INTERVIEW: 60 Minutes journalists in pursuit of “Truth”

Based on Interview with James Vanderbilt, Writer and Director of TruthCBS made headlines last week when it turned down a multimillion dollar ad buy from Sony Pictures on behalf of the film “Truth,” the freshman directing effort by screenwriter James Vanderbilt.That’s because “Truth” is based on a book of the same name by former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. The story recounts (from her perspective) the events leading up to and following the disastrous “60 Minutes” report by famed CBS an … [Read more...]

Labyrinth of Lies powerfully confronts the silence of postwar Germany

Review of Labyrinth of Lies, Directed by Giulio RicciarelliThere’s a sense in which Labyrinth of Lies strikes me as the German equivalent of “All The President’s Men” – at least in terms of the place the story occupies in its dramatic documentation of a defining national scandal. Writer and director Giulio Ricciarelli’s latest work tells the story of Johann Radmann, a young public prosecutor in the 1960s whose investigations into the murders committed by German soldiers at Auschwitz pricked t … [Read more...]

“Grandma” searches for a semblance of love amid tragic dysfunction

Review Grandma, Directed by Paul WeitzAs an evangelical Christian, Grandma is not a simple film to review. It tells a decidedly progressive story full of progressive characters. And they all have problems.Like, a lot of problems.The story starts on the heels of Elle Reid’s breakup with her much-younger lesbian girlfriend. Elle (played wonderfully by Lily Tomlin) is a lifelong academic and poet. She has about $40 to her name, having just paid off all her debts and cut up her credit ca … [Read more...]

No Escape is the expat’s worst fears realized

Review of No Escape, Directed by John Erick DowdleI remember a friend recently remarking that for all of the progressive shifts and allegedly liberal bent of Hollywood these days, the traditional family unit remains an ideal, powerful bastion of love and intimacy in the stories we tell. Take No Escape, for example, the latest offering from writer and director John Erick Dowdle.Its story is simple but riveting. Jack Dwyer (Own Wilson) has just moved his family to an unspecified country in … [Read more...]

Birdman: the Torture of Creative Integrity

Review of Birdman, Directed by Alejandro InarrituOscars are useful as cultural barometers. They say much about what we think is excellent--and, thus, about ourselves. While the Academy was crowning Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman Best Picture of 2014, I was watching the film itself, suspecting it was about to win the laurels, wondering what its canonization said of its votaries.Birdman is a clever parable. It stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up old actor named Riggan who once played a famous s … [Read more...]

Ricki and the Flash want us to forgive ourselves

Review of Ricki and the Flash, Directed by Jonathan DemmePut together a failed rockstar mom, a successful businessman ex-husband, a recently-divorced daughter wanting to commit suicide, an engaged son who doesn’t want his mom at his wedding, and a third child who is a gay man struggling to find any room in his heart to be kind to his mother. Ricki and the Flash has family dynamics that try to rise to the epic proportions of the Lamberts in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections with a dash of roc … [Read more...]

Paper Towns tears down the straight-laced facade of suburbia

Review of Paper Towns, Directed by Jake SchreiersI’m going to go out on a limb and say that author John Green’s greatest literary accomplishment is creating child characters who are philosophers and poets in their essence – yet definitely still 21st century teenagers.If we grant that, then I would next suggest that Green’s second-greatest literary accomplishment is spinning out a number of disparate strands of philosophy, poetry, and drama and tying them together in conclusions that hit y … [Read more...]

Irrational Man is a hopeless triumph of the conscience

Review of Irrational Man, Directed by Woody AllenI am not a philosopher or the son of a philosopher, and so I won’t presume to say with much certainty whether writer and director Woody Allen’s philosophical ramblings in his latest film, Irrational Man, are on point and realistic. A lot of big names get shout-outs, though – Kant, Kierkegaard, Heidegger – and the protagonist’s musings surrounding them are at least interesting, and often funny.The film’s title, Irrational Man, comes from Wil … [Read more...]

Southpaw shows us the virtues of floating like a butterfly

Review of Southpaw, Directed by Antoine FuquaJake Gyllenhaal isn’t the first actor I would cast in the starring role of a film about a boxer, but his acting chops are on full display as he bulks up and grinds it out as boxing champ Billy Hope in Southpaw, the latest offering from director Antoine Fuqua.His opponent is the upstart boxer Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), a true antichrist of a foe from which the film’s inciting incident stems. At the beginning of the story, Billy has com … [Read more...]

Jimmy’s Hall: Footloose in Ireland

Review of Jimmy’s Hall, Directed by Ken LoachBased loosely on the story of James “Jimmy” Gralton, Jimmy’s Hall is an Irish version of Footloose. Jimmy (Barry Ward) was a real person, an Irish communist leader who was deported for rallying opposition to the Catholic Church — the only Irishman ever deported from Ireland. The film downplays Jimmy’s communism, however, and portrays him as a community leader with a community hall dedicated to self-improvement through the study of literature, the a … [Read more...]