Ditching his recent respectability vibe, Oliver Stone gets outrageous and visceral again in his new thriller, “Savages,” a pulp-fest based on the Don Winslow novel about weed and greed. The result is a summer Oliver Stone movie, and that’s fine. But its story requires some soul with the sizzle. While closer to “Natural Born Killers” than to Stone’s Vietnam films or “Wall Street,” the film features themes of power, politics, money and base human behavior, along with Stone-specific weed-is-good and Hollywood-style David-and-Goliath elements. Read More
Hampered by its cliched story but buoyed by Steven Soderbergh’s breezy direction, the male-stripper dramedy “Magic Mike” squeaks by as a bawdy pleaser. With its blast of beefcake and a sprinkle of economic themes, the film should satisfy those who like their summer movies serio-tinged and want their supermen to originate outside of comic books. Read More
Norway’s hot streak (“Headhunters” and “Turn Me On, Dammit,” at the moment) continues with the release of “Oslo, August 31st,” a drama that chronicles a fateful day in the life of a recovering addict.
Hell eclipses hope in this story, but a total downer it isn’t. Writer- director Joachim Trier makes the bleakness exquisite and the struggle quietly electric. Read More
As its indie-cool title suggests, and with the casting of unconventional Greta Gerwig, “Lola Versus” is a smallish and welcomely askew comedy about a woman in crisis. But as its protagonist devolves into a frenzied mess in her search for love, the path she stumbles down is unfunny and uninspired. Read More
“Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” is a dramedy that wants to evoke purple haze, but has a story too beige and cliched to succeed as a salute to 1960s counterculture – or to do justice to the talents of the woman portraying its flower-powered heroine.
Although mildly entertaining, the movie is a depressing demonstration of how a screenplay can sink a film. And, along with last month’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” it rates as a prime contender for the distinction of the year’s most frustrating waste of acting talent. Read More
Adult-geared stories with children as subjects are sparkling when crafted with insight and buoyancy; the Japanese adventure “I Wish” exemplifies such filmmaking. Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, the movie is a gentle, joyful brooklet of childhood spirit and experience.
Kore-eda makes quietly satisfying films about damaged families, death and loss and the joys of being alive, depicted with a poignant, thoughtful brush. Read More
“Polisse” looks at one of Paris’ most unglamorous and quietly meritorious forms of police work: handling cases of abused children in the city’s Child Protective Unit.
Director-co-writer (and co-star) Maiwenn immerses viewers as she depicts the day-to-day slog and its emotional toll.Combining fictional characters with dramatized real-life cases, the film follows about 10 cops as they arrest suspects, interview children and alleged abusers, and experience personal issues caused by job-related stress. Read More
Thoroughly pleasant but too tame and fluffy to do its subject justice, “Hysteria” is a film about the vibrator that you can almost take the kids to.
Potentially a satire skewering dark-age social mentalities, or a pointed historical look at the treatment of women, or a vibrant celebration of female pleasure, it shapes up more slightly as a routine love story with a cute idea at it is center. Read More
“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” is a Turkish police procedural and existential road tale transpiring under skies both symbolically and cinematically thunderclap-ready. As daily drudgery fuses with big-picture issues over a running time of 2½ hours, the film is a potential art house eye-roller, certainly. But writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan spins an assortment of minimal plot lines, recurrent themes, bits of chatter and underlying truths into a captivating drama. Read More
First-person filmmaker Morgan Spurlock takes a casual, quirky and hairy look at the cosmetic aspects of male culture and concepts of masculinity in “Mansome,” his latest documentary.
The movie’s topics include facial hair and manliness, the aversion to body hair, the booming men’s grooming-products industry, the barbershop as a sanctuary where men can be men, male narcissism and how the body- image obsession basically boils down to a working of the survival instinct (it’s about attracting a mate). Read More
While rooted in an advice book that pregnant women reportedly swear by, the Hollywood dramedy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” contains little that any parent-to-be can truly expect. The stork opera uses cliched scenarios and phony dramatics to address serious issues, and plays it safe and predictably when seeking laughs.
Director Kirk Jones, who made the agreeable Irish village indie “Waking Ned Devine” and the sappy Hollywood drama “Everybody’s Fine,” continues in the latter vein with this conventional tapestry starring big-name actors and an airline logo. Read More
Let’s take back our popular culture by offing the reality-TV stars, hate-spewing commentators and other cretins who have rendered it cruel, crass and stupid.
That’s the fantasy driving the splattery action in Bobcat Goldthwait’s black comedy, “God Bless America.” Goldthwait serves up some juicy depravity, but he’s working with a morsel of a premise. As his protagonists keep killing idiots and discourteous technology users, he can’t sustain the steam. Read More
Buoyed by a cast of actors of the venerable, superb British kind, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” can’t help but trigger a smile and score poignancy points as its retirement-age protagonists chuck their stuffy lives and stifling baggage and brave fresh waters half a world away.
But a good movie this isn’t. Shallow screenwriting, phony minidramas and geezer cliches undermine credibility and emotional power. Read More
A loopily fitting entertainment option on this Earth Day weekend, “Letters From the Big Man” brings Bigfoot to the art house, wrapping its hairy title character inside an unhurriedly paced into-the-wild story filled with contemplatively presented conservation and big- picture themes.Don’t expect too much from the movie. Low on emotional voltage, it doesn’t qualify as the oddball jewel that its serio-whimsical material, written and directed by Christopher Munch, has you wishing for. Read More
A vibrant lead performance keeps you watching but cannot make up for an overall lack of comic punch and dramatic depth in "L!fe Happens," an indie featuring a young woman's rocky, raunchy ride from party girl to capable parent. Superficial storytelling and tonal incongruities flatten and muddy the action transpiring around this movie's viable premise.
The film is the feature debut of Kat Coiro, who wrote the screenplay with lead actress Krysten Ritter. They describe the movie as a female buddy comedy, rather like "Swingers" with a baby aboard. Read More