Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

The Hateful EightQuentin Tarantino wants you to know that he has now directed eight feature films. “The Eighth Film by Quentin Tarantino,” appears in the opening credits of his latest work. His eighth film even has the word eight in the title. Short of pulling a Chad Johnson and changing his name to Ocho, there seems little else Tarantino can do to convey that (1) he has done seven films before The Hateful Eight, and (2) he attaches great importance to the number. To celebrate the accomplishment and further his self-sustaining image as a film buff extraordinaire, the director turned the premiere of The Hateful Eight into a week-long event by releasing a “Roadshow Edition” of the movie to be shown in 100 theaters before the wide release of the standard version. (more…)

The RevenantIs Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant the best actor?

It would seem, for the moment, that question has been answered by the Hollywood Foreign Press, which bestowed the Best Actor award (or more precisely, the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama award) to DiCaprio at the recent Golden Globes. The win was expected. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Bryant Cranston (Trumbo) were seen in films seen by far too few. Will Smith’s turn in Concussion generated next to no buzz. That left Eddie Remayne in The Danish Girl, work that was too soon since his last win for The Theory of Everything and too far out of the mainstream for some.

So, if the matter is settled until the Oscar nominations are announced, let’s tinker with the initial query.

In The Revenant, is Leonardo DiCaprio the best actor?

Now that is a very different question. (more…)

TrumboLeave it to Hollywood to turn one of its darkest periods of cowardice into a self-aggrandizing cinematic triumph. Celebrating the life of Dalton Trumbo in a major movie from Tinseltown is irony itself; the question is whether the aftertaste is sweet or bitter? Coming off the keys of Trumbo’s typewriter, which he sat behind for hours at a time in his bathtub, beating out some of the most famous screenplays in history, the script of his own life would undoubtedly have been both sweet and sour, awash in fine wine, and surrounded by bilious clouds of cigarette smoke from his six-packs-a-day habit.

Trumbo gives us this Trumbo – a larger than life character in a story that is almost too good to be true. The short version is that Dalton Trumbo was a prolific and outstanding novelist and screenwriter, who, like many of his peers in the 1930’s and 1940’s, was also a member of the Communist Party of America. (more…)

HFilm audiences in Berlin have enjoyed two opportunities to see the film H. this year, first at the Berlinale in February and then, more recently, at the Fantasy FilmFest in August. It is a movie that does well with a second viewing as the allusions to the Helen of Troy mythology from the Iliad and The Odyssey can be distracting rather than illuminating the first time around. As the events slowly unfold on screen, filmgoers can feel as if they have wandered into a graduate school literature class without reading the assignment or even having access to the CliffsNotes version. Letting go of these concerns during a subsequent viewing allows audiences to escape a sense of frustration and enjoy the pleasures of understated storytelling within a technically sound framework. Of course, you still need to devote more mental energy than in most films, but here, one feels as if it is worth the effort even if there are elements that must be pushed to the side.

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MaggieTwenty-five years ago, Maggie would have been a profoundly different movie.

Cast Arnold Schwarzenegger in a zombie movie back then, and the only question would have been whether the one-line wisecracks would have outnumbered the body count.

Skip Arnold and go with the same script of the film that opened this weekend, and Maggie would have been widely viewed as a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic and the societal shunning of its victims.

In 2015, the film is an oddity, neither action adventure nor art house fare, with Schwarzenegger cast against type as part of his second act as a movie star after his hiatus in politics. (more…)

ex machinaOn the surface, Ex Machina is a state of the art meditation on artificial intelligence with a sleek, somewhat sterile, post-modern sense of the brave new digital world that awaits when Google and Apple turn from making phones and watches to manufacturing brains. Pop the hood and take a look inside the film, however, and you’ll see that Ex Machina‘s circuitry dates back to post-World War II science fiction. Underneath its shiny, new skin, this very welcome oasis of calm, adult entertainment is a robot movie. And like all robot movies, the central question is: what does it mean to be human? (more…)

Last SummerImagine that Shakespeare wrote one more play in the vein of Titus Andronicus, a story replete with palace intrigue, villainy and violence, and a bit of rough sex. Now, envisage a film based on that play with the screenwriter transposing the action from an incestuous royal court to a contemporary family-owned corporation. Dress the heir apparent in a sheer blouse, black bra, seamed stockings, and peep toe shoes rather than purple robes and a tiara. Substitute conniving bankers for devious cardinals. Keep the castle and the attendant nun, but swap out the throne for a real seat of power – the position of CEO. The end result of such a scenario might look strikingly similar to Der letze Sommer der Reichen (The Last Summer of the Rich), an over-the-top tale of under-the-sheet and behind-the-back maneuverings within the modern monarchy of a Vienna-based corporation. (more…)

FúsiIronic as it might be, “slight” is the adjective that best describes Virgin Mountain, an Icelandic drama comedy that features an enormous manchild’s first tentative steps into adulthood at the tender age of 43. The 94-minute film, the fourth feature from Dagur Kári, is largely (no pun intended) an exercise (too little of that for the main character), in walking a narrow path between cliche and implausibility. While the sheer likeability of the two leads will have audiences rooting for their, and the film’s success, ultimately director Kári, working from his own screenplay, cannot overcome the limits he imposes on himself in attempting a retelling of a too-familiar tale. (more…)

Queen of the DesertRemember the great disaster movies of the 1970’s, films like The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and Earthquake? The formula was simple: put as many stars as you could find in the path of a natural disaster and let God and Irwin Allen sort out the winners and losers. Credit Werner Herzog with resurrecting the genre. For his latest film, Queen of the Desert, Herzog collected a handful of household names, put them in a rickety vehicle, and crashed them over and over again. (more…)

ChambermaidIf there had been an award for Most Unnecessary Film in the Competition program at the 2015 Berlinale, Diary of a Chambermaid would undoubtedly have won by acclamation. The third time is most certainly not the charm for film adaptations of the 1900 naughty French novel Journal d’une femme de chamber by Octave Mirbeau, which saw prior incarnations in 1946 and in 1964, the former directed by Jean Renoir, the latter by Luis Buñuel. That pedigree is perhaps the only reasonable explanation for why director Benoît Jacquot dusted off a 100-year old novel that long ago lost its power to scandalize. Remaking the past movies of legends does not confer the same status onto those who purvey in the present, however. Jacquot’s effort pales in comparison to both previous efforts and looks even worse when measured by the standards of contemporary cinema. (more…)