Posted in: Review

Amy

Before becoming a punch line for tabloid-huffing, talkshow-loving misery vampires, Amy Winehouse wasn’t just a star talent, she was a constellation unto herself. Bursting into the moribund pop music scene of the early 2000s with verve and danger, she came on like some savvier Billie Holiday in a field of Auto-Tune tarts. There’s a heavy dose […]

Posted in: Review

Eden

A baggy, dead-end story of a Parisian garage DJ straining for Peter Pan agelessness, Eden bumps along with all the live-for-tonight randomness of its characters’ twilight habits. That is, until the bill comes due in a somber final act that belies much of the ecstasy- and champagne-fueled exaltation and romance that came before. One could […]

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Jimmy’s Hall

Wearing a big progressive heart on its union-made sleeve, Jimmy’s Hall could easily have been a carefree lark about good times and toothless rebellion, if it had been directed by somebody besides Ken Loach. Another filmmaker, one without a political vertebrae to speak of, could have conjured up a piece of twee Irish fun that […]

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Entourage

If the question of what would happen to the big-dreaming boys from Queens occupied you for one minute after Entourage finished its eighth season in 2011, then Entourage the movie might be your kind of superfluous entertainment. If not, then stay far, far away. After all, this is not a film so much as it is […]

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Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Brett Morgen’s deft and fascinating documentary about America’s last true rock star is shot through with inevitability. But that never detracts from the raw emotional power of a film made up mostly of Kurt Cobain’s nakedly confessional journals and recordings. Whether it’s Cobain’s mother Wendy O’Connor talking about how “Kurt had to be born,” or […]

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True Story

Between the cold-case podcast Serial and Robert Durst’s wink-wink tease on The Jinx, true crime stories in the did-he-or-didn’t-he vein are having what they call a cultural moment. So it would seem time to tell the real story of journalist Michael Finkel’s borderline disturbing relationship with accused family murderer Christian Longo. If you can do […]

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Lost River

The best way to approach Ryan Gosling’s debut as a writer/director is to imagine what might happen if David Lynch were ever to shoot a nature documentary. Or if a consortium of mumblecore filmmakers dropped acid and decided to make a horror film. Something that Terence Malick might have tossed together after bumming around Detroit […]

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Ballet 422

There is no such thing as a permanent piece of art. Paper yellows, paint cracks, celluloid burns, memories fade. But compared to those ephemeral forms, dance is even more transitory. The choreography can be recorded, but not the swing of limb and flair of line that exists for a moment on stage and then only […]

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Whiplash

It’s been awhile since audiences have been given a film about a callow recruit with promise being browbeaten into a soldier considered worthy by their terrorizing but fatherly drill instructor. With a smaller military and the exhaustion born of overlapping unending wars, there isn’t much appetite these days for those kind of stories. In fact, […]

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Life Itself

There is a beautiful symmetry to Steve James’s Roger Ebert documentary, Life Itself. From its recollections of Ebert’s fiery arguments with TV co-host Gene Siskel to the stark images of his final post-operative days when he could not speak or walk unassisted, the film overflows with humor and pathos and crankiness and ambition and a […]

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Unbroken

If one learns anything from a handsomely-told World War II survival fable like Unbroken, it’s that if you are marooned at sea for weeks and then tossed into a brutal prison camp, it’s best to do so with an Olympic runner by your side. Between the elements, the sharks, and the Japanese prison guards, odds […]

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Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Most mysteries start with an assumption: Somebody, somewhere, cares that the killer or killers are brought to justice. The mystery at the core of Nick Broomfield’s gripping, sickening documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper is of a different sort. It’s a riveting story: A serial killer initially suspected of killing ten women in Los Angeles during […]

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Mr. Turner

Anybody looking for a cozy holiday costume drama about a famous painter should steer clear of Mike Leigh’s uncompromising, sometimes brutal film. J.M.W. Turner is best known these days as the man who painted all those landscapes hanging in London’s National Gallery where boats on and buildings along the Thames nearly disappear into a rainbow-hued […]

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Inherent Vice

“Thinking comes later,” mumbles Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) at the start of Paul Thomas Anderson’s foggy, funny film of Thomas Pynchon’s psychedelia-noir Inherent Vice, only he never quite gets around to it. A lot of things get in his way, you see, from the moment that his ex-old lady Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston, […]