Film Reviews

Friday, January 2, 2015

Weekend Film Reviews: Into the Woods, Unbroken, 18 more

Posted By on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Into the Woods

Starting off 2015 with a trip to the movies? Here's a handy checklist of the year-end releases currently playing in theaters (as well as a couple of fall holdovers). Click on the title/link to be taken directly to the review. And be sure to also check out our list of the Best & Worst Films of 2014 here.

Annie - ***

Big Eyes - ***

Big Hero 6 - ***1/2

Birdman - ****

Dumb and Dumber To - *1/2

Exodus: Gods and Kings - *1/2

Foxcatcher - ***1/2

The Gambler - **1/2

Gone Girl - ***

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - ***

Horrible Bosses 2 - *1/2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 - ***

The Imitation Game - ***1/2

Interstellar

Interstellar - ***

Into the Woods - **1/2

The Theory of Everything - ***

Top Five - **1/2

Unbroken - ***

Whiplash - ***

Wild - ***1/2

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

R.I.P. Robin Williams: His 10 best performances

Posted By on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 at 2:24 PM

The nation was collectively stunned late Monday when it learned of the death of Robin Williams, who was gone at the age of 63. It could understand cancer, or even a car crash, but suicide?

Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam
  • Disney
  • Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam

Yet that was the word from the coroner’s office, confirming today that the cause of death was suicide by asphyxiation. How could a man who had provided laughter to millions of people been at so low a place that he was unable to provide comfort and humor for himself? Of course, everyone has their own demons, and Williams was no exception. As reported by Variety, “According to his publicist, the actor had been battling depression of late and recently entered 12-step rehab for drug abuse.”

Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, issued a statement that read in part, “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

A good idea. While Williams appeared in more one-star movies than just about any other modern superstar (Patch Adams, Flubber, Bicentenial Man, License to Wed, and on and on), he also excelled in many films, ably demonstrating his dramatic chops nearly as often as his comedic ones. Here, then, are his 10 best performances, presented in chronological order.

Glenn Close and Williams in The World According to Garp
  • Warner Bros.
  • Glenn Close and Williams in The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp (1982). A mere few months after his popular TV series Mork & Mindy ended its four-year run, Williams starred in this excellent adaptation of John Irving’s novel. Supporting players Glenn Close (as his activist mom) and John Lithgow (as his transsexual friend) were the ones to snag the Oscar nominations, but Williams is no less memorable, delivering a thoughtful and restrained performance as T.S. Garp, a writer trying to make sense of the world around him.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekend Film Reviews: Godzilla; Belle; Million Dollar Arm; Locke

Posted By on Sat, May 17, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Click on the link to be taken directly to the review.

Godzilla

Belle

Godzilla

Locke

Million Dollar Arm

The Terminator

Plus, check out our look at the cinema of 1984, the year that gave us Amadeus, The Terminator, Ghostbusters and more, here. And check out our picks for the Best & Worst Movies of 1984 here.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

RiverRun Wrap 2014: Part 4

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 2:40 PM

With the 16th annual RiverRun International Film Festival now in the books, we look back at all the films reviewed for Creative Loafing (listed below in preferential order). Click on the title to be taken directly to the review.

locke-L_FP_R4_050613_Untitled_1_63_1_crop_rgb.jpg
  • A24

Locke

Dick_Miller.jpg
  • Autumn Rose Productions

That Guy Dick Miller

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

RiverRun Wrap 2014: Part 3

Posted By on Sun, Apr 13, 2014 at 9:20 PM

The 16th annual RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem may have ended its 10-day run this evening, but we still have four fest titles to wade through. Let's begin, shall we?

Sophie Desmarais in Sarah Prefers to Run
  • Les Films Séville
  • Sophie Desmarais in Sarah Prefers to Run

SARAH PREFERS TO RUN - Canadian actress Sophie Desmarais earned a special award at RiverRun for her performance in this film, and she's certainly the best thing about it. She delivers a quietly commanding turn as Sarah Lepage, a young woman who's only interested in life on the track. Unable to afford to continue her athletic endeavors at a university due to financial struggles, she reluctantly agrees with her friend Antoine (Jean-Sebastien Courchesne) that they should get hitched in order to secure available scholarship funds to those who are married. Writer-director Chloe Robichaud has taken a real chance by creating a protagonist more passive than most, yet while this makes Desmarais' character mysterious much of the time, it too often also renders her as simply an uninteresting individual, with very little access to her inner life and what makes her tick, let alone run.

