Sunday, August 30, 2015


An alcoholic, mildly retarded street performer and recent parolee (Bruno S.) befriends a prostitute (Eva Mattes) and is harshly harassed by her pimps. Together, along with an elderly friend (Clemens Scheitz), the trio decides to flee Berlin for Wisconsin seeking a better life but only find their miseries compounded. Werner Herzong's Stroszek is a humorous, hauntingly strange, and ultimately powerful film filled with bizarre, unforgettable imagery, heart aching interactions, and one of the most shocking and fascinating finales ever put to film.
**** out of ****

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Most Violent Year

A proud, self-made foreign born business owner (Oscaar Isaacs) finds his crucial upcoming business deal thwarted by a series of truck hijackings, a government investigation into his books, and a loyal but calculating wife (Jessica Chastain) who remains insistent on the issue of retaliation. A Most Violent Year is gritty movie making from writer/director J.C. Chandor who adopts an enriched, spectacular color palette of films of a bygone era while telling a story that great urban filmmakers of the 1970s would have felt at home with but, like Chandor's other films (Margin Call, All is Lost) the slow burn style employed is alternately potent and dull. Isaacs is strong in a role where he perhaps channels too much of Pacinco, Chastain also is forceful in a somewhat diminished role, and Albert Brooks has a nice turn playing Isaacs' attorney.
*** out of ****

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Finding Vivian Maier

The story of a secretive spinster nanny to several Chicago families who, after her death in 2009, was revealed to be the capturer of over 100,000 polished photographs and has since become one of the most esteemed photographers in the world. Finding Vivian Maier begins with an intriguing story that successfully interweaves Maier's narrative and surreptitious lifework before becoming stagnant for much of its duration until it takes a dark and very satisfying final turn.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Two Days, One Night

A disconsolate mother and wife (Marion Cotillard) receives her walking papers at her factory job and is told by management the only way to retain her position is to rally a majority vote among her coworkers favoring her job retention over their yearly bonus. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's Two Days, One Night is made in the esteemed Belgian brothers' trademarked stripped down, realistic style that normally works so well but here, with its repetitive and barebones plot line, makes the pacing seem glacial. However, if there ever was a compulsively watchable actress to cast in such a movie, it would be Cotillard, who nobly and subtly inhabits her role.
** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


A would be musician (Domhnall Gleeson) rescues a suicidal keyboardist and falls in with the band, led by an inscrutable vocalist (Michael Fassbender) who never removes his oversized paper mache mask. Frank is yet another sterile little indie exercise, an excruciating, painfully unfunny film providing putrid performances (Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal included) and headache inducing songs, all the while purporting itself as a brilliant satire on the creative process.
No Stars out of ****

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


When the daughter of a staunchly religious midwestern businessman (George C. Scott) goes missing on a bus trip to California, it is quickly revealed by the aid of a shifty P.I. (Peter Boyle) that she has fallen in with a circle of pornographers, and the shattered father decides to take it in his own hands to find her. Paul Schrader's Hardcore features a powerful performance of melancholic rage from Scott but the movie is continually off-putting (as it should be) and certain elements of the picture seem to work against each other.
*** out of ****

Monday, August 17, 2015

Night Will Fall

At the close of World War II, the British government assembled a team of filmmakers (which included Alfred Hitchock) to capture the liberation of several German concentration camps and document the atrocities committed there. Although the film faced financial difficulties in post production and the final product was never released, the footage has survived and the story of its circumstances is presented here. Night Will Fall is comprised of haunting, visceral footage, an informative story, and illuminating contributors, a few of whom that survived the ordeal.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


A humble and reputable Catholic pastor (Brendan Gleeson) hears confession from a troubled young man who claims he was abused by a priest as a child and vows to kill the good reverend in exactly a weeks time. With the threat of mortal violence hanging over his head, the cleric must tend to his distressed daughter (a product of his layman days), his dying dog, and the troubled flock of his rural Irish diocese. Reteaming with John Michael McDonagh following The Guard, Gleeson is absolutely tremendous in a powerful and nuance performance.  The film boasts outstanding direction and gorgeous photography even though much of the dialogue is irksome and tends towards self-righteousness.
*** out of ****

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Venus in Fur

An arrogant playwright (Mathieu Amalric) is about to lock the theater doors following a frustrating day of casting the female lead in his latest play when an disordered unwieldy blonde (Emmanuelle Seigner) arrives to read. Following great protest and many tears, the director finally concedes and, after being astonished that she knows the script like the back of her hand and is a natural for the part, finds himself falling under her spell. Based on the NYC based play by David Ives (who drew on Leopold's von Sacher-Masoch's 19th century novel Venus in Furs) and reset in Paris by Roman Polanski, Venus in Fur is intelligent, funny, and alluring with great acting from Amalric and  
Seigner, the director's real life wife.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, August 10, 2015

Irrational Man

A college student (Emma Stone) is drawn towards the latest faculty newcomer at her idyllic Newport college: a brilliant, burned out, suicidal philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix) who stumbles across a perfect philanthropic murder plot which he sees as lifting him out of his existential funk. Woody Allen has explored similar themes before to more compelling ends (Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point) here borrowing Hitchockian motifs (Strangers on a Train and even Shadow of a Doubt to a greater degree) and again explicitly citing Dostoevsky. Although not all of the ideas come together in the film, Stone strains to hit dramatic notes later on, and Phoenix surprisingly is off key when attempting to play the Allen type, and I find myself saying this whenever one of Woody's movies is panned (here likely the result of a recent tabloid resurgence), his films are still more engrossing than most of the other shit to come down the Hollywood pike.
*** out of ****

