Film Reviews

Film Review: Lorcan Finnegan’s WITHOUT NAME

Film Review: Lorcan Finnegan’s WITHOUT NAME

  The woods are scary. This isn’t a concept that’s too difficult to grasp. Nature scares people. The uncontrollable elements scare people. Bears scare people. Witches scare people.

ma ma

Film Review: ma ma Starring Penlope Cruz

Ma ma is set in Madrid, Spain, and stars Academy Award®-winning actress Penelope Cruz as Magda, a woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer who’s also going through a separation from her self-centered husband Raul (Alex Brendemuhl), who left her for one of his students.

Throwback Texas Thriller TWO STEP Movie Review

Throwback Texas Thriller TWO STEP Movie Review

The crime thriller TWO STEP debuted at the 2014 South by Southwest Festival and made the festival rounds throughout 2014. James (Skyy Moore) is a college dropout who lives with his grandmother. When his grandmother passes away, James is on his own in a town where he doesn’t know anyone […]

Who is THE OUTRAGEOUS SOPHIE TUCKER?

Who is THE OUTRAGEOUS SOPHIE TUCKER?

Sophie Tucker. Who is Sophie Tucker? Prior to watching this documentary, appropriately titled “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker” directed by Academy award nominated documentary filmmaker William Gazecki and produced and written by Susan and Lloyd Ecker, I had never heard of Sophie Tucker. Sophie Tucker was ahead of her time. A jazz […]

Film Review: GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER

Film Review: GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER

‘God Loves the Fighter,’ was written and directed by Damian Marcano, and co-written by Alexa Bailey. A prizewinner at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, UrbanWorld, and DC Film Fest, GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER is described as a gritty urban fable in the spirit of CITY OF GOD and THE […]

Documentary “SEX AND BROADCASTING” Tells History of WFMU

Documentary “SEX AND BROADCASTING” Tells History of WFMU

sex and broadcasting

Despite pop culture relentlessly promoting the idea of individuality, there is little in our current culture that actually is independent and free. Even “indie” music and film aren’t what they used to be as major corporations commandeer what once was independent and use “indie” as a marketing buzzword. In that sense, the Jersey City radio station WFMU should not exist in the 21st century – it is a commercial-free, all-volunteer, 100% listener-supported radio station sitting on the edge of the largest media market in the United States.

THE BETTER ANGELS Explores The Childhood of Abraham Lincoln

THE BETTER ANGELS Explores The Childhood of Abraham Lincoln

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Many recent Hollywood blockbusters have taken well-known fictional characters and depicted their earliest adventures in prequels or origin films. With THE BETTER ANGELS, it appears that the origin film trend has now encompassed historical figures because the film portrays the childhood of Abraham Lincoln. THE BETTER ANGELS is the debut film from writer/director A.J. Edwards, a collaborator of Terrence Malick who worked in various roles on The New World, The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder (Malick also serves as a producer of THE BETTER ANGELS).

MANHATTAN ROMANCE Written & Directed by Tom O’Brien

MANHATTAN ROMANCE Written & Directed by Tom O’Brien

manhattan romance

Towards the end of MANHATTAN ROMANCE, Danny (Tom O’Brien, who also wrote, directed, and produced this movie) is presenting a documentary he created about New York relationships at a film festival. When an audience member asks Danny why his film lacks a resolution, Danny gives a semi-annoyed response about how life doesn’t have clean resolutions so there is no reason why films should have them either. There’s nothing wrong with that sentiment – plenty of great movies end unresolved – but when an actor/writer/producer/director expresses that shortly before the credits in his own film, it sounds like a preemptive defense of his lack of confidence in the ending of his own movie.

FUGLY! Starring John Leguizamo & Rosie Perez

FUGLY! Starring John Leguizamo & Rosie Perez

Fugly

The tagline for FUGLY! – co-written and starring John Leguizamo – declares it “An Anti-Romantic Comedy.” However, that’s like putting a sign on a duck that says “this is not a duck” and expecting people to think it’s another animal. FUGLY! might not be melodramatic, but it’s as much of a romantic comedy as Garden State, 500 Days of Summer, or any other movie involving a male protagonist pining over a girl whom he thinks is the cure-all to his imperfections despite she being imperfect herself.

“Pelican Dreams” The Entertaining DocuDrama

“Pelican Dreams” The Entertaining DocuDrama

pelican dreams

Nature documentaries don’t often warrant reviewing since their purpose is primarily to educate, not entertain. But many nature documentaries like Pelican Dreams often combine traditional nature photography with purposeful narratives that inject personality into the art form.

