Chris Hanley

Chris Hanley

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Spring Breakers Review


Good

Arthouse filmmaker Harmony Korine (Mister Lonely) comes dangerously close to making a mainstream movie with this blackly comical thriller. While the film is often very funny, and constantly challenges our preconceptions by veering in directions we don't expect, it's also an intriguing exploration of America's hedonistic subculture.

Gomez and Hudgens also crush their Disney princess images as Faith and Candy, who decide they want to go to Florida for spring break with their pals Brit and Cotty (Benson and Korine). But they've spent all their cash on drugs, so they rob a restaurant and head to the beach. After indulging in a series of raucous parties, they end up in jail and are bailed out by a sleazy rapper-gangster who calls himself Alien (Franco). He takes them under his wing, getting them involved in his war with a dangerous cross-town rival (Mane).

The film is shot in lurid colours, with the girls wearing little more than fluorescent bikinis, sometimes accompanied with pink balaclavas. And the score by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez is visceral and hugely atmospheric, adding unexpected texture to the way Korine explores physicality, drugs and violence. It's also quite deliberate that, apart from the religiously minded Faith, these young women kind of blur together anonymously, like all the other bikini babes at the various beer-chugging, arms-in-the-air parties.

Continue reading: Spring Breakers Review

360 Review


OK
Loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's play La Ronde, this beautifully assembled film is easy to watch. But that's the problem: the subject matter should be much more difficult than this, as it's about having the courage to make unexpected choices.

In Vienna, British businessman Michael (Law) has arranged to meet Slovakian prostitute Blanka (Siposova) on her first night on the job. But the situation shifts, and Michael ends up thinking about his wife (Weisz) in London.

Meanwhile, she's having a fling with a Brazilian (Cazarre) whose girlfriend (Flor) is fed up with his infidelity. On her flight home, she meets a troubled British man (Hopkins) and a recovering sex-offender (Foster). Meanwhile, an Algerian dentist (Debbouze) in Paris is in love with his Russian employee (Drukarova), whose husband (Vdovichenkov) works for a hotheaded gangster (Ivanir).

Continue reading: 360 Review

The Virgin Suicides Review


Good
The Virgin Suicides is a dark comedy that embodies some twisted views on suburban family life and the true lack innocence of adolescence. First-time writer and director Sofia Coppola, daughter of Godfather creator Francis Ford Coppola, proves to us that she's not really an actress (see The Godfather Part III), but that she does have the family knack for provocative movie directing. The movie is based upon Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, The Virgin Suicides, a detective story about five sisters who mysteriously commit suicide and the investigation by four neighborhood boys who had fallen in love with them. Coppola, however, transforms the movie into her own allegory of five adolescent girls who suffer from ruthlessly suppressed lives, their desperate plea for self-expression, and the tragedy that besets their wretched existence.

Set in the mid-seventies, the plot follows the Lisbon family, with James Woods, a physics teacher at the local high school, as the scatter brained father, and Kathleen Turner as the uncommonly strict mother. Their five daughters are beautiful, naturally blonde, and the desire of every boy in the neighborhood. When the youngest, Cecilia, mysteriously attempts suicide, psychiatrist Danny DeVito recommends that she be allowed to interact more socially, especially with boys. So the Lisbon girls are introduced to the boys of the neighborhood, who have already been watching the girls from afar through half-opened window shades, binoculars, and telescopes. At a party in Cecilia's honor, the boys witness a tragedy that shocks them out of their wits. As a result, the Lisbons fall into a deep suppression shutting out the rest of the world by retreating into their own inner sanctum. It appears they will never recover until Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the high school heartthrob, pursues the unattainable Lux (Kirsten Dunst). He attempts to ask her to the prom, but the only way her mother will allow him to take Lux is if all the girls go together. For the first time, the girls will venture out of the home to interact socially in an environment other than school.

