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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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Entries in Reviews (314)

Monday
Aug172015

Two Guys and Two Gals from U.N.C.L.E.

Here is Kyle with a review of Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

 
Last week, if you told me that I’d be in love with a Guy Ritchie film, I’d have snatched you by your smoking barrels and given you what for. Yet here I am, utterly enamored of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. In a summer bloated with franchises and (ugh) reboots that willfully avoid originality—save Mad Max: Fury Road, of course—Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a welcome demonstration that a flick can be fun without being dumb. The film subverts the formula of “action” blockbusters to make us feel tense or anxious most of the time. Fight/chase scenes are not suspenseful tent poles but undercut by humor or condensed through stylish montages. Indeed, style is the subject of the film; the narrative is so patently pat that it shifts focus to the way it’s told. It’s upsetting that audiences did not flock to it in its all-important opening weekend, though it may almost be a compliment these days that the name recognition of the original property is so low that it didn’t push audiences into theaters. If Man from U.N.C.L.E. succeeds—and I still hope it will—it will be based on its own merits, of which it has plenty...

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Friday
Aug142015

Review: The Gift 


Jose
here. In between making appearances in what seems to be every single movie being made, Joel Edgerton has been doing his homework and studying the creepy thrillers of Michael Haneke and Roman Polanski, since he emulates both auteurs’ styles in his directorial debut The Gift. The film stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as Simon and Robyn, a married couple who have just moved into their new home in Los Angeles when they run into Gordo (played by multitasker Edgerton who also wrote the screenplay), a former high school classmate of Simon’s who wishes to befriend them, but lacks the social skills to figure out that Simon isn’t interested in welcoming into his life.

We learn that back in high school, Gordon went by the nickname Weirdo and was the constant target of pranks made by Simon and his friends. Suggesting that we never really leave our high school roles behind, we see how Gordo turned into a self-loathing underachiever, while Simon became a successful executive who married the most beautiful girl in town - a former bookworm - and made a career for himself by bullying people in the corporate world. As strange things begin to happen in Simon and Robyn’s home, we are led to believe that maybe Gordon is seeking payback for the psychological torture he endured at Simon’s hands, and yet there is also a more perverse feeling of karmic retribution that at times makes us root for the sociopathic underdog. If he is a sociopath to begin with…

Edgerton’s film is filled with so many nuances that we are never truly sure of who is playing who. He manipulates the very same genre conventions he’s borrowing from, and instead of presenting Gordo as the perpetrator, he makes us wonder if by assuming the “odd dude” is the villain, we’re not becoming bullies ourselves. Combining elements from Gaslight, Funny Games, Repulsion and Caché, Edgerton weaves a stylish thriller that poses complex questions about human behavior without ever taking itself too seriously. There are scares galore, countless steamy shower scenes with damsels in distress, and more asshole-y behavior from Bateman’s character than you can imagine, and yet the movie feels fresh in its delivery. Like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle if Keyser Soze had been the babysitter, The Gift playfully evokes some of the most beloved contemporary thrillers, not all of which are great films, but most of which prove to become irresistible on repeat viewings. Who knew Edgerton had this in him? 

 

Monday
Aug102015

Review: Fantastic [sic] Four

Tim here. The best and maybe the only compliment I can pay to the new Fantastic Four, the third unsuccessful attempt at bringing the oldest of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's creations at Marvel Comics to the big screen, is that it's not obviously the worst one yet. Its insipidities, and it is very insipid, aren't inherently worse than those of the ghastly 2005 big-budget version. That film heralded the end of the "brightly colored larks that are wholly insubstantial but also not much fun" era of comic book movies; time alone will tell if its 2015 sibling will similarly ring down the curtains on the "ludicrously dark and serious-minded exercises in bitterness and misery" era, though I think we should be hopeful.

How much of the film's misery and internal confusion is due to the awkwardly visible fencing match between director Josh Trank and the executives at 20th Century Fox is beyond our ability to say for certain. It does feel like a movie that wants to be anything other than what it is. There were rumors that Trank was hoping to make PG-13, summer-friendly body horror, and there are vestigial traces of that conception; it would have been better for the film to have gone all the way, for at least then the bleakness of tone would have felt like it had some actual purpose. [More...

