Film Reviews

Sing Street from Ireland, A Bigger Splash from Italy: Neglected realities

By Joanne Laurier, 28 May 2016

John Carney’s Sing Street is a musical comedy-drama set in Dublin in the mid-1980s. Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, based on a 1969 French thriller, takes its name from a painting by British artist David Hockney.

High-Rise: A film version of J.G. Ballard’s novel

By David Walsh, 27 May 2016

Like the novel, the film—set in the mid-1970s—begins with its central character calmly sitting on the balcony of his 25th floor apartment eating roast dog.

Cash Only: What interests contemporary filmmakers and what doesn’t

By David Walsh, 25 May 2016

Cash Only is an independent American film set in the Detroit area. The film takes place in the Albanian community.

Captain America: Civil War—A waste of resources, technology and human skill

By David Walsh, 23 May 2016

What are these performers doing in this film? Is there any major film actor at present who would say “No” to this sort of project?

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 4

Maggie’s Plan, Frank & Lola, along with Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932)

By Joanne Laurier, 20 May 2016

Some not very good new films—and better old ones.

Money Monster: Who are the criminals?

By Joanne Laurier, 18 May 2016

Money Monster is the latest film to depict the consequences of the 2008 financial crash and the criminal manipulations of the financial elite.

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 3

Radio Dreams, about Iranian Americans—and the problem of images without insight

By David Walsh, 17 May 2016

Radio Dreams is a pleasurable experience. Other films at the San Francisco festival––The Event, No Home Movie, Counting, Five Nights in Maine––fared less well.

An interview with Babak Jalali, director of Radio Dreams

By David Walsh, 17 May 2016

The WSWS spoke to Babak Jalali during the recent San Francisco International Film Festival.

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 2

The Return, about released prisoners, and other social dramas (or comedies)

By Joanne Laurier, 13 May 2016

In a number of the films screened at the festival, their creators were evidently overwhelmed by the disintegrating social structures in some of the most impoverished parts of the world.

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 1

Look at today’s filmmaking … then look at the world

By David Walsh, 11 May 2016

The recent San Francisco International Film Festival, in its 59th edition, screened some 175 films, including approximately 100 feature-length films, from 46 countries.

Everybody Wants Some!!—Richard Linklater goes to college

By Hiram Lee, 10 May 2016

Everybody Wants Some!! is the latest coming-of-age tale from the American independent film director.

Looking for Grace—a strangely cold story about a teenager leaving home

By John Harris, 9 May 2016

The movie centres on the efforts of a lower middle-class couple to find their runaway teenage daughter and only child.

Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Are the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet a genuine alternative to contemporary filmmaking?

By David Walsh, 7 May 2016

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, beginning May 6, is presenting a retrospective of the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, the Franco-German filmmakers.

Elvis & Nixon, A Hologram for the King: Trivializing culture, history

By Joanne Laurier, 6 May 2016

Two ostensible comedies, Elvis & Nixon and A Hologram for the King, drain their stories of their most important social and historical content.

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba—The banalization of the novelist and his art

By David Walsh, 4 May 2016

The film follows the relationship that develops after a young American journalist in Miami in the mid-1950s writes an admiring letter to novelist Ernest Hemingway, then living in Havana, Cuba.

Songs My Brothers Taught Me: The plight of a Lakota youth

By Norisa Diaz and Kevin Martinez, 2 May 2016

The film is a lyrical and honest look at the poverty and social neglect that affects one of the most historically oppressed communities in the United States.

Class Divide: A close-up look at gentrification, inequality in New York City

By Fred Mazelis, 29 April 2016

Children of hedge fund managers attend private school on Manhattan’s Tenth Avenue, across the street from one of the city’s public housing projects.

Demolition: Take an investment banker apart, and what do you find?

By Carlos Delgado, 20 April 2016

The film tells the story of Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal), a New York investment banker who experiences an emotional unraveling after his wife dies in an automobile accident.

Midnight Special: “Shining the light” on unfreedom in America

By Joanne Laurier, 15 April 2016

Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special is a disturbing science fiction thriller that conveys deep anxiety about the state of the world.

The Program: The success and calamitous failure of Lance Armstrong

By David Walsh, 9 April 2016

The latest film from veteran British director Stephen Frears dramatizes the saga of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s rise to the top and his subsequent disgrace in a doping scandal.

Born to Be Blue and Miles Ahead: Why so much fiction when life is fascinating enough?

