Now Playing: Ryan Gosling’s ‘Lost River’

Iain De Caestecker tries to leave 'Lost River'

Iain De Caestecker tries to leave ‘Lost River’

Lost_River_posterA fantastical baroque about a mother and son fighting for survival in a slowly dying rust-belt town, Lost River is playing now in a few places.

My review is at Film Racket:

The best way to approach Ryan Gosling’s debut as a writer/director is to imagine what might happen if David Lynch were ever to shoot a nature documentary. Or if a consortium of mumblecore filmmakers dropped acid and decided to make a horror film. Something that Terence Malick might have tossed together after bumming around Detroit for a few weeks. The worst way would be to watch the film and try and determine afterwards what that was all about…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: Franco Behind Bars in ‘True Story’

Jonah Hill and James Franco get at the ‘True Story’ (Fox Searchlight)

 

True_Story_posterIt isn’t every day that you see Jonah Hill and James Franco in a film and neither one of them is mugging up a storm. True Story is a long-gestating true-crime piece opening this week in which Hill plays a reporter and Franco a (maybe) murderer.

My review is at Film Racket:

Between the cold-case podcast Serial and Robert Durst’s wink-wink tease on The Jinx, true crime stories in the did-he-or-didn’t-he vein are having what they call a cultural moment. So it would seem time to tell the real story of journalist Michael Finkel’s borderline disturbing relationship with accused family murderer Christian Longo. If you can do it with movie stars, all the better. But the tentative and moody True Story doesn’t have the synapse-sparking fizz that marks the best true crime stories. It squanders more of the opportunities packed into this tale of worlds colliding than it takes advantage of…

Here is the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in 'Clouds of Sils Maria' (Sundance Selects)

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ (Sundance Selects)

In Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, a venerable actress with a prickly assistant agrees to play the older character in a play that made her famous when she was in the younger role, now cast with a Lindsay Lohan-esque up-and-comer. It’s a rich dramatic environment, suggesting a marriage of Persona and All About Eve.

Clouds of Sils Maria opens this week; my review is at Film Racket:

In this richly satisfying film about age and art, a battle of wills over a new production of a classic play becomes a Rorschach test for two women’s friendship. It’s another subtext-laden drama from Olivier Assayas, whose best work has dug into the simmering tensions of long-term relationships and come up with melodramatic gold. Clouds of Sils Maria won’t be counted among his greater achievements like Summer Hours. But it’s a return to form for a director whose more recent films (Carlos, Something in the Air) have been packed with energy but lacking heft…

Here’s the (somewhat misleading) trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘About Elly’

Golshifteh Farahani in the mystery 'About Elly' (Cinema Guild)

Golshifteh Farahani in ‘About Elly’ (Cinema Guild)

Although Asghar Farhadi finished his multilayered mystery About Elly a couple years before his masterful A Separation, it’s only getting a proper American release now. It’s about time.

My review for About Elly is at Film Journal International:

Like bloodhounds that can’t ignore a scent once they have been put on it, the films of Asghar Farhadi keep circling back to one redolent and persistent problem: the demeaning, low status of women in Iranian society. They are not message films, announcing their lecturing intent by yoking their narratives to the most politically advantageous plot points. Instead, they tell stories that would carry dramatic weight regardless of their setting, and show how the circumscribed lives of Iranian women exacerbate already lamentable situations…

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’

Rinko Kikuchi goes to the Great White North in 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' (Amplify)

Rinko Kikuchi goes to the Great White North in ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’ (Amplify)

Do you like Fargo? Chances are, even if so, you don’t know it as well as the titular anti-heroine of the Zellner brothers’ chilly odyssey of quirk, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. It might be one of the first great films of 2015.

kumiko-posterKumiko, the Treasure Hunter is playing now here and there. My review is at PopMatters:

She’s alone and obsessive, and her particular object of obsession is the Coen brothers’ film Fargo. Sitting night after night in her dingy apartment with only her adorable rabbit Bunzo for company, she pores over a worn-out VHS tape with Talmudic fervency, keeping a notebook full of scribbled clues that only make sense to her. Because of Fargo‘s famous opening epigraph—“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987”—she takes it as a faithful transcribing of reality. That’s why she keeps re-watching the scene where Carl (Steve Buscemi) buries the suitcase of cash by a fence in a snowy field. In Kumiko’s mind, she just needs to get to Minnesota…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘While We’re Young’

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in 'While We're Young' (A24)

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts contemplate their oldness in ‘While We’re Young’ (A24)

Noah Baumbach continues his filmic project with Ben Stiller on the agitations of middle age and disappointment in While We’re Young, playing now in limited release.

My review is at Film Racket:

Age is wasted on the old, especially when they want to be young again. When Noah Baumbach’s hit-and-miss comedy of urbane humiliation catches up with Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), they are stuck dead in middle age nowhere without a road map. A long-married couple doubting their comfortable but deadened relationship, they emphatically reassure themselves of their contentment. They don’t need kids to be happy, they tell each other, saying they are free to jet off to Europe at a moment’s notice. Well, probably not that soon. Maybe a month…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘The Salt of the Earth’

One of Sebastio Salgado's iconic photographs in 'The Salt of the Earth' (Sony Pictures Classics)

One of Sebastio Salgado’s iconic photographs in ‘The Salt of the Earth’ (Sony Pictures Classics)

Given a brief Academy Awards run late last year, Wim Wenders’ magisterial documentary about photographer Sebastio Salgado is finally getting a proper theatrical release this week.

My review is at Film Journal International:

“A photographer,” Wim Wenders intones at the start of his elegantly respectful documentary on Sebastião Salgado, “is literally somebody painting with light.” This definition sounds grand, to be sure. But the act of creation that Wenders captures here doesn’t quite seem to resemble painting. Salgado’s work is in some ways the definition of high-concept photography. His rich, lusciously layered, black-and-white shots of teeming gold mine workers, refugees streaming across a desert, or a line of penguins flinging themselves off a glacier are so elegantly composed as to almost defy reality…

Here’s the trailer: