PFF23 Review: Two Days One Night


In the haunting Two Days, One Night, directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne add a profound level of morality drama to their customarily brilliant trove of social reality themes explored since their outstanding first film, Le Promesse (1997). What is unique this time is they are working with an actress who is emerging as one of […]

PFF23 Review: The Last Five Years


The intermittently uplifting yet often pretentious The Last Five Years contains hardly any dialogue that is not sung. Pleasantly containing several songs of depth and wit, the film struggles with the thinnest of story lines and its pleased-with-itself structure. Anna Kendrick, who is very good, presents her character, Cathy’s story backwards from the end, while […]

PFF23 Review: Human Capital


Human Capital blends a razor-sharp depiction of Italian class tension with an engrossing mystery. Based on a novel by American author Stephen Amidon, the film unfolds in separate chapters, each of which repeats the same events from the different perspectives of various characters. The film, deriving its title from the world of insurance, boasts powerful […]

PFF23 Review: Girlhood


When Marieme establishes footing in a girl gang outside of Paris, she seems content to gain an identity she never was able to get from her traditional, broken family. A brother who treats her terribly eventually forces her to abandon her three girlfriends in the gang because she violates what he perceives as a cultural […]

PFF23 Review: Mommy


French Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan (he made and starred in I Killed My Mother at 19) seriously gets in you face with the extravagantly jarring Mommy. The brutal arguments between out-of-his-mind, tantalizing, violent-zero me, ADHD 15-year-old Steve (Antoine-Olivier Platt) and his tough yet unconditionally compassionate mom Diane (a great Anne Dorval) have to be seen […]

PFF23 Review – The Overnighters


A third act revelation either enhances or compromises the unique documentary The Overnighters–see it and decide. Pastor Jay Reinke opens his church and even his own home, to eventually thousands of migrant job-seekers, including some with criminal records, in the oil-boom North Dakota town of Williston. Reinke’s the kind of guy who would give you […]

PFF23 Review: Breathe

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Lou de Laage excels as Sarah, the new kid in town in Breathe, the impressive, confident first feature directed by French actress Melanie Laurent (Inglorous Basterds, Beginners, Enemy). The story of an opposites-attract teenage friendship between Sarah and Charlie (Josephine Japy) that gradually turns abusive never feels fake. As secrets about Sarah are gradually revealed, […]

Review: Fury

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Imagine the chilling opening beach scene from Saving Private Ryan–only for an entire film. It’s no wonder since director David Ayer (the vastly underrated LAPD flick, End of Watch) is at the helm. No brutality, however gory and explicit, is spared. No doubt there will be cries of “war porn” with Fury but they would […]

Review: The Best of Me is Bested by Most Other Romantic Films

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The Best of Me opens on a peaceful image of water overlooking a huge oil rig and set against an orange sky. This peaceful imagery is reminiscent of the sort of epic beauty made familiar by previous and more prominent romantic films (i.e. The Notebook). Dawson Cole ( James Marsden), our hero, works on repairing […]

Men, Women & Children is not the Anti-Social Media Film You’ve been Waiting For


Writer-director, Jason Reitman, addresses the subject of social media and how it affects the way human beings interact with one another in this solid adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s novel, Men Women & Children. As bad as this movie could have been, especially with a cast lineup that includes Adam Sandler and teen heartthrob du jour […]

Review: Kill the Messenger

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Jeremy Renner made a splash in the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker. After equally talented performances in supporting roles in American Hustle and The Immigrant, he’s back in a starring role in the well-intentioned, occasionally stirring Kill The Messenger. Renner plays Gary Webb, a journalist with the minor-league newspaper The San Jose Mercury News in 1996. Iran/Contra, […]

Review: The Judge


Hank, a slick, iconoclastic Chicago defense lawyer (Robert Downey Jr.) asks prospective jurors what message is on their bumper sticker. In the very first scene, he also pees on his opposing prosecutor while they both visit a men’s room. The wildly uneven yet ultimately successful The Judge constantly veers between a deep, estranged father/son tale […]

