Review: Into the Woods

It’s tricky to translate musicals onto the big screen for a modern audience, which is why we rarely see them at the local cineplex. Les Miserables was an exception and surprised a lot of people with its strong box office performance, but it’s hard to think about another recent live action musical that was worth watching. Following its previous hit, the Disney musical Into the Woods is unsurprisingly similar to Les Miserables with its superb sets and star-studded cast. The…Read More

Review: Captain Phillips

We read the stories in the newspaper, about Somali pirates boarding a cargo ship or tanker and holding the crew for ransom. But it’s always been implausible. Pirates are like Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in Pirates of the Caribbean, foppish, overdressed and certainly not particularly dangerous or even relevant in modern times with automatic weapons, GPS navigational systems and live satellite surveillance. The remarkably gripping film Captain Phillips goes a long way to explain why…Read More

Review: Dark Shadows

A creepy goth tale of love and revenge, a 17th century vampire out of place in 1970’s Maine, a troubled family fallen on bad times. Based on a popular soap opera of the 1960s, the film version of Dark Shadows suffers from some horrible scenes and a story that gets increasingly incoherent as it proceeds to its predictable, though completely incomprehensible ending. Dark Shadows is the eighth collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp,…Read More

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

It’s a cinematic rule of thumb: the further into a series, the worse the film. There are a lot of reasons for this but the primary is that the first film in a series always introduces the characters, the world they inhabit, and the basic tension between them. In the Pirates of the Caribbean series, we first met Johnny Depp’s memorable Captain Jack Sparrow in The Curse of the Black Pearl, and it was a…Read More

Review: The Tourist

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie!  Is there anything else people needed to know about this movie to make The Tourist a success?  Actually, yes, and while it was reasonably enjoyable to see two of the brightest stars in Hollywood finally share the screen, it turns out that the film has garnered lots of bad – and perhaps unjustified – reviews. Rotten Tomatoes, for example, shows an aggregate score of 20%, making it the most disliked…Read More

Review: Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s immortal story Alice in Wonderland has been brought to the big screen many times, notably 1951’s animated Disney classic that memorialized the different characters in the story for many adults. With 61 title matches in the Internet Movie Database, it’s safe to say it’s a popular starting point for movie makers. That’s an intimidating challenge, especially for a director like Tim Burton who generally tackles stories that haven’t been shown in film before and…Read More

Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

If you’ve never seen a Terry Gilliam film before, you’ll be baffled and likely frustrated by the storytelling style and visual exaggeration that are trademarks of his weird and wonderful movies.  A former member of the comedy team Monty Python, a peculiarly English sense of humor suffuses his films too, from Time Bandits to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to Brazil. In the spirit of disclosure, I am a big fan of Gilliam’s work and have looked…Read More

Review: Public Enemies

Biopics are an unusual challenge for a filmmaker because the storyline is already set, whether it makes sense and whether we can understand the motivations of the characters or not. As I watched the lush, but violent Public Enemies, I kept thinking that the reason there was no story, no backstory on the characters, and no depth to the film was just this reason: we were being presented with the sequence of events as they…Read More