Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Films of 2012

It took me a little longer than usual this year to put together my top 10 list, primarily because many of the year's prestige releases didn't get rolled out until the very end of December.

So, here's my top 10 on Patch. It also includes my 10 runners up and 10 worst of the year. The piece includes my explanations for why I chose each film.

For those who don't have time to sort through it now, here's my top 10 list:

10. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
  9. Argo (Ben Affleck)
  8. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
  7. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
  5. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
  4. Amour (Michael Haneke)
  3. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
  2. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
  1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Django, Les Miz and Promised Land

In the past week-and-a-half, I saw so many new films that I couldn't fit them all into my weekly wrapup. So, this week's post includes reviews of "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables" and "Promised Land."

It should come as no surprise that I loved "Django." Every single one of Quentin Tarantino's films have landed in my top 10 of the year in which they were released. You could say I have a positive bias toward his pictures or - as I'd argue - the guy just makes some incredible films.

I enjoyed "Les Miserables," but thought it was a bit too long and had one too many musical numbers. Anne Hathaway steals the show and will likely win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. And the set design is pretty incredible. I liked the film, but didn't love it.

Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land" is a solid little "message movie" about hydrofracking. Van Sant is a very talented filmmaker, so he is able to make such a film without allowing the message to overshadow the narrative and characters as other filmmakers might have done. I enjoyed it.

Here are my Patch reviews.

I also caught up with "The Impossible," a powerful film about a family caught up in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. It features some strong work from Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor.

I also saw "Jack Reacher," which was pretty fun even if a bit improbable. And I saw "Tabu," the Portuguese film from Migel Gomes. I liked it, but was not quite as blown away as some other critics. It certainly has an arresting visual style and some of its sequences were pretty impressive.

This coming weekend, I'll see Michael Apted's "56 Up," which I'm eagerly anticipating, as well as the acclaimed German film "Barbara" and, sigh, "Texas Chainsaw 3D."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Reviews: Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, This is 40, Not Fade Away and On the Road

Hey, when you've got this many films to review, it's hard to get clever with the title. Caught up with a lot of films this week, but I've gotta keep it short due to holiday madness.

Two movies - "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Amour" - were among the best I've seen this year. Kathryn Bigelow's hunt for bin Laden film is a superior CIA thriller that bears more in common with David Fincher's "Zodiac" than most war films. And Michael Haneke's Palm d'Or winner is a typically austere affair for the Austrian filmmaker, but is a more humane work than a typical Haneke outing. I don't mean that as a criticism as the filmmaker is one of Europe's best.

I dug "Not Fade Away," though it doesn't completely come together and "This is 40" is funny and charming enough, despite that it's a bit too long. "On the Road" is visually lush, but lacks the punch of Jack Kerouac's classic novel. It's not a bad film, but just an OK one.

I'd hoped to get into it more on all of these films on this blog, but as I said, it's a bit hectic as it's Christmas Eve.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll review Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables," Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land" and "The Impossible." I also plan to see "Jack Reacher" and the critically acclaimed "Tabu." And, on Dec. 30, keep an eye out for my top 10, second 10 and worst 10 films of the year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Middling Earth: 'The Hobbit'

OK, I know - "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was a decent-enough film and didn't deserve that snarky headline, but I just couldn't help myself.

That being said, the film does not compare to Peter Jackson's original "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While it bears an epic length in common, this latest adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien does not include lingering shots of blue eyes and panoramic sweeping shots of New Zealand landscapes, which took up much of the original trilogy's running time. Rather, it's one action scene after the next after the next after the next.

It's still good enough, at least, on the terms of being a major Hollywood blockbuster. I prefer it to most of last summer's fare, let's say. But it's still just a pretty good movie, rather than a great one.

I also caught Stephen Frears's "Lay the Favorite," which was, perhaps, the weakest entry in the usually solid director's oeuvre. The problem is that picture is mostly tone deaf.

Here are my Patch reviews.

My moviegoing schedule for the rest of the year is:

This Week: Zero Dark Thirty, Amour and This is 40

Next Week: Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Promised Land, The Impossible, Not Fade Away and On the Road. And, of course, my best and worst of the year list.

Sometime Soon: Jack Reacher

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ho Ho Hum: 'Hyde Park on Hudson' and 'Playing for Keeps'

It was a fairly blah week at the movies. Despite the presence of the great Bill Murray and Laura Linney, "Hyde Park on Hudson" was a curiously flat affair.

The picture tells both the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's alleged affair with his cousin, Daisy, and the weekend visit from the king and queen of England to drum up support for World War II.

Neither story is handled particularly well. It's a shame because the casting is so good. But, unfortunately, the picture fails to really justify its existence.

And then, there's "Playing for Keeps," a completely by-the-book romantic sports comedy with Gerard Butler and a whole gang of women - binders of them, you might say - throwing themselves at the star. It's a tad creepy, especially considering that the film's only other woman (Jessica Biel) comes off as a grump.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll obviously see "The Hobbit" and something else to be decided later.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's the Economy, Stupid: 'Killing Them Softly'

Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" is the latest crime film to have rankled the American public, so it would seem. Remember last year when some lady sued the makers of "Drive" because it did not live up to her "Fast and the Furious" expectations?

So, Dominik's film has received an 'F' grade on Cinemascore, which I believe says more about Cinemascore's users than it does the film.

Regardless, while I liked "Killing Them Softly" - quite a bit, actually - I don't think it's as good as Dominik's previous film, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."

"Killing" is a pretty grim and cynical crime film that doubles as an allegory for the 2008 financial meltdown and the U.S.'s economic system as a whole. While I don't think it's in the same category as "Drive," it's still quite good.

But I can't say the same for Marialy Rivas's randy "Young and Wild," which tells the tale of a young Chilean Evangelical whose hormones run wild, prompting her to start a blog and take up relations, as it were, with a young man and woman simultaneously.

The film has its moments, but it's a case of a filmmaker trying too hard to shock so-called bourgeois values and, in the process, losing control of the narrative. In essence, it's just OK.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch Mike Newell's "Hyde Park on Hudson" as well as at least one other of these three: "Lay the Favorite," "Playing the Field" or "Only the Young."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lee Brings Life to 'Pi,' 'Rust and Bone' and 'Hitchcock' Have Their Merits, but 'Red Dawn' is a Disaster

I caught three good films and one turkey this Thanksgiving weekend.

Lee's "Life of Pi" was the best of the bunch. I'll admit I'd read Yann Martel's Booker-winning novel and thought it impossible to adapt the story to the big screen. So, I'm pleased to say that Lee was up to the challenge.

Not only is the picture a visual marvel, but it's also a triumph of storytelling. And similar to last year's "The Tree of Life," it's a movie that deftly weaves themes of spirituality into its narrative without being overtly religious. It's one of the year's better pictures.

Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" is not on par with "A Prophet," his previous film, but it still has its share of riches - namely, the lead performance by Marion Cotillard as a whale trainer who is disfigured and enters into a romance, of sorts, with a brutish boxer (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" may not be a great bio film and it may occasionally take a gossip magazine tone towards its 1960s Hollywood setting, but it's at least enjoyable. And Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are always watchable as Hitch and Alma, his wife.

