Safety Not Guaranteed tells the story of Darius (Aubrey Plaza), a bored intern at a Seattle magazine. While researching a human interest story about Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a scientist/ store clerk who has placed a newspaper ad looking for a companion to accompany him into the future, Darius finds herself learning valuable life lessons about trust, loss, hope and, of course, love.
Writer-director Todd Solondz is the patron saint of schlubs and schlemiels. From his award-winning debut film Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996) through a series of low-budget projects, he casts an empathic eye on outsiders who can’t catch a break, no matter how hard they try.
In cinema, children generally represent wisdom. Their innocence suggests a mind and spirit that has not yet been polluted by anger, disappointment, jealousy, greed, bitterness or any of the other flaws and foibles that accumulate as we turn the corner from adolescence to adulthood.
Whenever people complain to me about the lack of “realistic” movies out there, I point them to tiny gems such as Ann Hui’s A Simple Life, Hong Kong’s entry for last year’s Oscar for best foreign language film.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, by British director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), is a “hands across the water” movie flavored with large doses of “there’ll always be an England” pluck. It culminates in a warm and thoughtful look at our innate ability to rediscover unexplored strengths within ourselves even on the last few miles of life’s journey.
The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, are known for their low-key, plot-light, character-heavy tales of survival, usually played out in a small Belgian town that serves as their spiritual microcosm and often focused on the struggles of children to make it to adulthood in one piece. The Kid with a Bike, which won a top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, continues down this path, though Dardenne purists may find fault with the film’s upbeat conclusion, a contrast to the harsher endings of their earlier efforts.
Readers of a certain age may remember “women’s pictures,” those four-hankie weepies from the 1940s and ’50s. Celebrated British director Terence Davies has lovingly embraced the once-popular genre via an adaptation of the 1952 play The Deep Blue Sea.
is a highly ambitious piece of work. It successfully tackles a range of
topics and themes, from class, religion and gender to pride, guilt and
justice. It is a tale that appears uniquely Iranian but quickly
transcends physical and spiritual borders to portray the difficulty of
doing the right thing under difficult, even life-threatening
Undefeated is a solid piece of filmmaking that is also too little
too late. The Oscar-winning documentary by Daniel Lindsay and T. J.
Martin concerns the travails of a high school football team in a poor
black neighborhood of North Memphis that overcomes years of futility
thanks in large part to a white volunteer coach who inspires them to
believe in themselves both on and off the field.
Albert Nobbs's journey from page to stage to screen has been long
and bumpy. Simone Benmussa adapted a short story by Irish writer George
Moore into the play The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs; this was
then nearly made into a film by the celebrated Hungarian director Istvan
Szabo. The fact that the project was still alive and kicking in 2011 is
due, in large part, to the determination of Glenn Close.
Carnage plays out entirely in a New York City apartment, where
two couples are trying to deal with a playground incident involving
their 11-year-old sons, one of whom struck the other in the mouth with a
stick. In the process, the film—directed and coscripted by Roman
Polanski, based on Yasmina Reza's play God of Carnage—peels back the skin of each supposedly caring parent, revealing the person beneath the civilized facade.
The primary reason to immerse yourself in the jagged world of We Need to Talk About Kevin
is the towering lead performance by Tilda Swinton, an actress of
continuing spontaneity who traveled a circuitous route through
experimental and art cinema before embarking on a second career in the
Judging by the ads, you might think that this tale of a former high
school prom queen who returns to her small Minnesota town to reclaim her
old boyfriend is a light story filled with big yucks and a happy
ending. But director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody are serving up a dark story about wasted lives
and shattered dreams that coyly takes a few cheap potshots at the
clueless folks who populate a small town.
This first feature by writer-director Sean Durkin, a big hit at the 2011
Sundance Film Festival, centers on an enigmatic character with a
minimal backstory. Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is a 22-year-old who has
spent the past two years living in a cult community in upstate New York.
You might assume that an NC-17 movie about sex addiction starring the
striking Michael Fassbender and featuring rampant nudity and graphic
depictions of various sex acts would have a certain erotic allure. You
would be wrong.
Lars von Trier has been churning out grim tales of human frailty and
moral depravity for almost 20 years. His latest is a disturbing tale of personal pain juxtaposed with an eerie end-of-the-world story.
Depending on your tolerance or affection for epic morality plays, Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret
may either feel too long and subplot-laden, with one too many plot
twists, or a bit thin and sketchy (despite a running time of two and a