Laura Dern

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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Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2016

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2016. Here is Carrie’s list, presented, unlike last year’s alphabetized list, in descending rank order. And you can check out Chad’s list here to see which one of us you agree with more!

10.) Nocturnal Animals

Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal, middle) arrives at a possible crime scene with lawman Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon, r.).

Sometimes the story-within-the-story convention can be confusing or feel gimmicky, but in this visually stunning picture from fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford, the technique works to terrific effect. Amy Adams, as a woman haunted by a decision she made years ago, reads a manuscript sent to her by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), and that story comes alive on screen in the form of family man Tony (Gyllenhaal again) and his confrontation with some dangerous, deranged miscreants. Ford’s keen aesthetic vision and sharp performances by Adams, Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon as a tenacious lawman combine to make this brutally poetic but utterly captivating film one of the year’s most definitively unusual. (You can also read my full-length review here.)

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2016-Sundance

Marking its closing with its annual awards ceremony, the 2016 Sundance Film Festival ended this past Saturday evening; you can see all the winners here.

For the second year in a row, I braved the Park City cold, snow, and the ubiquitous Los Angeles UGG-wearing throngs to bring you spotlights of a fraction of the films that played the Fest. With nearly 200 offerings, the Fest featured way more than this reviewer could see. While I sadly missed the big winner and much lauded The Birth of a Nation (you’ll have to stay tuned to Spinning Platters later in the year for a full review upon its wide release), I nevertheless managed to knock out a respectable 18 films in five days. Many of these may receive distribution deals (if they haven’t already), so you can study up now with these capsule reviews, which use our trademark Sundance Viewing Priority Level (VPL) Guide:

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Film critics Carrie and Chad on who will – and who should – win the 87th Academy Awards

The 87th Academy Awards air this Sunday, February 22nd on ABC at 5:00pm PST (red carpet coverage begins at 4:00, if you want to dish on fashion highs and lows). There are some tight races this year – Best Picture and Best Actor are especially hard to call. Here are Carrie and Chad’s predictions – and hopes – for the major categories:
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Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2014

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2014. Here is Carrie’s list, presented in alphabetical order. And you can see Chad’s list here.

1.) Boyhood

Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane are outstanding as a mother and son who grow and change together.

Filmed intermittently over 12 years, Richard Linklater’s film chronicling a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from ages six to 18 in real time is both a technical marvel and a cinematic masterpiece. There has been nothing like it before on screen, and there will no doubt be nothing like it again. Utterly unique in scope and vision, the film lets us watch a life develop in front of our very eyes, with all of its attendant hopes, dreams, achievements, and disappointments. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play Mason’s parents, changing and growing right alongside him and his older sister (Lorelei Linklater). An absolutely dazzling achievement that will leave you breathless and awed, Linklater’s picture is sure to be the one to beat for Best Picture come Oscar time. (You can also read Gordon’s full-length review here).

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MVFF Spotlights #4: Wild/St. Vincent/After the Fall

October 14, 2014

We’ve got three final spotlights from the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival, which closed Sunday night after ten days of showcasing dozens of fresh and exciting titles. Festival highlights, photos, and videos are available at: http://mvff.com. We’ll see you at the Fest next year! Wild (USA 2014, 120 min) Director Jean-Mark Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) […]

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Now in Theaters: Frank/When the Game Stands Tall/If I Stay/Island of the Lemurs: Madagascar

August 22, 2014
www.youtube.com/watch?v=-catC4tBVyY

 Frank by Carrie Kahn Loosely inspired by alt rocker Chris Sievey’s stage creation Frank Sidebottom, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s new film is co-written by Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson, whose memoir details his experiences with Sidebottom. But no knowledge of the film’s backstory is necessary to be utterly delighted by this quirky and very funny […]

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Film Review: “Everything Must Go”

May 13, 2011

starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern, Michael Peña, Stephen Root, Glenn Howerton, Christopher Jordan Wallace written by: Dan Rush (screenplay), Raymond Carver (short story) directed by: Dan Rush MPAA: Rated R for language and some sexual content.

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