The Sacrament

sacramentMagnolia Pictures (2014) 99 min. R

Director: Ti West

Screenplay: Ti West

Cinematography: Eric Robbins; Editing: Ti West

Production Design: Jade Healy; Set Decoration: Adam Willis

Costumes: Wendy Moynihan; Score: Tyler Bates

Stars: A.J. Bowen (Sam Turner), Joe Swanberg (Jake Williams), Kentucker Audley (Patrick), Amy Seimetz (Caroline), Gene Jones (Father), Kate Lyn Sheil (Sarah White), Talia Dobbins (Savannah), Donna Biscoe (Wendy Johnson), Lashaun Clay (Robert Evans), Dale Neal (Andre Evans), Shirley Jones Byrd (Lorraine Davis), Christian OJore (Pilot)

Personally directed, written and edited by Ti West, The Sacrament is very much an auteur piece and like his earlier, equally unpleasant House of the Devil, West has again returned to an ’80s milieu for inspiration. Despite its contemporary setting, The Sacrament is actually a none too thinly disguised reworking of the 1978 incident at Jonestown, Guyana in which the parishioners of a religious commune known as the People’s Temple committed mass suicide following the assassination of visiting Congressman Leo Ryan and several of his aides seen as outside threats by loyalist sect members.

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Boyhood

boyhoodIFC Films (2014) 165 min. R

Director: Richard Linklater

Screenplay: Richard Linklater

Cinematography: Lee Daniel & Shane F. Kelly; Editing: Sandra Adair

Production Design: Rodney Becker & Guy Studebaker; Set Decoration: Melanie Ferguson; Costumes: Kari Perkins

Stars: Ellar Coltrane (Mason Evans Jr.), Patricia Arquette (Olivia), Ethan Hawke (Mason Evans Sr.), Lorelei Linklater (Samantha Evans), Marco Perella (Bill Welbrock), Brad Hawkins (Jim), Jenni Tooley (Annie), Bill Wide (Steve), Zoe Graham (Sheena), Charlie Sexton (Jimmy), Richard Robichaux (Mason’s boss), Barbara Chisholm (Carol)

Released by IFC Films, writer-director Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has the bittersweet, existential quality of European cinema, as well as an inclination to elevate the average and unexceptional in a life goes on way that has become a hallmark of indies. Meaning it will be a doubly trying experience for many moviegoers less interested in cinematic experimentation than a smooth evening’s entertainment. Linklater began filming in 2002, returning each year to map the aging process of his young subject Ellar Coltrane, who was cast in the leading role of Mason when he was six and wrapped shooting at the age of eighteen, capturing the most fascinatingly formative years in a child’s physical and emotional development.

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Gett

GettMusic Box Films (Israel/France; 2014) 115 min.

Director: Ronit Elkabetz & Shlomi Elkabetz

Screenplay: Ronit Elkabetz & Shlomi Elkabetz

Cinematography: Jeanne Lapoirie

Editing: Joëlle Alexis

Production Design: Ehud Gutterman

Costumes: Li Alembik

Stars: Ronit Elkabetz (Viviane Amsalem), Simon Abkarian (Elisha Amsalem), Menashe Noy (Carmel Ben-Tovim), Sasson Gabai (Shimon Amsalem), Eli Gorstein (Head Rabbi Salmion), Rami Danon (Rabbi Danino), Roberto Pollack (Rabbi Abraham), Rubi Porat Shoval (Rachel Amzalleg), Ze’ev Revach (Simo), Keren Mor (Galia)

Gett is an Israeli-French co-production written and directed by star Ronit Elkabetz and her brother Shlomi Elkabetz concerning a long-term court case in which a woman’s petition for divorce from her husband was repeatedly hindered by delays and dismissals, leading to her being personally persecuted (the subtitle of the film, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, can be taken in several different contexts).

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Unbroken

Unbroken posterUniversal (2014) 137 min. PG-13

Director: Angelina Jolie

Screenplay: Joel & Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese & William Nicholson; based on novel Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Cinematography: Roger Deakins; Editing: Tim Squyres; Production Design: Jon Hutman; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson; Costumes: Louise Frogley; Score: Alexandre Desplat

Stars: Jack O’Connell (Louis Zamperini), Domhnall Gleeson (Phil), Finn Wittrock (Mac), Miyavi (Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe), Garrett Hedlund (Fitzgerald), Alex Russell (Pete Zamperini), Jai Courtney (Cup), C.J. Valleroy (Young Louie), Shinji Ogata (Japanese Translator), Taki Abe (Radio Tokyo Man)

From the title alone I should have had an inkling of what to expect from this Angelina Jolie directed adaptation of Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 bestseller about Italian-American bombardier Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) and his POW experiences in a Japanese internment camp on Tokyo during WWII.

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The Imitation Game

igWeinstein Co. (2014) 114 min. PG-13

Director: Morten Tyldum Screenplay: Graham Moore; based on novel Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Cinematography: Óscar Faura; Editing: William Goldenberg

Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald

Costumes: Sammy Sheldon Differ; Score: Alexandre Desplat

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing), Keira Knightley (Joan Clarke), Matthew Goode (Hugh Alexander), Mark Strong (Maj. Gen. Stewart Menzies), Charles Dance (Cdr. Alastair Denniston), Allen Leech (John Cairncross), Matthew Beard (Peter Hilton), Rory Kinnear (Det. Nock), Alex Lawther (Young Turing), Jack Bannon (Christopher Morcom)

This British tale of Alan Turing, the English mathematician who masterminded a way to crack the WWII German encryption device known as Enigma, laying the groundwork for the modern fields of computer science and digital technology, is an intriguing story that’s been begging to be told and was, at least once before, in the far more fictionalized Enigma (2000). This version, based on the Andrew Hodges biography Alan Turing: The Enigma is slightly more faithful to the facts, but has still been criticized for its historical inaccuracies.

