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Friday, December 19 2014

‘Mr. Turner’ Is Mike Leigh’s Portrait of an Artist

This film makes J.M.W. Turner's story fascinating, his personal failings and artistic innovations seemingly inevitable, throbbing, propulsive and painful.


‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Is a Solid, not Sublime, Send-off

If all you care about is action, of witnessing outstanding special F/X and genre fantasy fashioned by a true master of such material, then this will satisfy your needs to no end.


Thursday, December 18 2014

The Tension of Art and Ego Drives the ‘Monk With a Camera’

As Nicholas Vreeland's journey into Buddhist philosophy goes deeper, the tension between his photography and his role as a monk increases.


Dwayne Johnson Bulks Up for Nothing in ‘Hercules’

One day, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will land a role in a film that’s fitting of his charisma, physique, and on-screen likability, but Hercules is not that film.


Wednesday, December 17 2014

‘Foxcatcher’ Is a True Story About a False World

For his third film based on true material, Bennett Miller tells a tale of how when wealth and Olympian athleticism mix together, those living in those worlds become increasingly insulated.


‘Lord of Illusions’ Is Clive Barker’s Horror Style Filtered Through a Noir Lens

Lord of Illusions is at its best when it balances noir mystery with supernatural elements without veering too far to one side or another.


Tuesday, December 16 2014

‘National Gallery’: Frederick Wiseman Looks at How We Look at Art

Within three minutes, the film connects stories across time as told by painters and observers and those who work in London's National Gallery.


‘I Am Santa Claus’ Shows That Santa’s Life Isn’t All Candy Canes and Cheery Smiles

After watching I Am Santa Claus, you'll never think of Santa the same way, whether you like it or not.


Monday, December 15 2014

‘Approaching the Elephant’ Lets the Students Speak for Themselves

Amanda Wilder's remarkable "free school" documentary shows all sorts of pleasures and tensions among the kids and adults as they figure out how to manage such an experiment.


‘Union Station’ Reminds Us of a Pre-Automobile America

Rudolf Maté's Union Station tells a noir story from a time when passenger rail travel was central to American life.


Friday, December 12 2014

In ‘Top Five’, Chris Rock Does More Than Tell Jokes

While it shows Chris Rock is still a bit shaky when it comes to his cinematic skill set, Top Five is a triumph. It is easily his best movie, as well as one of the best comedies of 2014.


America’s Existential Crises in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Adaptation of ‘Inherent Vice’

As in The Master, the ocean haunts the protagonist in this film adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, but it’s a haunting of a different kind.


The Context of ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Is Out of Its Control

Just like Moses' task from God, the social and cultural context that surrounds Exodus: Gods and Kings shapes it in ways that these actors and filmmakers might not have wanted.


Tuesday, December 9 2014

‘Tesis’ Hits All the Points on the Standard Suspense Curve

Alejandro Amenábar’s suspense-drama Tesis is a fairly predictable, American-influenced thriller, but its stellar performances, particularly from Ana Torrent, are all aces.


Monday, December 8 2014

Von Trier’s Cinema as Literature in ‘Breaking the Waves’

Lars Von Trier’s cinema, particularly in Breaking the Waves, is an acknowledgement of film as an offshoot of literature and the heritage of storytelling.


Friday, December 5 2014

Reese Witherspoon Takes a Trek With a Gigantic Blue Backpack in ‘Wild’

The metaphor of Cheryl's (Reese Witherspoon) giant backpack works in multiple ways, from the personal ordeals she confronts to the social expectations she can't avoid.


In ‘Magic in the Moonlight’, Ideas Trump Characters

The fundamentalist atheism and myopic intellectualism of Woody Allen's latest depiction of an older man/younger woman dynamic makes it a pale imitation of his best work.


Thursday, December 4 2014

Liv Ullman Takes on Strindberg’s Class-Focused Drama in ‘Miss Julie’

Liv Ullmann's take on August Strindberg's classic drama emphasizes the class struggles of its characters, depicting the ways in which power systems drive individuals beyond reason.


Tuesday, December 2 2014

‘The Babadook’ Is a Smart Reconsideration of Mothers and Monsters

The Babadook reveals that grief is a lot like a monster: even if you think you've killed it, it's never quite as killed as you would hope.


‘The Conformist’ Is a Political Thriller Washed in the Hues of a Thousand Psychosexual Dreams

Bernardo Bertolucci’s magnificent drama The Conformist bridges the supreme elegance of the jazz age with Euro mod-chic.


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