Superb are the waves but soggy is the human story in “Chasing Mavericks,” a biodrama about surfing star Jay Moriarity and the bond he formed with surfer Frosty Hesson, his mentor, father figure and friend.
Directorial credit is shared by two reputable old pros: Curtis Hanson, of “L.A. Confidential” fame, and Michael Apted, whose credits range from a 007 flick to the “7-Up” documentaries. Hampered by a cliched screenplay, they deliver superficial entertainment but little of the conviction, credibility or emotional charge that the story’s characters demand. Read More
Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” is less suited to film adaptation than her older sister Charlotte’s “Jane Eyre.”
While “Jane Eyre” is a romance, “Wuthering Heights” is a story of passion in all senses of the word.
Last year, director Cary Fukunaga made an admired revisionist film version of “Jane Eyre.” Now, director Andrea Arnold (“Red Road,” “Fish Tank”) tops it with her earthy, fleshy rendition of “Wuthering Heights.” Read More
“The Waiting Room” casts a site-specific spotlight on the services of Oakland’s Highland Hospital while also illustrating the predicaments of the nation’s uninsured. Small but satisfying, this documentary leaves you informed, moved and feeling richer for having encountered the people and scenarios it features.
Director Peter Nicks presents what he calls a “composite day in the life” of the emergency room experience at Highland Hospital, Alameda County’s main public hospital and trauma center. Read More
Director Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” a real movie about a fake movie, is based on an astounding true story.
One of the film’s stars, Bryan Cranston (of AMC’s highly addictive “Breaking Bad”), and screenwriter Chris Terrio, recently in the Bay Area, explain: During the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, six Americans escaped the American Embassy and found refuge in the home of a Canadian official. Read More
“Seven Psychopaths” — a splatterfest, a satire of splatterfests, a dip into the writer psyche and a friendship psycho-comedy — delivers a bloody good time on all fronts.
It also tickles the gray cells and even scores points with the heart. Read More
With sex, obsession, murder, racism, alligators and reptilian humans in a Florida swamp, “The Paperboy” is both a torrid mess and, amid Hollywood’s prevailing timidness, a commendable display of audacity.
Writer-director Lee Daniels scores pulpy entertainment points with some immersive backwater sludge, but overall goes bonkers with luridness in this place-and-time sleazefest. The casualties are narrative cohesion and emotional dimension. Read More
Easily his best movie since “Big Fish,” Tim Burton’s black-and-white, stop-motion animated “Frankenweenie” does not represent a new idea.
“Frankenweenie” already is a live-action short film, which Burton made while working at Disney in 1984.
But with this new full-length feature, having gone back to his original notes and sketches, he seems to have rediscovered his passion for filmmaking. (Officially, the film is credited to writer John August, based on a screenplay by Leonard Ripps and story and characters by Burton.) Read More
Fondness for cats is not a requirement to get the full measure of “Rent-a-Cat” — interest in people and appreciation for excellence are more important.Naoko Ogigami’s film, screening Oct. 12-13 at the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival, is quirky, funny, sweet but not sugary, engaging and moving.In her early 30s, the main character in “Rent-a-Cat” feels the world is closing in on her. Mysteriously loved by cats, she has little luck finding human companionship. Read More
Uneven and overly sunny it may be, but as literary love fuses with romantic love at an idyllic college, writer-director-actor Josh Radnor achieves nice-little-movie status and tickles the bookworm heart in his dramedy “Liberal Arts.”
Echoing his filmmaking debut “Happythankyoumoreplease,” Radnor deals with the trials of entering adulthood. Combining arrested development, light romance and back-to-school themes, the film suggests a mild but worthy mix of Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, Eric Rohmer, “Before Sunrise” and Radnor’s own brand of wit-streaked good-heartedness. Read More
Writer-director Rian Johnson’s debut feature, “Brick,” a brainy detective story set in a high school, was celebrated for its potent, rhythmic dialogue.
In his new film, the ingenious sci-fi time-travel movie “Looper,” he tries a different approach.
“I love playing with words, and I love watching actors talk, but I wanted to pull way back on the verbosity, to see if I could say more with less,” says Johnson, who was recently promoting the film in The City with star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (also in “Brick”). Read More