By John Andrews, 7 April 2016

Films based on the lives and personas of post-World War II jazz musicians Chet Baker and Miles Davis have been released recently.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—Doom and gloom, with capes

By Carlos Delgado, 6 April 2016

The price tag of the film, including production and marketing costs, approaches half a billion dollars, and some analysts believe it would need an $800 million box office to recoup its investment.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016—Part 3

From Cuba a grim drama (La obra del siglo) and from Argentina a political thriller (El Clan) and a road trip (Camino a La Paz)

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 1 April 2016

The festival showcased films and documentaries from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, and South and Central America.

Eye in the Sky: The liberal war on terror

By Joanne Laurier, 31 March 2016

Eye in the Sky is a political-military thriller in which British and American officials weigh the consequences of a drone strike in Nairobi, Kenya.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016—Part 1

Films from Argentina, Spain and Guatemala: El Movimiento, Hablar, Ixcanul and Tras Nazarin

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 28 March 2016

The festival showcased films and documentaries from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, South and Central America.

I Saw the Light: A biography of country singer Hank Williams

By David Walsh, 26 March 2016

Marc Abraham’s film is an account of the last decade in the life of American country music performer Hank Williams (1923-1953), who died tragically at the age of 29.

Atom Egoyan’s Remember: A Nazi criminal hunted…

By Joanne Laurier, 25 March 2016

Two Auschwitz concentration camp survivors plot to kill the SS guard who murdered their families in Atom Egoyan’s latest film, Remember, a psychological drama.

Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups: It is impossible to learn anything from this

By David Walsh, 19 March 2016

Thematically and stylistically, Malick’s latest film follows in the footsteps of his two previous efforts, The Tree of Life (2011) and To the Wonder (2012).

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4:

Flight and persecution—yesterday and today (The Diary of Anne Frank and Meteorstraße)

By Bernd Reinhardt, 14 March 2016

A new adaptation of the immortal Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, about Nazi persecution, and a film about Palestinian refugees in contemporary Germany.

A Perfect Day: 24 hours in the Bosnian War

By Joanne Laurier, 12 March 2016

Spanish filmmaker Fernando León de Aranoa’s movie A Perfect Day deals with international humanitarian aid workers in the Balkans near the end of the war in the mid-1990s.

Race: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics

By Alan Gilman and David Walsh, 10 March 2016

Stephen Hopkins’ film centers on critical events in the life of African-American track and field legend Jesse Owens.

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 3:

Alone in Berlin—a working class couple opposes the Nazis

By Bernd Reinhardt, 7 March 2016

Vincent Pérez’s film is a new adaptation of Hans Fallada’s novel Every Man Dies Alone (published posthumously in 1947).

Two poor films on the Afghanistan war—Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and A War—and Jonás Cuarón’s Desierto

By Joanne Laurier, 5 March 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a semi-comic treatment of the tragic Afghan conflict; A War from Denmark is ostensibly a more serious effort. Desierto takes up the war against Mexican immigrants.

Deadpool: An anti-superhero?

By Kevin Martinez, 3 March 2016

Although Deadpool tries to subvert the clichéd conventions of the superhero genre, the film is more than anything a conformist effort.

Eighty-eighth Academy Awards: Hopeful signs amidst reactionary “diversity” campaign

By Fred Mazelis, 1 March 2016

The Oscar awards ceremony Sunday night included some welcome notes and surprises, and generally, despite the disorienting campaign waged under the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, revealed a more humane side of Hollywood.

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 2:

A critique of Europe’s refugee policy: On the Berlinale’s Golden Bear for Fire at Sea

By Verena Nees and Bernd Reinhardt, 27 February 2016

This is the second in a series of articles on the recent Berlin international film festival, the Berlinale, held February 11-20, 2016.

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 1:

Refugee crisis takes centre stage at the Berlinale

By Stefan Steinberg, 22 February 2016

The main prize of the festival went to Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) by Gianfranco Rosi, dealing with the fate of refugees attempting to enter Europe.

Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart: Three periods in modern China, a good deal of confusion

By David Walsh, 13 February 2016

Veteran independent Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart is opening in theaters in the US this week.

The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar!: The “Passion” of a film studio troubleshooter

By Joanne Laurier, 9 February 2016

Hail Caesar!, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a comedy about Hollywood set in the early 1950s.

45 Years: A nightmare on the brain of the living?

By David Walsh, 5 February 2016

In Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, a childless, middle class couple living in a provincial English town, are on the eve of their 45th wedding anniversary.