As far the remake of "Red Dawn": Imagine John Milius's absurd 1984 film, but without any of the unintentional humor. The plot in this update is still ludicrous, but it's played with a completely straight face and dead seriousness. Needless to say, I wouldn't recommend it - not by a mile.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch up with "Killing Them Softly" and "Young and Wild."

Monday, November 19, 2012

From Paper to Screen: 'Silver Linings Playbook,' 'Anna Karenina' and 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2'

It's going to be another short one this week, I'm afraid, as I'm working on about two hours of sleep.

This week's films were all adaptations of novels, but only one of them got it right. David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" is another idiosyncratic blend of comedy and drama. The performances are all solid and the script manages to be funny, intense and occasionally a bit moving. Needless to say, this was my pick of the week.

Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina" is, alas, less successful. And it shouldn't have been. Tolstoy's masterpiece offers up plenty of drama, tragedy and fantastic characters, but they are all overshadowed by the picture's emphasis on style over substance. Why exactly does the entire film appear to have been shot on a stage, albeit a very lavish one? And why does everyone freeze when the lead characters enter a room? It's not a bad film, but just a miscalculation.

"Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2" is, on the one hand, very likely the best of the series. That being said, I still can't wholeheartedly recommend it. Its first half is pretty similar to the past four films, but the second half lightens up a bit and has a fairly clever ending.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend's selections include "Life of Pi," "Rust and Bone," "Hitchcock" and "Red Dawn."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Iconic Figures: 'Lincoln' and 'Skyfall'

This week's films centered around two iconic figures: Abraham Lincoln and James Bond.

In Steven Spielberg's picture about the 16th president, Daniel Day Lewis gives another tour de force performance, disappearing completely into the role. But this is no ordinary biopic. Instead, the film completely centers around Lincoln's pushing the House of Representatives to enact the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

The picture is more of a behind-the-scenes look at how politics work, rather than the story of Lincoln's life. It's one of Spielberg's better films in a while - at least, his finest since "Munich."

And "Skyfall" marked a solid return for James Bond after the middling "Quantum of Solace." It's a little long, but Sam Mendes's entry into the popular series has some strong elements: a great performance by Javier Bardem as the villain, a visually lush sequence on the Shanghai skyline and some exciting action sequences.

"Skyfall" is one of the better Bond films in a long time.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch David O. Russell's "The Silver Linings Playbook" as well as Joe Wright's adaptation of "Anna Karenina" and, of course, "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Denzel Soars in 'Flight'

It's gonna be super short this week as I sit here sweating out the results of the presidential election.

Caught up with Robert Zemeckis's "Flight" and RZA's "The Man with the Iron Fists." I thought the first was solid and the second just average. Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch up with Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" and "Skyfall."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekly Wrapup: Cloud Atlas, The Loneliest Planet, Chasing Mavericks

I'm gonna keep this one short as the wind is a howlin' and the trees are a blowin' outside my window.

I didn't see anything I loved this week, but I found "Cloud Atlas" to be, on the whole, an interesting experiment. It works more often than not and is more ambitious than your average film of this magnitude and cost.

"The Loneliest Planet" was a little bit of a letdown. I enjoyed its first half, but thought it became a bit of a slog following its turning point scene. And "Chasing Mavericks" was a perfectly average sports film.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch "Flight," "This Must Be the Place," "Jack and Diane" and "The Man with the Iron Fists." Or, at least, I hope I have time for them all. And in case I haven't said it before, I can't wait for this election to be over. May Obama win. Please.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekend Wrapup: Bonkers 'Holy Motors,' 'The Sessions' and 'Paranormal Activity 4'

So, how about that "Holy Motors"?

Leos Carax's latest is easily one of the most bizarre films I've seen in recent years - or any year, for that matter. It's a lot to digest and, after two screenings, I feel as though I've only hit the tip of the iceberg. Regardless, it's one of the year's most unique films and it could very well be a top 10 contender.

I also enjoyed "The Sessions," which included some fine performances from John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

"Paranormal Activity 4," on the other hand, rang about as false as Mitt Romney's sudden morph into the champion of the middle class. I think I'm officially done with this series.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'll catch "Cloud Atlas" and "The Loneliest Planet." Between the weekend's two other big releases - "Chasing Mavericks" and "Silent Hill 2," I'm leaning toward seeing the former because it's directed by Curtis Hanson. We'll see.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Affleck Steps It Up with 'Argo'

Ben Affleck takes a big step forward with "Argo," his thriller set amid the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. It's a tense picture loaded with solid performances, cinematography, pacing and writing. I really enjoyed it and think it's Affleck's best work as a director to date.

I also caught up with "Seven Psychopaths," which is often quite original, funny and off the wall, but stumbles slightly in its final quarter. Still, a solid sophomore effort from Martin McDonagh.

And "Sinister" is a decent horror film. If I were grading on a scale, I'd say it's one of the better films of its type on several months. Then again, the horror films I've seen during that time period include "The Possession," "VHS" and " The Apparition."

Here are my reviews for Patch.

Without a doubt, I'll be catching Leos Carax's widely acclaimed "Holy Motors!" this upcoming weekend as well as several of these: "The Sessions," "Alex Cross" and "Paranormal Activity 4."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Andrea Arnold Reaches New 'Heights,' but 'VHS,' 'The Paperboy' and 'Taken 2'... Meh

Only one of this week's four cinematic selections proved to be worthwhile - Andrea Arnold's visually stunning, gritty and ethereal adaptation of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights."

Personally, this is my favorite film by the Scottish director to date, despite that I liked "Red Road" and "Fish Tank" just fine.

The weekend's other three new movies were not so hot. "Taken 2" was absurd, but occasionally amusing, while "The Paperboy" was just plain ridiculous.

I was a little disappointed with the omnibus horror film "V/H/S," even though I enjoyed David Bruckner and Radio Silence's contributions. The other four stories in the anthology film ranged from mediocre to lousy.

Here are my Patch reviews for all four films.

This coming weekend, I'll see Ben Affleck's "Argo," "Seven Psychopaths" and "Sinister." Until then.

Monday, October 1, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'Looper' and 'Pitch Perfect'

Both of this week's new releases owe a debt, of sorts, to films of recent years paving the way for their existence. "Looper" might not have been made had Christopher Nolan's "Inception" not been a success, while "Pitch Perfect" comes off as a mixture of "Glee" and "Bridesmaids," but with a PG-13 rating.

I enjoyed "Looper" and certainly thought it was creative. But much like "Inception," I wasn't convinced that it was a modern science fiction classic. In fact, I preferred Ridley Scott's recent "Prometheus" in that genre. Director Rian Johnson is a real talent, but "Brick" is still my favorite of his films.

"Pitch Perfect" has its moments - many of which are provided by Rebel Wilson. It's often funny, but also too familiar too often.

Here are my Patch reviews for the week.

It's a busy, busy week for movies and, unfortunately, I'm still fighting off the sickness.

