Film Reviews

Closed Circuit: The state and its dirty secrets

By David Walsh, 30 August 2013

Closed Circuit is a drama, directed by John Crowley, about the infiltration of a terrorist cell by the British intelligence services and how it goes wrong.

The Spectacular Now: The happiness of youth

By David Walsh, 28 August 2013

James Ponsoldt’s new film treats young people in an American town (it was shot in Athens, Georgia), based on a 2008 novel by Tim Tharp.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler: Identity politics at odds with history

By Joanne Laurier, 23 August 2013

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a fiction film based on the life of Eugene Allen, an African American who worked in the White House for 34 years, from the administration of President Harry Truman to that of Ronald Reagan.

Again on Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets

By Richard Philips, 22 August 2013

The US documentary did poorly at the Australian box office following its release last month and was withdrawn from local cinemas after a few weeks.

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and The Way Way Back

By Joanne Laurier, 16 August 2013

Woody Allen has directed more than 40 films in the past 44 years, not to much purpose in recent years. The Way Way Back is a likable, but overly familiar take on growing up.

Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium: To have or have not

By David Walsh, 13 August 2013

The principal challenge in writing about a film like Elysium, a science fiction work that treats inequality in the year 2154, is to make neither too much nor too little of it.

5 Broken Cameras: “Forgotten wounds can’t be healed”

By Kevin Martinez, 2 August 2013

This Israeli-Palestinian-French co-production movingly depicts the struggle of the Palestinian people against Zionist occupation.

Copperhead: What are these people up to?

By Joanne Laurier, 24 July 2013

What is the significance of director Ron Maxwell, who made the generally laudable Gettysburg two decades ago, coming out with a favorable treatment of Lincoln’s Northern opponents in the year of the battle’s sesquicentennial?

The Act of Killing and The Attack: Mass murder in Indonesia, a suicide bombing in Israel

By Joanne Laurier, 22 July 2013

Two films that were screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 have now opened in North America.

20 Feet From Stardom: The “most incredible artists you’ve never heard of”

By James Brewer, 18 July 2013

Morgan Neville’s documentary explores the phenomenon of backup singers in popular music.

The Lone Ranger: Where is justice?

By Christine Schofelt, 16 July 2013

In a familiar tale with few surprises, the masked “Lone Ranger” rides again.

Dirty Wars: Revealing material, but missing the most important questions

By Joanne Laurier, 11 July 2013

The documentary film, directed by Richard Rowley, follows reporter Jeremy Scahill into the covert, murderous world of American Special Forces as the latter prosecute the US government’s so-called war on terror.

Much Ado About Nothing: The merry war resumed

By David Walsh, 10 July 2013

American film and television producer, director and writer Joss Whedon has adapted William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for the screen.

Star Trek Into Darkness: Militarism in space

By Kevin Martinez and Clodomiro Puentes, 9 July 2013

The twelfth installment of the franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness has made over $438 million in ticket sales as of this writing and is the most profitable installment of the series yet.

The German mini-series Generation War: Five young people traumatized by World War II

By Bernd Reinhardt, 3 July 2013

The television mini-series, which set records for viewership in Germany, depicts the lives of several young people during and after World War II.

A cinematic disinformation job on Julian Assange

Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

By Richard Phillips, 2 July 2013

Peppered with factual errors and outright falsifications, Gibney’s documentary is an attempt to discredit WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and defend the US intelligence apparatus.

Max Brooks’ World War Z brought to the screen, or is it?

By Christine Schofelt, 27 June 2013

After much anticipation and several false starts, Max Brooks’ World War Z has finally hit the screen.

Man of Steel: Superman returns…again

By Hiram Lee, 22 June 2013

Summer blockbuster Man of Steel brings Superman back to theaters in the first of a planned trilogy.

Hannah Arendt: Margarethe von Trotta’s film revisits debate over Eichmann trial

By Fred Mazelis and Stefan Steinberg, 20 June 2013

The film focuses on a few critical years in the life of the German-American writer Hannah Arendt, best known for The Origins of Totalitarianism and her study of the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann.

Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes brought to the screen: An understated examination of grief

By Christine Schofelt, 17 June 2013

Tiger Eyes, based on the book by Judy Blume and directed by Lawrence Blume, is a sensitive look at personal loss.

Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell: Incompleteness as a problem

By Joanne Laurier, 14 June 2013

Frances Ha and Stories We Tell are articulate and well-made films. What’s missing from them, however, is as interesting as what’s there.

