Film Reviews

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.

The Queen of Versailles: American “royalty” seeks to build its own palace

By Fred Mazelis, 11 August 2012

A new documentary tells the tale of a Florida billionaire and lifts the lid on a portion of American social reality.

Farewell, My Queen: The last days of the ancien régime

By Stefan Steinberg, 11 August 2012

The central figure in Farewell, My Queen is an attendant to Marie Antoinette. The action takes place in the Palace of Versailles at the start of the French Revolution in July 1789.

The Dark Knight Rises: Dubious and distortive

By Adam Haig, 9 August 2012

The Dark Knight Rises is the most conservative and rightwing of Christopher Nolan’s PG-13 Batman films to date.

Oliver Stone’s Savages and the war on drugs

By Hiram Lee, 30 July 2012

Veteran director Oliver Stone sets his sights, superficially, on the “war on drugs” in his new film Savages.

The Amazing Spider-Man: A play on formulas

By Adam Haig, 16 July 2012

This is an artistically limited experience. A compression, rebooting and updating in a 136-minute running time and rapidly paced, this is a film high on thrills and, not surprisingly, promising a sequel.

Fantastic version of post-Katrina Louisiana in Beasts of the Southern Wild

By Jordan Mattos, 14 July 2012

A creation of distinctly American design, Beasts of the Southern Wild disturbs and awes with fantastic images and the swelling music of a devastated region.

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson’s latest wispy, wistful adventure

By Joanne Laurier, 4 July 2012

Set in 1965 on an island off the coast of New England, Wes Anderson’s new movie tells the story of two pre-teenage misfits who escape to a deserted corner of the island.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus: Shutting Pandora’s box?

By Kevin Martinez, 27 June 2012

Prometheus is a prequel of sorts to the 1979 science-fiction-horror film Alien, also directed by Ridley Scott.

For Greater Glory and the falsification of Mexican history

By Rafael Azul, 11 June 2012

For Greater Glory is a one-sided propaganda film that hijacks a complex social conflict and turns it into a David and Goliath story of good guys versus bad.

Hemingway and Gellhorn on HBO: A lost opportunity

By Charles Bogle, 9 June 2012

HBO’s Hemingway and Gellhorn misses an opportunity to explore seriously a period of great social upheaval and its impact on two people who participated in and reported on those events.

Richard Linklater’s Bernie, about life and death in East Texas

By David Walsh, 31 May 2012

Bernie is the latest film from American independent director Richard Linklater, responsible for Slacker (1991), Dazed and Confused (1993) and The Newton Boys (1998), among others.

Dissecting class relations: The film collaborations of Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter

By Robert Maras, 28 May 2012

Three of US director Joseph Losey’s best films were made in collaboration with British playwright Harold Pinter.

The Avengers: Not at all the way truths can be explored

By Joanne Laurier, 26 May 2012

The Avengers is one of Hollywood’s biggest spectacles to date. It has already brought in more than one billion dollars at the box office worldwide. But what does it have to offer?

San Francisco International Film Festival 2012—Part 3

Two significant works: Fritz Lang’s House by the River (1950) and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949)

By Kevin Kearney, 22 May 2012

Screenings of Fritz Lang’s House by the River (1950) and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) were highlights of the 2012 an Francisco film festival.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2012—Part 2

Crulic—The Path to Beyond from Romania: The tragic fate of a decent, humble human being

By Kevin Kearney, 19 May 2012

The second film by Romanian filmmaker Anca Damian, Crulic—The Path to Beyond, was another noteworthy documentary (or semi-documentary) featured at the 2012 San Francisco film festival.

Citizen Gangster: A drama of postwar Canadian life

By David Walsh, 15 May 2012

Citizen Gangster [Edwin Boyd] is an unusual film, which depicts social relations in Canada in a relatively harsh light and does not take as its premise the “kinder, gentler” nature of life there.

The Dardenne brothers’ The Kid With a Bike

A boy faces rejection

By Fred Mazelis, 11 May 2012

The latest film from the Dardenne brothers of Belgium shares the strengths and weaknesses of their earlier films.

The Deep Blue Sea: Love and emotional truth in post-war Britain

By Ruby Rankin and Richard Phillips, 25 April 2012

The Deep Blue Sea, with its flawed individuals, living through the depths of despair but finding the strength to behave with personal integrity, has been revived on film by Terence Davies.

