Pick Up the Pieces: Leonardo DiCaprio is The Revenant

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.

Alejandro González Iñarritu is the most versatile director of our time. After the highly complex Birdman, which reflects on media and show business in a self-referential way, he surprises the public with a movie which couldn’t be baser. It reminds me of the famous quote by Auguste Rodin, ‘I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.’ Because the director has gotten rid of anything in the movie that could be considered superfluous.

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Lost in Darkness: The Cruel Post-war Germany of Finsterworld

There are dark secrets hidden in the German woods.
There are dark secrets hidden in the German woods.

Finsterworld by Frauke Finsterwalder is a movie that tells a lot about Germany to foreigners as well as to the homegrown. Scripted by the director’s husband, the renowned Swiss author Christian Kracht, Finsterworld provides a broad kaleidoscope of German life today. Through several entangled stories the viewer is drawn into a world of ugliness, fetish, and callousness. Please do not consider this a tour guide to Germany.

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In the Cards: Christian Bale is Terrence Malick’s Knight Of Cups

Rick (Christian Bale, right) with his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett, left)
Rick (Christian Bale, right) with his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett, left)

Terrence Malick remains an enigma. First, the reclusive director vanished from the filmmaking landscape for two solid decades between his sophomore effort Days Of Heaven and the acclaimed The Thin Red Line. Then, he returns with a new movie every other year from 2011’s The Tree Of Life on, after never having spent less than five on every other previous feature. Knight Of Cups, which reunites him with erstwhile Batman Christian Bale, is the third of these experimental narratives that Terrence Malick has put out in a relatively short span of time. Given the frenetic working pace, can the director continue his run as the film buffs’ darling or has he finally run out of steam with his latest output?

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Broadway The Hard Way: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, or the Psyche of an Actor

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton, front) is always haunted by Birdman.
Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton, front) is always haunted by Birdman.

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu had already been a known commodity in Hollywood circles for a while. His debut feature, Amores Perros, became a fan favorite, while his U.S. projects 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful landed him the star power of Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, or Javier Bardem. With his fifth movie, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance), he has firmly established himself as one of the premier talents behind the camera stateside. The film won four prestigious Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography – but how good is Birdman really?

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The Monster Is Loose: Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan as a Parable of Putin’s Russia?

A broken Kolya (Aleksei Serebryanov) reflects on his life.
A broken Kolya (Aleksei Serebryanov) reflects on his life.

Russian cinema has always commanded international respect, even when things were frosty between the Soviet Union and the ‘West.’ The same still holds true for the modern arthouse movies from the country. Since the early 2000s, Andrei Zvyagintsev has become one of the more distinguished Russian directors. Particularly because of the recent crisis between his homeland, Ukraine, and the NATO, Zvyagintsev’s fourth feature, Leviathan, has seen a lot of politically-motivated controversy coming its way. The question is, then, how good is the movie and how much of an accurate portrait of today’s Russia does it provide?

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The Midget’s Lament: Tod Browning’s Freaks, or the Birth of Cinema from the Spirit of the Fair

The midget Hans (Harry Earles, left) is ridiculed by the trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova, right).
The midget Hans (Harry Earles, left) is ridiculed by the trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova, right).

Every once in while movies give a new direction to pop culture by starting a new epoch. Take A Clockwork Orange (1971), which influenced the punk movement by providing a new dress and language code for youth culture. Moreover, a hip-hop culture without Scarface (1983) would be hard to imagine. The movie I am going to discuss in this article is not only such an epoch-making movie but also the maker of a new medium known as ‘cinema.’

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Food, Glorious Food: Chef Jon Favreau Goes Back to the Roots

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, back, to the left), his son Percy (Emjay Anthony, front, to the left), and their friend Martin (John Leguizamo, front, to the right) enjoy a good Texas BBQ.
Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, back, to the left), his son Percy (Emjay Anthony, front, to the left), and their friend Martin (John Leguizamo, front, to the right) enjoy a good Texas BBQ.

In Hollywood, Jon Favreau has become a household name as the man at the helm of the Iron Man trilogy. While he admittedly did a commendable job as the director of the first two movies from that franchise, he actually started out as an indie comedy filmmaker. Chef, a pet project of his, sees the jack of all trades return to his roots, while prominently involving him in several roles – as the leading man, director, writer, and producer. Does Jon Favreau succeed, as he did with the Iron Man blockbusters, or does carrying that much weight overwhelm even such an über-talented man?

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The Doors of Perception: Nietzsche Revisited in The Diving Bell & The Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Baudy (Mathieu Amalric, right) and his wife (Emmanuelle Seigner).
Jean-Dominique Baudy (Mathieu Amalric, right) and his wife (Emmanuelle Seigner, left) feed each other.

