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Articles by Mark Barber

Reviews

Alright Now

Jamie Adams’ Alright Now, a romantic dramedy following a rock star following a particularly brutal double breakup, boasts that it is completely improvised.  Here’s the funny thing about improvisation: you need actors who are good at it.

Reviews

Broken Star

The central character in Dave Schwep’s Broken Star is a young actress fallen from grace: a drug-addicted, manipulative monster.  Markey Marlowe (Crazy, Stupid, Love’s Analeigh Tipton) – a character and name that sounds like it’s come right out of a 1940s film noir – is placed on house arrest, with her only company being reclusive landlord Daryl (Tyler Labine of Mountain Men), whose grandmother has recently passed away.  Over time, Marlowe manipulates Daryl into attacking those…

Reviews

Paper Year

Fleeting moments of marital bliss is the subject of Rebecca Addelman’s Paper Year, a film that explores the tumultuous first year of marriage between two millennials living precariously in Los Angeles.  Although largely sympathetic to its central couple, Paper Year often feels like it would have more potential as a cautionary tale for young lovers trying to make it big in the entertainment industry.  Though, perhaps it is the balance between sympathy and cautionary that…

Reviews

The Commuter

The Commuter, the new film from celebrated cross-genre filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra, pairs the acclaimed vulgar auteur once again with Liam Neeson (following 2011’s Unknown, 2014’s Non-Stop and 2015’s Run All Night) to deliver a thrilling high concept action film with timely yet flawed social commentary.

Reviews

The Limehouse Golem

The tagline for The Limehouse Golem boasts that its fictional Victorian London serial killer precedes the infamous Jack the Ripper.  We have yet to see a compelling cinematic take on the Ripper murders (including the Hughes Brothers’ tragically underwhelming Johnny Depp vehicle From Hell).  Though it merely draws inspiration from the Ripper, The Limehouse Golem suggests that we may have to wait a bit longer.

Reviews

School Life

Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s observational documentary, School Life, is an intimate look at the daily life at Headfort, a centuries old primary Irish boarding school.  The school is run by John and Amanda Leydon, who instruct their young students on a the usual range of disciplines – math, science, languages, sport, and music.

Reviews

Brigsby Bear

Reintegrating kidnappees into society is familiar territory, but Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear adds a charming, unique twist to the narrative.  With a cast and crew populated by Saturday Night Live staff (including director Dave McCary, co-writer and star Kyle Mooney, and producer and co-star Andy Samberg), Brigsby Bear lacks the cynicism typically associated with themes of nostalgia;  instead, Brigsby is rather heartwarming in its absurdity.

Reviews

From the Land of the Moon

Marion Cotillard is a talented actress whose career has seen a steady increase in forgettable dramas over the years.  For every The Immigrant and Two Days, One Night, there’s a Rust and Bone and an It’s Only the End of the World (though, I confess, I like the latter film, but it is unquestionably Dolan’s weakest film).  Nicole Garcia’s From the Land of the Moon, which was in competition at Cannes last year, is yet another…

Reviews

Score: A Film Music Documentary

There’s not much to say about Matt Schrader’s ever imaginatively titled Score: A Film Music Documentary.  A documentary made in praise of the Hollywood elite composers (who, to be fair, deserve the praise), Score has the presentation quality of a TV special or DVD bonus feature with no original thoughts about its subject.

Reviews

The Dinner

On paper, Oren Moverman’s The Dinner, based on the novel by Dutch author Herman Koch, sounds similar to the 1981 chamber piece My Dinner with Andre, but with a darker twist.  The intellectual wit of Andre isn’t present here, replaced instead with elements of thriller and drama.