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Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian Sound Studio isn’t a horror movie exactly. Like a deconstructionist chef, writer/director Peter Strickland (Katalin Varga) has taken an old favorite recipe, broken it down to its essential ingredients and then re-presented it in a fresh and unexpected way. The result is a unique psychological thriller that has an impact similar to a horror (read…)

Much Ado About Nothing

Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker as Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (Photo: Elsa Guillet Chapuis) The trick to updating one of Shakespeare’s plays is making it seem fresh and relevant without losing the spirit of what made the original timeless in the first place. Joss Whedon has deftly pulled that off with (read…)

Amy Carson and Joseph Kaiser in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Mozart's "The Magic Flute"

Amy Carson and Joseph Kaiser as Pamina and Tamino Originally released in Europe beginning in 2006 in conjunction with Mozart’s 250th birthday, Kenneth Branagh’s lively and visually imaginative adaptation of the composer’s operetta The Magic Flute is just now getting an official release in the United States and it was worth the wait. Branagh enlisted (read…)

Jeremy Scahill in Dirty Wars

Jeremy Scahill (center) in Afghanistan filming Dirty Wars The new documentary Dirty Wars skips the question of whether the War on Terror is right or wrong (a little late for that anyway) and instead concerns itself with how we’re fighting that war and whether it’s likely to have a desirable outcome. Investigative journalist/author Jeremy Scahill (read…)

The story of my festival-going life tends to be that I miss the one film that winds up on everyone’s lips. It’s some kind of uncanny anti-radar that never fails. This time though, I managed to catch one that had everyone buzzing to the extent that people were turned away at the door of the (read…)

I don’t know when it happened exactly – maybe it was his non-performance hosting the Oscars – but the worm has definitely turned on the general enthusiasm for James Franco. For a while, everything he touched was a source of endless media fascination, but that’s pretty much over. No one I talked to here at (read…)

There’s something rotten at the heart of Claire Denis despairing Un Certain Regard entry The Bastards, and you just know whatever it is will eventually consume the film’s lead character, but you can’t help but root for him anyway.

Only God forgives and even He will be hard pressed to give the latest from Nicolas Winding Refn a pass. Those who discovered the Danish director following the crossover success of Drive are likely to be disappointed as well. Only God Forgives shares the previous film’s star Ryan Gosling and a strong sense of style, (read…)

Is “dark whimsy” an oxymoron? I guess it is, but I can’t think of a better way to describe the bone-dry, jet black humor delivered with an impish twinkle that has marked at least the last couple of pictures from Dutch writer/director Alex van Warmerdam whose latest, Borgman, debuted yesterday morning in competition at the (read…)

I’m going into each film here at the festival knowing as little in advance as I can possibly manage. I’m not even reading the official catalog entries so I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike. My only hope was that he’d help blow off a little mid-festival langueur and (read…)

A cat named Ulysses is a key figure in Inside Llewyn Davis and that reference is not the only thing that calls to mind an earlier film from Joel and Ethan Coen. The emphasis on music also very much put me in the mind of their O Brother Where Art Thou? And yet, tonally, the (read…)

You see a lot of movies and most of them are pretty ordinary. Once in a while you see one slightly above average and it’s a cause for celebration. On rare occasions you see something truly outstanding and you’re reminded why you love cinema in the first place. It’s the nourishment that keeps you going (read…)

The Bling Ring which premiered this afternoon in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival is, contrary to the small sampling of negative early twitter buzz I happened across, another winner from Sofia Coppola. Less contemplative than her glacially paced (but wonderful) previous film Somewhere, Bling returns in a way to some (read…)

Believe me, I didn’t fly all the way to Cannes just to see The Great Gatsby which already opened in the States last Friday. I was actually going to skip it and instead pour as much of my energy as possible into films that haven’t been seen yet, but I hadn’t had time to see (read…)

One of the big successes at Sundance this year was Fruitvale which was snapped up by The Weinstein Company, renamed Fruitvale Station and instantly became “the Sundance film that’s going to cross over and make an Oscar run.” Following a similar trajectory to recent films like Precious and Beasts of the Southern Wild, it has (read…)

Barcelona-born, Mexico City-raised Amat Escalante is three for three with Cannes. His first two films, Sangre (2005) and Los Bastardos (2008) both played in the Un Certain Regard category and this year he’s graduated to the main competition with Heli, a confidently mounted but mostly unpleasant exercise in human cruelty. I didn’t see Sangre, but (read…)

Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm in Susanne Bier's "Love is All You Need"

