Star Trek Into Darkness is a thoroughly astounding reminder of what I love about the best action movies. The story is complex, almost to a fault, while still feeling relevant for our own world. The characters are also full of depth and intricacy, which allows the film to keep the viewer questioning who the real villains are. The action is constantly exciting and powerful, and it complements the plot perfectly without overwhelming it. This is a success of a summer blockbuster if I have ever seen one, and it has more than enough reasons to deserve your attention. Continue reading
What would you do if you were accused of a devastating offense?
And what would you do if your accuser was without evidence but was utterly convinced of your guilt? Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who employs humor and anger with equal skill) of Saint Nicholas Church School finds himself in such an unenviable position, having been accused by Sister Aloysius Beauvier (the adept Meryl Streep) of involving himself in an inappropriate relationship with an altar boy. And she will not back down. Continue reading
Act of Valor is a guilty pleasure of a movie romp whose exciting combat sequences and beautiful, diverse environmental shots do a mostly good job of covering for a plot that’s so thin that it becomes silly. Some tonal inconsistencies that pop up very late in the film are deeply problematic, but they’re infrequent enough that their overall impact will depend greatly on how much the individual viewer is willing to forgive. Continue reading
Jiro Ono, at the time of this movie’s production, is the 85-year-old proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a tiny sushi restaurant hidden away in a subway station in Tokyo. The restaurant serves no appetizers and few desserts; it only has ten seats; and meals are designed to start and end quickly.
That being stated, it’s no ordinary restaurant: reservations for this prestigious recipient of multiple awards (including at least one from the Japanese government, according to the movie) start at ¥30,000–more than $300 USD at current exchange rates, according to the currency converter at XE.com–and must be made a month in advance. And this gorgeous film is every bit as elegantly crafted as is the delicious food on display. Continue reading
Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata, is a powerful display of the human cost of war that makes up for its narrative shortcomings with plenty of raw and believable emotion. It’s a movie about children that I wouldn’t recommend to them at the least, but it’s a film that in many ways manages to be imaginative and even beautiful as well as tragic. Please note that discussion of several major plot points will follow. Continue reading
Red Tails, an action movie based on “the first African-American combat unit to serve in World War II” (as read from the back of the DVD case) and named for the distinctive paint scheme the Tuskegee Airmen gave some of their planes, is at turns exciting and boring: while the movie delivers plenty of base thrills, the story and character development feel unfinished and half-explained. The movie does maintain something of a “so bad, it’s good” appeal in terms of the goofy combat banter, but viewers hoping for a story with more subtlety than a hammer may want to look elsewhere. Continue reading
Fritz Lang’s classic work of science fiction, now nearly a century old, manages to be a grand, impressive performance piece in spite of its age (and of a few questionable story and pacing decisions). The believable setting it depicts is both fascinating and tragic, and beyond having to negotiate a few downright odd and sometimes unnecessary scenes, fans of science fiction will hopefully consider this film to be worthy of their time. Continue reading
The rare Studio Ghibli film I’d never even heard of until recently, Porco Rosso (“Crimson Pig” according to the opening text) is a fun, exciting tale of a World War I fighter pilot, now a bounty hunter, who happens to be a pig in every sense of the word but must learn to be devoted to someone other than himself. Continue reading
Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service is a family film in every sense: it is a bright, friendly, delightful story that is easy enough for children to follow, and it is compelling and mature enough, to the point of being conspicuous, that adults should have no trouble staying interested as well. The movie is a classic, and this beginning-to-end delight deserves not simply to be watched but to be cherished and highly valued. Continue reading
In theory, it seems simple: A peasant village is being driven to desperation by bandits, and the peasants recruit a number of wandering samurai to help protect their home. And it is. And that mastery of many different kinds of simplicity is what gives director Akira Kurosawa’s remarkable Seven Samurai its own sort of profound strength. Continue reading