In the World War II drama Phoenix, Nelly (Nina Hoss) is liberated from the concentration camp Auschwitz, but she has been wounded to the point of facial disfigurement. Following reconstructive surgery that leaves her appearance slightly altered, Nelly spends her nights searching for her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) at the night club Phoenix.
The street outside of Phoenix is a wash of red light that gives the bar a foreboding aura. Nelly, her face masked in a black veil that further conceals her identity, looks on in almost a surprised horror as she Continue reading Phoenix (2014) Movie Review →
In the Hungarian film White God, young Lili’s (Zsofia Psotta) mixed-breed dog Hagen (Body and Luke) is abandoned by her overbearing father (Sandor Zsoter) and left for dead. Now a stray, Hagen wanders the streets fruitlessly searching for his owner, only to find himself among a group of other strays who run about the city avoiding the human world that has rejected them.
Large swathes of the first half of this film show Hagen walking through heavy-trafficked streets, moving in and out of the hands of various dog-hating lowlifes. At times, minutes go by without Continue reading White God (2014) Movie Review →
Craig Daniels (Pat Healy) is a mechanic and a family man. At least, he was a mechanic. Then he got fired. On the same day that he received an eviction notice. As he scrubs his grimy hands at the end of his short last day, a closeup reveals the wedding ring on his finger. A finger that is tensely tapping against the sink with the knowledge that its owner has fallen into dire straits.
Enter Vince (Ethan Embry), the sleazy but well meaning high school friend of Craig. Vince is a debt collector. The off-the-books type of debt collector. Then enter Colin (David Koechner), a seemingly well-off stranger who just wants some drinking company on his wife Violet’s (Sara Paxton) birthday. As per the genre’s usual tropes, something seems off about Colin and Violet. Colin is uncharacteristically charismatic and friendly. Violet is uninterested in almost everything.
As the night moves on and the drinks start flowing, Colin starts engaging Craig and Vince in a series of bets. They are innocent bets, but they come with tempting Continue reading Cheap Thrills (2014) Movie Review →
Straight Outta Compton is a biopic centering around legendary rap group N.W.A. The film chronicles the rise of artists Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) from the unforgiving streets of Compton, California to super stardom as hip-hop pioneers. All the while, bitter racial tensions flood the streets and the nation as the characters encounter multiple run-ins with police and follow the Rodney King trial on television.
Director F. Gary Gray and writers Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff use this biopic as a platform to engage in topical social commentary. The tension in the film between police and African Americans takes Continue reading Straight Outta Compton (2015) Movie Review →
Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a child with a dream: to create a teleportation device and change the world for the better. After his prototype device is disqualified from his high school science fair, scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) hires him to work on a government funded device of the same ilk for the sake of accessing a nondescript alternate dimension dubbed “Zero.”
From there, Fantastic Four is a haphazard jumble of plot points inserted abruptly with no sense of pacing or flow. The opening sequence with Continue reading Fantastic Four (2015) Movie Review →
In The Gift, married couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move back into Simon’s California hometown after the unexpected loss of their unborn child. The first snaking shots of their new house are an immediate sign of their status. Simon is successful at a well-paying job and is on the verge of a promotion. Robyn is happy doing freelance work from home. Seemingly, life in the pair’s little world is picturesque.
Then there’s Gordo (Joel Edgerton). At first, we only see him from a distance, curiously looking in on the couple as they are shopping, just behind Simon’s shoulder. Eventually he approaches Simon, saying that Continue reading The Gift (2015) Movie Review →
In Teacher of the Year, Matt Letscher plays the eponymous character, Mitch Carter. Mitch is humble and dedicated to his craft, yet also clearly tired and showing the desire to be somewhere else with his career. After winning California’s Teacher of the Year award, a documentary crew begins following him and the small charter school that he works for. He also gets offered a high paying position at the National Independent School Association, a job that he is hesitant to take.
The movie is filmed in mockumentary style, a genre that has become somewhat tired through its prevalence in television. In this case, nothing new is brought into the mockumentary genre. However, the talking head interviews that are employed are easily Continue reading Teacher of the Year (2014) Movie Review →
In the opening scene of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise’s franchise spy Ethan Hunt is seen hanging from the side of a plane as it takes off of from a private runway in Minsk. On board is a massive amount of nerve gas able to take out a large city worth of people. Hunt grapples against the hull of the plane as tech expert Benji (Simon Pegg) struggles to open the door for him remotely from a nearby grass plain.
Finally, the door releases and Hunt is pitched into the cargo hold of the plane. Holding tightly to the pallet of nerve gas, he gives a guard a Continue reading Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) Movie Review →
Fascinating. A case study of isolation. And a case study of cinephilia that is utterly unparalleled. The power of cinema as a means of connection to the outside world and as a former of identity has never been exemplified on film in such a way as The Wolfpack presents it.
With essentially nothing else to place the Angulo siblings into society and an alcoholic, domineering man as a father, the boys are Continue reading [Quickie] See This Movie: The Wolfpack (2015) Movie Review →
Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a mumbling undefeated light heavyweight boxing champion. Adopted into the world of boxing from a life of juvenile delinquency and living in an orphanage, fighting is his sole catharsis for his aggression. He hits hard and moves recklessly in the ring, refusing even to block a punch. He lumbers around, spitting blood and screaming intimidating exclamations. His career is one of pride and success, and he is well on the way to becoming one of the best in the sport.
Then, everything goes south. You can sense it in the Continue reading Southpaw (2015) Movie Review →