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nymphomaniac (Vols. I and II)

A woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is found beaten in an alley by a lonely stranger (Stellan Skarsgard) who takes her home, providing food and shelter, while she relays her promiscuous biography and her growing and alarming propensity for perilous sexual encounters. With over four exploitative, sadistic, explicit, dull, and uninvolving hours (and an even greater duration in a godforsaken director's cut), Nymphomaniac represents Lars von Trier at his boorish, pretentious worst, and features putrid acting from an embarrassed cast except for a strong though disturbing performance from von Trier's perpetual punching bag Gainsbourg.
1/2 * out of ****

Saturday, August 8, 2015


A meager and underfunded though determined group of park rangers defend the gorilla inhabitants of their forested Congo terrain from poachers and other external forces that threaten their existence. This Academy Award nominated documentary depicts a fascinating story presented somewhat aloofly in a narrative that, considering its subject, surprisingly lacks urgency.
*** out of ****

Friday, August 7, 2015

Hannah Arendt

When Adolf Eichmann was captured by Israeli forces in Argentina and taken to Yagur to stand trial for war crimes, German Jew intellectual Hannah Arendt took a leave of absence from her teaching post  to cover the hearings for The New Yorker. Instead of the hateful, cunning monster most had painted in the press, Arendt viewed Eichmann as unassuming and even kindly, leading to her controversial Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Margarethe von Trotta's Hannah Arendt is thought provoking, academic filmmaking although its story is slight and would have benefitted from expounding. Barbara Sukowa is impressive in the title role and trial scenes including actual footage are effective.
*** out of ****

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Double

A government pencil pusher (Jesse Eisenberg) finds his life in free fall with no sign of solid ground when the latest hire at his grim agency turns out to be his perfect match in appearance and complete opposite in every other way. After his fresh and uniquely structured freshman outing Submarine, Richard Ayoade follows it up with this lifeless, uninspired, and somewhat muddled adaptation of a Dostoevsky story, which contains a strong dual performance from Eisenberg but totally wastes Mia Wasikowska in support.
** out of ****

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

As the IMF faces Congressional oversight and inclusion in the CIA, Ethan and friends are forced to thwart another threat of global domination, this time led by a crafty and ruthless British agent, a mysterious femme fatale, and a squad of lethal, once presumed dead operatives. M:I - Rogue Nation is a step back from its outstanding Brad Bird helmed predecessor with a lazy, formulaic script from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, a weak villain in Sean Harris, and a downgrade from Paula Patton in the drone like Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson. The installment is not without its entertainment value with some exciting chase sequences, an affable principle cast, and a 53 year old Tom Cruise maintaining his signature bravado.
** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


A Brooklyn orphan (Jake Gyllenhaal) sits undefeated atop the light heavyweight world with his  foster care sweetheart (Rachel McAdams) by his side until his temper and a tragic accident cost him everything forcing him to regroup, with the aid of a lowly, faithful trainer (Forest Whittaker), to win back the title and the thing that matters most in the world: his daughter. Southpaw seems like a 12 year old stayed up all night watching 8 Mile and The Rocky Marathon, wrote a screenplay, and invited his friends over to film it on his phone. Antoine Fuqua's punchless pugilistic saga isn't only packed to the gills with boxing and standard movie cliches, it is shockingly lacking in style and form, hurried to the point of sloppiness, and contains bout sequences that couldn't have been filmed with any more disinterest. The cast is either out of their element (McAdams, 50 Cent) or strong in roles that give them nothing to work with whatsoever (Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris) and the usually reliable Gyllenhaal enters the ring with an impressive build and coughs up a lot of blood in the process but is surprisingly unconvincing as a slimshady.
* 1/2 out of ****

Monday, August 3, 2015

River's Edge

A high schooler strangles his girlfriend and fetches his friends to regard her unclothed, unburied body on the shielded river bank who in turn respond with horror or disinterest and ultimately decide to aid in concealing the crime. River's Edge is a bizarre, tragic, genre bending, purportedly true story featuring an amusingly manic Crispin Glover, a surprisingly appealing Keanu Reeves, and an oddly affecting Dennis Hopper.
*** out of ****

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Umberto D

A pensioner lives alone in his bare one room apartment, his little dog his only companion with occasional visits from a pregnant teen maid. After losing then retrieving his partner, desolation grows and he considers suicide as his best option. Filmed in the tradition of Italian Neorealism Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D is a sparse, doleful, observant, and beautifully filmed character study featuring a brilliant performance from nonactor Carlo Battisti.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

As Caesar and his army of super apes set up their forested encampment, both exterior threats from the surviving human populace and dissension within his own ranks threaten to destroy their civilization. I went into this Apes with the same low expectations as I went into its predecessor, and while they were far exceeded by that first reboot, here I feel I at least got my money's worth with the considerable visuals and engaging motion captured primates outweighing the silly human story, outlandish plot developments, and over the top acting.
*** out of ****