'Seymour: An Introduction'

The Ethan Hawke-directs documentary, 'Seymour: An Introduction,'
is an intimate portrait of pianist Seymour Bernstein. Read More

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Review: 'Get Hard'

Diminutive comedian Kevin Hart has enough star power that he can play the Oracle Arena, but what he's got certainly isn't visible in Get Hard. It's like someone trying to retrieve the alleged magic of Stir Crazy with a smaller and more fearful Richard Pryor and a paler, moister version of Gene Wilder. Obnoxious rich jerk James King (Will Ferrell) has it all: a mansion in Bel Air, a hot wife Alissa (Alison Brie) who runs around in thousand-dollar lingerie, and a squad of grossed-out Hispanic servants. » Read More

Review: 'It Follows'

Few fans of terror consider terroir-how the mood of a place affects the mood of a film. David Robert Mitchell's It Follows uses 8 Mile Road as the borderline between the world of the rational and the irrational. On one side are suburbs; on the other is the Detroit of everyone's nightmares-the blasted factories, the long streets filled with empty houses, where the overgrown sycamores are beginning to look like a haunted wood. » Read More

Review: 'Merchants of Doubt'

Argue the facts, argue the cause, argue the ability to do anything about it—and then argue that the Commies are trying to hoodwink us all: Merchants of Doubt explores climate-change denial for fun and profit. The only time I ever saw Stephen King, he was likening then-President Ronald Reagan to a magician—"distracting the public with one hand, stuffing a pigeon up his ass with the other." » Read More

Review: 'Cinderella'

Kenneth Branagh's version of Cinderella has a magnificent palace in it, like a Beaux Arts Monte Carlo casino on the edge of an Alaskan fjord. Production designer Dante Ferretti and costumer Sandy Powell fill it up at great expense. This fantasyland is of the late 1800s, after the invention of aniline dyes; garish as they are cruel, the stepsisters wear all the newly created hues at once. The prince, who is known to his intimates as "Kit" (Richard Madden) holds court in a series of gorgeous Hussar uniforms with skin-tight riding trousers. » Read More

'Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles'

The merry prankster, the profound tragedian. The professional guest, the misunderstood exile. He was pitied, parodied—"All's well that ends Welles." Moonfaced and inconstant as the moon, Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane and adaptations of Shakespeare, Kafka and pulp fiction. » Read More

'Wild Tales'

A masterfully filmed cautionary tale in the form of a half-dozen stories of terrorism, revenge and extortion, Wild Tales examines a society gone rotten as old cheese, after fascist coup and repeated economic shock. Yet director Damian Szifron doesn't cook up an Amores Perros-style cauldron of guts. This banquet of bad behavior, co-produced by the Almodovar brothers, shows artisanship in the complexity of the shots, with such fresh points of view as the inside of a luggage compartment on a jet and the keypad of an ATM. » Read More

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem

It's not anti-Semitic to mention the importance of dispute in Jewish culture; the questioning and counter-questioning is hardwired into the religion since the days of the Patriarchs. Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz's fine courtroom drama demonstrates what it's like to be a petitioner at the mercy of an Israeli rabbinical court, particularly during the complicated process of obtaining a divorce (a gett, in Hebrew). » Read More

'What We Do In the Shadows'

It may seem to be unnecessary-both as another mockumentary and yet one more vampire flick-but What We Do In the Shadows hits the mark by approaching its undead subjects the same way TV's The Surreal Life took on the celebrities whose careers just can't be killed. Of the 60 or so vampires living in New Zealand, four get to see a lot of each other. They're housemates in a decaying flat, unveiling their problems before a documentary team's camera. (The crew was protected by crucifixes at all times, says a title.) » Read More

Cinequest Honors Director John Boorman

The thrilling, dangerous visions of British director John Boorman include some of the most distinctive films of the last half of the 20th century. In Point Blank (1967), the rock-faced Lee Marvin prowls a pop-art California. Boorman's hit Deliverance (1972) is one of the definitive statements of American fantasies of violence. Zardoz (1974) is au courant enough to be the subject of a full-sized Burning Man effigy-there, inside the Playa-clay cranium of Zardoz, a one-couch capacity theater played the 1974 film in an endless loop. » Read More

'50 Shades of Grey'

Let's be clear: 50 Lashes With a Wet Noodle is positively unrapey; director Sam Taylor-Johnson emphasizes the matter that Christian Grey has the consent of the soon to be trussed and flogged Bella Swan, I mean Anastasia Steele. Having rinsed out the ambiguities, Taylor-Johnson has watered the product. 50 Shades of Grey seems to be under the influence of Kurt Vonnegut's "ethical birth control pills": the ones that prevent contraception by making you numb below the waist. » Read More


Due to the insistence of a director or the over-emphasis of an actor, sometimes a movie can seem like a big pail of other people's problems. The lead performances and the length of Mommy induce some compassion fatigue. Moreover, Mommy has an experimental aspect ratio of 1.1. The 25-year-old Quebecois director Xavier Dolan claims this square format encourages simplicity. The perfect squareness was rectangular on the film screen I saw it on, suggesting the window of a smart phone. (This could be the aspect ratio of the future.) » Read More


The more paranoid you are about surveillance, the scarier Citizenfour gets. Director Laura Poitras had directed two documentaries on the war on terror; she relocated to Berlin to avoid interrogation every time she crossed the U.S. border. There, she was contacted online by a man soon to be world famous, a security technician hiding under a pseudonym. Edward Snowden was a Hawaii-based contractor at Booz Allen working for the NSA: in his words here, he was "getting paid to design methods to increase state powers." » Read More

Double Feature: Two Movies Worth Seeing

What does San Jose have in common with the USSR? Both get no respect. The documentary Changing Boundaries: The History of San Jose is a small-scale but thoroughly professional overlook at some 240 years of valley history. Surprising how much you can learn about a place you think you know. Director Tricia Creason-Valencia and producer Norman Kline can be proud of the documentary's emphasis on progressive politics, on strife as much as wealth. » Read More

'Jupiter Ascending'

They say we are all born with a limited number of thoughts, and the career of the Wachowski siblings is proof. Considered deep thinkers over the way philosophy met bullet-time photography in the Matrix series, they've done without thought whatsoever in Jupiter Ascending. There isn't a single fresh idea in the movie. » Read More