Review: Gone Girl


The less said about the plot of Gone Girl the better. Suffice it to say it is a biting, grisly crime film equally concerned with the nature of secrets in marriage, public media image, and the criminal mind than with the nuts and bolts of linear narration. Yet the story is so mind-blowing it would […]

Review: Annabelle


Despite the constant opportunity to fall short Annabelle, the spinoff of James Wan’s The Conjuring, manages to be a genuinely scary and satisfying addition to the franchise. By its nature, Annabelle presents a lot challenges that could be damning for a less skilled filmmaker.  Not only is it a horror film about a haunted doll, […]

Review: The Skeleton Twins


Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, playing estranged twins with depression issues, discordantly slip into Saturday Night Live mode once too often during The Skeleton Twins. At the film’s outset Maggie (Wiig) shows up in the hospital room of Milo (Hader) after he unsuccessfully tried to kill himself. The call to inform her of this event, […]

Review: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them


The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is a distillation of two separate movies subtitled “Him” and “Her.” Viewers will get a chance to see the original two films in October. After watching “Them” a disturbing paradox presents itself. Admittedly, what seems like a half-baked, occasionally dull synthesis might have been caused by too harsh a […]

Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones


Veteran screenwriter Scott Frank (Get Shorty, the underrated Out of Sight) directs revenge movie honcho Liam Neeson in this at once ugly and grim suspense-cum-horror tale. Based on the novel by Lawrence Block, Neeson portrays Matthew Scudder, an unlicensed private investigator and former NYPD cop. The film contains plenty of familiar crime movie fodder: Scudder’s […]

Review: The Drop


A viewing of The Drop prompted a repeat examination of Tom Hardy’s “one man” film from earlier this year: the unique and compelling Locke. Taken in tandem, it’s hard to think of two recent performances that have displayed such a stunning array of acting chops. In The Drop, Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a skittish, deliberate, […]

Review: Starred Up


When it comes to an intensely raw portrayal of prison life, it would seem hard for any film to top Steven McQueen’s Hunger (2008). Startlingly, Starred Up submerges itself into even deeper territory. Weaving a father/son (they’re new prison mates) plot with starkly observed, uncanny realism, David Mackenzie’s film also includes three of the year’s […]

Review: Trip to Italy


British comics Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan share an amusing penchant for performing incessant spot-on impressions in The Trip To Italy. In Michael Winterbottom’s sequel to 2011′s The Trip, the semi-fictional pair have the enviable task to take an all-expenses-paid excursion along Italy’s Liguria and Amalfi coast. Their mission: write a few reviews of high-end […]

Review: When The Game Stands Tall


Family values, family values. It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. There’s no “I” in team. The wording of these bromides is changed slightly but they come thick and heavy in When The Game Stands Tall. Jim Caviezel plays high school coach Bob Ladoucer whose team at De La […]

Review: Rich Hill


As a chaser to Richard Linklater’s monumental Boyhood, take a peek at this Sundance award-winning documentary profiling three destitute white kids from rural Missouri. Their level of poverty and all-around impoverishment makes Linklater’s screen kid look like he’s part of the Trump family. Three distinctively different kids emerge. One is all-get-out upbeat, another, mostly dour […]

Review: The Giver


The goal: get rid of suffering and dissension and along with them, any shade of diverse thinking. First, trash emotion–have everyone pop pills everyday to suppress it. Leave out books, animals, and any changes in the weather while we’re at it. Now eliminate color. Yes, color. Such is the world of The Giver, the new […]

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy


Way back when Marvel Studios announced Guardians of the Galaxy, fans collectively raised an eyebrow. Even those of us who are familiar with the comics were perplexed as to why Kevin Feige and company would create a franchise around such an obscure group of characters. However, after seeing the finished product, I can definitely say […]

Review: Get On Up


The main thing I wished to grab hold of from a James Brown biopic was a facsimile of the incredible rush I’d received when I saw him live at The Arena in Philadelphia in the late 1960′s. Get On Up may not quite get all the way there there but it’s a more than adequate […]

