REVIEWS

Cannes 2016: Mohamed Diab's 'Clash' is Superb Confined Filmmaking

Cannes 2016 - Clash

The opening film in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival is an intense, riveting feature called Clash (also known as Eshtebak in Egyptian) and it's outstanding. Clash is set entirely inside the back of a police paddywagon in Egypt in 2013, during the second half of their revolution. It begins when two journalists are grabbed during protests, their cameras and IDs confiscated, and thrown into the back of this truck. The impressive handheld camerawork often focuses on all the action outside as much as what's happening inside. While the entire film is confined to this one location, it feels like director Mohamed Diab is showing so much more of the Egyptian revolution, and we get to learn more as more detainees are added.

 Posted May 13 in Cannes 16, Review | Comments

Review: 'Captain America: Civil War' is a Fantastic Start to Marvel's Phase Three

Captain America: Civil War

Let's be honest for a moment, shall we? We've all wanted to punch Tony Stark in the face from time to time. All the good Iron Man does makes up for the smarmy attitude and sarcastic tone, but only just. Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., is an idealist with unwavering beliefs, kind of like the other head of The Avengers, Captain America. It was only a matter of time before these two butted heads, and it's here where Captain America: Civil War, the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, picks its own punches. The 13th movie in the MCU has no issues when it comes to entertainment. Marvel's Kevin Feige and the people behind these films perfected the formula long ago, and Civil War is their first, real chance at shaking up the dynamic of the team. Nothing goes to waste in the process, and Civil War handily earns its stripes as more

 Posted May 6 in Marvel, Review | Comments

Review: Disney's 'The Jungle Book' Brings the Animated Classic to Life

The Jungle Book

There's little doubt why Disney chose their 1942 take on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book to update for 2016 audiences. The animated movie is beloved, loaded with adventure, and bringing the story's wide array of animals to photorealistic life seems like a suitable challenge for any team of digital effects magicians, especially in the modern age. The Jungle Book isn't Disney's first attempt at adapting one of their animated classics to live action, but it's the most loyal to the original film we've seen from the studio thus far. Full of wonderful adventure and superb effects, The Jungle Book is a fantastic update that will keep fans of the original completely satisfied, especially if they love Christopher Walken's singing voice.

 Posted April 15 in Review | Comments

Review: 'Zootopia' is a Reminder of How Great Animated Films Can Be

Zootopia

The Pixar train has been running so fast and furiously the past couple of decades you'd almost be justified in forgetting about Disney's own animation studio. It's hard to believe we're 20 years or so removed from Disney being the strongest force when it comes to animated features. They do make themselves known every now and again, and their latest work, Zootopia, is a strong reminder of the quality in entertainment Disney can achieve when they flex their animators' skills. A consistently funny narrative littered with interesting characters and a healthy message to boot, Zootopia makes even the latest efforts from Pixar – The Good Dinosaur, at least – seem childish by comparison. It's no revelation that Disney was first when it comes to animation, but it's a nice surprise to see them reclaim such a title when they finish a project such as this.

 Posted March 5 in Animation, Review | Comments

Review: Bullets & Bad Guys Make John Hillcoat's 'Triple 9' Another Win

Triple 9 Review

Australian director John Hillcoat has made a name for himself with unforgiving characters committing brutal violence amid some pretty bleak environments. With The Proposition and Lawless, he brought period-set grit to the screen and made the future even less appealing in The Road. The latest from Hillcoat is Triple 9, and it's the director's first opus of violence set in modern day. This fact doesn't keep the violence from being as cold-blooded as the director can make it nor the characters from being their typical, Hillcoat shade of gray. Triple 9 is a relentless look at the lengths to which evil men and women will go, and, though it never fulfills the hope of transcending the action genre, it satisfies the hunger for adult-driven entertainment with an edge. Just don't get attached to anyone.

 Posted February 26 in Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: 'Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures' is Wildly Inspiring

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

As an avid photographer myself, I truly love coming across a documentary that expands my mind about the artistic qualities and emotional power of excellent photography. Along with The Salt of the Earth (about legendary photographer Sebastião Salgado), the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is the latest to leave me floored. This utterly inspiring and eye-opening doc examines the (entire) life of Robert Mapplethorpe, a controversial gay photographer whose work was banned from museums in the 90s because it was deemed too obscene. Boy were they wrong. Hearing him talk about his life and then seeing the photos he produced - I couldn't help repeating in my mind, "this guy is a true master of photography." Seriously.

 Posted February 23 in Berlinale, Docs, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: Alex Gibney's Eye-Opening Cyber War Doc 'Zero Days'

Zero Days Review

Do you think what Edward Snowden revealed about the surveillance state is terrifying? Wait until you see this documentary. What documentarian Alex Gibney uncovers in his new documentary Zero Days is incredibly frightening and extremely worrying. But that's his point - he wants to thrown open the doors to these top secret operations and allow the people of this planet to debate and discuss what's happening. Zero Days begins by examining the malware known as Stuxnet, a self-propagating virus that seems to have been written by the NSA specifically to attack centrifuges in Iran. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. From there it presents a case that we've entered the era of cyber warfare, but few people know about what's occurring.

