A Place at the Table

751 comments on March 22, 2013 by Mark Keizer

A Place at the Table may not be a great documentary, but it does something all great documentaries do: it makes you take a step back and think of bigger issues outside your personal sphere and wonder if there's anything you can do to change the status quo. Here, co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush make an airtight case that the status quo is a many-headed, armor-protected hydra. At its most basic, there's a hunger problem in this country and there's also an obesity problem. These evils, ones that are seemingly separate, actually go hand-in-hand. Overcoming these challenges is ...

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The End of Love

256 comments on March 22, 2013 by Mark Keizer

Nobody saw director Mark Webber's first feature, the ham-fisted 2008 protest rally Explicit Ills and it's a fair bet no one will see his second feature, The End of Love, either. But hold on a moment. There are aspects of Webber's aesthetic that are under-represented in American, low budget film and to dismiss him as a director (especially when he clearly would prefer to be an actor) could be a mistake. In both efforts he proves himself quite skilled in coaxing naturalistic performances and his sincerity is refreshing when most in his age group prefer snark and irony. The End of Love is an improvement over Explicit Ills, enough to where a third directing effort could really make things interesting.

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My Amityville Horror

661 comments on February 22, 2013 by Mark Keizer

Ever since the Lutz family's 28-day ordeal in their supposedly-haunted Amityville, Long Island home ended in 1976, the story has been a barometer for one's feelings about the supernatural. Believers maintain the house was possessed, possibly by the ghosts of the six people murdered by its previous owner, Ronnie DeFeo. Others maintain the entire story, levitating beds and all, is a hoax. Whatever you believe, there is one fact that director Eric Walter makes very clear and proves beyond a reasonable doubt: the incident resulted in one screwed up life. Daniel Lutz was the oldest of the three Lutz children who lived at 112 Ocean Ave. In the intervening 35-plus years he has become a resentful ball of clenched, suppressed rage.

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Stand Up Guys

595 comments on February 01, 2013 by Mark Keizer

The old adage, "if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage" gets almost totally refuted in Stand Up Guys, the story of three elderly, low level toughs banding together for one last night on the mean streets. The thin script, by debuting screenwriter Noah Haidle feels like the first draft of an eventual off-Broadway play. But Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin infuse almost every line with so many elegiac flourishes and moments of earthy camaraderie that had the roles been played by any other trio, the script's flaws would have been fatal. To argue that such a one-time-only assemblage of acting icons should have resulted in a grander film is slightly unfair to the material. No matter its failings, this is built to be a minor work.

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454 comments on January 24, 2013 by Mark Keizer

Jason Statham has appeared in almost three dozen movies and most of them are terrible (just check his Rotten Tomatoes batting average). But quality is not part of Statham's career plan. Instead, he's aiming to be a brand name, the last man standing in an era that values pre-existing comic book properties over movie stars. It's certainly something to shoot for, although hundreds of punches, crashes and snarls later, maybe it's time to consider that climbing over the likes of Charles Bronson to reach the B-movie summit is too pyrrhic a victory. He may also want to consider that Bronson managed to appear in great films like The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven and Once Upon a Time in the West.

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On the Road

1236 comments on December 13, 2012 by David Ehrlich

On the Road is rich with evocative period atmosphere and anchored by a trio of compellingly lived-in performances from Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and Kristen Stewart. Nevertheless, it's another staid adaptation that misses the forest for the trees and confuses people into thinking that some novels truly are "unfilmmable." Awkwardly pitched to both the mad ones and the multiplexes in equal measure, Walter Salles' cinematic take on the definitive portrait of the Beat Generation is an agonizingly comprised vision, a sensual but soulless story of a young man's journey of self-discovery during the rollicking 1940s.

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The Impossible

Add Comment on December 13, 2012 by Mark Keizer

To those who look upon disaster movies as mere escapism, Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona has something to show you. The Impossible, his follow-up to 2007's The Orphanage, is based on the true story of a vacationing family separated in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 230,000 people. The key selling point is Bayona's ten-minute reenactment of the tidal wave and its carnage, which is brutal, visceral and without peer. His visual mastery is almost enough to make up for The Impossible's conventional final hour and the empty feeling of trying to find the point of this whole exercise, since there's no greater thematic ambition being pursued, nor are the characters fleshed out to any degree.

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