Review: Magic in the Moonlight


Colin Firth plays Stanley, a frenetic, highfaluting Houdini-like magician who performs in Chinese makeup and relishes debunking spiritual mediums in his spare time. In Woody Allen’s Magic In The Moonlight, his 44th film, Stanley poses as an “import-export” businessman and goes after young spiritualist Sophie Baker (Emma Stone). Stanley, according to his fellow magician sidekick, […]

Review: A Most Wanted Man


It’s hard not to wonder how throughout his career Philip Seymour Hoffman’s gearing up for roles like John le Carre’s Gunther Bachmann may have fed his demons. In his last starring role before his untimely death from a drug overdose earlier this year, Hoffman’s character, a German intelligence agent specializing in defusing potential terrorist operations, […]

Review: Boyhood


Like Seinfeld, Boyhood is about nothing in particular. Yet its staggering charm is that it manages to be about the things that matter most. The Richard Linklater film accomplishes no small miracle in reflecting a slice of life that, as it stretches over 12 years, boasts an authentic take on existence itself. It is unique […]

Mixed Review: Wish I Was Here


In our first ever “mixed review” Don and I (Steve) will both be reviewing Zach Braff’s new film “Wish I Was Here” since we were both on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. An effective lead character in a comedy-drama (dramedy) need not be particularly likeable. Depth or charisma are traits that often compensate when […]

Review: Land Ho! (Video)


A pair of ex-brothers-in-law meet for the first time in years and take a break from the frustrations in their lives to road trip the expansive, Icelandic countryside. Mitch, the New Orleans native, is a recently retired surgeon bored with the dreariness of his post-career life; and, so eager to meet young, attractive women that […]

Review: Begin Again


You can make the same movie twice if you’re Woody Allen, or, of course, Michael Haneke. Less famous directors know the risk going in, yet John Carney stuck to his guns in putting forth essentially a bigger-budget, A-list version of his similarly themed, very good 2007 film, Once. Once (later a hit Broadway musical) evoked […]

Review: Snowpiercer (w/ Video)


The year is 2031 and as a result of climate change as well as humanity’s drastic response to it, the Earth has fallen into a post-apocalyptic winter. The remaining survivors are forced on board a train that circles the globe at breakneck speeds. The train has become a microcosm for society at large, with its […]

Review: Tammy


Sorry to bring up Lucille Ball, one of the comic icons of the early TV generation in relation to–er, Melissa McCarthy. Yet I can’t help but liken the rotund, too-easily-misunderstood McCarthy to a sorry replica of Ball (Lucy on steroids if you will). You want to grasp the thrill of experiencing an underdog who digs […]

Review: Happy Christmas (Video)


Writer/Director Joe Swanberg has quietly become a very prolific filmmaker, turning in over 10 films since 2011 many of them with largely improvised scripts. But his last movie, Drinking Buddies, was met with greater enthusiasm thanks largely to its relatable subject material and cast of known actors. Happy Christmas is a movie that has similar […]

Review: Obvious Child

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Obvious Child tackles the subject of an aspiring stand-up comedian (played by real life stand-up Jenny Slater) who decides to get an abortion after a one-night stand. Just when this bracingly funny film seems too intent on toying with its subject, Slater and director Gillian Robespierre soon shift gears into a resonant realism. The rest […]

Review: Jersey Boys


Let’s first get something out of the way. It’s just too good to be true that a running theme in Jersey Boys depicts a creative relationship between Four Seasons group members Bob Gaudio and lead singer Frankie Valli (both executive producers of the film) while leaving out a key element in the group’s success. Producer […]

Review: The Grand Seduction


In a perfect world, by its sheer innocuousness a film like The Grand Seduction would deflect harsh judgement. Problem is, the goings-on in this film reach so far into the corny corner, they did finally transform this viewer’s tolerance from initial submission straight to irritability. Heaven forbid how much dumber still this would have been […]

