Posted in: Review

The Work

I can’t recall seeing a film that rumbles with as much rage as The Work, an exceptional documentary that takes place over four days within the confines of a large room at Folsom Prison in California. The film’s participants have an anger that sits somewhere beneath the surface, waiting to erupt at the slightest provocation. […]

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Dean

Stand-up comedy, by its very nature, is a self-involved activity, requiring the type of personality that doesn’t always translate well to narrative film. I’m thinking specifically of comedian Mike Birbiglia’s two films as a writer-director – the first about a comedian who sleepwalks (psst, Mike has), and the second about comic performers in a comedy […]

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Wakefield

Bryan Cranston is no stranger to inhabiting formidable lead characters – there’s LBJ and, of course, the inimitable Walter White – so he’s in familiar territory in the interesting but tonally misguided character drama, Wakefield. As a suburban family man who takes a sharp midlife-crisis turn, Cranston is firm, pushy, and a little threatening, a […]

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Lion

The true-to-life sob story has been done to death. You know how it goes: Likable person faces peril, conflict, maybe illness. Person somehow overcomes said troubles to stand as a symbol of courage or perseverance. The genre has taken a serious cultural hit as of late with Patriots Day, which has been considered by some […]

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Christine

“I always wanted to have a baby, and I always wanted to have a husband, and I always wanted to have a job where I can do work that I want to do,” Rebecca Hall says plainly. As the title character in Christine, her words are clear but empty, devoid of desire – as if […]

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Girl Asleep

When a film transitions from a real environment to a fantastical one, it usually works in its favor. But in the case of Girl Asleep, the change does just the opposite. Once we enter the dream world of just-turned-15-year-old Greta, the movie loses its way – but briefly. It’s Greta’s real life that carries the […]

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The Invitation

Sure, dinner parties can get awkward, but The Invitation takes it to all new levels of social discomfort. Small talk and big boozing are nothing compared to the paranoia suffered in this creepy genre-blender that mixes realistic emotional drama, haunted house basics, and California New Age cultishness. With tight direction from Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) […]

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April and the Extraordinary World

The ingenious, animated French film April and the Extraordinary World is what every adventure movie should be, an exciting journey with intelligent, creative surprises at nearly every turn. Adapted from work by graphic novelist Jacques Tardi, April combines alt-universe sci-fi, world history, and a fascinating collection of low-fi technology. It’s a steampunk fantasy minus the […]

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Anomalisa

Consider the half-dozen or so screenplays Charlie Kaufman has written and there’s no disputing his boundless creativity, regardless of your taste for his eccentric, sometimes surreal, style. His stories may be about brain-erasing and body-swapping, but Kaufman has always put the desire for human connection – scratch that, the thirst for it – at the […]

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Experimenter

In the early 1960s, researcher Stanley Milgram conducted a series of social experiments that are still discussed decades after his career and life. A test subject would ask a series of questions to a person sitting behind a wall separating them. If an incorrect answer was given, the subject was told to administer an electric […]

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Wildlike

Too many films get assigned the term “coming of age,” an overused catch-all for any story in which a young man or woman experiences something new. Wildlike has been tagged with that description, and it’s a lazy choice; for the girl at the center of the movie, this isn’t her coming of age — it’s […]

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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

Aside from being the best movie title of the year, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is also a damned accurate one. The tale of The National Lampoon, the 1970s humor magazine that became a multimedia brand, is filled with abundant drug use, genius battering-ram comedy, and an unfortunate casualty or two. What Douglas Tirola’s film recognizes, […]

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Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

You probably don’t need to see another movie about Steve Jobs to understand the guy was, in all likelihood, a tremendous prick. His ability to influence, even bully, regardless of the emotional outcome, is now part of the well-known Jobs mystique, the ugly yin to Jobs’ creative yang. We’ve already seen eyewitness testimony of the Apple […]

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Cartel Land

Cartel Land’s telling of the Mexican drug war is enough to set Donald Trump’s floppy hair on fire. Matthew Heineman‘s courageous documentary examines three factions within this unthinkably brutal setting: The vicious, drug-dealing power gangs ruining Mexican towns, the makeshift American militia who man the border, and – oh, here’s where Trump scratches his empty […]

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Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

In an Israeli courtroom, we’re introduced to a married couple appearing before a trio of rabbinical judges. She wants a divorce. He does not. It’s a conflict of wills that gradually evolves into a gripping political and cultural statement, in this drama that captivated the Israeli film community and earned a Golden Globe nomination for […]

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Zero Motivation

On the surface, Zero Motivation looks like a military satire. But this dark comic gem, the debut feature from Israeli writer-director Talya Lavie, is really a stinging workplace comedy, about the doom, gloom, and cluelessness of a small female administrative staff working at an Israeli army outpost. To many of the girls, their assignment is […]

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Starred Up

In one corner of the prison drama genre, there’s popcorn fare like Escape Plan and Lock Up, slick productions with big roundhouse Hollywood punches and, yeah, okay, Sylvester Stallone. In the other corner is a comparable hell: raw, jittery, claustrophobic filmmaking, the kind that Starred Up does incredibly well. David Mackenzie’s docudrama-influenced nail-biter has a […]