Browsing: Film Reviews

A Fantastic Woman, the Chilean drama that just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, features an extraordinary performance in the lead role and a quietly convoluted story that prizes gradual revelations of character over any of the twists in its potentially melodramatic plot. The title character is a transgender singer named Marina Vidal, and she’s played by a transgender actress, Daniela Vega. Marina is immersed in a passionate affair with an older man, Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a textile executive who has left his family and moved into an apartment with Marina. The morning after a night of romance with…

Although “The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter” comes to us from director Jody Hill and actor/co-writer Danny McBride, the masterminds behind the exuberantly surly HBO sitcoms “Eastbound and Down” and “Vice Principals,” far too much of this wildly uneven Netflix-bound comedy (scheduled to launch July 6) plays less like a transgressive farce than an overextended “Saturday Night Live” sketch. And yet, even at its most puerile and pedestrian, the movie remains at least passably amusing because of Josh Brolin’s totally committed and unabashedly heartfelt lead performance as Buck Ferguson, a good-ol’-boy celebrity outdoorsman who communicates a boundless joy as…

The final image is striking: A woman in a “Russia” tracksuit furiously striding on a treadmill alone in the cold. Election meddling aside, it’s the perfect metaphor for life under Vladimir Putin, a self-absorbed tyrant determined to return his country to the bleak, totalitarian days of the former Soviet Union. It’s a perfect ending to a perfect movie. But that’s just the start of what makes Andrey Zvyagintsev’s aptly titled “Loveless” so rich in depth and meaning. Its scathing indictment of the Russian leader is so arresting, it’s a wonder Zvyagintsev wasn’t arrested himself by the FSB. But to the…

Guillermo del Toro, like most of his peers who’ve managed to make some sort of mark in Hollywood, owns a house in Los Angeles. While it is located in a relatively affluent neighbourhood, and wouldn’t draw a second glance from passers-by – it could be the home of the Dursleys, as far as the unremarkable suburban exterior is concerned – it is, on the inside, a veritable house of horrors. There are entire rooms dedicated to the Mexican auteur’s favourite genres, fantasy and horror. Life-size wax figures of Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft occupy opposite corners of one room…

The world probably would be a better place if we all kept our mouths shut. Or, at least that’s the takeaway from “The Insult,” (Winner of Cinema Without Borders’ Bridging The Borders Award) the Oscar-nominated courtroom drama from former Quentin Tarantino sidekick Ziad Doueiri. In it, the Lebanon native takes a harsh look at his homeland and the uneasy alliance between the ruling Christians and the ever-expanding Muslim population, many of whom are exiled Palestinians. Their distrust for each other reaches back decades to a brutal civil war that lasted 15 years and frustratingly ended without closure or reprimands for…

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is either a genius or a wackadoodle. In his new movie, Before We Vanish, a trio of alien invaders land on Earth, possess a human host apiece and set about readying the planet for both their species’ arrival and our subsequent extinction. Kurosawa’s basic conceit establishes an identity crisis narrative, and by happy accident that’s exactly what the film goes through: a struggle between two completely different storytelling modes. In the first, Kurosawa stages a melancholic domestic love story. In the second, he plays around with formulaic genre elements. Neither of these threads tie together well—if they tie…

Whenever you want something from bottom of your heart, all conditions come together like pieces of a puzzle to stop it from happening. This exactly what happened during the theatrical release of the Subdued and I was not able to see this film. I had been waiting for a few months for the DVD release of the film that started last week. And tonight, I watched it. * The participation of Leila Hatami in any film could be a strong enough reason to watch it. Here in Subdued, her strong presence and her emotional and delicate style of acting aims…

Lebanese film director Ziad Doueiri made headlines recently when authorities in Beirut arrested him at the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport for questioning about his links to Israel. He was almost put on trial on charges of “normalizing relations” with Israel because of his visit here in 2012 as part of the filming of his previous movie, “The Attack.” But he managed to prove his “innocence.” Doueiri entered Israel on a U.S. passport, which he holds along with his French and Lebanese passports. Nonetheless, he was also detained and questioned in Israel. But the bigger commotion is over his new film,…

Azar, a new feature drama from Iranian Cinema, carries the name of its main female character.  Azar’s husband, Amir (Hamid Azarang) and his cousin, Saber (Houman Seyyedi) are planning to start a fast-food restaurant together and they need Saber’s father financial help. Saber is killed accidentally during an argument with Amir, Azar’s husband ends up in jail. The film suffers from a weak and confusing screenplay. The images in a supposedly feministic concept, deal with a subject that is against the movie promise, has no sign of women’s dignity or values of a woman as a wife. But instead film…

The imaginative world of a 9-year-old girl is superbly captured in writer-director Narges Abyar’s meandering but fascinating Breath (Nafas), which takes its place among memorable Iranian films about childhood from masters like Kiarostami, Panahi, Naderi and Majidi. Here an insightful woman director’s POV is a welcome plus, along with an astonishing performance by first-timer Sareh Nour Mousavi in the emotion-packed main role of the motherless Bahar. As Iran’s submission for consideration in the Academy Awards’ foreign-language film category, the pic comes with some impressive credentials, having won best director prizes at Tallinn Black Nights and the Vancouver Women’s Film Festival…

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