“Blue Ruin” is a Thrilling Comment on Movie Violence

Whenever movie mayhem comes under attack from concerned citizens – as it did after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012 – filmmakers often justify their work by claiming that their depictions of violence are not endorsements. It’s hard to take that seriously, especially because they usually make gun play look so cool and leave out…

“Veronica Mars” Plays to its Base

Well, the inevitable has finally occurred: Television and cinema have merged. For years, the line between the two was blurred mostly by the onscreen talent. TV stars have always been trying to make the jump to film; it’s only recently that the talent has begun to flow in the other direction (see True Detective for…

“3 Days to Kill” is a Sleazy Delight

To explain how on earth I am giving a positive review to 3 Days to Kill, I must cite the late, great Roger Ebert. He referred to his reviewing style as “relative, not absolute,” meaning that he compared a film to others in its genre and judged it against what it was aiming for –…

“Mitt” and the Myth of the Apolitical Campaign Film

There is probably an incisive political documentary that could have been made from the footage that was shot for Mitt, but it’s certainly not this one. The behind-the-scenes doc about Mitt Romney’s two presidential campaigns eschews politics and policy almost completely, instead focusing its narrow gaze on Romney the loving husband, father of five, and…

A Rare Flaw Dooms “August: Osage County”

The dysfunctional family drama is practically a genre unto itself (I’m sure Netflix has a micro-genre for it), and August: Osage County sticks to its tropes. In fact, when you hear the plot, you’ll feel like you’ve already seen it: A dysfunctional family comes together in the home of its matriarch for a weekend of simmering…

The Shameless Propaganda of “Saving Mr. Banks”

For viewers inclined toward anti-corporate sentiment  – which is probably more than a few of you these days – Saving Mr. Banks will be an uphill climb from the start. The story itself doesn’t set off too many red flags: P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of the novel on which Mary Poppins was based,…

“Philomena” is a Sneaky Good Tale

“Philomena,” a winning new dramedy from director Stephen Frears, is a prime example of a storytelling technique known as the Trojan Horse. Like the Greeks at the gates of Troy, the film uses a genial, familiar tone and a well-worn genre to sneak in an edgy political message to an audience that might otherwise be…

Awful Execution Ruins “Ender’s Game”

Ender’s Game is famous for, among other things, the long, winding road it took to the big screen. Adapted from the “unfilmable” young adult novel by Orson Scott Card, many producers have tried and failed to get the teen sci-fi flick off the ground. But with its thematic similarities to The Hunger Games and its…