Production Design: Richard Sherman; Set Decoration: Matthew Flood Ferguson
Costumes: Terry Anderson; Score: Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans
Stars: Jason Bateman (Simon Callen), Rebecca Hall (Robyn Callen), Joel Edgerton (Gordon “Gordo” Mosley), Tim Griffin (Kevin Keeler), Allison Tolman (Lucy), Adam Lazarre-White (Ron), Beau Knapp (Detective Walker), Wendell Pierce (Detective Mills), P.J. Byrne (Danny McDonald), David Denman (Greg), Busy Philipps (Duffy)
For some reason, I kept getting The Gift mixed up with The Box, which also used the Pandora concept as a basis to explore the untapped potential for darkness in seemingly ordinary, unthreatening people. In an overheated summer full of typically hotheaded action blockbusters, this low-key, largely introspective psychological thriller is the real surprise gift to moviegoers and it’s not even close to Christmas yet. Despite being riddled with horror movie clichés and transparent script convolutions which allow audiences to anticipate most of what’s coming, this remains an intriguing, quality sleeper attractively wrapped for our predilection.
A dangerous sexual encounter results in teen Jay Height (Maiko Monroe) contracting a paranormal form of STD. A shape shifting apparition that only she can see attaches itself to her, shadowing her every move and threatening to slay her with its touch unless she can place the curse on someone else through another unsafe sexual encounter. Plagued by the hold hormones have over their lives, It Follows knows what scares most horny teens, the cause of most of their angst. Here, certain death is transmitted the same way it was in Larry Clark’s controversial Kids, thematically returning us to the psychosexual roots of the horror film.
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 O’Jore (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.
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.
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).
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing: Douglas Crise & Stephen Mirrione
Production Design: Kevin Thompson; Set Decoration: George DeTitta Jr.
Costumes: Albert Wolsky; Score: Antonio Sánchez
Stars: Michael Keaton (Riggan Thomson), Emma Stone (Sam), Edward Norton (Mike Shiner), Naomi Watts (Lesley), Zach Galifianakis (Jake), Amy Ryan (Sylvia), Andrea Riseborough (Laura), Lindsay Duncan (Tabitha), Merritt Wever (Annie)
Given the advance word of mouth, award accolades and promising premise, with Michael Keaton as a has been superhero movie star trying to reestablish himself as a serious actor by staging a Broadway play, I was expecting to like Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s surreal satire far more than I was ultimately able to. Perhaps I set my sights too high, persuaded by critical consensus (“The only opinion that matters is the critic.”) which seems to have accepted the film’s artistic pretensions at face value. Given the movie’s brutal representation of their own breed, reviewers appear motivated by a desire to prove what good sports they are, but there is such a thing as being too tolerant.
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.
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.
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.
Director: David Fincher Screenplay: Gillian Flynn; based on the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth; Editing: Kirk Baxter
Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Douglas A. Mowat; Costumes: Trish Summerville;Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Stars: Ben Affleck (Nick Dunne), Rosamund Pike (Amy Elliott-Dunne), Neil Patrick Harris (Desi Collings), Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt), Carrie Coon (Margo), Kim Dickens (Det. Rhonda Boney), Emily Ratajkowski (Andie), Missi Pyle (Ellen Abbott), Patrick Fugit (Officer James Gilpin), Sela Ward (Sharon Schieber), Lola Kirke (Greta), Casey Wilson (Noelle Hawthorne), Leonard Kelly-Young (Bill Dunne)
While it’s a welcome relief to see a book adapted into a movie that isn’t grounded in another teen fiction franchise, the Book-of-the-Month club mentality Gone Girl grew out of gives me pause. Big screen bestsellers come with a built-in audience, a guarantee that makes them a relatively safe investment for producers, but the sort of bookworms they attract to cinemas and who regard them as great films in the same way they classify great literature, aren’t the type who generally go to movies so can’t be the most discerning judges. Continue reading →