The Film Gang

Wild Tales

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Listen above to the review by Dennis Morton.

Maps to the Stars

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Listen above, to the review by Dennis Morton – and read it below.

Maps To The Stars is a very strange film. It’s filled with subjects and situations that most of us don’t talk about, at least in public. It’s described as a comedy, and indeed, there are laughs. But the humor is almost unrelentingly dark. If I had to describe it in a sentence, I’d say the movie is a vicious satire on the self-obsession that sometimes accompanies fame. Unsurprisingly, it’s set in Hollywood?

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Mr. Turner

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Listen to the review by David H. Anthony, above.

Two Days, One Night

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton, and read it below.

Two Days, One Night is a film by the Dardenne brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre. They wrote and directed it. Its star is Marion Cotillard. She plays a woman named Sandra, an employee of a company that produces solar panels.

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2015 Oscar Nominated Shorts

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Listen above, and read David H. Anthony’s story below.

Each year the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences votes on short films in two categories, animated and live action. Last year’s entries were discussed
separately by me and my colleague, Dennis Morton. Today I assess some Oscar nominated animated entries.

The animated shorts were subdivided into two segments, animated shorts and additional animated shorts, totaling 10 films in all. Animated films represent a wide range of visual possibilities, from dazzling imagery to relatively simply sketched, plot-driven originals. There is something for everyone in this set, films awash in color and spare chiaroscuro creations, heavy on dark and light, using sequences evoking the era of black and white. Some have dialogue while others do not. Some feature human figures while others are like fables, with animals appearing with human characteristics, with or without words.

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Blackhat

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read it below.

At the outset, let me say that I rarely attempt to review thrillers. Part of the reason is that there aren’t many thrillers that I end up appreciating, and generally, I only write about films that I like. I do admit, though, that the genre is a guilty pleasure and that I occasionally scratch the itch.

Which brings me to Blackhat. I left the theatre realizing that I’d been ‘glued’, as they say, to the screen for the full two hours and thirteen minutes of its duration. Yes, I was thoroughly entranced, but I wasn’t at all sure why. So, I went back two more times to find out, and each time, I realized I liked it more and more.

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Selma

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Listen to David H. Anthony’s review above, and read it below.

While technically a 2014 product, the mid-January release of Ava DuVernay’s Selma coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
As well as chronicling it, the film has already made history as the first film directed by an African-American woman to become a serious contender for major awards.

Selma stars Nigerian-British David Oyelowo as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at a pivotal and extremely vulnerable time in his public and private life. While the Civil Rights Movement is struggling in the trenches to implement the halting gains achieved principally in the streets, and most recently to actualize the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Dr. King, its pre-eminent spokesperson is set to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Meanwhile, the stress and strain of the movement has invaded every part of the King household. Coretta Scott King, played by Nigerian-Scottish Carmen Ejogo confronts Dr. King about charges of infidelity leaked through FBI wiretaps. The drama, therefore, operates on multiple levels throughout Selma.

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Into the Woods

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read it below.

I had neither seen nor heard of Stephen Sondheim’s musical, Into The Woods, before I watched the film version of it. And I wasn’t terribly keen on watching the film, either, but my companion cajoled me into it. I am so grateful she did, because I haven’t enjoyed myself at the movies this much in a long time, not withstanding an uncomfortable moment when Johnny Depp’s Big Bad Wolf character envisions a deplorable act with Little Red Riding Hood.

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Top Five

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Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, and read it below.

As the holiday season closes another cinematic year, film producers, directors, stars, their agents, publicists and other movers and shakers jockey for position in advance of Oscars. Behind the image makers lie real human beings striving to live actual lives off stage, off script often fighting the same horrible demons as audiences seeing their screen personae.

The Top Five of the title references one’s musical favorites in order of importance and/or influence, chiefly in hiphop. Chris Rock’s latest work traces recent episodes in the career of Andre Allen, a black stand-up comic who transitioned to film farce and now wishes to recreate himself. Like Birdman, it tells a tale of the difficulty of transcending typecasting.

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Foxcatcher

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read it below.

I’m not a fan of ignorance, but I must say, I’m glad I wasn’t familiar with the true story that Foxcatcher is based on. I’m glad also that the preview of the film managed to pique my interest without revealing any of the essential dramatic details.

Foxcatcher is a character study of three people: Mark Schultz, an Olympic gold medal wrestler, his brother Dave, also an Olympic gold medal wrestler, and John du Pont, scion of the du Pont Family and its vast fortune.

The movie opens with a series of old photographs and short film clips depicting preparation for the so called ‘sport’ of fox hunting. There are dozens of hounds being readied for the chase and a posse of formally attired hunters on horseback. And finally, a short clip of a lone fox running for its life across an open field.

These antiquated portraits of an actual fox hunt amount to a metaphor for the story that follows. But in this story, there are two foxes, and one of them doesn’t even know he’s being hunted.

Steve Carell plays John du Pont. He is magnificent in the role. Carell’s du Pont is a soft spoken megalomaniac. The one thing that his massive fortune can’t seem to buy is self respect and a genuine friendship. And du Pont is desperate for it. He is a man of many interests and not inconsiderable talents. One of the running jokes in Foxcatcher is a verbal repetition of a handful of the numerous ‘ists’ that du Pont is: author, ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist – author, ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist.

In his feckless drive for self esteem, du Pont attempts to lure the Schultz brothers to Foxcatcher Farms, his grandiloquent estate in rural Pennsylvania, not far from Valley Forge. He succeeds in talking Mark, the younger brother, into joining him, ostensibly to train for the 88 Seoul Olympics. (Among other things, du Pont imagines himself to be a wrestling coach.) But Dave Schultz, happily married and with two children, turns down the offer.

Channing Tatum plays Mark Schultz. Tatum’s Schultz is an insecure, closet masochist. At the time of du Pont’s offer, notwithstanding his recent 1984 Olympic gold medal, Mark is living in near poverty. He packs his few belongings and drives to Foxcatcher Farms, leaving, for the first time in his life, his brother Dave behind.

Eventually, Dave does decide to pack up his family and join his brother at Foxcatcher Farms. Dave’s job is to train and work-out with a team of aspiring Olympians. du Pont, to his dismay, discovers that Dave cannot be coerced into the kinds of self-destructive behaviors that he lured brother Mark into. What follows will likely shock you, if, like me, you are unfamiliar with the true life events that Foxcatcher is based on.

Mark Ruffalo is great as Dave Schultz. Channing Tatum is terrific as his brother Mark. And Steve Carell should get an Oscar nomination for his portrait of John du Pont.

Foxcatcher is one of the best films of the year. Don’t miss it.