (Winnie Madikizela), Tony Kgoroge (Walter Sisulu), Riaad Moosa (Ahmed Kathrada), Zolani Mkiva (Raymond Mhlaba), Simo Mogwaza (Andrew Mlangeni), Fana Mokoena (Govan Mbeki), Thapelo Mokoena (Elias Motsoaledi), Jamie Bartlett (James Gregory), Deon Lotz (Kobie Coetzee), Terry Pheto (Evelyn Mase), Zikhona Sodlaka (Nosekeni), S’Thandiwe Kgoroge (Albertina Sisulu), Tshallo Sputla Chokwe (Oliver Tambo), Sello Maake (Albert Luthuli). Directed by Justin Chadwick and produced by Anant Singh and David M. Thompson. Screenplay by William Nicholson, based on the autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, with the emphasis on Long, begins and ends with shots of young African kids running. This is the fastest that anything in this film moves. The pacing of this film is all wrong. That’s it’s biggest fault – but more on that momentarily. Continue reading

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The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman Movie Review

R, 111 m., 2013

Felicity Jones (Nelly), John Kavanagh (Rev. William Benham), Tom Attwood (Mr. Lambourne), Susanna Hislop (Mary), Tom Burke (Mr. George Wharton Robinson), Tommy Curson-Smith (Geoffrey), David Collings (Governor), Michael Marcus (Charley Dickens), Kristin Scott Thomas (Mrs. Frances Ternan), Perdita Weeks (Maria Ternan), Ralph Fiennes (Charles Dickens), Richard McCabe (Mr. Mark Lemon), Gabriel Vick (Mr. Berger), Mark Dexter (Mr. Augustus Egg), Joseph Paxton (Mr. Pigott). Directed by Ralph Fiennes and produced by Christian Baute, Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Stewart Mackinnon, Gabrielle Tana. Screenplay by Abi Morgan, based on a book by Claire Tomalin.

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Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks Movie Review

PG_13, 125 m., 2013

Emma Thompson (P.L. Travers), Tom Hanks (Walt Disney), Annie Rose Buckley (Ginty), Colin Farrell (Travers Goff), Ruth Wilson (Margaret Goff), Paul Giamatti (Ralph), Bradley Whitford (Don DaGradi), B.J. Novak (Robert Sherman), Jason Schwartzman (Richard Sherman), Lily Bigham (Biddy), Kathy Baker (Tommie), Melanie Paxson (Dolly), Andy McPhee (Mr. Belhatchett), Rachel Griffiths (Aunt Ellie), Ronan Vibert (Diarmuid Russell). Directed by John Lee Hancock and produced by Ian Collie, Alison Owen, Philip Steuer. Screenplay by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith.

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The Past

The Past Movie Review

PG_13, 130 m., 2013

Bérénice Bejo (Marie Brisson), Ali Mosaffa (Ahmad), Tahar Rahim (Samir), Pauline Burlet (Lucie), Elyes Aguis (Fouad), Jeanne Jestin (Léa), Sabrina Ouazani (Naïma), Babak Karimi (Shahryar), Valeria Cavalli (Valeria), Aleksandra Klebanska (Céline), Jean-Michel Simonet (Médecin), Pierre Guerder (Juge), Anne-Marion de Cayeux (Avocate), Eléonora Marino (Collègue Marie), Jonathan Devred (Agent aéroport). Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi (In French and Persian with subtitles). Produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy.

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American Hustle

American Hustle Movie Review

R, 138 m., 2013

Christian Bale (Irving Rosenfeld), Bradley Cooper (Richie DiMaso), Amy Adams (Sydney Prosser), Jeremy Renner (Mayor Carmine Polito), Jennifer Lawrence (Rosalyn Rosenfeld), Louis C.K. (Stoddard Thorsen), Jack Huston (Pete Musane), Michael Peña (Paco Hernandez / Sheik Abdullah), Shea Whigham (Carl Elway), Alessandro Nivola (Anthony Amado), Elisabeth Röhm (Dolly Polito (as Elisabeth Rohm)), Paul Herman (Alfonse Simone), Saïd Taghmaoui (Irv’s Sheik Plant (as Said Taghmaoui)), Matthew Russell (Dominic Polito), Thomas Matthews (Francis Polito). Directed by David O. Russell and produced by Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle. Screenplay by Eric Warren Singer and Russell.

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Some Velvet Morning

Some Velvet Morning Movie Review

UNRATED, 84 m., 2013

Stanley Tucci (Fred), Alice Eve (Velvet). Directed by Neil LaBute and produced by Michael Corrente, Daryl Freimark, Tim Harms, Trent Othick, and David Zander. Screenplay by LaBute.

Neil LaBute has been playing both sides of the Gender Wars against the middle for the better part of two decades. With Some Velvet Morning, his latest two-hander, another expose’ of the twisted underbelly of men and women, he is (perhaps) at his most cynical, misanthropic – and literate – which, indeed, is saying something. Continue reading

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Tim’s Vermeer

Tim's Vermeer Movie Review

PG_13, 80 m., 2013

Featuring: Tim Jenison, Penn Jillette, Martin Mull, Philip Steadman (as Prof. Philip Steadman), David Hockney, Colin Blakemore, Leslie Jenison, Eric Armitage, Daniélle Lokin, Bob Groothuis, Ankie Bonnet, Ruth Steadman, Mike Hayes, Nicola Vigini, Graham Toms. A documentary directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler. Screenplay by Jillette and Teller.

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The Book Thief

The Book Thief Movie Review

PG_13, 131 m., 2013

Roger Allam (Narrator / Death (voice)), Sophie Nélisse (Liesel Meminger), Heike Makatsch (Liesel’s Mother), Julian Lehmann (Liesel’s Brother), Gotthard Lange (Grave Digger), Rainer Reiners (Priest), Kirsten Block (Frau Heinrich), Geoffrey Rush (Hans Hubermann), Emily Watson (Rosa Hubermann), Nico Liersch (Rudy Steiner), Ludger Bökelmann (Football Urchin), Paul Schaefer (Football Urchin), Nozomi Linus Kaisar (Fat Faced Goalie), Oliver Stokowski (Alex Steiner), Robert Beyer (Jewish Accountant). Directed by Brian Percival and produced by Ken Blancato and Karen Rosenfelt. Screenplay by Michael Petroni, based on the novel by Markus Zusak.

