If you have finished watching the film A History of Violence (2005) and are looking for other movies like it, here is a list of options to consider.
Bradley Cooper pays respectful homage to Leonard Bernstein in this lavish passion project.
The problem inherent to most biopics is one of balance. Err too far on the side of worshipful and you get nonsense like Oliver Stone’s The Doors. Or you could swing in the other direction and you end up with an “oops, all warts” camp disaster like Mommie Dearest. Most linger somewhere in the middle, at a respectful distance, so that they’re ultimately kind of boring, and offer nothing new or particularly insightful about its subject matter.
Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, about the life of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, isn’t boring. It’s too visually dazzling for that. It does not, however, leave one feeling like they’ve really gotten to know more about Bernstein other than he was a complicated, workaholic genius who struggled with his sexuality, which is all information that could be gleaned from his Wikipedia page. But it sure is lovely spending time in his world for a little while. Continue Reading →
Upon the news of the passing of William Friedkin, every headline reporting on the news focused on two films. It’s not surprising that the media spent so much time talking about The French Connection and The Exorcist, two bona fide masterpieces that paved the way for a new era of American filmmaking. What was disappointing was this seeming willingness to reduce a cinematic legend’s legacy to a burst of time in the early 1970s, thus dismissing the five decades that followed as either negligible or outright unworthy of interest. Continue Reading →
Rules of Engagement
Even William Friedkin's most loyal fans would admit the Nineties were not a particularly fertile artistic period for him. That decade saw him putting out the laughable horror film The Guardian (1990), the eventual release of his long-on-the-shelf and heavily recut 1987 death penalty drama Rampage (1992), the tepid sports drama Blue Chips (1994), and the resoundingly unnecessary (save for a nifty car chase) Jade (1995). On the small screen, he helmed two made-for-cable remakes, the Roger Corman production Jailbreakers (1994) with Shannen Doherty, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Adrien Brody, and 12 Angry Men (1997) with a powerhouse cast that included Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Ossie Davis, James Gandolfini and, perhaps inevitably, Tony Danza. Continue Reading →
At the risk of making a "getting a lot of Sorcerer vibes from this" guy out of myself, The Hunted—William Friedkin's 2003 old-master-hunts-rogue-student thriller really does make for a fascinating counterpart to his earlier men-on-a-desperate-mission masterwork. Both delve into the lives of damaged, forlorn, isolated men on perilous quests for deliverance. And both of those quests lead deep into madness. Both pointedly contrast man-made, flame-choked hellscapes (Sorcerer's exploding oil well, The Hunted's secret mission amidst the Kosovo War) with the vast, amoral green of the deep forest (Columbia and Oregon, respectively). Both turn on setpieces that thrill while maintaining a grounded (if not necessarily "realistic") feel and weave surreality in with care. Continue Reading →
The Many Saints of Newark
When Anthony “Tony” Soprano first appears in Alan Taylor’s The Many Saints of Newark, he’s just a kid, hanging on the shoulder of his Uncle Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). Much like the show it precedes, Taylor’s crime drama focuses on family, a group of related and unrelated men and women influencing and subsequently controlling various parts of New Jersey. Billed as a Tony Soprano origin story, a prequel that wasn’t needed but wanted, the film never feels inherently necessary or emotional. It coasts upon characters it has already set up, actors with pedigree playing said characters, and the understanding that this David Chase-created world is still connected and worth our time. Continue Reading →
An admittedly intriguing blend of bleaker-than-bleak comedy and holiday spirit is undermined by noxious writing and character work.
If you do not yet know about Silent Night’s big twist, I’d strongly recommend you set his review aside. Talking about Camille Griffin’s directorial debut requires talking about its twist. To sum up: Silent Night is awful. It aims to blend dark comedy with sentiment via an audacious story but does little with its intriguing core idea. What it does do does not work.
It’s Christmas, and married couple Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) are preparing to host a celebration for a group of their old school friends. Their pals include snotty Toby (Rufus Jones) and Sandra (Annabelle Wallis), obnoxious Bella (Lucy Punch) and her girlfriend Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and James (Ṣọpé Dìrísù), and his girlfriend Sophie (Lily Rose-Depp), whose youth and American heritage make her an outsider amongst the others. Continue Reading →
Documentarian Sonia Kennebeck has become consumed with whistleblowers and their stories. Known for her interest in how the United States government interacts with their citizens, especially citizens willing to damage the country's reputation, Kennebeck’s latest, Enemies of the State, becomes no different, devolving from a story about a small-town military family to one with espionage, hacking, anthrax, torture, and deportation. More than just a fascination, Kennebeck’s films examine the heroic complex of these people, and if they warranted the supposed justice they received. Continue Reading →
Carmen: A Hip Hopera
The best way to enjoy MTV’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera is with the subtitles on. That way you can catch every outrageous word of Sekani Williams’ singular lyrics. 20 years after its release in 2001, Carmen: A Hip Hopera remains unique, in a genre all its own. Continue Reading →
Every month, we at The Spool select a filmmaker to explore in greater depth — their themes, their deeper concerns, how their works chart the history of cinema, and the filmmaker’s own biography. For April, we revisit both the game-changing hits and low point misses of Francis Ford Coppola. Read the rest of our coverage here.
Burrow into a man’s soul and see what you find. You may discover a darkness beyond comprehension or a light as bright as the flares that cut against the night sky. But if you mangle that soul in the throes of war, maim it through acts of killing, expose it to enough raw horror to blight mind and body, you can never really know. The parts of ourselves we hold dear become wrenched and twisted within that grim crucible, until they become unrecognizable.
That’s the overwhelming feeling that washes over you during Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal 1979 masterpiece. Set during the Vietnam War, the film sees Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), a U.S. Army assassin, dispatched to travel upriver into Cambodia and take out the infamous Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz is a decorated officer who’s gone rogue and cultivated a following all his own, one which strikes fear into the hearts of all sides of this conflict. In that framework, the movie peers into the souls of these two men and considers what, if anything, can be gleaned from their war-ravaged psyches. Continue Reading →
Watching any Wong Kar-wai movie in 2021 hits differently than it might have in almost any other year. He’s a director known for exploring loneliness and to watch it at a time when all of us without question are among the loneliest we’ve ever been is a striking experience. We’re now a year into a pandemic and despite the vaccinations on the horizon, it feels like it has no end. We’re counting the time since we last hugged or kissed our loved ones in months and even years at this point instead of hours. Continue Reading →
Tucked between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in the Southeastern corner of Louisiana, St. James Parish is home to several petrochemical plants. The state rewards billions in tax breaks for these places to operate, and in exchange, they pollute the water and air for nearby residents, who tend to live around the poverty line. This poisoning is so out of control that this stretch of highway earns the dubious title of “Cancer Alley”. Continue Reading →
Is there still time for Donald Sullivan (Paul Newman)? Old enough to regret a past he knows he can’t change, Sully staggers around his small town of North Bath, New York. He’s out of work – or at least he should be – after a construction accident left him with a damaged knee and without a lawyer good enough to secure him a settlement. Long divorced, he rents a room from an old woman named Miss Beryl (Jessica Tandy). To amuse himself, he openly flirts with Toby (Melanie Griffith). Continue Reading →