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Chappie | Review

1 hour ago

iRobot: Blomkamp’s Latest Sentimentally Inclined Sci-Fi is Pleasantly Familiar

Sentient technological constructs and expanding the definition of what constitutes the essence of consciousness as it applies to the essence of humanity is at the core of Neill Blomkamp’s latest feature, Chappie, so named for the eponymous, experimentally self-aware robot at the heart of his narrative. It is almost impossible to discuss the film without acknowledging many of its derivative elements, namely the film’s striking similarity to RoboCop (either version) and the family friendly sentiments of Short Circuit, and because of this, the film’s larger ideas feel too familiar, which undercuts Blomkamp’s ability to truly reach the poignant potential of the material.

There are a handful of emotionally rewarding sequences, but Blomkamp’s attentions are saturated by the film’s innovative protagonist to such a degree that most of the supporting players are reduced to archetypes, »

- Nicholas Bell

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Faults | Review

4 March 2015 2:00 PM, PST

Split Image: Stearns’ Debut a Dark Hearted Cult Comedy

The insidious recruitment techniques of religious cults used to be a veritable genre staple, beginning, perhaps, with the fascination surrounding the highly publicized Manson Family murders in the late 1960s. The media sensation resulted in a culturally acknowledged terror reflected in the cinema for decades to come, and one may recall a slew of 1980s titles that cashed in on these cultural fears, with titles like Ticket to Heaven (1981) and Bad Dreams (1988) now languishing in obscurity, despite a variety of notable historical markers, from the Jim Jones’ led mass suicide in 1978 Jonestown, Guyana, to the Branch Davidian and Heaven’s Gate episodes of the 1990s. It appears there may be a minor resurgence in the topic, with Ti West’s recent The Sacrament (2013) recreating the spirit of Jim Jones. Now, Faults, the directorial debut of Riley Stearns, which premiered at »

- Nicholas Bell

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X/Y | Review

4 March 2015 1:30 PM, PST

Axes of Fulfillment: Williams Explores the Lives of Malcontented Young Adults

There’s a certain way to make multiple, intersecting storylines breathe life into a narrative structure, though it’s a rather abused formula of narrative free form often masking the lack of substance at hand. To be certain, director Ryan Piers Williams makes better use of this structure than a variety of recent examples, giving us a quiet, simplistic approach of four interrelated early thirtysomethings in Manhattan instead of bludgeoning with caustic twists a la Paul Haggis. If the material isn’t innately virginal, Williams takes some unexpected turns (not to mention the added attraction of having his wife, actress America Ferrera starring as one of the main characters). At the end of the day, some of their stories in X/Y are stronger than others, but even throughout the more familiar tics, it’s a well-acted quartet, divided »

- Nicholas Bell

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Two Men in Town | Review

4 March 2015 1:00 PM, PST

The Town That Dreaded Showdown: Bouchareb Returns to New Mexican Landscape with Mixed Results

French director Rachid Bouchareb’s long celebrated filmography has garnered two of his titles Academy Award nominations for Best Foreign Language Film (Dust of Life; Days of Glory), along with a host of other accolades for a body of work that often revolves around either Algerian experiences in France (modern and period), or explorations of race and/or gender within unique narratives. A long-time producer of Bruno Dumont’s work, Bouchareb has been pursuing a variety of international productions. His latest, Two Men in Town, is a morality exercise that happens to take place in roughly the same Us locale as his last effort, 2012’s Just Like a Woman. Despite a notable cast and several rather arresting performances, the end result never elevates beyond a standard dramatic exercise that ends in more or less the same »

- Nicholas Bell

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October Gale | Review

4 March 2015 12:00 PM, PST

Perfect Storm: Mystery Tinged Romance from Nadda Gets Blown Away in Gusts

There’s much to admire in Montreal-born director Ruba Nadda’s latest film, October Gale, which reunites her with the Patricia Clarkson, star of her generally well-received 2009 film, Cairo Time. Nadda once again provides Clarkson with a melancholy tinged lead role that provides us with a framework that recalls classic ‘women’s pictures’ of the studio era, something we’d most likely have seen from a Cukor or Negulesco and starring the embittered likes of a Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck. Clarkson evokes a softer sentimentality than those references, which may explain why many will be dismayed when the film suddenly becomes a romance tinged mystery thriller, only one that doesn’t want to sacrifice any of these particular elements and therefore tends to seem watered down on all fronts.

