Film Review: Wild is a Successful Adaptation

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl Strayed, who, following her mother’s death, the demise of her marriage, a brief foray into heroin, and an abortion, decides that she will spend three months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She initially plans to end her journey in Ashland, Oregon, but because heavy snowfall causes her to have to skip over a portion of the trail, she decides to go further north, to a place called Bridge of the Gods. Her adventures on the trail– in which she struggles with a too-heavy backpack, too-small boots, encounters with wild animals like foxes and rattlesnakes, and numerous interactions with other hikers (mostly male, some friendly, some threatening)– are intercut with flashbacks to her past: a poor but mostly happy childhood with her mother and brother (the film excises the stepfather and sister that are present in the memoir on which this was based); her mother’s bout with cancer, which came on suddenly and led to her death much more quickly than the doctors predicted; her marriage, which ended primarily because of Strayed’s many infidelities with random men; and her dalliances with heroin. Continue reading

A Most Violent Year; Slow-Boiling Suspense

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In the winter of 1981, New York City was an altogether different and unrecognizable place from the tourist friendly metropolis it is today. Crime was rampant, from the petty thieves on the street to the politicians and lawmen who controlled the streets and businesses. In 1981 that crime turned to violence and made the year the single most dangerous in the city’s history. Writer/director J. C. Chandor’s (Margin CallAll is Lost) newest film A Most Violent Year finds itself in the midst of this violence and captures how good intentions can slowly erode in an environment like ‘80’s New York City.

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‘The Babadook’ Is About a Monster That’s Here to Stay

Spoiler alert: It’s hard to talk about this movie without revealing too much. For best results, see it before reading.

Is The Babadook a horror movie? Sort of. It’s certainly being billed as one: critic descriptions like “expertly unsettling” and “deeply disturbing” discouraged a few friends from seeing it with me recently. But calling the movie “horror” doesn’t seem quite right. The main characters are mother and son, giving The Babadook an obvious parent-centric interpretation, but what the premise turns out to be—what the horror actually is—is relatable enough to encompass what different viewers, parents or not, might bring to it. I think that’s why The Babadook doesn’t feel like a horror movie, exactly, to me. It’s so subjective and personal that how scary you find the movie may depend on how scary you find yourself.

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Film Review: The Imitation Game Attempts Feel-Good Tragedy

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Alan Turing’s incredible story of breaking the Nazi’s Enigma code remained a well-protected secret for decades. His story is one of great triumph and deep tragedy.  However, Turing’s victimization and subsequent death by cyanide-laced apple has been sugarcoated in the latest retelling, The Imitation Game. Like Turing himself, this film has been neutered on its way to mass market as a way to make a less enlightened majority feel more comfortable about a truly dark chapter of global history.

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Film Review: Nightcrawler is Capitalism: A Success Story

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“If you want to win the lottery you’ve got to make the money to buy a ticket.” It’s a phrase oft repeated by Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), the unblinking, laser-focused protagonist of Dan Gilroy’s Toronto International Film Festival hit Nightcrawler. Every generation a film comes along to reflect culture’s misplaced values or misunderstanding of where importance should lie. From Travis Bickle to Patrick Bateman, film audiences have regularly been introduced to characters that exist to exploit, intentionally or not, the holes in society. Regardless of their actions, often quite monstrous, these characters’ actions are championed as success stories.

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‘Interstellar’ Has Most of Christopher Nolan’s Worst Habits and Few of His Best Ones

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen Interstellar, you probably shouldn’t read this.

Christopher Nolan’s movies don’t have characters as much as they have tour guides. He’s a director whose strengths don’t include storytelling, so he tends to use his characters to lead the audience through the backlots of outer space, Gotham City, someone’s brain, wherever. By having his protagonists keep up a constant, repeating chatter of the rules and blueprints of the architecture he’s created, Nolan tries to distract the audience from noticing that his sets are facades, revealed as hollow once you walk behind them. For some people, the three-walls-and-a-ceiling structures are grand and dazzling enough. The rest of us wish he’d built the back wall, too. Continue reading