Steve Jobs

Were you to go into Steve Jobs having no idea who Steve Jobs was, Steve Jobs wouldn’t really tell you. The character (played by Michael Fassbender) explains to a pissed-off Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) at one point that he “play[s] the orchestra” like a symphony conductor — but as Wozniak points out, it’s one of those sentences that sounds cool but doesn’t really mean anything in concrete terms.

For most biopics, this would be a failing, but for a Steve Jobs biopic in 2015, it’s an asset. We don’t need a movie to tell us who Steve Jobs is as a tech guru. I’m currently typing this review on my Apple keyboard, which is linked to my MacBook Air, with my iPhone 6 by my side; I know exactly who Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, is. Steve Jobs feels a revelation because it exposes Steve Jobs, the man.  Read More »


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Bridge of Spies trailer

In Bridge of SpiesSteven Spielberg‘s new Cold War drama, Tom Hanks plays an upstanding American civilian defending a Soviet spy caught on American soil. At a time when even being suspected of having Communist sympathies could ruin one’s personal and professional life, his assignment is an unsavory, even dangerous one, and there would be good reason for him to feel conflicted about doing his job.

The film doesn’t really explore that ambivalence, though. Bridge of Spies is more interested in telling a tale of crystal-clear heroism, which would be fine if it weren’t so disinterested in digging into the murky atmosphere surrounding it. Instead it feels disappointingly thin, even as it does a great job of demonstrating that James B. Donovan was a pretty swell guy. Read More »

Son of Saul Review

Son of Saul is a significant achievement made all the more astonishing by the fact that it is the director’s debut feature. This intimate story from within the Holocaust avoids World War II movie cliches, turning away from convention to embrace an unflinching vision of one man’s quest for redemption in the inferno of Auschwitz.

The phrase “Holocaust movie” may inspire an instinct to avoid rather than rush towards a film; in this case please don’t give in. Son of Saul approaches its subject without gingerness or caution, but this film’s spirit never falls into exploitation. More important, focusing on one man’s experience does not trivialize the weight of the story’s context. Seeing the Holocaust through Saul’s own personal mission gives us a view of the genocide that is unlike any other in cinema. Read More »

Evolution review

(This review is based upon a viewing of the film at Fantastic Fest 2015.)

Evolution is a deep swim in mysterious seas. This tale blends folklore and science fiction into a powerful hallucination of life where land and sea blur together, in which bodies are induced to behave in ways that are new and, in a Lovecraftian sense, possibly even obscene.

Director Lucile Hadzihalilovic, who previously directed Innocence, and is a creative partner to spouse Gaspar Noe, keeps the final details of this story shrouded in shadow, draws on the mysteries of the sea and the pains of growing up to synthesize her own powerful new fable.    Read More »

The Lobster review

Audiences have come to expect the bizarre from director Yorgos Lanthimos, who broke out in 2009 with the wonderful and unsettling Dogtooth, and The Lobster definitely doesn’t disappoint on that front. It’s set in a dystopia where single people are transformed into animals; the title refers to the animal that Colin Farrell‘s David has chosen to become if he can’t find a mate.

If weird were all The Lobster had going for it, though, it’d be little more than an experimental curiosity. What makes The Lobster must-see viewing is the film’s pitch-black sense of humor, its uncomfortably keen insights into real-life relationships, and even, in spite of everything else, its aching romanticism.  Read More »

The Walk

As what IMAX calls “An IMAX 3D Experience,” Robert ZemeckisThe Walk is excellent. From the moment Joseph Gordon-Levitt touches his toe on that tightrope, The Wire becomes the kind of intensely visceral experience you can only truly experience in a movie theater*, preferably one equipped with an extra-jumbo screen and 3D projection.

As a narrative feature, however, The Walk is somewhat less accomplished. Gordon-Levitt is as watchable as always, but the film never truly reveals Philippe Petit. In trying to make Petit feel universal, Zemeckis erases what makes him special.

* Well, at least until virtual reality becomes a more common form of entertainment — but more on that later.  Read More »

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Goodnight Mommy

Note: While the first page of this review is spoiler-free, the second goes deep into spoiler territory. We ask that you mark spoilers in the comments, but proceed into the comments at your own risk.

To the best of my memory, I’ve only ever walked out on three movies in my life. Twice, it was at the behest of other people; once, I was simply bored. All three times were years before I began watching movies for work.

I did not walk out on Goodnight Mommy. But I came as close as I ever have in my professional career, which is a testament to how disturbing the film gets. And yet, in the end, I had to admit it more than paid me back for my deep discomfort, which is a testament to how ultimately brilliant it is.  Read More »


If you’ve never seen a crime drama in your life, or alternately are so enamored of crime dramas that you’ll find anything involving cops and robbers inherently fascinating, you may enjoy Black Mass.

If you’re a Johnny Depp fan that’s been waiting years for the slightest suggestion of a comeback, you should probably watch Black Mass.

If none of these apply to you, well, you don’t need to go out of your way avoid Black Mass, but there’s no good reason for you to subject yourself to it, either.  Read More »

The Visit trailer

I was skeptical but hopeful when I first heard about M. Night Shyamalan’s new low-budget found-footage film, The Visit. With The Happening, After Earth, and The Last Airbender, Shyamalan has demonstrated not only a decline in his ability to draw big box office, but also an inability to write or direct basic scenes competently.

But with The Visit, Shyamalan not only proves he still he has the skills to thrill us — he also knows how to mine absurd and horrifying situations for humor and humanity. Watch my full video review of the film after the break.
Read More »