So, I'm going to make sure I get to see "The Paperboy" and "VHS," but I'm also aiming to catch up with "Taken 2," "Frankenweenie" and Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights."

Monday, September 24, 2012

'Wallflower' Has Many Perks, while 'Curve' and 'End of Watch' Are Both Decent Entertainments

It's a real pleasure to stumble across a genuine surprise in our current age of cinematic predictability. I'm speaking of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own 1999 novel.

It's not only the best movie about youth since 2009's "Adventureland," but also one of my favorite films of the year thus far. Typically, teenagers are treated as idiots in films and serve one of two purposes - to hormonally rage or be picked off by a masked madman.

But "Perks" is a sweet, melancholic look at the joys and pains of growing up. It draws a fair amount of pathos from its story, which is centered around Charlie (Logan Lerman), a troubled freshmen who bonds with a damaged girl (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother (Ezra Miller). While the picture does not exactly break ground thematically, it manages to do what it's thing - portraying the heartaches of youth - very, very well.

The week's other two newbies - "End of Watch" and "Trouble with the Curve" were just enjoyable enough. The former is a decent, gritty cop film that is only brought down slightly by its unnecessary found footage format. There are some issues of believability that stem from said format.

The latter is a mostly charming baseball drama that features a cranky Clint Eastwood - but, you know, a charmingly cranky Eastwood and not the type who yells at inanimate objects - and Amy Adams in a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship. It gets off to a rocky start with a little too much focus on Clint's grouchiness and an unfortunate scene at a grave site, but picks up once it gets rolling into its story. It's not Eastwood's best movie of recent years - but, then again, he didn't direct it himself.

Here are my reviews.

I also managed to catch another screening of "The Master," which I've now viewed several times. My father, who was visiting from out of town, drew an interesting conclusion from the film: there is a parallel between Lancaster Dodd's "making it up as he goes along" and Freddie's "making up" his alcoholic concoctions, which include everything from paint thinner to photography chemicals, as he goes along. "Food for thought," as Dodd himself might say.

This coming weekend, I'll obviously catch "Looper." My other selection could either be "Won't Back Down," which is not based on that Tom Petty song, or "Pitch Perfect." Or something else. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A New 'Master' Piece by Anderson

Now, here's a movie. And it's about time. After a long summer full of studio blandness and an overall unambitious 2012 slate thus far, Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is so good that it nearly makes up the difference.

The picture is stylistically closest to "There Will Be Blood," but it also shares some similar themes with "Boogie Nights" (father-son scenarios and outsiders being brought into a dysfunctional family). And yet, the film is easily the most opaque of Anderson's work. It often defies convention and concludes with a series of scenes that could best be described as "inconclusive."

It's a beguiling film that is filled to the brim with gorgeous cinematography - shot in 65mm and projected in 70mm - as well as career-best performances by several of its actors and a screenplay that will leave you with a lot to chew on.

I also caught Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage," a solid Occupy Wall Street-toned thriller that features a great performance by Richard Gere.

Between the two films, the fall season has started with a bang. Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'm going to try to catch all three of these films: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Trouble with the Curve" and "End of Watch."

Monday, September 10, 2012

When 'Words' Fail

I'm gonna keep this super short this week as I'm in the midst of an extremely hectic week.

This week's cinematic selections were "The Words," an occasionally interesting drama, and "Bachelorette," a mostly bitter dramedy that squanders a talented cast.

Here are my Patch reviews. See, I told you - a short post.

Next week, I'm going to have to take some significant time for writing as, in case you haven't heard, Paul Thomas Anderson's highly acclaimed "The Master" is finally unveiled. I'll also probably catch "Arbitrage."

Monday, September 3, 2012

End of Summer Blahs, Vol. II: 'Lawless,' 'The Possession' and 'For a Good Time, Call...'

Well, the good news is that this week's three new releases were - on the whole - better than last weekend's selections. The bad news is that they were all pretty average.

The film to which I was most looking forward was John Hillcoat's "Lawless," which details the bloody wars between moonshine bootleggers and a violent lawman (Guy Pearce) in the 1930s. The picture received middling reviews at Cannes, but I thought it was, perhaps, an example of an American genre film that gets lost amid all of that festival's higher profile films.

Alas. It's a pretty mediocre picture. Despite the fact that the movie has been wonderfully cast, its bevy of talented actors are given little to do other than murmur their way through an average script that is occasionally punctuated by outbursts of graphic violence. The film looks good, but it's an overall hit and miss viewing experience.

I was slightly surprised that "For a Good Time, Call..." was a little better than I'd expected. I found the film's overly vulgar trailer to be trying way too hard to be raunchy and outrageous. And while the film certainly contains those elements, which I thought to be the weakest moments in the picture, the film also contains a pretty touching portrayal of two women forming a friendship. At those moments, the film is at its best. On the whole, it's not a bad movie - it could have just down without all of the calculated outrageousness.

My final film of the week was "The Possession," which was significantly better than last weekend's supernatural outing - the dreadful "The Apparition." That being said, it's still pretty by-the-book. The film is at its best when following the divorce of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick's characters and its effect on their children. But, of course, these scenes are surrounded by the obligatory low gruntings of the possessed, creepy eyeball rolling sequences and all manner of objects flying around rooms. To sum it up - meh.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend kicks off the fall movie season. I'll catch "The Words" as well as one of these pictures - "Bachelorette," "Branded" and "REC 3."

Monday, August 27, 2012

End of Summer Blahs: Premium Rush, The Apparition and Compliance

Well, it wasn't the greatest weekend for movies, that's for sure.

The best picture I saw was David Koepp's "Premium Rush," which won this week's cinematic lottery by simply not being terrible. It's a fast-paced, often amusing, but never better than pretty good thriller. It's fun - especially Michael Shannon's off-the-wall performance as the movie's heavy - but nothing to write home about.

I had stronger feelings about "Compliance," albeit not very good ones. The film, directed by Craig Zobel, was one of Sundance's more controversial selections this year. And I hate to have to describe it that way because that's clearly what the filmmakers are so desperately going for - to be the movie that divides people and gets them cranky.

Well, mission accomplished, but not in the way I'm supposing it's intended. The picture is a faux provocation. It's one of those films where you can almost just see the invisible hand of the director wagging his finger at you in scorn for sitting through the proceedings, which entail the humiliation of a young woman at the hands of a pretty sicko crank caller. And yet, I'm not the one who made the movie, am I? So there.

I'm not even going to go into "The Apparition." Let's just say the supernatural villain of the picture frequently appears as a large blob of mold. That enough for you?

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming week, I'll definitely catch "Lawless," but also several of these new releases - "The Tall Man," "For a Good Time, Call..." and "The Possession."

Next week is the first official week of the fall movie season. Thank God. This summer hasn't been the worst on record. In fact, very few of the major releases were outright terrible. But it's certainly been among the most bland.

There are a number of movies I'm very excited about this fall, including "The Master," "Django Unchained," "Amour," "Holy Motors," "Killing Them Softly," "Life of Pi," " Zero Dark Thirty" and "Promised Land." And I'm holding out hope that "Only God Forgives," "To the Wonder" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" get released this year.