How Earth Made Us—a masterly BBC documentary

By Ognjen Markovic, 21 April 2012

How Earth Made Us, the 2010 documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation, is a visually and intellectually delightful production that is well worth watching.

Paying attention to—or ignoring—big events: In Darkness and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

By Joanne Laurier, 11 April 2012

In Darkness tells the true story of Polish Jews who hid for 14 months, until the end of World War II, in the sewers of Lvov. In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a sheikh envisions salmon fishing in the desert country.

Friends with Kids: To whom does this apply?

By David Walsh, 7 April 2012

Friends with Kids follows the lives of six middle class New Yorkers over the course of a number of years. Two of them decide to have a child together without the encumbrance of marriage or romance.

Why are the critics lauding Titanic?

By David Walsh, 4 April 2012

Titanic, the Hollywood blockbuster directed by James Cameron and originally released in December 1997, is set for theatrical re-release in 3-D today. We are reposting today our original comments on the film.

Titanic as a social phenomenon

By David Walsh, 4 April 2012

Titanic, the Hollywood blockbuster directed by James Cameron and originally released in December 1997, is set for theatrical re-release in 3-D today. We are reposting today our original comments on the film.

The award-winning A Separation and the humanity of the Iranian people

By David Walsh, 30 March 2012

The US government and military-intelligence apparatus is relentlessly and recklessly driving toward war against Iran. Asghar Farhadi’s film A Separation offers a rare glimpse into the reality of Iranian society.

Why does The Hunger Games strike a chord?

By Christine Schofelt and David Walsh, 28 March 2012

The Hunger Games depicts a future North America divided into 12 districts, in which a popular uprising has been violently quashed decades before. A thirteenth district was entirely wiped out in the repression.

Being Flynn: Homelessness as a social failure

By Joanne Laurier, 23 March 2012

Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn encounters his long-absent, now destitute father, a self-proclaimed writer.

It’s perfectly true, We Need to Talk About Kevin is “not an issue-based movie”

By David Walsh, 21 March 2012

Before the film opens, the character referred to in the title of Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, at the age of 15, has massacred a number of his fellow schoolmates.

Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume 5: The most political of the Warner Bros. film noir collections

By Charles Bogle, 14 March 2012

Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume 5 contains no undiscovered masterpieces, but it is the most politically overt collection to date, and the movies selected for inclusion range from the watchable to the remarkable.

Ralph Fiennes directs Shakespeare’s Coriolanus with an eye to contemporary events

By Stefan Steinberg, 13 March 2012

The new film version of Coriolanus, set in the present day, is directed by the prominent British actor Ralph Fiennes, who also plays the principal role.

The US media responds with hostility to this year’s Academy Awards show

By David Walsh, 2 March 2012

A number of US media critics have attacked this year’s Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles with such venom that it invites a second look.

The 2012 Academy Awards

By David Walsh, 28 February 2012

At the 84th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles, The Artist and Hugo took home the most awards. Comic Billy Crystal hosted the event.

Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Not really a movie about 9/11, whatever else it might be

By Joanne Laurier, 25 February 2012

A young boy, grieving for his father, a victim of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, searches New York City for the lock that matches a key left behind by his beloved parent.

62nd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 1

A few nuggets on display at the Berlinale

By Stefan Steinberg, 24 February 2012

This year’s Berlinale jury, headed by veteran British director Mike Leigh, awarded the festival’s principal prizes to a number of interesting and significant works.

Alexander Payne’s digestible The Descendants; Steven Soderbergh at an impasse with Haywire

By Joanne Laurier, 21 February 2012

The Descendants, set in Hawaii and starring George Clooney, deals with the ancestral connections of a family confronting a painful tragedy. Haywire is a political spy thriller that gives a pass to the intelligence community.

British Agent (1934): Early Hollywood looks at the Bolsheviks

By Tony Williams, 18 February 2012

In Michael Curtiz’s 1934 British Agent, based on the memoirs of a British spy, the first days of the Russian Revolutionary government are treated with some degree of honesty. Leon Trotsky is one of the Bolsheviks portrayed.

An interview with Chad Freidrichs, director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

By Fred Mazelis, 17 February 2012

The director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a documentary about public housing in the US, speaks to the WSWS.

Albert Nobbs: A model of repression

By David Walsh, 15 February 2012

The title character (played with gusto by Glenn Close) is a woman who has passed as a man for decades, working as a waiter in a Dublin hotel in the 1890s.