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12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave Movie Review

R, 134 m., 2013

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon Northup), Dwight Henry (Uncle Abram), Dickie Gravois (Overseer), Bryan Batt (Judge Turner), Ashley Dyke (Anna), Kelsey Scott (Anne Northup), Quvenzhané Wallis (Margaret Northup), Cameron Zeigler (Alonzo Northup), Tony Bentley (Mr. Moon), Scoot McNairy (Brown), Taran Killam (Hamilton), Christopher Berry (Burch), Bill Camp (Radburn), Mister Mackey Jr. (Randall), Chris Chalk (Clemens). Directed by Steve McQueen and produced by Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Brad Pitt, and Bill Pohlad. Screenplay by John Ridley, based on Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.

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About Time

About Time Movie Review

R, 123 m., 2013

Domhnall Gleeson (Tim), Rachel McAdams (Mary), Bill Nighy (Dad), Lydia Wilson (Kit Kat), Lindsay Duncan (Mum), Richard Cordery (Uncle D), Joshua McGuire (Rory), Tom Hollander (Harry), Margot Robbie (Charlotte), Will Merrick (Jay), Vanessa Kirby (Joanna), Tom Hughes (Jimmy Kincade), Clemmie Dugdale (Ginger Jenny), Harry Hadden-Paton (Rupert), Mitchell Mullen (Mary’s Father – Fitz). Directed by Richard Curtis and produced by Nicky Kentish Barnes, Tim Bevan, and Eric Fellner. Screenplay by Curtis.

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Blue Is the Warmest Color

Blue Is the Warmest Color Movie Review

NC_17, 179 m., 2013

Léa Seydoux (Emma), Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle), Salim Kechiouche (Samir), Aurélien Recoing (Père Adèle), Catherine Salée (Mère Adèle), Benjamin Siksou (Antoine), Mona Walravens (Lise), Alma Jodorowsky (Béatrice), Jérémie Laheurte (Thomas), Anne Loiret (Mère Emma), Benoît Pilot (Beau Père Emma), Sandor Funtek (Valentin), Fanny Maurin (Amélie), Maelys Cabezon (Laetitia), Samir Bella (Samir). Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and produced by Brahim Chioua, Kechiche, and Vincent Maraval. Screenplay by Kechiche & Ghalia Lacroix (in French and English with subtitles), adapted from: the comic book Le Bleu est une couleur chaude by Julie Maroh.

Blue is, of course, the most prominent color in the film. It permeates everything in her life – from the clothes she wears (even before first meeting her paramour to be) and the atmosphere at her school to, pointedly, the home space she occupies and, finally, the water she will envelop herself in after a period of lovelorn despair. Blue is also, tellingly, the shock of color which adorns her first true love’s hair. It is the development and nature of this first true love which becomes the preoccupation of Abdellatif Kechiche’s epic Blue is the Warmest Color, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2013 – and deservedly so. Continue reading

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100 Bloody Acres

100 Bloody Acres Movie Review

UNRATED, 91 m., 2012

Damon Herriman (Reg Morgan), Angus Sampson (Lindsay Morgan), Anna McGahan (Sophie), Oliver Ackland (James), Jamie Kristian (Wesley), John Jarratt (Burke), Chrissie Page (Nancy), Paul Blackwell (Charlie Wick), Ward Everaardt (Bernard St John). Directed by Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes and produced by Kate Croser and Julie Ryan. Screenplay by the Cairnes.

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Frances Ha

Frances Ha Movie Review

R, 86 m., 2012

Greta Gerwig (Frances), Mickey Sumner (Sophie), Michael Esper (Dan), Adam Driver (Lev), Michael Zegen (Benji), Charlotte d’Amboise (Colleen), Grace Gummer (Rachel), Daiva Deupree (Waitress), Isabelle McNally (Random Girl #1), Vanessa Ray (Random Girl #2), Justine Lupe (Nessa), Lindsay Burdge (Dark Haired Girl), Patrick Heusinger (Patch), Marina Squerciati (Waitress at Club), Christine Gerwig (Mom). Directed by Noah Baumbach and produced by Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Rodrigo Teixeira, Lila Yacoub. Screenplay by Baumbach & Greta Gerwig.

Some movies are made for the masses. Others make the personal universal. Still others find ways of seeing into your very soul and speaking to your personal experience with immediacy and emotional truth. This is such a film. Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha is, like the title character’s final choreographed dance number at the film’s denouement, messy and mannered in quasi-equal measure. This is a precisely-observed, impeccably composed, elegantly-photographed and uncannily acted portrait of a specific individual who this reviewer found infinitely relatable because of her tentative, uncertain nature and the precarious relationships she’s forged with friends and roommates. Oh, and her unanchored sensibilities. Continue reading

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Arthur Newman

R, 101 m., 2012

Emily Blunt (Mike), Colin Firth (Arthur Newman), Anne Heche (Mina Crawley), Kristin Lehman (Mary Alice Wells), Sterling Beaumon (Grant Wells), M. Emmet Walsh (Zazek), Nicole LaLiberte (Hipster Sarah), Autumn Dial (Charyl), David Andrews (Chuck Willoughby), Sharon Conley (Unemployment Official (as Sharon Morris)), Peter Jurasik (Bus Driver), Lucas Hedges (Kevin Avery), Steve Coulter (Owen Hadley), Michael Beasley (Detective #2), L. Warren Young (Deputy). Directed by Dante Ariola and produced by Mac Cappuccino, Becky Johnston, Brian Oliver, and Alisa Tager. Screenplay by Johnston.

