Recently by Mule

Crazy Heart Movie Review: "It's Funny How Falling Feels like Flyin' for a Little While"

Crazy Heart could so easily have been a melodrama, but instead it is a cautiously optimistic tale of redemption.
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I’m not necessarily a country fan, at least not if we’re talking the “achy-breaky heart” variety. Then, on the other hand, there’s Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, and … yeah, those guys. Crazy Heart lives at that end of the street, just for a reference. Written and directed by Scott Cooper and based on the novel with the same name by Thomas Cobb, this is the story of a country music singer-songwriter called “Bad” Blake played brilliantly by Jeff Bridges. The whole narrative is actually pretty neatly summed up by the featured song “Fallin’ & Flyin’”. Well,

Prometheus Movie Review: "Pings, glitch, life form."

This is a truly gorgeous piece of science fiction, where the Engineers' technology is similar to ours, but more organic in nature.
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This is the prequel that isn't for the Aliens-series that Ridley Scott began with Alien (1979). It positions itself a little awkwardly as being a part of the same universe, but not a direct prequel, which means we are in a world we are familiar with, but the pacing and the ideas are different. It's different enough to be intriguing in its own right and still familiar enough that the viewer is comfortable with the premise. A pair of archaeologists, Elisabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), have discovered a particular constellation of stars that appear in several

On The Road Movie Review: Whither Goest Thou, America, in Thy Shiny Car in the Night?

Sex and drugs and...jazz in On The Road. And despite all that it's still a little tame.
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On the Road (2012) directed by Walter Salles is based on the Jack Kerouac novel of the same name first published in 1957, one of the main works of the Beat Generation. It's not all that surprising that this fierce search for meaning and contexts still manages to fascinate a modern-day audience, especially since it lauds the cult of individuality and exploration. The main protagonist Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) starts his more or less Odyssean journey of self-discovery shortly after the death of his father in a period of acute writer's block. He is introduced to Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund)

Meskada Movie Review: Small Town Crime Drama with Less Punch Than It Could Have Had

Detective Noah Cordin goes to investigate the murder of a young boy and winds up returning to his home town - not that he's all that welcome.
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Meskada (2010) written and directed by Josh Sternfeld is a small town crime drama that aims to blend personal tragedy with a bigger discussion of deepening socio-economic divisions. It starts out with a burglary gone bad. Under the guise of going out of town to work construction, Eddie (Kellan Lutz) and Shane (Jonathan Tucker) go on a robbery road trip. They break into a house they believe to be empty and wind up accidentally killing a young boy who had been left alone at home by his mother Alison Connor (Laura Benati). Detective Noah Cordin (Nick Stahl) gets called in

Inglourious Basterds Movie Review: Liquid Modernity and Alternate History

You've never seen World War II quite like this before.
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Inglourious Basterds (2009) directed by Quantin Tarantino stars Mélanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus), Christoph Waltz (Col. Hans Landa), Brad Pitt (Lt.Aldo Raine), Eli Roth (Sgt. Donny Donowitz), Michael Fassbender (Archie Hicox), Diane Kruger (Bridget von Hammersmark), Daniel Brühl (Fredrick Zoller), Til Schweiger (Hugo Stiglitz), Sylvester Groth (Joseph Goebbels), Martin Wuttke (Adolph Hitler), Rod Taylor (Winston Churchill) et al. There is always a lot going on in Tarantino's movies, and that is putting it mildly. Not only are they riddled and rife with movie connections and intertextuality, references to more or less obscure movie stars and directors, but in this case there

Exotica Movie Review: "What is It About a Schoolgirl?"

Subtle, understated dealings with grief in a club full of exotic dancers is a little unexpected.
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Exotica (1994), a Canadian contemporary of Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Atom Egoyan, revolves around the nightclub that gives the movie its title. It's told in a disjointed chronological order, which means by the time the viewer is invited into the action, everything has already happened. It's all very Pinteresque. At the Exotica the lovely young lady Christina (Mia Kirshner) is dancing to Leonard Cohen's “Everybody Knows” wearing a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. The club's DJ Eric (Elias Koteas) gives her introduction, often repeating the question, “What is it about a schoolgirl?” The club itself is strangely not as sleazy

From Dusk Till Dawn Movie Review: Genre-hopping and Gore

"Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them, I don't give a fuck how crazy they are!" in the immortal words of Seth Gecko.
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There is no reason to expect anything other than a hyperawareness of the very artificiality of the medium when dealing with a Tarantino movie, and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) is a prime example of the wild playfulness of the notion of genre-hopping. Note that Tarantino didn't direct this one, Robert Rodriguez did. Tarantino both wrote the script and co-stars, though, so it's a fair assumption that he had a heavy influence over the proceedings. Seth Gecko (George Clooney) is the beleaguered elder brother who has to try and keep little brother Richard (Tarantino) in check through breaking out of

