Directed by John Carney
Once is a musical romance film about two struggling musicians in Dublin, Ireland. The music is good, but not quite good enough to anchor a story about an unrecognized musical genius. The story is engaging, but a little slight.
Someone to Run With
Directed by Oded Davidoff
Someone to Run With, based on David Grossman’s novel of the same name, is a Hebrew language film about a street performer and a young government employee tasked with finding the owner of a stray dog. The story is sometimes too neat, the characters are sometimes flat, and the ending is too easy, but the music is good and the film is entertaining.
The Birth of a Nation
Directed by Nate Parker
The Birth of a Nation is a period drama about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion. The ambitious title promises both forceful social corrective and aesthetic achievement. It succeeds in the first more than the second; the authorial voice is uncompromising and the film is well-made, but there are no significant artistic innovations and the limited budget can be seen in the needlessly constrained scope. The Birth of a Nation is a singular and searing vision.
Directed by Mike Figgis
Timecode is an experimental film – the screen is divided into four parts, and four separate but interlocking stories are simultaneously shown. The cinematography, acting, and writing are all either bad or non-existent. The gimmicks are both omnipresent and irritating. Timecode is, though, at least, bad in interesting ways.
Would not see.
The Magnificent Seven
Directed by John Sturges
The Magnificent Seven, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, is a Western about seven gun fighters hired to protect a small Mexican village. It’s not as good as Seven Samurai, and some aspects have aged better than others, but The Magnificent Seven is well-acted and well-paced. It’s a good Western.
Directed by Laura Poitras
Citizenfour is a documentary about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. The film makes limited use of the medium, but it’s still entertaining. Some of the scenes drag on too long and the movie veers close to agitprop at times, but Citizenfour is ultimately engaging and informative.
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Almost Famous is a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone. The film’s approach to music is both pretentious and unimpressive. The characters are one-note, the plot points are predictable, and the tone shifts between comedic and saccharine every couple minutes, making Almost Famous feel like a feature-length sitcom.
Would not see.
All the President’s Men
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
All the President’s Men, based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s non-fiction book of the same name, is about Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post. The film captures the look and rhythm of journalism better than its imitators. The pacing is compelling, but the ending feels rushed.