Once again, on the filthiness of the makers of Zero Dark Thirty

By David Walsh, 7 June 2013

A leaked government report reveals that Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal attended a CIA awards ceremony in June 2011.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part six

Two very different documentaries: Sofia’s Last Ambulance and Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You—A Concert for Kate McGarrigle

By David Walsh, 4 June 2013

The recent San Francisco film festival screened a number of documentary films, including these two, contrasting works.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part five

La Sirga and In the Fog: When will the “fog of war” settle?

By Kevin Kearney, 30 May 2013

La Sirga from Colombia and In the Fog, from a Belarusian filmmaker, deal with painful wartime situations, with varying degrees of success.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part four

The plight of African boat people in The Pirogue, and other films

By Joanne Laurier, 27 May 2013

Moussa Touré’s The Pirogue is a fictional account of West Africans seeking to escape grinding poverty in a desperate voyage. Also, Joanne Laurier comments on documentaries about the Beatles’ secretary and the Chinese art scene.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part three

Museum Hours and The Artist and the Model: In defense of art and the artistic personality

By David Walsh, 24 May 2013

At least two films at the San Francisco festival treated art, the artistic personality, or both, in a compelling fashion.

Milestone Films’ Mary Pickford: Rags and Riches Collection: The inventor of movie acting

By Charles Bogle, 23 May 2013

Milestone Films’ 2012 release of Mary Pickford: Rags and Riches Collection reacquaints contemporary audiences with silent film star Mary Pickford’s lasting achievements.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part two

Let the Fire Burn and The East: The MOVE bombing in 1985 and present-day anarchism

By Kevin Kearney, 22 May 2013

Let the Fire Burn, about the police bombing of the MOVE compound in Philadelphia in 1985, was one of the most outstanding and challenging documentaries at the San Francisco film festival this year.

Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A clash of rival “fundamentalisms”

By Fred Mazelis, 20 May 2013

Mira Nair’s latest film provides a vivid but limited view of the tension between the US and Pakistan

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part one

The Kill Team: The murderous reality of the US war in Afghanistan

By Joanne Laurier, 16 May 2013

The 56th San Francisco International Film Festival recently concluded. The event this year screened 158 films from 51 countries, including 67 fiction features, 28 documentary features and 63 short films.

A new film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

By David Walsh, 14 May 2013

In the 1925 novel, the various desperate and delusional relationships set off a tragic series of events, which result in death and misery for the upstarts and have-nots. The wealthy characters alone escape unscathed.

HBO’s production of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones unfolds a violent, complex tale

By Christine Schofelt, 10 May 2013

The epic fantasy series takes place on two fictional continents, Westeros and Essos, over the course of many years and involves a civil war over the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms.

New revelations about filmmakers’ collaboration with CIA on Zero Dark Thirty

By David Walsh, 10 May 2013

New information has surfaced about the level of cooperation between Mark Boal, who wrote the script for Kathryn Bigelow’s pro-torture Zero Dark Thirty, and the US intelligence apparatus.

HBO’s Phil Spector: David Mamet’s mythological tale

By James Brewer, 4 May 2013

Playwright David Mamet wrote and directed the docudrama centering on the 2007 murder trial of famed record producer Phil Spector.

42: A tribute to integrating baseball falls short

By Alan Gilman, 25 April 2013

One of baseball’s most iconic moments, the breaking of baseball’s color line in 1947 by Jackie Robinson as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is at the center of Brian Helgeland’s new film.

The Flat: A family examines a Nazi-Zionist friendship

By Fred Mazelis, 22 April 2013

A documentary about a German-Jewish family and its emigration to Palestine 75 years ago raises vital historical issues about the nature and role of Zionism.

The Place Beyond the Pines: Fathers and sons

By David Walsh, 18 April 2013

The new film from director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, 2010), set in and around Schenectady, New York, is made up of several interconnected stories that take place over the course of fifteen years.

No from Chile and The Sapphires from Australia

By Joanne Laurier, 12 April 2013

No by Chilean director Pablo Larraín is the last in a trilogy of films about life under the Pinochet dictatorship. The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, centers on an all-Aboriginal female singing group in the late 1960s.

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States

By Christine Schofelt, 11 April 2013

Untold History is a 10-part documentary series that premiered on Showtime in November 2012. Its stated aim is to shed light on little known or deliberately obscured aspects of American history.

The Gatekeepers from Israel and a film version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

By Joanne Laurier, 4 April 2013

Dror Moreh’s new documentary is a glimpse into the crisis wracking Israeli society. Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles has brought Jack Kerouac’s Beat novel to the screen.