Polanski’s Carnage: Not a dispute about fundamentals

By Joanne Laurier, 10 February 2012

In New York City, cordiality turns to anger and chaos when two sets of parents meet to discuss an altercation between their 11-year-old sons.

A Dangerous Method: The Freud-Jung controversy, among other matters

By David Walsh, 8 February 2012

The new film by David Cronenberg treats the relationship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, as well as their association with Sabina Spielrein, a young Russian woman, later one of the first female psychiatrists.

Surviving Progress: A dim view of humanity

By Lee Parsons, 3 February 2012

The documentary film Surviving Progress has attracted a good deal of media attention and accolades from both the official “left” and the right, if for rather different reasons.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: A serious look at public housing and the fate of US cities

By Fred Mazelis, 1 February 2012

A new documentary film examines the history of a St. Louis housing project.

The Adventures of Tintin: A generic boy scout travels a computer-generated world

By Alex Lantier, 30 January 2012

In The Adventures of Tintin, director Steven Spielberg sets out to render the Belgian comic strip Tintin in film using motion-capture animation technology.

The death of Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos

“I no longer deal with politics, with generalisations. I have stopped understanding them.”

By Stefan Steinberg, 27 January 2012

In many respects Angelopoulos expresses the artistic and political crisis of a generation of intellectuals who tragically failed to come to grips with the traumas of the past century and the extraordinary social and intellectual challenges of the new.

Petition: The Court of the Complainants—a potent Chinese documentary about injustice and state repression

By Richard Phillips, 25 January 2012

Petition explores the plight of poverty-stricken workers and farmers involved in stubborn and ultimately tragic appeals for “justice” from China’s Stalinist bureaucracy.

The 84th Academy Awards nominations—uneventful, for the most part

By Hiram Lee, 25 January 2012

The 84th annual Academy Awards nominations were announced Tuesday in Los Angeles. Few of the films have anything substantial to say about real life.

War Horse—All heart and no head

By Kevin Martinez, 23 January 2012

Steven Spielberg’s World War I-era film concerns a farmer and his family from Devon, England who sell their horse for the war effort.

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol: It might have been worse

By David Walsh, 14 January 2012

The fourth installment in the popular series follows the exploits of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his Impossible Missions Force team as they attempt to prevent the launch of a nuclear war between the US and Russia.

The Iron Lady: What were they thinking?

By Chris Marsden, 10 January 2012

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, written by Abi Morgan

The Artist: An amiable gimmick

By Joanne Laurier, 7 January 2012

The near-silent, black-and-white film recounts the demise of a fictitious silent screen icon.

David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Hiram Lee, 6 January 2012

Prominent American director David Fincher returns with an adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s popular crime novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Best films of 2011

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2011

If anything, the gap between social life and its artistic representation widened in 2011. Three years into the worst economic crisis in more than half a century, filmmakers largely remain insulated from, or perhaps overwhelmed by, the present realities.

Young Goethe in Love: In fact, just another love story

By Joanne Laurier, 23 December 2011

In Germany in 1772, young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe aspires to be a poet. After failing his law exams, his father banishes him to a provincial town, where he falls in love with Lotte Buff.

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo: A rather drab and disjointed fairytale

By Robert Fowler, 15 December 2011

Veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese has directed an adaptation of a children’s book, widely hailed as the “feel good” film of the year. Our reviewer has another opinion.

My Week With Marilyn: Another look at the postwar American film icon

By Joanne Laurier, 10 December 2011

Based on the memoirs of the late Colin Clark, the movie recounts the touching and revealing interlude between a young Englishman and Marilyn Monroe in 1956.

An exchange: More on the contemporary assault on Shakespeare

By David Walsh, 30 November 2011

A reader has written to the WSWS complaining that our recent review of Anonymous was an “emotional rant” that did nothing more than “parrot the shop-worn clichés of the multibillion dollar Shakespeare establishment.”

Anonymous: An ignorant assault on Shakespeare

By David Walsh, 23 November 2011

The premise of Roland Emmerich’s film is that dramatist and poet William Shakespeare was not the author of the three dozen or so plays attributed to him, rather they were written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar

By Joanne Laurier, 17 November 2011

Clint Eastwood’s new film treats the life and times of J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director and a malignant presence in American society for nearly half a century.

The Rum Diary: Fear and loathing in the Caribbean

By Kevin Martinez, 14 November 2011

Set in 1960 in Puerto Rico, The Rum Diary is director Bruce Robinson’s first film in almost two decades. It is roughly based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson.

