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  • Life of Crime 2014

    ★★½ Rewatched

    Capsule review from my ADFF coverage at Next Projection

    The high-ceilinged halls of the obscenely elegant Emirates Palace were thronged with talent from the UAE and abroad on Thursday night as the ninth annual Abu Dhabi Film Festival kicked off with an invite-only screening of Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime. The ceremonies typical of such lavish events had each successive speaker increasingly emphasising that the movie really was coming quite soon now don’t worry. It needn’t have hurried; a good…

  • Life of Crime 2014

    ★★½ Watched 24 Oct, 2013 1

    Review from Next Projection

    When, halfway through the opening night screening of Life of Crime at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, a good portion of the audience led by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan himself walked out in reaction to a bare-breasted sex scene, they might just as easily have departed in protest of the film itself. Daniel Schechter’s adaptation of the late Elmore Leonard’s The Switch, however innocuous an effort it may be, is a terribly uninteresting one…

  • The Sea 2014

    ★★ Watched 06 Sep, 2013

    Review from Next Projection

    One unfamiliar with the elliptical structure of John Banville’s Man Booker-winning novel The Sea might fairly assume the ephemeral nature of its film adaptation’s scenes to be but a desperate attempt on the part of director Stephen Brown to hide the turgid literariness of its lines as best he can. Banville, adapting his own work, certainly needn’t worry about adding an Oscar to his mantelpiece: The Sea, in script form, is a dreadful mess, poorly transforming…

  • Frankie and Alice 2014

    ★½ Watched 10 Apr, 2014

    The eight individuals in total credited for Frankie & Alice under story and screenplay make terribly tempting—too tempting for many, no doubt—the allure of an arguably insensitive joke. But to suggest the movie might share the dissociative identity disorder of its subject is to mistakenly afford each of the films it looks likely to become at any given moment would have any identity of its own. As directed by television mainstay Geoffrey Sax—last seen on the big screen with the ill-fated…

  • ETXR 2014

    ★★ Watched 08 Apr, 2014

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    Following on the heels of last year’s Shotgun Wedding and the recent How to Be a Man, along comes ETXR to continue the new Fox Digital Studio’s distribution deal with Netflix. It’s exciting to see a studio playing with new formats and taking—admittedly tiny—chances on newcomer talent; alas, in the case of this latest outing at least, it’s not paid dividends. Trevor Sands’ film starts strong, introducing the down-on-his-luck DJ whose…

  • The Raid 2 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 17 Apr, 2014 3

    If the story doesn't exactly hold water—and it doesn't, enjoyable as it is playing keep-up—it's excusable given the freedom it affords Evans to run off and prove that he's the world's most elegant balletist* trapped in the body of a very tall Welshman. He is an extraordinary director, and if the cramped quarters invention of The Raid didn't prove that (spoiler: it did), this sprawling sequel most certainly should. As often as I gasped as the brutality of the bloodshed…

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 27 Mar, 2014

    Whether with a shot that has Robert Redford re-enacting All the President’s Men or a set design that calls to mind The Parallax View, the most exciting action onscreen in the new Captain America movie are the numerous little nods incoming directors Joe and Anthony Russo make to the conspiracy thrillers of yesteryear from which this sequel takes obvious inspiration. If the success of Marvel’s multi-million dollar gamble that began back with Iron Man secured Hollywood’s spandex future, The Winter…

  • The Activist 2014

    ★★ Watched 06 Mar, 2014

    Review from Next Projection

    Intimate familiarity with the set design of the 45<sup>th</sup> Academy Awards isn’t necessary to notice the falsity of The Activist’s re-enactment of one of the ceremony’s most well-remembered moments, but it certainly helps. Why writer and director Cyril Morin opts to include his own interpretation of the moment Sacheen Littlefeather refused the Best Actor Oscar on Marlon Brando’s behalf isn’t quite clear until several scenes later, but regardless it offers a nicely microcosmic moment. This is…

  • Life After Pi 2014

    ★★★ Watched 28 Feb, 2014

    Review from Next Projection (and embedded there; give it a watch)

    If Life After Pi tends to skew toward hagiography, it’s not without reason. Scott Leberecht’s short documentary focuses on the fate of VFX vendor Rhythm & Hues, whose Oscar win for Life of Pi came just eleven days after the company filed for bankruptcy. Their tale, told here through talking head interviews with (former) staff, is emblematic of the uneasy business model driving digital artists toward self-destruction.

    Sweet and simple…

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 15 Mar, 2014

    Ohhh, daaarling. In doing Fantastic Mr. Fox, I think, Wes Anderson came to the valuable conclusion that actors and sets ought really to be treated in much the same way. Hence the label of "dollhouse" that, despite its saturation, really does fit here. Where the whimsy of Moonrise Kingdom was just a mite too much for me, here the self-aware historical structure allows a neat distance from the decadence, like those many lovely moments where one character will stop another…

  • McCanick 2014

    ★★★ Watched 14 Mar, 2014

    Review from Next Projection

    If there was just one thing that Werner Herzog proved with his take on Bad Lieutenant—aside from the inevitable reality that Nic Cage and an iguana is a recipe for the best buddy cop movie ever—it was that America ain’t done with the jaded detective. John Dalberg-Acton was right when he wrote that power tends to corrupt, but absolute corruption—at least if we’re to trust the movies—comes quickest from everyday exposure to the evil that men…

  • Welcome To The Jungle 2014

    ★½ Watched 04 Feb, 2014

    Review from Next Projection

    There’s a laborious longueur right in the centre of Welcome to the Jungle where one can’t but wonder if Jean-Claude Van Damme hasn’t disappeared off into the eponymous locale to shoot Enemies Closer. This pair of movies, opening just two weeks apart, offers a strong early case for 2014 as the year of JCVD; paltry pictures each, they have offered him a convenient low to rise up against with hysteric abandon. His work here, as in…