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"The Missing" Never Finds What It's Looking For
28 May 2015 9:07 AM, PDT
I found something.
Miniseries of the mysterious variety are about as thick on the ground as period English adaptations were a decade ago. Like those adaptations, quality is pretty consistent while breaking through is rather more difficult without a dampened Colin Firth. The Missing (2014) goes back to the well to come up with this story of a missing child and jumbles up the litany of suspects enough to come out with eight episodes. Kind of like a fat free version of The Killing (2007-2012). Like that Danish series, The Missing concerns a single case, the victim's family, the police, the politicians, and a simple episode formula where a clue is planted, a suspect is cleared, and a surprise at the end makes you hungry for more. These formulae continue because they're so damn effective and if you've got a uniformly solid cast behind you--unlike, say, The Bridge (Us) (2013-)--you've got something above average. »
- Jason Ratigan
If The "L.A. Apocalypse" Happens, See Who Notices
28 May 2015 3:43 AM, PDT
Say what you will about the end of the world and how it will come about, but one thing is generally for certain: it won’t be boring. Nuclear war and mass annihilation, natural disasters, unstoppable plagues, a big old meteorite hitting Earth...none of these events are pleasant, but they are also not boring. They are the opposite of boring. They are so jam-packed with unwanted adrenaline, excitement and anxiety that if you were actually experiencing them you might just die of an apocalypse-induced heart attack. But, you would not be bored.
- Lee Jutton
"Let's Kill Ward's Wife" Turns Out To Be Sage Advice
28 May 2015 3:22 AM, PDT
Scott Foley has been a silver screen star for some time, kicking off with a long run on Felicity before turns across all genres in Scrubs, The Unit, True Blood, and, most recently and recognizably, on Scandal. With the cache to pull some clout to his feature directorial debut, he does quadruple duty as writer, producer, director, and star of Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife. A black comedy that still manages to keep the tone light, even as a body is being chopped to pieces, the flick joins a perverse pantheon of ensemble humor with moderately well known casts that may have hit its high-water mark with 1998’s Very Bad Things. That crass little outing saw Jon Favreau, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, and Daniel Stern trying to dispose of a dead prostitute after a bachelor party in Vegas goes south.
- Kyle North
"Selma" Marches On
28 May 2015 12:43 AM, PDT
There are films that we want to watch, and there are films that we need to watch. Goodness knows I am constantly overwhelmed by things I want to watch, especially during the summer months; I’m currently counting the minutes until I can see Mad Max: Fury Road and trying to plan a date to see Ex Machina before the over-the-top hype kills the buzz for me. Yet sometimes a film tells a story so important, you feel it is your duty to buy a ticket and hear what it has to say. It might not have the cinematic draw of a one-armed, bald badass played by Charlize Theron, or an unbelievably believable A.I., but it needs to be seen--and by as many people as possible--nonetheless. It is a very rare movie that achieves this quality of necessity, but Selma is most definitely one of them.
- Lee Jutton
"Vice" Has its Virtues
27 May 2015 9:37 PM, PDT
Paul Thomas Anderson has never been shy about his influences. While on the press tour for Inherent Vice, the writer/director listed films as varied as The Big Sleep and Airplane as contributing to his approach (though everything from Dragnet to The Big Lebowski is visible to the discerning eye), and at various points during Vice’s 149-minute running time, they all glimmer briefly before circling around, like horses on a carousel (which may or may not be caught in a tornado). The mixture is not always consistent, but it is frequently electric, and with its sprawling cast of Angeleno squares, burnouts, activists, and noir archetypes (most of whom under some form of chemical influence), it weirdly reflects the cacophonous landscapes of 70s America. Indeed, for all his bold ventures into the past, Anderson has always felt most comfortable in the Watergate decade, free from the strictures of big statements, »
- Anders Nelson
"V/H/S: Viral" Pumps Some Life Into Found Footage
27 May 2015 9:10 PM, PDT
V/H/S: Viral is probably the best found footage horror film that I have seen in a long time--though, considering that found footage horror is possibly my most loathed subgenre of film, that might not mean much. And to be fair, V/H/S: Viral is not that scary of a movie, so hardcore horror junkies may not be as fond of it as I am. However, this anthology--the third installment in the V/H/S series of films--manages to stand head and shoulders above others of its ilk thanks to its sheer weirdness. The three shorts that make up the bulk of the feature (in addition to a weak wrap-around story that leaves a great deal to be desired) are so delightfully bizarre and laden with so much freaky imagery that even if you’re not frightened by them, you’ll at least pay attention to them.