Review: Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon


Nowadays 68-year-old Shep Gordon loves his home in Maui and reflects on having hung out with the Dalai Lama. Before he goes on to manage the likes of Alice Cooper and Anne Murray, start a film studio, and amass a probable vast fortune and a wealth of celebrity friends, we are treated to his reminiscence […]

Review: 22 Jump Street


The history of sequels is tricky. For every Back to the Future 2, there’s a Teen Wolf Too. For every Toy Story 3, a Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted. And for every Godfather 2 there’s a Godfather 3. While making a sequel to a well-liked movie seems like common sense to most, the truth is that […]

Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2


Return to Berk, a magic land where Vikings ride Dragons. Follow Hiccup, sexy, sexy, older Hiccup, as he explores uncharted territories with his faithful buddy Toothless. Watch as our hero once again proves to his dad, the evil Drago, and others that they just need to give peace and love a chance, man. The sequel […]

Review: Edge of Tomorrow


It’s a small pity many more viewers will catch this admittedly entertaining film than 2011′s far better Source Code. While both are sci-fi endeavors with a Groundhog Day-like time-loop as their touchstone, Edge Of Tomorrow edges into a muddled zone of plausibility despite its highly engaging first half. Luckily, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt play […]

Review: The Fault in Our Stars


You would think disease films are the bane of critics far and wide. The casual assumption is here comes another Love Story in its umpteenth incarnation replete with maudlin sentimentality and wooden stereotype characters. This film treatment of the wildly popular young adult novel The Fault In Our Stars manages to avoid much of the […]

Review: Maleficent isn’t Maleficent in Maleficent

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When it was announced that Disney would be making a movie starring Maleficent with Angelina Jolie cast in the lead role, the news was met with unfiltered excitement from people raised on the Disney Princess classics. So much excitement that you briefly forget we’re culturally motivated to instinctively push back against the idea of a […]

Review: Fed Up


Trying to swim through the haze of food warnings these days can be trying. In the documentary Fed Up a convincing case is made that we are often lost in the thicket of corporate advertising, ill-advised government subsidies, political posturing, and shoulder shrugging at all levels. Though it’s emotionally a lot harder for many of […]

Review: Ida


Learning devastating truths can be daunting. Experiencing the unnerving discovery of post-war realities in as spare yet vivid a manner as presented in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida verges on breathtaking. Pawlikowski shoots in black-and-white, uses an almost square screen format, has long stretches without dialogue, and forces the viewer to focus intently on the micro reactions […]

Review: A Million Ways To Die in the West


Substituting a plethora of fart jokes and sudden bull-goring for actual brains, the screenplay for A Million Ways To Die In The West runs the gamut from raunchy to silly. Though not as frequent as in Seth McFarlane’s previous film, Ted, the laughs here spew forth despite the film’s fits and starts. You may need […]

Review: The Immigrant


Even a strong performance from the estimable Marion Cotillard and a fairly good one from the always irascible Joaquin Phoenix fail to ignite the stodgy, humdrum The Immigrant. Supporting characters are uniformly stock, the story stretches plausibility, and Ellis Island seems like Alcatraz one day, a Barnum Bailey circus the next. Jeremy Renner as a […]

Review: The Double


The downright vapidness of the character of Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg in one of dual roles) is best summarized in a nursing home scene with his aged mother. After she remarks that her favorite song is now playing, he coldly replies, “There is no song; and you hate music.” Simon will go on to frustratingly […]

Review: Does Adam Sandler Even Want to be in Blended?! (Video)


Adam Sandler turns 48 years old later this year, and Billy Madison is a year from its 20th anniversary. If that sentence makes you feel old, just imagine how it must feel to the most successful movie man-boy of the last two decades. 2014’s Adam Sandler is not the same star he used to be. […]

Skip Million Dollar Arm & watch Sugar Instead

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Starring Jon Hamm as sports agent J. B. Bernstein, Million Dollar Arm tells the true story of the contest that found two MLB-quality pitchers in the slums of India. But another recent movie about a foreign-based baseball pitcher does what Million Dollar Arm attempts to do much more successfully. Find out more in this Multiplex […]

