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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | No Exit: Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's "Ajami"

    "Ajami" gets right to the tragic heart of the matter. Before the viewer knows what or whom he's watching, a young boy is gunned down in the middle of a city street in broad daylight. Though a backstory is soon provided, the incident truly and crucially never makes sense. Revenge, recompense, clumsy justice, even apparently legitimate legal proceedings provide a measure of context and set the rest of the narrative in motion, but the brutal fact of the murder is never gotten over. Violence will return, again and again over the course of the film, but it is not to be justified by theoretical or political abstractions, and its impact is never sof...

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  • Leonard Maltin
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    Dennis Hopper On Display

    Even as Hollywood survivor Dennis Hopper battles prostate cancer, he is being celebrated in a multimedia show that’s touring the world. I caught a glimpse of it on my recent trip to Australia, where the exhibition called Dennis Hopper and The New Hollywood is on display through April 25 at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. The touring show of photographs and artwork by Hopper is accompanied by a coffee-table book of the same name, published by Flammarion in conjunction with the ACMI and La Cinematheque Francaise. The book was on sale in the Centre’s lovely gift shop, but I didn’t want to lug it ho...

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    REVIEW | The Toxic Avenger: Josh Fox's "GasLand"

    Josh Fox's "GasLand" is the paragon of first person activist filmmaking done right. Matching his perspective with a slew of infuriating case studies, Fox explores the influx of hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), a method of drilling natural gas that endangers the sanity of water supplies in the i...

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  • Leonard Maltin
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    film review - Edge of Darkness

    Let’s deal with the elephant in the room right away: I wasn’t sure how I would respond to seeing Mel Gibson on screen for the first time since his public embarrassments and utterances. Like many of you, I have felt ever since queasy about the man. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to like his new starr...

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    REVIEW | Cholodenko's "All Right" with Forward Moving Family Film

    Lisa Cholondenko's "The Kids are All Right" succeeds at normalizing a once-progressive scenario. The story of a married lesbian couple and the chummy sperm donor responsible for their family produces a sitcom-ready plot that drifts to its natural finish. As the two moms, Julianne Moore and Annette B...

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    REVIEW | Off Peak: Philipp Stölzl’s “North Face”

    The lineage of cinematic mountain climbing extends back to the films of the 1900s. These early efforts evolved into the hugely popular German Bergfilme of the Twenties, the Alpine equivalent of the American Western; in both genres the activities of its characters are circumscribed by features of the landscape. The image of the heroic Aryan mountain climber conquering nature through force of will didn’t go unnoticed by the Third Reich in the 1930s (notably, Leni Riefenstahl began her career starring in Bergfilmes), and the Germanic mythology captured in these works certainly found a ready outlet in the epic pageants of the Nazi era. Aside f...

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    REVIEW | When Social Media Attack: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's "Catfish"

    Many movies over last ten years have engaged with the dangers of online communication, but Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's "Catfish" delivers the definitive narrative of social networking gone awry to cap off the decade. By turns hilarious, unsettling and sad, the documentary eng...

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    REVIEW | "Smash His Camera": Capturing the Phantom of Twentieth-Century Show Business

    The legacy of the paparazzo has never been a pretty one, but Leon Gast's "Smash His Camera" boldly suggests its artistic merits. Granted, his subject -- quintessential New York photographer Ron Galella -- has been around a lot longer than today's combative TMZ cameramen, but he's got a few battle sc...

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    REVIEW | Almost a Masterpiece: "Four Lions" an Explosive Comedy

    In the opening scene of "Four Lions," a group of British would-be terrorists attempt in vain to make the ideal suicide tape. It's not the first time that such risqué bloopers have been depicted in narrative form - both "Paradise Now" and the short-lived Showtime series "Sleeper Cell" contained similar moments - but it's certainly the funniest. Chris Morris's tragicomic portrait of jihad gone awry zips along with many of these contemporary references points in the service of humor, yet pulls off an unlikely feat by avoiding any kind of outright spoof. The characters are no laughing matter; instead, their bumbling tendencies suggest a universal...

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    Waititi's Remarkably Insightful "Boy" Succeeds On Many Levels

    Editor's note: A version of this review originally ran at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. "Boy" opens in limited release this Friday.

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