The Interview (2014)

The Interview (2014)
The Tiger’s New Stripes — I have no idea whether all of the fuss about The Interview, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s new idiot comedy, was a true international incident or a brilliant publicity stunt, but I do know that the ride I took to Missouri, the next state over from my home town in ...

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Why Does It Always Take Winter So Long To Come? — In a hole in my life lived thirteen hours I desperately want back. I can’t tell you how much I loathe writing about Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies might be the worst of the lot. It begins ...

Top Five (2014)

Top Five (2014)
Smile Though Your Heart Is Aching — In Top Five, Chris Rock reconstructs Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), continuing the woeful story of a male stand-up comedian trying to find meaningful human contact with his female love interest. Rock’s film is an ever more grandiose achievement; it moves beyond Allen, progressing to understand Manhattan as ...

Night at the Museum 3 (2014)

Night at the Museum 3 (2014)
Melancholic Laughter — Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third film in the series is, by any sane critical standards, a bad movie. The lead, Larry, played by Ben Stiller, is lifeless, and his character without motivation. Meanwhile, the CGI effects are bland and familiar. And yet, as I sat in an ...

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
A Christian Moses, Baleful — In his book Containment Culture, American Studies scholar Alan Nadel discusses the extent to which 1950s American cinema was inflected by Cold War discourse. Indeed, 1956’s The Ten Commandments, an adaptation of sorts of the Book of Exodus from the Bible, begins with an absurd lecture by director Cecil B. ...

Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl (2014)
The Cinema Done Gone — I am now convinced that David Fincher is the most overrated filmmaker working in Hollywood today. One of the 1980s music video generation directors, Fincher’s first major Hollywood feature was Alien 3 (1992), a bleak entry in the sci-fi/horror franchise in which Sigourney Weaver is stripped of all femininity to ...

The Double (2013)

The Double (2013)
Literary Reincarnation —  Long before Sigmund Freud, Fyodor Dostoyevsky explored the doppleganger motif in his early novel, The Double: A Petersburg Poem (1846). The story concerns Yakov Golyadkin, a lowly civil servant who aspires to be successful, but is held back by his ineffectual personality. One day, Golyadkin discovers at his place of work an ...

What Maisie Knew (2012)

What Maisie Knew (2012)
What Cinema Feels — There are few more moving experiences in American literature than reading Henry James’ 1897 novel, What Maisie Knew, an intense depiction of the disastrous effects of parents’ divorce on a young girl’s life. The novel is a tour-de-force of linguistic control, as James spins various permutations of what Maisie knew, didn’t ...

Begin Again (2013)

Begin Again (2013)
Seems Like Old Times, Redux — Begin Again, John Carney’s follow-up to his stunning independent film musical, Once (2006), opens with Rashomon precision. We see a down-on-his-luck musician, Steve (James Corden) coax his reluctant friend, Gretta (Keira Knightley) onto the stage at a small bar. She timidly plays acoustic guitar and sings an innocuous complaint ...

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)
Perchance to Dream — Young documentarian Frank Pavich makes a tragic mistake in his new film, Jodorowsky’s Dune, a loving portrait of cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who worked for two years in the mid-1970s to adapt Frank Herbert’s overrated science-fiction novel, Dune into a 14-hour film. Pavich swallows hook, line and sinker the Romantic myth ...