Review: Chef


You don’t have to be a food and restaurant aficionado to get a gratifying kick out of Chef but it certainly will heighten your sensual pleasure from this crowd-pleaser by Jon Favreau. Favreau stars in the film as Carl Caspar, an acclaimed Los Angeles chef who’s talented, hard-working, street-wise, and stone technologically-deficient. Taking a break […]

Review: Million Dollar Arm


Varnished to a fault, the wildly uneven Million Dollar Arm throws one too many gopher balls yet enjoys an admirable relief effort from Jon Hamm, and a terrific save from Lake Bell. The based-on-a-true-story yarn of the recruitment of two novice pitchers from India, the film unabashedly gives an intentional walk to baseball details in […]

Review: Palo Alto


Bouncing between early-afternoon high school soccer team practices, and late-night suburban house parties, April (Emma Roberts) finds her love life stuck in the adolescent paralysis of virginity. She holds a secret crush on cute but troubled Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val), and timidly flirts with the soccer coach Mr. B (James Franco, who wrote […]

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is a Masterful Mess of a Summer Blockbuster

  The most exciting thing about this new version of Godzilla is the approach that was taken by its director, Gareth Edwards, who as most critics have pointed out was clearly influenced by the big event movies of Steven Spielberg such as Jaws and Jurassic Park. So is Gareth Edwards the next Steven Spielberg? Probably […]

Review: Neighbors


There are two different types of audiences for comedies; those who go to Seth Rogen movies, and those who go to Zac Efron movies. With one lining up to see a bunch of men in their thirties, smoking weed and spitting out one-liners typically involving sex or drugs, and the other expects a more family-safe […]

Review: Belle


Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson could probably save a popsicle from melting on a hot day. While saving the film Belle from disaster may not be as big a challenge, the duo manage to camouflage the movie’s weaknesses and provide a buffer against this somewhat whitewashed story of race, class and gender. Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), […]

Review: Neighbors


Neighbors isn’t nearly original enough or nasty enough. Or funny enough. Lactation jokes, air bag gags, innumerable marijuana cracks–what else have you got, director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was equally forgettable as this one)? Any frat comedy starring Zac Ephron already has two strikes against it. The presence of Seth Rogen might be […]

Review: Locke (Tom Hardy Never Leaves His BMW)


On a late night highway drive into London, Tom Hardy navigates a series of phone calls that unravel his life in close to real time, despite his never leaving the confines of a BMW X5. If that idea doesn’t intrinsically sound compelling, there is little in Locke that will convince you otherwise; however, its subtle-yet-bold […]

Review: Blue Ruin


Breaking the mold of the revenge thriller, director Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin avoids numbing caricatures and limp cliches. Its edge-of-your-seat suspense is earned through sharp editing and tight composition yet what propels its intriguing storyline more than anything is its nervous, apologetic main character, Dwight Evans (Macon Blair). A train wreck of a human being, […]

Interview: Alexander Berman and Edouard de Lachomette (App)

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APP is a short film that examines the relationship between technology and love.  It tells the story of a man who must prove that his wing-woman mobile app is worth investing in by using it to pick up a girl at a bar.  It’s a funny and touching story written by Alexander Berman and produced […]

Review: Under the Skin


Alright, a movie where Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious alien who tries to see how fast she can lure men into her van must be the cat’s meow, right? She’s not shy about shedding her clothes, either. Piquing your interest, you say? Not a bad turnaround from Johansen’s role in Her, where we didn’t get […]

Review: Only Lovers Left Alive


The highly uncommon Only Lovers Left Alive oozes atmosphere and maintains a perfect tone–down-tempo, suave, irresistible. It’s formal rigor leaves not a hair out of place. It’s three primary actors don’t merely raise the bar for vampire movies, they shatter it. Tilda Swinton nearly singes a hole in the screen, Tom Hiddleston is scary with […]

Review: The One I Love (Tribeca Film Festival)