Brooke Butler in All Cheerleaders Die
  • Image Entertainment
  • Brooke Butler in All Cheerleaders Die

ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE - Screened last month at the Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, this is actually a remake of a 2001 film of the same name. Writer-directors Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson are responsible for both versions, electing to update their straight-to-video original with this new version that's been making the film festival and convention rounds. I haven't seen the 2001 cut, but based on the evidence here, the movie could stand being filmed a third time. What sounds like a can't-miss premise - Mean Girls as filtered through horror-flick sensibilities - proves to be a disappointment, with a sloppy narrative drive and heavy-handed attempts at humor. Caitlin Stasey stars as Maddy, an alt-grrl who joins the cheerleader squad for mysterious reasons. When an altercation with a star football player (Tom Williamson) and his sycophants ends with the deaths of Maddy and three other girls, it's up to Maddy's wiccan-dabbling friend Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) to bring them all back from the other side to take their revenge - and attend senior year.

Dick Miller on the set of Gremlins 2, as seen in That Guy Dick Miller
  • Autumn Rose Productions
  • Dick Miller on the set of Gremlins 2, as seen in That Guy Dick Miller

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Friday, April 11, 2014

RiverRun Wrap 2014: Part 2

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 3:04 PM

(For RiverRun Wrap 2014: Part 1, go here.)

Today's reviews from the front lines of the Winston-Salem film fest consist of a strong if incomplete documentary and a weak if well-acted feature film.

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia
  • Amnesia Productions
  • Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA - Last year's RiverRun International Film Festival included a screening of the excellent documentary Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself (reviewed here), and it would make a suitable bookend feature to watch alongside Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia. Both Plimpton (who passed away in 2003) and Vidal (who died in 2012) were highly intelligent liberals who often found themselves in the same circles, whether attending literary events or hanging out with John F. Kennedy and his family. The Plimpton piece, however, did a better job of illuminating its subject; while it was as much of an unbiased love letter as this new picture, it succeeded in presenting a rounded portrait of the man. The United States of Amnesia, on the other hand, presents Vidal in full "last lion of liberalism" mode, but it goes out of its way to bypass anything controversial and unflattering about the man. It's a fascinating movie but an incomplete one. Still, it does present Vidal in all his raging glory, whether railing against such expected right-wing targets as William F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush ("We've had bad presidents before, but never one who was such a Goddamned fool") or speaking ill of Democrats like Harry S. Truman and JFK (Vidal says he was personally very fond of the latter but felt he was "disastrous" as a president). The film gets sloppy with some details: For instance, while Vidal contributed to the script for 1959's Ben-Hur, his work was uncredited, yet here it sounds as if he wrote the entire picture. And while there are mentions of the wretched screen adaptation of his novel Myra Breckinridge (starring Raquel Welch) and the solid film version of his play The Best Man (starring Henry Fonda), director Nicholas D. Wrathall fails to even bring up the notorious motion picture Caligula, for which Vidal submitted the original script (which was changed to such a degree that the author wanted his name removed). More problematic is the refusal to bring up many of the major controversies in the life of a man who lived for controversy. Vidal's relatives claim that he had slept with underage boys at points in his life and that he suffered from dementia at the end (he changed his will shortly before the end so that Harvard received his entire inheritance while his family received nothing). These are allegations and perhaps should not have been in the film; not so with his views on the 13-year-old that Roman Polanski raped ("I really don't give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she's been taken advantage of?") and young boys molested by priests ("Hustlers who were sending signals"). Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia is a compelling movie as far as it goes, but a warts-and-all portrayal would have been a more honest way to honor his legacy.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

RiverRun Wrap 2014: Part 1

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 1:31 PM

I'm back in Winston-Salem for the fourth consecutive year, and, as always, it's for the RiverRun International Film Festival. My schedule selections at this year's 16th annual shindig will include movies starring Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and dead cheerleaders, but the opening salvo consists of a pair of films featuring French treasures Jean Reno and Juliette Binoche.

Jean Reno and Michael Youn in Le Chef
  • Cohen Media Group
  • Jean Reno and Michael Youn in Le Chef

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Join Marx Brothers at the Opera

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 2:00 PM

A Night at the Opera

The 1935 Marx Brothers classic A Night at the Opera will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, at Studio Movie Grill at The Epicentre, 210 N. Tryon St.

Considered by many as the pinnacle of the Marx films, this uproarious effort finds Groucho (as Otis P. Driftwood), Chico and Harpo mixing it up behind the scenes of an opera house. Perennial foils Margaret Dumont and Sig Ruman are on hand, and classic bits include the stateroom scene and the discussion of the Sanity Clause ("You can't fool me; there ain't no Sanity Clause!").

Admission is $7.50, with all proceeds benefiting the Carolina Theatre Preservation Society. For tickets, go here.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

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