The Duke of Burgundy – Fascinating, Maddening Look at Love Through a Keyhole

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The Duke of Burgundy / UKWritten and directed by Peter StricklandStarring Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’AnnaRating 4/5The rites of BDSM are explored with refinement and intelligence in The Duke of Burgundy and without even a smidgeon of genitalia. The “otherness” of the lifestyle is muted by the exceptional artistry in the world it inhabits, compassion with which it’s executed and the familiar human factor. It doesn’t pretend to shed new light on sex; it is top to bottom a love story, about what happens in a rough patch. It’s a love story pretending to be a mistress/servant drama.Indeed, two […]

Leviathan Review

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Change the things you can, accept the things you cannot, and go to jail and die either way.Nominated for the 2015 Academy Awards Best Foreign Film Oscar, and the winner of the Golden Globe, writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s neo-biblical tome is as fascinating to watch as it is dreadful to imagine. Co-written with Oleg Negin, the screenplay is set in a small, nearly abandoned coastal town on the Barents Sea in northern Russia. All hope seems to have left the family of Kolya (Alexei Serebriakov). A small but successful automobile mechanic, the widower Kolya is embroiled in a fight with the […]

Match Review

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Stripped down and heartfelt essay on what it takes to love and be loved.No hold is barred in Stephen Belber’s short and sweet essay on love and commitment. Mike and Lisa show up on Tobi’s doorstep with an odd request. They have travelled from Seattle to New York to interview Tobi for Lisa’s dissertation. In the first ten minutes of the film it is obvious they came for another reason entirely. Mike is sniffing around the house, looking at all the pictures. Every hair on his head is searching for clues about the past and present of the man with […]

Two Days, One Night Review

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A lean, no nonsense film crafted in the most brutally honest style of the Dardennes with a stellar performance by Marion Cotillard. In the Dardenne brothers David vs Goliath drama, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is a young wife and mother working for a small manufacturing business in Seraing, Belgium. She takes medical leave for a nervous breakdown and is about to return when she hears she has lost her job. She is not notified by the company, she is told by a friend. Unbelievably, and despicably, the company has held an internal vote of the employees of whether to give them all […]

The Duke of Burgundy Review

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A deliciously deviant romp into sexual adventure grounded in the real life struggle for enduring intimacy.Peter Strickland’s film shows nothing if not a lot of courage. The screenplay reflects on the seemingly Victorian experiences of two sexually liberated and experimentally inclined women against a backdrop of heavily disciplined and constrained academic isolation.Evelyn (“Berberian” star Chiara D’Anna) and Cynthia (Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen) share a very comfortable mansion in the lush green countryside. We never know the location, but it appears to be a wealthy part of, perhaps, England. The actual shooting was done in Hungary, where Strickland resides.Cynthia is […]

The Boy Next Door Review

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A thrown together collection of hackneyed and screwball soft porn, toilet humor and predictable violence.Although director Rob Cohen’s film is classified as a thriller, it is anything but. The first sixty minutes of the ninety-one minute movie is a straight up TV soap opera with nothing but the most hackneyed, overused plot tricks. The last thirty minutes might have made a part of a B horror film if the audience had been kept awake by a different opening. Unfortunately, many of those in attendance either came expecting more, or were checking their cell phone messages by the time of the […]

Mortdecai Review

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Johnny Depp as an updated Baron Munchausen.Even in the middle of watching this hugely entertaining Johnny Depp slapstick-a-thon the viewer finds him/herself wondering if the great actor’s best days are behind him. The edginess is mostly gone and in its place are double the cleverness and four times the action, production and special effects. Where has Johnny gone?Reuniting with director David Koepp for the first time since his 2004 adaption of Stephen King’s “Secret Window,” there is no question Depp is thoroughly enjoying himself. In fact, Gwyneth Paltrow (as Mortdecai’s wife Johanna) even seems to be enjoying herself. There is […]

Cake Review

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Jennifer Aniston does something completely different in this potboiler of a psychodrama and succeeds marvelously.From the opening shot of Jennifer Aniston in Daniel Barnz’ simmering psycho-drama you know you are not watching “Friends” anymore. Aniston is made up to the hilt with the best prosthetics since Steve Carell’s nose in “Foxcatcher” and when it comes to the acting she is load for bear.She plays Claire Bennett, a woman traumatized beyond belief by a devastating recent loss. It is to the credit of director Daniel Barnz and screenwriter Patrick Tobin that the reason for her trauma is not made immediately clear. […]