 Posted February 18 in Berlinale, Docs, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: 'Genius' is a Very Touching Film About Literary Friends

Genius Review

It's not often that we see a film about editors, about the hard-working, dedicated people that hide behind-the-scenes and help writers produce their best work. Michael Grandage's Genius is a very touching story about two friends - writer/novelist Thomas Wolfe, and Charles Scribner's Sons editor Maxwell Perkins. Max first meets Tom when a massive manuscript is dropped on his desk. He reluctantly reads it, but finds it to be absolutely wonderful, bringing in the writer to work on cutting it down so they can sell it as a novel. This ends up becoming Wolfe's first book Look Homeward, Angel, and it was the beginning of a rewarding relationship between these two showing just how important an editor is to producing truly successful work.

 Posted February 17 in Berlinale, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: 'Alone in Berlin' - A Good Story with Bad Filmmaking

Alone in Berlin Review

This should've been so much better. The story is so good, but the filmmaking is just so bad, and it deserved better. Alone in Berlin is a film directed by Vincent Perez telling the story of Otto Quangel (in real life: Otto Hampel), a German living in Berlin during WWII that decided to write post cards with "free press" notes opposing Hitler and his regime. It was one of the most awkward screening experiences I've ever had - sitting in a theater full of German critics, in Berlin for the Berlin Film Festival, watching a film set in Berlin, but everyone in the film speaks English with German accents. One of the worst decisions they made. Even though I understand it's about getting this film to a wider audience, it just doesn't work, the performances are stilted, and everything seems off for the entire film. Which is unfortunate because I do love Otto's story.

 Posted February 15 in Berlinale, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: Lee Tamahori's 'The Patriarch' is All Kinds of Wonderful

Lee Tamahori's The Patriarch

I still can't believe I'm saying this. Lee Tamahori, director of Die Another Day (one of my least favorite Bond movies) and other junk like xXx: State of the Union, has actually made a rather wonderful film. I'll admit - I kinda loved it. Maybe because I really had no idea what to expect. The Patriarch, also known as Mahana, is a film about the Mahana family in New Zealand. It's set during the 1960s and focuses on one boy in the family named Simeon, played by Akuhata Keefe who is the only one, out of about 20 members, to ever challenge and speak out against the patriarch of the family, played by Temuera Morrison. It's an uplifting story about how things can change over generations, and it's just as fun to watch as it is inspiring.

 Posted February 14 in Berlinale, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: Jeff Nichols' 'Midnight Special' Never Reveals Too Much

Midnight Special

Right from the start, this film is already moving. A father, his son and another protector are on the run. The young boy they're watching over seems to have some sort of special powers that even he doesn't understand. We never learn what exactly his powers are, or how he used them before they had to go on the run. Instead, the film focuses on this particular moment in time when they make sure to get him to where he needs to go. Jeff Nichols' Midnight Special is a solid sci-fi thriller with big ideas hidden within. It's not really a studio movie (produced by Warner Bros) as much as it is another stellar Jeff Nichols film with studio sensibilities.

 Posted February 13 in Berlinale, Review, SciFi | Comments

Review: 'Deadpool' is an Entertaining Switch For Comic Book Movies

Deadpool Review

Deadpool isn’t like any Marvel movie before. True, if you break them down, the same could be said for all the movies that make up the current subgenre of superhero films. Though the basic structures all resemble one another, the sheer number of new entries flooding theaters allows the fimmakers behind them to play around in different, cinematic territories. Captain America has become the paranoid thriller. Guardians of the Galaxy is the space opera. Deadpool nestles its way into a subgenre taking on all the characteristics. It’s the filthy, R-rated superhero movie comedy. Though it never reaches the height of vulgarity or subversion it intends, Deadpool offers an abundance of crude humor, edgy self-referentiality, and a huge amount of fun.

 Posted February 12 in Marvel, Review | Comments

Review: 'Pride & Prejudice & Zombies' Has a Wealth of Heart & Brains

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

If only we could resurrect writer Jane Austen and ask her zombified corpse what it thinks of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 2009 mash-up novel put together by Seth Grahame-Smith. Using her 1813 classic about love and aristocracy as a basis, Grahame-Smith fused the romance novel with all the brain-munching aspects the modern, zombie sub-genre has to offer. Surprisingly enough, the mash-up novel was a success with both critics and audiences, and now the beloved story of engagements and the undead has made its way to the big screen. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, adapted and directed by Burr Steers, follows through on the novel's success, providing a ball of humor, romance, and an abundance of exploding heads. It's enough to satisfy anyone not beholden to either side of the mix.

 Posted February 5 in Horror, Review | Comments

Sundance 2016: Levity Makes 'The Fundamentals of Caring' a Winner

The Fundamentals of Caring

It's not exactly easy to make light of and laugh at disabilities without coming across as insensitive, which is why this film is so unique. The Fundamentals of Caring (original Sundance title, as it has apparently been changed to The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving) stars Craig Roberts as a boy named Trevor with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who is confined to an electric wheelchair. He requires a caregiver who helps him do many basic tasks, though he always tends to scare them away because he's blunt and loves playing sick jokes on them. The humor in this film is what makes it so entertaining to watch, since the script is otherwise full of too many easy cliches that prevent it from being much more than another good laugh.

 Posted January 31 in Review, Sundance 16 | Comments

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