Elvis and Nixon review 1

At first glance, the 1970 picture of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon shaking hands in the Oval Office looks flat-out bizarre. The flamboyantly attired musician makes for a striking contrast to the staid politician, and it’s a little jarring to realize that not only did these two people once inhabit the same universe, they actually crossed paths once. Somehow, the story behind that picture is even stranger: To Elvis, at least, this was no mere photo up but a meeting to discuss his swearing-in as an undercover federal agent-at-large for the Bureau of Narcotics.

Liza Johnson‘s Elvis & Nixon is about that how that meeting came to be and what happened when these two larger-than-life figures finally collided, with Michael Shannon as the King and Kevin Spacey as Tricky Dick. But it’s less about the vast differences between this two men than the one thing, even more than a shared distaste for the counterculture of the times, that truly bound them together: the strangeness of fame.  Read More »

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Dean review

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a successful young(ish) creative type hits the film festival circuit with a semi-autobiographical dramedy about a somewhat less successful young(ish) creative type who struggles to pull his life together, grow up, and move on. That’s the very familiar premise of comedian Demetri Martin‘s directorial debut Dean, which premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. Fortunately, Dean‘s got a few fresher tricks up its sleeve that justify retracing this very familiar pattern.

One is that Dean is less about the precious ennui that all young(ish) creative types seem to suffer from in indie dramedies, than it is about the strange and complicated and even ugly process of grief. Another is a gently played subplot about Dean’s father (played by Kevin Kline). And the third and perhaps most important are the many wry cartoons Martin uses to emphasize and comment on Dean’s mental and emotional state.  Read More »

Birth of a Nation

Of all the films that played at Sundance this year, perhaps none got more hype than Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation. Not only did it get spectacular reviews, it scored the biggest Sundance deal ever, with Fox Searchlight forking over $17.5 million. The distributor promptly set Birth of a Nation for a fall release, right at the start of awards-movie season, and now it’s getting a head start on the marketing by dropping the very first promo.

Parker stars in his own directorial debut as Nat Turner, a devoutly religious slave who becomes a traveling preacher — and, eventually, the leader of the bloodiest slave rebellion in American history. Armie Hammer plays Nat’s owner, and Penelope Ann MillerJackie Earle Haley, and Aja Naomi King also star. Watch the Birth of a Nation trailer after the jump.  Read More »

Sing Street Review

Note: We originally ran this review during the Sundance Film Festival. We’re republishing it today as the movie hits theaters this weekend.

When you come to the Sundance Film Festival, you can’t wait to fall in love with a movie. As a sucker for coming-of-age movies, I’m always looking for one that really makes me run the gamut of emotions, and if it also has a hellacious soundtrack, fantastic breakout performances, and a glamorous reference to Back to the Future, then that’s even better. That’s why Sing Street, from Once and Begin Again director John Carney, is marvelous, delightful and just plain great. Read my full Sing Street review after the jump. Read More »

The Neon Demon

Springtime on the French Riviera sounds like a damn great getaway under any circumstance, but if you’re specifically going for Cannes then you have even more reason to be excited. The Festival de Cannes has officially announced the lineup for its 69th edition, which runs from May 11 through 22, and it’s one helluva roster. Things kick off with Woody Allen‘s Cafe Society, and then move along with new films by Nicolas Winding Refn (The Neon Demon), Chan-wook Park (The Handmaiden), Andrea Arnold (American Honey), Jim Jarmusch (Paterson), Jeff Nichols (Loving), and many more.

Playing out of competition are Steven Spielberg‘s The BFGShane Black‘s The Nice Guys, and Jodie Foster‘s Money Monster. More titles should be announced in the coming days, but this looks like an excellent list as it is. See the full Cannes 2016 lineup below.  Read More »

Cafe Society header image

Rumors had been swirling for awhile that Woody Allen‘s next film, titled Cafe Society, would open the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Today an official announcement confirmed those rumors, making this the third time Allen has opened the French film festival. Hollywood Ending and Midnight in Paris had the honor in 2002 and 2011 respectively.

Cafe Society, starring Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg, will premiere at the festival on May 11th, and along with this news, we finally have an official logline. In traditional Woody Allen fashion, it doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what we can expect from the romance, but some details were recently revealed by cinemtographer Vittorio Storaro. In addition, a new photo from the movie was revealed that you can see below.

See the Cafe Society photo after the jump along with some new details on the movie. Read More »

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best films of sxsw 2016

The 2016 SXSW Film Festival is over, so you know what that means: it’s time to sift through the wreckage and hand out imaginary awards created by a jury composed entirely of a single writer. Welcome /Film’s SXSW Awards, where the categories only exist as an excuse to talk about the best movies that I saw at this year’s fest.

This was a strong year for a typically strong festival – as usual, everyone involved outdid themselves. For a complete look at everything I saw, you can head over here. But now it’s time to take the stage and start handing out fake trophies to a bunch of movies that deserve actual accolades.

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Everything We Saw at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival

sxsw 2016 reviews

Few film festivals offer the breadth and variety of SXSW and this year was no exception. During my eight days there, I saw gentle comedies, brutal horror movies, fascinating dramas produced on shoestring budgets, inventive documentaries and even an R-rated animated film about talking food. It was one helluva week.

Here is everything that I watched, including the (often very good!) movies that didn’t get full reviews.

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pet review

You know the drill, horror fans. A Creepy Stalker Type becomes obsessed with an Innocent Young Woman. He follows her, learns everything about her, and abducts her. And then the real horror begins. And you can predict the beats as they come, right on cue, one right after another.

Pet knows you know these beats. It knows that you think it’s a certain kind of movie and it lulls you into complacency. Yeah, you’ve seen this before. But you haven’t, because Pet zigs when you expect it to zag and takes a sharp left turn into a deep well of pitch black crazy when you least expect it. Pet is another grotesque “captive woman” movie, but it’s so much smarter and cleverer than your average horror flick. It blindsides you. It earns its nasty moments.

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