Chris Piper

Film Review: Downsizing

by Chris Piper on December 22, 2017

Having your tiny cake and eating it, too

Matt Damon (l.) plays Paul Safranek and Jason Sudeikis plays Dave Johnson in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.

“Going small” is not a goal often associated with the dreams of mainstream America, but what if going small meant maintaining a lavish, upper middle-class, suburban lifestyle with all the trimmings? This deceptively simple idea underlies Downsizing, Alexander Payne’s newest film, starring Matt Damon, Hong Chau, and Christoph Waltz. The film presents enough imagination and asks enough questions to launch a series, but it never figures out what it’s trying to say.

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Ninth installment sticks to the script

A rebel X-Wing doesn't know when to call it a day

A rebel X-Wing doesn’t know when to call it a day.

“Every once in awhile I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie,” wrote a rapturous Roger Ebert in the summer of 1977 of Star Wars. Later that year a more skeptical Pauline Kael, writing about the same film, said, “the loudness, the smash-and-grab editing, the relentless pacing drive every idea from your head.” Never could the duality of responses to the Star Wars series of films be better predicted. They are either the greatest experiences in a movie theater since L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, or the biggest waste of time since Birdemic: Shock and Terror. [read the whole post]

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Film Review: Last Flag Flying

by Chris Piper on November 10, 2017

Time heals all wounds, mostly

Sal (Bryan Cranston), Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), and Doc (Steve Carell) on one last mission

Sal (Bryan Cranston), Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), and Doc (Steve Carell) on one last mission.

Here’s an interesting number, 18, which is the number of feature films directed by Richard Linklater. He’s made a film about rootless Austin hipsters, a film about 70’s high school escapades, a film about 80’s college escapades, a film about opening a school of rock, a film about a ragtag little league baseball team, a film about growing up, even a film about two erstwhile friends, their shared lover, and two hours of very tense conversation.  It’s an impressive number, 18, and would seemingly cover just about every conceivable theme. But whatever the plot, whichever the characters, wherever the setting, Linklater always makes films about time. And his 19th film, Last Flag Flying, is once again a film about time.

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Film Review: Dina

by Chris Piper on October 20, 2017

Love, across the spectrum

Dina and Scott do the wedding cake thing.

There are a few times in our lives when we as individuals, full of our specific collections of flaws and the fantastic, must navigate our way through life-changing and unforgettable events: school dance, funeral for a family member, wedding. Most of us struggle during these times to balance our individual responses and expressions with the expectations of family and community. The clear-eyed yet wholehearted Dina, opening today, asks us to examine a wedding through the eyes of a groom with autism, and a bride with a “smorgasbord” of neurological issues and an extremely violent romantic past. The film unflinchingly examines the power of our need to believe that love conquers all.

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Film Review: mother!

by Chris Piper on September 15, 2017

If a stranger knocks at your front door…

Jennifer Lawrence’s Mother struggles with hostess duties as Javier Bardem’s poet entertains.

Standing before an unpainted bedroom wall, a young and thoroughly domesticated woman ponders which shade of eggshell will look just so. She mixes up a tester, applies a strip, and steps back to regard her work. Elsewhere an older man inhabits his writing study, conjuring magic onto the page and thence to his readers. Later the two will enjoy her hearty meal, and settle into reading by the fire.

But something isn’t right. A sound, or maybe a feeling, forces the woman to cock her ear. She moves as quietly as possible, propelled by a feeling she can’t explain, to peek in on the man. He isn’t writing. He’s just sitting, waiting, watching. Something isn’t right.

Such is the ominous atmosphere of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film mother!, which only partly succeeds, through the use of the horror genre overlaid with biblical themes, at offering a portrait of female anxiety.

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Theron heats up a cold city

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) smokes, drinks, kicks, and kills with the best of them.

Take a world nearing collapse, a main character with oodles of bitchy beauty, add some cold-war cloak and dagger spycraft, throw in some “fluid sexuality,” lots of fight scenes, and just a pinch of back story. Good so far? Not so fast. Take away the script. Take away the music. Take away much of the acting. Not so great? Ok, so put one truly fantastic fight scene back in, and you’re served Atomic Blonde, the Charlize Theron vehicle opening wide today.

First time helmer David Leitch, a former stunt man with co-directing credits on John Wick has taken the graphic novel series The Coldest City and turned it into a mostly a muddled mish-mash that owes much of its existence to Luc Bresson’s La Femme Nikita and Leon: The Professional, as well founding father Doug Limon’s The Bourne Identity.
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Film Review: Dunkirk

July 21, 2017
www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cmgiys2n1o

Dunkirk: powerful and memorable In Christopher Nolan’s astonishing new film Dunkirk, we follow a major battle early in World War II through the struggles of a number of soldiers, sailors, and airmen as they attempt a massive retreat from France across the English channel in the face of constant German attacks. Though the events of that […]

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Film Review: Okja

June 28, 2017
youtu.be/AjCebKn4iic

Welcome to the animal funny farm She has eyes the color of sunlit amber. She has a face that always reflects your best mood. Just being near her, feeling the warmth of her body as you wake up from an afternoon nap, sends waves of serenity through you. Sometimes, when you’re not sure where she […]

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Film Review: Cars 3

June 16, 2017
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LeOH9AGJQM

Horsepower and happy endings Oh how quickly the young become old, the strong become weak, and the fresh, young, star becomes the stale, old, has-been. In the age of computer-generated animated features, oh how long ten years can be. Sadly, Cars 3 proves this old axiom, as it leans heavily on the achievements of the […]

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Film Review: Churchill

June 2, 2017
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It’s never too late to grow up In Churchill, opening in Bay Area theaters today, we’re asked to see the old English bulldog in a new and unflattering light as he attempts to bend the tide of history to his will. The film suffers from too narrow a focus, and an approach to story that is […]

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