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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Junior League: Luke Eberl's "Choose Connor"

    Often notable for the ways in which its naive, teenage protagonist's slowly eroding positive outlook seems to be duplicated by the director himself, "Choose Connor" is a movie about politics and disillusionment made by a first-time filmmaker barely out of his teens. This film, in which a middle scho...

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    REVIEW | The Naked Truth: Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig's "Nights and Weekends"

    Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, the costars, cowriters, and codirectors of "Nights and Weekends," spend a good part of their film naked. At the film's outset, while in a long-distance relationship, James and Mattie enter the former's Chicago apartment and promptly make love on the floor; toward the end of the film, after a year and an off-screen break-up, they fleetingly try something similar in a hotel in New York. In between, the film often pauses to ponder the many levels of these characters' self-exposure: showering, sitting on the can, dressing and undressing themselves and each other, critically scrutinizing themselves in mirrors and pho...

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    REVIEW | Taking No Prisoners: Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky"

    Happy-go-lucky is a term that smacks of anachronism in both diction and meaning. Conjunctively evocative of will-o-the-wisp and devil-may-care, merry-go-rounds and tilt-o-whirls, any present use of the term usually implies irony or condescension. The word, and whomever it might describe, can't possibly survive in today's jaded world. Coming from a filmmaker who has put his share of characters through reality's ringer ("Naked," "Career Girls," "Vera Drake"), and has at times (though not as often as some would assert) slipped into theatrical caricature, the title of Mike Leigh's latest film, "Happy-Go-Lucky," would seem like an invitation to wa...

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    REVIEW | The Perfect Storm: Wong Kar-wai's "Ashes of Time Redux"

    Eradicating bad memories of the moldy "My Blueberry Nights" in one fell swoop, Wong Kar-wai's gussied-up reissue of his 1994 "martial-arts action epic" (in quotes because it never actually feels like any of those things) is a reminder of why we fell in love with the Hong Kong auteur in the first place. Just as "Fallen Angels" is hardly a crime caper, "In the Mood for Love" is never quite able to blossom into the romance we expect and hope for, and "2046" only elegantly limns the edges of the science-fiction it intimates, "Ashes of Time" promises a wuxia saga that never quite arrives. ("Chungking Express," meanwhile, barely fits a genre templa...

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    REVIEW | Easy Bake: Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs's "Humboldt County"

    From its simple title font evocative of another era to its opening and closing shots reminiscent of "The Graduate" to its casting of filmmaking icon Peter Bogdanovich, "Humboldt County" acknowledges its immodest aims early on. Taking as their subject matter a happy, hippie hideaway in the marijuana...

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    REVIEW | Jesus Fish in a Barrel: Larry Charles's "Religulous"

    Bill Maher has had quite a run. Fourteen years have passed since "Politically Incorrect" saved him from Shannon Tweed vehicles and endless stand-up. A Washington meets Hollywood twist on the McLaughlin Group, "PI" proved surprisingly durable for Comedy Central before losing steam (and some bite) on ...

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    REVIEW | We Regretfully Decline: Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married"

    What if Jonathan Demme threw a party and asked you to come? You'd probably initially be flattered by the invitation; after all, the Oscar-winning director and longtime music scenester has certainly racked up an impressive roster of friends over the years. But while it sure would be swell to hang out...

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    REVIEW | Just Don't Look: Fernando Meirelles's "Blindness"

    Perhaps a decent film couldn't have been made from Jose Saramago's "Blindness." Like any great work of art, Saramago's novel resists transference. A gathering of words beaded into narrative, paced by rhythmic commas that both push forward and trip the eye, organized into paragraphs like economically...

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    REVIEW | Back to School: Laurent Cantet's "The Class"

    Realism is the mode du jour of international art cinema, so it's fitting that the New York Film Festival opens with Laurent Cantet's Palme d'Or winner, "The Class," an exercise in naturalist mise-en-scene, improvisatory nonprofessional acting, and immediate handheld cinematography. These tropes should by now be familiar to audiences attending a festival that will also feature works by likeminded filmmakers such as Jia Zhangke and Kelly Reichardt (and hosted Hou Hsaio-hsien's and Lee Chang-dong's similar films last year). But Cantet's film impresses if even for the feat of credibly portraying the atmosphere of a classroom full of fourteen-year...

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    REVIEW | The Surge: Neil Burger's "The Lucky Ones"

    Maybe sometime in the next decade, the Iraq War will get its "Platoon" or its "Full Metal Jacket," but for now, we'll have to keep waiting for a memorably incisive, dramatically successful cinematic treatment -- at least, from a fiction film (documentaries are, happily, another story). Neil Burger's...

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