This is one boring movie! If watching paint dry ever becomes an Olympic sport, I should win a frickin’ Gold Medal for enduring it. To call it dull as dishwater would be an insult to both dishes and their cleansing liquid. You know a film isn’t going well when the most exciting part is your getting a nosebleed halfway through and having to go to the bathroom for 5 minutes to clean it up. When I got back, nothing much had changed. So what could be so boring, you ask? I give you Arthur Newman – a drably filmed, mind-numbingly plotted, blandly acted American road movie starring those two shining stars of British cinema, Colin Firth and Emily Blunt. Take it. Please. Continue reading

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A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

R, 86 m., 2012

Charlie Sheen (Charles Swan III), James Paradise (Brain-Doctor), Anne Bellamy (Grandma), Jason Schwartzman (Kirby Star), Patricia Arquette (Izzy), Katheryn Winnick (Ivana), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kate), Paul Benshoof (Charlie Dancing Double), Angela Lindvall (Veiled Woman), Tyne Stecklein (Penny), Lindsey McLevis (Lindsey), Alexandra Hulme (Yvonne (as Lexy Hulme)), Bar Paly (Maria-Carla), Margarita Kallas (Josephine), August Culligan (Nephew August). Directed by Roman Coppola and produced by Coppola and Youree Henley. Screenplay by Coppola.

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Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Review

R, 157 m., 2012

Jason Clarke (Dan), Reda Kateb (Ammar), Jessica Chastain (Maya), Kyle Chandler (Joseph Bradley), Jennifer Ehle (Jessica), Harold Perrineau (Jack), Jeremy Strong (Thomas), J.J. Kandel (J.J.), Wahab Sheikh (Detainee on Monitor), Alexander Karim (Detainee on Monitor), Nabil Elouahabi (Detainee on Monitor), Aymen Hamdouchi (Detainee on Monitor), Simon Abkarian (Detainee on Monitor), Ali Marhyar (Interrogator on Monitor), Parker Sawyers (Interrogator on Monitor). Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and produced by Stephanie Antosca, Bigelow, Boal and Megan Ellison. Screenplay by Mark Boal.

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty renders with astonishing attention to detail the near-decade long hunt for Osama bin Laden in the post-9/11 culture of anti-terrorist zeal and near-xenophobic disdain for those of Middle Eastern descent. By depicting the man hours, the devotion, and the self-sacrifice, it manages to be powerfully affecting. Continue reading

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A Dark Truth

R, 106 m., 2012

Lloyd Adams (Ben), Alfredo Álvarez Calderón (General Aguila (as Alfredo Alvarez-Calderon)), Josh Bainbridge (Mattie), Danielle Baker (Reporter #2 / Reporter), Steven Bauer (Tony Green), Devon Bostick (Renaldo), Sarah Bryant (Robert Johnson’s Assistant), Elias Caamaño Perez (Captain Perez (as Elias Caamano)), Clint Carleton (Baddie #1), Rod Carley (Cop), Colby Chartrand (Baddie #5), Eugene Clark (Clive Bell), Kim Coates (Bruce Swinton), Jorge Contreras (Neck Slit Villager), Lara Daans (Karen Begosian). Directed by Damian Lee and produced by Gary Howsam and Bill Marks. Screenplay by Lee.

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

This film just gets me. No film moved me more this year than debut writer-director Stephen Chobsky’s adaptation of his own 1999 novel about high school malaise and the struggle to fit in. Its hero, Charlie (Logan Lerman), traumatized at a young age by a violent car accident which killed his favorite kooky aunt (Melanie Lynskey, shattering in mere flashback and insinuation), is set adrift in a suburban Pittsburgh high school only to find his niche among the outcasts and “freaks” (including a terrific Ezra Miller as flamboyantly gay Patrick; Emma Watson as his violent but fragile half-sister Sam, aka Charlie’s first crush; and Mae Whitman as even more violent and fragile Buddhist Mary Elizabeth). Perhaps no film has captured the humor and the heartache of young love and the growing pangs of adolescence quite so vividly. Chobsky is a talent to watch.

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THE ARTIST

Michel Hazanavicius’ film is an “old” movie in love with old movies, a faithful homage to the silent film era, and something more – something oddly touching and surprisingly involving. Jean Dujardin, a big handsome matinee idol-looking Frenchman, plays George Valentin, a silent film star in late 20s Hollywood who unintentionally helps herald in the “talkie” era by giving a career boost to a young would-be starlet named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). Their love-resent relationship has its ups and downs, with Peppy’s star on the rise and George headed for a big fall, aided and abetted both by a gruff old studio head (John Goodman) possessing great foresight, and by the unforeseen stock market crash of 1930. With a plot that is one part A Star is Born and one part Singin’ in the Rain, and with allusions to everything from Lassie to Fred & Ginger to Citizen Kane, to say nothing of the vague air of James Bond, Errol Flynn and Zorro that permeates the action movies Valentin stars in, this film is for true film lovers only. There’s also some fine supporting work from an ingenious little dog named Uggie.

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SHAME

Steve McQueen’s Shame is one of several films this year that seem to have decided to opt for ambiguity and understatement rather than outright obvious tell-tale signs. Michael Fassbender gives yet another great performance to compare with his work in Inglourious Basterds, Fish Tank and McQueen’s Hunger (in which he lost weight to play IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands) as Brandon, a Manhattan businessman whose posh high-rise lifestyle allows for him to indulge his sex addiction – whether it be adjourning to the public restroom for masturbatory thrills, filling his company hard drive with viral porn, or the countless meaningless encounters that take up his days and nights. His lifestyle is interrupted, as it were, by Cissy (Carey Mulligan, no less heartbreaking), his nightclub singer sister whose own past with Brandon is…ambiguous at best. Mulligan’s touchingly melancholy rendition of “New York, New York” is a stunning summation of everything that is wrong with these two broken-spirited souls.

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MELANCHOLIA

Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is the Danish provocateur’s much-anticipated (and surprisingly well-received) follow-up to his polarizing Antichrist (one of 2009′s best). This time he directs Kirsten Dunst in a Cannes Film Festival Best Actress award-winning performance as, ahem, melancholy newlywed Justine who spends part I (roughly the first hour) enduring the aftermath of her wedding at the sprawling and gorgeous home of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg, continuing her emotionally brutal collaboration with von Trier; she won Best Actress at Cannes for their previous film) and her brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). What should be the happiest day of Justine’s life feels uncannily like the end of her world; groom Alexander Skarsgard picks up on this. In part II, the sense of impending doom is amplified as Melancholia, a bright blue planet, enters Earth’s atmosphere and threatens to plummet on a deliberately-paced collision course. Von Trier watches as first Justine and then Claire are virtually crippled by feelings of helplessness and despair – but not fear. It is certainly the most visually stunning depiction of apocalyptic horror this year – and there was competition.