Also, I'm going to follow up on Sight and Sound's 2012 poll with a list of my own. For some time, I've planned on putting together my own movie canon. So, at the end of this year, I'm going to compile what I believe to be the 1,000 movies that are required viewing. More on that later.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Baby, You're a Rich Man: 'Cosmopolis'

David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," which is based on the novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, is one of the year's most cerebral films and one of the director's strangest in a while. And although I liked the film and was compelled by it through and through, I don't believe it ranks with Cronenberg's great films of the past 15 years - namely, "Crash," "Spider," "A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises" and "A Dangerous Method."

There's a lot to praise in the picture, from it's bizarro mood, which is established early on and maintained throughout the proceedings, the solid performances from both Robert Pattinson and the supporting cast - especially Samantha Morton - and the smorgasbord of ideas at play. It's a good film from the director, but maybe not a great one.

I also caught up with "The Expendables 2," which is just as absurd as you're probably thinking it is. It's no more and no less than that. Yes, it's pretty bad. OK, it's occasionally amusing. But I wouldn't go as far as recommending it.

Here are my reviews for both films for Patch.

I also managed to finally catch "Celeste and Jesse Forever," which starts out a bit twee and ends in a different place than I would have expected. It's a nice little comedy and it has one of the most inappropriately funny jokes of recent memory.

This coming weekend, I'll see "Compliance," which I didn't get to last weekend as well as some of the weekend's new releases - perhaps, "Premium Rush" and "The Apparition."

Monday, August 13, 2012

'Bourne' Again

Hey, you only get a chance for a headline like that once in a blue moon, so sue me.

I enjoyed "The Bourne Legacy" a bit more than a majority of critics, whose cumulative reviews for the picture have placed it at a mediocre 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, if you pay attention to that sort of thing. I thought it was a decent entry in the series and an intense film.

I also had a soft spot for "Hope Springs," which follows Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as an aging couple who attend a marriage counseling program in Maine. It's a charming film that is, at first, funny before it veers off into more serious territory. On the whole, it was likeable.

My feelings were more mixed toward the weekend's other two new films - "The Campaign" and "Red Hook Summer." The first has a few sidesplitting moments, including one in which Zach Galifianakis hears some outrageous confessions at the dinner table with his family, but the film is, on the whole, a mixed bag. It doesn't really break any ground or tell us anything we don't already know about politics and its ending, which involves a complete about-face from both characters, is not earned. At least, in my humble opinion.

As is the case in most of Spike Lee's films, "Red Hook Summer" provides some serious stuff to chew on. But it's not among the director's best. For every riveting sequence, there's another with underwritten dialogue, overlong sermonizing (literally) during its church sequences and some amateurish acting. I'd almost recommend it because it's ballsier than most other films in cinemas right now, but the film is a mixed bag.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'm getting all revved up for David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis." I'll also catch up with "The Expendables 2" and, either this weekend or next, the controversial "Compliance."

Monday, August 6, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'Total Recall' and '360'

The fact that I couldn't even make an attempt at a witty/smarmy headline should tell you everything you need to know. It wasn't the most inspiring weekend at the movies.

That's not to say that the selections I caught up with were that bad - just nothing to, pardon the expression, write home about.

"Total Recall" was a perfectly serviceable - but inspiration lacking - remake of the superior 1990 film by Paul Verhoeven, which was, in turn, based on a Philip K. Dick story. The new version has some decent action sequences and a helluva lot of chase scenes. But it's sort of unnecessary.

Fernando Meiralles's "360" is a bit better than his last outing - "Blindness" - but is still a far cry from his early work - "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener." It's one of those multiple character films in which stories occasionally intersect. That's fine for a setup, but the problem here is that there does not appear to be a unifying theme. Or, at least, a very weak one. The picture has some solid performances, but it's lacking a certain something.

Here are my reviews.

I'm still catching up on some of the films I missed in the theater this year. I recently saw "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding," which dabbles in cliche but is just charming enough. Then, there's "ATM," a micro-indie thriller that is compelling enough until it completely ceases to have any point whatsoever in its final moments. I'm not going to even get into "Detention," which aims to be a "Cabin in the Woods" and falls way short. No, seriously - way short.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer," "The Bourne Legacy," "Hope Springs" and "The Campaign."

Monday, July 30, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'Killer Joe,' 'Ruby Sparks' and 'The Watch'

William Friedkin's "Killer Joe" finds the director at his most wily in some time. It's a pretty lurid little picture with a solid performance by Matthew McConaughey and some decent supporting work from its cast, who portray some of the most lowdown degenerates I've seen in a movie in recent memory.
Needless to say, I liked it.

I also enjoyed "Ruby Sparks," Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's "Little Miss Sunshine." I thought the duo's previous film was a bit overrated, so I enjoyed their sophomore picture a lot more. It's clever, funny and occasionally moving.

"The Watch" doubles as this week's obligatory raunch fest and obligatory alien invasion movie. It's actually not as bad as all that, but it's not exactly good either. There are a few laughs in the film, but not enough considering the talent involved.

Here are my three reviews for Patch.

I also saw Julie Delpy's "2 Days in New York," which is a follow-up to her surprise hit "2 Days in Paris." It's equally as funny and enjoyable. The film is lightweight, but in a good way. The same cannot be said for "30 Beats," which I managed to catch up with last week. For a film about a group of characters finding themselves in various sexual exploits during a hot New York summer day, it's pretty dry stuff.

This coming weekend, I'll most likely see a few of these selections: "Total Recall," "360" and "Celeste and Jesse Forever."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Batman Ends: 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Batman Ends. 'Batman Begins,' get it? Get it? Batman.... oh, never mind.

So, I thought Christopher Nolan's third chapter in his Batman trilogy was the weakest of the three, but I still thought it was better than your average summer movie. In essence, I liked it.

The cons for the film was its running length, which was not exactly necessary, as well as some dialogue being drowned out by Hans Zimmer's score. And while I thought Tom Hardy did a fine job as Bane, the fact that his face was obscured throughout the entire movie made his performance seem less a living and breathing sort of thing as, say, Heath Ledger's work as The Joker.

But I really enjoyed Anne Hathaway as jewel thief Selina Kyle - AKA Catwoman - and the picture's ending involved several clever plot twists. The supporting work, especially by Joseph Gordon Levitt, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine, was also solid,

All in all, it's a good movie - if not exactly a great one. Here's my review for Patch.

I also caught up with "Safety Not Guaranteed," which I enjoyed, but did not review. It's an offbeat indie film with some solid performances and clever writing. And it's got one nutty ending, let me tell you.

This coming weekend, I'll see "Killer Joe," "The Watch" and "Ruby Sparks."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Second Time Around: 'Alps' and 'Red Lights'

This weekend's selections were both follow-ups by directors to critically acclaimed breakout films. The other thing they have in common is that they both were disappointing.

I was a big fan of Giorgos Lanthimos's perverse and outrageous "Dogtooth," so much so that it landed in my top 20 of 2010. But "Alps," which is technically his third feature, but his first since his breakthrough film, did not live up to my expectations. It's certainly as strange as "Dogtooth," but less effective.

