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...]

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet Can’t Transcend a Tired Framing Story

 Review of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, Directed by Roger AllersMany consider Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet a profound literary work, but the animated film adaptation of Gibran’s book traffics in easy laughs aimed at the younger set. Whether it’s a guard hitting his head on a window frame, an older character cracking wise after a bird eats a wedding cake or a sheep upending a stern character, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (that’s the full title of the film) is clearly trying to achieve a delicate … [Read more...]

Fantastic Four is a fantastic flop

Review of Fantastic Four, Directed by  Josh TrankFantastic Four will go down in infamy with The Green Lantern and Ben Affleck’s Daredevil as a great big superhero fail. It’s too campy to be taken seriously, and not campy enough to be so-bad-it’s-good. Maybe if I were still in Jr. High I’d enjoy lines like “It’s clobbering time” and eat up spoon-fed truisms about how heroes are only strong enough when they stand together. Maybe, but I’m not. Given the current flourishing of the superhero genre … [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...]

Rogue Nation set to reinvigorate the Mission: Impossible franchise

Review of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Directed by Christopher McQuarrieThe Mission: Impossible franchise has made it to its fifth installment. The IMF is disbanded and assimilated into the CIA, leaving Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) on his own as he tries to dismantle the Syndicate—a transnational terrorist organization intent on beating the IMF at its own game, but for the bad guys. Curveball after curveball, mysterious twist after mysterious twist, and yet Ethan finds a way to survive, b … [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...]

Ant-Man brilliantly scales down the Marvel universe

Review of Ant-Man, Directed by Peyton ReedAt some point in the future, I think we’ll look back on the past decade as a golden age of superhero films, and we’ll be able to point to Ant-Man as a prime example. Director Peyton Reed’s latest addition to the Marvel universe isn’t a great film, not even close, but Ant-Man succeeds simply because it takes a premise about a guy who runs around with ants and turns it into a wildly-entertaining, half-decent movie.In short, Marvel has hit its stride … [Read more...]