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...]

Ben-Hur Discovers the Epic Epicness of Grace

Ben-Hur, directed by William WylerBen-Hur (1959) is the epic to end all epics. The most expensive movie of its time, the production hired 100 people just to make the wardrobe and 200 to build its massive sets. Ten thousand extras filled in the background. It cost one-hundred and thirty million dollars to make (in today’s dollars). It received twelve Oscar nominations and was coronated as the best picture of 1959 by the Academy, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs, and is counted the 100th g … [Read more...]

The Merciful Railway Man

Review of The Railway Man,* Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky*This review is not based on the book in any wayBased on the autobiography of Eric Lomax, The Railway Man is the story of a British veteran of WWII who must deal with what Patti Lomax, his wife, calls, “war injuries of the mind.” The film pivots back and forth between the romance of an older Eric (Colin Firth) and Patti (Nicole Kidman) and Eric’s younger self suffering at the hands of his Japanese captors. The Railway Man is a deeply C … [Read more...]

Come stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel

Every once in a while I run across a film that I don’t understand - and frankly, don’t even see the point of - yet still find immensely enjoyable. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those films.Set somewhere in a fictionalized European nation called the Republic of Zubrowka circa 1932, The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the story of Zero, a young orphan from a war-torn country who lands a job as a bell hop in The Grand Budapest Hotel. It flows something like a storybook, with pl … [Read more...]

Monument’s Men: Is Art Worth Dying For?

Review of Monument's Men, Directed by George ClooneyMonument’s Men appears on the scene during a time when the market is saturated with movies “based on a true story.” The true story is of a cohort tasked with recovering the artwork stolen by the Nazis from Western Europe during occupation. Not only must they recover it, they must do so while the war is going on since they must prevent places such as cathedrals housing invaluable pieces from being blown up. Add to this the mad dash for these ar … [Read more...]

Lone Survivor: The Good War

Review of Lone Survivor, Directed by Peter BergEleven years ago, when I was in the Army, some fellow troops and I went to see the Vietnam war movie We Were Soldiers (2002). We were a crowd of young guys who didn’t know anything, accompanied by one old master sergeant who was a Vietnam War veteran. The younger soldiers loved the movie and, afterwards, were palling around like normal. The old master sergeant was walking alone, quiet. I asked him what he thought of the movie. “There are some thi … [Read more...]

Laughs and crazies in American Hustle

American Hustle, directed by David O. Russellby Elizabeth WhyteThere’s something about David O. Russell’s directing that makes all the characters in his films seem absolutely bonkers. American Hustle is no different. Russell has combined the big stars from his past two movies, Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and The Fighter (2010), to create a standout lineup, all of whom again deliver fantastic performances: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence. And, true to Ru … [Read more...]

Dallas Buyers Club

Review of Dallas Buyers Club, Directed by Jean-Marc ValleeBy ELIZABETH WHYTEBefore you see Dallas Buyers Club, rid yourself of any ideas of Matthew McConaughey you may have picked up from his repertoire of stupid romantic comedies, Matt Damon’s impersonation of him, or his receipt of the dubious designation “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine in 2005. Otherwise you will, as I did, waste too much of the movie thinking: “I can’t believe Matthew McConaughey is that skinny!” He lost 40 pou … [Read more...]

Mandela’s Long Walk to Moral Leadership

Review of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Directed by Justin ChadwickWith the passing of Nelson Mandela, the release of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was already going to make a splash. Thankfully, the film is worthy in its own right. Accessible to those who know little about South African history, Mandela lays before us the life of a well-known man, reminds us of his flaws and controversial decisions, and forces us to look at the man who was, as opposed to the man that the popular … [Read more...]

The Butler Serves Racial Equality

Review of The Butler, Directed by Lee Daniels While ostensibly a film about a longtime butler in the White House, Lee Daniels’s The Butler is actually about the civil rights movement. The film was inspired by a Washington Post article about Eugene Allens, who served as a White House butler under eight presidents. The Post article appeared the Friday after Barack Obama’s presidential election win—a nod to his victory as a culmination of civil rights history. The audience is treated to the tale … [Read more...]