Based on Martin Sixsmith's 2009 book, the film "Philomena" is based on the true story of Philomena Lee. In a restrictive, Catholic Ireland in the early 1950s, a teenage Philomena becomes pregnant and, as with so many other such women, is sent to work at the Magdalena Sisters convent and home for those guilty of "carnal incontinence."
Co-writer/director Alexander Payne has crafted a masterpiece in "Nebraska." Bruce Dern, who won Best Actor at this year's Cannes Film Festival, plays Woody Grant, an elderly curmudgeon who's convinced, via a letter, that he's won a million dollar magazine sweepstakes prize. Determined to claim it, Woody, with his resigned but reluctant son David in tow, heads from Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska.
The first thing to know about "How I Live Now" is that it is set in a dystopia, not a utopia. What starts out as a teen-ager's cry against the world, manifested in Goth style, ends up in a state of totalitarian and environmental and personal degradation.
"Kill Your Darlings" tries very hard to reveal a barely known fact in the lives and death of the Beat poets -- as if their lives have not been done to death already. It's hard to fathom why anyone would care about these undergrown boys. But for the chapter their lives tell of America's fairly recent gay history, their journeys are so ego-centric as to be, at least, exclusionary and, at most, dull.
German fairy tales present cozy, cottage stories that veil torture and fear. "The Book Thief" presents World War II as a cozy time with but hints of fear and torture, and that falseness results in a film that goes on and on, never offering reality.
In a four film series, repeat a similar narrative without imaginative reinvention and invite disappointment. Unfortunately, "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" falls into that category as it repeats the first "Hunger Games'" formula and does it sluggishly. The story picks up after Katniss and Peeta's triumph in the most recent games now celebrated during a multi-district victory tour.
As "Dallas Buyers Club" opens, the camera is trapped in a rodeo pen, peering through the slats at Ron Woodroof sexually engaged with two women. In an adjoining pen, a trapped bull and rider are getting ready to be turned loose for their combat. An apt metaphor, Woodroof will find himself similarly trapped, ready for battle, and fighting mad.
"About Time" has Richard Curtis' fingerprints all over it. Curtis wrote and directed the film with the same sharpness of dialogue he brought to "Notting Hill" and "Blackadder" as well as the sweetness he brought to "The Vicar of Dibley," and "The Girl in the Cafe."
Tentatively exploring and gradually defining her sexual identity, Adèle flirts with, finds love, and then fixates on Emma, a confident young woman much more self-aware and secure in her values than Adèle. This succinctly summarizes director/co-writer Abdellatif Kechiche's "Blue Is the Warmest Color" but barely hints at the emotional depths and psychological trauma the film probes.
The 22nd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, November 14th and continues through Sunday, November 24th. With 330 films offered in 201 screenings and programs, there's a wealth of riches. Fiction and nonfiction, live action and animation, feature-length and short selections represent 54 countries. I single out only a few of my favorites.
The 22nd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival concludes Sunday, November 24th with a feast of films on offer. Among the highlights will be three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by a conversation with St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Williams and a screening of Stone's "JFK." Equally brilliant is Erich von Stroheim's 1924 "Greed."
The violence in "12 Years a Slave" is hard to take. It cannot be dismissed as cartoonish or video game-ish, for it is too close to the bone, the baddest bone of American history. For the South to thrive with rice or cotton as king, the region needed hands to work the land.