The Heat (2013)
Gemma La Mana/20th Century Fox
Even though the buddy-cop subgenre gets an estrogenic makeover with “The Heat,” it’s no less chauvinistic — unless your idea of gender equality is that men shouldn’t have the monopoly on assholery. Look, it’s certainly a woman’s prerogative to be deplorable if she chooses. To think otherwise would be quite sexist itself. But “The Heat” derives its comedy from the most grotesque stereotypes imaginable of careerist women, as if the moral of the whole story is that women who are capable of being collegial while juggling family and ambition could never amount to anything.
Continue reading "White Chicks" »
The Internship (2013)
Phil Bray/20th Century Fox
“The Internship” reunites Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn eight
years after the Frat Pack blockbuster “Wedding Crashers.” Instead of crashing weddings
for free food, free booze and hormonal women, this time they are crashing
Google’s Mountain View, Calif., campus for prospective employment and, O.K.,
free food. The freewheeling naughts have made way for the fruitless teens. Even
those perpetual slackers who talk a good game can’t talk their way out of the
paper bag that is unemployment nowadays. In the face of the rippling
foreclosure and broken marriage, though, the Frat Pack keeps its sunny side up:
Who cares if the Google internships are only open to college students? Let’s
enroll in the University of Phoenix!
Continue reading "The Pursuit of Haplessness" »
Some Velvet Morning (2013)
Rogier Stoffers/2013 Tribeca Film Festival
After working as a director-for-hire on a couple of Hollywood productions, Neil LaBute is back to the playwright-turned-filmmaker niche he carved out for himself 16 years ago with “In the Company of Men.” A two-player chamber piece, “Some Velvet Morning” is indeed very theatrical — perhaps more so than all eight of his previous film efforts. In what some – though perhaps not all – will find a welcome move, he’s returning to the provocative and foul battle-of-the-sexes arena that is his wheelhouse.
Continue reading "The Shape of Flings" »
Michael H. Profession: Director (2013)
Yves Montmayeur/2013 Tribeca Film Festival
“Michael H. Profession: Director” documents the working methods of every cinephile’s favorite Austrian sadomasochist provocateur, Michael Haneke, at arguably the peak of a long-lauded career. One of the very first scenes in the film treats us to Mr. Haneke playing out that now-famous nightmare scene in “Amour.” It’s a breathtaking moment, seeing him standing in for Jean-Louis Trintignant in what was likely a blocking rehearsal which was then remade shot-for-shot for the actual film. In the ensuing interview, he commented that although his films aren’t autobiographical, his personal experiences do inform them.
Continue reading "Goad Unknown" »
The Rocket (2013)
Tom Greenwood/2013 Tribeca Film Festival
“The Rocket” has claimed three of the top prizes at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, winning the World Narrative Competition, Best Actor and the Heineken Audience Award. Set in rural Laos, the film revolves around a family curse brought about by the birth of Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe). The misfortune that kindles the plot is a major dam construction project that displaces Ahlo’s clan. And that relocation has a domino effect all its own. Ostracized by even his own grandmother, Taitok (Bunsri Yindi), the 10-year-old Ahlo gravitates toward his friend Kia
(Loungnam Kaosainam) and her outcast war-veteran uncle Purple (Thep Phongam). In hopes of proving his worth and finally breaking his family’s string of bad luck, Ahlo wants to compete in a local rocket festival, aided by Purple’s wisdom and know-how.
Continue reading "Rescue Pawn" »
Almost Christmas (2013)
Niko Tavernise/2013 Tribeca Film Festival
Phil Morrison made an auspicious directorial debut in 2005
with “Junebug.” Eschewing easy stereotypes, it masterfully painted a portrait
of a sleepy American South haunted by a painful legacy and its people’s
resignation to lives unfulfilled. The film also garnered
the then-unknown Amy Adams an Oscar nomination and propelled her to overnight stardom.
Given the eight years in between, expectations are naturally high for Mr.
Morrison’s sophomore effort, “Almost Christmas.” Regrettably, it falls short in
every way imaginable.
Continue reading "The French-Canadian Connection" »
Prince Avalanche (2013)
Scott Gardner/2013 Sundance Film Festival
David Gordon Green’s recent mainstream oeuvre has resulted
in one hit (“Pineapple Express”) and two duds (“Your Highness” and “The
Sitter”), in both the commercial and the critical senses. So a return to his
indie roots would appear to be a welcome development for a director who initially
carved his reputation out of the Malick-esque “George Washington.” But upon
closer examination his latest, “Prince Avalanche,” is not unlike a bromance
straight out of the Apatow clique that Mr. Green has ingratiated himself with via collaborations with Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.
But then you discover “Prince Avalanche” is actually just a remake of the 2011 Icelandic film “Either Way” by Hafsteinn
Gunnar Sigurðsson, and you wonder if Mr. Green could sink any further.
Continue reading "All the Real Bros" »
Before Midnight (2013)
Despina Spyrou/Sony Pictures Classics
In “Before Midnight,” Richard Linklater unites us with Ethan
Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Céline for a third time. The pair’s meet-cute
in 1995 on a Vienna-bound train was at the heart of “Before Sunrise.” Their
fateful reunion in 2004 Paris was the basis of “Before Sunset.” This time, they
are a couple with twin daughters in tow vacationing at a writer’s retreat in
Messenia, Greece. The new film proceeds to examine domestic roles,
fidelity, mortality and this thing called love.
Continue reading "Charming the Third Time" »
At Any Price (2013)
Hooman Bahrani/Sony Pictures Classics
Ramin Bahrani’s last
three films — namely “Man Push Cart,” “Chop Shop” and “Goodbye Solo” — followed
the plights of outcasts such as immigrants and street orphans. While the first
two took place in gritty New York City, the latter was set in his native
Winston-Salem, N.C. So even though the Iowa cornfield setting in Mr. Bahrani’s
latest, “At Any Price,” might come as no surprise, the film’s thoroughly
white-bred concerns still mark a huge departure for the filmmaker.
Continue reading "Out of Left Fields" »
As Luck Would Have It (2013)
With the participation of Salma Hayek, one would hope that
“As Luck Would Have It” could finally help launch Álex de la Iglesia from relative obscure cultdom to the international acclaim enjoyed by fellow zany Spanish
melodramatist, Pedro Almodóvar. After all, Mr. de la Iglesia has delivered over the years an oeuver that includes such pure lunacy as “The Last Circus,” a Franco-era allegory involving murderous circus clowns; “El crimen perfecto,” about a lothario marrying a homely and crazy woman after she witnessed him accidentally killing a man and blackmailed him; and “The Day of the Beast,” in which a basque priest attempts to stop the birth of the Antichrist.
Continue reading "Jobless Adman Makes a Fever Pitch" »