Compelling Drama “Diplomatie” (Diplomacy)

Compelling Drama “Diplomatie” (Diplomacy)

"Diplomatie" (Diplomacy)

In late August 1944, the Allies were advancing on German-occupied Paris. General von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup) the military governor of Paris (a position he held less than three weeks before the events of the film begin) is given orders to destroy Paris and abandon the city. He enlists a French engineer named Jacques Lanvin (Jean-Marc Roulot) to develop a plan to destroy Paris. Lanvin proposes blowing up the city’s many bridges to cause the Seine to flood, which would destroy the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and the Opera. The remaining city monuments – including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Parliament – would be destroyed by explosives. Ironically, Choltitz points out to Lanvin that Paris is Hitler’s favorite city. “So why destroy it?” Lanvin asks. Choltitz responds, “Hitler wanted Berlin to be as beautiful as Paris, and bigger. Now, four years later, Berlin is in ruins, while Paris is as glorious as ever, see? It’s unbearable for him.”

Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy Stars in Indie Movie ST. VINCENT

Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy Stars in Indie Movie ST. VINCENT

indie movie St. Vincent

I will see just about any movie that stars Bill Murray not only because he’s one of my all-time favorite actors, but also because Murray has a tendency to pick great projects to star in. The new indie movie St. Vincent has received a lot of praise in the lead-up to its release based on Murray’s performance, and it’s all warranted. Though Murray has spent the last decade mostly starring in little-seen indie films and Wes Anderson movies, St. Vincent will remind general audiences just how great of an actor he is.

The Little Tin Man is a “Warmhearted Film”

The Little Tin Man is a “Warmhearted Film”

the little tin man movie

Herman (Aaron Beelner) is a dwarf actor who only gets gigs playing elves in Christmas commercials. In his day job, Herman works alongside his brother Gregg (Jeff Hiller) at an upscale New York City restaurant owned by their mother. However, when their mother dies she leaves the restaurant to Gregg – the only thing she gives to Herman is a directive that he must start taking his acting career more seriously. Frustrated by being cut out of his mother’s will and tired of playing roles that are solely defined by his stature, Herman is less than enthused when his agent calls him with news that has gotten Herman an audition for the role of the Mayor of Munchkinville in Martin Scorsese’s remake of the Wizard of Oz. Herman is convinced by his friend Miller (Kay Cannon), who is also a struggling actor and a waitress at the restaurant, to go on the audition but ask to read for the Tin Man instead. Because Herman wants to transcend stereotypes – and because he harbors an unrequited crush on Miller – Herman decides to go for it. What follows is Herman’s journey towards gaining respect as an actor for his talent rather than his size.

FISHING WITHOUT NETS Tackles Somali Pirates

FISHING WITHOUT NETS Tackles Somali Pirates

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Filmmaker Cutter Hodierne was awarded the Directing Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival for Fishing Without Nets. Though Hodierne is a first-time feature filmmaker, it was actually his second award-winning trip to Sundance – in 2012, a short version of Fishing Without Nets was awarded the Grand Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking. The earlier short is worth noting because the feature length version of Fishing Without Nets, which is about Somali pirates, inevitably draws comparisons to last year’s major studio release Captain Phillips, directed by Paul Greengrass. While Hodierne isn’t quite as successful, his film embarks on a story that is more difficult to tell because it is from the perspective of the hijackers rather than those who are hijacked.

Sally Kirkland Stars in ARCHAEOLOGY OF A WOMAN Directed by Sharon Greytak

Sally Kirkland Stars in ARCHAEOLOGY OF A WOMAN Directed by Sharon Greytak

Archaeology Of A Woman starring Sally Kirkland and Victoria Clarke

Archaeology Of A Woman, written and directed by renowned indie film director Sharon Greytak, is an intense drama that explores the life of a woman beset by the early stages of dementia. The film stars Oscar nominated/Golden Globe winner Sally Kirkland and Tony-winner Victoria Clark.  

Archaeology Of A Woman received two Gold Remi Awards at Worldfest-Houston including Lifetime Achievement for Sally Kirkland and Outstanding Independent Films. It was honored with a CINE Golden Eagle Award, and was also an official selection of the Woodstock Film Festival.

