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Entries in Reviews (712)

Thursday
May162019

Review: Trial By Fire

by Chris Feil

The first sign of Trial By Fire’s problems is that its title is a pun, and I welcome any and all puns. It's perhaps not the most sensitive way to approach a film that begins with a house fire that takes the lives of multiple children. Maybe don't do that.

But then again, sensitivity isn’t the film’s strong suit. As directed by Edward Zwick (yes that Edward Zwick, primarily known for epics your dad might love like Glory and The Last Samurai), the film is a not-quite-thoughtful look at a true story of Death Row Texas. Jack O’Connell stars as Cameron Todd Willingham, a man convicted of a home arson that took the lives of his three children despite his claims of innocence. His case is doomed by prejudice and a corrupt system until he meets the correspondence of Laura Dern’s good samaritan Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Tuesday
May142019

Stage Door: A startling new take on "Oklahoma!"

by Deborah Lipp

Gabrielle Hamilton, nominated for a Chita Rivera award, for a very different take on the dream ballet in "Oklahoma!"

Wow, that was a lot.

Leaving the new Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, a reconceptualization of the show that pulls no punches, I felt a little staggered, like it was too soon to have a celebratory dinner afterwards. (Context: I’m assuming you know the basics of this classic of musical theater, and I won’t consider any of its points “spoilers”. I will hold back potential spoilers, though, for this version.)

Daniel Fish’s unique production changes not one word, either spoken or sung, but it all feels very new...

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Sunday
May122019

Review: "Charlie Says"

Screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Now in Theaters. This post was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, arriving in July, isn’t the first Manson Family murders / Sharon Tate-related movie hitting theaters during the 50th anniversary year of those abominable crimes. 

The first out was The Haunting of Sharon Tate starring Hillary Duff, which was largely dismissed as exploitative. The second, newly arrived in theaters, is Charlie Says (Sharon Tate, played by Grace van Dien, is a very minor character in the film). Tarantino’s film will feature Margot Robbie as the doomed actress. And still a fourth picture is coming, a biographical drama called Tate starring Kate Bosworth, though its focus will not be on the actress’s murder.  This true crime story is quite obviously all the rage in Hollywood at the moment. 

Whether or not these films are appropriate in their timing and conception will be up to individual viewers to determine. As ever, how creepy or opportunistic true crime stories feel is largely dependent on artistic ambition and execution. 

Marianne Rendón (reclined), Hannah Murray, and Sosie Bacon are always saying "Charlie says..."

But if you’re going to make a picture like this at all, director Mary Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner, the women behind Charlie Says, are the filmmakers to choose…

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Thursday
May092019

Review: Tolkien

by Chris Feil

Inert biopics line the multiplex like gravestones, but seldom are they as dead on arrival as Tolkien. Depicting the author and philologist’s young adulthood and experience in World War I before creating The Hobbit, Dome Karukoski’s film isn’t just another dull cookie cutter telling of a famous figure. It’s perhaps a new gold standard of “Wikipedia entry as high school book report as prestige picture” malaise, the low bar to compare passable boring films. “At least it’s not Tolkien.”

Nicholas Hoult stars as the eponymoius J.R.R. Tolkien, struggling to overcome his social and fiscal limitations while at Oxford. He is part of a foursome of tightly knit male friends and artists, each with class stature above his own. Meanwhile he sacrifices his love for fellow orphan Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) in order to secure his future. The outbreak of the war casts all of this asunder, serving Tolkien blows to the body and spirit that ultimately serve his coming creative landmarks.

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Thursday
May092019

Tribeca 2019: "The Projectionist" and "Circus of Books"

Here is Jason Adams reporting again from the Tribeca Film Festival.

Sex is disappearing. Look at the Ken-like plains of our Marvel Superhero pant-fronts -- or even look how sexless our superstars made the concept of Camp look at the Met Gala this week, as if horn-dog horniness doesn't go hand in hand with that over-heated sensibility. Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls: the true end of an era. On this theme two documentaries that played Tribeca last week looked back at two nearly extinct modes of orgiastic delivery -- the porn theater and the porn shop...

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Thursday
May092019

Tribeca: "In Fabric"

Jason Adams with another review from the Tribeca Film Festival.

There was a Twitter query going around last week asking in the wake of the new Avengers film what pop culture events we felt personally blessed to have lived through in our lives. Apparently some people feel this way about the Marvel movies, which, well, great for them. It's nice to be happy. Personally I like more lesbian sadomasochism and insect fetishism in my entertainment, so my answer to said query falls more in line with how I think we're live-time experiencing the birth of a genre genius with the writer-director Peter Strickland, who's gone three for three with Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgundy, and now In Fabric, his latest slow-motion psych-out beamed in from an alternate dimension.

In Fabric first introduces us to Sheila (a marvelously world-weary Marianne Jean-Baptiste), who swims through her bank job and a string of telephone-based blank dates with all the ease of any Strickland character, which is to say with little to no ease at all...

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