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Equal Opportunist

Equity-movie-review-anna-gunn
Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
Equity (2016)

This is an interesting movie about the world of finance, made extremely interesting by the fact that three of its main characters are women. The fact of their being women is both incidental and intrinsic to the plot. This movie is so, so smart, in a way that intelligence is rarely depicted onscreen — we see people putting strategies in place during bar chitchat that their opponent doesn’t even need to verbalize to understand and respond to. It’s fascinating. And none of this would have broken down the same way if the people involved were all men.

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Boyhoods

Little-men-movie-review-michael-barbieri-theo-taplitz
Magnolia Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Little Men (2016)

Ira Sachs's "Love Is Strange" had moments of inspiration from top to bottom; but the most finely honed of all was the last one, when the story of two longtime companions in their 60s ended by drifting dreamily down the generations and following a pair of teenagers on a wordless glide through New York, skateboarding into a future of infinite possibilities. His new film "Little Men" starts with the relationship between two 13-year-old boys and looks up at the adult world of labor and gentrification from there, admitting that the possibilities might not be so infinite in practice. Life goes messily on anyway.

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Low-Hanging Forbidden Fruit

Bang-gang-a-modern-love-story-movie-review-marilyn-lima-lorenzo-lefebvre
Samuel Goldwyn Films

MOVIE REVIEW
Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (2016)

With her first feature, Eva Husson has set out her calling card to be France’s Catherine Hardwicke — which is a major compliment. She has made a movie which gets under the skin of what it’s like to be a teenager and doesn’t shy away from either the good or the bad. But Ms. Hardwicke is American. Ms. Husson has made a movie which right now could only have been made in France, which looks at how teenagers explore their sexuality. And in a major miracle she has done this without exploiting her actors.

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Just a Slob Like One of Us

The-brand-new-testament-movie-review-pili-groyne
Le Pacte

MOVIE REVIEW
The Brand New Testament (2016)

Here is a movie that makes two textbook mistakes: It takes a wildly clever setup and fails utterly to deliver on its own premise; and does so in a visual language lifted wholesale from other, better films. Either one of these faults would be forgivable, but to combine them puts “The Brand New Testament” at the level of a student film — though it’s unlikely any student director would have dared treating Catherine Deneuve like this.

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The Son's Gloom

Mia-madre-movie-review-margherita-buy-john-turturro
Alberto Novelli/Alchemy

MOVIE REVIEW
Mia madre (2016)

After a political streak with “The Caiman” and “We Have a Pope,” Nanni Moretti returns to an intimate portrait of the grieving process that recalls his 2001 Cannes winner, “The Son’s Room.” “Mia madre” recounts Italian filmmaker Margherita (Margherita Buy) becoming increasingly preoccupied with her ailing mother, Ada (Giulia Lazzarini), and adolescent daughter, Livia (Beatrice Mancini), while directing a high-profile project with pompous and flamboyant Hollywood hotshot Barry Huggins (John Turturro) attached.

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Sketches of Pain

Miles-ahead-movie-review-miles-davis-don-cheadle
Brian Douglas/Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
Miles Ahead (2016)

The Miles Davis biopic “Miles Ahead” seems less a treatise on the jazz trumpter’s enduring artistry and legacy than a showcase for its star-director-co-writer, Don Cheadle.

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Caesar Salad Days

Hail-caesar-movie-review-josh-brolin
Alison Rosa/Universal Studios

MOVIE REVIEW
Hail, Caesar! (2016)

The Coen brothers’ homage to classical Hollywood, “Hail, Caesar!” stars Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, a studio honcho working around the clock to put out fires such as starlets posing for “French postcards,” unwed mothers, kidnappings and actors who can’t act.

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Penthouse and Pavement

High-rise-movie-review-tom-hiddleston
Studiocanal

MOVIE REVIEW
High-Rise (2016)

J. G. Ballard's 1975 novel "High-Rise" famously cold-opens with a hot sentence about a dead dog; Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump's film adaptation opts to cut directly from the urbane sophisticate Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) glancing at the animal to the spit-roasting aftermath. The elision makes for a decent cinematic effect, showing not telling; but also sounds a warning shot about conventionality, a distilling down of Ballard's haunted prose into nothing more adventurous than good old black humor. Mr. Wheatley's taste for unsympathetic British grotesques also starts to crop up early before running rampant across the narrative by the end, joining a handful of Ballard's dots about the inhabitants of the island without getting much of a grip on his social science.

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Live. Let Die. Repeat.

Spectre-movie-review-daniel-craig
Columbia Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Spectre (2015)

Consistent screen universes are a mixed blessing — as proved by the smell of burnt wiring hanging over the film called "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" — and it might have been better in the long run if James Bond had not caught the history bug. "Spectre" ties Daniel Craig's four Bond movies into a final fixed alignment, concluding the chain of events initiated in 2006 when Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) walked into "Casino Royale" and commented on his ass; and also gives the guy yet another layer of familial pain for the ongoing motivational pot. But in the process the film has a mild personality crisis, scared rigid at the prospect of there being any corner of Bond fandom not addressed by the current product and trying to build a machine that could appeal to every single vested interest in existence. A crazy, ambitious, expensive quest. And doomed.

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We Can Do It

Suffragette-movie-review-sarah-gavron-carey-mulligan
Steffan Hill/Focus Features

MOVIE REVIEW
Suffragette (2015)

Watching movies in school — on a television borrowed from the AV closet with a bunch of kids chatting and heckling and teasing each other — is a pretty good test of how a film stands. When the movie is good it can rise above this setting. But movies in school also serve another, broader purpose; they make tangible the stories kids ignore in their history books. They enable the kids to feel what it would have been like to be alive at that time and in that place, to feel their feelings and understand how the people who lived 100 years ago were not so different from us right now. And if a movie is really good, it makes the kids think about how its story is relevant now. On those levels, “Suffragette” succeeds admirably.

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