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SIFF ’16 Capsule Review: ‘WEINER’

The political arena is an ugly, soul-sucking vortex before you add a sexting scandal. Weiner, the inflammatory expose from Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, documents how fiery liberal congressman Anthony Weiner’s NYC mayoral campaign went up in flames, engulfed by public outrage following ironically weiner-centric indiscretions. The pair offer up a poignant critique of media’s misguided circus-making, all the while capturing the torturous effects on Weiner’s wife and former Hillary top dog, Huma, to craft a potent and illuminating picture of gross, cheap tv-ready gossip overshadowing political ideology and the cogs that chew up candidates and dispose of them in disheveled pieces. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’16 Capsule Review: ‘TAG’

Sion Sono’s Tag is a maelstrom of WTF; an absolutely bonkers satire of feudal sexual tensions in his home nation of Japan, characterized by an absolutely unpredictable, heady plot wormhole that snakes from killer wind to murderous schoolteachers, wedding assassins to a simple foot marathon. Accomplished with keen wit, unnerving cinematic bravado and a healthy obsession with the eccentric, Tag is Lynchian surrealism imported from Japan; ironic, macabre, risky, weird and powerful. Just when you think you know where it’s going next, it completes a pirouette to spin you entirely off base to leave your mind somersaulting. Those expecting a B-movie splatterfest will instead find their heads pried apart by Sono’s unrelenting and challenging exploration of basic human decency in a male-dominated world. (B+) Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE LOBSTER’

Being single is illegal. Those unfortunate enough to remain unspoken for are forced into unbecoming ponchos to hide out in perpetually drizzly U.K. forests, dodging trigger happy hunters locked, stocked and loaded with tranquiler guns, motivated to track them down and capture them. The remaining option for singletons comes in the form of a one-way ticket to a matchmaker hotel where they’ll endure 45 days of punishing “romance” seminars in hopes of finding a mate. Those who “don’t make it” are turned into an animal of their choosing. David’s (Colin Ferrell) desired animal is a lobster. And such is Yorgos Lanthimos’ demented lifecycle in his fifth feature film The Lobster. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘LOVE & FRIENDSHIP’

In Whit Stillman’s sprightly and effervescently comical Love & Friendship, the Victorian era gets an uproarious facelift. Based on Jane Austen’s novella ‘Lady Susan’ (but going by the moniker of yet another Austen title), Love & Friendship is a frilly costume drama plump with acidic joviality and atypically boiling over with meaty guffaws. For those who typically avoid hifalutin, period piece fare, which Stillman’s picture appears to be from an arm’s length, expect to rather entreat with a tongue-in-cheek send up; a welcome vacation from formality and frivolity. His one-of-kind character piece is injected with barbed zingers, sharp witticisms and a tangy, irreverent touch, like a creampuff fluffed full with key lime paste but still absolutely delicious. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE NICE GUYS’

Shane Black has been defining and redefining the buddy cop movie since 1987, a year that saw his script for Lethal Weapon green lit under the tutelage of director Richard Donner. It took Black almost 20 years to step behind the directorial chair himself, debuting Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005 and bringing along with him the rebirth of the buddy cop flick and the resurgence of Robert Downey Jr’s career. Now another decade on, Black has returned to the sub-genre that he – like some primordial catalyzing agent – helped evolve throughout the years to present The Nice Guys, 2016’s fly-in-the-face-of-tradition response to the 21st century buddy cop crisis. Read More

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Talking with Robert Eggers of ‘THE WITCH’

Robert Eggers‘ first trip to Sundance was rewarded with a little thing called the Best Director award. Since then, he’s seen his New England-based independent horror film soar, earning a fervent critical backing and loads of support. But not everything has been roses. I chatted with the first-time director to discuss the years-long journey of making and releasing The Witch, the current state of horror movies, religious zealotry and the history of American witchcraft, the modern equivalent of witches, working with children actors to elicit believable performances, and how to deal with negative reactions to the film. Read More

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‘THE WITCH’ Blu-Ray Review

Synopsis: “In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and four of their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty and love to one another.” Read More

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Electrifying Horror Film ‘DON’T BREATHE’ Drops First Trailer

My favorite film out of SXSW 2016 was Fede Alvarez‘s unceasingly tense Don’t Breathe. I was so frequently startled, so genuinely unnerved that it physically hurt. And my god do I love that kind of pain. Call it what you will (masochism?) but horror films have the ability to engage sections of the brain that no other film can and Don’t Breathe is expert at doing just that. Part of my experience may have been going in with no expectations, knowing not a lick of info on what the film was about (or even called for that matter) but the fact remains that Alvarez has crafted a masterstroke of American horror cinema with his follow up to Evil Dead. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘MONEY MONSTER’

From breaking out as a teenage prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s seminal Taxi Driver to becoming a household name to snatching a pair of Academy Awards to her semi-retirement from acting to focus on directing, Jodie Foster’s career has seen many evolutions. As a director, The Silence of the Lambs actress has sharpened her craft exponentially over the years, veering from such trite family-friendly material as Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays to more adult-oriented material such as Mel Gibson-starring drama The Beaver, itself a horrendous victim of terrible timing. Her latest feature is another confident step forward, its incisive themes and hard-R sensibilities informed by her tenure as a guest director for Netflix’s two biggest and most mature hits: House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. With Money Monster, Foster finally sheds the skin of an actress experimenting with the format and actualizes as an genuine director of note. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT’

Director Rodrigo García claimed two themes interested him most in his articulation of Jesus’ untold 40 day fast in the desert. The first: the primordial idea of how a boy becomes a man, a step that Garcia contents happens “with or without his father’s help of permission.” The second theme surrounds the notion of creationism, both in a spiritual and storyteller’s sense. García himself underwent a creation process in the construction of Last Days in the Desert, weaving a fictitious narrative out of a notable absence in Jesus’ origin story – only mentioned in passing in the Gospels but entirely bereft of detail. This absence of a story drew García to the project, offering him an entrance into a narrative that felt to him inspired, fresh and wildly important.   Read More