Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Fountain

A doctor (Hugh Jackman) ignores his dying wife (Rachel Weisz) in an obsessive attempt to find a cure for the cancer ravaging her body by way of a life sustaining substance. Meanwhile, she is struggling to finish her novel about a conquistador (Jackman) on a quest to find the Tree of Life for his queen (Weisz) during the Inquisition while, 500 years in the future from the present day, a spaceman (Jackman) is bringing his wife's remains to a far off nebula in the hopes of renewed life. The Fountain is ill-conceived, overornate, and self-serious with artificial looking special effects. Though containing potential, writer/director Darren Aronofsky doesn't know how to culminate its lackluster stories. Jackman is strong but strained and the soundtrack is excellent.
** out of ****

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Life of Oharu

A woman in waiting (Kinuyo Tanaka) of modest respectability falls to woeful and pitiable levels after partaking in a relationship with a commoner (Toshiro Mifune). Cast out from her village, she soon finds herself bearing a son to powerful lord she is forbidden to see, widowed on another occasion, and sold into a life of prostitution by her father. Kenji Mizoguchi's The Life of Oharu is bleak and sorrowful, somewhat labored, shot in beautiful black and white, and made with precise craft. Tanaka is heartbreaking as the doomed and innocent Oharu.
*** out of ****

Monday, March 19, 2018


Three war buddies (James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass) stalk and terrorize the widow (Audrey Hepburn) of their recently murdered comrade believing she knows the location of the pilfered loot taken during their tour of duty. After involving the local Paris prefect (Walter Matthau), she now becomes unsure whether or not to trust the dashing and suspicious acquaintance (Cary Grant) just made at a Swiss ski resort. Stanley Donen's Charade is a light and breezy romantic/comedy suspenser with a fun and silly plot, second rate dialogue, and great chemistry between its stars.
*** out of ****

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

A  L.A. defense attorney (Denzel Washington) on the spectrum finds himself in dire straights when his prominent partner dies and begrudgingly accepts a job offer with a top firm and soon finds himself taking drastic, uncharacteristic measures to ensure his security. Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler follow up is a sometimes engaging but underwritten and ultimately lackluster film that is redeemed somewhat by a strong, surprisingly quirky Denzel performance.
** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, March 12, 2018

Assault on Precinct 13

At a dilapidated Detroit police station scheduled to close at midnight, a burned out sergeant (Ethan Hawke) keeps watch with a few other functionaries. When a busload of prisoners is diverted during a snowstorm and forced to unload the inmates at the precinct, they find themselves under siege by crooked cops seeking to eliminate one of their new prominent guests (Laurence Fishburne). Assualt on Precinct 13 is a satisfying if overly violent and dopey B-thriller, successfully paying tribute to John Carpenter's original while providing worthy updates. Hawk is engaging but the overall cast's acting and dialogue often feels forced.
*** out of ****

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Born Yesterday

A loutish junk tycoon (Broderick Crawford) travels to Washington D.C. to buy a Senator and hires a journalist (William Holden) to cultivate his ditsy, equally unrefined girlfriend (Judy Holliday). As the pair inevitably hit it off, she is also informed of the nature of her boyfriend’s business and his bullying personality. From Garson Kanin’s hit stage play which also starred Holliday, Born Yesterday contains often dumb, cornball humor and is occasionally amusing while much of it is an uninspired civics lesson. Holliday is the quintessential ditsy blonde (in an Oscar winning role), Holden is stiff as a foil to Crawford, the latter being entertaining as the brute.
*** out of ****

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Three Faces of Eve

A downtrodden southern housewife (Joanne Woodward) begins to exhibit strange behavior at home before a second, reckless personality manifests itself followed by a third, more normalized one. With the help of a psychiatrist (Lee J. Cobb), she seeks treatment and gradually begins to eradicate the more flawed. The Three Faces of Eve, straightforward and plainly directed, seems like a phony, shallow representation of the rare psychological condition despite the ‘true story’ touting of the opening monologue and the screenplay participation of two of the real life shrinks involved in the case. That being said, Woodward is the whole show here, impressively versatile as the three distinct personalities. Cobb is strong but hardly credible as the sensitive psych doctor.
*** out of ****

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Florida Project

A preschooler (Brooklyn Prince) and her friends are free to play and cause mischief in the low-rent motels just outside of Disneyworld while her derelict mother (Bria Vinaite) runs scams, prostitutes herself, and lays around and all are watched over by the curt but benevolent property manager (Willem Dafoe). Sean Baker's The Florida Project feels like it could have worked better as a short, with too much filler and not quite enough to sustain a two hour feature, and it also treats the issue of neglectful parenting a little too lightly but I liked the way the film gradually reveals itself and the tracking shots and colorful cinematography bring it a sort of dreamlike quality. Dafoe is in excellent, empathetic form and Prince gives an amazingly well-rounded, funny performance.
*** out of ****

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Ballad of Narayama

In a famine ravaged village, the elderly upon their 70th birthday are sent to trek up a mountain where they are to wither and die, a woman (Kinuyo Tanaka) nearing the age graciously prepares for her godforsaken journey while the rest of her family, save a grieving son, behave selfishly. Shohei Imamura's The Ballad of Narayama is a disconsolate take on self-centeredness, selflessness, and the throwaway culture regarding the elderly with the sung narration and beautiful alternately radiant, verdant, and grim artificial looking sets creating a distinctive atmosphere. Tanaka is magnificent.
*** 1/2 out of ****