Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's Top 5... Prohibition-Set Gangster Movies

#5: The Roaring Twenties

Before he was a star, Humphrey Bogart was the guy who was always getting killed by James Cagny and Edward G. Robinson. In The Roaring Twenties Bogart and Cagny are army buddies who rise - and violently fall - as bootleggers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Troy (2004)

* *
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom

Never has the word "loosely" been more necessary as a qualifier. Loosely based on the Iliad, Wolfgang Petersen's Troy quickly abandons any pretense towards prestige and announces itself as a by the books action epic. Even laying aside the objections of purists to changes in the story, Troy never gets around to justifying its own existence, choosing instead to be just another bloated Hollywood production.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Corpse Bride (2005)

* * *
Director: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter

For a film about the living dead, The Corpse Bride is actually pretty sweet. The story of a meek groom and his two brides - one living, the other dead; neither of whom he becomes betrothed to by choice - told through stop-motion animation, the film is reminiscent of Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, but with a little less edge. Fortunately, it still has plenty of charm.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday's Top 5... Tony Scott Movies

#5: Top Gun

Does any other movie more perfectly encapsulate Hollywood in the 1980s? It's fast, it's loud, it's kind of dumb and kind of cheesy... and absolutely perfect for what it is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Ed Wood (1994)

* * * 1/2

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau

It's sometimes hard to remember now, when their colaborations have become increasingly soulless and empty, but Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movies used to be as genuinely interesting and meaningful as they were stylistically odd. Ed Wood, a loving tribute to history's "worst filmmaker," is a movie about misfits, a visually interesting piece that doesn't sacrifice the story or the characters to that visual aspect. It's one of the best films in either Burton or Depp's filmographies, and still somehow seems special nearly 20 (!) years after it's initial release.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Insomnia (2002)

* * * 1/2

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

Although I'm a definitely a fan of Christopher Nolan, his 2002 thriller Insomnia has somehow eluded me until now. Seeing it ten years after the fact (and seven years after Nolan began his ascent as one of our most dependable producers of high brow blockbusters), I found it to be a singularly entertaining and captivating piece of work. It's not quite on par with Memento, which I think remains his masterpiece, but it's a great psychological thriller.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

20 Movies To See This Fall

With 20 movie going weekends left in 2012, now seems like as good a time as any to highlight the most exciting/intriguing films to be released in the coming months. While it's likely that there are still some hidden gems that won't find distributors until after running through the festival circuit, here are the top 20 movies to keep on your radar heading into fall:

August 31: Lawless

It looks to be the middle ground between summer action and highbrow period piece. I'm not a big fan of Shia LeBeouf, but for Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Gary Oldman I'll definitely give this one a shot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: The Campaign (2012)

* * *
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Will Farrell, Zack Galifinakis

Politics is a dirty business, particularly when the two candidates are almost equally incompetent. The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach (director of the Austin Powers films), is never really sharp or astute enough to be a true commentary on modern politics, but it's funny and well-crafted enough to be a decent commentary on the idea of politics as portrayed on film. Plus, Will Farrell and Zack Galifinakis are in top form, making this a film definitely worth catching as the summer movie season winds down.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday's Top 5... Political Campaign Movies

#5: Primary Colors

A thinly veiled (and "thin" seems generous) portrait of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, Mike Nichols' Primary Colors isn't a perfect film but it is an entertaining one.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: The Brave One (2007)

* * *
Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard

Filmmakers love a vigilante story. Whether they're drawn by the dark wish fulfilment of stories about ordinary people who transform themselves from helpless victims to avengers, or the moral ambiguity and complexities of such premises - or some combination thereof - depends on the filmmaker, as does the skill with which the dark themes are explored. Neil Jordan's The Brave One is definitely a skilled film, but one with a moral compass that might be a little too skewed for its own good.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975)

* * * 1/2
Director: Peter Weir
Starring: Rachel Roberts, Margaret Nelson, Dominic Guard, John Jarratt

On Valentine's Day, 1900, three teenage girls and one teacher disappear while on an outing to Hanging Rock. There's no sign of a struggle, no evidence of a crime - but something must have happened to them, something sinister, something... unsettling. Such is the premise for Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock, based on the novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay. A mystery story more interested in the nature of mystery than in the mechanics of solving a mystery, Hanging Rock is a gem of its era and one of the best films from one of the most consistently great filmmakers working today.