The grandiose score heaves when we meet seaman Freddie Sutton (Joaquin Phoenix), languishing on a boat just as WWII ends. He's a shell-shocked sailor in the days before PTSD, and the first thing we hear out of him is a disturbed cautionary "cure" for crabs that could also cure fertility. He's a kid, and what we later hear about his family gives us reason to think he entered service to straighten up. Instead he got head-sick and discharged. The Master comes to our increasingly digital environment on the cusp of projected film's obsolescence. As a result, it—like Freddie—grapples with irrelevance and churns with both aggression and loyalty.Read more
In The Possession, a vegetarian pre-teen and her older sister fall on a yard sale full of retro arcana and buy oddly ornate box that contains a demon. Whoops. Their father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), himself distracted by a messy divorce, lumps it with the dishes like just another thread in the daily fabric. Cue disaster. Those Catholic exorcism movies with their dentistry-like ritual instruments and obsession with the approval of the church are cathartic, but they don't see possessions as a violation of personal space. (Though if your body is your temple, "home invasion" is a tidy way to describe it.Read more
Men are bastards, women are beasts and heroes are doomed in this found footage/first person shooter omnibus. A framing story sends a team of bandits into a house for a VHS tape, but the house contains a dead man, broken lights and multiple stacks of unmarked VHS tapes. For reasons that are only partially rational, the team searches the house and the guy delegated to watch what's in the machine starts popping in tapes from the TV room floor. Here the vignettes start, each made more interesting because of the different recording devices they're on. The stories go from the domestic (a couple are haunted via Skype) to the fantastic (a spy-cam sex tape captures a succubus) to the backwater (a farm-style exorcism intruded on by a nanny cam).Read more
Spoiler Alert: They find the balloons
Gobie, Zoozie and Toofie got five magic balloons for their friend's birthday party but they floated away. While birthday friend Schloofy naps, they race to recover the balloons, each trapped in one or another wacky situation. Before you say, "That sounds like the plot of a Nick Jr. show," you should know that's the goal. This 88-minute pre-Kinder show is like nothing else in theaters. Sure, you can scold it for lacking the arty edge of Pixar or the snide cultural references of Dreamworks, but this film is made for kids around preschoo...
Child abductions plague a rural Washington State town in The Tall Man, but the more pressing affliction in Pascal Laugier's film is the absence of chills, logic and coherence. Initially masquerading as a horror film before segueing into something far more preachy and less compelling, this story of a nurse, Julia (Jessica Biel), whose young son becomes the latest victim of the legendary Tall Man is a hopeless grab-bag of clichés and cornball twists, all of it taking place in a misty milieu that—from its muddy roads, trailer parks, ramshackle schools, and eerie woodland areas—is designed to provide as many hackneyed thriller elements and locations as possible.Read more
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, the first Chinese film to be shot in IMAX 3D, is a rare treat for anyone who's ever wondered what a martial arts epic might look like through the eyes of someone suffering from severe glaucoma. Tsui Hark's films aren't famous for their coherence, but Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is such a wantonly incomprehensible experience that it occasionally feels like an epic piece of outsider art. Ostensibly re-imagining one of the wuxia genre's most familiar stories, Hark's latest historical hodgepodge finds Jet Li steering a mess of criminals, courtesans, and one very pissed-off eunuch towards a remote desert outpost which is said to sit atop the Chinese El Dorado.Read more
Briskly and brutally adapted from Matt Bondurant's novel about his family's history in Depression-era Virginia, John Hillcoat's Lawless is distilled down to the richest parts of the saga of the bootlegging Bondurants. Filled to the brim with top-shelf performances from an impressive cast, and with enough well-executed (and often shocking) violence to keep moviegoers of all stripes wide awake, Lawless is a minor classic in the making. But minor it will remain, as even with quality ingredients, the film never quite mixes together to deliver a potent brew. However, solid word...Read more