REVIEW: Hail, Caesar! [2016]

“It’s all in the hips, the lips, the eyes, and the thighs” You don’t think much when you read the Coen Brothers have been bouncing Hail, Caesar! around since 2004. After all, they’re prolific auteurs that often write scripts for other directors, so a decade-long gestation period is nothing to scoff at. Only when you learn the idea was little more than an idea that you start wondering about the final product. Maybe they loved that initial pitch so much the words simply poured out over the last couple years.…

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REVIEW: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter [2015]

“Solitude? Just fancy loneliness.” It’s easy to assume Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter will be a humorous adventure of cultural dissonance upon reading its synopsis. The conceit is ripe for comedy and David and Nathan Zellner do mine that arena throughout their drama when it suits the story, but it’s a nuanced tragedy that’s ultimately delivered. How could the tale of a twenty-nine year old Japanese office worker stumbling upon a hidden VHS copy of Fargo, thinking it a treasure map to a suitcase full of cash, be tragic? Quite easily—even…

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REVIEW: Faults [2015]

“What did you lose?” There’s an inherent paradox to the universally held idea of cults being destructive. So quick to deem what occurs within them unnatural—namely a leader using his charisma to indoctrinate the weak into a “family” that understands them—we forget to acknowledge how much of our own lives follow the same pattern. As children we look up to our parents, grandparents, role models, etc. As adults we seek validation from bosses, peers, and spouses, measuring our success on a scale built upon what a public we hold as…

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REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis [2013]

“Llewyn is the cat” Can I chalk my ambivalence to the Coen Brothers‘ newest film Inside Llewyn Davis up to knowing nothing about the Greenwich Village folk music scene of 1961? It is after all loosely inspired by the life of Dave Van Ronk, containing aspects of his autobiography The Mayor of MacDougal Street for authenticity. But how much should knowing the setting of a story impact the enjoyment of what’s unfolding in its space? Shouldn’t the success of what the Coens have accomplished live or die by my interest…

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REVIEW: Swerve [2012]

“I guess honesty is one of my weak points” After a long journey dating back to 2010, director Craig Lahiff finally has his Australian crime thriller Swerve arriving in American theaters. It took a year to complete before debuting at the Melbourne International Film Festival, another until hitting multiplexes in its native country, and one more to piggyback on third lead Jason Clarke’s rising star here. Similar to many of its ilk you’ve probably seen before, the work itself isn’t too bad if you allow yourself to enjoy the ride…

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REVIEW: Men in Black [1997]

“May I ask why you felt little Tiffany had to die?” Fresh off the success of Get Shorty two years prior, director Barry Sonnenfeld‘s still young but effective career found it’s biggest hit in the rollicking science fiction comedy Men in Black. Unfortunately for him, the film also proved to be his last cinematic work worthy of note after a solid Hollywood journey beginning behind the lens for Rob Reiner, Penny Marshall, and the Coen Brothers. Broader in his comic sensibilities than that more subversive duo, his handling of Ed…

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REVIEW: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger [2010]

“Where is my life heading? I need direction.” Whether you’re a fan or not, Woody Allen’s ability to churn out a film a year is nothing short of astounding. They are not all masterpieces—in my opinion few of them are—but that only makes the greats greater. His current renaissance abroad in Europe has had a few gems, so rather than the late-90s/early-00s sense of trepidation and lack of interest in what he created, I’ve actually been excited for much of his newest work. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger…

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Picking Winners at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards

Spree contributing writer William Altreuter, graphic designer Jared Mobarak, and I are going to share our thoughts on this week’s Oscar nominations. Let’s kick things off with a category whose victor—Colin “Mr. Darcy” Firth—seems to have already been agreed upon. — Christopher Schobert Best Actor:Javier Bardem: BiutifulJeff Bridges: True GritJesse Eisenberg: The Social NetworkColin Firth: The King’s SpeechJames Franco: 127 Hours William Altreuter: If the Academy had wanted to make a statement Jim Carrey‘s amazing turn in I Love You Phillip Morris would have found its way onto this list. Wouldn’t that…

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REVIEW: True Grit [2010]

“A saucy line will not get you very far with me” The Coen Brothers have been on such a roll the past four years. While they’ve gone serious for the most part, the trademark wit has not disappeared from the dramatic entries to their oeuvre. Still able to hit the funny bone full bore—see Burn After Reading—the comedies have gone subtler with a more dire tone, (A Serious Man), and the dramas have gone grimmer themselves, right into consistent Oscar contention, (No Country for Old Men). Going back to Charles…

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10/12/10 … Talking Movies with Nick Mendola on WECK 1230AM

On the air with Nick Mendola at Buffalo’s own WECK 1230AM radio. 10/12/10 – Talking about, but not limited to, 127 Hours; The Social Network; Catfish; The Town; Jackass 3D; and A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop. Audio player appears once link is pressed: CLICK TO LISTEN [editor’s note: please excuse the constant interrupting of Nick as the connection constantly cut out to the point where I heard dead air and thought I needed to talk—hopefully rectified in the future.]

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REVIEW: 三槍拍案驚奇 [A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop] [2010]

“You are such a wimp, the biggest I’ve ever seen” A prolific director in China, Yimou Zhang found an audience in America with the wonderful Hero and his follow-up House of Flying Daggers. Curse of the Golden Flower came next with its stunning visuals but lackluster storyline that left me cold and uninterested, thinking perhaps his style had gotten the best of him on the almost film per year pace he had begun. But then he decided to do something completely out of left field, pushing the serious, feudal artistry…

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