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2011

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Margaret

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Margaret

Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret is both a film you’ll want to kiss and a film you’ll want to kill. Ditto its lead character, Lisa Cohen, an upper-middle-class New York teen played so expertly by Anna Paquin. If she seems a bit riper than on HBO’s True Blood, it’s for a good reason; Lonergan filmed Margaret way […]

Pariah Review

Pariah Review

RATING: (2.5 STARS) For just over an hour, Pariah ticks along solidly, but unspectacularly. A series of good-to-great performances elevate the film above its paint-by-numbers screenplay, but just before its dramatic climax, the plot machinations rear their ugly head and transform even the film’s most vivid characters into devices meant to take us from point […]

Into the Abyss

Into the Abyss

Into the Abyss, the second and better of two 2011 documentaries (after Cave of Forgotten Dreams) directed by Werner Herzog, is a modern-day version of In Cold Blood. It’s a very thoroughly researched true-crime story, but it’s a little dry and tends to drift off point. Is this a detailed retelling of a horrific triple […]

The Skin I Live In Review

The Skin I Live In Review

RATING: (3.5 STARS) The Skin I Live In is like a surrealist painting. Like the best Dalis and Picassos, some will likely be horrified by what director Pedro Almodovar has put forward. Others, like me, will find the film evocative and discussion-worthy. Neither reaction is necessarily right because the film is both painfully intense and […]

My Week with Marilyn Review

My Week with Marilyn Review

RATING: (2 STARS) The story in My Week with Marilyn is one that seems quite cinematic. Two screen legends butt heads on set while one fools around with a young assistant director once her husband leaves town. It’s juicy, deserves to be told, and could have made for a fine motion picture. But in the […]

The Iron Lady Review

The Iron Lady Review

RATING: (2.5 STARS) The Iron Lady lacks focus, plain and simple. It strives to be this grand biopic that encompasses the whole of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s life. But for such a big, polarizing figure, it feels as if her messier, more complicated moments are glossed over in favor of spending time with a dementia-riddled […]

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Told through the eyes of a still-grieving father, Semper Fi: Always Faithful is more than just an Erin Brockovich-style story of the little guy fighting big bad polluters. It’s a personal examination on what “closure” really means. Yes, the film’s main focus is Jerry Ensminger’s quest for tangible and emotional justice, but what resonates more […]

Hell and Back Again

Hell and Back Again

Though structurally interesting, Danfung Dennis’ Oscar-nominated documentary Hell and Back Again suffers from a number of small, frustrating problems that collectively hinder it beyond the point of recommendation. Most of these problems are personal ones to me, so this, more than anything I’ve written in a while, should be taken with a grain of salt. […]

A Better Life Review

A Better Life Review

RATING: (3 STARS) Chris Weitz, director of The Twilight Saga: New Moon and About a Boy, isn’t a name you’d expect to be attached to a humanistic drama about illegal immigrants, but his A Better Life is about just that, and it’s a very mature piece of work. The film has gotten a great deal […]

Project Nim

Project Nim

On the surface, James Marsh’s Project Nim, is about a group of people’s quest to teach a chimp sign language. And if it was just about that, it probably would have been a great documentary. But it touches on so many other, very meaningful themes—most notably, abandonment and selfishness—that one can’t help but admire the […]

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

If nothing else, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 proves there is such a thing as truth in advertising. Billed as the greatest hits of some found footage filmed during the titular time period, the film really is a mixtape. But not every track on a mixtape is created equal. As such, I really dug some […]

Le Havre Review

Le Havre Review

RATING: (3 STARS) Aki Kaurasmaki’s Le Havre does for the small French village what Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris does for its titular city. Kaurasmaki presents an uber-romantic view of the kind of community where everyone knows everyone, and baguette and stinky cheese can be bought on every corner. It seems more than a little […]

The Artist Review

The Artist Review

RATING: (3.5 STARS) Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist is a crowd-pleaser through and through. The film is just bursting with wit and energy, and like some of the best and most timeless silent films of old, it doesn’t need to do much to bring a 100-minute-long smile to your face. In fact, it doesn’t do much. […]

Shame Review

Shame Review

RATING: (2.5 STARS) Does a film need a soul in order to be successful? Steve McQueen’s Shame doesn’t have one, but it’s hard to argue that the film doesn’t work on at least some level. The film is colder and more emotionally distant than perhaps any other from 2011, and the way it places us […]

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Review

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Review

RATING: (3 STARS) Hold on to your hats, folks. Detective Dee is in town. Part mystical Western, part kung fu epic, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is either the most glorious send-up of Asian action films or the most over-the-top foreign film I’ve ever seen. Regardless of which it is, I […]

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review

RATING: (4 STARS) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a superior thriller that accomplishes the unfathomable in condensing John le Carré’s masterful British espionage novel into an appropriately dense but followable two-hour film. And shockingly, not a ton of important detail is lost in the translation. Director Tomas Alfredson (following up the sensational Let the Right […]

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