A Longing for Something More Suffuses Only Yesterday

 Review of Only Yesterday, Directed by Isao Takahata If you saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens—and who hasn’t?—and were impressed by the young actress who played Rey, Daisy Ridley—and who wasn’t?—then you might be interested in her latest film. No, it’s not Episode VIII of Star Wars, which has just started production. Instead, it’s Only Yesterday, a 1991 film from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, just now receiving a 25th anniversary release in North America.The English-dubbed versi … [Read more...]

The Revenant’s Brutal World

Review of The Revenant, Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez IñárrituThe Revenant is steeped in a thick nihilism. It is much more than a story of man versus wild. It is an engrossing vision of man as part of the wild. Man is not above nature, but under it.Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and his hunting team leaves him in the care of John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Bridger (Will Poulter), and Glass’s son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), as the rest of the team moves on. Da … [Read more...]

The Top 20 Films of 2015

20. Crimson PeakSee it for the production design, the gothic mood or just because you miss the atmospheric horror films of an earlier era. I can’t say the film is deeply meaningful, but it sure was a pleasure to watch. Director Guillermo del Toro has made one like they used to make ’em.19. MustangAnother great religious drama, this one about a group of sisters facing a series of quick marriages after they cause a mini-scandal in their community. Director Deniz Gamze Erguven brings an ene … [Read more...]

Firefly is just lukewarm

Review of Firefly (2002) and Serenity (2005), created by Joss WhedonAt the risk of infuriating my fellow nerds, I present the following truth: Firefly is massively overrated.Don't get me wrong, I see the potential for it to have become an excellent show after a few seasons, and I love me some Nathan Fillion, and I've appreciated some of Joss Whedon's other work. But a boatload of potential and a well-cast show is not the same thing as a show that is actually good. Firefly is—despite all i … [Read more...]

Middleburg Film Festival Puts Spotlight on Church Scandal

By Christian Hamaker The Middleburg Film Festival just wrapped its third year in Northern Virginia horse country, but it’s already on strong footing. The only nearby competing festival, the troubled FilmFest DC, is held in the spring, while the Virginia Film Festival in November is closer on the calendar but a longer drive for those in the populous Northern Virginia region.The Middleburg festival’s late October timing also puts it close to the peak of fall foliage season, enhancing the dr … [Read more...]

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...]

The Intern hits us right in the millennial feels

Review of The Intern, Directed by Nancy MeyersIt started to drag at the end, but otherwise I loved “The Intern.” I didn’t love it because it’s a first-rate piece of cinema. Like MySpace and Napster and virtually everything you did on Twitter today, I suspect it will be forgotten pretty quickly. I loved it because it hit me right in the Millennial “feels.” To quote one of its Buzzfeed-curated characters: “I’m kind of in love with it.”Yes, just like Polaroids and skinny ties, I’m kind of in … [Read more...]

Everest: Human Courage, Human Frailty

Review of Everest, Directed by Baltasar KormákurEverest, like the award-winning 2013 film Gravity, is a movie about human courage and frailty in the face of nature’s crushing power. Pro tip for either film: See it in IMAX.Everest is based on the true story of the 1996 climbing disaster recorded by journalist Jon Krakauer in his book, Into Thin Air. Krakauer, played by Michael Kelly, joins a company of climbers who have paid Adventure Consultants a small fortune to help them climb the world’s … [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...]