A portrait of contemporary anxiety in Take Shelter

By Joanne Laurier, 11 November 2011

In a northern Ohio town, a man is beset by visions and nightmares of apocalyptic doom.

Margin Call: A look at the parasitical one percent

By Joanne Laurier, 4 November 2011

The movie is a sharp-eyed drama set inside an anonymous Wall Street firm that helps trigger the 2008 financial collapse.

Moneyball, and the uneven playing field of professional sports

By Hiram Lee, 28 October 2011

Filmmaker Bennett Miller turns a critical eye on the American professional sports industry in Moneyball.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 5

The defense of Iranian filmmakers, and their artistic decline

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 26 October 2011

The recent Toronto film festival screened several films from Iran—including This is Not a Film, about the house arrest of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, co-directed by Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, and Good Bye from Mohammad Rasoulof.

George Clooney’s The Ides of March: What a great many people already know (and perhaps less)

By David Walsh, 19 October 2011

The new film directed by George Clooney, The Ides of March, is set in the world of contemporary American politics.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 4

The permanent, painful search for truth

By Joanne Laurier, 15 October 2011

A number of films at the recent Toronto film festival offered serious presentations of life and artistic problems themselves.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 3

The drama of everyday life

By David Walsh, 12 October 2011

Certain filmmakers are beginning to reckon with social questions as factors in human psychology and behavior. Others continue to take the line of least resistance.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 2

Crimes and upheavals past and present

By Joanne Laurier, 5 October 2011

The best films from France in recent years have concerned themselves with the country’s colonial past and related issues today.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 1

The world at large and closer to home

By David Walsh, 30 September 2011

The recent 36th Toronto International Film Festival screened some 335 features and shorts from 65 countries.

Contagion, the latest from Steven Soderbergh

By Hiram Lee, 26 September 2011

Steven Soderbergh returns with a film about a mass epidemic caused by a mysterious new disease and the social panic that follows.

Images of a dictatorship: La Cantuta in the Jaws of the Devil

By Armando Cruz, 13 September 2011

Directed and written by Amanda Gonzales

The Help: A civil rights era film that ignores the civil rights movement

By Joanne Laurier, 27 August 2011

In Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, African-American women had few options but to labor as exploited domestics for wealthy white families.

The magical allegory of Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

By Adam Haig, 20 August 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is the eighth and final installment of the long-running film series adapted from the children’s fantasy novels by British author J. K. Rowling

Captain America returns to battle

By Hiram Lee, 13 August 2011

Comic book hero Captain America comes to the big screen in the latest of Hollywood’s blockbuster superhero movies.

Sydney Film Festival 2011—Part 6: Douglas Sirk’s elegant imitations of life

By Richard Phillips, 4 August 2011

Sirk’s best work reveals an exceptional artist and one whose visually-rich and socially-incisive observations still have a timeless quality.

Some cinematic landmarks of the 1960s in Stalinist East Germany

By Bernd Reinhardt, 3 August 2011

Signs of social dissatisfaction with the Stalinist state in the 1960s were captured in a series of East German films, which were either immediately banned or dropped by cinemas after a short time.

Sydney Film Festival 2011—Part 5: A classic novel intelligently reworked, a light comedy and some less impressive efforts

By Richard Phillips, 1 August 2011

A new version of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and three other features looking for a niche somewhere between commercial and independent cinema.

Sydney Film Festival 2011—Part 4: A conversation with Shelly Kraicer about Chinese independent cinema

By Richard Phillips, 30 July 2011

Beijing resident and film festival programmer Shelly Kraicer discusses developments in the Chinese independent cinema.

Sydney Film Festival 2011—Part 3: Global warming, village life, and other documentaries

By Richard Phillips, 28 July 2011

A diverse range of subjects were examined in the more than thirty documentaries screened at this year’s festival.

Sydney Film Festival 2011—Part 2: An eclectic selection with a few valuable moments

By Richard Phillips, 26 July 2011

Festival competition movies varied widely in their range of cinematic styles and artistic sensitivity.

Sydney Film Festival: Filmmaker Ivan Sen speaks to WSWS

By Richard Phillips, 26 July 2011

Writer/director Ivan Sen spoke with the World Socialist Web Site about Toomelah, his latest feature, during the Sydney film festival.

Horrible Bosses: It’s true, most Americans hate those they work for

By David Walsh, 16 July 2011

In this black comedy, directed by Seth Gordon, three unhappy individuals plot to rid themselves of their employers, with complicated and unexpected consequences.