A Most Violent Year Review

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Not as violent as the title would imply, this is a sterling essay in inner strength.The story is set in New York City in 1981, in what we are told is the most violent year in the city’s history. Before we go any further, it should be noted that J.C. Chandor’s wonderfully transporting story is not a particularly violent one. His previous hit “Margin Call” was much more violent, at least emotionally violent and his recent “All is Lost” is just a violent as is this movie.In fact, “A Most Violent Year” has much in common with “All is Lost.” […]

Blackhat Review

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James Bond grows a brain but the audience is not buying it.Although “Blackhat” is a fun romp into a fantasy world of explicitly bloody, violent international espionage, director Michael Mann (written by Morgan Davis Foehl) has created a work of sound and fury that signifies nothing.The film gets off to a good start with Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) being rousted out of his high security prison cell to answer a charge of hacking into the prison’s accounting system to add $900 to each prisoner’s bank account. He may be a punk but he is certainly a popular punk. Not only […]

American Sniper Review

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Although the book paints a better picture of Chris Kyle as a man, this is one RPG of a war story.Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort is an entertaining combination of war movie and biopic. The book by the subject, Chris Kyle (co-written with Scott McEwen and James Defelice), contains a much better description of his life. The film is a much better war story. For those who are more interested in the life and times of a war hero, read the book. For those who want a rambunctious, no holds barred war flick, see the movie. For the best results, […]

Predestination Review

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Put the time-travel gibberish into the background and the result is a great, gritty Aussie noir flick not to be missed.The Spierig brothers reunite with Ethan Hawke for their first feature in five years and it is a fascinating film. The screenplay is based on the science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein “—All You Zombies—”. Reportedly the story was written in one day on July 11, 1958, and shared time travel themes with another Heinlein story written a decade earlier.The Spierigs’ first two feature films were vampire/zombie genre flicks but this one has nothing to do with zombies, […]

Inherent Vice Review

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Ignore the stoner humor and hackneyed clichés and appreciate the mood and setting of this most neo of the neo-noirs.Those who have read any of Thomas Pynchon’s intractable tails must have been amazed that Paul Thomas Anderson would take on the hazardous task of transforming his 2009 novel into a movie. Continuing Pynchon’s ongoing war against the establishment, the screenplay (also by Anderson) features private eye Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) on a mission of LA noir intrigue, double-crosses, coma inducing drug use and homicidal mayhem. Sportello echoes past Pynchon heroes as a chummy stoner who is as interested in the […]

The Imitation Game Review

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A rich performance with the pathos and drama of a new age of technology set within the hardships of war.Benedict Cumberbatch pounds out a fantastic performance as one of the greatest nerds of all time, Alan Turing, the inventor of one of the first digital computers. Although the computer itself, built in the legendary Bletchley Park encryption think tank, threatens to steal the show, Cumberbatch (Guillam in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) does Asberger’s like he wrote the book. He is the ultimate social nebbish while making it perfectly clear that he is also the genius’ genius.Reuniting with Cumberbatch from “Tinker, […]

Foxcatcher Review

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An oft told story is given stirring insight through first rate performances and productionBennett Miller’s pot-boiling drama, “ripped from the headlines,” is a powerful and poignant essay of human frailty. There will be few viewers who, after seeing his remarkable portrayal of a doomed scion of the du Pont fortune, will not acknowledge Steve Carell as an artist of amazing versatility. Although his performance does not demand a huge variety of expressions and emotions, John du Pont’s character is so vastly removed from the Steve Carell we know that his performance is absolutely riveting.The movie starts with a series of […]

Exodus: Gods and Kings Review

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Walk on the bland side in a comic book of biblical proportionsThe good thing about Ridley Scott’s latest special effects lollapalooza is going into it you know exactly what to expect. The story, rough as it is, is taken from the Bible so there are no spoilers to be had. From the opening battle scenes, where Ramses (Joel Edgerton) has the most stunning gold plated armor, tailored to a T, and Moses (Christian Bale) is dressed like, well, a soldier, you know Edgerton is going to get the limelight in this one. Even so, when you see seeing Ramses broken […]