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TAKE SHELTER

Writer-director Jeff Nichols’ latest turns inward to pit his star Michael Shannon (in this follow-up to their masterful 2008 debut collaboration Shotgun Stories) against psychological demons more frightening than anything in the outside world. Curtis Laforge is a rural Ohio construction worker who begins having visions of a coming apocalyptic storm. These visions negatively and profoundly affect his behavior and begin to frighten his friends (Shea Whigham especially) as well as his wife (the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain) and children. Are these visions portents of things to come or merely a figment of Curtis’ broken mind? After all, with his mother in a mental hospital for paranoid schizophrenia, who knows what can be trusted? Powerful visuals lend great support to an emotionally overwhelming performance by Shannon; as someone who has lived with the mentally unstable, I found this almost too much to take. I guess it was just an apocalyptic kind of year – this film joins Bellflower and three others on this list (see below) as brilliant cinematic representations of the apocalypse (four others if you count real-world metaphor).

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THE HEDGEHOG

Nobody quite does the dark humor of miserable, quasi-profound youth like the French and Mona Achache’s The Hedgehog, an adaptation of the beloved book, is no exception. 11-year-old Paloma (a revelatory Garance Le Guillermic) plans to kill herself on her 12th birthday, but in the meantime spends her days and nights documenting “life in the fish bowl” (that of her bourgeois family) with her hi-8 video camera. Drawn unexpectedly to Renee Michel (Josiane Bolasko), the superintendent of the apartment building, gruff on the outside, soft and kind-hearted just beneath the surface, Paloma finds a new lease on life. Similarly, Renee is drawn to Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa), a mysterious and well-read Japanese man who has recently moved into the building. The journeys of self-discovery and mutual discovery between these three had me breathless and emotionally blind-sided by the end.

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BELLFLOWER

Writer-director-producer-co-editor-star Evan Glodell’s Bellflower is my favorite film of the year for several reasons – besides inventing his own grainy, rough-cut, dirt & smudge-specked visual style from scratch in order to tell the story of two Southern California pals, Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who are building a Mad Max-inspired vehicle to prepare for the (inevitable?) apocalypse (he built the digital camera he shot the film with using Russian lenses and spare parts; he built the Medusa car that the characters create as their weapon of mass destruction), Glodell also manages to weave together an emotionally stunning tapestry that renders visually just how soul-crushingly, apocalyptically devastating a serious breakup can feel like. Jessie Wiseman is a revelation as Milly, the thick-thin (and thick-skinned) barfly and daredevil turned femme fatale who wins and breaks Woodrow’s heart. If one of the achievements of a great film can be that it makes the personal universal then with his feature debut, Glodell has overwhelming success. No film I saw in 2011 matched Glodell’s for sheer impact – on every level.

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TABLOID

Errol Morris’ Tabloid examines the “Manacled Mormon” story and finds humor and even pathos in its absurdity. Former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney may be stark raving mad but she was likely driven that way somewhere along the line as she now recalls for Morris’ Interrotron (an invented documentary camera device and filming method) how scandal sullied her self-proclaimed love story with accusations of kidnapping, false imprisonment and forced sex on her part.

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THE TRIP

Michael Winterbottom’s comedy is a riotous and often hilarious but also vaguely thought-provoking road trip mockumentary and it was the funniest film I saw all year. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (of Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) play somewhat (?) exaggerated versions of themselves – two pompous and egomaniacal British actors who must travel the countryside sampling meals at various diners, restaurants and hotels only to have the occasion dissolve into bickering and dueling celebrity impressions (Michael Caine and Al Pacino are particularly astonishing), interspersed with moments of would-be insight resulting from bouts of self-loathing (at least on Coogan’s part; Brydon seems rather down-to-earth). Set to a melancholy score by Michael Nyman (who borrows from his own score for Winterbottom’s Wonderland), this is one of the most wickedly funny and (by the end) surprisingly touching films (in a sense) about acting I’ve seen.

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SUPER 8

J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, as every critic from here to Timbuktu can tell you, combines nostalgia for the magical childlike wonder of circa late 70s/early 80s Spielberg classics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. with the astonishing modern visual capabilities of the Alias and Lost co-creator who revitalized the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises with his first two directorial efforts and now comes to us with a wholly original creation. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is a fairly ordinary pre-teen in 1979 rural/suburban Ohio who is making a Romero-inspired monster movie with his friends (including Riley Griffiths as the immensely charismatic Charles, a chubby stand-in for every film geek turned filmmaker). One fateful night, an “incident” occurs that has literally intergalactic consequences as “something” causes a catastrophic train crash – all caught on Charles’ super-8mm film camera. Soon, the military and other government emissaries are involved. This is a delightful and consistently enjoyable throwback.

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MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

If The Artist and Hugo saw Hazanavicius and Scorsese, respectively, paying homage to their chosen art form, this year also saw writer-director Woody Allen get a major runaway hit on his hands by continuing his tour of beloved European cities with a whimsical and enchanting romantic comedy that is as much about the very city in which it takes place as it is about the tentative romance writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) has with a beautiful and mysterious young woman (Marion Cotillard), and his very romantic nostalgia for the past. A cavalcade of historical artists and figures pass through Gil’s magical-realist fantasy including Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), F. Scott  (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda Fitzgerald (Allison Pill), Luis Bunuel, Salvadore Dali (Adrien Brody), T.S. Eliot, and Picasso, among others. The prevalent theme seems to be one which Allen has most favored in recent years: the grass is always greener on somebody else’s side of the fence. In this bittersweet charmer, that notion is entertainingly dis-proven.