Continue reading: The Virgin Suicides Review

Edmond Review


Grim
There's a slight chance, very slight, that David Mamet is a genius. As a writer, his blunt, edgy, and constantly interrupted dialogue has earned him a lot of weight, so much so that he is considered one of the more important playwrights of the last 25 years or so. As a director, he is precise and extremely-well calculated, if not a bit lacking in aesthetic substance and style. When he directs his own work, it tends to go remarkably smooth, as it did in the fantastic Heist and his best film, State and Main. However, when put in the hands of others, sometimes it goes exceedingly well (James Foster's Glengarry Glen Ross) or exceedingly bad (Michael Corrente's American Buffalo). The latest is a retelling of his play Edmond by King of the Ants helmer Stuart Gordon.On his way home from work, Edmond Burke (William H. Macy) decides to stop at a fortune teller. She simply tells him this: "You are not where you're supposed to be." This causes him to leave his wife (a brief Rebecca Pidgeon) and to go out on the town to get an old fashioned piece of tail, as suggested by a stranger at a bar (the reputable Joe Mantegna). He goes through strippers, booth girls and expensive call girls, played by a who's who of young actresses ranging from Mena Suvari to Denise Richards. He finally settles on a waitress (Julia Stiles) who he picks up after attacking a pimp and finding a newfound love for life. This passion, however, leads to a terrible act that lands him in jail and doing things that he was scared of before, constantly saying "every fear hides a wish."Mamet's sly style of writing somehow seems lacking here. In Glengarry, he wrote with blood and thunder about the rigorous work of real estate salesmen and in Oleanna, he split the sexual harassment debate so thinly that you couldn't see his opinion without microscope eyes. With Edmond however, he lays everything out for the audience and world to see, allowing the character to often pontificate on basic musings like what it's like to feel alive and the mundane nature of normal life. There is a serious lack of subtext that gives off the feeling of extreme annoyance.Gordon directs with a simple enough structuralism and he gives impressive terror to the climactic scene where Edmond goes over the edge. However, this simplicity also leads to a considerable loss in mood and atmosphere, which seems devoid after the excellent opening scene in the fortune teller's room. The actors, chiefly Macy and Stiles, struggle to keep the story afloat and exciting, but it's a losing battle. Reliable character actors like Bai Ling and Dylan Walsh (so good in Nip/Tuck) are given scant screen time to show their prowess, but Bokeem Woodbine works wonders as Edmond's bunkmate when he enters prison. None of this, however, allows Edmond to make more than a small ripple in the water. It's a fussy little movie that wants to be much more controversial and important than it is. Did I say those chances were very, very slight?The dead hooker's under the card in the middle.

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things Review


OK
Only a month after acclaimed author J.T. LeRoy was exposed by The New York Times as a fictional persona concocted by writer Laura Albert - a revelation that all but demolished the credibility of the scribe's supposedly semi-autobiographical books - cultish actress/diva-turned-director Asia Argento arrives with her adaptation of LeRoy's The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, the tumultuous road-tripping saga of young Jeremiah and the psycho birth mother who introduces him to a world of whoring, pill-popping and delusional paranoia. Having proven herself more than slightly familiar with society's seedy underbelly with 2000's skuzzy Scarlet Diva, Argento attacks LeRoy's (untrue, but still affecting) tale of corrosively corrupted childhood with nasty relish, employing severe close-ups, nightmarishly surreal stop-motion animation, curdled primary colors and a dissonant Billy Corgan score for this descent into degenerate nomad hell. Yet despite such avant-garde showmanship, Argento's second effort behind the camera is significantly more polished than her debut, lacking the truly gonzo verve that might have overcome her film's more pressing, primary failure to capture the boy's-eye-view of LeRoy's tome. Closed off from her protagonist's internal turmoil, Argento's Heart is Deceitful gets the horrific literal facts straight but, disappointingly, captures only a trace of the mental anguish and manipulation that bestowed her source material with its coal-black tragedy.

Taken from the loving arms of his foster parents by unstable mom Sarah (Argento), Jeremiah (Jimmy Bennett for the first half; Dylan and Cole Sprouse for the latter section) finds himself unwillingly thrust into an itinerant life of substance abuse and sex-for-sale, a babe cast into the big bad woods of Middle American tract house communities and interstate truck stops. An odyssey of innocence parentally defiled, Argento's film strives, from the opening shot of a stuffed animal being waved in Jeremiah's face, to assume the perspective of her pint-sized protagonist, both through straightforward knee-high point-of-view shots as well as by grotesquely distorting her carnival-esque compositions to create a mood of terrified awe and dread. The result is a funhouse-mirror vibe rooted in squalor, from the decrepit apartments that Sarah and Jeremiah temporarily occupy with her assortment of boyfriends, to the parking lots where she plies her trade as a prostitute, to a combustible crack kitchen where the filth is so tangible that it can almost be felt creeping under one's fingernails. Still, working with cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards, Argento carefully balances these more out-there inclinations - felt most strikingly in Jeremiah's visions of cawing, flesh-eating red crows - with conventional setups and chronology, thereby deftly maintaining a tremulous sense of coherence even as her narrative begins spiraling into madness.

Continue reading: The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things Review

I Love Your Work Review


Weak
I may not love your work but I don't think much of your mind, either. The mind, that is, of the guy responsible for this cult psychodrama on steroids, writer-director Adam Goldberg.

His Gray Evans (Giovanni Ribisi) is a movie star who can't go far without being recognized and adulated, but he's being led down the path of depression by psychotic paranoia spiked with narcissism. He's married to his boyhood idol, Mia (Franka Potente), who truly loves him, but she's more the inspiration for distrust than love and joy. Self-destruction lurks in the wings.

Continue reading: I Love Your Work Review

Girl Review


OK
Dominique Swain jumps from one Lolita to another with Girl, this made-for-cable romp about a brainy beauty virgin who decides to let it all slut-out with the local grunge-rock hero (Flanery). What lessons does she learn along the way? I never really figured that out... but for some reason, I didn't completely hate the film -- maybe because Swain is so damn cute.

Spun Review


Weak
Wes Anderson fans will barely recognize Spun protagonist, if you can call him that, Jason Schwartzman. Though he's been in a handful of forgettable roles since claiming cult status with his breakthrough in 1998's Rushmore, he's back to center frame as a speed-addicted, goalless youngster. Though this time around he somehow manages to snag a buxom blonde dancer and tie her to a bed for a few days instead of merely pining away for the older woman.

