Monday, December 29, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies", "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb", "The Water Diviner", "The Book of Life"

Julien Faddoul

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The story concludes, beginning mere seconds after the previous film.
Shorter than the previous two films but even more laborious, with battle after battle with no incentives. Good effects.

d – Peter Jackson
w – Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro   (Based on the Novel by J.R.R. Tolkien)
ph – Andrew Lesnie
pd – Dan Hennah
m – Howard Shore
ed – Jabez Olssen
cos – Richard Taylor, Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey

p – Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Zane Weiner

Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O'Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Cate Blanchett, Mikael Persbrandt

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Retrospective: The Last 25 Years of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Julien Faddoul

The Jeffrey Katzenberg Era

The Little Mermaid (1989) ***

A mermaid falls in love with a prince and longs to be human.
The film that opened the door for the Disney Renaissance, reestablishing the commitment to superior animation and an excellent score. The rampant sentimentality is forgiven.

Writer/Director – John Musker, Ron Clements
Music – Alan Menken
Lyrics – Howard Ashman
Original Score – Alan Menken
Art Director – Michael A. Peraza, Donald A. Towns
Editor – John Carnochan
Visual Effects Supervisor – Mark Dindal
Layout Supervisor – David A. Dunnet
Background Supervisor – Donald A. Towns
Clean-Up Supervisor – Vera Lanpher

Supervising Animators
Mark Henn
Glen Keane
Duncan Marjoribanks
Ruben A. Aquino
Andreas Deja
Matthew O’Callaghan

Producer – Howard Ashman, John Musker

Cast: Rene Auberjonois, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, Paddi Edwards, Buddy Hackett, Jason Marin, Kenneth Mars, Edie McClurg, Will Ryan, Ben Wright, Samuel E. Wright

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Annie", "Horrible Bosses 2", "St. Vincent"

Julien Faddoul


A foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, sees her life change when a business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in.
Icky stock confection taped together with fabricated vocals and some truly atrocious acting.

d – Will Gluck
w – Will Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna   (Based on the Musical Book by Thomas Meehan)
ph – Michael Grady
pd – Marcia Hinds
m – Greg Kurstin
ed – Tia Nolan
cos – Renee Ehrlich Kalfus

p – Jay Brown, Will Gluck, James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Caleeb Pinkett, Tyran Smith, Will Smith, Jay-Z

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Monday, December 15, 2014

Big Hero 6 (US/2014)

Julien Faddoul

*** (3 stars)

d – Don Hall, Chris Williams
w – Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson   (Based on the Characters Created by Duncan Rouleau, Steven T. Seagle)
pd – Paul Felix
m – Henry Jackman
ed – Tim Mertens

p – Roy Conli

Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

In reading other reviews of Big Hero 6, the 54th feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, many critics seem to be pestered by the film’s association with Marvel Studios. The Marvel brand has, in this day and age, become a classification of its own. The movie has flying jetpacks, a gigantic city under destruction, a superhero who self-sacrifices and a Stan Lee cameo – all things that have become tiresome tropes in big-budget Marvel moviemaking. Many have identified these aspects to explain their drudging experience.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Serena", "Get on Up", "Why Don’t You Play in Hell?"

Julien Faddoul

Serena *

Set in 1930s North Carolina, a man’s timber empire is in jeopardy when it becomes clear that his wife is as barren as the land he harvests.
Once again, Bier’s blockheaded use of metaphor paralyzes her own drama here, as well as the miscasting of her two leads.

d – Susanne Bier
w – Christopher Kyle   (Based on the Book by Ron Rash)
ph – Morten Søborg
pd – Richard Bridgland
m – Johan Söderqvist
ed – Pernille Bech Christensen, Matthew Newman, Simon Webb
cos – Signe Sejlund

p – Ben Cosgrove, Mark Cuban, Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz, Todd Wagner, Nick Wechsler

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, Sean Harris, Sam Reid, Blake Ritson

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Night Crawler", "Exodus: Gods and Kings", "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"

Julien Faddoul

Nightcrawler *

An unemployment lunatic, who has been driven to thievery, finds a job in the world of LA crime journalism.
Unsettling thriller/black comedy that is far too satisfied with itself and its rather obvious delineations on the corruption of human decency to be at all illuminating, despite a committed central performance.

wd – Dan Gilroy
ph – Robert Elswit
pd – Kevin Kavanaugh
m – James Newton Howard
ed – John Gilroy
cos – Amy Westcott

p – Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal. Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "The Theory of Everything", "What If", "Men, Women & Children"

Julien Faddoul

The Theory of Everything *

A retelling of the relationship between famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
Flat and dull biopic with only the occasional insightful observation seeping through its tameness. It’s ironic that a film about a man who was so revolutionary can be so stodgy.

d – James Marsh
w – Anthony McCarten   (Based on the Book by Jane Hawking)
ph – Benoit Delhomme
pd – John Paul Kelly
m – Johann Johannsson
ed – Jinx Godfrey
cos – Steven Noble

p – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Maxine Peake, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Abigail Cruttenden, Guy Oliver-Watts