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THE TREE OF LIFE

From the end of the world we arrive back at the beginning. Writer-director Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is the much anticipated and long-awaited new film from a director who makes Stanley Kubrick look prolific. Utilizing Kubrick’s sense of the wonder that cinema can evoke (ala’ 2001: A Space Odyssey), Malick gives us a visually astonishing and philosophically perplexing prelude about the birth of the cosmos only to crash us back down to earth and juxtapose it with his tale of a Christian family in 50s suburban Texas led by a fierce, stoic patriarch (Brad Pitt), an ethereal, faith-embued mother (Jessica Chastain) and troubled pre-teen Jack (Hunter McCracken) who finds his relationship with his parents (particularly his demanding and overbearing father) to be quite difficult. Sean Penn appears as the still troubled youth all grown-up and facing the vast questions surrounding the great unknown.

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THE BEAVER

Jodie Foster’s The Beaver picked up on her friend and Maverick co-star Mel Gibson’s personal troubles and managed in her third directorial dramedy (after Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays) to dramatize them with a very odd, sometimes funny and immensely moving screenplay by Kyle Killen. Father, husband and terminally depressed toy manufacturer Walter Black (Gibson) finds himself on the verge of suicide one night and ultimately finds a second lease on life, as it were, thanks to a beat-up old beaver puppet. The puppet provides Walter with a new voice that distances himself from the “negative aspects of his personality” (alcoholism and probably bi-polar disorder). Walter’s wife (Foster) and grown son (Anton Yelchin) find this at first disturbing and unnerving only to find new value in their relationship to him. Again, as someone who has lived with mental illness in his family, this film is surprisingly powerful…once you get past the patently absurd premise.

 

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127 HOURS

Danny Boyle makes a return to the epically-intimate rough-and-tumble style that marked his pre-Slumdog Millionaire (and, thus, pre-Oscar) days with 127 Hours, a markedly different award-worthy take on the astonishing true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco, in a heroically entertaining performance), an aspiring guide and amateur rock-climber who went to the middle of nowhere in Utah one day and fell deep into a cavern only to get his arm caught between – literally – a rock and a hard place. Going days without rescue, Ralston used cleverness, resourcefulness and, in a triumph of the human will to survive, cut through his own arm to free himself! Against all odds, Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) have crafted an often beautiful, surprisingly funny (albeit, gallows-humored) tale, aided and abetted by glorious A.R. Rahman music (as well as the great use of “Never Hear Surf Music Again” by Free Blood over the opening credits; you heard it most likely during the memorable teaser trailer) and wondrous cinematography by the hyperkinetic Enrique Chediak and frequent Boyle lensman Anthony Dod Mantle (put the camera INSIDE a waterbottle as it’s being sipped? Sure, why not!?!). All of this combines for one of the most purely entertaining tales of human perseverance in recent memory.

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ANOTHER YEAR

Mike Leigh’s film career has been an improvisation, from stage to screen, always first conceiving of a basic plot/theme and then casting and working with actors to craft characters and scenes, molding dialogue from their collaborations, and finally turning out a work of art from the process. His eleventh feature film (not including his many televised stage productions and TV movies) is no different, and becomes one of his most vital, lovely works in the bargain. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play Tom and Gerri, a long happy and rather Bohemian London couple with a grown son who moved away from home quite some time ago. Never losing their sense of humor, they watch the seasons change, bringing challenges for which they’re fully equipped. However, their close friend Mary (Lesley Manville) sees no joy in life. Bumbling, a mess, lonely and depressed, Mary is their (bi-)polar opposite. Her outward tone is hopeful with more than a tinge of melancholy peeking through the facade. As lonely as she is, she finds herself holding out for a Prince Charming, certainly not Tom’s exceedingly unhealthy golf partner Ken (Peter Wight). She has her sights set instead on Tom and Gerri’s son Joe (Oliver Maltman), who sees her more like an aunt or sister than a girlfriend, and certainly brings about bad feelings when he comes home one night with his own girlfriend Katie (Karina Fernandez), the cheery opposite of Mary. As with his many overlooked masterpieces, Leigh looks at these people with brutal honesty, and a good deal of humor. Consider these titles: High Hopes, Naked, Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, All or Nothing, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky. One can only hope the list will go on and on through the years.

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BLUE VALENTINE

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine chronicles the wretched descent of a loving, unplanned marriage into the ninth circle of domestic Hell. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are, respectively, Dean, a working-class stiff, and Cindy, his doctor wife. The film opens with a sense of playfulness undercut by deep, dark tension. The film then precariously balances these two unique tones for just under two hours. Observing in almost painful detail as this ordinary Pennsylvania couple attempts to cling to some semblance of the love they once shared while enduring its very death rattle, co-writer/director Cianfrance, making the leap from TV, short and feature documentaries creates, with his first foray into dramatic narrative since his 1998 debut Brother Tied, an indelible portrait of the disintegration of love and respect between two people whose improbable connection started out so promisingly. Beginning first with their union in the middle of a long, painful downward spiral, Cianfrance intercuts the present with key moments from the couple’s past; paradoxically, the past is grainy and ugly-looking even as it is relatively happy-seeming, while the present appears in bold, beautiful cinematography even as the content is, at times, borderline repulsive. Thematically and stylistically, one could be reminded a bit of Francois Ozon’s 5×2 (2005), without the Memento-esque backwards narrative progression. Between the two lead performances and the story they inhabit, this is one of the year’s most surprisingly powerful films.

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine chronicles the wretched descent of a loving, unplanned marriage into the ninth circle of domestic Hell. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are, respectively, Dean, a working-class stiff, and Cindy, his doctor wife. The film opens with a sense of playfulness undercut by deep, dark tension. The film then precariously balances these two unique tones for just under two hours. Observing in almost painful detail as this ordinary Pennsylvania couple attempts to cling to some semblance of the love they once shared while enduring its very death rattle, co-writer/director Cianfrance, making the leap from TV, short and feature documentaries creates, with his first foray into dramatic narrative since his 1998 debut Brother Tied, an indelible portrait of the disintegration of love and respect between two people whose improbable connection started out so promisingly. Beginning first with their union in the middle of a long, painful downward spiral, Cianfrance intercuts the present with key moments from the couple’s past; paradoxically, the past is grainy and ugly-looking even as it is relatively happy-seeming, while the present appears in bold, beautiful cinematography even as the content is, at times, borderline repulsive. Thematically and stylistically, one could be reminded a bit of Francois Ozon’s 5×2 (2005), without the Memento-esque backwards narrative progression. Between the two lead performances and the story they inhabit, this is one of the year’s most surprisingly powerful films.