Le scaphandre et le papillon by the American artist and director Julian Schnabel is a good example of what cinema is able to accomplish. Based on a novel by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor-in-chief of the French magazine Elle, the movie is depicting his real and unique destiny.

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The Musical Box: Marion Cotillard Plays Wicked Games in Love Me If You Dare

Julien (Guillaume Canet, left) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard, right) can't stay away from playing their dares game.
Julien (Guillaume Canet, left) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard, right) can’t stay away from playing their dares game.

Jeux d’enfants by French director Yann Samuell begins as a rather sad version of Amélie but develops a dynamic of its own which leads to catastrophe. The young Julien Janvier (Guillaume Canet), whose mother is on the brink of dying from cancer, meets Sophie Kowalsky (Marion Cotillard), a Polish classmate who is bullied. They become friends und develop a dares game which has only one rule: Whoever gets the musical box must do whatever he is asked.

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Pleasure to Kill: Winona Ryder and Christian Slater Get Rid of the Heathers

Veronica (Winona Ryder, left) and her boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater, right) have grand plans.
Veronica (Winona Ryder, left) and her boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater, right) have grand plans.

Heathers is maybe the first realistic high-school movie and – at the same time – the most sophisticated. Due to its highly intelligent script, this movie has the depth and the wit of a Shakespearean play.

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Sexual Healing: Charlotte Gainsbourg Enters the Dark Side in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. II

Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, center) tries to revive her sex life.
Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, center) tries to revive her sex life.

The second act of Nymphomaniac isn’t the first sequel shot by notorious Danish director Lars von Trier; that honor belongs to the horror movie Epidemic. Yet his latest two-part film carries the distinction that it comes with the first cinematic cliffhanger in his storied career – one that works almost like a coitus interruptus in the context of a promiscuous woman. Whereas the first part of Nymphomaniac narrates the story of a young female sex addict, the second half finally reveals how she ended up in the hermit’s house.

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Lust for Life: Charlotte Gainsbourg Becomes Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. I

Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, left) tells the wise older hermit Seligman (Stellan Starsgård) all about her life as a nymphomaniac.
Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, left) tells the wise older hermit Seligman (Stellan Starsgård) all about her life as a nymphomaniac.

Lars von Trier has never run away from controversy. The Danish enfant terrible has rather made a career out of embracing it – whether by being banned from the Cannes Film Festival for fascist remarks or by tackling the lives of mentally challenged people in Idiots. Whereas his 2011 feature, Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst, was a lugubrious ballad about the world’s end, Lars von Trier returns to his familiar stomping grounds of explicit sex and violence in his new double-dip Nymphomaniac with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Starsgård, and Shia LaBeouf.

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Money for Nothing: Martin Scorsese Makes Leonardo DiCaprio The Wolf Of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, right) may be the Wolf of Wall Street - but at home, 'pussy runs the show' in the shape of his wife Naomi (Margot Robbie, left).
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, right) may be the Wolf of Wall Street – but at home, ‘pussy runs the show’ in the shape of his wife Naomi (Margot Robbie, left).

After some rather unconventional career choices lately, Martin Scorsese has finally returned to the world he knows best – that of the real-life gangsters transported to the big screen. For The Wolf Of Wall Street, he has also brought back his favorite actor of the last decade and a half, Leonardo DiCaprio. This time, however, the seasoned director and his disciple haven’t taken on the challenge to deal with some of the lowlifes from their previous collaborations. The protagonists of The Wolf Of Wall Street are New York stockbrokers that actually existed and chiseled millions out of unsuspecting, mostly working-class victims. With Martin Scorsese back in his element at last, will he be able deliver another masterpiece?

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The Sand Pebbles

The Sand Pebbles
The Sand Pebbles

The Sand Pebbles, starring the “King of Cool” Steve McQueen, is one of the best films of the 1960s. The film focuses on the journey of a Navy Engineer by the name of Jake Holman in the year 1926 in China, a time of great political upheaval. After nearly a century of foreign domination, with countries such as Japan, America, the UK, Russia and other states slicing China up into different spheres of influence under the ‘unequal treaties’ China finds itself in a great civil war with nationalists and communists vying for influence. Meanwhile many missionaries, military men, foreign businessmen, diplomats and academics still found themselves in China.

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Basket Case: James Stewart Defends Ben Gazzara in Otto Preminger’s Anatomy Of A Murder

Paul Biegler (James Stewart, center) is caught between a rock - Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara, right) - an a hard place - Laura Manion (Lee Remick, left).

James ‘Jimmy’ Stewart is one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors of all time. His noteworthy movies range from an Oscar-winning performance in Frank Capra’s The Philadelphia Story to becoming an Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite in Rear Window and Vertigo. After ‘Hitch’ had infamously ditched him for Cary Grant on North By Northwest, James Stewart managed to team up with another great European émigré director, Otto Preminger, for one of his better roles – the leading part in the courtroom drama Anatomy Of A Murder.

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