Reviews

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): ****

On his ballot for the recent Sight and Sound poll, Weekend director Andrew Haigh cited Michael Mann’s The Insider as one of the ten best films ever made. Watching Weekend, the inclusion makes total sense. Haigh’s tightly controlled, color-coded mise-en-scene is very closely akin to Mann’s. Weekend also shares visual DNA with two other recent astonishing breakthrough films – Steve McQueen’s Hunger and Antonio CamposAfterschool. However, unlike the three filmmakers mentioned above, Haigh’s film has a deep humanity that provides a messy contrast to his visual restraint.

Blog entry 09/04/2012 - 12:42pm

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): ****

Paul Fejos’ Lonesome is a kaleidoscopic document of the cadences of modern (circa 1928, anyway) living and loving. It’s a simple tale –an ordinary working stiff falls for a woman he meets at the beach – told via a series of florid, propulsive camera tricks and highly advanced montage.

The beginning of Lonesome has the familiar feeling of a city symphony – think People on Sunday or Man With A Movie Camera. Manhattan wakes up; boats shuttle through the harbor, crowds pound the pavement, and a title card offers the philosophical thesis of the film: “In the whirlpool of modern life, the most difficult thing is to live alone.”

Blog entry 08/28/2012 - 4:23pm

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Ratings (out of five): ***

The Duplass Brothers, Mark and Jay, are back with this sweet indie comedy that is surprisingly funny, if a bit less interesting substantively than Cyrus. While it suffers a bit from some contrived plottings, the cast and good humor shine through sweetly.

Jason Segel and Ed Helms, both doing some of their best work to date, play estranged brothers who reconnect to help each other out of sticky situations. Segel's Jeff is, as the title suggests, a slacking manchild who currently lives with his mother (Susan Sarandon, who seems to be having a second life lately supporting roles in indie dramedies -- and I'm not complaining).

Blog entry 08/28/2012 - 1:40pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Ratings (out of five): ***

Directed by Andrzej Wajda -- a four-time nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, as well as the maker of the masterpiece Ashes and Diamonds (1958) -- Korczak is a Holocaust picture and a biopic about a real-life Polish hero. Janusz Korczak (played by Wojciech Pszoniak) was a teacher, author, and doctor who took it upon himself to care for 200 orphans during the Nazi occupation of Poland in WWII. As far as I can tell, Korczak never received a release in the United States, other than possible festival dates. Now Kino has graced it with a new DVD and Blu-ray release.

Blog entry 08/21/2012 - 1:45pm

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): **** 1/2

Today marks the Criterion debut of two masterpieces by the Dardenne brothers, La Promesse and Rosetta. Despite nearly two decades of documentary work and a pair of prior features, these were the films that made the Belgian brothers favorites of both critics and festival juries. Watching both for the first time (as a beautifully bleak double feature), it’s easy to see why.

Blog entry 08/14/2012 - 8:30pm

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): The Devil’s Needle - *** ½
Children of Eve - ***
The Inside of the White Slave Traffic - *** ½

Kino Lorber’s The Devil’s Needle and Other Tales of Vice & Redemption compiles three very early (and very odd) melodramas. As time capsule pieces, they’re a priceless look at how very serious social issues were viewed at the beginning of the twentieth century. As entertainments, it’s typical to grade these sorts of works on a bit of a condescending curve. However, in many ways this compilation proves that the movie-as-polemic hasn’t much changed – a film like The Whistleblower (2010) or Biutiful employs the same emotional cattle-prod that was used nearly a century ago. 

Blog entry 07/24/2012 - 12:38pm

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Ratings (out of five): ***

Something's Gonna Live is filmmaker Daniel Raim's follow-up to his Man on Lincoln's Nose, and once again looks at former Hollywood production designer Robert Boyle, now 97 during the filming of this documentary. It's a love letter to a Hollywood long since gone with some of its surviving members, a sweet, poignant little portrait of a neglected artist. If it has a bit of a home movie feel to it and doesn't have a great deal of dramatic energy to it, for anyone who considers them an aficionado of Old Hollywood, it's very worthy viewing.

Blog entry 07/23/2012 - 9:33pm

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): *** 1/2

Do the names Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky and William Burroughs set your heart aflutter? (My upstairs neighbor runs the other direction when he hears the roster.) For some, these are/were the kind of guys you love to read but wouldn't want to live with. You get the chance to do the latter, possibly as closely as you'd care to, in the new documentary The Beat Hotel that takes us back to the beatnik/bohemian Paris of the period between 1957 - 1963 and to the shabby (but hardly chic) little hotel where they, and others of their ilk, resided.

Blog entry 07/17/2012 - 5:14pm

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): ** 1/2

Making Plans for Lena is writer/director Christophe Honoré's third film to use Chiara Mastroianni, but it comes nowhere near the level of his earlier Love Songs. I find myself running hot and luke-warm to the work of this filmmaker; his latest is definitely in the latter category. Beautifully filmed in Brittany, the movie -- as well as the Lena character played by Mastroianni -- fairly reeks of entitlement.

Blog entry 07/09/2012 - 5:26pm

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): ****

Every hero has a beginning. At least, that’s what we’re taught by the Hollywood/comic book nexus that sees fit to shove a reboot/origin story into theaters every year or two. And Criterion’s Blu-Ray release (also on DVD) of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935) lays bare the beginnings of an unequaled cinematic hero. The film is Hitchcock concentrate, a microcosm of the style and subjects that would mark the master’s five-decade career. Arguably, the period when he made his “thriller sextet” – which consists of Steps, the first version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, Secret Agent, Young and Innocent and The Lady Vanishes – is the epoch where Hitchcock-the-man became Hitchcock-the-adjective.

Blog entry 06/29/2012 - 4:44pm

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