Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

Stonehearst Asylum ★★½ / ★★★★★ Director: Brad Anderson Millennium Entertainment (Official Site) 112 Minutes In Theaters Beginning October 24, 2014 (Limited) – In Edgar Allan Poe’s wry short story “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether,” a young doctor takes the opportunity to visit a renowned mental asylum and view for himself the successes of the so-called “soothing system” treatment. Invited to stay for dinner, it becomes delightfully clear to the reader that the locals and staff are quite insane, but the narrator, pleasant but dim, fails to realize it himself. Finally, the actual staff comes bursting into the building, and even then, many of the more obvious details fails to register with our narrator. Stonehearst Asylum, director Brad Anderson’s latest, is based on this charmingly macabre story, but replaces the somewhat clueless doctor of the original with the wide-eyed and eager young graduate Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess). Further, the film obscures the bizarre behavior of the staff to such an extent that the reveal that they are not staff but inmates is understandably a shock to the newly arrived intern. Still, the reveal comes early enough, and with enough ambiguity, that the question of who is telling the truth and, more importantly, who is truly sane in this whole mess, remains for much of the film. The charismatic and professional Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) greets the doctor when he arrives, and takes him on a tour of the facilities. There, Newgate sees the beautiful Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), … Continue reading

Force Majeure (2014)

Force Majeure ★★★½ / ★★★★★ Director: Ruben Östlund Magnolia Pictures (Official Site | Facebook) 120 Minutes In Theaters Beginning October 24, 2014 (Limited) – Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and their two adorable children (real-life siblings Vincent and Clara Wettergren) are spending a week at the gorgeous Les Arcs resort in the French Alps. They are an attractive family with their expensive ski equipment, high-end watches and matching thermal underwear surely bought special for the trip. The usual familial tensions arise: mom is stressed and dad is glued to his iPhone, and when he isn’t, pushes his young son too hard to compete rather than have fun. Force Majeure begins with this simple premise, framed in spectacular photography and effects that render the already-beautiful Les Arcs locale even more stunning. At night, plows and snowblowers growl along the hills, making perfect what nature and tourists have disturbed, while small, controlled explosions knock just enough snow down the mountains to prevent enough build-up to cause an avalanche. During lunch, one of those explosions unexpectedly goes off, startling everyone. Tomas won’t allow the family to leave, insisting the snow heading their way is harmless, but Ebba isn’t convinced; when the snow overtakes them, she dives to protect her two children, while Tomas grabs his keys and iPhone and runs away. Moments later, it’s clear the avalanche was merely a snow cloud. No one is hurt, and a few chuckles and some dusting off later, everyone is back to normal. … Continue reading

The Lusty Men (1952)

the lusty men 1952

“In any case, this film isn’t a Western. It’s really about people who want nothing more than a home of their own. That was actually the great American dream at the time, and in all the statistical questionnaires that ask what Americans aim for, 90% always gave the answer: ‘Owning a home of my own.’ And that’s what the film’s about.” – Nicholas Ray   Jeff McCloud (Robert Mitchum) is an aging champion rodeo rider who, after one too many falls from an angry horse, finds himself limping back to his dilapidated childhood home. After sharing some pat cowboy wisdom with the current owner, Jeremiah Watrus (Burt Watrus), he meets Louise and Wes Merritt (Susan Hayward and Arthur Kennedy, respectively), there to take another look at the home. They’re ranchers, saving up for a place of their own, and have had their eye on the Watrus place for some time. Wes harbors some bronc ridin’ dreams of his own, and soon he not only wants Jeff’s childhood home, but Jeff’s friendship, mentorship, and former career. Meanwhile, Jeff is pretty sure he wants Wes’ wife. It may seem like a standard melodramatic love triangle, but beyond their attractions, desires, comforts and dreams, there’s one other thing that links these three people together: they’re children of the Depression, all still with one foot in the past, the memories of growing up poor and rootless families in a disjointed America always playing in their minds, even when they don’t say anything — and … Continue reading

Autómata (2014)

Automata ★★½ / ★★★★★ Director: Gabe Ibáñez Millennium Entertainment (Official Site) 110 Minutes In Theaters October 10, 2014 (Limited) – It’s the year 2044, and thanks to a series of devastating solar storms, the world’s population has been slashed to only 22 million, most of whom are confined to the sunbaked shell of a former metropolis. Forced to rely on 1990s-era technology for their communication systems, society has nonetheless benefitted from the creation of a series of robots, the Autómata Pilgrim 7000, meant to serve and protect humans. Produced by the ROC Corporation, these robots are programmed with two strict protocols: they cannot harm any living being, and they are unable to alter themselves or other robots. Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas), one of ROC Corp’s insurance investigators, is too burned out on his job to realize there is a problem with the Autómata, even as he checks out a claim filed after a robot kills a family’s loyal little dog. But soon he’s in a laboratory looking at a second Autómata, one shot by a police officer (Dylan McDermott) who swears he saw the robot repairing itself. All the scientists chuckle, sure the officer was either mistaken or high, but finally Jacq gets it through his world-weary head: something has gone very wrong. Autómata, the science fiction thriller from Gabe Ibáñez, is a striking film that boasts impressive visuals and special effects. It’s also a film that has the good sense to acknowledge the inevitable Blade Runner (1982) comparisons almost … Continue reading