Maleficent is the new black. I make that statement referring to the Mistress of All Evil character Disney originated in the 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, now getting her own feature length, live-action film with a misunderstood backstory. The character is one for the ages and packed with a performance to match. Angeline Jolie commits to the role, flashing 90% teeth and 200% cheekbone. The character of Maleficent is great, and the film is a digital effects-laden extravaganza, the kind of fantasy epic that has "movie event of the Summer" written all over it. Unfortunately, a less-than-epic story makes for a much lesser film as a whole, never quite living up to the greatness of this classic Disney character or that performance. Read on!
There was a film at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival that is so bad, so poorly made, so terrible, that it doesn't belong on any screen. It belongs in the trash. The filmmaking is amateur, there is no narrative, the imagery (and cinematography) is ugly, there is no coherent message or idea or vision behind it despite claims to the contrary, and it can't be called cinema; it can hardly be called a "film". It just so happens this film is directed by Jean-Luc Godard, a once-great French filmmaker who has lost his sanity at age 83. Is it art? No. Is it experimental cinema? Nope. The film is, both literally and figuratively, a piece of shit - and I'll explain why.
We live on a remarkably beautiful planet, filled with diverse man-made and natural creations, spanning all corners of the world. From lush rain forests to massive deserts to extraordinary mountain ranges to epic landscapes of every kind. In the documentary The Salt of the Earth, filmmaker Wim Wenders connects with legendary photographer Sebastião Salgado, and explores the world with him by telling the story of his life, growing up in Brazil, eventually photographing the atrocities of humanity as well as the remarkable splendor of this world. Take a deep breath, sit back, and let this man's incredible images and story wow you.
The past of the X-Men franchise is a rocky road to success. The rough patches mostly came around the middle. While stumbles like X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine made audiences cringe at the thought of another mutant adventure, most of the series has been solid. X-Men: Days of Future Past marks yet another achievement, continuing the high marks left behind by recent entries X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine. An intriguing story development mixed with sporadic bouts of top quality action is pretty much all we ask for in a summer blockbuster. Thanks to returning director Bryan Singer back behind the wheel, X-Men: Days of Future Past delivers, safely securing the franchise's future. For now.
This is the film I was waiting to see at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The one that is not only phenomenal in every way, but pushes the form, challenging audiences and cinema as we know it. Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan has returned to Cannes with his fifth feature, titled Mommy, a remarkably entertaining and ravishing work of art about raising a wild teen with ADHD in a fictional Canada. It's breathtaking, beautiful, stimulating and actually takes advantage of the art of visuals and the format of cinema in a remarkable way. Mommy is the masterpiece of Cannes 2014 that I was waiting to fall in love with. Dolan has done it again.
Every May, I fly all the way across the Atlantic to Cannes Film Festival just to watch good films. Films that are interesting, invigorating, exciting, entertaining, moving, no matter what they may be or who may have directed them, as along as they are good. Even those that are stories we may have seen before in other films, it doesn't matter, I'm not here to see failed experiments, I'm here to watch well-made, well-meaning movies. Ever since The Artist won the Best Picture Oscar in 2011, critics have been unnecessarily hating on director Michel Hazanavicius. I believe he's a great filmmaker and his latest, The Search, is another solid film.
What if you returned home to your loved one, a wife, a husband, any significant other, after years apart and they didn't recognize you? That is the idea behind Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou's latest film, Coming Home, based on Geling Yan's novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi, which opened in China a few weeks ago and just premiered out-of-competition at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. This is a beautiful, tender, moving film about love and dedication and patience, and will leave you with tears in your eyes, as long as you still have a beating heart inside your chest. It may be a simple story, but it's such a special, sincere film made with care.
It's a breath of fresh air in the cinema when a film premieres that is very hard to compare to any other films. It represents something entirely unique, in the story, the characters, the subtle decisions made throughout, and while it may be categorized as a sports drama, it is so much more. Foxcatcher is the third feature film from Bennett Miller, and it is his best work yet, showing that he continues to improve as he continues to make more films. Following his last two Best Picture-nominated films, Capote and Moneyball, Miller tells another based-on-real-life story that resonates as poignantly today as it did when the events first occurred.
I never would've thought I might encounter a ski movie comedy at Cannes, and that it would be something I could call brilliant, yet every year I'm surprised by discoveries and this is another that will go down as one of my favorites of this festival. From Sweden comes a film titled Force Majeure, or also known as Turist (in French) at the festival, a dark comedy set in the French Alps following a family on a ski vacation. Directed by Ruben Östlund, who made two Free Radicals ski movies back in the 90s, the film plays with human dynamics and our responses to situations, but is enlivened by hilarious dark comedy. I really loved this one.
The power of silence. At Sundance in 2010 I fell hard for a gritty, unforgiving Australian crime drama called Animal Kingdom, directed by David Michôd. His next film, titled The Rover, just premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and Michôd has once again created an unrelenting, brutal and carefully calculated subversive post-apocalyptic thriller with hints of Mad Max. But a much better comparison, even though I hate to make another comparison, is Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, the Cannes 2011 breakout. The power of The Rover is in its silence, and bleak imagery. Michod's choices and shots speak loudly without being loud.
From behind the Iron Curtain comes an inside look at Soviet Russia's Red Army hockey team in a new documentary titled Red Army, which just premiered at Cannes 2014. Directed by Gabe Polsky (The Motel Life), this outstanding doc focuses one of the greatest hockey players to ever live, Viacheslav "Slava" Fetisov, who was trained by the national Red Army team since age 10, playing for the USSR throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, as well as in the NHL before eventually taking the job as Minister of Sport in Russia. It's a fascinating and surprisingly moving doc about passionate hockey players just playing the sport they love.
Step aside Cloverfield and other Kaiju, the King of Monsters is back. And he's bigger and better than ever. Four years ago, I caught a little indie sci-fi film called Monsters that blew me away. No one knew it at the time, but the director of that film, Gareth Edwards, would soon be hired by Legendary Pictures to reboot and re-imagine the legendary giant radioactive lizard known as Gojira. He was the perfect choice. Edwards has re-imagined the King of Monsters perfectly for 2014, bringing us a modern monster movie done right, better than all other recent monster movies, from Cloverfield to Super 8 to Pacific Rim. This is the real deal.
Enemy, the latest cerebral thriller directed by Prisoners helmer Denis Villeneuve, can suitably be described as an absolute mind-bender. That is to say the film’s screenplay rides the thin line between total understanding and complete bafflement. Villeneuve’s directorial style and color provide stylish yet discomforting flares to the narrative, and the dual performances by Jake Gyllenhaal (who also starred in Prisoners) are among the strongest of the actor’s career, not to mention the equally strong supporting cast.
While Seth Rogen has made a reputation for being this irresponsible, weed-smoking, party-man of the people, at some point, that image along won't always work as the actor ages. Thankfully, the actor is keenly aware of this fact and has chosen to grow up ever so slightly with his latest comedy Neighbors. In the film, Rogen plays new parent Mac who, along with his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne), are struggling with being married a few years out of college with an absolutely adorable new baby girl. Despite being unable to partake in their friends' party lifestyle any longer, they do their best to settle into their new suburban house. All goes well until a fraternity, led by charming douche-bro Teddy (Zac Efron) moves in right next door.