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Foxcatcher

fcSony Classics (2014) 134 min. R

Director: Bennett Miller

Screenplay: E. Max Frye & Dan Futterman

Cinematography: Greig Fraser; Editing: Jay Cassidy, Stuart Levy & Conor O’Neill

Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

Costumes: Kasia Walicka-Maimone

Score: Rob Simonsen

Stars: Steve Carell (John E. du Pont), Channing Tatum (Mark Schultz), Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schultz), Vanessa Redgrave (Jean du Pont), Sienna Miller (Nancy Schultz), Anthony Michael Hall (Jack), Guy Boyd (Henry Beck), Brett Rice (Fred Cole)

Maybe I’ve watched one too many paranormal programs but I find it nearly impossible to separate in my mind the horrors said to haunt Fox Hollow Farm from what lies in store for the unsuspecting young men lured to Foxcatcher Farms, the du Pont family estate in director Bennett Miller’s new movie. Both true life stories seem subliminally intended to point up near identical morals regarding the fate that invariably befalls the sinful who are tempted into a life of drugs and sexual promiscuity.

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The Theory of Everything

ToEWorking Title (2014) 123 min. PG-13

Director: James Marsh 

Screenplay: Anthony McCarten; based on Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking

Cinematography: Benoît Delhomme; Editing: Jinx Godfrey

Production Design: John Paul Kelly; Set Decoration: Claire Nia Richards

Costumes: Steven Noble; Score: Jóhann Jóhannsson

Stars: Eddie Redmayne (Stephen Hawking), Felicity Jones (Jane Wilde Hawking), Charlie Cox (Jonathan Jones), Maxine Peake (Elaine Mason), Harry Lloyd (Brian), Emily Watson (Beryl Wilde), David Thewlis (Dennis Sciama), Christian McKay (Roger Penrose)

The new biography of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything leaves one wondering what that theory of the title is alluding to exactly in terms of the content. The movie never makes it quite clear, though apparently it was intended to tie everything together at the end. Just as the feasibility of this grand design ultimately eluded Hawking, so James Marsh’s biography about him seems to likewise be missing some strategic element to impart it with form and to infuse it with meaning. This free thinker whose theories revolutionized the science of cosmology has been accorded a screen memorial that fails to think outside the box. Continue reading

Howards End

he poster

Sony Classics (1992) 140 min. PG

Director: James Ivory

Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; based on novel by E.M. Forster

Cinematography: Tony Pierce-Roberts; Editing: Andrew Marcus

Production Design: Luciana Arrighi; Set Decoration: Ian Whittaker

Costumes: Jenny Beavan & John Bright; Score: Richard Robbins

Stars: Anthony Hopkins (Henry Wilcox), Vanessa Redgrave (Ruth Wilcox), Helena Bonham Carter (Helen Schlegel), Emma Thompson (Margaret Schlegel), Samuel West (Leonard Bast), James Wilby (Charles Wilcox), Nicola Duffett (Jacky Bast), Barbara Hicks (Miss Avery), Prunella Scales (Aunt Juley)

Merchant Ivory’s moody 1992 masterpiece is an intensely observed examination of intersecting classes in an Edwardian England poised on the cusp of change. The comfortably situated, middle class Schlegel sisters, Margaret (Emma Thompson) and Helen (Helena Bonham Carter) are emancipated women at a time when equal rights were becoming the new fashion. However they find themselves in increasing conflict with an influential, upper class family headed by conservative Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins), who will contest their claim to Howards End, the country estate bequeathed to Margaret by Henry’s first wife, Ruth (Vanessa Redgrave). Taken from E.M. Forster’s carefully plotted novel by longtime Merchant Ivory scenarist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, this erudite literary adaptation retains the compulsive fascination of a well spun yarn.

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The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

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 For a brief period of time, The George Eastman House in Rochester N.Y. had the good will to swing wide their vaults. The archive made available over their website many silent features and short films it would’ve been impossible for most people to see under normal circumstances. And though the company copyright was branded into the lower corner of every frame, even at the expense of obscuring certain title cards at times, posting these movies online constituted an admirable attempt to make long unseen treasures available again to the general public they were originally intended for.

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The Artist

The Artist (279)The Weinstein Co. (2011) 100 min. PG-13

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius

Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman; Editing: Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius

Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould 

Costumes: Mark Bridges

Score: Ludovic Bource

Stars: Jean Dujardin (George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller), John Goodman (Al Zimmer), James Cromwell (Clifton), Penelope Ann Miller (Doris), Missi Pyle (Constance), Uggie (The Dog), Malcolm McDowell (The Butler)

The Artist is a gentle, sincerely felt homage to silent movies blinded by its love of the art form. If this story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), the fading silent star who falls in love with Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), the new sound actress he helped groom for stardom only to find himself supplanted by her in the hearts of the public, seems unduly familiar it’s because director Michel Hazanavicius and his predominantly French cast and crew are showing their love not just for silent films but for golden age Hollywood in general, by saluting other iconic American classics along similar lines.

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