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THE FIGHTER

David O. Russell’s The Fighter follows the tumultuous half-rise and not-quite-fall of “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a “stepping stone” of a pro-boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, in the early-1990s. Ward is hampered at every turn by his crackhead/trainer/half-brother Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale in a stunning supporting turn that steals every scene), his loving but overbearing mother/manager Alice (Melissa Leo, in another scene-stealing role), and rooted on by his bartender girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams, who holds her own). Russell (Three Kings, Flirting with Disaster) somehow manages to precariously balance the film’s dramatic narrative arc with a meandering pace and some laugh-out-loud humor (as is indicative of his best work), while deploying deft camera touches and some great music instincts (a training montage early on is set to The Breeders’ “Saints” – a new favorite!). The film could’ve been a retread of the familiar ground in films as diverse as Rocky (1976) and Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980), but it is unique in that it is a boxing movie not about boxing. Rather, it’s about how a young man gets his last shot at “making a real run” at a professional boxing career, and how his family, friends and significant other lift him up – and how he lifts them up in return.

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BLACK SWAN

With Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to his award-worthy, gritty but inspiring take on the world of athletic entertainment in The Wrestler (2008), he has concocted a powerful mixture of the in-depth and observant (ala’ that film) and the dark and disturbing (which marked his beloved debut efforts Pi and Requiem for a Dream). Natalie Portman hypnotizes as Nina Sayers, a freakishly obsessive perfectionist in a New York City ballet company who aspires to be cast as both the Swan Queen, as well as her dark doppelganger the Black Swan in a “reimagined” version of the classic Swan Lake. Faced with the devastating and graceless exit of her beloved predecessor (Winona Ryder, great in just a few scenes), sexually pursued by her lascivious ballet director (Vincent Cassel, appropriately smarmy and perverse) and brutally psychologically, emotionally and physically stifled by her similarly obsessive mother (Barbara Hershey, giving a rare but welcome and memorable performance), Nina’s problems go from bad to worse with the arrival of the young alternate/understudy Lily (Mila Kunis), who may be more threatening than she even first appears to be. The horror is aided and abetted by Matthew Libatique, whose grainy 16mm (occasionally mixed with opposite side of the spectrum HD Digital) camera darts, swoops, jostles along behind and sometimes simply watches as we at first observe Nina and then are, basically unwittingly, plunged deep inside her troubled mind. Aronofsky (who almost directed The Fighter instead) is well within his element, starting at about the pitch of a nightmare in the opening shots and escalating for virtually two hours to a horrific shriek of psychological collapse and emotional despair. So how much of the film is a nightmare and how much, if any, can be taken literally? It’s up to you to decide.

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ENTER THE VOID

Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void is surely among the more audacious, perhaps even clinically insane, big-screen cinematic experiments of 2010. Inspired by some very basic and crude notions from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, resident enfant terrible Noe (Irreversible, the We Fuck Alone segment of Destricted) follows a young teen drug addict/dealer (Nathaniel Brown), spending about the first hour of the film viewing the world from his perspective as he goes against the wishes of his exotic dancer/prostitute sister (Paz de la Huerta), right up until the moment of his death at the hands of police during a raid on a bar in the middle of bustling, neon-candescent Tokyo. The film then follows his spirit as it travels through the city, relives his last moments (sometimes from different perspectives), hovers above his sister watching over her from beyond the grave and, finally, receives some semblance of rest in peace. A haunting, challenging but great film.

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THE GHOST WRITER

Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer is perhaps the film that got away in 2010. Still reeling from the arrest and pending consequences over his past indiscretions with an underage girl, audiences certainly liked Polanski’s film – that is to say, those who bothered to see it – but, unfortunately, it’s not always easy to see the forest through the trees when it comes to art; an artist’s personal life can take over whatever merit their work might’ve had (just ask Woody Allen). In this case, it’s a shame because Polanski has made his best film since his heyday back in the early to mid-1970s. Working from Robert Harris’ novel The Ghost, the film stars Ewan McGregor as an unnamed ghost writer hired by a London publishing company (led by an unrecognizable Jim Belushi – sorry to any fans – are there fans? – of TV’s According to Jim, which remains unseen by me save for an unavoidable commercial here or there) to pour over the existing draft of the memoirs of one Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a career politician clearly meant to evoke echoes of Tony Blair and George W. Bush. War crimes charges levied against Lang, mysterious motorcyclists haunting McGregor at every turn, and the mysterious relationships between Lang and his undervalued, enigmatic wife (Olivia Williams) and his icy blonde secretary (Kim Cattrall) heighten the suspense to Hitchcockian levels, aided and abbetted by Pawel Edelman’s chilly cinematography and a delightfully haunted broken circus score by Alexandre Desplat. One of the great overlooked award-worthy films of the year.

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THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Was there anyone who didn’t bother to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the adaptation of the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium (subsequently referred to as simply Dragon Tattoo) trilogy is a wicked cool Swedish import (the American remake is already being filmed by David Fincher). Noomi Rapace makes a stunning debut as iconic Lisbeth Salander, a Goth, bi-sexual computer hacker with the past of a deeply troubled teen. When journalist Mikel Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) investigates the disappearance of a woman forty-years ago, he’s aided by Lisbeth, who gets in over her head with a mysterious and powerful family that she appears to have even more ties to. This film was so popular in theaters that the subsequent adaptations in the trilogy, made for Swedish television only, were then released (not on this list). One of the surprise hit thrillers of 2010.

