Amy J. Berg’s Prophet’s Prey is infuriating. It contends with Warren Steed Jeffs, the current leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jeffs is serving life plus 20 years on two counts of the sexual assault of a child, but he continues to lead his followers behind the prison bars.Read more "Prophet’s Prey (2015)"
Fritz Lang’s second Hollywood picture is You Only Live Once, a 1937 outing with a screenplay by C. Graham Baker and Gene Towne. This Depression-era movie has the hallmarks of noir, even if it doesn’t necessarily fall within the typically accepted period. Most scholars accept that film noir commenced in the 1940s, although Lang was […]Read more "Film Noir Friday: You Only Live Once (1937)"
There’s something old-fashioned about Lionheart, Sheldon Lettich’s 1990 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle. It tells a conventional adventure story, with a good guy fighting his way through a bad business in order to support his family. There’s not an ounce of moral ambiguity and the outcome is never in doubt. And there are spin-kicks aplenty.Read more "Lionheart (1990)"
Andrew V. McLaglen’s Chisum is a stuffed and mounted western from 1970. It’s based on Andrew J. Fenady’s short story and is loosely based on the 1878 Lincoln County War, which was fought over the control of dry goods and cattle interests in the New Mexico Territory. The film pits two sturdy capitalists against each […]Read more "Chisum (1970)"
Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes is a perfectly “nice” motion picture, with its rustic unfolding and drowsy pacing and stodgy sensibility contributing to what could amount to a very classy nap. This 2015 flick is based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, which finds Sherlock Holmes in his waning years as […]Read more "Mr. Holmes (2015)"
At its core, Concussion is a film about the importance of knowledge and how society processes scientific information in the face of incredible traditional pressure. The 2015 picture is written and directed by Peter Landesman, who investigated the cultural loss of virtue associated with the John F. Kennedy assassination in 2013’s Parkland.Read more "Concussion (2015)"
Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is a blistering, potent, hilarious, poignant work of art. The 2015 motion picture weaves broad comedy with compelling drama and ornery music, generating a mess of emotions and reactions. It’s a film designed to provoke and it’s never content to just sit on the screen as a passive piece of nothing. It’s […]Read more "Chi-Raq (2015)"
Directed by Jerry Hopper, Naked Alibi is a meat-and-potatoes film noir from 1954. This isn’t a particular great movie, but it does have a workhorse quality and the Lawrence Roman screenplay adapts Gladys Atwater’s “Cry Copper” story with tight-lipped poise. It sticks its three main characters in a searing potboiler and lets things cook, dark […]Read more "Film Noir Friday: Naked Alibi (1954)"
Directed by Jason Moore from a screenplay by Paula Pell, Sisters is a Tina Fey and Amy Poehler vehicle that starts with promise and disintegrates into a repetitive, frothy mess. The 2015 comedy is a take on the bro-occupied party genre, which means it swims through some pretty monotonous territory and suffers from a lack […]Read more "Sisters (2015)"
Directed by Burt Kennedy with Clair Huffman adapting his novel for the screenplay, The War Wagon is one of those rousing, good-natured westerns that still follows the bad guy as he does bad guy things with a song in his heart. The movie even opens with a tune by Ed Ames, complete with Dimitri Tiomkin’s […]Read more "Western Wednesday: The War Wagon (1967)"
In 2014, filmmaker Joe Berlinger tried to iron out the story of Boston crime lord Whitey Bulger with his documentary Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger. The picture got caught in the details and wound up a “cluttered and meandering film.” Scott Cooper goes the dramatic route with Black Mass, a 2015 […]Read more "Black Mass (2015)"
Directed by John Wells from a Steven Knight screenplay, Burnt is a cliché-ridden tale of redemption blanched with lucid foodie cinematography by Adriano Goldman. The 2015 film does little to match the innovation attempted by its main character and it fizzles more than it sizzles, functioning as a theatrical version of Hell’s Kitchen.Read more "Burnt (2015)"
Based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, Room is a tremendously effective motion picture from director Lenny Abrahamson. Like the book, the film is a wonder of perspective. Abrahamson and cinematographer Danny Cohen craft a world of different spaces, shapes and sizes.Read more "Room (2015)"
Considering the chaotic, thoughtless nightmare that was 2012’s Hotel Transylvania, expectations were suitably low for its 2015 sequel. Happily, director Genndy Tartakovsky and writer Robert Smigel polish things up a great deal for Hotel Transylvania 2 and manage to tell an amusing, relatively straightforward yarn.Read more "Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)"
A sleazy and steamy film noir about the newspaper business, Fritz Lang’s While the City Sleeps joins Beyond a Reasonable Doubt at the end of the director’s Hollywood career. Both movies were released in 1956 and both movies feature a minuscule budget and Dana Andrews in the starring role. And both movies certainly feature that […]Read more "Film Noir Friday: While the City Sleeps (1956)"
Judd Apatow returns to the well with Trainwreck, a 2015 romantic comedy with a foundation as traditional as it gets. The screenplay by Amy Schumer toys with the frayed edges of comedy, with plenty of raunchy sex stuff to pad out the bizarre 124-minute runtime. But at the core, it’s an astoundingly conservative piece of […]Read more "Trainwreck (2015)"
Andrew V. McLaglen directs Cahill United States Marshal, a late John Wayne vehicle that isn’t without charm. The Duke would only make four more movies following this one and this is not the strongest, but it is a fair shade better than its reputation suggests.Read more "Western Wednesday: Cahill United States Marshal (1973)"
Peter Sohn directs The Good Dinosaur, a middling Pixar movie that contains moments of grandeur but sinks into the dull mud of mediocrity. The 2015 animated feature has a tentative air, with Meg LeFauve’s screenplay never quite striking the right tone. There is still divine beauty and the animation is on-point, however, and some scenes […]Read more "The Good Dinosaur (2015)"
David Gordon Green directs Our Brand is Crisis with mad spark, mixing overzealousness with syrup to come up with the germ for a better movie. This 2015 outing is based on the 2005 documentary of the same name and it feels like it could’ve been something, with Sandra Bullock in the lead role and Billy […]Read more "Our Brand is Crisis (2015)"
10 days ahead of the premiere of Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the Church of Scientology took out a full-page advertisement in two coastal newspapers denouncing the 2015 documentary. They also contacted film critics and hassled former church members in what could only be described as an structured and entirely batty campaign […]Read more "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)"