True Romance (1993) Movie Review: The Tarantino Touch, Violence, Gore, and Humor

Sometimes the ghost of Elvis has the answer.
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True Romance (1993) directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino has all the hallmarks of a Tarantino movie. It's heavily meta-referential from the first second when comic book store clerk Clarence (Christian Slater) goes to a Sonny Chiba triple feature on his birthday and meets Alabama (Patricia Arquette) who, unbeknownst to Clarence, is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss as a birthday present. Clarence literally sees Elvis (Val Kilmer), who acts as a kind of spirit guide for the hapless hero who promptly decides to take on Alabama's drug-dealing pimp Drexl, played by a virtually unrecognizable Gary

The Eagle (2011) Movie Review: Romans, Seal People, and an Epic Quest

The Eagle will provide male bonding, epic trekking, and blue-painted maniacs, but don’t go looking for historical accuracy.
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The Eagle is directed by Kevin Macdonald and stars Channing Tatum (Marcus), Jamie Bell (Esca), Donald Sutherland (Uncle Aquila), Mark Strong (Guern), Tahar Rahim (Prince of the Seal People), Ned Dennehy (Cheif of the Seal People) and Denis O'Hare (Lutorius). It is based on the novel The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Suthcliff. This is one of those highly unlikely stories that really has nothing to do with actual historical fact, other than at a glancing distance and in some ill-realized ambitions. What it does have is entertainment value in the same sense as any old school Sunday matinee

Frankenstein (2004) DVD Review: A Little Too Anemic to be Gothic

“I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames…” or not, as the case might be.
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The television miniseries Frankenstein (2004) is based on Mary Shelley's novel, is directed by Kevin Connor, and stars Alec Newman (Victor Frankenstein), Luke Goss (The Monster), Julie Delphy (Caroline), Nicole Lewis (Elisabeth), Donald Sutherland (Captian Walton), William Hurt (Professor Waldman), and Mark Jax (Victor's father). This is a two-part miniseries, 204 minutes in total, that tries to take on one of those stories that live in the cultural subconscious in ways that mostly have nothing to do with Mary Shelley's original epistolary novel. As such it does a much better job that Branagh or Boris Karloff. But verisimilitude is nor

The Bourne Identity (2002) Movie Review: Nobody Does The Right Thing

If you were to wake up floating in the ocean with two bullet wounds in your back, who would you like to be?
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The Bourne Identity (2002) directed by Doug Liman stars Matt Damon (Jason Bourne), Franka Potente (Marie), Chris Cooper (Conklin), Brian Cox (Ward Abbot), Clive Owen (the Professor), Julia Stiles (Nicolette), and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Wombosi). A man is fished out of the ocean off the coast of France with two bullet wounds in his back, a clever laser doohickey in his hip, and retrograde amnesia. The only clue to his identity is the information that leads him to a safe deposit box in Zurich, which is where he finds enough disturbing Intel about himself to name himself Jason Bourne. It doesn’t

Deadgirl (2008) Movie Review: Bad Things Happen in the Basement

Welcome to the basement where the dead things live and where gothic horror subject matter makes a welcome return.
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Deadgirl (2008) directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel stars Shiloh Fernandez as Rickie, Noah Segan as JT, Candide Accola as Joann, and Jenny Spain as the Deadgirl. Back in the day, when Gothic horror was less about the sexual crisis of sparkly vampires and more about the sublime and seedier side of the human condition and the morals of the age, the troubling quality of a horror tale usually lay under the surface of the gore that invariably splattered itself around the tattered surface, to shock and titillate the bourgeoisie. Deadgirl is a little like that. Oh, there are

Stone (2010) Movie Review: Complex and Intriguing

Just because you’re not doing wrong doesn’t mean you’re doing right.
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Stone (2010) directed by John Curran stars Robert De Niro as Jack Mabry, Edward Norton as Gerald ”Stone” Creeson, Milla Jovovich as Lucetta Creeson, Frances Conroy as Madylyn Maybry, and Peter Lewis as the Warden. It starts with a bee. It's not a huge big thing, the buzzing of that bee, the noise of it banging against a window looking for a way in. The Mabrys’ house is located out in the country side, fields all around. Jack (Enver Gjokaj) is sitting in front of the TV in his recliner and his young wife (Pepper Brinkley) is taking their daughter

