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Sundance ’16 Review: ‘CAPTAIN FANTASTIC’

With Captain Fantastic, writer/director Matt Ross has tapped enlightenment like a spigot into a maple tree and funneled it into crowd-pleasing dramedy. With a first-rate cast that includes Viggo Mortensen, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella and Ann Dowd, Ross’ second feature shows a filmmaker emerging with a booming voice, immediately confident enough to corral such talent into one articulate, sarcastic and smartly realized vision. The result is a righteously comic and deeply-felt examination of a family experimenting with life on the fringes of society. Read More

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THE LEFTOVERS Season 2 Finale “I Live Here Now” Review

Was Meg’s (Liv Tyler) plan as spectacular as she probably imagines? The absence of a bomb wasn’t the aggressive release we were expecting … But was it effective? As much of a symbolic target as the bridge is, the action wouldn’t have been aligned with the Guilty Remnant’s ethos. Why destroy a symbol when you could destroy the entire belief system? The Guilty Remnants gained access, so the whole thing was staged as a diversion. Nihilism incarnate has infiltrated a gated spiritual enclave manifested by burning tires, a drunk chick in stocks quaffing cheap Mexican beer, and a lonely dude in the tower of Jarden overlooking the general anarchy. Not to mention, Meg and Evie snidely singing Miracle’s anthem in front of Kevin (Justin Theroux) and the bloody hole in his stomach. Symbolically, Megan has attained her intended martyrdom, and a new antithesis has moved in. Yet the finale fades out to promise. But what does Kevin’s reintegration with his family speak to what The Leftover’s is trying to say? Read More

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THE LEFTOVERS Season 2 Episode 8 “International Assassin”

Purgatory as a hotel makes sense in The Leftovers because it’s a transient place where souls are coming and departing. Kevin is stuck in a Hilton version of Hotel California without the pink champagne and colitas but where water erases former identities prepping new tabula rasa souls for the next life to come. But it also serves as a recognizable plot device seen in other shows such as the “Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” and “Boardwalk Empire” to name a few, when characters need a reality check usually framed within some sort of alternate sphere. They inhabit another life role as a reflection of their current one. But faith versus empiricism or spirituality versus cognition continue to dual in The Leftovers, setting up Kevin (Justin Theroux) with an introspective nightmare—staged as a spiritual trial or psychological dream? Let’s just call it a perga-dream. But it still sets him up in a world where he still possesses free will. Read More

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THE LEFTOVERS Season 2 Episode 6 “Lens” Review

The Leftover’s episodes are structured like a novel composed of chapters devoted to certain character’s POV. It’s a more intimate and thorough experience of perception, the only thing we have to understand but the only thing we need to experience the mystery of The Leftovers. In season one, the audience viewed from a distance, in the shadows, but in two, it’s being pulled closer to the whisper, as more analyses are offered and random acts are answered—none of which will ultimately and directly piece the grand departure together. If definitive answers are eventually offered, I don’t want to hear them. That’s the beauty of The Leftovers, a complex ecosystem of coping. Science and rationality are being stripped of its empirical confidence, and the only thing society is left with is the power and moreover, fortitude, of perception.   Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘OUR BRAND IS CRISIS’

David Gordon Green is as hit-and-miss a director as they come. He is also about as prolific as they come. Our Brand is Crisis is Green’s fourth film over the last three year period, coming on the heels of 2014’s widely panned Manglehorn starring Al Pacino. In 2013, Green saw two films open, the highly regarded backwoods drama Joe, starring a Nicholas Cage at the top of his game, and the off-beat buddy comedy Prince Avalanche. Even as a relative Green fan, I hated Prince Avalanche, citing its ill-fitting petulance and overwhelming sense of idiotic indecency as sources of extreme personal annoyance, but found Joe to be thoughtful and dramatically rich (if not excessively dour). Not to mention, it featured Cage’s best performance in years. Read More

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THE LEFTOVERS Season 2 Episode 4 “Orange Sticker” Review

Are the leftovers looking for departure? Michael (Jovan Adepo) aggressively scrapes the “verified” sticker off his house because nothing is really verified in Miracle. Michael removes it like a formerly held belief system, but other homes still wear the label if only just to be verified of something. Miracle’s inhabitants are starting to catch up to the foreshadowing in earlier episodes. Read More

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THE LEFTOVERS Season 2 Episode 2 “A Matter of Geography” Review

Kevin Sr. (Scott Glenn) and Patti (Ann Dowd) return, in a sense, from a departure—Kevin Sr. from the psych ward, and Patti, though retrospectively, from the dead. Does this suggest that the departed will someday return? Did they even really leave to begin with? As Season 2 begins to explore the reason of the departure, we know at this point that Jarden isn’t a miracle after all. Perhaps this alludes to the thought that miracles don’t really exist, at least in the way we conceive of their divination. I’m enjoying the game The Leftovers is playing, and maybe I’m onto something. Read More