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20 articles


Keanu Reeves Is Just Plain Awesome in John Wick

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Dog lovers and fans of the beyond-understated charisma of Keanu Reeves have a tough choice when it comes to John Wick. Those who count themselves among the former should know that the Cutest Beagle Ever gets offed — off-screen, but still — in the first 20 minutes. That’s not my favorite kind of plot device, even as a truly justifiable reason for a movie hero to smoke a bunch of Russian baddies. But at least director-producer team Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, in their feature debut, make that dog’s death matter: His spirit haunts the movie, and it gets Reeves’s former hitman Wick back in the game. If a cretin mobster killed your dog, you’d put on a dark, sexy, three-piece suit and wreak revenge too. Reeves is wonderful here, a marve »


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Citizenfour's Laura Poitras Explains Why Edward Snowden Did It

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

With the first two documentaries in her post–9-11 trilogy -- My Country, My Country, a portrait of Iraq under American occupation, and The Oath, which focused on two Guantánamo Bay prisoners -- Laura Poitras seemed to be making a bid for the title of film's most vigilant observer of American foreign-policy excesses. An Academy Award nomination and a MacArthur “Genius” grant later, she seems to have comfortably assumed that mantle -- but her third film on the subject resonates far beyond the scope of America’s military interventions in the Middle East. A meditation on how technology can be abused by power, a diagram of how power enacts itself through structures, and a sketch of one individual willing to throw himself into the cogs of said stru »


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The Anthology Pairs Up Cheap-o Horror with Its Creators' For-Hire Training Docs

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Easily the most inspired film-geek retro idea to land in New York since Anthology's one-eyed-auteur series in 2009, this Halloween-angled suite revisits classic horror indies directed by erstwhile industrial filmmakers — and buttresses them with the ephemeral junk the filmmakers manufactured in their day jobs. Right away we're reawakened to the fact that the vast majority of films shot in the 20th century — an indisputable lion's share of cinema history — were disposable non-theatrical shorts assembled for industrial, educational, promotional, corporate, or even religious training purposes.

It's the kind of forgotten effluvia that found-footage impresarios like Craig Baldwin have lived on, and they can have a creepy, dislocated aura, absurdly ungraceful »


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Citizenfour Captures Urgent, Nerve-Racking History in Progress

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Director Laura Poitras's Citizenfour boasts an hour or so of tense, intimate, world-shaking footage you might not quite believe you're watching. Poitras shows us history as it happens, scenes of such intimate momentousness that the movie's a must-see piece of work even if, in its totality, it's underwhelming as argument or cinema.

Here's Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and, offscreen, Poitras herself, holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room, plotting the revelation of the National Security Agency's spying on our phone calls, emails, Web searches, Amazon purchases, and everything else. Here's Snowden, the activist, conferring with Greenwald, the journalist, about how to make the story about Snowden's leaks rather than Snowden himself. And here's Poitras — journali »


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Ostlund's First-Rate Force Majeure Dissects the Act of Manliness

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Ruben Östlund makes films the way sociologists devise thought experiments: by posing a hypothesis and thinking fully through its consequences. The Swedish director's previous feature, 2011's Play, follows a group of black teenagers in Gothenburg as they blithely coerce a trio of affluent white children to hand over their valuables. Involuntary, from 2009, is an anthology film about the lunacy of etiquette: In one segment, the host of a middle-class party badly injures himself after mishandling celebratory fireworks, but opts to carry on entertaining rather than retreat to the hospital and spoil anyone's fun. In another, a man touched inappropriately by a friend while on holiday prefers to ignore the violation and not to make a fuss. Force Majeure represents wh »


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The Claustrophobic Tiger Lily Road Could Be Darker and More Kinky

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

While not as kinky, dark, or schizoid as debuting director/screenwriter Michael Medeiros intends, Tiger Lily Road succeeds on its own small, claustrophobic level. Medeiros is a longtime character actor, and it shows: His two stars, Ilvi Dulack and Karen Chamberlain, playing middle-aged, sex-starved small-town women, have a juicy, simmering rapport. And there are enough evocative winter scenes to subvert the story's potential staginess. The plot is dopey and farfetched: Wallflower Annie (Dulack) and hellcat Louise (Chamberlain), jilted by the same man, take out their frustrations on that man's accidental murderer (Tom Pelphrey), a young, handsome delinquent they impulsively decide to hold hostage. It's Misery with more lingerie and no mallets (yes, there's even a b »


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23 Blast Might the Best of This Year's True-Story High School Christian Football Dramas