Zombieland Movie Review: Remember the Rules and You'll Be Fine

Comedy and horror don't always mix, but when you get the alchemy right it's really gory good fun.
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Zombieland (2009) directed by Ruben Fleischer stars Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Emma Stone (Wichita), Abagail Breslin (Little Rock), and Amber Heard (406). To survive the Zombie Apocalypse you have to stick to the rules. That's what lead character Columbus tells us during the opening credits. Some of the rules are “beware of bathrooms”, “fasten your seatbelt”, and “don't be a hero”, and of course make sure to remember the “double tap”. He also explains that he's a coward with IBS and therefore an unlikely survivor. Or, maybe that's why it makes the best kind of sense that he

The Ledge Movie Review: A Lot of Hard Talk and Not a Lot of Follow-through

Sometimes a kammerspielfilm shoots itself in the foot and that's the problem with The Ledge in a nutshell.
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The Ledge (2011) is directed by Matthew Chapman and stars Charlie Hunnam (Gavin), Liv Tyler (Shauna), Patrick Wilson (Joe) and Terrence Howard (Detective Howard). The movie starts in a doctor's office where Detective Howard is just being informed that he is sterile and has been all his life, which means that his kids aren't actually his kids. This rather unfortunate turn of events could put a crimp in any guy's day, so it's a little disconcerting to find out that his job for the day is to go talk a jumper off a ledge. On the ledge we find Gavin,

Cheri (2009) Movie Review: La Belle Epoque Decadence and Restrained Love

The aging courtesan and her young gentleman companion are not in love, they merely have a mutually beneficial arrangement.
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Chéri is directed by Stephen Frears and stars Michelle Pfeiffer as Léa de Lonval and Rupert Friend as Chéri, or Fred Peloux as he's really called. Set in the Belle Époque in Paris, this is the story of an aging courtesan and her young lover. Or, rather, that's not at all what this story is about, but we'll start there. The story is based on the French novel by the same name by the author Colette. Chéri's mother, Charlotte (Kathy Bates) thinks that her son has become a little too disaffected and disillusioned and wants her good friend, and arch

Outlaw (2007) Movie Review: Vigilante Violence Without Narrative Conviction

Sometimes it's not enough to want revenge and justice, you have to have a plot too.
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Outlaw (2007) directed by Nick Love is a British revenge vigilante tale that starts with a disturbing nightmare that involves Gene (Danny Dyer) getting assaulted by a gang of roughians as he is driving to his wedding. This scene sets the tone for what you can expect as the movie progresses. Sean Bean plays the disgruntled ex-soldier Danny Bryant who comes back home and checks into a hotel where the security guard Simon Hillier (Sean Harris) has rigged the rooms with surveillance cameras in order to keep closer watch on the denizens. The hotel's security office turns into a kind

Thirst (2009) Movie Review: Korean Gothic Horror And Blood Disease

Korean Gothic horror underpinned by psychological drama and literary Naturalism
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Thirst (2009) directed by Chan-wook Park is something as oddly inspired as a Korean vampire movie loosely based on Zola's Thérèse Raquin. Kang-ho Song plays the priest Sang-hyeon. In a misguided attempt to help cure a wasting disease called the Emmanuel Virus, the priest offers himself up to a medical experiment that involves letting himself get infected and then treated. It turns out that one of the procedures actually does cure him, but it leaves him with a strange and disturbing side effect - a thirst for blood. As long as he keeps drinking the ruby-red he's fine. The second

Sinners and Saints (2010) Movie Review: What Was I Thinking?

You're supposed to be laughing with the sinners instead of crying with the saints, not just laughing at the plot line.
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You know how sometimes you look at the specs for a movie and it has some decent actors in it and it’s set in a pretty good locale and seems to have a somewhat trite, if still viable plot and you think to yourself ”well, this could be an okay way to spend an hour and a half” only to find that once you start watching you begin to question what the heck you were thinking? Yeah, this is one of those. The thing that drew me to this particular movie was actually New Orleans. Well, that and the fact

Breakfast On Pluto Movie Review: The Strange and Exotic Tale of Patrick Kitten Braden

With a line like "If I wasn't a transvestite terrorist, would you marry me?" at least you know Kitten won't bore you.
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Breakfast On Pluto (2005) based on the novel of the same name by Patrick McCabe is directed by Neil Jordan and stars Cillian Murphy as the unique Patrick "Kitten" Braden. This is a really peculiar mixture of coming of age, personal discovery, picaresque, moral tale, fairy tale, oblique political commentary, and hagiography. The opening shot shows Kitten in full regalia pushing a pram down the street and being accosted by construction workers whose lewd cat-calls she responds to with pointed poise. It then loops back on itself to the very beginning of the tale where we are shown a bassinet

