• phoenix01

    REVIEW: Phoenix [2014]

    “I no longer exist” The Holocaust left thousands of survivors stripped of identity—branded by a number as though they weren’t worthy of the name given at birth. To exit such horror was to enter a new world forever changed for them as well as those lucky enough to have missed the nightmare first-hand. Pity, guilt, […]

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    REVIEW: Mommy [2014]

    “A mother doesn’t wake up one morning not loving her son” If I can be justified in agreeing with all the praise after seeing just one of his films—his latest, Cannes Jury Prize-winning Mommy—twenty-five year old writer/director Xavier Dolan is every bit the wunderkind label that has been thrust upon him. Five films in six […]

  • observance01

    FANTASIA15 REVIEW: Observance [2015]

    “Just watch and report back” You know you’ve seen something special when your only thought upon completion is whether to watch again or scour the internet for possible interpretations. This is what Joseph Sims-Dennett‘s Observance did for me. A horror/suspense filled to the brim with atmosphere and mood, its tension gradually rises like the dark […]

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    INTERVIEW: Olivier Nakache, cowriter/codirector of Samba

    Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano‘s (shown above at middle and right with Omar Sy) Intouchables was France’s Oscar hopeful in 2012 and did make the January shortlist. An infectious crowd-pleaser based on a true story, it vaulted Sy into stardom with a César win over The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin and ultimately co-staring roles in Hollywood […]

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    INTERVIEW: Debra Granik, director of Stray Dog

    If you don’t think someone fresh off an Oscar nomination would spend five years to follow her critically acclaimed fictional narrative with the first feature-length documentary of her career, you don’t know Debra Granik. When I interviewed her back in 2010 in support of Winter’s Bone, she was already talking about documentary observation as being […]



film reviews

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REVIEW: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [2003]

“Anger is more useful than despair” There’s one great moment in Jonathan Mostow‘s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: its end. I’m not being snarky in some jokey “because it was finally over” kind of way either. It is legitimately good. Half twist, half bittersweet salvation in the face of apocalyptic nightmare where a hero […]

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REVIEW: Unexpected [2015]

“I don’t know what’s going on with the bananas at Trader Joe’s right now” Yes Kris Swanberg‘s Unexpected revolves around two surprise pregnancies and the mothers-to-be reacting to brand new futures set before them. However, it doesn’t use that premise to build a tower of clichés for us to watch topple to the ground in […]

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REVIEW: pɔt̪ʰer pãtʃali [Pather Panchali] [Song of the Little Road] [1955]

“Go ask him for money” The story behind Satyajit Ray‘s debut film pɔt̪ʰer pãtʃali [Pather Panchali] [Song of the Little Road] is one you cannot separate from the work itself. It’s an underdog tale full of hardship and financial woe—incidents that dragged production along for three years before finally bringing India to the world in […]

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REVIEW: La French [The Connection] [2014]

“The true force of an untouchable is the silence he imposes on others” While everything out there talking about Cédric Jimenez’s La French [The Connection] takes special care to mention William Friedkin‘s classic The French Connection, the comparisons end at that titular focal point. I’m not talking about quality, though, as this unofficial companion is […]

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REVIEW: Inside Out [2015]

“I call it the Happy Core Memory Development Program” The simplest ideas really are the greatest and Pixar’s made a legacy built on just such an ideal. They brought toys to life as living companions caring for our children. They humanized the monsters in our closets, conjured a spark of love in the circuitry of […]

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REVIEW: Lava [2015]

“Send me someone to lav-a” Sometimes cute is enough for an enjoyable little yarn, but I can’t help being disappointed when that’s all a new Pixar short has to offer. I do get that the studio can’t hit a homerun every single time out, however, and I don’t begrudge a catchy escapist ditty like the […]

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REVIEW: The French Connection [1971]

“And I’m going to nail you for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie” You watch William Friedkin‘s The French Connection today and literally start thinking about the forty-four years of police-based action thrillers owing it a huge debt. The genre just doesn’t have the type of cultural or artistic clout these days to win the hardware […]

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REVIEW: We Are Still Here [2015]

“The house needs a family” Sometimes the spirits clinging to your old home prove the least of your worries. Just ask the Sacchettis (Barbara Crampton‘s Anne and Andrew Sensenig‘s Paul). Attempting to restart their lives after the tragic death of their son months earlier, the couple moves to Aylesbury for peace, quiet, and a former […]

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REVIEW: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl [2015]

“Respect the research” Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl can be described as The Fault in Our Stars meets Be Kind Rewind. While the correlation to the latter is nearly identical with both comically parodying cinematic greats (albeit of differing oeuvres), the former hits as a contrast despite similar subject matter. Whereas […]

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REVIEW: 思い出のマーニー [Omoide no Mânî] [When Marnie Was There] [2014]

“I wish for a normal life everyday” If Studio Ghibli ends up closing shop as announced, we can be glad their final film is a winner with the heart and soul we’ve come to love from Hayao Miyazaki and the team. I’m surely in the minority, but I’d even say Hiromasa Yonebayaski‘s When Marnie Was […]

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REVIEW: Jurassic World [2015]

“This will give parents nightmares” As all good sequels must learn, the key to success is delivering on the promise set forth by the original while also providing something fresh and improved. Just ask James Cameron, a master at the task, who injected action-packed life into both Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day without negating […]

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REVIEW: Manglehorn [2015]

“I’m losing hope in tomorrow” Upon being asked whether he knows he’s a son-of-a-bitch or not, A.J. Manglehorn (Al Pacino) replies matter-of-factly with, “Yes. Maybe a little. Aren’t we all?” It’s a seemingly innocuous line within an intriguing film positing how each one of us can always see something of ourselves in characters onscreen. We […]

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REVIEW: Big Game [2015]

“Life is just too damn short not to have a cookie when you want one” Despite being rated PG-13 in America, Jalmari Helander‘s Big Game should target audiences between 10-15 like Dan Smith’s Young Adult novelization of the film. Being a Finnish production—the most expensive in the country’s history—probably means it did just that abroad. […]

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REVIEW: Kung Fury [2015]

“Yeah. That’s my bicep.” After earning three times its goal on Kickstarter, the thirty-minute short Kung Fury went into production in hopes of melting minds with Heavy Metal synth ballads and gratuitous gore like only the 80s could provide. The brainchild of Swedish commercial and music video director David Sandberg, this opus to over-the-top cheesy […]

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REVIEW: The Case Against 8 [2014]

“You are the case … it all flows through you” It’s a landmark case with civil rights reverberations that have shaken the country on its way to a current thirty-seven states legalizing same-sex marriage and counting. But that doesn’t mean the public knows what happened since the US Supreme Court barred cameras from allowing them […]