But with an eclectic cast that includes John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, and Mickey Rourke, Spun is more about exuberant editing providing a humorous glimpse into a small, bored, drug community than a focus on any particular acting or writing talent. Once the pizzazz of quick cuts and graphic novel touches has washed over the normal tell-tale signs of substance abuse by all the characters, you're left with another drug movie that feels as if it's trying too hard to be Trainspotting, without the spiffy production design.

Continue reading: Spun Review

Bully Review


Excellent
Larry Clark -- who wrote and directed his first film, Kids, at the tender age of 52 and in the process, broke the mold about what we should expect from a movie about teenagers -- returns to familiar ground in Bully, a striking and harrowing follow-up.

A slam-dunk natural subject for Clark, Bully follows the based-on-reality story of Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro), who along with his girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner) decides to brutally slay his "best friend" Bobby (Nick Stahl) as payback for a lifetime of abuse. Set in the ultra-trashy nether regions of southern Florida -- and I mean seriously, beyond-WWF trashy -- there's little to do but drive your car, play video games, have sex, and beat the crap out of your friends.

Continue reading: Bully Review

The Virgin Suicides Review


Good
The Virgin Suicides is a dark comedy that embodies some twisted views on suburban family life and the true lack innocence of adolescence. First-time writer and director Sofia Coppola, daughter of Godfather creator Francis Ford Coppola, proves to us that she's not really an actress (see The Godfather Part III), but that she does have the family knack for provocative movie directing. The movie is based upon Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, The Virgin Suicides, a detective story about five sisters who mysteriously commit suicide and the investigation by four neighborhood boys who had fallen in love with them. Coppola, however, transforms the movie into her own allegory of five adolescent girls who suffer from ruthlessly suppressed lives, their desperate plea for self-expression, and the tragedy that besets their wretched existence.

Set in the mid-seventies, the plot follows the Lisbon family, with James Woods, a physics teacher at the local high school, as the scatter brained father, and Kathleen Turner as the uncommonly strict mother. Their five daughters are beautiful, naturally blonde, and the desire of every boy in the neighborhood. When the youngest, Cecilia, mysteriously attempts suicide, psychiatrist Danny DeVito recommends that she be allowed to interact more socially, especially with boys. So the Lisbon girls are introduced to the boys of the neighborhood, who have already been watching the girls from afar through half-opened window shades, binoculars, and telescopes. At a party in Cecilia's honor, the boys witness a tragedy that shocks them out of their wits. As a result, the Lisbons fall into a deep suppression shutting out the rest of the world by retreating into their own inner sanctum. It appears they will never recover until Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the high school heartthrob, pursues the unattainable Lux (Kirsten Dunst). He attempts to ask her to the prom, but the only way her mother will allow him to take Lux is if all the girls go together. For the first time, the girls will venture out of the home to interact socially in an environment other than school.

Continue reading: The Virgin Suicides Review

American Psycho Review


Good
From the opening scene, showing drops of blood on a pristine white surface, we know we're in for... well, not your ordinary slasher flick. Turns out the "blood" is a berry sauce being applied to a plate of haute cuisine. And the mind games of American Psycho have only just begun.

Steeped in controversy and mired in production for years, American Psycho tells the story of Anybroker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a highest-society late 1980s Wall Street investment banker with a penchant for murder and a bloodlust that doesn't quit. Think of it as a portrait of Gordon Gecko as a young, homicidal man.

Continue reading: American Psycho Review

This Girl's Life Review


OK
The girl's life in question is one of a porn star, in case you're wondering.

Newcomer Juliette Marquis is the girl -- with the stage name of Moon -- and the film takes us through a smattering of adventures in her life. She has to pick a guy to star with in a scene (with a geriatric applicant among the choices), she takes care of her father (James Woods), who suffers from Parkinson's, and she decides to start a small business playing femme fatale for women worried their significant others may be tempted to cheat on them.

Continue reading: This Girl's Life Review

Trees Lounge Review


Good
Get this tagline for Trees Lounge: "A story about one man's search... for who knows what." That could describe quite well writer/director/star Steve Buscemi during his creation of this film, a quirky and melodramatic tragicomedy about... who knows what.

Buscemi plays Tommy, a regular guy in Long Island whose life is basically a series of alcoholic binges, sprinkled with failed love affairs, cheap drugs, and terminal unemployment. A parade of supporting characters (all played by Buscemi's personal friends) run in and out of his life, and everyone tries to make some sense of it all.

Continue reading: Trees Lounge Review

Two Girls And a Guy Review


Terrible
Pretty hideous film about, well, two girls in love with the same guy. When they run into each other, a chaotic confrontation ensues with said guy... who I can't really fathom why anyone would even like in the first place.

Continue reading: Two Girls And a Guy Review

Buffalo '66 Review


Good
Curious, but highly experimental film by actor/writer/director/composer Gallo in his writing/directing/composing debut. The story of a guy who returns home (from prison) to Buffalo is touching and bizarre, with equal emphasis on both.
Chris Hanley

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