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An Education

An Education Movie Review

PG_13, 100 min, 2009

Carey Mulligan (Jenny Mellor), Olivia Williams (Miss Stubbs), Alfred Molina (Jack Mellor), Cara Seymour (Marjorie), William Melling (Small Boy #1), Connor Catchpole (Small Boy #2), Matthew Beard (Graham), Peter Sarsgaard (David Goldman), Amanda Fairbank-Hynes (Hattie), Ellie Kendrick (Tina), Dominic Cooper (Danny), Rosamund Pike (Helen), Nick Sampson (Auctioneer), Kate Duchêne (Latin Teacher (as Kate Duchene)), Bel Parker (Small Girl). Directed by Lone Scherfig and produced by Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey. Screenplay by Nick Hornby, based on the memoir by Lynn Barber.

Lone Scherfig’s An Education is magical, a delight from start to finish, a true (near-)masterpiece. Period. Its tale is one as old as time, its lead character swept up into a whirlwind and we, the audience, right along with her. The outcome is inevitable, and can be sighted a hundred miles away. We suspect something’s up right from the start. So does everyone in the film. Except for Jenny. Continue reading

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FISH TANK

Whereas Fincher’s The Social Network deals in the oft-tread world of the Angry Young Man tradition, writer-director Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, her sophomore effort (following Oscar-winning short Wasp and debut feature Red Road) might well be the first real Angry Young Woman’s tale. First-timer Katie Jarvis gives a mesmerizing performance as Mia, a very troubled youth living in an intensely suffocating suburban slum in Essex with her alcoholic partying cougar mother (Kierston Wareing) and her much younger, foul-mouthed and similarly troubled sister (Rebecca Griffiths) – Precious has nothing on this trio. After a party, Mia’s mom brings home a young, attractive Irish guy called Connor (Michael Fassbender of Inglourious Basterds and Hunger fame) who becomes the one force encouraging Mia’s best way out of this existence – dance. What could go wrong you ask? Arnold’s intensely focused 1.33:1 frame follows this deeply troubled teen as she finds out in what is perhaps the most strikingly effective British film in this mold since Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993).

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The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans Movie Review

R, 122 min, 2009

Nicolas Cage (Terence McDonagh), Eva Mendes (Frankie Donnenfield), Val Kilmer (Stevie Pruit), Xzibit (Big Fate (as Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner)), Fairuza Balk (Heidi), Shawn Hatosy (Armand Benoit), Jennifer Coolidge (Genevieve), Tom Bower (Pat McDonagh), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Captain James Brasser (as Vondie Curtis Hall)), Brad Dourif (Ned Schoenholtz), Denzel Whitaker (Daryl), Irma P. Hall (Binnie Rogers), Shea Whigham (Justin), Michael Shannon (Mundt), Joe Nemmers (Larry Moy). Directed by Werner Herzog and produced by Stephen Belafonte, Randall Emmett, Alan Polsky, Gabe Polsky, Edward R. Pressman, John Thompson. Screenplay by William M. Finkelstein (as William Finkelstein), based on the earlier film Bad Lieutenant by Victor Argo & Paul Calderon & Abel Ferrara & Zoë Lund.

Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans is some sort of wonderfully bizarre, ass-backward insane masterpiece. Here is a film that gradually and, if possible, subtly works its way over the top, only to double back and go over the top again. It is a madcap dive off the deep end, a spit in the eye to general narrative convention, formulaic cop dramas, basic common sense and any scintilla of good taste. You don’t like it? Fuck it! It hates you! Continue reading

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Precious

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire Movie Review

R, 110 min, 2009

Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Mo’Nique (Mary), Paula Patton (Ms. Rain), Mariah Carey (Ms. Weiss), Sherri Shepherd (Cornrows), Lenny Kravitz (Nurse John), Stephanie Andujar (Rita), Chyna Layne (Rhonda), Amina Robinson (Jermaine), Xosha Roquemore (Joann), Angelic Zambrana (Consuelo), Aunt Dot (Toosie), Nealla Gordon (Mrs. Lichtenstein), Grace Hightower (Socialworker), Barret Helms (Tom Cruise (as Barret Isaiah Mindell)). Directed by Lee Daniels and produced by Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness. Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher, based on the novel Push by Sapphire

Lee Daniels’ Precious is an overwhelming experience, impossible to fully describe. Cut from the cloth of difficult, indeed, occasionally overwrought material, this film will wring you out. What I do know is that this is a powerfully-directed film, centered on two strong performances by a newcomer and a comedian, featuring fantastic support by an eclectic yet talented cast. Is it melodramatic? Maybe. A bit heavy-handed at times? Perhaps. However, ungainly title aside, this film gets under your skin – and stays there. Continue reading

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A Serious Man

A Serious Man Movie Review

R, 106 min, 2009

Michael Stuhlbarg (Larry Gopnik), Richard Kind (Uncle Arthur), Fred Melamed (Sy Ableman), Sari Lennick (Judith Gopnik), Aaron Wolff (Danny Gopnik), Jessica McManus (Sarah Gopnik), Peter Breitmayer (Mr. Brandt), Brent Braunschweig (Mitch Brandt), David Kang (Clive Park), Benjamin Portnoe (Danny’s Reefer Buddy), Jack Swiler (Boy on Bus), Andrew S. Lentz (Cursing Boy on Bus), Jon Kaminski Jr. (Mike Fagle), Ari Hoptman (Arlen Finkle), Alan Mandell (Rabbi Marshak). Directed, produced, and written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen.

Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you

–Rashi

Such a Jewish movie is this! The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man is quietly, darkly hilarious, has serious overtones, is a bit surreal, is somewhat existential in nature – and it’s the most flat-out Jewish film the Minnesota wonder duo has produced to date. Continue reading

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

PG_13, 106 min, 2009

Jesse Metcalfe (C.J. Nicholas), Amber Tamblyn (Ella Crystal), Michael Douglas (Mark Hunter), Joel David Moore (Corey Finley), Orlando Jones (Ben Nickerson), Lawrence P. Beron (Lieutenant Merchant (as Lawrence Beron)), Sewell Whitney (Martin Weldon), David Jensen (Gary Spota), Sharon K. London (Judge Sheppard (as Sharon London)), Krystal Kofie (Taieesha), Randal Reeder (Survivalist Man (as Randel Reeder)), Ryan Glorioso (Animal Shelter Attendant), Jon McCarthy (Detective Rawley), Grant James (Aaron Wakefield), Eric Gipson (Allen). Directed by Peter Hyams and produced by Mark Damon, Limor Diamant, Ted Hartley. Screenplay by Hyams, based on the 1956 screenplay by Douglas Morrow.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is the silliest and most depressing thriller in many a moon. It would be laughable were it not so somber about the proceedings. The characters are all complete morons and the plot is ludicrous beyond belief. Those, however, are only the beginning of its plethora of problems. Continue reading

