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movie reviews

April 11, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive

6

Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

How does this strike you? Hang out with a pair of centuries-old vampires in a digital-free apartment in depressed, depopulated Detroit while they listen to vinyl records on a turntable. Before you stop reading, let me point out that this movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, flows from the mind and bruised heart of Jim Jarmusch, the indie pioneer of laidback lyricism. Jarmusch movie titles sound like an incantation when you say them aloud: Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery Train, Night On Earth, Dead ... | More »

Joe

6

Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan

Directed by: David Gordon Green

If you need a reminder of what a fine, nuanced actor Nicolas Cage can be, take a look at Joe. This is the kind of artful character study that marked Cage's work in Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona and Adaptation. Cage's Joe Ransom is an ex-con, living in the rural South, where he runs a tree-poisoning detail for a company that wants to replace sick trees with the healthier variety. Joe is fair to his crew, played by real-life laborers. He even gives a job to Gary Jones (Tye Sherid... | More »

April 3, 2014

Nymphomaniac, Volume II

4

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Directed by: Lars Von Trier

With raw shock and a riveting Uma Thurman absent this time, Nymphomaniac: Volume II is a metaphoric limp dick. As in Volume I, filmmaker Lars Von Trier keeps the same themes at play about female sexual power and male attempts to tame and abuse it. But repetition dulls the edge of insights that are meant to be, um, penetrating. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, a true fascinator) is still telling her tales of wonder and woe to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), the older man who gives her shelter an... | More »

Under the Skin

7

Scarlett Johansson

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

Visionary inventiveness is such a lost art in contemporary cinema that impatient audiences may bolt for the exits at Under the Skin. Those who stick it out and let Jonathan Glazer's film flood their senses are in for something extraordinary. Plot? Here's what you need to know: An unnamed woman, played by Scarlett Johansson with unshakably alluring menace, cruises the streets of Scotland in a cargo van looking for men. She's not the usual femme fatale. She's an alien, and ... | More »

March 27, 2014

Noah

6

Russell Crowe

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

The floods is threat'ning My very life today Gimme, gimme shelter Or I'm gonna fade away —The Rolling Stones Pick your gospel: the Scriptures or rock & roll. Both figure into director Darren Aronofsky's Noah, a biblical epic that follows no rules except its creator's teeming imagination. The damn nerve! Yeah, like you'd expect Aronofsky the firebrand to trot out a gentle story of Noah escorting animals two-by-two into his ark while God destroys the world b... | More »

The Raid 2

7

Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra

Directed by: Gareth Evans

It is possible that you saw 2012's The Raid: Redemption and were left feeling meh by this Indonesian explosion of martial-arts mayhem. Of course, if you don't get jazzed by The Raid and its sequel, The Raid 2, we are no longer talking. I mean, people, the visceral fighting heat that Welsh-born, Jakarta-based director Gareth Evans packs into these films singes the screen. Here's a taste of the plot: Pencak silat master Iko Uwais is back as police officer Rama, now going underco... | More »

March 20, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

5

Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey

Directed by: James Bobin

You can't hate on the Muppets. At least, I can’t. But after the delicious treat of 2011's The Muppets, with Jason Segel and Amy Adams joining Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang, Muppets Most Wanted feels like tasteless leftovers. Segel is especially missed as star and co-writer. The plot? A ruthless agent (Ricky Gervais) conspires to have Kermit sent to a gulag run by – yikes! – Tina Fey, while Kermie's evil Russian double replaces him on tour. The breaking point... | More »

Nymphomaniac, Volume One

6

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Directed by: Lars Von Trier

I refuse to render a final verdict on the latest cinematic outrage from Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier until Volume Two drops its undies on April 4th. But I will say this for Volume One: It's a mesmerizing mind game. Not for the sex. Reportedly, there is a 5.5 hour Nymphomaniac floating around somewhere with lots more good stuff. But the unrated international version presented in America still has its fair share of naked name actors, like Shia LaBeouf, who uses a penis stand-in for ge... | More »

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