I also caught up with "Red Lights," the second film from Rodrigo Cortes, whose debut "Buried" left me with mixed feelings. His subject matter this time around is slightly more compelling and the performances in his sophomore feature are solid. The film culminates with one of those pull-the-rug-from-under-your-feet type of twists. In this case, it's an interesting one, but still a twist that causes the picture to sort-of fall apart under scrutiny.

Neither film was bad, but neither was exactly recommendable either. Here are my reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll obviously see "The Dark Knight Rises" as well as something else that has yet to be decided. Some potentials: "The Imposter," "Union Square" or "Easy Money."

Monday, July 9, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'The Amazing Spider-man' and 'Savages'

Gotta keep it very short and sweet this week. Over the weekend, I caught up with "The Amazing Spider-man," which I found to be unnecessary, but well-made, as well as Oliver Stone's "Savages," which I thought was energetic, but slightly unfocused.

Here are my Patch reviews.

I also managed to see "The Woman in the Fifth," which I thought was often interesting, but ultimately a bit messy.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing "Alps" and "Red Lights." More on those films next week.

Monday, July 2, 2012

'Wild' Child: Benh Zeitlin's Dazzling Debut, Plus 'Magic Mike' and 'Ted'

This past weekend was - I'd contend - the best I had at the movies this summer so far. I enjoyed Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike," which was an entertaining and funny take on male stripping. The source material is (apparently) Channing Tatum's own experiences as an, umm, exotic dancer.

I also thought "Ted" was funny, even if it attempted a little too hard to offend - and, then, occasionally did. Anyway, the picture was funnier than most of Hollywood's other comedies this year so far.

But the week's - and year's, perhaps - big winner was Benh Zeitlin's debut, "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Much has been written about this film already and it's easy to see why.

The film not only contains one of the best performances ever by a child, but it's also further proof that the regional indie is not dead. It's a really excellent film that I'm glad I managed to see twice. There's a lot of "stuff" going on in the film that takes a while to sink in.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing "The Amazing Spider-man" and Oliver Stone's "Savages."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Good Second Tier: 'Brave' and 'To Rome With Love'

It was a better couple of days for movies this past weekend than the previous week - that's for sure.

Although I wouldn't classify "Brave" as one of Pixar's best films, it is better than last year's "Cars 2" and while I wouldn't say "To Rome with Love" is as good as, say, "Midnight in Paris," it's still a fun little picture and quite funny.

On the other hand, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is a bust. It's not badly acted or poorly shot, but, at times, woefully misguided. You'll see what I mean in my reviews for Patch of all three aforementioned films.

I saw a few other films that I won't be including in my weekly Patch roundups, so I'll say a little about each of them here.

For starters, I thought "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" was a lot better than I thought it would be due to the tepid response from most critics. It's a charming, often funny and occasionally touching romantic comedy set amid - that's right - an impending apocalypse.

Keira Knightley is quite good in her role and Steve Carrell brings an unexpected poignance to his as well. All in all, an enjoyable movie.

I'm a little more torn on Sarah Polley's "Take This Waltz," which is not as strong as the actresses' directorial debut, "Away from Her."

Her latest revolves around a love triangle, of sorts, in which Michelle Williams must chose between her husband (a restrained Seth Rogan) and the hunky rickshaw worker across the street.

On the one hand, there are some nice moments here, including an amusement park ride sequence that is used to great effect during its first appearance and slightly more somber effect the second time around.

But my problem with the film is that its characters appear to often inhabit that hipster universe of behavior that I'm not sure I've ever experienced with any real people. I'm obviously hanging out in all the wrong places. And I'm not sure ultimately what Polley's trying to convey here.

It's not a bad movie, but - in my humble opinion - a mixed bag.

This coming weekend, I'll catch "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Magic Mike" and "Ted."

Also, upon returning from my honeymoon, I've been catching up with the episodes of "Mad Men" that I missed. Gottta say, "The Other Woman" (Episode 11) is a doozy. One of the best I've seen in a while or, possibly, ever. Only two more to go.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cinematic Summer of Discontent

It's been a great year - wedding, honeymoon, new apartment, etc. - but not such a hot one for movies.

While I truly enjoyed "Prometheus" last week, I caught up with a handful of pictures this weekend and none of them particularly impressed me. There is some potential light at the end of the tunnel. Upcoming releases include "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" and Lanthimos' "Alps."

And I saw that Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" is getting an August release. So there's that.

Meanwhile, I reviewed "Rock of Ages" and "That's My Boy," the first of which was middling and the second a complete disaster, for Patch. Here are my reviews.

My weekend of catching up also included "Men in Black III," "Dark Horse" and "Snow White and the Huntsman." And while I can't say that any of these three films were bad, I won't go as far as recommending any of them either.

"MIB III" is an improvement on the second film in that series and "Snow White" has a fetching Gothic style to it, but both movies are just OK at best. "Dark Horse" features some fine performances and a softer side to Todd Solondz. But I feel the same way about this movie as I did about "Life During Wartime." It's as if Solondz has been making the same movie over and over for the past decade.

I loved "Happiness" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse" - and, at least, the first half of "Storytelling" - but I'd love to see him branch out and try something a little different.

This coming weekend, I'll review "Brave," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "To Rome With Love" and, possibly, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World." And I still need to catch up with "Your Sister's Sister."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

File Under Department of 'Shut the #@!* Up'

Who was it that said 'Opinions are like assholes - everyone has one'?

So, I'm walking down the street of my quaint Queens neighborhood this evening when one of my neighbors from a few doors down passes me on the street and upon noticing a shirt I'm wearing that features a logo, says to me: "[Logo's Brand] is bullshit."

"Excuse me?" I say, a bit taken aback at being accosted on the street with passive aggressive remarks by a person I've not only never spoken to but, I believe, never even seen before.

"[Logo] sucks," she says. I explain my affiliation with said logo, which I won't give name because it's really besides the point. "Well, just sayin'," she says and then proceeds to point downwards with her thumbs and make that farting noise with her mouth that insinuates displeasure. "No bueno." I feel compelled to point out that this woman was not, in fact, a Latina.

Now, I just returned from Greece from my honeymoon. And I must say, I was surprised by how generous, good humored, kind and helpful Greeks were, considering recent portrayals of their country being in financial turmoil. During my entire visit, I think I witnessed a total three protesters with a few homemade signs. And even they were carrying on in a polite manner.

I'm getting off topic.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is how did people in these United States start becoming so entitled that it's become commonplace to randomly berate complete strangers on the street and force their nasty opinions down the throats of others?

You may think I'm reaching here. And you could make that argument had this been the first incident I'd experienced during which someone who I'd never met suddenly feels they have the right to ensnare me in their bitterness.

Alas, this is not the case. In years past, I've had neighbors get coked out of their heads and try to beat down my door because they thought I was playing my music too loud when, in fact, I had been asleep with no music playing at all.

Then, there was the neighbor standing outside my door first thing in the morning who screamed and cursed at me because he thought I'd forgotten to lock one of the locks on our building.

