The new dysfunctional family comedy Happy Christmas may have modest goals, but it makes an impact thanks to several lively and well-crafted performances. Chief among those is Anna Kendrick. The Oscar nominee from Up in the Air is delightfully scattered as Jenny, a young woman fresh off a break-up who retreats to her brother’s home in Chicago in hopes of reconnecting with old friends and sustaining a semi-permanent buzz.
Those whose movie addiction firmly took hold in the 1970s have a deep affinity for such films as Nashville, Taxi Driver, and Dog Day Afternoon, three perfect melds of storytelling and cinematic virtuosity. What many may forget about the latter film - directed by Sidney Lumet and with a volcanic Al Pacino at its core - is that it was based on a real bank robbery concocted by a real person, now the subject of The Dog.
The fact that Richard Linklater’s extraordinary movie Boyhood was filmed over the course of 12 years could come off as a gimmick. Yet this amazing accomplishment is no trick and, thanks to powerful performances and a seamless narrative, it packs an emotional wallop that is both unexpected and hard to shake.
There's a scene in Cédric Klapisch's warm, exuberant comedy Chinese Puzzle that perfectly captures both the beauty and complications of a life well lived. A discussion between two men (one living, one a hallucination) proposes that a piece of embroidery is an apt metaphor for the human condition: on one side is a lovely picture of a moment captured in time. But turned over, one sees all of the knotty entanglements.
A half century ago, nobody expected much of Sergio Leone’s 1964 Italian Western A Fistful of Dollars – not even its young American star, Clint Eastwood. On Wednesday's Up to Date, Steve Kraske explores how this film's fiery success ignited the popularity of an entire genre known as "spaghetti westerns".
When independent films feature a small town and a huge corporation at their core, they are usually depicted as foes like David and Goliath – the good and the average against the lumbering giant.
Local Hero from 1983 comes to mind, as does Promised Land, the recent movie about fracking in the Midwest. The Grand Seduction, however, reverses that formula, proving that the battle lines aren’t always drawn that cleanly.
As the march toward full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in America advances at varying speeds, there remains a sense that the LGBT community can still be marginalized in the movies. That's what makes film festivals like Out Here Now so relevant to the LGBT communities and their staunch allies.
In Kelly Reichardt’s astonishingly good thriller Night Moves, a trio of environmental activists gets trapped in a political and deadly morass of their own making. Played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard, they demonstrate to a fault what happens when passion for a cause is trumped by human frailty.
There's a deliberate seediness to the Texas noir Cold in July that makes it both entertaining and calculating. Directed by Jim Mickle, it stars Michael C. Hall as Richard, an ordinary man around whom extraordinarily violent things happen, all triggered by an act of self-defense that leaves a home intruder dead and his living room splattered with brain matter like a Jackson Pollock.
William Joyce has captivated young audiences and their parents with his whimsical and imaginative characters in film, TV, and in books. The creator of Rolie Polie Olie and The Guardians of Childhood has a new book and film, The Numberlys. Joyce talks with Steve Kraske about what inspires the characters he creates.
Just who’s to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic? Over the years, the finger has been pointed at parents, video games and vending machines, to name a few.
To the makers of the new activist documentary, “Fed Up,” the bottom line of blame lies with a simple substance poured into our diets every day: sugar. And the pushers of what this film calls a drug and “the new tobacco” are the food industry and our own government.
“What if our whole approach to this epidemic has been dead wrong?” the film’s narrator, TV journalist Katie Couric, says in the film’s open.
For all the comic book mayhem thrust on summer movie audiences, there’s never a sense that anything’s at stake besides how much money the studios will bank. That’s what makes the new documentary The Hornet’s Nest – a movie about a real war, not one constructed of computer graphics - essential viewing to people crying out for substance.