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Entries in Reviews (565)

Sunday
Sep242017

NYFF: Faces Places

by Murtada

Agnes Varda, recently named one of 2017's Honorary Oscar recipients, retuns to cinemas very soon. Her latest documentary is Faces Places or Visages Villages - sounds more delicious in French, n'est pas? It's Varda's collaboration with visual artist JR to celebrate the power of images. For that it was the perfect confection to see first at NYFF. The two artists set out on a journey inside France, finding farmers, miners, dock workers and others to document and preserve in the places in which they reside and work. They don’t have a plan, they just go where luck takes them or as Varda puts it:

Chance has always been my best assistant.

Varda and JR operate their own separate cameras, but they were also recorded in their travels by multiple other cameras in both still and moving images. What we get is a delightful mix of the histories and stories of the people they meet, JR’s eccentricities (he never takes off his small rounded sunglasses), plus Varda’s grapple with her mortality (she’s 88 and has problems with her eyesight). A joy from start to finish. It’s worth the price of admission just for recreating the running in the Louvre scene from Godard’s Bande A Part (1964), with Varda’s age adding poignancy and exuberance.

Grade: B+

Faces Places screens at the New York Film Festival on October 1st and 2nd. It will be out in limited release on October 6th. On November 11th, she will be awarded the Honorary Oscar at the annual Governor's Awards in Los Angeles.
Friday
Sep222017

Review: Jake Gyllenhaal gets "Stronger"

by Eric Blume

Have patience watching director David Gordon Green’s film Stronger, which captures real-life Boston native Jeff Bauman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) as he’s caught in the 2013 Marathon bombing.  After a rickety start, Green relaxes into a nice rhythm and delivers an almost extinct creature: a true adult movie drama.

The first few scenes of Stronger come on a little, ahem, strong.  They’re written to show what a great guy Bauman is (he cuts out from work so he and his lucky beer can help the Red Sox win, he stands up for his gay boss), and Green has all the actors pushing too hard.  The initial scene where we meet Bauman’s family (including mom Miranda Richardson and girlfriend Tatiana Maslany) in a bar reeks of Boston cliché.  It’s a very tricky thing, honestly capturing that lower-middle-class Beantown language and attitude, and Green overplays his hand in this and several other early scenes.  The energy is overly commercial, and the movie gets off to an uneasy start.


But once the big sequence begins, where Bauman loses his legs in the terrible terrorist attack, Green begins observing smaller details, and starts scoring...

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Thursday
Sep212017

Three can't-miss movies directed by women on the festival circuit

our continuing adventures at TIFF with a little NYFF thrown in.

This year I made a conscious effort to see films directed by women at the Toronto International Film Festival. Nearly half of the films I screened had women behind the camera! Even though a few of them were unsatisfying, a handful were gems so praise be to TIFF that there were so many to choose from. Other festivals haven't been as inclusive. We've already discussed the tragic romance of Mary Shelley, the visually stunning The Breadwinner, the what-were-they-thinking Kings, the confounding but admirably crafted Zama, the dramatic misfire of Euphoria, and Hungary's strange and totally involving Oscar submission On Body and Soul.

I saved the three best for last. If you get a chance to see Western (playing at NYFF September 30th and October 1st), the Austrian costume drama Mademoiselle Paradis, or a hard to describe miracle from Indonesia called The Seen and the Unseen please take it. Unfortunately none currently have US release dates (though Western does apparently have some sort of stateside distribution planned for 2018). We'll take them alphabetically after the jump...

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Saturday
Sep162017

TIFF: "Kings" and "I, Tonya"

TIFF wraps up Sunday and since we'd like the last few pieces to be positive let's get some negativity out of the way. Here are two films which yours truly did not respond well to. One is certain to be trashed by critics and the other, though trashy, is being widely praised. But they're both bad.

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Friday
Sep152017

Review: Darren Aronofsky's "mother!"

This review contains mild spoilers from the first half of the film since everything is essentially a spoiler given the cryptic promotions. The review was previously published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

“Baby?” is the first line spoken in Darren Aronofsky’s new film mother!  but not its first image. The film begins with a defiant girl burning in a house consumed by fire. Javier Bardem collects a gem from the ashes. He places it on a shelf with other less brilliant but similar gems and we watch as the house restores itself from blackened ash. What to make of this rebirth… or is it a timelapse reversal of the destruction? Are we seeing the future or the past?

Cut to Jennifer Lawrence, waking up suddenly in bed. Where is her husband?

Baby?

While Lawrence is the star she’s a cypher-like presence in this particular film (new for her) a mostly passive figure to whom the action happens... We learn very little about her marriage besides the fact that he is a writer and she spends her time restoring their massive home.

Then a knock on the door…

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Thursday
Sep142017

TIFF: Glenn Close is "The Wife"

our ongoing adventures at TIFF. An abdriged version of this review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad.

Film festivals nearly always provide curious dialogues between films that you weren't expecting. On the same day on the exact same screen at TIFF I managed to see two films about female writers and the male writers in their lives who take up all the oxygen (and praise) in the room. Who would have thought that a film about the origins of Frankenstein (just discussed) and a star vehicle for Glenn Close in Stockholm would have so much in common? 

THE WIFE (Björn Runge)
Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) is a longsuffering wife who would bristle at that very description. She's married to a famous novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) and their homophonic names are no coincidence. The silver-haired couple have been together for nearly half a century and are inseparable if not quite interchangeable...

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