The topics range from up-dated cartoons to feral creatures to a family late for a wedding. They come from, among many places, France and Finland and Disneyland, and they run from 6 minutes to a half-hour, in faded black and white to bubbling color.
Joyce Maynard may be best known for selling her love letters as a teen from J.D. Salinger as an older man. After the film "Labor Day," Maynard may come into her own as a story-teller, for the story is pretty solid; however, the cast raises it above itself.
An unlikely but most surprising and welcome protagonist, the title character in "Gloria" infuses this Chilean film with energy and heart. Fifty-eight years old, discouraged over the emotional distance between her and her son and her daughter, Gloria remains so alive, so honest, and so likable that I loved watching her and rooting for her.
How stupid do they think we are? The number of disconnections, the appeal to tears, the non-development of characters, the 4-month-old infant pretending to be a newborn -- they all total to a film that misses the mark by a mile of mush.
England's enormously popular writer Charles Dickens (1812 to 1870) was also a multifaceted talent and a complex individual. In "The Invisible Woman" director Ralph Fiennes, who plays Dickens, shows just how busy and famous, visiting his lauded theatrical presentations and his mobbed public readings. But the film focuses on his secretive, 13-year affair with Ellen Ternan, called Nelly.
The faux documentary "Computer Chess" convincingly mimics a 1950s low-budget, primarily black-and-white film; but it's 1980 and that's an aesthetic weakness. Over the course of a long weekend chess tournament, the computer chess nerds who gather at a bland Texas hotel will pit themselves and their programming expertise against each other in chess combat.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 to 1832) made his mark in late 18th and early 19th century Germany as a true genius: lawyer, philosopher, playwright, poet, and scientist. But in his early 20s, as depicted in the film "Young Goethe in Love" he's a familiar, love struck young man in conflict with his father.
The best news about the film adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-Prize-winning drama, "August: Osage County," occurs very early. The opening monologue has been trimmed to a mere sliver. Indeed, 40 minutes have been sliced out of the play; the cuts are hardly detectable -- and that's good.
The film's title tells the tale: "Lone Survivor," but that revelation doesn't begin to convey the intense, gut-wrenching Afghan war mission of the four SEALs featured. Seldom has a film so powerfully thrust the viewer into the violent action, communicating desperation and determination as well as dedicated brotherhood. This makes the tragedy that unfolds all the more horrific.
A film entitled "The Great Beauty" should be one, and this one certainly is. It is also dark, both in terms of light and insight. Its beauty is not sweeping vistas or aerial shots of quilt-like fields or close-ups on tiaras in vitrines; the film's beauty is a metaphor.
There’s a great story behind the production “Escape from Tomorrow” but not much story in it. Shot primarily at Orlando’s Walt Disney World and Anaheim’s Disneyland without permission, the film follows husband Jim, his wife Emily, their boy Elliott and girl Sara on vacation. Through Jim’s creepy hallucinations, director Randy Moore finds the vexingly nightmarish in the forced frivolity.
Opionated and original, philosopher Slavoj Žižek takes on our pervasive and long-standing cultural attitudes in "The Pervert's Guide to Ideology," a two hour interrogation of embedded values teased out through decades of film history. Though in many ways the film is a protracted lecture, the illustrative film clips with Žižek in remarkably similar settings brings principles to vivid life.
Always a little on the outside of things, Spike Jonze has written and directed a film that takes place about an L.A. minute beyond next year. "Her" is set in the near future when companies will write heartfelt letters for strangers and when men might fall in love with a bought woman.