h1

Draft Day

April 15, 2014

directed by Ivan Reitman, 2014

Draft Day

By this point, it’s safe to surmise that the roles Kevin Costner will most likely be remembered for are those decades removed from where the 59-year-old actor stands now. Baseball classics such as Bull Durham (1988) and Field of Dreams (1989) will live on, while others like Tin Cup(1996) and For Love of the Game (1999) add to a career already carved out of playing the underdog. Now, up steps Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day, which represents a brief sojourn in the world of professional football for Costner and Reitman, a director best known for his ’80s commercial hits like the two Ghostbusters films and Twins.

With a seemingly uninhibited blessing from the National Football League, Draft Day is by all accounts the closest we’ve come to seeing what goes on behind the scenes of the largest moneymaker in professional sports. This is a world filled with built-in jargon, backdoor dealings, and a milieu reminiscent of the one depicted in Bennett Miller’s Moneyball (2011).  However, for as much as it routinely gets right, Draft Day is far from a model of authenticity. Lacking the similar sharpness, wit and drama of the environment it sets out to capture, Reitman’s film is safe, predictable, and ultimately weighed down by its thin characterizations and frequent stretches of implausibility. Only an ever-charismatic Costner gives the film flickers of a decipherable pulse; having always exuded a palpable sense of cool in his better roles, this reliable actor once again shows how earnestly believable he can be even when surrounded by such middling frivolity.

Read full review at In Review Online

h1

Breathe In

March 28, 2014

directed by Drake Doremus, 2013

breathein

Director Drake Doremus showed early signs of promise with Like Crazy, the 2011 Sundance Grand Jury prize winner that offered glimpses of a new age no-holds barred love story, but ended up registering as a dopey romance that failed to burrow deep into its characters and their mission to sustain a long distance relationship. With Breathe In, the director’s latest, it’s clear that Doremus has failed to capitalize on the miscues of his earlier film, this time churning out a non-descript and easily telegraphed portrait of infidelity and longing. Caught in the crosshairs of Doremus’ excruciatingly tepid affair are a solid group of actors, who, despite their best abilities, are incessantly hampered by the director’s unrewarding improvisational aesthetic.

Read full review at Movie Mezzanine

h1

Cheap Thrills

March 21, 2014

directed by E.L. Katz, 2013

cheap

While there’s no telling how original or shocking Cheap Thrills might have seemed if it had been released a few decades earlier, E.L. Katz’s film shows no shame in arriving fashionably late to the table of sadistic social satire. Having won the Audience Award and Best First Feature prize at last year’s South by Southwest film festival, Cheap Thrills works best as a solid showcase for its handful of character actors who breeze right through the familiar material, selling it persuasively at every turn. What Katz’s film lacks in nuance, it mildly makes up for in its timely portrait of bankrupt morals and escalating violence amid financial ruin. If Austrian auteur Michael Haneke offered a measured and clinical look into class divisions and audience chastising in both his 1997 and 2007 versions of Funny GamesCheap Thrills offers the cartoony midnight-movie inverse of that template, with mixed results.

Read full review at In Review Online

h1

Almost Human

February 24, 2014

directed by Joe Begos, 2013

almost human

Few filmmakers seem capable of rising above the sad state of affairs that is modern indie horror, the rest seem caught up in a boundless mode of non-creativity and excessive aping that’s neither welcome nor admirable. Joe Begos’ Almost Human is the latest in the long lineage of forgettable low-budget indie fare, a hilariously slight blend of sci-fi and horror that appears drained of ideas a third of the way through (never mind the already stretched 80 minute runtime).

Read full review at Movie Mezzanine

h1

Omar

February 21, 2014

directed by Hany Abu-Assad, 2013

Omar

Tragedy and betrayal swirl around Palestinian writer/director Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar, a contemporary thriller/melodrama that sheds further light on the simmering tensions existing in the Middle East. While Assad has tackled this milieu before, most notably in Paradise Now (2005), Omar is yet another eye-opening look into the violence that desperation often spawns via the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Paradise Now grimly tackled the morality of two would-be suicide bombers, Omar explores a similar stripping away of humanity in a much more relatable way, especially through a sprinkling of dark humor and the inclusion of a romantic angle.

Read full review at In Review Online

h1

Jimmy P.

February 16, 2014

directed by Arnaud Desplechin, 2013

Jimmy P.

It’s been six years since Arnaud Desplechin’s widely hailed 2008 holiday melodrama A Christmas Tale, a film that was as rich, inviting and maddening as it was overstuffed and energetic. His latest, Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian), which premiered at Cannes to much lesser praise, finds the director ditching the sprawling scope of his previous film, this time focusing on the true story of a pair of men and the bond they reach through psychotherapy. While at first glance this seems appropriate material for Desplechin to delve into, Jimmy P. comes across as a willfully uneven psychiatric period drama, in which a great deal is articulated only to yield less than desirable results.

Still, Jimmy P. is far from a failure and remains intermittently interesting due to its cast. The reliable Benicio del Toro plays Native American Blackfoot Jimmy Picard, a gentle WWII vet plagued by spells of dizziness, headaches, odd dreams, and recurring hearing loss. Brought in to make sense of Picard’s affliction and schizophrenic diagnosis is French anthropologist and Native American researcher Georges Devereux (Mathieu Amalric). The casting of the two actors might suggest a far more enlivened look at the subject matter at hand, but Deplechin surprisingly scales back the theatrics, paving the way for a much more sobering and traditional narrative.

Read full review at Movie Mezzanine

h1

Drift

February 11, 2014

directed by Benny Vandendriessche, 2013

drift

Details are left intentionally scarce in Benny Vandendriessche’s Drift, a wintry existential drama that follows an unnamed Belgian man’s own personal erosion and decay following personal tragedy.  As an offering of “slow cinema,” Vandendriessche is no Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and though this film’s strength ironically resides in its digital photography, Vandendriessche lacks the natural intuitiveness for his images to leave any lasting impact beyond their aesthetic assuredness.

What’s perhaps most disappointing about Drift is not its frail narrative or its thin characterizations, but its insistence on a mythical journey that is more about its main character flailing and moping around in the mud and muck of nature than it is about anything tangible. There are elements of human struggle within: the depiction of insanity especially, but Drift is too often defined by its banal structure to truly linger.

Read full review at Movie Mezzanine

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers