In Your Eyes review

Despite hitting it big with the billion-dollar smash The Avengers in 2012, Joss Whedon hasn’t lost his taste for smaller indies. One of his latest in that vein is In Your Eyes, a supernatural romance that Whedon wrote and then handed off to Brin Hill to direct.

The film boasts a juicy premise that seems straight out of Buffy. Michael Stahl-David and Zoe Kazan play two strangers who share an unexplained psychic link. Since childhood, they’ve occasionally been able to experience each other’s senses. When she gets into a sledding accident as a kid, for example, he passes out in a classroom thousands of miles away.

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Starred Up review

Jack O’Connell is one of those names you don’t know yet, but will very soon. The 24-year-old British actor has been in the mix for a bunch of high-profile roles over the past few years, and finally booked one in 300: Rise of an Empire — before nabbing an even bigger one in Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken. And while we’ve seen lots of pretty young faces come and go, his performance in David Mackenzie‘s excellent prison drama Starred Up suggests that this one has real staying power.

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Transcendence review

In his directorial debut, Christopher Nolan‘s longtime DP Wally Pfister serves up a dire warning about all the things that can go wrong when someone other than Christopher Nolan tries to make a Christopher Nolan movie. Transcendence is Inception, in spirit if not in plot, only without the heart, style, intelligence, or grace.

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Draft Day review

The NFL is a notoriously cautious company. For years, it has not allowed official logos to be used by Hollywood; the NFL did not feel that a negative representation of football benefited the brand in any way. It makes sense, and also casts an odd light on Ivan Reitman‘s Draft Day, the first film ever officially licensed by the NFL. Obviously, the film does not shine a negative light on the league, something other football films definitely have done. There’s no mention of drug use or concussions. The lack of controversy actually works to the film’s advantage, creating a very broad entry point to a subject that might initially seem limiting. Draft Day doesn’t need controversy or on-field action to create drama. Read More »

Oculus

These days it feels like every horror movie can be easily categorized. Either it’s a possession movie, a found footage movie, a slasher movie or some inane combination. Finding something different is rare. Mike Flanagan‘s Oculus, at the very least, strives to be different. Combining elements from several subgenre columns into something that feels new and fresh, Oculus is the story of a brother and sister who try to destroy a haunted mirror that drives people to wild hallucinations, blurring lines between what’s real and what’s not.

Flanagan’s script is a psychological jumping bean as it hops wildly between multiple timelines, putting the audiences in the shoes of the characters, everyone totally unaware of precisely what’s going on. The whole thing has a fluid feeling that’s not exactly innovative, but exciting enough to potentially kick off a new franchise. Read more of our Oculus movie review below. Read More »

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Editor’s Note: The following review was originally published on January 22nd 2014 after the film’s premiere at Sundance. The review is being republished as the film is being released in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, and expanding in the coming weeks.

In the case of an action movie like The Raid, I can’t fault anyone who wants to set plot aside and simply enjoy the action. With The Raid 2, that approach becomes impossible. Writer/director/editor Gareth Evans puts lofty goals fully on display in this sequel, which expands in every direction relative to the original. The action is bigger and more diverse, the story is more complex, and more emphasis is placed on dramatic performances even as the film’s physical demands intensify. Where the first was a tightly controlled action film that jettisoned all but the skeleton of a plot, this sequel is a huge crime tale featuring several criminal organizations competing for power, the police trying to catch up, and one young cop caught squarely in the middle.

Premiering the film at Sundance in a prime slot is a strange experiment of sorts. The Raid 2 isn’t a thing for general audiences; this is a hardcore genre movie. The swirl of Evans’ dramatic ambitions are punctuated by ultra-violent choreography, like a machine-gun snare drum tracked into a piece of classical music. It’s a tricky balancing act. The Raid 2 navigates the test awkwardly at best, because the story never connects as solidly as do the film’s thousand punches. Read More »

Noah review

I’ve been a fan of director Darren Aronofsky since I first saw Pi. His film Requiem for a Dream remains one of my favorite movies of all time. Aronofsky has yet to make a movie I have dislike; his last few films were all in my top ten films of those respective years. Over the last decade, Aronofsky has become attached to a bunch of big budget projects including the films that later became Batman Begins, Watchmen, The Wolverine and Robocop. I’ve been itching to see what Aronofsky could accomplish with a larger budget. Noah is that film. Read my Noah review after the jump.

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Divergent review

Fair or not, it’s impossible not to measure Divergent against The Hunger Games. This is true for obvious reasons, in that they’re both dystopian YA adaptations featuring strong heroines, or that Divergent is actively and openly gunning to be the next Hunger Games. Unfortunately, it’s also true because Divergent, as directed by Neil Burger, never makes enough of a mark to rise above that easy comparison.

It’s not that Divergent is terrible. The movie serves up a couple of nice moments and some very appealing performances. But where the Hunger Games offered a rich, colorful universe, Divergent offers us a half-competed sketch. Where The Hunger Games felt bracingly different from its own predecessors, Twilight and Harry Potter, Divergent feels like well-meaning knock-off of all three.

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