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LOST RIVER (2015) review

April 20, 2015



written by: Ryan Gosling
produced by: Ryan Gosling, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak, Marc Platt, Adam Siegel & Jeffrey Stott
directed by: Ryan Gosling
rating: R (for disturbing violent images, language and some sexual content)
runtime: 95 min.
U.S. release dates: April 10, 2015


After two team-ups with the seditious creative Nicolas Winding Refn, the writer and director behind the cult classic “Drive” and the panned “Only God Forgives”, heartthrob star Ryan Gosling graduated from the camera’s muse to its master. Or at least that was probably his hope stepping into the director’s chair for the first time and using his own screenplay. But if critical opinion is something you value, it appears the film criticism press has called his bluff. “Lost River”, his debut feature film, has had every insult in the book thrown at it.

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CHILD 44 (2015) review

April 19, 2015



written by: Richard Price, based on the novel by Tom Rob Smith
produced by: Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Greg Shapiro 
directed by: Daniel Espinosa
rating: R (for violence, some disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality)
runtime: 137 min. 
U.S. release date: April 17, 2015


“Murder is strictly a capitalist disease.”

Mood almost never works when it’s wielded as a weapon. The best thrillers always let the mood grow up organically around the film, rather than attempting to overwhelm the audience into submission. Perhaps the biggest issue with the new film “Child 44″, based on the best-selling novel by Tom Rob Smith, is that it bombards the audience with misery from the minute it begins. It would be like making “The Lord of the Rings” one film, where we get a brief prologue about all of the events that led to Frodo getting to the Black Gates, followed by two hours of him walking through Mordor until he finally just flings the ring into the fire and dies. That will hopefully give you some idea about the levels of misery in which this particular film is wallowing.

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CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2015) review

April 17, 2015



written by: Olivier Assayas
produced by:  Karl Baumgartner, Charles Gillibert, Thanassis Karathanos, Jean-Louis Porchet & Gérard Ruey
directed by: Olivier Assayas
rating: R (for language and brief graphic nudity)
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: April 17, 2015 (limited)


When I saw the ambiguously titled “The Clouds of Sils Maria” last fall at the Chicago International Film Festival, one thought rang in my brain on the chilly walk home. “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart is amazing in this movie, the kind of career-swinging role that, if seen by the right people, can transform a low-tier teen celebrity into an A-list actress.

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DESERT DANCER (2015) review

April 16, 2015



written by: Jon Crocker
produced by: Isabela Miko
directed by: Richard Raymond
rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, some drug material and violence)
runtime: 98 min.
U. S. release date: April 10, 2015 (limited)


Maybe at on time introducing a film with “based on a true story” led viewers to sit up in their seat and pay a little more attention to what transpires in the film. But now, that overused phrase has caused audiences to chuckle to themselves when it appears on-screen or just roll their eyes. I definitely heard a few when I was at the screening of “Desert Dancer” as the phrase “based on a true story” appeared prior to the film’s start. I guess I can understand that reaction. It’s not as if we need a film to come out and say that for us to be pulled into the story. Or is such a statement trying to compensate for narrative flaws and tired clichés?

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FURIOUS 7 (2015) review

April 6, 2015



written by: Chris Morgan
produced by: Neal H. Moritz
directed by: James Wan
rating: PG-13 (for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language)
runtime: 134 min.
U.S. release date: April 3, 2015


Since the massive success of 2011’s “Fast Five”, the sequel that surprisingly invigorated the “Fast and Furious” series that was sputtering on fumes, the goal has been to make more and make them faster and more furious. 2013’s “Fast and Furious 6” did just that, by piling on the crazy stunts and insane hand-to-hand combat, solidifying that a certain amount of ridiculousness is a given in what is basically now a team of urban superheroes that overemphasize “family”. Now comes “Furious 7”, with the shadow of Paul Walker’s death upon it. This sequel will undoubtedly draw an even bigger crowd to the multiplex, so curious fans of the series and the actor can find out what kind of closure the movie went with.

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WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2015) review

April 5, 2015



written by: Noah Baumbach
produced by: Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Lila Yacoub, & Scott Rudin
directed by: Noah Baumbach
rating: R (for language)
runtime: 97 min.
U.S. release date: March 27, 2015 (limited) 


“I remember when this song was just considered bad.”

As someone born at the very tail end of Generation X, I harbor a ton of contempt for Millennials. Perhaps it’s because my generation (I was born in 1979) doesn’t really have an identity, but tends to side more with Gen X-ers in most things, and the vast majority of Millennials that I encounter think that things from my childhood are cool in ways that I find too steeped in irony to be genuine. This contempt bleeds out of every pore of Noah Baumbach’s newest film “While We’re Young”, a “draw your battle lines” comedy with a third act so filled with disdain, it’s likely to turn most viewers off. While it’s perhaps not as angry as his 2010 film “Greenberg”, it does bear a number of similarities to that film, making it a fairly good litmus test for whether or not you may enjoy this film.

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HOME (2015) review

April 1, 2015



written by: Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember, based on the book “The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex
produced by: Suzanne Buirgy & Mireille Soria
directed by: Tim Johnson
rating: PG (for mild action and some rude humor)
runtime: 94 min.
U.S. release date: March 27, 2015


“Humans are more complicated than it said in the pamphlet.”

After releasing three films last year—the very good Mr. Peabody & Sherman and How to Train Your Dragon 2, and the woefully average Penguins of Madagascar—Dreamworks Animation Studio is only releasing one film in 2015, and it’s a cast-off from last year. Home was originally slated for release last November, which makes the Christmas elements of the film make more sense, but was flip-flopped with “Penguins” last summer. While the move was done to boost familiarity and thereby boost profits, it seems that they severely the undervalued the much better film.

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