Movies

Cinequest: 'What We Do In the Shadows'

'What We Do In the Shadows' explores undead lifestyle in an unlively town. Read More

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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

'Mommy'

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

'Citizenfour'

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

Cinequest Film Festival Preview

San Jose really comes alive in the weeks joining February and March. That's when the Cinequest film festival brings hundreds of filmmakers and thousands of movie fans to the valley to take in new works and celebrate the art form they love. The 25th annual Cinequest, which is set to run from Feb. 24 to March 8, will feature big-name actors and directors, local filmmakers and the latest in film-oriented technology. » Read More

The Best Oscar-Nominated Short Films of 2014

In the years I've spent reviewing movies, I've come to anticipate great things from Academy Award-nominated short films, which I almost always find more impressive than big-name features. However, this year's roster of Oscar-hopeful shorts leaves me wanting. Far too many are safe and toothless-peculiar considering the vast selection of short films released in 2014. » Read More

'Still Alice'

Julianne Moore seems vouchsafed for the Oscar at last after four losses. This petite, lucid actress, of great plasticity and even greater bravery, is one of the five or 10 reasons that the movies are worth attending. It's about time she was going where she's going-if one could only be happier about the vehicle she was travelling in. » Read More

'Human Capital'

In synopsis, the glossy yet fascinating Italian import Human Capital sounds like a Paul Haggis tag-teamer-the high and low classes make an unwilling meeting over a traffic accident. It's shrewder than anything ever influenced by Crash, however. Based on a Connecticut-set novel by Stephen Amidon, director Paolo Virzi's tale takes place in a small city outside of Milan. After a Christmas gala held by a well-endowed private school, someone injures a busboy in a hit-and-run collision as he returns home from work on his bicycle. The accident sets off the kind of class antagonism entrenched in Italy since the Roman Empire. » Read More

'American Sniper'

Texan Chris Kyle, who cultivated the nickname "The Legend" during his tenure in the armed forces, was a Navy SEAL sniper with a reported 150 kills during his four tours of duty. In American Sniper, Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is envisioned by director Clint Eastwood as a barrel of movie tropes: cowboy, rodeo rider, lone gunman, a gruff soldier uncomfortable with the womenfolk and the settled world. » Read More

'Inherent Vice'

Lazy story structure and arcless arc compliment, rather than injure, Inherent Vice. P.T. Anderson's ingratiating version of sometimes-Aptos-based author Thomas Pynchon's homage to detective fiction. The mood is far more important than the case. It's a threnody for the end of the 1960s, as the best defective-detective since Dude Lebowski tries to determine who is responsible for what. » Read More