Letter from a reader on Zelary, a Czech film set in World War II

28 March 2013

Zelary is a remarkable 2003 film from the Czech Republic, directed by Ondrej Ontran (and available from Netflix and Amazon).

Kino Video’s Griffith Masterworks: Watching movies become art

By Charles Bogle, 28 March 2013

The Kino Video collection entitled Griffith Masterworks provides an opportunity to watch pioneer filmmaker D.W. Griffith invent much of what came to be known as the grammar of cinema.

A Place At The Table: A damning picture of hunger, with feeble conclusions

By James Brewer, 27 March 2013

The recent documentary shows that the hunger and nutrition crisis in the United States has steadily increased through both Republican and Democratic administrations since the 1970s.

Bryan Wizemann’s About Sunny (Think of Me) released on video on demand

By David Walsh, 26 March 2013

One of the most compelling films screened at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Think of Me, directed by American filmmaker Bryan Wizemann, now retitled About Sunny, is finally available.

63rd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 5

Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance: An indictment of Western aid to Haiti, but…

By Stefan Steinberg:, 6 March 2013

The latest film by Haitian-born director Raoul Peck focuses on the aid operation organised by the US and Western powers in the wake of the deadly earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010.

63rd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4

An honest Russian citizen: Boris Khlebnikov’s A Long and Happy Life

By Bernd Reinhardt, 4 March 2013

The film depicts the futile struggle of a small farmer in the Russian provinces against corrupt local authorities.

63rd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 2

The Plague: The “loneliness, strength, humanity and beauty” of ordinary people

By Francisca Vier, 27 February 2013

The Plague (La Plaga) from Spain, directed by Neus Ballús, was one of the most satisfying films at the 63rd Berlinale.

Set for Life: The effects of recession on an older generation

By Nick Barrickman, 27 February 2013

This documentary examines the lives of several over-50 workers who have lost their jobs since the 2007-2008 economic collapse.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master: The limits of making it up as you go along

By Joanne Laurier, 25 February 2013

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie, The Master, a World War II US Navy veteran facing an uncertain future is attracted to a quasi-religious movement and its charismatic leader.

The intellectually bankrupt defenders of Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty

By David Walsh, 22 February 2013

The release of Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained in the latter part of 2012 ignited an intense and still ongoing media debate on the films’ respective merits and related historical issues.

Not Fade Away: “Oh! Pleasant exercise of hope and joy”

By David Walsh, 20 February 2013

In David Chase’s film, a young man and his friends pursue various dreams, or fail to, in suburban New Jersey in the mid-1960s.

Steven Soderbergh to retire after Side Effects?: Problems of independent filmmaking

By Joanne Laurier, 15 February 2013

A new antidepressant has unexpected side effects that unravel the lives of a psychiatrist and his patient in American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s most recent—and possibly last—feature film.

Netflix’s US remake of House of Cards stands up despite weaknesses

By Christine Schofelt, 9 February 2013

Staring Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife, the new production of House of Cards is a largely well-translated version of the UK original.

Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet: Aging and the artist

By Joanne Laurier, 1 February 2013

The movie concerns itself with a group of retired opera singers and musicians housed in an elegant manor in pastoral Britain.

The Impossible: A narrow view of a major disaster

By George Marlowe, 31 January 2013

The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonia Bayona, is the story of one British family’s experience in the carnage and destruction of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land: A deal with the devil?

By Phillip Guelpa and Julien Kiemle, 25 January 2013

The film portrays the conflict between a fictional energy company and residents of a small Pennsylvania town over whether “fracking” will be allowed in their community.

Vadim: German documentary chronicles a family destroyed by immigration authorities

By Bernd Reinhardt, 24 January 2013

The tragic story of Vadim K. and his family documents the callous inhumanity of Germany’s immigration authorities and politicians and refugee law.

Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables: Social misery, with a vengeance

By Hiram Lee, 21 January 2013

Director Tom Hooper returns with a film version of the well-known musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic 1862 novel.

Director Kathryn Bigelow defends her indefensible Zero Dark Thirty

By David Walsh, 18 January 2013

The filmmaker and her screenwriter Mark Boal, in their political blindness and misreading of the current state of American public opinion, thought they could get away with murder, as it were.

2013 Academy Award nominations: Extraordinary and glaring contradictions, even greater than usual

By David Walsh, 11 January 2013

This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced Thursday morning during a media event at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California.