Read more. »
- Lee Jutton
"The Hobbit" Finally Arrives with "The Battle of the Five Armies"
26 May 2015 6:00 AM, PDT
In The Fellowship of the Ring, there is a moment prior to Bilbo’s birthday party and disappearance when he tries to justify his imminent departure to Gandalf. “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” he muses. Naturally, when Peter Jackson turned his attentions to adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's other masterwork, The Hobbit, and announced that one novel would be fleshed out further and turned into an entire trilogy of movies, people turned around and thrust Bilbo’s words back at the filmmaker. “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like one novel adapted into three movies,” they joked. Well, the third movie is finally here, and while as entertaining and aesthetically pleasing as one might expect from Jackson and his talented team (including recently deceased cinematographer Andrew Lesnie), it does indeed suffer from that long-predicted flaw: it feels very stretched.
- Lee Jutton
Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Home Improvement
26 May 2015 4:00 AM, PDT
Home Improvement is one of nine collections of short films presented at the Tribeca Film Festival. These six documentary short films are centered on the saying, “Home is where the heart is,” and all of the subjects in their own way are finding ways to improve and contribute to their respective homes. In Body Team 12 and The Trials of Constance Baker Motley, home is country, and it is worth putting one’s life on the line to make that country better for future generations. In The Gnomist, The Lights, and The House is Innocent, home is smaller communities like cities or neighborhoods, and art and humor can transform a forest into a magical place, a house into a Christmas spectacle, or a notorious murder house into a real home. Even Interview with a Free Man asks whether these men can meaningfully contribute and find their place in society after incarceration. »
- Rachel Kolb
Tribeca Film Festival 2015: The Wolfpack
26 May 2015 3:00 AM, PDT
On the Lower East Side of Manhattan lives the Angulo family, six brothers ages 16 to 23, one daughter, the diminutive mother Susanne, and the overbearing father Oscar. When they moved into the apartment in 1995, Oscar decided the city was not safe, and he would not allow his children to leave the apartment without his permission. Sometimes they would leave the apartment once or twice a year, as some of the older brothers remember, and one year, they never left the apartment at all. Homeschooled by their mother, the children had almost no contact with the outside world, and their only means to learn about the outside world was through their father’s extensive movie collection.
- Rachel Kolb
"The Aviators" Crash and Burn in a Musical Misfire
26 May 2015 2:30 AM, PDT
It's time to show these vermin who they're up against.
This is movie is a hell of a thing. I imagine three lines of coke might evoke similar feelings of mania, disconnection, and exhaustion. The Aviators (2008) is only just getting its release on blu ray. The film [I gather, because there were no special features to back this up] is based on the true story of Cher Ami ("Dear Friend") a homing pigeon that saved a great deal of American soldiers in World War I who, pinned down by German forces, began to take friendly fire from their own artillery. Cher Ami was a hen, and yet is voiced by giant man, Brad Garrett, but that's just a detail. This is very well animated, with any number of truly artful and slightly disturbing battle scenes. The severity of those scenes is then completely undermined by the Looney Toons take on the consequences of violence. Then, of course, is the manic pace and »
- Jason Ratigan
"Frontline" Tackles Gun Control and Gets Shot in the Ensuing Struggle
26 May 2015 2:00 AM, PDT
To be honest, I am not sure why so many Frontline documentaries are released on DVD. That is no slight on the quality of the films or the importance of the topics; I just can’t fathom having such a desire to re-watch a Frontline film that I would go out, buy the DVD and keep it stored lovingly on my shelf alongside my James Bond box set for many future viewings. It’s not the first thought that comes to mind when planning a movie night with friends: “Hey, let’s watch that Frontline movie on concussions in the NFL!” “No, let’s watch the one about all the weird stuff they put in our food!” Sure, to watch it once is one thing, and an often enlightening thing, but to watch it twice just seems a bit masochistic--a lot masochistic depending on how dark the subject matter is. »
- Lee Jutton
Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Thank You For Playing
26 May 2015 12:30 AM, PDT
From the moment his baby son Joel was diagnosed with terminal cancer, game developer Ryan Green struggled to wrap his head around why this was happening and how his family would live with it. As time went on, he and his wife Amy got used to the hospital visits, the treatments, and seeing their tiny child hooked up to all those machines. Their other sons adjusted to the idea that their brother was fighting to stay alive, and the odds weren’t in his favor. How did Ryan cope in the face of such a devastating, unexplainable tragedy? To borrow the words of Neil Gaiman, he made good art, specifically a video game titled That Dragon, Cancer.
