“Killing Them Softly” is the new movie by New Zealand director Andrew Dominik, who made one of the best films of the past decade, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”
Brad Pitt, who played James, gives another commanding performance in this drama as Jackie, a hit man brought in to clean up a messy situation.
Three not-too-bright criminals (Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn and Vincent Curatola) decide to rip off a mob-protected card game run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), intending to pin the job on Trattman. Read More
In the new movie “Hitchcock,” two dissimilar directors — one living, one dead — collide.
In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock wanted to move away from the glossy color movies Hollywood had been making. But no one wanted to finance “Psycho,” so he decided to put up the money himself.
Many years later, London-born filmmaker Sacha Gervasi also used his own money to make the documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” which received great acclaim (and a best documentary award from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle). Read More
After making his metaphysical action movie "Hanna," English director Joe Wright was faced with the question of where to go next. The answer seemed to drop right in front of him: "Anna Karenina."
Leo Tolstoy's late 19th century novel had been filmed many times before, the most famous version being the 1935 Greta Garbo movie. Read More
Ang Lee’s new film, “Life of Pi,” has some things in common with his Oscar-winning “Brokeback Mountain.” Both focus on two distinctive characters who bond with each other while they are isolated from the rest of the world.
Aside from these similarities, “Life of Pi” is different from anything else Lee has done so far.
Based on the novel by Yann Martel, the movie is about a young man who survives a shipwreck and is stranded in a lifeboat at sea — with a Bengal tiger. Read More
“Holy Motors” is only the fifth feature film in 28 years by Leos Carax, who is perhaps the most mesmerizing, poetic and baffling filmmaker in France.
His best film, “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf” — released here in 1999 as “The Lovers on the Bridge” — reached the glorious, grandiose heights of passion that “Gone with the Wind” and “Titanic” were praised for.
On the other hand, the amazing “Holy Motors” is more about the remnants of passion. Read More
Amid action and visual effects, the holidays are a time when films focus on humans. With luck, viewers will meet cinematic souls that will live on in their imaginations.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner of “Angels in America” fame wrote the new movie “Lincoln,” filling roughly 145 of its 149 minutes with dialogue.
In four scenes, maybe, characters are actually doing, rather than saying, something.
Yet Steven Spielberg, one of America's best directors, makes the movie come alive; watching it is like eavesdropping on history. Read More
“Flight” is the most satisfying movie that director Robert Zemeckis has made since “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy.
The strong screenplay by John Gatins nicely balances character development and humanity with gripping suspense and special effects in a story about a pilot who also is an alcoholic.
“This was one of those rare scripts,” said writer-director-producer Zemeckis, recently in San Franicsco to promote the movie. “The last time this happened is when I read ‘Forrest Gump.’ It was just so compelling.” Read More
“The Sessions” is about Berkeley-based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, who, afflicted with polio as a child, spent much of his adult life inside an iron lung before he died in 1999 at age 49.
Directed by Ben Lewin (who also contracted polio as a child and walks with crutches today), the film focuses on a fascinating episode in the 1980s when O’Brien hired a sex surrogate to help him explore and understand himself as a sexual being. 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
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
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
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
Paul Thomas Anderson’s sixth feature, “The Master,” is intelligent, ambitious and cause for celebration — but not quite the masterpiece suggested by all the buzz.
To begin, it’s difficult to tell what the movie, set in the early 1950s, is really about.
Some have hinted that it’s about the origins of the Church of Scientology. Indeed, Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a captivating performance as the so-called “master,” Lancaster Dodd, who tells his followers that life’s problems can be solved by examining their past lives. Read More
Who is Robert Lorenz and why does he get to tell Clint Eastwood what to do?
The quick answer: Lorenz recently made his directorial debut with “Trouble With the Curve,” a film opening this week starring Eastwood as Gus, an aging baseball scout.
The longer answer: Lorenz has known (and worked with) Eastwood for nearly two decades.
He started as a second assistant director on “The Bridges of Madison County,” moved up to first assistant director, and began producing with “Blood Work.” Read More