Harsh Texture

Film Reviews > drama

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    • drama
    | July 31, 2016, 6:16 p.m.
    The old woman comes into the bar from the rain, lured in by the Arabic music she often hears passing by. Feeling a tinge of compassion, one of the patrons at the bar offers her a dance. He’s a tall and well built Moroccan who’s unwieldy name truncated into ‘Ali’. The woman, Emmi, accepts immediately, casting off her funereal black jacket and revealing a loud dress. They dance, and connect over good conversation. Ali offers to walk her home. She offers him a room for the evening. By the end of the night they will be lovers and by
    • biopic
    • drama
    | Oct. 15, 2016, 12:13 p.m.
    For all we know, Bob Crane never told a lie in his life before starring in Hogan’s Heroes. When his wife confronts him about a clandestine collection of porno magazines, he stammers and hedges as though he’d never been accused of anything before. He doesn’t have the capacity to truly sell the lie, but through persistence manages to keep talking and defuse the argument. Played by Greg Kinnear, Bob Crane is a completely guileless, the cartoon portrait of a Eisenhower-era dad. As soon as the pilot for Hogan Heroes wraps he finds his relationship with women has changed
    • black comedy
    • drama
    • mindfuck
    | Feb. 11, 2018, 5:46 p.m.
    Looking to reestablish his career, Riggan Thomas stages a Broadway adaptation of John Cheever’s “What we Talk About When We Talk About Love”. Birdman documents the previews and opening night performance while Riggan is dogged by his most famous role. He is trying to escape the shadow of his public sphere successes as a franchise superhero, desperate to prove his acting chops and bask in the validation of his peers. There are perhaps only two fully fleshed characters in all of Birdman, Riggan (Michael Keaton) and Mike (Ed Norton). The latter is an actor with respect but
    • drama
    | July 18, 2016, 10:48 p.m.
    If there was anything most strands of pop culture could agree on in the nineties, it was that the eighties ruined everything. It ruined the music, the art, the fashion. It was the EIGHTIES that brought down Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Like a kid brother to the Scorsese film, Boogie Nights rushes in to further indict the 1979/1980 dividing line. In no other film does the onset of the EIGHTIES seem so malicious. In the 1970’s portion of the film there are ill omens. Free spending here, a loose wife there, drugs drugs drugs everywhere. The
    • biopic
    • drama
    | Sept. 13, 2016, 10:22 p.m.
    For a movie destined for DVD bin sales and basic cable rotation, Cadillac Record boasts an impressive cast. Adrian Brody, Mos Def, Beyonce, Cedric the Entertainer, et al.. join to tell the story of Chess Records, a Chicago label that played a crucial link between rock and blues in the fifties and sixties. The basic arc of the narrative is common to the rock bio-pic subgenre. There’s an iconoclast who mortgages his staid placid life to commune with an outsider music he loves. That would be Leonard Chess who’s so moved by the rootsy blues of Muddy Waters
    • comedy
    • drama
    | Dec. 10, 2016, 12:32 p.m.
    I first learned of Chef from a breathless article that claimed it got current technology right. After the moderate disappoint of “Her” in that regard, I was more than willing for a film to address tech even if its aims were much more modest. Don’t fall for the opening shot where a disemboweled pig is reduced to cuts of meat. The real key sequence involves an early conversation between Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) and his moppet son, Percy. Casper learns the ages-old dodge of “go ask your mother” as a means for fathers to shirk parental responsibility doesn’t
    • crime
    • drama
    • pre code
    | July 25, 2016, 11:58 p.m.
    The Criminal Code released in 1931 beat the Hays Code enforcement by a good three years. Cinema in pre-code America was free to be fully amoral and give a frank assessment of modern culture. Howard Hawks always made you feel like he was getting away with something. He was an especially clever, even mischievous, filmmaker in an era where the ink hadn’t quite dried on the rules of filmmaking. His precode work displayed precious little respect for the very institutions that would be lauded without question in the decades hence. In The Criminal Code, the legal system is given
    • drama
    | Sept. 5, 2016, 8:07 p.m.
    It’s at the wedding reception for a friend’s child where Hirayama is tapped to give a brief speech. He’s surprised and flustered. To the crowd he compares the courtship between the newlyweds to his own arranged marriage. He sums up his experience as much more “prosaic” and formal. He blesses the new custom, wishing happiness. But Hirayama speaks with a quiver. Perspiration covers his face. This is a man not quite resigned to the new order even if he can admit to its virtues. One of Hirayama’s friends, Mikami, was conspicuously absent from the wedding. Not soon afterwards Mikami materializes
    • action
    • drama
    • Science Fiction
    | July 22, 2017, 5:47 p.m.
    At its core Gravity is a classic survival fable. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is no astronaut, but NASA sends her into orbit as a matter of necessity. She’s the only person who can fix a key component on a telescope. While performing the repair, the detonation of a nearby satelite causes a debris field to leave Ryan stranded thousands of miles above the Earth. In describing his 1971 film, Get Carter, Mike Hodges remarked on his good fortune to have Michael Caine at his disposal. At last he was working with a real movie
  • Her
    • drama
    • Science Fiction
    | June 19, 2017, 1:53 p.m.
    Art in western society has always viewed technology as an omniscient menace. It follows that since computers far outstrip humans in a few narrow disciplines, that narrow inherent superiority begats real superiority and will in some way lead them to lay judgement on the human race. Chief among all such threats are the “thinking machine”. In films such as The Terminator and Wargames they use their processing powers to bring mankind to the brink of extinction. “Her” may belong in the sad western tradition, but it at least acknowledges that technology is now a central facet in
    • drama
    • thriller
    | July 7, 2016, 1:42 a.m.
    Hitchcock famously heaped much of the failure of I Confess on star Montgomery Clift, the self serious method acting, the boozing that showed up in the glazed over eyes. They’d never make another picture together. However Clift is the best thing in I Confess as a young priest who finds the refugee he helped place in the community has committed a murder. Since he discovers this through a confessional he is bound by faith not to divulge either the details of the crime or that the confession happened at all. There’s only the minimum of explanation as to the
    • crime
    • drama
    | July 9, 2016, 1:42 a.m.
    Killing Them Softly should be a simple story. 30 minutes tops. A couple smacked out losers rob a mafia gambling ring, acting with only the faintest assurance that the game’s runner will take the heat. An enforcer’s called in, determines the guilty parties and dispatches them in efficient but gory style. This could’ve served as a one of the Godfather’s myraid tangents without tacking too much onto the running time. Call Luca Brasi. In, out, done. But times aren’t so simple. Killng them Softly is set against the onset of the financial crisis that chased
    • action
    • drama
    | Aug. 5, 2017, 10:57 a.m.
    Of all the business ruts to get stuck in, there’s a particular frustration with casting your lot with an organization that struggles with success. As a company distinguishes itself in the marketplace, everything around it continues to grow. More press, more employees, more customers, more parasites looking to milk a few dollars. The principles that led the organization in its earliest days are tested. Ownership paradoxically will need to cede control, its just not possible for a leader to perform all the tasks required. Eventually responsibilities are divided amongst a management class. This transition is often incredibly difficult for
    • drama
    • mystery
    | Aug. 15, 2016, 10:17 p.m.
    The language of cinema hasn’t changed dramatically since the advent of sound. The general narrative structure was well worn at the end of the silent era. The films that challenge the basic tenets of the medium survive so well because mainstream cinema can never fully absorb their advances. L’Avventura remains a revolutionary film, it creates a whole new language for narrative structure the way Citizen Kane invented a new means of the technical aspects of production. Antonini’s characters are generally competent and intelligent, successful if unfulfilled in life. They are presented with a challenge that immediately consumes
    • drama
    | April 14, 2018, 3:35 p.m.
    Part of bargain in abandoning society in favor of the arts is supposed to be the widening of the self. Art is supposed to deepen thoughts about the human condition, to expose the partaker to greater threads of consciousness. The unstated flipside to this of course is that exposure to art will allow you to become inured to life without actually having to live it. This seems to be Greg’s bargain. He’s deeply immersed in cinema, and lets his counterparts in great film act out his greatest fears. Certainly none of his masturbation humor could ever be worse than
    • comedy
    • crime
    • drama
    • pre code
    | Aug. 12, 2017, 4:09 p.m.