WOW! The One I Love is incredible, completely original and a knockout experience. I can’t go into plot details too much without ruining what is sure to be one of the greatest twists of the year (well two twists really) so I’ll just give you the setup: an unhappily married couple (Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss) […]

Review: Walking With the Enemy


When a director needs to mention not once but twice in the opening credits that his film is based on a true story, we might be wise to take it as a harbinger of what exaggerations lie ahead. In Walking With The Enemy, a man in Nazi-occupied Hungary actually impersonates a Nazi officer in order […]

Tribeca Review: Manos Sucias

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Set against the same Colombian backdrops as unimaginable amounts of drug warfare, Manos Sucias is a look at narco-drug trafficking without the glamour that often accompanies this genre. Structuring the narrative largely within the course of two days, first-time filmmaker Josef Wladyka creates a narrow focus on a big subject. Manos Sucias follows Delio, a […]

Tribeca Review: Gueros


Nowadays it is very easy to identify a coming-of-age story when you see one.  Usually it makes its’ presence known by compounding the audience with a number of clichés that range anywhere from montages of flashbacks or an elder character attempting to guide a younger, seemingly lost character onto the path of self discovery and […]

Tribeca Review: Garnet’s Gold


There was a brief period in my early childhood where I went through a phase of wanting to be a pirate.  Sailing on ships seemed cool and pillaging villages looked like a lot of fun, but the big appeal came from searching for lost treasure.  Having the chance to go on a larger than life […]

Tribeca Review: Chef (Jon Favreau directs)


While Chef may have had a relatively light premise its star studded cast was still enough to lend it some legitimacy. What keeps you engaged with the relatively shaky premise of this film is its heavy use of of technology and social media along with a number of geographic culture shocks that provide occasional laughs, […]

Tribeca Review: Below Dreams


An uncommonly loose portrait of life in New Orleans, Garret Bradley’s debut feature film uses a documentary-like cinema verite style to create a movie that values tone over narrative. Weaving together *but just barely) the lives of three very different people, only connected by the city they share, Below Dreams’ naturalistic approach to scene structure […]

Tribeca Review: In Order of Disappearance


Stellan Skarsgård has a unique set of skills in Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance, and among them is operating a snow blower. Set against the sparse, snow-soaked landscapes of Norwegian, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance casts Skarsgård in the old-guy-after-revenge role that’s been popularized by Liam Neeson […]

Review: Joe


There comes a point in David Gordon Green’s Joe where main character Joe (an excellent Nicholas Cage) starts to act as if he might be insane. Hardly restrained up to this point, the film proceeds to take two steps forward and one step backward in terms of finesse. Green, whose sharp-focused observations ultimately fail to […]

Review: Draft Day


Its blaring print advertisement quote compares Draft Day to Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. If you go in looking for a shred of either film, you’ll feel as cheated as this film’s Cleveland Browns fans feel after a pre-draft day trade. Brown’s GM Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) gives up three future first round […]

Review: Dom Hemingway


There hasn’t been an actor playing this “against type” since Bill Murray as FDR. In Dom Hemingway Jude Law stars as a blustery Cockney smart-ass safe-cracker with bad teeth and a few extra pounds on his gut. Law, usually solidly cerebral (the excellent Side Effects, Anna Karenina), here is big on balls and small on […]

Review: The Unknown Known


Although it’s disappointing politically that the bedeviling Donald Rumsfeld fails to emulate Robert McNamara in Errol Morris’ documentary, The Fog of War, it makes for compelling cinema in Morris’ new film The Unknown Known. Whereas McNamara gave plenty of mea culpa heft to his turn in the spotlight, Rumsfeld is instead intent on making sure […]

Review: Nymphomaniac: Part Two


Ever the tricky jokester, Lars Von Trier mixes it up in his two-part opus, Nymphomaniac. The grandiloquent literary and fly fishing allusions of Nymphomaniac Part One and its hand-in-hand farcical shadings yield in Part Two to a much more somber tone. Sadomasochism rises to the fore as soon as you can say 50 Shades of […]

