Monday, January 27, 2014

Drink the purple drank


A dour, realistic, and compelling investigation into the ethics and efficacy of torture, largely undone once the Joker escapes from Arkham.

Directed by Dennis Villenueve
Written by Aaron Guzikowski
With Hugh Jackman (Keller Dover), Jake Gyllenhaal (Det. Loki), Paul Dano (Alex Jones), Terrence Howard (Franklin Birch), Viola Davis (Nancy Birch), David Dastmalchian (Bob Taylor), and Melissa Leo (Holly Jones)

Spoiler alert: high

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The ocean is a desert with its life underground


Robert Redford dies for a hundred minutes.  It's decent.

Written and directed by J.C. Chandor
With Robert Redford and Scott Witherell (Our Man)

Spoiler alert: mild, but goes to severe with more than adequate warning

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The operation was a resounding success, Ms. Bell, and your voice should return by early 2014


Perhaps not quite the platonic ideal of the movie about women being enslaved and forced to fight to the death you were looking for, but close enough.  (Extra points for being essentially the same as a movie about men being enslaved and forced to fight to the death, which you might not expect, but it is, in the 21st century, what you should want, so there you go.)

Directed by Josh C. Waller
Written by Robert Beaucage, Kenny Gage, and Josh C. Waller
With Zoe Bell (Sabrina), Tracie Thoms (Teresa), Bailey Anne Borders (Cody), Rebecca Marshall (Phoebe), Doug Jones (Joseph), Bruce Thomas (Kurtz) and Rachel Nichols (Jamie)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ein volk!


This is the anti-Frances Ha: the story of a loser who loses, and everyone, including him, knows it.  Inside Llewyn Davis is a beautifully-acted, sharply-written, tragicomic study in wasting your life on a dream and how it is so temptingand so terrible.

Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
With Oscar Isaac (Llewyn Davis), Carey Mulligan (Jean), Justin Timberlake (Jim), Ethan Phillips (Mitch Gorfein), John Goodman (Roland Turner), and Garrett Hedlund (Johnny Five)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A hunger game


A thrilling torture movie with Gothic flavor, Would You Rather, while not once suggesting an amateur production, is neither a product of true expertise.  But what is expert is a powerfully twisted performance from the vile one himself, Jeffrey Combs; and what the film does have going for it is a classic premise.  Through sheer scenario Would You Rather tells a compellingly sordid little tale of choices, their consequences, and... America?

2012 (jerks)/2013 (people like you and I)
Directed by David Guy Levy
Written by Steffan Schlachtenhauffen
With our villains—Jeffrey Combs (Shepard Lambrick), Jonny Coyne (Bevans), and Robin Taylor (Julian)—and our victims—Brittany Snow (Iris), Enver Djokaj (Lucas), Sasha Grey (Amy), Eddie Steeples (Cal), June Squibb (Linda), Charlie Hoffmeier (Travis), Logan Miller (Raleigh) and John Heard (Conway)

Spoiler alert: moderate

There's a rumor in St. Petersburg


93 minutes of sound and fury signifying about 60 minutes of actual plot.  But between a heroic performance by James Franco, some inspired (let's say) physical acting by Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson, and fine cinematography, Spring Breakers is a more than worthwhile diversion, if you don't mind your hysterically socially conservative polemics delivered via a quasi-poetic, slightly-over-par gangster film.

2012 (them)/2013 (us)
Written and directed by Harmony Korine
With James Franco (Alien), Selena Gomez (Faith), Vanessa Hudgens (The Blonde One), Ashley Benson (The Other Blonde One), Rachel Korine (The One With Pink Hair), and Gucci Mane (Archie)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, January 13, 2014

From my heart and from my hand, why don't people understand my intention?


Hard science fiction intersects with legitimate romance under the careful direction and only slightly less careful script of one Spike Jonze, and the result is one of 2013's best.

Written and directed by Spike Jonze
With Joachim Jaoquim Hadouken Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore), Scarlett Johansson (Samantha), Amy Adams (Amy), Chris Pratt (Paul), Rooney Mara (Catherine), and Olivia Wilde (The Blind Date)

Spoiler alert: high

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A parliament of rooks


Though it often feints toward genre territory, The Hunt never becomes the kind of movie it direly needs to be, and is, after a fashion, worse for it; yet it must be conceded that it explores its chosen themes more broadly (never deeply) by so rudely eschewing anything remotely resembling audience satisfaction.  So if you didn't know that a presumption of innocence is important for a just society and needed two hours of didactically cruel infotainment with one (1) cool fight scene to explain it, have I got the movie for you!

2012 Danmark/2013 USA

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Written by Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg
With Mads Mikkelsen (Lucas), Thomas Bo Larsen (Theo), Annika Wedderkopp (Klara), Alexandra Rappaport (Nadja), and Lasse Fogelstrom (Marcus)

Spoiler alert: severe

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2 Great 2 Gatsby


Aren't capitalism's excesses hilarious?  Good thing that in the second decade of the 21st century we're beyond all that, so now we can finally laugh!  Because, yes, they totally are.

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Terence Winter (based on the book by Adolf Hitler)
With Leonardo DiCaprio (Jordan Belfort), Jonah Hill (Donnie Azoff), Margot Robbie (Naomi Rapaglia), Kyle Chandler (Agent Patrick Denham), Rob Reiner (Max Belfort), Jean Dujardin (Jean Jacques Suarel), and Matthew McConaughey (Mark Hanna)

Spoiler alert: mild

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Be a mensch... a human being!


A movie that tells us to embrace life and adventure, but involves a guy more or less just doing his job, and talking to a woman for once (mostly about his job).  This may be the point, but it doesn't come off as a particularly interesting point the way it's made, and the dream sequences and brilliant landscape photography that accompany this too-simple, largely characterless story fail to illustrate or edify it in any deep way, although occasionally they do thrill in their own right.

Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Steve Conrad (based on the short story by James Thurber)
With Ben Stiller (Walter Mitty), Kristen Wiig (Cheryl Melhoff), Sean Penn (Sean O'Connell), and Shirley Maclaine (Fran Kubelik Edna Mitty)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Hope I die before I get old, but if I don't, kill me


Hahahahaha, mortality.

Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Bob Nelson
With Bruce Dern (Woody Grant), Will Forte (David Grant), Bob Odenkirk (Ross Grant), June Squibb (Kate Grant), and Stacy Keach (Ed Pegram)

Spoiler alert: mild