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Tuesday
Aug042015

Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Tim here. After Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol came out in 2011, it seemed that the series had finally figured out how to become the best version of itself and could go on forever doing the same thing. And that's exactly what has now happened: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is slightly worse than its immediate predecessor in nearly every way, slightly better in a couple of others that are especially important, and is light years beyond the first three movies released between 1996 and 2006.

Like every M:I film, Rogue Nation is an almost perfect standalone object, with a couple throwaway lines referencing previous adventures and the assumption that you already know and like brash, middle-aged Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, the series' producer as well), but otherwise assuming that it needs to make its own case for existing (it's enormously gratifying in this age of shared universes and heavily choreographed multi-film narrative arcs that there's still one franchise out there that's willing to just make movies that work solely in reference to themselves. And it does this splendidly, throwing us right into the action with that "Tom Cruise hanging from the side of a plane" setpiece that has been the the focal point of the ad campaign, and building up to bigger and better things from there. [More...]

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Tuesday
Jul282015

Review: Pixels

Tim here. There's a good movie to be made out of Pixels, and it would be the easiest thing in the world to get there. First, keep all of the visual effects setpieces from the movie as it exists, for they are surprisingly beautiful and convincing considering how much lower the film's budget than the usual summer tentpole. Second, make exactly the opposite choices that the filmmakers actually did, because there's literally not one thing about the plot, characters, tone, morality, or basic comprehensibility about Pixels in this form that works.

The film began life in 2010 as a lovely little conceptual short by French filmmaker Patrick Jean (which you can watch here, and have a far more enjoyable 2.5 minutes than anything in the lugubrious 105 minutes of the feature), whence it was almost immediately nabbed by Adam Sandler, who wanted to transform it into a feature. And that's really sad, because of all the changes that would have clearly benefit Pixels at some stage in its development "don't make it an Adam Sandler vehicle" is unquestionably at the top of the list. [More...]

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Friday
Jul242015

The Look of Silence

Amir returns to his favorite 2014 festival film, newly arrived in theaters...

Midway through The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to the 2013 Best Documentary Nominee The Act of Killing, there is a seemingly innocuous moment that sends chills down the spine. The film’s protagonist, Adi, and a male companion are trudging through the forest as they discuss their assassinated family members. Slowly reciting the “Ashhad,” Muslim prayer for the departed, they arrive at a river that runs through the trees. The camera stops as they exit the frame. The forest’s natural humming and buzzing, and the slow movement of the water in dusk’s light lend the moment a haunting eeriness. The weight of their wounds lingers above the water; the emptiness of the space is terrifying.

This sequence is not unique to the structure of the film, a documentary whose emotional impact and, frequently, its thematic development, hinges on small, quiet moments; a shot of a motorcycle riding away toward the forests, a woman sitting still at the doorway of her house, a long gaze that captures the gravity of decades of history.  Every miniscule gesture is effective, and the cumulative impact of these small wonders adds up to a film that is, without hyperbole, one of the best documentaries ever made.

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Friday
Jul032015

Review: Magic Mike XXL

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with in the Director's Cut version. i.e. it's longer this time...

 

When Magic Mike opened three years ago it was something of a risky proposition. Male stars exploiting their bodies for a young male star’s dream project loosely based on his own stripping career which he felt no shame about? Who would have guessed? Cut to three years later: Magic Mike and Friends (minus The Kid and Dallas “alright alright alright”) have returned to movie theaters with much teasing and blockbuster fanfare to a relatively new pop cultural context they helped create: male objectification is increasingly the norm. Just ask Chris Pratt, the ascendant superstar of the moment (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) who has acknowledged that his new body was key to his ascendance and that he’s all for it… the objectification.

This wondrous new world of happily exposed man-flesh makes Magic Mike XXL feel curiously demure. Usually sequels go for more-more-more but XXL (the title is a misnomer) downsizes even as the stages get larger. There’s less plot since it’s essentially a road trip movie but most curiously there’s much less nudity even if the women this time around seem a lot more eager to see it.

This withholding is smart and funny at the beginning of the film in a sensational opening dance number starring Mike alone in his workroom. [More...]

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