Category B Reviews

Heli (Amat Escalante, 2014)

Going into Heli, the one thing I had heard repeatedly is that it is very hard to watch. Reports of its difficulty have been greatly exaggerated. There are a small handful of violent scenes, but with the exception of two, all are well within the realm of what anybody who watches R rated films would […]

Caesar Must Die (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 2013)

To be sure, the central conceit of Caesar Must Die, a hybrid documentary from Paolo and Vittorio Taviani in which convicts perform Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, is not as powerful as it ought to be. Sequences in which art imitates the lives of the prisoners are delivered plainly and without resonance, as when one performer says, […]

Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton, 2013)

When One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was adapted in 1975, cynicism was at its peak. A de facto defeat in an unwanted Vietnam War was compounded by the resignation of Richard Nixon. Attitudes toward authority were skeptical, to say the least, and if you ask the more honest of those that lived through it, […]

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

We Need To Talk About Kevin is a radical film for long enough to suggest that the whole film will be radical. After a glimpse of Eva’s (Tilda Swinton) life before motherhood that depicts her either as a loose-spirit and aims for irony (she is covered in blood-red tomato juice, with an emphasis on “blood”) […]

Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013)

With its phone-footage intro of Bay-Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle shooting Oscar Grant, director Ryan Coogler announces where Fruitvale Station is going. It is far from uncommon for films to start with a scene from the end or near the end as a way of controlling expectations and preventing accusations of deus ex machina […]

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino. 2004)

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 begins just prior to where it ends, then goes to the beginning of the whole story, and then picks up just a bit past where the first volume began. That might sound confusing, but it’s really not. While The Bride (Uma Thurman) drives to Bill with the intent to kill him, […]

Tristana (Luis Buñuel, 1970)

If I told you that Tristana was Luis Buñuel’s third film to be made in Spain, you might find it strange that it was one of his last films. Released in 1970, Buñuel would make only three more films, and none of them would be both set in Spain and spoken in Spanish. In fact, […]