Review: Cesar Chavez


  Diego Luna’s Cesar Chavez glosses over some rather important aspects of the underlying essence of its subject matter. Although admirable in taking the course of the biopic Lincoln versus, say Mandela, in keeping its scope focused on a narrow swath of time, it fails to go deep in portraying the great 1960s labor organizer. […]

Review: Nymphomaniac Part 1


Mixing the eloquent and the pointless and dressing up his profane observations with intellectual frosting, Lars Von Trier presents Nymphomnia Part 1, the first part of a three-hour-plus feeding frenzy of lust and guilt. Loveless sex holds court as Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), found bloodied on the street, reluctantly tells her rescuer (Stellan Skarsgard) her story. […]

Review: Bethlehem


Dumbfoundingly similar in its finale to the recent Oscar-nominated Palestinian film, Omar, the Israeli Bethlehem mines equivalent emotional turf. Devoid of explanatory context, Bethlehem, via credible and interesting characters, lays out a sad premise: both sides are inhumane, lying and vengeful to a mortal fault. As in Omar, what proceeds as a suspenseful action yarn […]

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Wes Anderson prefers not to enter himself into a particular time and place unless he’s able to twist and turn his subject until it’s ready to fit into HIS world. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, his eighth and best feature, his enchanting stylization rises to a level of obsessiveness that bodes well for the adventurous […]

Review: The Bag Man


John Cusack and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day may have been an apt title for Cinedigm’s new slow-burn thriller The Bag Man. Starring as the decidedly undescriptively named “Jack,” Cusack kills or is almost killed by nearly every character in this movie, and little of it is his own fault. He must […]

Review: Mr. Peabody and Sherman


Stephen Colbert voices the surly character Paul Peterson in Mr. Peabody and Sherman, the new animated reworking of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show characters. Invited to the dog and his adopted human son’s home for dinner, Peterson is having none of this erudite mutt’s shenanigans. Peterson’s s daughter Penny bullied Sherman into actually biting her […]

Review: The Wind Rises


Content to portray the daydreams, everyday life and sturdy determination of a nerdy kid turned genius aeronautical engineer, Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki has some observers ticked off at him. Based on the life of Jiro Horikashi, the designer of the Zero fighter plane used in Pearl Harbor, The Wind Rises exhibits the usual amazing […]

Review: Omar


Omar’s got a problem: how to balance staying the good street soldier in the West Bank Palestinian liberation movement while remaining on course to settle down with the sister of his comrade-in-arms. We are introduced to Omar (Adam Bakri) as he scales a wall more than 20 feet high in the Occupied Territories in order […]

Review: 3 Days to Kill


Luc Besson, the most provocative of guilty pleasures when he’s on his game, wrote 3 Days To Kill’s story, co-wrote its screenplay, and produced. The film’s campy violence marks a return to form for Besson while it also heralds a continuation of a renaissance in the acting career of Kevin Costner begun with the TV […]

Review: Like Father, Like Son


Like Father, Like Son tells how two families deal with the bombshell revelation that their six-year-old sons were switched at birth. Director Hirokazo Kore-da, whose marvelous ouevre continues its focus on children facing unusual predicaments, leads us through an impossibly heartwrenching situation without a touch of melodrama. Some of this is a wry mirror held […]

Review: A Winter’s Tale


Like a Saturday Night Live skit spun out of control and barely keeping itself together, this impossibly imbecilic film somehow prevails to its end shot, stellar cast in tow. Since A Winter’ s Tale professes to be a serious film, this is something of a feat. Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Connelly, Will Smith and […]

Review: That Awkward Moment


A deceitfully overwrought premise, bargain-basement plot, and paint-by-numbers characters add up to a Valentine’s Day film disaster. The lipstick on this donkey is provided by a bunch of photogenic, fairly talented actors. Yet even Brando and Hepburn couldn’t do much with this concoction that seems like it was stillborn in a Five and Under store. […]

