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Entries in Review (30)

Tuesday
Sep092014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Author/Publisher: Haruki Murakami / Knopf
Release date: August 12th, 2014
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

Tsukuru is colorless. He has a tight-knit group of friends that define him this way, their names all being Japanese for a different color, and his meaning ‘Gray’ and ‘Builder,’ which he is. Tsukuru builds train stations, and gets an almost aspergers-esque glee from doing so.

When Tsukuru comes back to visit his hometown, his group of friends quite vocally cast him aside and ask him never to contact them again, which he accepts without question. For years afterwards, Tsukuru lives in Tokyo, never visiting home, and never asking why he was excommunicated, living a very Murikami-esque lonely existence, only without the Japanese joy-in-simplicity attitude that most Murikami characters are imbued with. Tsukuru is in a dark place, a lonely place, and he plans to do nothing about it. That is, until a new girlfriend forces him to confront his childhood friends and get some closure on the situation, to free Tsukuru from his constant misanthropy and fear (not to mention, erectile dysfunction).

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Life Itself

Life Itself
Directed by: Steve James
Release Date: July 4th, 2014/Streaming now on Amazon.com 
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

One of my favorite pastimes growing up was staying up late on Sunday nights to watch Siskel & Ebert on the St. Louis affiliate. Not only was it a great way to end the week in anticipation of going back to school on Monday, but it fostered my interest in movies as an art form. The dynamic duo broadened my horizons by introducing me to films I couldn’t find at my small town multiplex and by recommending classics to rent at the video store. Without Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, I would not be doing what I am right now.

When Ebert passed away in April of last year, after more than a decade battling thyroid cancer, he joined his reviewing partner at the Great Movie Palace in the Sky. The world mourned the death of the most popular and important film critic in the history of movies. There has never been anyone quite like him in his field and there probably won’t be anyone else like him to come. He was the rockstar of movie reviewers. He was the voice of the plebs in a profession mostly made up of pretentious snobs and humorless know-it-alls out of touch with the general moviegoing public.

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Locke

Locke
Directed by: Steven Knight
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: August 12th, 2014
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

In this age of bloated CGI spectacles, pointless remakes/reboots/reimaginings and two-hour dick jokes, innovation in cinema is very far and very few between. It seems that Hollywood would rather run out of ideas than make smart and challenging films. It’s quite an embarrassment.

On the other hand, you have films like the British import, Locke. Written and directed by Oscar nominee Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises), this captivating film experiment is the antithesis of everything that is wrong with the current state of Hollywood. Shot over a few weeks on a miniscule budget and set entirely in a car in real time, it tells the story of engineer and family man Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises) going for one of the most important drives of his life.

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Saturday
Sep062014

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Directed by: Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Released on: August 29th, 2014 [USA/LIMITED]
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) has just returned to Brussels from a business trip abroad. After leaving several messages for his wife, Edwige (Ursula Bedena), without receiving response, Dan comes home to find the door is chained from the inside. When Edwige still does not answer Dan through the ajar door, Dan breaks the chain and enters his home.

Edwige is missing. Rather than immediately call the cops, Dan goes on a drinking binge and then rings up his neighbors to see if they have seen his wife. One of his neighbors lets him into her home. A strange woman whose face remains shadowed in darkness, Dora (Birgin Yew), relays a ghastly story about the day her husband went missing in the ceiling after he tied her up and sedated her. (She wakes up later to help him, somehow eschewing or forgetting or forgiving her husband's horrific behavior.)

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Monday
Aug182014

A Will for the Woods

A Will for the Woods
Directed by: Amy Browne, Tony Hale, Jeremy Kaplan, Brian Wilson
Released on: August 15th, 2014 [SCREENINGS]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Faced with a terminal illness, Clark Wang decides to eschew America's typical burial methods and take the green way out and under.

At most a slight deviation from the way most humans have been buried since the beginning of time (and continue to do so in much of the world), a green burial is the eco-friendly, formalized ritual where the deceased is laid to rest in a natural setting using biodegradable materials. There is no embalming or concrete involved. Often a simple stone is used as the marking spot.