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Here's a priceless chunk of dialogue, spoken between a pair of friends/rivals on 23 Blast's high school football team: "It is so easy for you!" one boy shouts, shirtless and sculpted and chest-depilated, from the back of a rusted-out pickup truck. "Easy?" his teammate shoots back. "I'm blind!" And he is. This gentle-souled, based-on-a-true-story Christly sports feature dramatizes the unlikely return to the gridiron of nice guy Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka), a promising player who loses his eyesight but still gets to take the field for the big game's last play. Risible as that may sound, Dylan Baker's film bests larger-budgeted fare like When the Game Stands Tall thanks to ace acting, a humble spirit, and all-around sturdy craftsmanship. It's also a great re »


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With Viktor, Gérard Depardieu Gets His Own Taken

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Philippe Martinez's Viktor — basically a tighter, Moscow-set, Gérard Depardieu–starring version of The Equalizer — opens with a ballet rehearsal led by choreographer Souliman (Eli Danker). This sets up an aura of refinement that runs throughout the film: Souliman is the right-hand man to protagonist Viktor (Depardieu, as of recently a Russian citizen), whose just-completed seven-year prison term was awarded for the relatively elegant charge of art-thievery. Moreover, the movie's underworld figures are less concerned with drugs than with peddling diamonds. But make no mistake: Once Viktor gets wind of his son's recent murder, his sense of culture doesn't mean he's against a surge of violence. A typical example: Before tearing chunk »


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The Best Thing We Can Say About Found-Footage Horror Film Exists? It Exists

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

It's difficult to fathom how a found-footage saga from The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sánchez about kids being pursued in the woods by Bigfoot isn't a parody. Yet against all good sense, Exists plays its material straight, possibly proving itself the year's most laughably derivative and dreary film. At a remote East Texas cabin, three featureless guys and two nondescript girls are hunted by the famed Sasquatch, who moans and wails off in the distance, all while one of the men documents everything on a camcorder that he's incapable of holding steady, and with which he utterly fails to capture the legendary monster for more than a blurry split second. Given its resemblance to Blair Witch, the action — which involve lots of scream »


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Vincent Price Himself Could've Starred in Stellar Horror Flick Stonehearst Asylum

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

With Stonehearst Asylum, director Brad Anderson doles out a vintage Halloween treat — a straightforward Poe adaptation of the sort that Vincent Price used to star in — and gives it a freshness and complexity that make it a delight. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) is a young doctor arriving at Stonehearst on the eve of the 1900s to get experience treating the mentally ill. He's met by Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley), an alienist with unusual methods, and Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), a troubled, talented pianist with whom Newgate is immediately smitten. Yet something's not right, and we soon learn why: Lamb is an inmate who staged a revolt, and the real staff (including head doctor Michael Caine) is locked in a dungeon while lunatics, both dangerous and benign, roam f »


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Shailene Woodley and Eva Green are Depressed in White Bird in a Blizzard

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

After a pair of characteristically way-out works (Smiley Face, Kaboom), New Queer Cinema provocateur Gregg Araki returns to the somber tenor of Mysterious Skin with White Bird in a Blizzard. Like Skin, which starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, White Bird finds Araki adapting a novel with the help of a talented young performer. Set in a California suburb as the 1980s became the '90s, White Bird follows 17-year-old Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley, in Depeche Mode T-shirts and Converse kicks) as she deals with the sudden disappearance of her belligerent mother (Eva Green). Recruiting the vamp-like Green to play Woodley's long-depressed mom (the actresses are only 12 years apart in age) isn't Araki's only idiosyncratic casting: Gabourey Sidi »


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Indie Drama Low Down Proves It's Hard to Be/Watch a Heroin-Addicted Jazz Dad

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Adapted from Amy-Jo Albany's memoir about growing up with her father, Joe, the jazz pianist best known for playing with Charlie Parker, Low Down stars John Hawkes and Elle Fanning as a father-daughter duo with a lot of love and even more problems. A charming, gifted musician with a heroin problem, Joe does his utmost to shield Aj from the darker shades of their life — random visits from his parole officer, junkie friends whose addictions are even worse than his — but he's too much of a mess to maintain the illusion, and she's too smart to believe it anyway. Jeff Preiss evokes early-1970s Los Angeles with an initial nostalgia that slowly turns grim. The back-and-forth tonal shifts could certainly be described as jazzy, and every individual player has »


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Netflix Doc E-Team Showcases Human Rights Workers Fighting in the Field

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Well-known both for its political activities and for its long-running film festival, Human Rights Watch becomes the subject of a documentary itself in E-Team. Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman's film isn't a broad portrait of the organization. Instead, it focuses on four Europe-based case workers on the Hrw emergency team: Anna Neistat; her husband, Ole Solvang; Peter Bouckaert; and Fred Abrahams. Starting in 2011, they investigated human rights abuses in Syria and Libya. Initially, these are presented almost as if E-Team were a fictional adventure film and Neistat a female Indiana Jones. The emphasis on the team's daring amid mass chaos seems a bit off: This threatens to become yet another film about white Americans and Europeans telling the stories of Thi »


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Crime Drama Revenge of the Green Dragons Won't Make You Forget Goodfellas

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

It's not that kind of story, one where everyone lives happily ever after," narrates the hero of Revenge of the Green Dragons, announcing the film's attempt to avoid one cliché by indulging in another. Set mainly in the late 1980s, when the gang of the title ran roughshod throughout Queens, Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo's organized-crime saga is a study of marginalization and reactionary violence. Feeling like outsiders in their adoptive country, two kids named Sonny and Steven are forcibly initiated into the Green Dragons and used as child soldiers. Over the next several years, they learn to love their captors and carve out a place for themselves in society the only way they feel they're capable of doing: with guns and knives. Martin Scorsese receives an exec »


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The Great Juliette Binoche Never Quite Convinces in 1,000 Times Good Night

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

A Canon camera and a silver wedding band — the coexistence of these two objects is the principal challenge in the life of decorated war photographer Rebecca (Juliette Binoche). In the largely wordless opening sequence of Erik Poppe's 1,000 Times Good Night — a routine if occasionally affecting melodrama inspired by the director's experiences as a photojournalist — Rebecca photographs a young suicide bomber entering a crowded square in Kabul. The ensuing explosion leaves Rebecca with charred skin and a bloody face; upon her return to her home in Ireland, the near-death circumstances lead to a familiar family-versus-career argument with her marine-biologist husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Poppe depicts Rebecca's psychological shock in fairly rote »


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Smart, Paranoid Thriller The Heart Machine Asks Whether We Can Ever Know Each Other Online

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Films about ultramodern technology tend to have an air of alarmism about them. Jason Reitman’s dismal Men, Women & Children seized the ubiquity of smartphones as an opportunity to decry the state of the world today, wagging its finger reproachfully like a luddite Reefer Madness. Such films warn us of the dangers in our earbuds or the sedative glow of our mobile screens, as if staring at an iPhone were only a notch above looking inside the Ark of the Covenant.

In its opening minutes, Zachary Wigon’s The Heart Machine likewise seems poised to mount an argument against tech-bound modern living. It begins in a nightclub — thumping techno and lights in pink and blue, a Day-Glo blur of bodies in motion. In the corner we come upon Cody (John Gallag »


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Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me Will Make You Cry Even If You Don't Remember Who Glen Campbell Is

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Kids may not know "Wichita Lineman," and boomers may have forgotten his hot-shit 12-string flurries, but singer/songwriter/TV star Glen Campbell is not going to be easily forgotten, thanks to director James Keach's warm, moving, at times harrowing doc Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me. That's true even if Campbell himself forgets who he is. In 2011, well over 70, the Rhinestone Cowboy announced his imminent retirement — and that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. But he kept on keeping on for 115 concerts after that, reading lyrics off a teleprompter: He may not recall the words, but he still knows his way around the melodies he's spent a life inside. At one point, he reads aloud words from the prompter telling him to lay down a guitar solo — then, figu »


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Jimmy Stewart and Vertigo are Hanging in There as the Best Movie Ever

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

As with many masterpieces, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo yielded a mostly lukewarm reaction upon its May 1958 release. Variety dismissed it as "basically only a psychological murder mystery." In 1973, Hitchcock took the film out of circulation; his estate did not re-distribute it until a decade later, around the same time it finally entered Sight & Sound's 10-best-films-of-all-time list. Two years ago, it knocked Citizen Kane from the top slot. The new 4K restoration of Vertigo — which runs at the Film Forum from October 24 through 30 — removes some of the 1996 restoration's cheesiest blunders (an overkill of seagull cries in the San Francisco Bay scenes, for instance). The color scheme — the eerie cornflower hue of the »


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Laggies Gets Adult Loneliness -- and Cross-Generational Friendship

21 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

It’s an unwritten rule that we’re supposed to feel most in step with people our own age, as if sharing the same cultural and historical references somehow enables our ability to look into each other’s hearts. So why do we sometimes tumble into deeper friendships with people who are 10 or 20 (or more) years our junior or senior? Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, based on a script by Andrea Seigel, sidles up to that question without ever asking it overtly. It doesn’t really need to: Instead, it simply shows us moments of connection between unlikely people, laying out several kinds of loneliness in all their stripes.

The loneliest character of all — though she doesn't realize it at the beginning — is Keira Knightley’s Megan, a late-twent »


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Lost Boys Is a 'Bitchin' Vampire Flick for Heavy-Metal Morons'

19 October 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

When we published this list of our favorite modern vampire movies (1979 to the present, to be specific), we encountered a number of emails of and comments from readers who cried foul: We left out Lost Boys. So we went through archives, looking for Voice's review of the Joel Schumacher film, released during the summer of 1987. We came up with this very entertaining review of a not-great movie, by then-Voice critic David Edelstein. With his permission, we're republishing it here in full. For the record, the movie has a 75-percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but we're keeping our list as-is. »


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