Flint pre-screening of the documentary MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic

Parents fighting lead poisoning denounce government inaction and lies

By Tim Rivers, 4 February 2016

Following a preview screening of the film MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic, which documents the epidemic spread of lead across America, a panel of parents was joined by the director of the film and a state expert for lead risk assessment.

Racialism, art and the Academy Awards controversy

By David Walsh, 30 January 2016

It is no exaggeration to point out that, in ideological terms, Cara Buckley in the New York Times and others, in their obsession with race, are spouting a conception of society and art identified historically with the extreme right.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi—Michael Bay’s mythmaking

By Kevin Martinez, 30 January 2016

Hollywood’s latest propaganda piece tells the story of the 2012 attack on a US base in Libya from a right-wing perspective, with predictable results.

Drone, a Norwegian-made documentary: “We just made orphans out of all these children”

By Joanne Laurier, 29 January 2016

The documentary brings together opponents of the CIA drone program and includes interviews with two former US Air Force drone pilots.

A modern Antigone: Son of Saul by László Nemes

By Dorota Niemitz, 28 January 2016

The debut film of Hungarian director László Nemes depicts the horrors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during the prisoner uprising of October 1944.

Charlie Kaufman’s often charming, moving Anomalisa (and Michael Moore’s feeble Where to Invade Next)

By Joanne Laurier, 23 January 2016

Anomalisa is an adult animated film created with stop-motion puppetry centering around an angst-ridden, self-help author. Where to Invade Next is a non-comment on Washington’s never-ending wars.

Neorealism: We Were Not Just Bicycle Thieves—a documentary on Italian cinema

By Richard Phillips, 19 January 2016

The 72-minute film provides a general outline of neo-realist cinema, but it is a seriously limited one.

The Revenant: Are we all savages? (And Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth )

By Joanne Laurier, 16 January 2016

The Revenant is a sensationalized account of the life of American fur trapper Hugh Glass, who famously survived a mauling by a bear. Youth is a banal meditation on aging.

The 88th Academy Awards nominations

By David Walsh, 15 January 2016

The Academy Award nominations revealed the usual muddle-headedness, liberal good intentions and severe limitations of the social grouping that decides these things.

Concussion: Highlighting the perils of American football

By Alan Gilman, 14 January 2016

Despite its limitations, Concussion serves to bring before a mass audience the grave risks inherent in playing America’s most popular sport.

Carol and The Danish Girl: Real problems, but the danger of exclusivism

By Joanne Laurier, 8 January 2016

The two films address significant subjects that could potentially shed light on society and its moral and psychological condition.

Racism and revenge: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

By Hiram Lee, 7 January 2016

Tarantino’s latest is a deeply unpleasant work, another in a long line of the director’s blood-soaked revenge fantasies.

Frank Capra: The Early Collection—The American filmmaker’s most ambitious and honest work

By Charles Bogle, 6 January 2016

The box set contains five pre-Code movies: Ladies of Leisure (1930), Rain Or Shine (1930), The Miracle Woman (1931), Forbidden (1932) and The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933).

The failure of David O. Russell’s Joy, or, what any “sensible” person should know about modern society

By David Walsh, 5 January 2016

Russell’s film is loosely inspired by the life story of millionaire inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who created a self-wringing mop and other products.

The Big Short: The criminality of Wall Street and the crash of 2008

By Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2015

Adam McKay’s new film The Big Short is a hard-hitting comedy-drama about the 2008 financial meltdown.

Best films of 2015

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2015

The most interesting films we saw in 2015, both those that played in a movie theater in the US and those not yet distributed.

In Jackson Heights: Documentarian Frederick Wiseman on life in a New York City neighborhood

By Mark Witkowski and Fred Mazelis, 29 December 2015

If nothing else, Wiseman’s new documentary is a reminder of the fact that, even in this wealthiest city in the world, the working class makes up the vast majority of the population.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: No real awakening

By Matthew MacEgan and David Walsh, 22 December 2015

The new Star Wars offering serves as the first part of a “sequel” trilogy that tells the story of the next generation by reusing many of the same ideas and visuals.

“Bloody instructions ... return to plague the instructor”

A new film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

By George Marlowe and David Walsh, 19 December 2015

A new version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard emphasizes the bloody, barbaric times.

Legend and Room: Once again, celebrating the underworld—and a peculiar film about captives

By Joanne Laurier, 17 December 2015

Legend is a British crime drama about the Kray twins, London’s most notorious gangsters in the 1960s; Room concerns a mother and her five-year-old son held prisoner in a shed for seven years.