Not only does this ritual allow one to "return to the earth" in an environmentally responsible way, it also allows natural land to remain free from development since the land is now a burial site.

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Monday
Aug182014

Life After Beth

Life After Beth
Directed by: Jeff Baena
Released on: August 15th, 2014 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Written and directed by Jeff Baena, Life After Beth tells the comedic-tragic teenage tale of a single child named Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza) who went hiking one day, was bitten by a snake and died. (Snakes and teenage girls are always a scary combination.)

At first, Beth's death causes great grief in her father, Maury (John C. Reily), her mother, Geenie (Molly Shannon) and her boyfriend, Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan). Following the funeral, Zach begins to bond with Beth's parents, especially Maury. The two play chess together, talk about what they wished they had said to Beth when she was alive and they even share some wacky tobacky. Geenie gives Zach Beth's winter scarf, which he wears around his neck like a chain in the summertime.

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Sunday
Aug172014

Around the Block

Around the Block
Directed by: Sarah Spillane
Released on: August 1st, 2014 [LIMITED]
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

After a hiatus, American Dino Chalmers (Christina Ricci) has returned to Australia to be with her fiance, Simon (Daniel Henshall). A bright-eyed idealist, Dino takes a job at Redfern High School. Redfern High School is located in a particularly rough neighborhood in Sydney.

In the first of the film's numerous too-convenient tropes, Dino notices one of the students, Liam (Hunter Page-Lochard), a teenager who she filmed in the streets the day before, happens to be in her class.

Liam has troubles. He lives in a poor, violent neighborhood known as The Block. His Mum (Ursula Yovich) is unemployed; his father, Jack (Matt Nable), is in prison; and his older brother, Steve (Mark Coles Smith), plans to avenge his father's imprisonment and uncle's death.

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Friday
Jul112014

Chef

Chef
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Released on: May 9th, 2014 LIMITED (July showtimes at Landmark
Grade: 3.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

After a series of high-concept spectacles including Cowboys & Aliens and the first couple Iron Man films, writer/director/actor Jon Favreau returns to the pleasant, character-driven fare that got his career off the ground with Chef. He stars as Carl Casper, the titular gourmet. A divorced workaholic, he spends the very limited time he has with his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), making runs to the farmer’s market and buying ingredients for the Los Angeles restaurant where he serves as head chef.

In anticipation of a visit by prominent restaurant critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), Carl and his crew are hard at work to refine the menu, but restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) forces him to instead keep the familiar menu, for it is his “greatest hits” that built up the clientele. When Carl’s cooking is panned in the review, he joins Twitter, launches a war of words via tweets, and ends up an embarrassing Internet meme. Choosing to keep his integrity rather than bow to the demands of Riva, Carl quits the restaurant.

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Thursday
May152014

Brick Mansions

Brick Mansions
Directed by: Camille Delamarre
Released on: April 25th, 2014
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Hollywood lost a talented young star when Paul Walker tragically died last November. Through his role as Brian O’Connor in the The Fast and the Furious series, he was carving out a niche for himself as a reliable hero of pulpy, mindless action. As silly as those movies are, I can’t help but glue myself to the television or laptop if I come across the chance to watch one. They’re just pure escapism. Walker’s latest, and sadly one of his last films, is Brick Mansions, the English language remake of the French District 13. This work is in the same camp as F&F: harmless, silly fun.

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Thursday
Apr172014

Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez
Directed by: Diego Luna
Released on: March 28th
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

It has been a long time coming, but finally somebody has made a theatrical film about Cesar Chavez, and it is my favorite 2014 film so far.

Born March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez grew up knowing what it was like to be exploited. After the Chavez family lost their home during the Depression, they worked in the fields for very little compensation. As all hands were needed in the field, Chavez did not attend school past the 7th grade.

After serving two years in the Navy, Chavez returned to the fields. From there he quickly rose through the ranks of the American labor movement working for the CSO (Community Service Organization), a human rights organization which encouraged Latinos to register to vote.

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