It’s the tried-and-true formula of one last job/heist/assignment. A longtime bad guy leaves the life of crime in pursuit of peace and quiet, but naturally gets dragged back to his old haunts and habits to settle a final score. But John Wick breathes exhilarating life into this tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves. Continue reading
Dear White People is the name of Justin Simien’s first feature film. Without any hyperbole, this might be one of the best debuts in filmmaking: knowing but not snarky, self-aware but not solipsistic, open to influence and confident in its own originality. It’s a clever campus comedy that juggles a handful of hot potatoes — race, sex, privilege, power — with elegant agility and only an occasional fumble. You want to see this movie, and you will want to talk about it afterward, even if the conversation feels a little awkward. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong. Continue reading
Call it Rocky with snare drums. Call it Full Metal Hi-Hat. Call it Fame with a beat.
That said, coming up second in that regard isn’t exactly something to be ashamed of. Continue reading
Okay, let me start off first by apologizing: I never wrote a pre-Oscars piece for 2015. No predictions were made by me. In my defense:
- I was part of the people that kept getting snow dumped on me every week for two weeks (and it’s still happening).
- Being able to get giant amounts of sleep because you’re exhausted from shoveling snow and you’ve actually got a day off is a unique and wonderful experience.
- I forgot the actual date.
People, all I’ve got to offer is lo siento. That said, I did watch the Oscars. Let’s talk about them, shall we? Continue reading
When The Trip debuted in 2010, it was a surprisingly endearing and authoritative hit, given the premise—two hours of watching British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon drive around eating food and doing impressions of Michael Caine. But the poster hints at the movie’s subtle profundity: Coogan gazing gloomily at the camera while Brydon laughs at the heavens, the pair looking for all the world like the inseparable Greek masks for comedy and tragedy. Coogan was the unhappy, deeply lonely Hollywood success story, while Brydon was the quietly contented family man. At the conclusion of their road trip around the finer eating establishments of northern England, Coogan returned to an empty high-rise apartment with glittering views of London, while Brydon went home to a more modest brick house and the embrace of his wife and child.
The Trip to Italy has no such conclusion, even as it reconstitutes the premise of the first film as best it can, giving Brydon and Coogan the same cushy assignment for the Observer: an all-expenses-paid driving tour of six destinations that are both visually and gastronomically jaw-dropping. Only this time, the distinctions between the two characters—exaggerated versions of their real-life selves—have blurred. Brydon, tired of the affability of his public persona, drinks and carouses on the beach with a blonde expat while Coogan, still melancholy but newly sober, reads Byron in bed and tries to Skype with his son. Continue reading
Valentine’s Day is this weekend. Perhaps you and your date are going out to dinner or something else. Maybe you’re staying inside. If so, allow me to recommend a movie to you for date night: Obvious Child. It’s a comedy about abortion.
It’s also pretty great and fairly perfect for a romantic night in. Seriously. Continue reading
It’s taken me forever to see Birdman. This happens when you live in an area that does not have a super robust arts community.
So let me just say this: Birdman is easily my favorite movie of all of 2014. In fact, it might be one of my favorite movies of all time. I won’t give you a long and drawn out review, that’s because I want you to rush out and see this movie now.
We’ve seen the long-take trick before, perhaps most notably in Hitchcock’s 1948 chamber thriller Rope, which masked five of its 10 cuts by slinking in close to its cast. But in Birdman, the effect’s entirely different. Working with the great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, director Alejandro González Iñárritu turns the film into a high-wire act – live, unpredictable, light as air, yet also fatalistically locked on course. While it’s going on, you’re glued to the impossibility of what you’re seeing. Once it’s over, you can’t believe what you saw.
Yet Birdman isn’t a piece of empty showmanship. It’s a piece about empty showmanship, and its unhinged premise – a fairground-mirror image of the career of its leading man (Michael Keaton), who starred in Tim Burton’s two mega-grossing Batman films then quit the franchise on principle – couldn’t have been told in a smarter way. It’s a beautiful, moving, captivating film.
Treat yourself now: either go see it in a theater or watch it digitally (since it’s now available). It’s worth the money. You’ll thank me.
A crew of office drones from Nowheresville reenact Lord of the Flies in Rob Meltzer’s Welcome to the Jungle, a picture billed as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s first comedy. That description is arguable on two fronts: it undervalues the laugh-generating capability of many of JCVD’s ostensibly serious outings, while grossly overestimating the comedic value here. Continue reading
Stanley Kramer’s epic 1963 comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has a complicated, contradictory legacy. During the 51 years since its initial release, the ultimate ensemble comedy has aired in a seemingly constant loop on television. Homages to the film include 1979’s Scavenger Hunt, 1987’s Million Dollar Mystery, and 2001’s Rat Race, all of which owe so much to Mad World, they border on unofficial remakes.
There’s a reason why: it’s a very good movie. Continue reading