Hitchcock: Small change, for the most part

By Joanne Laurier, 10 January 2013

Sacha Gervasi’s new film focuses on the making of Psycho (1960), one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best known works.

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained

By David Walsh, 5 January 2013

A German-born bounty hunter teams up with an ex-slave in the antebellum South in Quentin Tarantino’s newest film.

Best films of 2012

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 29 December 2012

The general state of the film world presents a sharper contradiction than ever, as underlined by a number of recently released films and the critics’ reactions to them.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Growing up in the early 1990s

By David Walsh, 28 December 2012

In Stephen Chbosky’s film, based on his 1999 novel, the central character, Charlie, a 15-year-old high school student, narrates the story in the form of letters to an anonymous “friend.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey—not so unexpected as all that

By Christine Schofelt, 27 December 2012

Filmed as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings series, this first part of The Hobbit covers approximately half the book as written by J.R.R. Tolkien (published in 1937).

A new film version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (and Sean Baker’s Starlet )

By Joanne Laurier, 22 December 2012

British filmmaker Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard have collaborated on a new film adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel. Starlet tells the story of a relationship between two women in California’s San Fernando Valley.

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty: Hollywood embraces the “dark side”

By Bill Van Auken, 20 December 2012

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty brings to film-making what “embedded” reporting did for journalism—an uncritical embrace of and identification with the military-intelligence complex and its crimes.

The Life of Pi: In a lifeboat alone with a tiger

By David Walsh, 15 December 2012

The new film directed by Taiwanese-born Ang Lee is based on a 2001 novel—winner of the Booker Prize—by Canadian author Yann Martel.

The Central Park Five: A story of injustice

By Joanne Laurier, 12 December 2012

Directed and produced by renowned documentarian Ken Burns, daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon, The Central Park Five chronicles an infamous case in 1989.

Dangerous Remedy: Bertram Wainer and the struggle for abortion rights

By Richard Phillips, 3 December 2012

New Australian telemovie falsely marketed as crime drama.

Silver Linings Playbook: It’s the little things in life …

By Joanne Laurier, 29 November 2012

In this comedy-drama, former substitute history teacher Pat has just been released from a psychiatric facility when he meets Tiffany, the widow of a policeman. Together they struggle to overcome their difficulties.

The Man with the Iron Fists: Reactionary Kung-Fu

By Kevin Kearney, 26 November 2012

The film, directed by rapper-music producer RZA, follows a collection of warriors in mythical 19th century China who band together to defeat a common enemy.

The Law in These Parts: Israeli military justice in the Occupied Territories

By Kevin Kearney, 21 November 2012

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s documentary is a penetrating look at the Israeli military legal system in the Occupied Territories on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip over the last 45 years.

Artifact: A musician’s struggle against a giant corporation

By Robert Fowler, 19 November 2012

Artifact details the legal battle between Jared Leto and his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and EMI, the recording industry giant.

A comment and an interview with filmmaker Minda Martin

Free Land: American dreams and realities

By Joanne Laurier, 15 November 2012

Minda Martin’s 2010 film Free Land, at the same time a documentary-essay and personal memoir, poetically and evocatively connects a variety of social and personal events.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and the historical drama of the Civil War

By Tom Mackaman, 12 November 2012

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a powerful cinematic treatment of the Lincoln administration’s struggle to pass a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery in 1865, the final year of the American Civil War.

Flight: A pilot saves the day, but not himself

By David Walsh, 10 November 2012

In Flight Denzel Washington plays Whip Whitaker, a highly skilled pilot with a serious drinking and drug problem, who becomes a hero when he averts a plane crash. However …

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

A comment from Robert Connolly, director of Underground: The Julian Assange Story

By Joanne Laurier, 6 November 2012

Robert Connolly, director of Underground: The Julian Assange Story, responds to questions from Joanne Laurier of the WSWS.

Cloud Atlas: Six stories in search of a genuine connection

By David Walsh, 2 November 2012

German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Heaven) and Andy and Lana Wachowski, responsible for the Matrix films, have teamed up to adapt David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, for the screen.

A reader reviews Tsar to Lenin

29 October 2012

A WSWS reader has written in with a comment on the unique documentary film Tsar to Lenin, available from Mehring Books.

Arbitrage: False advertising

By Joanne Laurier, 27 October 2012

Robert Miller, a powerful Wall Street figure, is trying to sell his business to cover losses from a bad investment. His seemingly idyllic personal life falls apart after a car accident in which his mistress is killed.