Review: Labor Day


Not since American Pie has the all-American baked classic received this much attention in a film. In Labor Day, pastry dominates the vacuum created by a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve and ought to hide its melodramatic script in a drawer. When he’s not Mr Fix-it-up-er or mopping their hardwood floor, escaped […]

Review: Ride Along

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James doesn’t like Ben (Kevin Hart), who lives with James’ dishy sister. James (Ice Cube) is a real cop and a bit of a rogue one at that. Ben’s only notion of police work comes from his advanced knowledge of video games yet he’s somehow just been accepted into Atlanta’s police academy. In the first […]

Review: August: Osage County


In this John Wells adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-prize winning play, The Weston family, long-marinated in misery and malevolence, let it all out at a post-funeral meal. The verbal fireworks are ugly enough to make the most dysfunctional family seem rather normal by comparison. A testimony to the bounty of Meryl Streep’s extraordinary talent and […]

Review: Her


It’s no joke that Scarlett Johansson is generating Oscar buzz as Samantha in Her despite the sum of her role consisting of a remarkable voice but not one visual appearance. Instead, she provides the distinctive, albeit disembodied voice of a computer operating system. Convincingly conveying the notion that she possesses an autonomous consciousness, Johansson gives […]

One Guy’s Best Films, Performances, and Scenes of 2013


Perusing the dozens of Best Film Top Ten lists, I’m struck with the same sentiment as in years past: Some cockamamy choices indeed! Far be it from me to stand in judgement of anyone who seriously included Only God Forgives or The Counselor, as more than one prominent critic has. They must simply be the […]

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis


Highly fond of recent Coen Brothers efforts Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, and True Grit, I looked forward to their latest offering. Taking place in the pre-Dylan folk music milieu of early 60s Greenwich Village coffeehouses, Inside Llewyn Davis has much bark: it’s musical numbers–and insufficient bite: its story of a dour, shrugging sad […]

10 Best Films of 2013: List


It’s finally here, the Top 10 Films of 2013. Read below for our thoughts: 10. The 1985 headline declared “Police Bomb Osage Avenue MOVE House—11 MOVE Members Dead, 61 Houses Destroyed.” Suspicions of a double police cover-up  in West Philadelphia incidents separated by seven years inform director Jason Osder’s riveting documentary Let the Fire Burn that uses […]

The Best Films of 2013 (


Throughout the year, the collected staffs of & The Pretentious Film Majors collect their 5-star scores of all the new movies in preparation for this year list: The Film Majors Best & Worst Films of 2013. The votes have been collected, tabulated, and averaged into one common score, and then placed on our […]

10 Worst Films of 2013 ( List)


Unfortunately, for all the enjoyable movies that 2013 gave us, it also dealt out its fair share of utter, absolute stinkers. Movies that wasted our money, time, and hard-earned sanity. There are 10 terrible films that stood out above the rest, but before running down those, here are the 10 movies that just missed out […]

Review: Mandela


You may know Idris Elba, who plays Nelson Mandela in the new film Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom, from his stint as Stringer Bell in The Wire. Despite Elba doing essentially a nice job, Mandela is no The Wire. That may not seem like a fair comparison on the surface yet actually it speaks […]

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street


You will likely think Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is either a marvelous spoof on avaricious assholes complete with its own brand of sex-and-drugs magical realism, or you’ll find it an excessive glorification of the very depravity it is lampooning. The likelihood that its leg-pulling challenge, its unnerving dare, will polarize its audience […]

Review: American Hustle


Take a couple who deep down are essentially two deceitful people (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) who have made themselves successful at scamming the vulnerable. Add a hyper-pushy FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), who offers them a stay-out-of-jail deal dependent on their trusting each other. Mix in a big-time hood (Robert DeNiro) and a loose-cannon bimbo […]

Review: Saving Mr. Banks

saving mr salt disney

Disney created a new cinematic making-of feature for one of its most beloved films, Mary Poppins, with Saving Mr. Banks. The film follows Mary Poppins author, P.L. Travers, as she is finally convinced to go to Los Angeles and work with Disney to turn her book to a film. Travers is intent on protecting her […]