Most recently, I had a neighbor leave a manifesto on my doorstep, accusing me of walking too much in my apartment and asking me to wear slippers more often.

No, seriously. What the hell is going on? Where do people get off? And why am I writing about this? There's a new Woody Allen movie coming out and, the week after that, "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which is one of the most acclaimed films of the year so far. I have better ways of spending my time.

So, I'll leave it at this. As my mother once said, "If you don't have something nice to say, then file your complaint under the Department of 'Shut the #&*! Up.'

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Just got back from my honeymoon in Greece and I'm pretty exhausted. So, needless to say, I'm keeping it short this week and in the process of catching up on some movies.

I saw Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" and enjoyed it quite a bit. Here's my review for Patch. The film is a sort-of prequel to "Alien" as well as many other things, including a thoughtful sci-fi drama on the origins of mankind. Good stuff.

This coming weekend, there's a lot of movie watching going on, including "Men in Black III," "Snow White and the Huntsman," "Dark Horse," "That's My Boy" and "Rock of Ages." Some of these will obviously be reviewed in next week's post. And I plan on writing up some longer pieces for this blog in the near future - once I've recouped from jet lag.

Monday, May 28, 2012

'Moonrise Kingdom'

On my way to honeymoon. Here's my review for "Moonrise Kingdom," which I enjoyed. Will be away for a bit. When I return, I'll post reviews for "Prometheus" and several other new films.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'The Dictator,' 'Polisse,' 'Beyond the Black Rainbow' and 'Battleship'

I'm gonna keep it real short and sweet this week. I'm getting married in four days, so there will be no posts for a couple of weeks.

This past weekend, I saw one film that I very much enjoyed - "Polisse" - as well as two disappointments - "The Dictator" and "Beyond the Black Rainbow," although I love the latter's score and some of its cinematography - and a mediocre blockbuster, "Battleship."

Here are my reviews.

I'm gonna catch Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" this coming week and will post my review. Then, it's off on my honeymoon.

There will be much to discuss in the near future, especially the Cannes lineup. So far, I'm very excited about Michael Haneke's "Amour" and Andrew Domenik's "Killing Them Softly."

Still waiting to hear about "Post Tenebras Lux," "Cosmopolis" and "Mud."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Two 'Dark Shadows' and Two Others

The best thing I saw this weekend was "Dark Shadows," but I'm not referring to the Tim Burton film or the 1960s TV show on which it was based. This week's episode of "Mad Men" just so happens to bear the same name. And, as always, the show is - for my money - on par with the best of today's cinema and better than much of it.

As for Burton's "Dark Shadows," it was the week's best cinematic selection, but still a mixed bag. Johnny Depp gives an amusing performance as Barnabas Collins and the picture is aces in the art direction department.

But the director, for some reason, takes his narrative from the realm of oddball comedy to that of an action film in the final 20 minutes, complete with explosions, fight scenes and a few unnecessary reveals. It's unfortunate because without those scenes, the movie would have been a recommend. All in all, it's uneven.

I also caught up with the Filipino horror movie "The Road," which is one of the rare exports from its nation of origin. Unfortunately, it's also a mixed bag. The movie is occasionally creepy, but also a bit convoluted. Here are my reviews for Patch.

I managed to catch a screening of the wannabe provocation "Elles," but did not review it. If nothing else, this picture just goes to show that even the best of them - in this case, Juliette Binoche - occasionally pick a bad one. In the film, Binoche plays a journalist researching prostitutes for an article. The story lurches about aimlessly and unevenly before arriving at a non-ending. Needless to say, I can't recommend it.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing "The Dictator," "Beyond the Black Rainbow," "Polisse" and "Battleship."

Monday, May 7, 2012

Team Work: 'The Avengers' and 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

This week's cinematic selections were both team efforts - a super-hyped comic book extravaganza ("The Avengers") and a fish out of water comedy that has assembled some of Britain's finest actors over the age of 60 ("The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel").

I liked both films, but didn't love them. "The Avengers" has some decent set pieces, but also a few too many. My favorite moments in Joss Whedon's film involved the banter between his league of superheroes. Robert Downey, Jr. gets the best lines.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was charming but, perhaps, a bit slight. The cast makes it worthwhile. It's funny without quite being hilarious.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

On a side note, I find it interesting that we're already into the fifth month of the year and there are barely any films that I'd think would be contenders for my end-of-the-year best list. The year's finest film so far is "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia."

I also liked "The Deep Blue Sea," "The Turin Horse," "The Hunger Games" and "The Cabin in the Woods," but I'm not sure any of them would make a top 20 list. Maybe "The Deep Blue Sea."

I'm hoping this summer's movie slate is solid. This fall, there are a number of great looking films.

This coming weekend, I'll catch Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" and either "Where Do We Go Now?" or "Bonsai."

Monday, April 30, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'Five Year Engagement,' 'The Raven,' 'Sound of my Voice' and 'Bernie'

It was a busy week at the movies as you'll see from my latest piece for Patch.

This weekend, I saw three films I liked - the affable romantic comedy "The Five Year Engagement," Richard Linklater's oddball "Bernie" and "Sound of my Voice," a strange indie about two journalists attempting to infiltrate a cult.

I wasn't as excited about "The Raven," which had a few good set pieces, but was weak in other departments. Gotta keep it short this week. I'll let the reviews speak for themselves.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing "The Avengers" and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Good Directors, Not So Great Movies: 'The Moth Diaries' and 'The Lucky One'

I was a little let down by Mary Harron's "The Moth Diaries" this weekend, especially being such a big fan of her brilliant adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's "American Psycho." The film felt curiously flat and lacking in subtext or substance.

The same can be said for Scott Hicks's "The Lucky One." I've enjoyed some of Hicks's other films, most notably "Shine," but his latest was pretty blah. Granted, the picture was based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. I can't say I've been particularly crazy about any of the Sparks adaptations I've seen thus far.

Here are this week's reviews for Patch.

I also finally caught up with "Bully," which I found to be moving and mostly successful. If the film has any problems, it's that it is a bit anecdotal, rather than bringing together its various victims' stories into one narrative. Nevertheless, it's an effective documentary.

This weekend, I have a lot to see: "The Raven," "The Five-Year Engagement," Richard Linklater's "Bernie" and the acclaimed indie "Sound of My Voice."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Genre Bending Exercises: 'Cabin in the Woods' and 'Damsels in Distress'

I gotta say, I had a lot of fun at Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's "The Cabin in the Woods." It's not particularly scary, but it's a whole lot of meta fun and pretty clever to boot.

The film not only lampoons the horror genre, but also people's expectations of it.... and even a little something more, I'd say.

I was a little let down by "Damsels in Distress," the first film from Whit Stillman in 14 years. It has the same witty banter as his previous efforts, but it's often too twee and light on substance. It's not bad, but just sort of middle of the road.

Here are my Patch reviews.

The week's other - more significant - letdown was Guy Maddin's "Keyhole," which I'd heard was good as well as described as Lynchian. Alas, I thought it was one of the director's weaker efforts as of late. It has some good atmosphere and some expected loopy moments, but overall lacking.

