Film Review: CALVARY Sep12

Film Review: CALVARY

CALVARY Written and Directed by John Michael McDonagh Starring Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, M. Emmet Walsh, Aiden Gillen In the opening scene of CALVARY Father James is listening to the confession of a parishioner who tells him he was repeatedly molested as a child, and although that particular priest is dead, he intends to murder Father James in a week’s time. Although the priest knows who the parishioner is we do not, so the film functions, at its lowest level, as a whodunnit. Each character who crosses the screen in the next two hours is angry enough to have threatened the priest. But as its highest level,...

Film Review: FRANK Sep05

Film Review: FRANK

FRANK Directed by Lenny Abramson Written by Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhall, Scott McNary It is wrong, wrong, wrong to put Michael Fassbender’s lovely face behind such a ludicrous blowup head, but if you can get beyond this, you might find FRANK a quirky and kind-hearted movie. Its subject is mental illness and how the insertion of a sane person into a fairly stable group of nuts can quickly throw the group dynamics off. Gleeson plays a key-boardist, who’s recruited beachside after the near-drowning of the group’s current musician. Jon seems like a likable...

Film Review: A MOST WANTED MAN Aug29

Film Review: A MOST WANTED MAN

Directed by Anton Corbijn Written by Andrew Bovell, based on the novel by John LeCarre Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Grigory Dobrygin, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright In many ways this is the perfect film to end a career on. It is a dour, depressing, but intelligent story elevated to greatness by the writing and the performance of Hoffman. He looks ill, bloated, flushed and gray all at the same time. Yet this seems to suit, Gunther Bachman, a German intelligence officer, very well. How could it be otherwise in the unromantic, unglamorous spy world of John LeCarre. It is little gray pencil pushers that get the job done—only to...

Film Review: BOYHOOD Aug22

Film Review: BOYHOOD

BOYHOOD Written and Directed by Richard Linklater Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater What could have turned out to be little more than a gimmick instead provides us with one of the great films of 2014 with BOYHOOD. Twelve years ago, Linklater found a six year old boy, Ellar Coltrane, and filmed the first sequences in BOYHOOD. His film, based somewhat on his own childhood, offers the ups and downs of being a kid in Texas in the 21st century. Coltrane manages to be mostly likable and mostly an average kid, quite an achievement. His parents (Arquette and Hawke) are flawed but well meaning. Although...

2014 Traverse City Film Festival Aug18

2014 Traverse City Film Festival

The 10th year of the Traverse City Film Festival took place on July 29-August 3 in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan. The brain child of film maker, Michael Moore, each year has seen the festival grow in the number of films offered, venues, attendees, and prestige. Nearly one million tickets have been purchased in those ten years. Film lovers attend from across the country, combining it with a vacation in a truly gorgeous part of Michigan. Aside from the many traditional venues, free films are offered nightly on a giant screen on the beach and on a floating boat. There are free movies every day and plenty of films for children. There is...

Film Review: OBVIOUS CHILD Jul04

Film Review: OBVIOUS CHILD

Directed by Gillian Robespierre Written by Gillian Robespierre Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gabby Hoffman, David Cross, Polly Draper, Richard Kind Slate plays a 27 year old stand-up comic in OBVIOUS CHILD who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand. It is clear from the beginning that the only option she considers for herself is an abortion. But her road to the abortion is a painful one, a difficult journey we rarely see now that the typical movie has the pregnant woman decide to have the child. Slate is not so easy to like—her comedy routines are brutally scatological and honest, much like Louie C.K. But it is harder to hear...

Film Review: COLD IN JULY Jun27

Film Review: COLD IN JULY

Directed by Jim Mickle Written by Nick Damici, based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale Starring: Michael C Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw Richard Dane (Hall) runs a picture framing business back in the eighties and his life is inalterably changed one night when he shoots and kills an intruder. The intruder’s father (Shepard), newly paroled, come after Dane and his wife (Shaw) and young son. When Dane and Russel find some incongruities in their story, they join forces to make sense of their situation with the help of an old friend Jim Bob (Johnson) I enjoyed the first forty minutes of this film. It was a tight, tense story...

Film Review: PALO ALTO Jun20

Film Review: PALO ALTO

Palo Alto Directed by Gia Coppola Written by Gia Coppola, based on the short stories by James Franco Starring: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Zoe Levin, James Franco, Val Kilmer Based on Franco’s short stories of the same title, this film often feels like a series of vignettes. But somehow, it works. Perhaps it’s the talented direction of Coppola, perhaps it’s the seriousness with which it treats its disaffected teens, or maybe it’s the lovely cinematography. It starts badly with a scene we have been witness to so many times. The teen party: drugs, drinking, sex, bullying, bragging, all the usual stuff. We have been there both in...

Film Review: EDGE OF TOMORROW Jun13

Film Review: EDGE OF TOMORROW

EDGE OF TOMORROW Directed by Doug Liman Written By, Alex Kurtzman, Christopher McQuarrie, D.W. Harper, Hiroshi Sakurazaka, etc. Starring: Bill Paxton, Emily Blunt, Tom Cruise, Brendan Gleeson Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) who has never seen a day of combat, is drafted into a suicide mission and bumped down to a private. Killed within minutes, Cage finds himself in a time loop that has him living the same brutal combat over and over, repeatedly fighting, dying and waking up to begin again. But with each battle, Cage gets smarter in how to outthink his alien adversaries with increasing combat skill and intelligence. Special Forces warrior,...

Film Review: THE IMMIGRANT Jun06

Film Review: THE IMMIGRANT

Directed by James Gray Written By Richard Menello and James Gray Starring: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner You can read a good review of this movie in almost any publication. But I cannot write one. For me this story of an Polish immigrant (Cotillard) coming to Ellis Island and being rescued (supposedly) by Bruno, an impresario of a sleazy, cheesy strip-show and prostitution ring, is riddled with cliché, tonal problems and inconsistency in character. It feels fake in almost every frame. The movie wants it both ways with almost every character. Ewa is both wily and innocent. Bruno (Phoenix) is a scoundrel, a cheat, a...