Ben Affleck’s Argo: An embrace of US foreign policy

By Dan Brennan, 24 October 2012

Argo, a new political thriller starring and directed by Ben Affleck, is based on declassified information about a little-known episode during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1980.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 8

Drama of modern-day life

By David Walsh, 18 October 2012

A number of provocative films from Italy, India, Algeria and China, and the latest from veteran director Costa-Gavras.

Schutzengel (Guardian Angel): New film promotes German military

By Ernst Wolff, 17 October 2012

Schutzengel (Guardian Angel) is the first film to hit the screens with the full support of the German army.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 7

Underground: The Julian Assange Story and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out

By Joanne Laurier, 12 October 2012

Julian Assange’s early life is fictionalized by Australian director Robert Connolly, while documentarian Marina Zenovich offers the latest installment in the Roman Polanski saga.

Detropia: A compassionate, confused study of a devastated city

By James Brewer, 11 October 2012

The deindustrialization and dismantling of Detroit is the subject of a new documentary.

Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Two:

One excellent movie, several inspired performances, too much conventional storytelling

By Charles Bogle, 10 October 2012

While none of the selections in Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Two match the brazen defiance of the Code found in the first volume, women struggling against the established class structure informs all five of the movies.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 6

Interviews with five filmmakers about life and art in India, Ivory Coast, Guatemala, Angola and Haiti

By David Walsh, 9 October 2012

A good many honest and intriguing films screened at the recent Toronto film festival. The WSWS interviewed a number of directors about their films and the conditions in their respective countries.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 5

Detroit’s belated “renaissance”—on film

By Joanne Laurier, 5 October 2012

A number of films about Detroit have suddenly emerged … including now a fiction work about the complicated interactions between the city’s Arab and African American populations.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 4

Far From Afghanistan: Significant, moving, uneven

By David Walsh, 2 October 2012

Far From Afghanistan is an effort by five US directors to come to terms with the decade-long Afghanistan war and its implications for both the Afghan and American populations.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

Interviews with John Gianvito, Minda Martin and Travis Wilkerson—co-directors of Far From Afghanistan

By David Walsh, 2 October 2012

The WSWS spoke to three of the five directors of Far From Afghanistan.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012--Part 3

Filmmakers respond to important events—but how they respond is also important …

By Joanne Laurier, 28 September 2012

The 2012 Toronto film festival screened numerous serious documentaries and docu-dramas, reflecting the impact of the current social crisis and the increasing resistance of the global working class.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 2

A World Not Ours: Where do the Palestinians go from here?

By David Walsh, 26 September 2012

Mahdi Fleifel’s A World Not Ours, one of the most remarkable films presented at the Toronto festival this year, is both a personal memoir and a tracing out of the Palestinian history and condition.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

An interview with Mahdi Fleifel and Patrick Campbell, director and co-producer of A World Not Ours

By David Walsh, 26 September 2012

The WSWS spoke to Mahdi Fleifel, writer and director of A World Not Ours and Patrick Campbell, co-producer (along with Fleifel) of the film, during the recent Toronto film festival.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 1

The wide range of human passion, action and adventure

By David Walsh, 22 September 2012

The Toronto International Film Festival screened some 372 films this year from 72 countries. This year’s festival and the general state of the film world present a sharper contradiction than ever.

Under African Skies: The story of the collaboration that became Graceland

By James Brewer, 8 September 2012

A film documentary released this year revisits the making of the best-selling album and the controversy surrounding it.

Max Ophuls’s Caught and Edgar Ulmer’s Ruthless: Remarkable postwar films about wealth and power

By Joanne Laurier, 29 August 2012

The disheartening collection of new movies this summer prompted us to bring to the readers’ attention films from a different period in Hollywood’s history.

Searching for Sugar Man: Detroit musician connects with mass audience in South Africa

By James Brewer, 27 August 2012

An amazing story documents the popularity of the music of Sixto Rodriguez in South Africa, music virtually unknown in the US.

The Intouchables, record-breaking French film, and Ruby Sparks, “small change” in Los Angeles

By Joanne Laurier, 20 August 2012

The Intouchables is a predictable but touching comedy about the relationship between an upper class Frenchman and his Muslim Senegalese caretaker. Ruby Sparks is a version of the Pygmalion myth.

In The Campaign, a fictional race for Congress

By David Walsh, 17 August 2012

In Jay Roach’s film, an incumbent Democratic member of Congress finds himself opposed by a local oddball, backed by a pair of evil billionaire brothers.