Zero Motivation Review

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Starting off as a great military/industrial complex send-up, the story flounders in the home stretch when it grasps at the serious and ends up in slapstick.Talya Larvie’s military dramedy is fresh, untamed and funny. This is amazing, considering it shreds one of the top military organizations in the world. Featuring the women of mandatory conscription, the setting is a desolate Israeli military outpost. Critical, no doubt, to security, the female draftees treat their service like teenagers acting out against curfew.In the opening scenes, Zohar (Dana Ivgy) returns from weekend leave with Daffi (Nelly Tagar) to the barbed wire, dust and […]

The Homesman Review

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A rich slice of hardship and redemption from the unforgiving frontier.The opening scenes are as bleak as death itself. Parched plains, patched together clapboard houses, poverty so deep it rises up to greet you at the front door, and wind that never, ever, lets up. Tommy Lee Jones’ second feature film shows an America that promised its pioneers their own land and the mastery of their own destiny. What it gave them was a savage, untillable, untamable landscape that made the setting for Jones’ earlier “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” look like the Garden of Eden.Nebraska is the newfound […]

Bad Hair Review

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A tight knit and brutally honest essay on familial conflicts and the complications of living a Western dream in an environment of limited possibilities.Nine year old Junior is on the war path with his mother. What else is new? The ageless story of kid versus parent is told again, this time in the tough streets of the projects in Caracas, Venezuela. His mother, Marta, has lost her job and is in the process of giving up every shred of self-respect she has to get it back. Since her husband died she has no money, no skills and two children to […]

The Yes Men Are Revolting Review

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Then, again, so are many corporations.When Yes Men Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno launched their “Survivaballs” into New York’s East River to protest the lack of an effective United Nations climate change policy, they were not surprised when legal action ensued (“Yes, just stay to the left of the machine gun…”). In fact, they have been threatened with law suits dozens of times, although all have been dropped, so far.In this film of the irrepressible hijinks of the two reigning kings of the political prank, The Chamber of Commerce initiated yet another law suit in search of revenge for the […]

Camp X-Ray Review

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A lean and mean essay on human bondage, a minimalist examination of living life to the least.Peter Sattler’s directorial debut is as bare and exposed as a prisoner in a cell. A stripped down film about warehousing human beings and waiting for the next step. The next step for the inmate is release, and it may come sooner than the next step for the jailer. In the meantime the guards become the guarded and sometimes the prisoners have more freedom. At least so it seems.Kristen Stewart plays PFC Amy Cole, a desperate twenty-something who joined the Army to escape the […]

Writers Review

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Screenwriting bromedy that shows Bollywood is not that much different than its American counterpart.Dulal is the brains and Mainak is the street smarts in Amit Masurkar’s flighty bromedy screened at the 9th Seattle South Asian Film Festival. Like most screenwriters, these two need that one big break to make it into the big time. Actually, these two need holy water from the hands of a hundred virgin angels to write their street address. But that is not important, where there is a will, there is a way. If they can do it with women, they can do it with producers.Well, […]

Interstellar Review

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A combination of spectacular special effects, marginal physics and grindingly slow treacle, McConaughey pulls this one out of the fire.Christopher Nolan’s $165 million IMAX space lollapalooza is all the better for starting in the most modest of environments. It is some time in the future, some place in the American Midwest. Things are not going well, according to the elderly respondents. Blights are decimating okra (a blessing to some) and closing in on corn which threatens the very core of mankind: the MacDonald’s shake. Crop diversity is decreasing and the remaining strains are at risk for even a weak-kneed virus.Then […]

The Heart Machine Review

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A disturbing love story set in the unforgiving world of the Internet.Writer/director Zachary Wigon’s essay on the vicissitudes of internet love starts innocently enough. A quiet, intimate conversation in the privacy of Cody’s (John Gallagher Jr. – HBO’s “The Newsroom,” and “Short Term 12”) East Village apartment with a possible significant other. The woman is Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil – Netflix “House of Cards,” “Your Next”), and her end of the intimate, semi-clothed chat is coming from Berlin. The two appear to be quite compatible and a meeting is in the offing.Then a confusing camera cut throws us off and […]

Before I Go To Sleep Review

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A lot of emotion but not enough screenplay to keep things moving even for the spare 92 minute run timeNicole Kidman gives it her best shot but there is simply not enough going on in Rowan Joffe’s psychological drama to make it work. The lack of plot is aggravated by the bizarre use of jarring loud noises and the guessing games the audience goes through trying to understand the story. Perhaps this effect is to knock the audience off balance so that they appreciate how off balance Kidman’s character is, but the effect is wasted. Instead of helping the tedious […]