Who would celebrate Hitler today?: The German satirical film Look Who’s Back

By Bernd Reinhardt, 16 December 2015

The satirical film, based on the novel of the same title by Timur Vermes, has been seen by over two million people, making it one of the most watched in Germany this year.

Killing Them Safely: The big business of police tasers

By Kevin Martinez, 15 December 2015

The documentary is a disturbing look at TASER International, the company that has cornered the market for police electro-shock weapons.

Chi-Raq: A satire of social life in Chicago

By George Marlowe, 14 December 2015

In Spike Lee’s latest film, young women in Chicago seek to end gang violence and social breakdown by means of a sex strike.

Brooklyn: Irish immigration through rose-colored glasses

By Joanne Laurier, 10 December 2015

Brooklyn focuses on a young Irish girl who emigrates to America in the early 1950s and struggles with homesickness and adjusting to an alien environment.

Interview with Indian filmmaker Rahul Roy, director of The Factory

By Lee Parsons, 7 December 2015

Roy’s film chronicles the struggle of autoworkers at the assembly plant operated by Maruti Suzuki India, in Manesar, northern India.

Janis: Little Girl Blue–Amy Berg’s valuable documentary about singer Janis Joplin

By David Walsh, 5 December 2015

Singer Janis Joplin, born in Port Arthur, Texas, was immensely popular for the last several years of her life until her tragic demise from heroin and alcohol in October 1970.

Spotlight: A telling exposé of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church

By Joanne Laurier, 3 December 2015

Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is a taut, quasi-political thriller that chronicles the Boston Globe’s 2002 exposure of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area.

The 33: A drama of the 2010 Chilean mine disaster

By Hiram Lee, 2 December 2015

The new film from Mexican-born director Patricia Riggen tells the story of the 2010 mine disaster in Chile, in which 33 miners were trapped underground for more than two months.

Trumbo and the history of the Hollywood blacklist

By Fred Mazelis, 30 November 2015

Jay Roach’s film about the anti-communist Hollywood witch-hunt, though politically limited and marred by the conventions of the biopic genre, deserves to be widely seen.

Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette: What do Mrs. Pankhurst and an East End laundress have in common?

By Joanne Laurier, 28 November 2015

British filmmaker Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is a fictionalized account of the women’s voting rights movement in Britain in the pre-World War I period.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2: Worn seriously thin by now

By David Walsh, 26 November 2015

The new film treats the climax of the struggle in Panem between the rebels, morally led by Katniss Everdeen, and the forces of the Capitol, presided over by the tyrannical President Coriolanus Snow.

The Factory: Documentary brings Indian auto workers’ struggle to an international audience

By Sampath Perera, 25 November 2015

The documentary from filmmaker Rahul Roy sheds important light on the brutal conditions facing workers in India’s rapidly expanding, globally integrated auto industry.

The Holocaust as Via Dolorosa: The mysticism of Piotr Chrzan’s Klezmer

By Dorota Niemitz, 19 November 2015

Piotr Chrzan’s directorial debut deals with the subject of the organized search for the Jews, or the Judenjagd, in Nazi-Occupied Poland.

Force of Destiny—a thoughtful film about surviving cancer

By Richard Phillips, 16 November 2015

Australian filmmaker Paul Cox’s first dramatic feature in seven years explores some of the complex emotional issues confronting those fighting cancer.

“Cinema must have a social conscience”

Veteran filmmaker Paul Cox discusses his latest feature

By Richard Phillips, 16 November 2015

Australian writer and director speaks about Force of Destiny, his artistic approach, concerns about militarism and the commercial pressures on filmmakers.

The Wrecking Crew: The “secret star-making machine” of 1960s pop music

By Joanne Laurier, 14 November 2015

Denny Tedesco’s lively documentary is a heartfelt tribute to a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles, nicknamed the Wrecking Crew, who were behind some of the biggest hits of the 1960s.

Our Brand is Crisis: US political consultants at their dirty work in Bolivia

By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2015

Based on a documentary, the new David Gordon Green movie, Our Brand is Crisis, is a comedy-drama about the activities of American political operatives in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.

Benedict Cumberbatch at the Barbican in London

“Foul deeds will rise…”: Hamlet, in a world on the brink

By George Marlowe, 5 November 2015

The weight of our time is felt, even if unevenly, in the overall mood of the recent production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Truth: The victimization of CBS’s Dan Rather and Mary Mapes

By Fred Mazelis, 4 November 2015

The film at least partly reveals the role of the media as a virtual propaganda arm of the military and the CIA.

Steve Jobs fails to transcend conventional mythologizing

By Kevin Reed, 2 November 2015

Based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography, the film presents its title character as a clairvoyant and brilliant business leader with significant character flaws.

F.W. Murnau’s classic, groundbreaking Nosferatu in US theaters …

… and two poor, new films (Beasts of No Nation, Rock the Kasbah)

By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2015

Several movie theaters in the US are currently screening F.W. Murnau’s classic silent film, Nosferatu (1922). We also look briefly at Rock the Kasbah and Beasts of No Nation.

Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies: An episode from the Cold War

By David Walsh, 24 October 2015

Spielberg’s new film deals with the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in New York City in June 1957 and his subsequent exchange for U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers some five years later.

Coming Home: A small, sincere film about big, complex times

By David Walsh, 20 October 2015

In the late 1970s, after two decades in a remote “rehabilitation camp,” a Chinese political prisoner returns to his long-suffering wife, who does not recognize him.

Sicario: A Zero Dark Thirty for the “war on drugs”?

By Joanne Laurier, 15 October 2015

Denis Villeneuve’s new movie is a crime thriller that deals with the top-secret efforts of American intelligence forces to take down a Mexican drug cartel.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Five

Eight films from Africa, the Middle East, China, Latin America and Eastern Europe: Contemporary social realism

By David Walsh, 14 October 2015

A number of films at the recent Toronto film festival sought, with varying degrees of persuasiveness, to present pictures of modern life with an emphasis on social relationships.

“Artists have the capacity to expose the reality of war”

Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage speaks with the World Socialist Web Site

By Wasantha Rupasinghe, 13 October 2015

Vithanage discusses With You, Without You and the political difficulties facing contemporary Sri Lankan filmmakers.

Black Mass: The story of Whitey Bulger, gangster and FBI informant

By Kevin Martinez, 10 October 2015

Despite exhibiting a healthy cynicism toward the authorities, the film fails to give a satisfying picture of Boston’s underworld, or the city’s social relations, in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution: No lessons learned

By Clare Hurley and Fred Mazelis, 9 October 2015

Riveting video footage along with complacent commentary adds up to a misleading account.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Four

Guantanamo’s Child, Thank You for Bombing, The Hard Stop: Filmmakers take on the global “war on terror” and police violence at home

By Joanne Laurier, 8 October 2015

Several documentaries and fiction films treat the consequences of war in the Middle East and Central Asia and a police killing.

The Martian: A modern Robinson Crusoe

By David Walsh, 7 October 2015

One member of a manned mission to Mars is presumed dead and left behind on the desolate planet.

Time Out of Mind: Richard Gere as a homeless man in New York City

By Robert Fowler, 5 October 2015

Some of the more authentic moments in the film come in the form of George Hammond’s difficulties with government bureaucracies and homeless shelter officials.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Three

I Saw the Light (Hank Williams) and Janis: Little Girl Blue (Janis Joplin)—Popular music and its discontents

By David Walsh, 3 October 2015

Country music performer Hank Williams (1923-1953) and rock and roll singer Janis Joplin (1943-1970) were both significant figures in the history of American popular culture.

Re-released after 40 years: The strengths and weaknesses of Robert Altman’s Nashville

By David Walsh, 30 September 2015

The nearly three-hour work follows two dozen characters over the course of several days in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, the official capital of country music.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part one

The physical and emotional toll that capitalist society takes

By David Walsh, 26 September 2015

The 40th Toronto International Film Festival screened some 285 feature films and 110 shorts from 71 countries.

99 Homes’ director Ramin Bahrani: “The villain is the system”

By Joanne Laurier, 24 September 2015

Iranian-American writer-director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, 2005; Chop Shop, 2007; Goodbye Solo, 2008) has created a compelling work that puts flesh and blood on the foreclosure epidemic.

Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America offers some hints of humanity

By Christine Schofelt, 10 September 2015

A young student in New York City, an aspiring writer, meets her energetic, difficult stepsister-to-be.

Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947): The weight of history

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 5 September 2015

Tourneur’s film, adapted from Build My Gallows High, a novel by American writer Daniel Mainwaring published in 1946, has one of the most suggestive titles in cinema history.

Phoenix: After WWII in Germany, a woman rises from the ashes

By Joanne Laurier, 3 September 2015

Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, a Jewish concentration camp survivor, Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss), is grossly disfigured and traumatized.

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy: The story of a troubled youth

By Laurent Lafrance, 22 August 2015

The fifth feature film by Quebecois director Xavier Dolan, only 25 years of age, won numerous awards in 2014 and 2015.