TIFF18 REVIEW: First Man [2018]

It’s kinda neat The non-controversy surrounding Damien Chazelle‘s First Man shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows how political parties have appropriated art into their agendas since the dawn of time. Of course they’d glom onto the decision to ignore the lunar flag planting as some “un-American” thing rather than read the script, watch the movie, or ask for clarification—options which would have all supplied insight into the reality that Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer aren’t telling the story of the moon landing. That goal might be the driving force behind what’s…

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REVIEW: Café Society [2016]

“Dreams are … dreams” Ever since Woody Allen left New York City for England in 2005 to create some really spectacular films outside his usual comedic efforts of neurotic meet-cutes, I may have intentionally tried to avoid anything he made with a character he would have played himself a decade prior. I personally don’t count Midnight in Paris simply because Owen Wilson owns that lead role in a way Allen couldn’t equal. So when Café Society was announced with Jesse Eisenberg at the fore, I did cringe a bit. I…

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REVIEW: Black Mass [2015]

“If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen” The story of Southie crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) is perfectly suited for a sprawling, character-driven cinematic adaptation because of the corruption level involved. Based on the book by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, Black Mass screenwriters Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth take us through an in-depth look at a local gangster making good on his promise to watch out for South Boston just as he helps ruin it with drugs and murder before ultimately transforming into an…

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REVIEW: Dark Places [2015]

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” If Gillian Flynn wasn’t the “It” author after the phenomenon that was Gone Girl the book, she surely was once David Fincher adapted it into a huge moneymaking win. What’s interesting, though, is that Gone Girl wasn’t the first of her novels to head into production cinematically. That honor goes to her sophomore effort Dark Places, which began shooting one month sooner in August 2013. Scripted and directed by Frenchman Gilles Paquet-Brenner, who last helmed the critically acclaimed Sarah’s Key,…

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REVIEW: Ant-Man [2015]

“Just a tall-tale” You can tell as soon as it happens where the Marvel machine broke Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, the two guys who had been developing Ant-Man to their singular vision since before the Cinematic Universe’s cohesive arc began. It’s a funny cameo with an Avenger, one where Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) attempts to steal a device that’s supposedly important to burgling the main prize for which Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruited him in the first place. Cute, entertaining, and paid off by the second of two brilliantly…

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REVIEW: The Good Lie [2014]

“I’m thinking about that chicken” It isn’t easy to write a film around a tragic hot-button issue such as the “Lost Boys of Sudan” without coming across as either exploitative or manipulative. Making the result human is an even loftier goal. I won’t say screenwriter Margaret Nagle and director Philippe Falardeau were flawless in their execution of The Good Lie, but they were at least honest. Well, more honest than the marketing firm selling us on Reese Witherspoon being the lead when she’s only onscreen for a quarter of the…

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REVIEW: This is Where I Leave You [2014]

“Secrets are cancer to a family” Get ready because I’m going to throw some hyperbole your way. Here it is: This Is Where I Leave You is Franny and Zooey meets The Big Chill. Now hold on a second and let me explain. Jonathan Tropper is not J.D. Salinger and Shawn Levy isn’t Lawrence Kasdan. I know this because I’m not completely delusional. However, the comparison is still sound if you’re willing to take it with a grain of salt. The former work popped into my head straight away through…

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REVIEW: Non-Stop [2014]

“Status?” This film could have just as easily been called Deflection as Non-Stop because screenwriters John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, and Ryan Engle (none of whom instill a stellar track record for Hollywood blockbuster success) have a lot of fun making sure to inject as many red herrings into the mix as possible. Even at start we wonder if our prospective hero Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) could be the perpetrator despite trailers leading us towards a frame job. His U.S. Marshal is an alcoholic, hot-tempered, and forlorn. A semi-threat to…

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Picking Winners at the 84th Annual Academy Awards

For the next week and a half, Spree contributor William C. Altreuter, our online film reviewer Jared Mobarak, and me will share our thoughts on who will take home the Oscars. Let’s kick things off with … Best Supporting Actress. —C. S. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:Bérénice Bejo – The Artist as Peppy MillerJessica Chastain – The Help as Celia FooteMelissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids as Megan PriceJanet McTeer – Albert Nobbs as Hubert PageOctavia Spencer – The Help as Minny Jackson Christopher Schobert: Bill, it seems like every time you and I tackle…

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REVIEW: Midnight in Paris [2011]

“Nostalgia is denial” Who knew Woody Allen could be so whimsical? I guess to ardent fans of the auteur, this question may seem ridiculous—either I’m uneducated to think he wasn’t or I’m oblivious to not realize he always was. Whichever side of the fence you fall on, nothing will deter my, quite possibly premature, musing that Midnight in Paris is my new favorite Woody film. I haven’t seen many, including barely any before Celebrity, (as in all his classics), but there is just something about this movie that put a…

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