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    Venice '11 Review: 'The Last Man On Earth' A Promising But Flawed Sci-Fi Tinged Italian Debut

    It might seem, particularly after a summer at the multiplexes like the one that we've just had, that American culture is driven entirely by the comic book. But that's not quite true; superhero movies might be all the rage, but comic books themselves remain a relatively niche passion -- this July, only "The Amazing Spider-Man" sold more than 100,000 copies, and it remains tainted by associations of geekdom, generally confined to comics shops. In Europe, in particular France and Italy, things are different; it's almost impossible to walk into a paper stall or tabac without seeing a book like Blueberry, Largo Winch, Danger: Diabolik or Dylan Dog...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Killer Joe' A Terrific Texan Tale With A Revelatory Matthew McConaughey Turn

    In recent years, film translations of stage hits haven't been as prevalent as they once were. You might get the occasional "Doubt" or "Rabbit Hole," for instance, but compared to the early days of the talkies, when a large proportion of movies were based on Broadway hits, it's been slim pickings; au...

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    Review: 'Talihina Sky' Offers A Fractured, Muddled Look At The Kings of Leon

    For a film that appears to have unfettered access to the band Kings of Leon, Stephen C. Mitchell's "Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon" offers little cohesive insight into either the band or the forces that shaped the group and their music. The members of Kings of Leon -- brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared Followill, along with their cousin Matthew -- were first catapulted into the public eye in the U.K., and mainstream American success wouldn't come until 2008's Only by the Night. Mitchell's documentary seems to have been made at some point during those key years, and zeroes in on a Talihina, Oklahoma family reunion (the band members ha...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'The Exchange' An Odd, Half-Interesting Follow Up To 'The Band's Visit'

    "The Band's Visit" was something of a runaway success when it started doing the rounds in 2007. The feature debut of Israeli director Eran Kolirin, it told the story of an Egyptian police orchestra who become stranded in an Israeli desert town. Warm and witty, it became the best-reviewed foreign fil...

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    Venice '11 Review: Surprise Film 'People Mountain People Sea' Is A Hard, Unsatisfying Journey

    The surprise film at a festival always has a tricky time living up to the sky-high expectations. Everyone brings in their own hopes and dreams, however unrealistic they may be, and the finished product has to be pretty special not to underwhelm -- witness the near-riotous reaction at the London Film Festival a couple of years ago when the surprise turned out to be not "Where The Wild Things Are," as widely-rumored, but instead Michael Moore's "Sicko." The reaction is slightly different at Venice, thanks to a reputation that the selectors hold back the most miserable, grueling film for the secret slot, so much so that most audience members are...

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    Venice '11 Review: Sono Sion's 'Himizu' Is Close To Unwatchable, And Yet Vitally Important

    If you're after a quick response to recent events, particularly in the case of a cataclysmic disaster, cinema is not your medium. It takes years to write and develop even a bad script, let alone the financing, casting, shooting and pre-production of a film. And that's even without taking into accoun...

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    Venice '11 Review: Mary Harron's 'The Moth Diaries' Is A Teen Vampire Tale Without Any Fangs

    It's remarkably tough to get any film financed, at least one that doesn't have 3D talking animals from a popular cartoon series. So it's no surprise that some filmmakers, for all their best efforts, can go three, four, five or more years between pictures. Worryingly, it seems to be doubly true for female directors. Look at Kimberley Pierce, who's only made one film in the twelve years since "Boys Don't Cry," or Tamara Jenkins, for whom nearly a decade separated "Slums of Beverley Hills" and "The Savages," or even Kathryn Bigelow, who might be an Oscar-winner now, but had a six-year break before "The Hurt Locker." One of the key examples here ...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Wuthering Heights' Is A Superb, Groundbreaking Adaptation Of The Classic Tale

    One of the most exciting talents to emerge out of the U.K. in the last decade or so is Andrea Arnold. The former television presenter won an Oscar for her short film "Wasp" in 2005, and made her feature debut the following year with the powerful, gritty thriller "Red Road." 2009 saw her follow it up with another kitchen-sink type film, showcasing some incredible perfrmances, namely the drama "Fish Tank," which gathered even more acclaim, and allowed the director to make inroads internationally. Her choice of a third film raised some eyebrows, however: Arnold was selected to helm a long-in-the-works film version of Emily Brontë's "Wuthering He...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' Is A Remarkable, Quietly Devastating Spy Movie

    The spy genre, is generally speaking, a euphemism for 'action movie' -- look at the explosions, fistfights and car chases of the Bond films, of the 'Mission: Impossible' series, of the 'Bourne' franchise, none of which have much in the way of actual tradecraft. The business of being a spy is hard, boring work, made up of listening and talking and without a lot of glamor. One of the men who best understands this is novelist John Le Carré, himself a former spy, who for close to half a century has been behind some of the most acclaimed literary examples of the genre. But aside from the much-loved "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," and the more...

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    Venice '11 Review: Todd Solondz's 'Dark Horse' Deconstructs Man-Child Comedies, Mostly Toothlessly

    If there's one theme that's been prevalent -- nay omnipresent -- in American comedy (and some dramas) in the last half-decade or so, it's that of arrested development. The male (for they are usually male) who've been so coddled by parents, by society, by expectations, that they remain locked in a st...

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