But the fact that this season of "Mad Men" has been getting so increasingly fantastic almost makes up for a few cinematic bummers. I thought last night's episode was another knockout - and you'll hopefully appreciate my choice of words if you saw it.

Also, I decided to have a little fun this week. If you're linked to me on Facebook, search for my photo album titled 'Amazing Photos.' I know, not the most ingenious title, but I think it could provide you with a laugh. Be sure to read the captions.

This coming weekend, I'll catch up with "The Moth Diaries," which is the latest from Mary Harron.

So, what does that leave? There's a new film from Lawrence Kasdan and that Zac Effron picture, "The Lucky One." I also wouldn't mind catching up with "Bully." We'll see, I guess. But you can count on the Harron film.

Monday, April 9, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'American Reunion'

I was out of town doing wedding preparation this past weekend, so my viewing was light. I managed to catch up with "American Reunion," which I occasionally found charming - catching up with a couple of characters I liked from the previous films, for example - but also unnecessary.

Here's my review for Patch.

This coming week will be one for catching up - first and foremost with Whit Stillman's "Damsels in Distress" and Guy Maddin's "Keyhole."

Next weekend, I'll definitely see "The Cabin in the Woods" as well as "The Three Stooges."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hollywood Blahs: 'Wrath of the Titans' and 'Mirror, Mirror'

Needless to say, it was not the best weekend for movies. My reviews for Patch this week were "Wrath of the Titans" and "Mirror, Mirror," of which neither was I particularly fond.

The first was a by-the-numbers sequel to a mostly unnecessary remake of "Clash of the Titans," while the second was a visually lavish, but under-scripted take on Snow White.

Take a look at my reviews.

On a brighter note, I finally caught up with "Friends with Kids," which I enjoyed. Much credit is due to the film's able cast. I didn't review the picture because it has been out for several weeks. But it's a solid indie dramedy.

This coming weekend will find me knee-deep in wedding preparations, but I'm planning on catching "American Reunion" for the sake of my Monday movie column.

The weekend's other releases - Guy Maddin's "Keyhole" and Whit Stillman's "Damsels in Distress" - will have to be viewed during the following week. I'll either post an update with my thoughts on those movies on this blog or will include them in my Patch roundup for the following week, which will also include "The Cabin in the Woods."

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'The Hunger Games,' 'The Raid: Redemption' and 'The Deep Blue Sea'

Finally, some good movies this weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Hunger Games," which I found to be one of the better blockbusters of late.

And I also greatly admired Terence Davies' lush, but melancholic, "The Deep Blue Sea." My third selection was "The Raid: Redemption," which had amazing martial arts sequences, but a threadbare storyline. I'd recommend it to action movie fans, but others might want to be advised: it's extremely violent and gory.

Here are this week's reviews. Gotta keep it short. Busy day. But I also enjoyed last night's debut of "Mad Men, Season Five." Would love to hear what everyone else thought of it. Please post comments in the section provided below.

This coming weekend, I'll most likely catch "Wrath of the Titans" and "Mirror, Mirror."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Just the Two of Us: '21 Jump Street,' 'The Kid with a Bike' and 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home'

This week's trio of movies I viewed were all films by duos about duos.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller's re-imagining of the 1980s teen cop show was "21 Jump Street" is sort of a gas - a word, I assure you, that I don't use lightly. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum make a good comedic team with Ice Cube providing some nice backup as the angry police chief. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a good time will likely be had by all - or, at least, most.

I also caught up with Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes's "The Kid with a Bike." It may have not been one of my favorite of the Belgian brothers' films, but it's still a moving little picture. And it finds the brothers covering some new ground.

The week's other set of brothers is Mark and Jay Duplass, whose "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" I found charming enough. While the picture is slight in some areas, the performances - especially Jason Segel as the titular character - make up for the at-times too-laid-back tone. It's a charming film.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing "The Raid: Redemption," "The Deep Blue Sea" and, of course, "The Hunger Games."

Monday, March 12, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'John Carter,' 'Silent House' and 'Footnote'

How does one create a witty headline summing up "John Carter," "Silent House" and "Footnote?" I'll take suggestions in the comment section.

So, I wasn't a huge fan of "Carter," which was a mediocre sci-fi epic, at best. It's a shame because the film was directed by Andrew Stanton, who directed "WALL-E," which is my favorite Pixar movie. I was also not blown away by "Silent House," which gets points for originality, but no so much for execution.

"Footnote" was a solid picture. Here are my reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll write about "The Kid with a Bike," "21 Jump Street" and, most likely, either "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" or "Casa de mi Padre."

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Best and Worst of Home Movies: 'This Is Not a Film' and 'Project X'

It's gonna be brief this week. Over the weekend, I caught up with two films that exhibited the best and worst of films that take a home movie format.

Jafar Panahi's moving "This Is Not a Film" is a powerful document of a censored artist, while "Project X" hits the bottom of the barrel for found footage films. Here are my Patch reviews.

I did not get a chance to see the controversial "The Snowtown Murders." But, as it turns out, I recently discovered that I have On-Demand, so I'll try to catch up with that film this week.

For the upcoming weekend, I'm intending to see "John Carter," "Footnote" and "Silent House."

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Morning After the Oscars and Two New Reviews

So, I apparently didn't find the 84th Academy Awards to be nearly as tiresome as some others, who complained of how "boring" it was.

I enjoyed it. Billy Crystal may have not given his best performance as the show's host, but he was funny enough. I particularly enjoyed the segment in which he attempted to read the minds of audience members.

A few of the presenters flubbed it. I won't name names. But the show was, overall, enjoyable enough. That being said, I didn't feel particularly enthralled by the winners in any given category, although I was very glad to see "A Separation" take Best Foreign Film.

Otherwise, I'm pleased that Jean Dujardin won and I thought Meryl Streep was the best in that category (which, sadly, excluded Kirsten Dunst and Keira Knightley). Similarly, I believe Christopher Plummer was the best in his category (which excluded Albert Brooks and Brad Pitt for his extraordinary work in "The Tree of Life"). I thought Octavia Spencer gave a very good performance and her speech was moving. Personally, I'd long been gunning for Jessica Chastain to pick up an award this season - but more for "The Tree of Life" or "Take Shelter."

This week, I've got two new reviews for Patch - "Wanderlust," a minor, but often funny comedy that I mostly enjoyed, and "Gone," a forgettable teen thriller. Here are my notices.

I also snuck in two Oscar movies at the last minute - "Albert Nobbs," which featured some solid acting and was better than I'd been led to believe, and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," which was decent enough. I'd read the book and enjoyed it, but I found Oskar's character in the movie to be a little less sympathetic, especially during the numerous, frantic sequences involving his shouting. Not a bad movie, but Stephen Daldry has done better. Max von Sydow was excellent.

This coming week, I'm definitely seeing Jafar Panahi's much-talked-about "This Is Not a Film" as well as "Project X." I'd love to see "The Snowtown Murders," but am having some difficulty tracking down where the film is playing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'This Means War,' 'Ghost Rider' and 'Michael'

I try to make the headlines these posts a little more inspiring than the one you see above. This one must be a reflection of the films I saw this past weekend - a little uninspiring.

