Ouija (White, 2014)

Scary opening albeit horror cliche extravaganza (like a 2 sec “ohhh” to remind us that she’s scared and the dusty old doll found in an attic). Movie has decent teen victim perfs esp the UK’s Ovilia Cooke.  Most of the death scenes are effective but completely derivative.  Horrible score.  Barely makes it above water after complete indulgence in said cliches. ** / ***** Continue reading Ouija (White, 2014)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967–2014)

A belated RIP to Philip Hoffman.  From 1991 to 1996,  Hoffmann made his way through stage and screen, completing roles in both Twister (Davis, 1996); and as Scotty in Boogie Nights (PT Anderson, 1997), in both as tension breaking teddy bears. It’s as “Allen” in Todd Solondz’ divisive Happiness (Solondz, 1998), one of the best films of the 1990s, when he lands on me and not for the faint of heart that. His death coincided with an important birthday of mine and I now realize he has a patch on the quilt (so to speak) of my conscience and on that … Continue reading Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967–2014)

Ray (Hackford, 2004)

Just re-watched the last half of this very popular 2004 Ray Charles biopic.  Jamie Foxx, as usual, delivers a good performance as Charles.  My problem with the film as with other Academy favorite biopics of recent years is that if you slap a big star on a popular figure you tend to devolve to basic convention in the film making, which happens here.  It’s a by the book bio (no pun intended) pic.  I would rather have seen it as an actual biography in this case.  The editing corrodes to an exact timeframe in the protagonist’s life.  Ray Charles had … Continue reading Ray (Hackford, 2004)

Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (Haneke, 2000)

“La Binoche.”  That is what the French refer to the country’s highest paid and beloved actress, Juliette Binoche, and she is the center of this interesting film.  The film opens with a collision of the central characters, in a Paris street,  surrounding a simple yet pathetic act by a boy, understood at first to be the son of Marie (Binoche).  Upon finishing a pastry he throws an empty paper wrapper on a homeless, immigrant woman.  What ensues is a series of jump cut flash forward and flash backward scenes that are wonderfully confusing but not necessary to understand even if … Continue reading Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (Haneke, 2000)

Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)

Anti-gun culture rant. Just took my chirrens to see Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Granted, the film had a visible gun but when Ed Norton’s character gets stripped of his “Beige Scout” leadership, Harvey Keitel strips a badge off his shirt and removes a work knife from his pocket, not a gun. The film is for mature tweens and up as it involves a love affair between two 12 year olds but its bereft of the now commonplace gun violence our kids are exposed to in the average American PG-13 film (see Dark Knight Rises). Since the DNC, gun sales (and … Continue reading Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)

Hide Away (Eyre, 2011)

Josh Lucas (unnamed in the film – except for “Young Mariner”) stars in his first dramatic lead in this rather stunning, overly metaphorical and imperfect film.  His performance is hugely successful.  Hide Away (originally titled A Year in Mooring) is a tale of redemption and the film does not survive the clichés of the genre, but barely so.  The mysterious supporting characters speak primarily in metaphor and poem referring to the grand Traverse (the film is beautifully shot on the waters of Traverse City in Northern Michigan), Hesperus (Lucas’ boat) and with rather direct hints at Buddhism. Young Mariner has … Continue reading Hide Away (Eyre, 2011)