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Away We Go

Away We Go Movie Review

R, 98 min, 2009

John Krasinski (Burt), Maya Rudolph (Verona), Carmen Ejogo (Grace), Catherine O’Hara (Gloria), Jeff Daniels (Jerry), Allison Janney (Lily), Jim Gaffigan (Lowell), Samantha Pryor (Ashley), Conor Carroll (Taylor), Maggie Gyllenhaal (LN), Josh Hamilton (Roderick), Bailey Harkins (Wolfie), Brendan Spitz (Baby Neptune), Jaden Spitz (Baby Neptune), Chris Messina (Tom). Directed by Sam Mendes and produced by Peter Saraf, Edward Saxon, Marc Turtletaub. Screenplay by Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida.

Sam Mendes’ Away We Go is about a couple searching for a home. Simple as that. It is a delightful, sardonically witty, finally moving film about a couple who are more-than-slightly aloof,  intelligent but inexperienced in the basic upper echelons of life, who suddenly and quite unexpectedly become untethered from the obligations of living close to family and who go out searching, in a sense, for the American Dream. Mendes’ best films have been about this sort of search, but never before have his characters been set free from the trap of suburban hell. Continue reading

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The Limits of Control

The Limits of Control Movie Review

R, 116 min, 2009

Isaach De Bankolé (The Lone Man), Alex Descas (The Creole), Jean-François Stévenin (The Frenchman), Óscar Jaenada (The Waiter), Luis Tosar (Man with Violin), Paz de la Huerta (The Nude Woman), Tilda Swinton (The Blonde), Yûki Kudô (Molecules), John Hurt (Man with Guitar), Gael García Bernal (The Mexican), Hiam Abbass (The Driver), Bill Murray (The American), Héctor Colomé (Second American), María Isasi (Flamenco Club Waitress), Norma Yessenia Paladines (Flight Attendant). Directed by Jim Jarmusch and produced by Gretchen McGowan and Stacey E. Smith. Screenplay by Jarmusch.

What do you get when you take Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), move it to Spain and go the Hal Hartley route? Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control, that’s what. Here is a would-be hip, would-be cool neo-noir/gangster movie that strips whatever semblance of a story it could’ve had down to the bare essentials of narrative filmmaking – leaving what? An exercise in style without substance? Narrative minimalism? No, just a flywheel spinning in a void, I fear.

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The Informers

The Informers Movie Review

R, 98 min, 2008

Jon Foster (Graham Sloan), Billy Bob Thornton (William Sloan), Austin Nichols (Martin), Amber Heard (Christie), Lou Taylor Pucci (Tim), Fernando Consagra (Bruce), Aaron Himelstein (Raymond), Mel Raido (Bryan Metro), Rhys Ifans (Roger), Germán Tripel (Bryan’s Guitarist (as German Tripel)), Kim Basinger (Laura Sloan), Winona Ryder (Cheryl Moore), Brad Renfro (Jack), Suzanne Ford (Bruce’s Mother), Cameron Goodman (Susan Sloan), Mickey Rourke (Peter). Directed by Gregor Jordan and produced by Noli McCool and Marco Weber. Screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis & Nicholas Jarecki, based on a novel by Ellis.

The Informers is a soap opera in an emotional void, a slice of decadent life, a plotless and (nearly) pointless ramble through the underworld of 1983 Los Angeles. Somewhere in the metropolis, an orgiastic party occurs at a posh mansion, complete with fire fountains. A young man gets hit by a car and dies. His friend runs out into the middle of the street, clutching his hand. He’s stunned. Continue reading

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SUNSHINE CLEANING

Sunshine Cleaning Movie Review

R, 91 min, 2008

Director: Christine Jeffs
Writer: Megan Holley
Stars: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin

Christine Jeffs’ Sunshine Cleaning is a delightfully dark surprise fighting through an overwhelmingly sunny (and misleading) ad campaign. Continue reading

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THE READER

The Reader Movie Review

R, 124 min, 2008

Director: Stephen Daldry
Writers: David Hare (screenplay), Bernhard Schlink (book Der Vorleser)
Stars: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Bruno Ganz

Stephen Daldry’s The Reader is an intimate epic of sexual awakening, embarassing secrets, shameful lies, grief and guilt. This is a sensual, historically-influenced tale which touches greatness, but never quite lives up to it. Continue reading

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THE WRESTLER

The Wrestler Movie Review

R, 109 min, 2008

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is an astonishingly powerful, utterly absorbing and deeply moving drama, a specific portrait of a life – the life of a professional wrestler. Continue reading

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MILK

Milk Movie Review

R, 128 min, 2008

Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Dustin Lance Black
Stars: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch

Gus Van Sant’s Milk is a moving, inspirational, sweeping portrait of a life; it pulled me in from the start of the opening credits, and never let go. Continue reading

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REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

Revolutionary Road Movie Review

R, 119 min, 2008

Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay), Richard Yates (novel)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Christopher Fitzgerald

Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, the theater veteran’s latest plunge below the surface of suburban ennui, is a cool, austere portrait of the lives many led in America during the 1950s. Continue reading

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FROST/NIXON

Frost/Nixon Movie Review

R, 122 min, 2008

Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan (screenplay), Peter Morgan (play)
Stars: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon

Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, a lesson in modern history, is a political thriller that draws us in, builds little by little, and finally absorbs us in its David and Goliath tale of two willful men locked in a struggle in which truth and justice will out. Continue reading

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SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

Slumdog Millionaire Movie Review

R, 120 min, 2008

Directors: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan (co-director: India)
Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Vikas Swarup (novel Q & A)
Stars: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Saurabh Shukla

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is a winsome, gripping, ultimately inspirational fable, a modern day fairy tale of the highest order, celebrating the intelligence required to learn from your past. Continue reading

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