It’s a testament I think to the modest charms of Susanne Bier’s new romance Love is All You Need that I went into it feeling cranky and not at all in the mood for a love story, but came out feeling won over. I suppose I should’ve given Bier, better known for darker and more (read…)

Olivier Assayas' "Something in the Air"

Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air (French title Apres Mai) is a wistful, but wholly unsentimental look back at that high school age when you’re smart enough to know the world is falling apart and still naive enough to think you can do something about it. It’s 1971 near Paris and a teacher is quoting (read…)

Iron Man 3

“You forgot to DVR Mad Men?” For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why a May Marvel release was set during Christmas, but that’s because I’d forgotten that Iron Man 3 was directed and co-written by Lethal Weapon screenwriter and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang writer/director Shane Black who favors the holiday as a setting (read…)

Room 237

Near the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Caruthers) warns young Danny Torrance, “There ain’t nothin’ in Room 237.” He’s lying to the boy, but he could just as easily be speaking directly to the audience of the new Shining documentary Room 237, a festival favorite examining some of the meanings people (read…)

It's a Disaster

(This review originally appeared last summer when I saw the film at LA Film Fest. It opens in limited theatrical release today and is also available On Demand and online through Amazon etc.) Writer/director Todd Berger’s It’s a Disaster turns out to be the apocalyptic relationship comedy that last year’s wretched Seeking a Friend for (read…)

Ken Loach's "Angel's Shar"

Carrying the similarly light and laid back comic tone of his Looking for Eric, Ken Loach heads north to Glasgow, Scotland for Angel’s Share where he finds a group of wayward youth sentenced to community service for assorted crimes small and large. In particular, there is Robbie, a young man whose temper and bad family (read…)

Mohammed to Maya

Screening in competition tonight at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles is Mohammed to Maya, a documentary chronicling a year in the life of a 42-year-old devout Muslim as she undergoes gender reassignment surgery.  Even in the relatively permissive West it’s difficult to imagine the difficulties of making such a transition, but it’s almost (read…)

Shahid

Making its US debut April 13th at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Shahid is a fairly straight forward biographical film directed by Hansal Mehta about a man who probably isn’t a household name here in the West, but whose remarkable life has something to say to all of us.

Christa Theret as Andree Heuschling and Michel Bouquet as Pierre-Auguste Renoir in RENOIR

Christa Theret as Andree Heuschling and Michel Bouquet as Pierre-Auguste Renoir in Renoir. Photo Credit: Fidelite Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films A dummy dressed as a German soldier hangs in effigy along a quiet country lane on the Côte d’Azur. It’s 1915 and World War I haunts the pastoral picture even from hundreds of miles (read…)

Patrick Huard in "Starbuck"

The appealing French-Canadian comedy Starbuck stars Patrick Huard (Bon Cop Bad Cop) as David Wozniak, an irresponsible shaggy dog of a man a decade past the age where that kind of shtick is still lovable. In younger days it seems, David repeatedly helped himself over a series of minor financial hurdles as a regular sperm (read…)

Rin Takanashi in Abbas Kiarostami's "Like Someone in Love"

Rin Takanashi in Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love The title of the latest film from arthouse favorite Abbas Kiarostami comes from the Jimmy van Heusen and Johnny Burke jazz standard which the great Ella Fitzgerald is heard singing twice during the film’s run time. But if the oft-recorded number promises a dreamy-eyed, romantic idealization of (read…)

Jessica Chastain in Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty"

Zero Dark Thirty opens with a black screen and the sound of panicked voices. It is September 11, 2001 and the people working inside the World Trade Center that morning are calling loved ones and 911 operators, fearing the worst but still not knowing the real horror to come. Claustrophobic and unnerving, it is the briefest of introductions and the only explicit reference to 9/11, but with it director Kathryn Bigelow is reminding us of how we all felt that morning – the sense of confusion and shock which, in the days and weeks that followed, would transform into rage and the need for revenge.

Helen Mirren as “Alma Reville” and Anthony Hopkins as “Alfred Hitchcock" on the set of HITCHCOCK. Photo By Suzanne Tenner

“What if someone really good made a horror picture?” – Alfred Hitchcock in Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock Taken on its own as a movie about a famous director on a troubled production as he approaches the final leg of a long career, Hitchcock gets a pass. It entertains and if you don’t already know the Alfred (read…)

Burn: A Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit

Hammered by a terrible economy, the struggling auto industry and the attendant crime and social problems, the city’s population has dropped from over 1.8 million people in 1950, to just over 700,000 today. The new documentary Burn: One Year on the Front Lines to Save the City of Detroit examines the crumbling city from the perspective of the crew of Engine Company 50…





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