A Toronto doctor still grieving over the tragic »

- Nicholas Bell

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Franny, Meadowland, Applesauce & Come Down Molly Selected for TriBeCa 2015

3 March 2015 1:45 PM, PST

Andrew Renzi‘s directorial debut about a third wheel starring Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning and Theo James, Reed Morano‘s relationship testing drama featuring Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson, Onur Tukel‘s secret unleashed on the airwaves and Gregory Kohn‘s hallucinatory tale with Eléonore Hendricks topling are part of the American independent offerings at the 14th Tribeca Film Festival. Renzi’s Franny and Morano’s Meadowland will be competing in the dozen selected in the World Narrative Competition while Tukel’s Applesauce and Kohn’s Come Down Molly are among the in the Viewpoints sidebar. Here are the selected titles below sans synopsis.

World Narrative Feature Competition (12)

The Adderall Diaries, directed and written by Pamela Romanowsky. (USA) – World Premiere.

Bridgend, directed by Jeppe Rønde, co-written by Jeppe Rønde, Torben Bech, and Peter Asmussen. (Denmark) – North American Premiere.

Dixieland, directed and written by Hank Bedford. (USA) – World Premiere

Franny, directed and written by Andrew Renzi. »

- Eric Lavallee

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Criterion Collection: The Soft Skin | Blu-ray Review

3 March 2015 10:15 AM, PST

This month, Criterion marches out a little know title from Francois Truffaut, 1964’s The Soft Skin. Technically his fifth feature, and following behind the monolithic success of Jules and Jim and the 1962 short “Antoine and Colette,” (which served as the second segment in what would flourish into his Antoine Doinel series), the feature did not receive a celebrated reception. Playing in competition at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival (marking the second and last time Truffaut would compete at the festival), the title has since lapsed into a sort of oblivion, which is not surprising considering the winner of the Palme d’Or that year was Jacques Demy’s musical confection, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (launching Catherine Deneuve in stardom, younger sister of Truffuat’s headlining actress, Françoise Dorleac, already a celebrity). Described by its creator as ‘an autopsy of adultery,’ it’s a cold, bitter film about a rather unappealing affair. »

- Nicholas Bell

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Wild Orchid | Blu-ray Review

3 March 2015 9:00 AM, PST

Well before the mainstream fascination with the soft-core sexual sensibilities of Fifty Shades of Grey, one of the more notable alums of such boundary pushing was American filmmaker Zalman King. After producing the infamous sensation that was Adrian Lyne’s 9 ½ Weeks, King moved into filmmaking himself, debuting in 1988 with Two Moon Junction, before collaborating with his wife Patricia Louisiana Knopp on what stands as his most high profile title with Wild Orchid in 1989, reuniting him with Weeks stars Mickey Rourke. As is often the case with cinema seriously interested in exploring eroticism and titillation, the title suffers from a lot of misplaced energy. Character development and its semblance of a narrative appear to be roughly hewn afterthoughts, its most pronounced moments revolving around extremely stylized sexual congress between several different characters (and stylized in the vein of what we see on display in Verhoeven’s Showgirls).

Emily (Carre Otis) has »

- Nicholas Bell

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Best of Fest – Docs: Citizenfour Continues Historic Run, Patricio Guzmán Makes Triumphant Return

3 March 2015 6:00 AM, PST

Award season as come to a close, and we’ve all been witness to what is a historic unprecedented run for one urgent film. The ripple became a wave when we were on hand to witness Laura Poitras collect multiple awards at the Cinema Eye Honors, and as predicted, the Academy Awards capped off a historic awards season run with an Oscar win. Here is our roundup and recap of the previous month’s film festival and award season headlines related to the docu film world.

Academy Awards

While Citizenfour took home the award for best documentary of the year, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry’s Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 was given the Oscar for best short doc.

Berlin International Film Festival - Germany – February 5th – February 15th

When Darren Aronofsky and his presiding jury members announced the Berlinale winners, Patricio Guzmán’s long awaited follow-up to Nostalgia For The Light, »

- Jordan M. Smith

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel | Review

2 March 2015 12:00 PM, PST

The First Best Loser: Madden’s Wholly Unnecessary Sequel an Exercise in Nothingness

Pandering is the word that best describes the tone of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, John Madden’s follow-up to the 2011 surprise hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Whereas the first film was adapted from the bestselling novel by Deborah Moggach, screenwriter Ol Parker is left to his own sugary devices with this next chapter, volleying most of the respectable returning cast members through a series of utterly vapid subplots that are either forgettable or just plain embarrassing considering the seasoned talents. Some may argue that the chance to see so many exemplary performers of a certain age in a film that will reach mainstream platforms should be appreciated for merely existing, but that’s no excuse for doffing us with such second rate material.

Many of the mainstays from the last film have stuck around »

- Nicholas Bell

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