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1", "Maps to the Stars", "The Homesman"

Julien Faddoul

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Katniss Everdeen reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the autocratic Capitol.
Under-lit, choppy and shapeless film that serves merely as set-up for the next installment.

d – Francis Lawrence  
w – Peter Craig, Danny Strong   (Based on the Novel by Suzanne Collins)
ph – Jo Willems  
pd – Philip Messina 
m – James Newton Howard  
ed – Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa  
cos – Kurt and Bart

p – Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interstellar (2014/US)

Julien Faddoul

* (1 star)

d – Christopher Nolan
w – Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
ph – Hoyte Van Hoytema
pd – Nathan Crowley
m – Hans Zimmer
ed – Lee Smith
cos – Mary Zophres 

p – Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst, Emma Thomas

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Matt Damon, Mackenzie Foy, David Gyasi, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Timothée Chalamet, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is a bold film. It has an urgency and a sense of concord that is evident in all his films. Regrettably, as his career has progressed, that urgency has turned to bombast and that sense of concord has become more like pacification. Interstellar contains all these things, but unfortunately, the latter outweigh the former.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Fury", "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya", "Listen Up Philip"

Julien Faddoul


As WWII approaches its end, a tank of five men are ordered to go on a mission behind enemy lines.
Violent American WWII film that despite clear attempts to take the material seriously becomes marinated in its own heavy-handedness. It remains merely a wallow in machismo dramatics.

wd – David Ayer
ph – Roman Vasyanov
pd – Andrew Menzies
m – Steven Price
ed – Jay Cassidy, Dody Dorn
cos – Owen Thornton

p – David Ayer, Bill Block, John Lesher, Ethan Smith

Cast: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, Jim Parrack, Brad William Henke, Kevin Vance

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Two Days, One Night", "Before I Go to Sleep", "This is Where I Leave You"

Julien Faddoul

Two Days, One Night ***

A solar-panel factory employee who has recently suffered a nervous breakdown has one weekend to convince her colleagues they must give up their bonuses in order for her to keep her job.
Totally absorbing Belgium film about retaining self-wroth through the dichotomy of work and grace, shot with the directors’ typical naturalistic eye. Though this plot is their most affected, their meticulousness and care remains unparalleled.

wd – Jean-Pierre Darenne, Luc Dardenne
ph – Alain Marcoen
pd – Marie-Hélène Dozo
ed – Igor Gabriel
cos – Maïra Ramedhan Levi

p – Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd

Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée, Christelle Cornil, Olivier Gourmet, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Batiste Sornin, Timur Magomedgadzhiev

Monday, October 20, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Starred Up", "Force Majeure", "A Walk Among the Tombstones"

Julien Faddoul

Starred Up ***

A teenage offender's violent behavior gets him moved to an adult prison in Ireland that includes his long-incarcerated father.
Searing prison drama that ranks as one of the best of its kind: It impeccably weaves the grand illusion of virtue in an environment that deconstructs men to their core depravity. The acting is extraordinary.

d – David Mackenzie
w – Jonathan Asser
ph – Michael McDonough
pd – Tom McCullagh
ed – Jake Roberts, Nick Emerson
cos – Susan Scott

p – Gillian Berrie

Cast: Jack O'Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend, Sam Spruell, Peter Ferdinando, Anthony Welsh, David Ajala, Raphael Sowole, Gershwyn Eustache

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whiplash (2014/US)

Julien Faddoul

* (1 star)

wd – Damien Chazelle
ph – Sharone Meir
pd – Melanie Jones
m – Justin Hurwitz
ed – Tom Cross
cos – Lisa Norcia

p – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michal Litvak

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist

Whiplash is the persistent, rabid story of a music student who studies jazz and wants to be a virtuoso, fastened to a film that doesn’t want to be about either.

I feel that the film could get away with misunderstanding the former, but the fact that it misunderstands the latter is what is so egregious. Speaking as someone who spent years studying under intense situations an aesthetic craft – in my case, the art of acting – I have seen the detrimental effects that blinding artists into athletes has, not only on the artist, but also on the culture.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "The Judge", "Tusk", "God Help the Girl"

Julien Faddoul

The Judge

A successful lawyer returns to his hometown for his mother's funeral only to discover that his estranged father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder.
Desultory, wan family drama where characters treat each other with needlessly glib and complicated actions instead of using easily accessible common sense.

d – David Dobkin
w – David Dobkin, Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
ph – Janusz Kaminski
pd – Mark Ricker
m – Thomas Newman
ed – Mark Livolsi
cos – Marlene Stewrat

p – David Dobkin, Susan Downey, David Gambino

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Leighton Meester, Ken Howard

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Gone Girl", "The Immigrant", "Obvious Child"