    The synopsis for Night Nurse hangs over it like a dense fog. Certainly it reads like a candidate for the bleakest film of any era: an unproven nurse is pitted against a thug chauffeur who sees a ways to riches through starving a couple of children to death and claiming their inheritance. The thug chauffeur? None other than Clark Gable looking more like Boris Karloff’s evil twin than Rhett Butler. But Night Nurse is an incredibly balanced film, indeed duality is a major theme throughout. Even if after years of “realistic” and “gritty” features, Hollywood still hews to morals
    • drama
    • mindfuck
    | April 22, 2017, 12:46 p.m.
    The first discrete image is a man’s penis, its appearance underscored by the score. Then we launch into five minutes of non sequitur imagery, scenes of bloody gore interspersed with slapstick comedy. If there’s any theme that links these snippets together, its that all of the “actors” are aware, to various degrees, of the camera watching their actions. Finally we settle on a boy, rising from sleep in a completely barren room. His white blanket over the white mattress against white walls. He rubs his eyes and then looks right at us, right through the camera. Now we see the
    • crime
    • drama
    • mindfuck
    | July 1, 2017, 5:57 p.m.
    There isn’t a frame in Ploy that doesn’t feel like an intrusion. Characters are often alone and defensively silent in the frame. The camera rarely captures its subject in full. We see arms and legs, crumpled coats on disturbed sheets, but the faces and bodies often stay out of frame. Rather than panning or zooming to capture more of the scene, the camera stays static, seldomly moving from the partial compositions. The effect makes a member of the audience feel like their spying into the world of Wit and Dang through peepholes. Wit owns a restaurant in
    • drama
    • horror
    • thriller
    | March 27, 2017, 12:12 a.m.
    Secret chambers were once solely the purview of gothic castles. In the mystery thrillers of pre-WWII it was the mansions of the monied elites that hid a few extra rooms. Western society lost its taste for stories involving the damned aristocracy and the evil upper class. Monsters these days tend to come from the people, but the love for the clandestine villain’s lair remains strong. Now our everyman-monsters maintain villainous lairs every bit as fatal as those of their well-off ancestors, even if built on a budget from Home Depot materials. Lurking inside the cookie cutter, McMansion exteriors, modern monsters
    • comedy
    • drama
    • fantasy
    • musical
    | July 4, 2017, 3:42 p.m.
    The runaway success of the Jazz Singer forces the latest Don Lockwood/Lina Lamont romance picture to switch to being a talkie in mid production. No one seems to know how to film sound, and the final product is laughed out of the preview screenings. Lockwood is convinced he can save the picture by turning it into a musical, but his biggest obstacle is his co-star’s weedy voice. Maybe Singin’ in the Rain is not the greatest film ever released, but it typifies the best of the studio system. It may not be filet, but its still steak,
    • comedy
    • crime
    • drama
    • southern
    | May 20, 2017, 5:15 p.m.
    The James Garner con man is an archetype unto itself. Affable, flintly, always working a scheme while working just as hard to avoid physical confrontation. Garner mostly plied his trade in Westerns and Film Noirs (or their stylistic descendants), self contained worlds with little bearing on our reality. The consequences of the gunfights, car chases, duels, and card games didn’t even carry over into subsequent episodes. Maverick and Jim Rockford made a point of avoiding minefields like American race relations. Not for bad reason, either. Race and slavery remain an enormously complicated topic even in the modern
    • drama
    • horror
    | July 21, 2016, 10:20 p.m.
    The rifle’s sights settle on an old man across the street. He has a familiar face however, young Bobby Thompson is more interested in the gun. He returns it to the shop owner with a pleased grin. It’s the shop owner that notices the old man is horror legend Byron Orlock. Bobby smiles, pleasantly but aloof. He purchases the rifle with a check, accepted without any identification due to his “honest face”. Bobby leaves the store, opening the trunk of his white Mustang to reveal revolvers, semi automatics, shotguns, all carefully laid out. With the premium on
    • comedy
    • drama
    • fantasy
    | July 15, 2017, 7:47 p.m.
    Here’s a setup for a redemption arc: Jack (Jeff Bridges), a repugnant shock jock spews bile onto his faithful audience, berating them, harassing them. For his efforts he lives in a huge penthouse overlooking Manhattan and enjoys the company of an attractive model girlfriend. Soon though he gives the wrong advice to the wong caller, who uses their conversation as the pretext to take a shotgun into a restaurant and murder seven innocent people. The film skips ahead three years, Jack sulks in a video store. He’s technically an employee, but really is just leeching off the store
    • comedy
    • drama
    | Feb. 18, 2017, 5:32 p.m.
    None of the characters within struck me as acting as a direct surrogate for Wes Anderson, but its clear he shares a kinship with the staff of the Grand Budapest Hotel. The story is buried in four layers of flashbacks. A girl sits in a cemetery to read the masterpiece of an author beside his gravestone. It’s covered in keys. We then jump back into the mid-eighties where the elderly author recounts writing the novel. Almost immediately we go further back in time to the author’s mid-life in the mid twentieth century. He’s checked himself into the Grand
    • biopic
    • drama
    | May 6, 2018, 11:49 a.m.
    The Imitation Game serves many purposes, a biography of Alan Turing, a commentary on the cruel treatment of homosexuals in Britain throughout the twentieth century, the birthings of computing, and finally as a prestige picture for stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. It can’t be everything at once, unfortunately, and some of the conclusions reached in the closing credits seem a bit forced or unexplored. For instance some of the most dramatic actions taken by Turing’s squad, planning for the D-Day invasion for instance, are totally relegated to the credits. The assertion that cracking Enigma ended the European conflict
    • crime
    • drama
    | Feb. 25, 2018, 6:38 p.m.
    Carol Reed’s The Third Man held its central character, Harry Lime, like a privileged secret. There are no flashbacks just other characters' spoken recollections. Its a deeply nuanced route as every person is not just unreliable, but playing their own game. Their accounts of Harry Lime are at the same time selling their version of the man while sussing out the motivations of their audience. The Mask of Dimitrios, made five years prior to the Third Man shows the immediate flaws of using flashbacks to sell such a story. It was billed, and remembered, as one of Peter Lorre
    • biopic
    • drama
    | Oct. 1, 2016, 4:02 p.m.
    There’s a narrative popular in establishment media, propagated by the stodgy old talking heads and their formulaic entertainment. Contrary to the designation “social networks”, these online platforms that disseminate content have a de-socializing effect on its users. That these platforms that are built around information sharing and messaging have an insidious isolating effect. In this telling, social networks have produced addicts, and coddled mass shooters. Whatever Mark Zukerberg’s true character, writer Sorkin is more interested in shaping him into a human representation of social media flaws. Jessie Eisenberg portrays a clipped bird: sweaty, nervous, and fundamentally antisocial. He is deeply
    • drama
    • legal
    | May 13, 2018, 3:22 p.m.
    In 1982 you didn’t have to go to dystopian Australia to find a square jawed hero who learned to live again while pursuing a suicidal mission for greedy victims. Instead of mutant scavengers The Verdict gives the Catholic Church. Instead of the weak greedy hoarders, its the working class family of a woman left brain dead after negligence while delivering her baby. The Verdict certainly hasn’t remained in pop culture like the Road Warrior. It’s remembered primarily as one of the few films in the courtroom genre who try to present a realistic view of the
    • drama
    | Dec. 26, 2017, 2:14 p.m.
    With all due respect to Andrew (Miles Teller), the young drummer at the center of Whiplash, the next Charlie Parker probably won’t come out of a music conservatory. Charlie Parkers never seem to come out of such environments. No, the elite musicians that come out of such places are the people that can play Charlie Parker, and rehash the leavings of decades-gone giants. I’m not in touch with the workings of the modern New York jazz scene, but playing a good version of Caravan to a sparsely attended concert hall, no matter how prestigious, probably won’t affect
    • drama
    • thriller
    | Jan. 7, 2018, 3:41 p.m.
    Films produced in the heat of a fraught political moment have little use for nuance. The good guys are pure and noble, the villains almost caricatures of evil. Soliloquies to the morals of the ideal society are often delivered in verse. The function is unapologetic propaganda. While this heart on the sleeve approach can play as corniness to those outside of the conflict and the moment, such expressions are still interesting in an anthropological sense. Which gods and heroes will the storytellers hold up as examples of this particular ideal society. Western film too produced many such films, particularly in