Julia (2008) Movie Review: You Aren't Required To Like Her At All

Erick Zonka directs a wonderfully complex Tilda Swinton as Julia in a twisty tale of a kidnapping gone horribly awry.
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Think of that plot of the well-planned, thought-through kidnapping drama where the criminal mastermind has a location chosen and a hand-picked team of co-conspirators and every move planned three steps in advance. Well, this is most certainly not that. Julia (Tilda Swinton) is a brash-talking, loudmouthed alcoholic who can't hold down a decent job and who is getting too old for the party-all-night lifestyle, which doesn't stop her in the least from taking a new man to bed, or, you know, out to the parking lot, every night. As we are introduced to the lady in question she is already

The Fighter (2010) Movie Review: Family, Loyalty, and Boxing

Sometimes what happens outside the ring is just as interesting as the fights, and that's certainly true for The Fighter.
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The Fighter is a boxing movie. That means you will be seeing some blood and some violence and some rope jumping and sparring. The more unexpected parts of this is probably the fact that so much time is spent on the family dynamics between the lead character Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his seven sisters, his manager/mother Alice (Melissa Leo), and most importantly his drug-addled trainer/brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). The relationship between Mickey and Dicky is fascinating, to say the least. Based on the true story of the welterweight fighter Micky Ward's life, this is a tale of overcoming

The Narrows DVD Review: A New York Coming-of-Age Gangster Movie

A not entirely happy amalgam of genres sometimes just makes genre-soup.
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The Narrows (2008) directed by Francois Velle stars Kevin Zegers (Mike Manadoro), Vincent D'Onofrio (Vinny Manadoro), Sophia Bush (Kathy), Eddie Cahill (Nicky Shades), Titus Welliver (Tony), Monica Keena (Gine Abruzzi), Roger Rees (Professor Reyerson), Tony Gucci (Big Lou), Melina Lizette (Luz). Based on the novel Heart of the Old Country by Tim McLoughlin. The Narrows is an odd fish, as movies go. It takes its name from the strait in New York City between Brooklyn and Staten Island and this is very much a New York movie, and even more a Brooklyn movie. The protagonist is nineteen-year-old Mike who works

The Wind That Shakes the Barley Movie Review: A Tale of Two Irish Brothers and the War of Independence

In guerrilla warfare on home turf things are always more personal.
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The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) directed by Ken Loach stars Cillian Murphy (Damien O'Donovan), Pádraic Delaney (Teddy Donovan), Liam Cunningham (Dan), Orla Fitzgerald (Sinéad), Laurence Barry (Micheál), Mary Murphy (Bernadette), Mary O'Riordan (Peggy), Myles Horgan (Rory), Martin Lucey (Congo), Roger Allam (Sir John Hamilton), John Crean (Chris Rielly), Damien Kearney (Finbar) Frank Bourke (Leo), Shane Casey(Kevin), and Sean McGinley (Father Denis). The story takes place during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) and the Irish Civil War (1922-23) in the County Cork in Ireland. It centers around the two O'Donovan brothers, Damien and Teddy. Damien starts out wanting

Pride and Glory Movie Review: Needs a Little More Pride

A tale of family and loyalty and dirty cops in New York that could have been so much more.
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Pride and Glory (2008) directed by Gavin O'Connor stars Edward Norton (Ray Tierney), Jon Voight (Francis Tierney Sr.), Noah Emmerich (Francis Tierney Jr.), Jennifer Ehle (Abby Tierney), and Colin Farell (Jimmy Egan). This is basically a story about a family of police officers in New York. The Tierneys are like a royal house of cops with the brother-in-law Jimmy Egan as the dark horse. There is something decidedly Shakespearean about the whole dynamic of the Tierney clan. The problem is that Jimmy Egan is dirty, involved in taking money from drug dealers and killing the competition of the dealer they're

Stake Land Movie Review: A Serious Post-Apocalyptic On The Road Vampire Movie

This unexpected gem is on par with "Near Dark" and is certainly worth a viewing.
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Stake Land (2010) directed by Jim Mickle and written by Mickle and Nick Damici is a vampire movie with a different flavour. In a parallel and immediate now, disaster strikes and a pandemic hits the world. Vampires take over, for any given value of that when they actually don't retain any higher brain function other than the basic predator-feeding instinct. That does not mean they are not extremely dangerous, because they certainly are. This story centers around the young boy Martin (Connor Paolo) who survives the brutal attack on his family thanks to the timely arrival of Mister (Nick Damici).

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