Review of Great New Doc: “Finding Vivian Maier”

Review of Great New Doc: “Finding Vivian Maier”

by Francesca McCaffery

Finding Vivian Maier

 John Maloof and his brother were raised working at outdoor flea markets and swap meets with their father…From a very  early age, John Maloof could spot a deal. When working on a book about the history of Chicago, he attended an Auction at a small auctioneer’s store, sitting quietly in the back, and bidded a mere $780 for a box containing over 25,000 negatives shot by an unknown, female photographer. A savvy veteran of these auctions, and now a real estate agent and local historian, he was looking for photos and negatives of old-time Chicago, he was hoping to get a little lucky. He ended up purchasing, for even less money, tens of thousands of more negs and rolls of film, as well as most of her rmaining personal possessions from storage, from another buyer. All of these images had been taken by a woman named Vivian Maier.

 As his life and work on the Chicago book took over, Maloof ended up simply  stashing away the old boxes in a closet for a long while. Dusting them off one day, hunting again for some random,  still images of Chicago, he began to discover some of the most insightful, gorgeous and timely images of street photography he had ever seen. Entranced by the glorious, black and white stills, and in possession of a sophisticated artistic instinct and taste,  he then set about to find out, exactly, just who this Vivian Maeir woman  really was.

Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac Vol 2”-No Gain from Her Pain

Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac Vol 2”-No Gain from Her Pain

By Francesca McCaffery

Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol 2 review

Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol 2, picks right up where Nymphomaniac, Vol 1 left off: the Young Joe (Stacy Martin) is in the midst of her relationship with her once long lost true love, Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf). (Here is my review on Vol 1 here.)

The problem is, the sexually rapacious Joe had, in her own words, “Lost all feeling in my cunt.” Her genuine fillings for Jerome have left her unable to enjoy sexual intercourse with Jerôme. They keep trying unsuccessfully to get Joe off, until finally, an exhausted Jerôme declares that she’s like a wild animal, and well, he needs some “help with the feeding.”

TEENAGE: Matt Wolf’s Documentary Brings the History of Growing Up to Life

TEENAGE: Matt Wolf’s Documentary Brings the History of Growing Up to Life

teenage matt-wolf

 TEENAGE, the new documentary film written and directed by Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell) is based on the book Teenager, by Jon Savage, and uses both found footage and lush, fake Super 8 recreations to illustrate how adolescents came into being, as both a social and actualized concept, in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

The Naked Emotions are more Raw than the Rampant Sex Scenes in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac-Vol 1

The Naked Emotions are more Raw than the Rampant Sex Scenes in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac-Vol 1

By Francesca McCaffery

nymphomaniac shia

With his latest film NYMPHOMANIAC, bad boy and cinematic provocateur Lars von Trier has found a way to communicate through film that is rarely felt, even in literature: Whether you agree with what is being portrayed onscreen, or not, you still have the feeling of being spoken to in the most profound of ways- both cerebrally and viscerally- the sheer ride that only  the most dazzling, life-changing novel can offer.

NYMPHOMANIAC, VOL 1, is one of two films, (Vol 2 being released in the US in April ) both released in their uncut, European versions. The film stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe, who meets lonely bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) only after he finds her lying, curled up, bloody and beaten, in his courtyard as he goes out to get his daily cup of coffee and rugalach.

Film Review: LENNY COOKE

Film Review: LENNY COOKE

lenny cooke documentary review

Arguably the most disappointing story I can relate to basketball wise, that of Lenny Cooke, is one marred by bad decision, misguidance, and maybe what I would call serendipity.  The fortunate mistake in it all is the example that his experience has and can be for generations to come. A legendary NYC hardcourt story, at one time Lenny Cooke was defined by his talent level and beyond anything else the potential of what he could do for others.  Knowing him personally, I can remember the attention he garnered walking into the room let alone putting the ball in the basket.  Such a charismatic individual, admittedly so his goal was to appease never to self-reflect.

Film Review: GARIFUNA IN PERIL-The Movie

Film Review: GARIFUNA IN PERIL-The Movie

garifuna in peril

GARIFUNA IN PERIL, written, produced and directed by Ali Allie and Ruben Reyes, is a film that chronicles the history of a people.  It explores the culture, language, and history, surrounding an indigenous group of people called the Garifuna.  Who are the Garifuna?

The Garifuna are descendants of Carib, Arawak, and West African people. The British colonizers referred to the Garifunas as Black Caribs.  At first the Garifunas called the island of St.Vincent home, but disease, horrific treatment by their captors and the trip across the seas, claimed the lives of many of the Garifuna people.  Today, an estimated 600,000 Garifuna populate a number of areas; Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.