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Review

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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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    Venice '11 Review: 'Shame' A Fascinating Follow-Up To 'Hunger,' With A Tour-De-Force From Fassbender

    As English-language directorial debuts in the last few years go, Steve McQueen's "Hunger" ranks up there as one of the most uncompromising. An award-winning, sometimes controversial British artist, McQueen chose to move into feature film by examining the life of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, managing not to flinch from any of the grim details, using takes of up to 20 minutes in length, and showcasing a tour-de-force performance from the now firmly-planted-on-the-A-list Michael Fassbender. It picked up an enormous amount of critical support, including the Camera D'Or at Cannes in 2008, and signified both director and star as major talents to...

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    Telluride '11 Review: Jennifer Garner's 'Butter' Churns and Churns But Doesn’t Produce Cream

    Ostensibly an edgy satire that fancies itself having a wicked bite, Jennifer Garner’s pet-project “Butter,” instead employs long and broad satirical strokes that never land many effective laughs or blows. You know a comedy is seriously in trouble when there are long, uncomfortable stretches where no...

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    Venice '11 Review: Al Pacino's 'Wilde Salome' An Oddity Dominated By Titanic Jessica Chastain Turn

    When did Alfredo James Pacino, Greatest Actor Of His Generation, turn into Shouty Al, Star Of "Righteous Kill" And "Jack and Jill"? The exact moment that the transformation took place is debatable, but it's hard to deny that, aside from some occasional good HBO work, Pacino has become a grotesque, bellowing inflation of former glories more often than not. But we live in hope that it's not a one way street, and that the star may find his way back to subtler movie work that he actually cares about. After all, he does, unlike many of his contemporaries, continue to return to the stage frequently, for much-praised performances, in the likes of "O...

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