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The Playlist

Telluride Review: 'Escobar: Paradise Lost' Starring Benicio Del Toro And Josh Hutcherson

  • By Chris Willman
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  • September 1, 2014 9:49 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Escobar: Paradise Lost
You know that deeply anxious expression that Josh Hutcherson wears throughout "The Hunger Games" movies? Well, if you’re a fan of his trademark chagrined countenance, you get a whole lot more of it in "Escobar: Paradise Lost," where his character has a pretty good reason for near-constant concern. In this potboiler, Hutcherson’s a white boy (obviously) who’s pledged to marry into the family of famed Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. What, he worry?

Venice Review: ‘Far From Men’ Starring Viggo Mortensen And Reda Kateb

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • September 1, 2014 9:11 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Far From Men, Viggo Mortensen
Taking the rhythms of the Western to different countries, sometimes planets, time periods or political situations is hardly new, but done well it never gets old. And the French-language “Far From Men” aka “Loin des Hommes,” from writer/director David Oelhoffen, which transposes classic Western archetypes to the Algerian Civil War is a terrific reminder of that.

Venice Review: Fatih Akin’s ‘The Cut’ Starring Tahar Rahim

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 31, 2014 8:32 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The Cut, Fatih Akin
When Turkish-German auteur Fatih Akin pulled “The Cut” from the Cannes slate citing “personal reasons,” the rumor mill went to work overtime. Certainly, Cannes would have seemed like the natural home for the filmmaker’s next opus, so if, as was suggested, he had not been guaranteed the competition slot that his profile surely demanded, what could the reason be? Politics? Pique? Some internecine beef we weren’t aware of? Within all that gossip, however, one possible explanation never really entered the mix: that the film would not be very good. Akin’s track record alone, including such terrific, joltingly energetic, critically lauded and awarded titles as “Head-on” and “The Edge of Heaven” (the first two films in a thematic trilogy that “The Cut” is mooted to complete) seemed to put that beyond the realm of possibility. And in truth, it’s not not very good. It’s close to a disaster.

Telluride Review: Jean-Marc Vallée’s ‘Wild’ Starring Reese Witherspoon

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • August 30, 2014 12:51 PM
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  • 21 Comments
Wild Reese Witherspoon
In the summer of 1995, 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed decided to walk the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail by herself without having ever having attempted a serious hike in her life. Following the death of her mother and after years of dissolute self-destructive behavior, Strayed found herself divorced, alone, lost and on a frayed edge of personal despair. Desperately trying to find her humanity and reclaim an her ideal self, she impulsively set out, ill-equipped and inexperienced, to find herself on an unpredictable and grueling odyssey from the Mojave desert through California to Oregon over the course of over 150 days.

Telluride Review: Jon Stewart's 'Rosewater' Starring Gael Garcia Bernal

  • By Chris Willman
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  • August 30, 2014 11:00 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Rosewater
The category of Iranian prison movies with feel-good endings is a small subgenre, and one that "Rosewater" is likely to have all to itself for the near future. With his feature film writing and directing debut, "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart clearly wanted to make a people-have-the-power message picture that would resonate at least as much with American youths as longtime students of political repression in the Middle East. That transparent desire to make the material as accessible as possible to U.S. moviegoers — starting with the old-fashioned notion of having all the Iranians speaking to each other exclusively in English — results in a sometimes overly slick take on potentially tough subject matter. For better or worse, torture-themed films don’t get too much easier to take than this one.

Venice Review: David Gordon Green's 'Manglehorn' Starring Al Pacino, Harmony Korine, Chris Messina And Holly Hunter

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 30, 2014 8:43 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Manglehorn
A bees nest beneath a mailbox. A boat bedecked in copies of a photograph. A cat who’s swallowed a key. A mime, a buffet, an earthquake, a multi-vehicle car accident inexplicably strewn with smashed watermelons. David Gordon Green’s slow, indulged but fathomless “Manglehorn” contains all of these motifs and more, sometimes playing out in double exposure, sometimes woozy slow motion, often counterpointed by Al Pacino’s husky gravelly narration. It should all be a terrible mess, and certainly it’s a less accessible film than the genre-tinged “Joe” or the sweetly straightforward “Prince Avalanche.” But it’s also fascinating, to those of us willing to let its meditative currents take us, a mosaic of moods, mysteries, magic and melancholy. And all anchored by a quietly assured central performance that may be among the most atypical of Pacino’s career, but is also one of his best.

Venice Review: Barry Levinson’s ‘The Humbling’ With Al Pacino And Greta Gerwig

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 29, 2014 7:17 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Humbling
"Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" is a line from Shakespeare's description of the final stage of life made famous in the "All the world's a stage" monologue from "As You Like It." It is quoted early on in Barry Levinson’s incoherent adaptation of what is by most accounts a substandard Philip Roth novel, “The Humbling,” clearly marking the film's themes of aging and the diminishment that comes with it. But "toothless, sightless, bland and empty" could also serve as a harsh but pretty accurate description of the film itself: a missed opportunity that squanders the talents of a pretty stacked cast and jeopardizes the audience’s patience and care for its spoiled characters for too long.

Review: Underground Found Footage Horror Movie 'As Above, So Below'

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • August 29, 2014 1:40 PM
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  • 2 Comments
As Above, So Below
Up until now, Legendary Pictures has been a production company exclusively associated with high concept, big budget popcorn fare (they've been responsible for everything from Christopher Nolan's Batman movies to "Pacific Rim"), but with the success of "Paranormal Activity," and similarly low-cost genre material, the studio is branching out by going small. This week's "As Above, So Below," a grainy, archeology-themed found footage movie that uneasily mixes "Raiders of the Lost Ark" with "Flatliners," is the first effort under this new initiative. While the movie certainly has its share of thrills, it's clear that it lacks that zeitgeist-capturing magic that the best low-budget horror films offer. If Legendary is looking for a potential franchise, they might have to dig elsewhere.

Venice Review: 'She's Funny That Way' Starring Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Jennifer Aniston & Many Surprise Cameos

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 29, 2014 12:27 PM
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  • 1 Comment
She's Funny That Way aka Squirrel To The Nuts
If you've so much as read the headline of this review, you're probably already thinking too hard about Peter Bogdanovich's star-studded "She's Funny That Way," which is but a trifle, designed to melt in your mouth like candy floss. In fact, it goes out of its way to avoid anything that even faintly smacks of realism or meaningfulness; it just wants you to like it.

Venice Review: Ramin Bahrani’s ‘99 Homes’ Starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon And Laura Dern

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 28, 2014 6:52 PM
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  • 3 Comments
99 Homes
It opens with blood spatter; it will end with your blood boiling. Which is to say that Ramin Bahrani’s ferocious foreclosure drama “99 Homes” is exactly as effective as it needs to be. While neither subtle nor particularly nuanced, the blunt force trauma impact of its narrative never feels exploitative, being wholly justified by the importance of its themes.

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