Julien Faddoul

Gone Girl ***

With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
Staggeringly realized, preposterously plotted pulp-thriller that constantly remodels itself throughout its duration. What begins as a tawdry crime drama, becomes an electrifying depiction of the inherent aspects of reciprocity in human relationships. It signifies a director with a total command of his cinematic powers.

d – David Fincher
w – Gillian Flynn   (Based on the Novel by Gillian Flynn)
ph – Jeff Cronenweth
pd – Donald Graham Burt
m – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
ed – Kirk Baxter
cos – Trish Summerville

p – Cean Chaffin,. Joshua Donan, Arnon Milchan, Reese Witherspoon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, David Clennon, Lisa Banes, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski, Sela Ward, Scoot McNairy, Casey Wilson, Lola Kirke, Boyd Holbrook

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "The Equalizer", "Dracula Untold", "Wish I Was Here"

Julien Faddoul

The Equalizer

A former black ops commando who has faked his death comes out to rescue a young girl from Russian gangsters.
Flaccid and stiff action-thriller that seems to be a throwback to the kind given to us in the 90s. It showboats its star as someone who has now become an exasperating parody of himself.

d – Antoine Fuqua
w – Richard Wenk   (Based on the Television Series by Michael Sloan, Richard Lindheim)
ph – Mauro Fiore
pd – Naomi Shohan
m – Harry Gregson-Williams
ed – John Refoua
cos – David C. Richardson

p – Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Eldridge, Mace Neufeld, Alex Siskin, Michael Sloan, Steve Tisch, Denzel Washington, Richard Wenk

Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, David Meunier, Johnny Skourtis

Monday, September 29, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "The Boxtrolls", "The Maze Runner", "We Are the Best!"

Julien Faddoul

The Boxtrolls ***

A human boy raised by trash-collecting trolls attempts to save them from an evil pest exterminator.
Dark, Dickensian, at times gross stop-motion film from Laika about the detrimental shyness that one formulates with one’s own families, politics and class-system. It oozes invention with every scene.

d – Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable
w – Irena Brignull, Adam Pava   (Based on the Novel by Alan Snow)
pd – Paul Lasaine
m – Dario Marianelli
ed – Edie Bleiman Ichioka

p – Travis Knight, David Bleiman Ichioka

Cast: Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Sin City: A Dame to Kill for", "Night Moves", "The Congress", "The Identical"

Julien Faddoul

Sin City: A Dame to Kill for

Some of Sin City's most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants.
A movie who’s sole intention is to show the audience some hats and coats and cigarettes and boobs and rain; beyond contempt.

d – Frank Miller, Robert Rodriquez
w – Frank Miller   (Based on the Graphic Novels by Frank Miller)
ph – Robert Rodriquez
pd – Caylah Eddleblute, Steve Joyner
m – Robert Rodriquez, Carl Thiel
ed – Robert Rodriquez
cos – Nina Proctor

p – Robert Rodriquez, Sergei Bespalov, Aaron Kaufman, Stephen L’Heureux, Mark C. Manuel, Alexander Rodnyansky

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime King, Juno Temple, Stacy Keach, Marton Csokas

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MANAKAMANA (Nepal/US/2014)

Julien Faddoul

** (2 stars)

d – Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez
ph – Pacho Velez
ed – Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez

p – Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel

MANAKAMANA begins in absolute darkness. We hear a loud clank, confusing and unnerving. It is soon visually clarified as the noise of a cable car set into action.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Crisp Criticism - "Boyhood", "Magic in the Moonlight", "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"

Julien Faddoul

Boyhood ***

12 years in the life of a Texas boy.
An affecting, at times overwhelming experience: A film about the process of the organic specimen shot over the course of 12 years. For 165 minutes, one is walking on a tightrope of humanity vs. menace both fictively and aesthetically. Not all of it works – Linklater’s narrative is so glib and generalized – but it certainly is a vital document.

wd – Richard Linklater
ph – Lee Daniel, Shane F. Kelly
pd – Rodney Becker, Gay Studebaker
ed – Sandra Adair
cos – Kari Perkins

p – Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Libby Villari, Marco Perella, Jamie Howard, Andrew Villarreal

Magic in the Moonlight *

A master magician begins to doubt his chronic skepticism when he meets a medium whom he believes is the real deal.
Another delightful film by the 78-year-old master done completely on autopilot, exploring themes he has covered countless times before.

wd – Woody Allen
ph – Darius Khondji
pd – Anne Seibel
ed – Alisa Lepselter
cos – Sonia Grande

p – Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson

Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Hamish Linklater, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Erica Leerhsen, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

A group of mutated warriors face off against an evil kingpin who wants to take over New York.
Atrocious, loud and brainless reboot of the children’s franchise with ugly images, incoherent action and poor performances.  

d – Jonathan Liebesman
w – Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Evan Daugherty   (Based on the Characters Created by Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman)
ph – Lula Carvalho
pd – Neil Spisak
m – Brian Tyler
ed – Joel Negron, Glen Scantlebury
cos – Sarah Edwards   

p – Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Scott Mednick, Galen Walker

Cast: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub