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2013

Muscle Shoals Review

Muscle Shoals Review

RATING: (4 STARS) “It’s like the songs come out of the mud.” That’s Bono, trying to explain how a small Alabama town of 8,000—the titular town of Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier’s documentary—could produce some of the best, most soulful music in humankind’s history. Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Etta James, Clarence Carter—not to mention rock acts like […]

The Hunt Review

The Hunt Review

RATING: (4 STARS) Dane Thomas Vinterberg is a director who (rightfully) achieved a great deal of notoriety with his 1998 film The Celebration, which is in the books as the very first movie with the Dogme ’95 seal of approval. The Lars von Trier– and Vinterberg-led movement called upon filmmakers to shun special effects, extra […]

After Tiller Review

After Tiller Review

RATING: (3.5 STARS) There are few topics—hell, there are few words—out there that engender as much debate and blind passion as abortion. But if we can’t have a reasoned, level-headed conversation about the subject, at least we now know such a film can be made about it. After Tiller is not a fire-breathing piece of […]

Saving Mr. Banks Review

Saving Mr. Banks Review

RATING: (3 STARS) The most cynical viewers will no doubt find John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks unbearable. It’s narrative trajectory—stern woman’s icy exterior melts away—is hardly new territory, and the “Disneyfication” of the storyline makes this a film content to merely please, not challenge, its viewers. Mission accomplished, then. I found Saving Mr. Banks […]

Inside Llewyn Davis Review

Inside Llewyn Davis Review

RATING: (4 STARS) I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say Inside Llewyn Davis is the Coen Brothers‘s most emotional movie. After a half-decade turning out great film after great film every 12 months or so, Joel and Ethan take a couple years and come back with something that’s as enigmatic as Barton Fink, as […]

American Hustle Review

American Hustle Review

RATING: (3.5 STARS) Of many great pleasures found in David O. Russell’s latest, American Hustle, the greatest is watching not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE talented actors give truly exceptional performances. Jeremy Renner is the only Russell newcomer, as the Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter helmer has brought together an […]

Nebraska Review

Nebraska Review

RATING: (3.5 STARS) Nebraska is Alexander Payne‘s most prickly movie since Election. Thematically, it more closely resembles his later, more humanist films—The Descendants, Sideways. But there’s an edge (a dull edge, but an edge nonetheless) that holds the viewer at arm’s length—until it relents and you give it a warm embrace. It took me a […]

Frozen Review

Frozen Review

RATING: (3.5 STARS) What’s this? An animated musical with genuinely great music? It’s true. There’s a lot that’s great about Disney’s Frozen—its breathtaking animation, its plucky characters, its old-fashioned sensibility—but what I’m most heartened by is the notion that movies like this can feature some fantastic tunes. As much as Disney’s been on a roll […]

All Is Lost Review

All Is Lost Review

RATING: (3 STARS) J.C. Chandor, as writer and director, might have his name all over All Is Lost, but make no mistake: this is Robert Redford‘s movie. With no one to play off of (or even speak to), he needs to shepherd us along a harrowing journey without any explicit reason to care about him […]

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Review

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Review

RATING: (3 STARS) David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has been compared to a Terrence Malick film for its lyrical tone, outlaw characters, persistent score, and painterly handheld cinematography. Such comparisons are understandable but a little unfair. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is more than a mere Malick rip-off. It’s a lovely yarn about learning to […]

Dallas Buyers Club Review

Dallas Buyers Club Review

RATING: (2.5 STARS) “There ain’t nothing out there that can kill Ron Woodroof in 30 days.” —Ron Woodroof He was right. The Texas electrician lived with HIV and AIDS for the better part of seven years, from 1985 until his death in 1992. During those seven years, he founded a group that passed illegally trafficked […]

In a World… Review

In a World… Review

RATING: (3 STARS) In a World… derives its title from the famous little uttered by Don “The Voice of God” LaFontaine hundreds and hundreds of times in movie trailers, commercials, etc. It takes place in the wake of LaFontaine’s death, and while the real man’s specter hangs over the entire film, it’s an entirely fictional—and […]

Short Term 12 Review

Short Term 12 Review

RATING: (4 STARS) There’s a moment in Short Term 12, about an hour in, that feels so wildly out of place it will take your breath away. It’s a scene out of any number of movies—a slasher flick, a gangster movie, the Jennifer Lopez vehicle Enough—but certainly not this tender-hearted drama about struggling teenagers and […]

Enough Said Review

Enough Said Review

RATING: (3 STARS) Considering my only taste of writer/director Nicole Holofcener‘s cinema was the icy cold Please Give, it’s hard for me—even in its wake—to think of her as the heart and soul behind Enough Said. Maybe that’s because the true heart and soul of the film is the late James Gandolfini, who gives one […]

Running From Crazy Review

Running From Crazy Review

RATING: (3 STARS) Early on in Barbara Kopple‘s latest documentary, Running From Crazy, actress Mariel Hemingway takes the podium to speak at an event promoting suicide prevention. She acknowledges that she’s lost seven family members to suicide including, most famously, her grandfather Ernest. Before she gets to the seventh name, however, she pauses, and Kopple […]

Blackfish Review

Blackfish Review

RATING: (3.5 STARS) Blackfish does everything a good documentary should. It’s enlightening and thorough. It engages your emotions. And it follows the most important rule of journalism—show, don’t tell. Unlike a lot of cinematic non-fiction, Blackfish actually makes use of the medium. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite presents horrifying footage of the mistreatment of captive killer whales […]

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