"This Means War" is a mediocre action-injected romantic comedy that wastes a perfectly good cast, while "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is a complete debacle. It does, however, have a few amazingly insane line readings from the ever entertaining Nicolas Cage.

I found Markus Schleinzer's "Michael" to be unsettling and well-performed, if not completely justified to exist. It's far from a bad film and it will certainly leave you with something to talk about, but I wasn't exactly blown away.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'm going to see "Gone" and "Wanderlust" as well as finally catch up with "Albert Nobbs." And, of course, there's the Academy Awards.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Mighty Wind's a Blowin': Bela Tarr's 'The Turin Horse'

"The Turin Horse," which is rumored to be the great Bela Tarr's last film, is among the bleakest in the Hungarian director's career. And that's saying something.

I was definitely entranced by the film - at least, for the most part. It's filled with stunning imagery and makes great use of sound. But, to be honest, I didn't quite love it as I did "Satantango" or "Werckmeister Harmonies." And yet, it's still better than most of the other pictures playing at a theater near you.

I also caught "Safe House," a perfectly average CIA thriller featuring Denzel Washington as a rogue agent. The picture has some solid action sequences, little character development and virtually nothing going on beyond what's on screen. Not a bad film, but one that I feel I've seen many times before.

Check out my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," "This Means War" and the controversial "Michael."

Friday, February 10, 2012

You're Schmoopy!: A Guide to the Most Romantic Films for Valentine's Day

Today, I posted my list of the top 10 films that could give your love life a boost should you screen them with your romantic interest.

So, check out my piece on the Valentine's Day Canon. I tried to combine some old favorites with some slightly more offbeat choices. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Horror, The Horror, 2012 Edition

It was about one year ago that I launched the Critical Conditions blog with my first post, "The Horror, The Horror," which featured reviews of "We Are What We Are" and "Vanishing on 7th Street."

So, it's appropriate that this week's post is "The Horror, The Horror, 2012 Edition." This past weekend was as smorgasbord of creepy genre pictures.

First and foremost, I was not able to catch "Chronicle" in time to include it in my weekly Patch roundup. But I've seen it since and enjoyed it. In fact, I'd say the clever found footage thriller ranks second with "Cloverfield" behind "The Blair Witch Project" in that genre.

My reviews focused on three new films, including Ben Wheatley's diabolical horror-crime mash-up "Kill List." I didn't think it was a masterpiece as some other critics have proclaimed it. But it's still pretty damn good.

I was not impressed so much with "The Woman in Black," which is a shame because I thought James Watkin's first picture, "Eden Lake," was a disturbing little number. I was also lukewarm on "The Innkeepers," which is also a shame as I was a fan of Ti West's previous effort, "The House of the Devil."

Here is This Week at the Movies.

This coming weekend, I'm definitely going to catch up with Bela Tarr's "The Turin Horse," which is said to be the Hungarian master's final film. I'll also see "Safe House" with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds.

Monday, January 30, 2012

'The Grey' and 'Man on a Ledge'

As I mentioned in this week's Patch movie roundup, my cinematic selections last weekend were both tales of men pushed to their limits.

I enjoyed Joe Carnahan's "The Grey," which was less of a wolf-punching Liam Neeson action film than a combination of Sam Peckinpah and Jack London. Overall, a solid film. I wasn't so enthused about "Man on a Ledge," which takes a slightly preposterous setup and maximizes its absurdity to the nth degree.

Here are my reviews.

This coming week is an extremely busy one for me. Nevertheless, I'm going to try to catch up with a number of movies, all four of which are genre pictures. I'm prioritizing Ben Wheatley's acclaimed "Kill List" and Ti West's "The Innkeepers," but I also plan to see - at some point - "The Woman in Black" and "Chronicle."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Action Packed Weekend and the Airing of Grievances Against the Oscar Nominees

It was a violent weekend at the movies. The week's best film was certainly Gerardo Naranjo's crime thriller "Miss Bala," although I was not quite as enthusiastic as some of the film's supporters at last year's Cannes Film Festival. It is, however, a solid and intense picture.

I also enjoyed Steven Soderbergh's "Haywire," but the picture is definitely an example of a great filmmaker working in a minor key. I had mixed feelings about Anthony Hemingway's "Red Tails," which is full of beautiful aerial photography and some good performances, but is a missed opportunity. It's merely an action picture that happens to feature the Tuskegee Airmen as its heroes, rather than an in-depth study of the pilots.

Here are my Patch reviews.

And then, the Oscar nominees - what's to say. I believe the exclusions this year, which were many, are the most telling. While I didn't expect "Melancholia" or "A Dangerous Method" to be included in the picture or directing categories due to their darker content, I thought it was a great sin of omission to leave Keira Knightley and Kirsten Dunst off the Best Actress roster.

And where the hell were the Best Original Score and Supporting Actor nods (Albert Brooks) for "Drive"? And Leonard DiCaprio for "J. Edgar"? And Jessica Chastain for "The Tree of Life," not "The Help"? And "Le Havre" in the Best Foreign Film category. And Michael Shannon's Best Actor nomination for "Take Shelter"? And Michael Fassbender for anything? Etc., etc.

I was glad to see "The Tree of Life" pick up nods for Best Picture and Director as well as a slew of nominations for "Hugo," "The Artist" and "The Descendants." And that was cool that "A Separation" also snuck into the screenplay slot. But, overall, it was a disappointing group of nominees.

Monday, January 16, 2012

'The Devil Inside' and 'Contraband'

I had a nice long post ready to go that was complete with some commentary on Todd Haynes's "Mildred Pierce" and links to this week's movies.

But, my piece of shit computer or internet provider or whatever failed on me not just once, twice or three times, but about six times. So screw it.

To sum it up, I loved "Mildred Pierce" and was not too fond of this week's selections: "The Devil Inside" and "Contraband." Here are the reviews.

This coming week, I'll review "Miss Bala," "Haywire" and "Red Tails." So there.

Monday, January 9, 2012

You Can't Handle the Truth: 'A Separation,' 'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' (and 'The Iron Lady')

It's only nine days into the new year and I've already seen two new amazing films - "A Separation," which is actually a 2011 film, so I've update my top 10 accordingly, and "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia."

Both films, which deal with the nature of truth and the limits of knowledge, are spellbinding.

This weekend, I also caught up with "The Iron Lady," which is a well-made and mostly enjoyable - if somewhat non-provocative - take on a controversial leader. Regardless, Meryl Streep gives a terrific performance, as always.

Check out all three reviews for Patch.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Wrapup: 'War Horse,' 'Pina' and 'Pariah'

Happy New Year, everyone!

This week, I posted a wrap-up for Patch of the year's final films, including Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," Wim Wenders's "Pina" and Dee Rees's "Pariah."

I very much enjoyed all three films, but none of them managed to crack my top 20. Here are my reviews.

This coming weekend, I'm finally going to catch "A Separation" as well as "The Iron Lady." I will also most definitely be seeing Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia."