The way of the Cross
In recent years, documented incidents from Irish history have inspired some powerful motion pictures, most notably Stephen Frears's "Philomena," which won considerable critical and commercial success in 2013. Revelations about the brutal treatment of children, including sexual abuse, by priests and the virtual imprisonment of unwed mothers in workhouses supervised by nuns, shocked Ireland, damaging the image of the Catholic Church in the Isle of Saints.
Old dogs, lame tricks
Nearly 10 years after the release of "Sin City," Robert Rodriguez's ultra-stylish adaptation of Frank Miller's hard-boiled, neo-noir graphic novel series, the director returns to the rain-slick streets and darkened alleyways of Basin City. But something has clearly been lost in the intervening years.
Old dogs, lame tricks
Grandpa gets his groove back in "Land Ho!" an episodic road trip comedy about aging friends. Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) as they travel through picturesque Iceland.
Bluer than blue can be
French filmmaker Michel Gondry has built a reputation around his
inventively handmade, DIY visual aesthetic. Gondry's films burst with fanciful
imagery, imperfectly crafted out of tinfoil and cardboard, and it's tempting to
dismiss his films as frivolous exercises in quirkiness.
Back to the future again
After a visit to the new Soviet Union in 1919, the great
muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens famously remarked, "I have seen the
future and it works." In Hollywood, for
many years they have seen the future and ... it sucks. Dystopia now replaces any
possibility of happiness in the brave new world that we'd like to think
constitutes the destination of our dreams.
The process behind the creation of "Boyhood," the remarkable new
film from director Richard Linklater, is nearly as
extraordinary as the film itself. Assembling his cast for a few days at a time,
the film's shoot lasted for a total of 45 days, but those days were spread out
over the course of 12 years -- from 2002 through 2013.
Back to Europe for Woody Allen
The experience of watching Woody Allen's annual movie, "Magic in
the Moonlight," suggests that last year's "Blue Jasmine" represents something
of an anomaly in his long, prolific career. In that picture he abandoned a
number of his perennial subjects -- the upper West Side ambiance, the
preoccupation with sexual inadequacy, the tendency to rely on gags when
invention fails, and the fondness for silly fantasy and tepid whimsy.
For the 10th entry in its Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios
reaches deep into its character roster to bring intergalactic outlaws the "Guardians
of the Galaxy" to the big screen. Though lacking the name recognition of Iron
Man, Thor, or Captain America, the Guardians have been around since the late 60's,
with a number of changes to its lineup over the years (the film takes its
inspiration from the more recent 2008 iteration of the team).
The search for eyes
Since the earliest years of cinema, science fiction has
inspired filmmakers. Its major subjects -- space travel, time travel, alien
encounters, robots, the future -- translate easily to
film, the most magical of the arts, the most hospitable to the possibilities of
It only happens once a year
In a time when some politicians now kick off their campaigns in
gun shops, armed yokels wave the Confederate flag outside the White House, a
candidate in the South hosts target practice with President Obama's face for a
bull's eye, a movie like "The Purge: Anarchy" must seem a gift from God to
members of the NRA. Although a dystopian commentary on contemporary trends, the
way we live now, the picture, sadly, may inspire more of those massacres that
routinely stain the image of America around the world.
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes
Despite its persistence, the theory that human beings use only 10
percent of their brain's capacity has long since been proven false -- the
scientific community's equivalent of an urban legend -- but that hasn't stopped
storytellers from exploiting the way the myth has seeped into the public
consciousness. The widespread fallacy is an easy storytelling device to make
their tales appear to be weighted more heavily on the side of science than
Arriving late for an open-call audition, an actress, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), tries to convince a first-time director and playwright, Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), that she’s perfect for the lead role in his production, a staged version of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel, “Venus in Furs” (the author’s name is where the term “masochism” originates, so that should give you a taste of the novel’s themes). Coarse, shallow, and a bit ditzy, Vanda doesn’t seem to fit the elegant vision Thomas has in mind, but when he reluctantly agrees to let her read anyway, she gradually reveals herself to have a significantly better understanding of the material than he does.
Spies against spies
When the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed,
and the specter of international communism ceased its decades of haunting the
frightened souls of the West, many commentators wondered if the espionage
novelist John le Carré would suddenly run out of
subjects. But the author, one of the best contemporary English novelists,
simply applied his talents to other areas of international treachery and
criminality -- global corporate capitalism, CIA destabilization of
democratically elected governments, American support of tyrants, and of course,
since September 11, 2001, actions of right-wing officials in the so-called war
In the high-concept farce, “Sex Tape,” Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel star as a long-married couple who, in an attempt to reignite the marital fires, record an epic, marathon-length session of lovemaking, only to find out the next morning that their amorous adventures have been accidentally uploaded to “the cloud” and synced to several iPads they've gifted to various friends and family. Their bumbling efforts to get the video back makes up the major conflict of the film, and while it’s not a terrible premise as far as these things go, the execution is only sporadically funny.
Manakamana is the name of a sacred Hindu temple built high in the mountains of Nepal. While it once took days to reach the destination, in the late 90’s a cable-car system was installed, reducing the journey to a leisurely 10-minute ride.
Monkey see, monkey don’t
The latest chapter in the long "Planet of the Apes" saga
takes up the action just a few years into the future promised in the ending of
the previous film, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Some news reports bring the situation up to
date, describing the rapid spread of the "simian virus," actually manufactured
by government scientists to treat Alzheimer's disease and tested on the
primates, who then ran amok through Northern California.