- Rachel Kolb
"Syncopation" Makes Interesting Noise But Says Very Little
26 May 2015 12:00 AM, PDT
Seems to me I've heard that tune before.
Start with drums. That's how Syncopation (1942) begins, with an African drum thumping while a slaver counts his money over a box of chains. That's a hell of an opening for a film about the origins of Jazz and has to be the bravest moment in film up to that point. Nobody saw it, nobody's heard of it, and if I'm honest it's a better idea than a movie, but what an idea. As I sit in my apartment, listening to Massive Attack's Heligoland, I wonder if a film could ever capture an evolution in music in the manner William Dieterle attempted in Syncopation. What Dieterle had to work with in 1942 pales in comparison to where Jazz was going in the 50's and 60's with Miles Davis, Coltrane, drugs, pain, and its speedy decline in popularity. For that story, we're left with »
- Jason Ratigan
"Gladiators of Rome" Inexplicably Cost $40 Million to Make
25 May 2015 11:30 PM, PDT
Gladiators of Rome is a far cry from the Ridley Scott epic of animated films. Not that it should be, as it is meant for kids and they may not be so hot on a cartoon Joaquin Phoenix Emperor incest plotline. Instead, Gladiators… serves up a tried and true zero-to-hero story with goofy independent animation. Imported from Italy, the project was made by the same company behind some Cartoon Network show called Winx Club with obvious influences from anime, that has crept its way into both a 3D and traditional feature film from Nickelodeon.
- Kyle North
Not All Orson Welles Films Can Be "Citizen Kane"
25 May 2015 11:00 PM, PDT
Orson Welles was just 27 when he wrote, starred, and directed in the film still regarded by most as the greatest motion picture ever made, Citizen Kane. The young genius was a Hollywood transplant, lured in from the prestigious New York City theatre community, where, in 1936, he had co-founded the Mercury Theatre. To this day, many know of Welles’s infamous broadcast of H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds on Halloween Eve in 1938. The naturalism of the Mercury ensemble’s performances, led by the unrivaled coldness of Welles’s own velvet voice, convinced a nation that ordinary folks were being interviewed live as an extraterrestrial invasion unfolded. The broadcast incited its fair shares of panic and landed Welles in the national spotlight defending his work. He would find himself on the wrong side of critical sentiment throughout his career, adding only more fire and brimstone to a legacy of confrontation and innovation. »
- Kyle North
"The Liberator" Finds New Freedom on Blu-ray
25 May 2015 10:30 PM, PDT
Sometimes the critics are just plain wrong. Such is the case with the lavish epic The Liberator, which suffered unfairly at the hands of hypocritical reporters and narrow-minded reviewers. There was a time in Hollywood when the war epic was a staple of cinema with staggering multinational ensembles, specifically in the post-World War II years. International comrades went A Bridge Too Far, blew up The Bridge on the River Kwai, and reached into both the recent and distant past to cross the Nefud Desert in Lawrence of Arabia and make all slaves free in Spartacus. The Liberator is one such film, but in an era of CGI and superheroes, the tastemakers have forgotten what quality is. Every review of the film smacks of unfair cynicism, missing that this is a competent, confident motion picture (yes, motion picture) that should be heralded as a much needed return to what makes cinema profound, »
- Kyle North