CINEMA: Dan Buskirk’s Favorite Films Of 2016

  BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Another year ticks by and 2016 reinforces the idea that the creation of serious, non-blockbuster films is less and less of interest in the American movie industry. No less a voice of authority than Martin Scorsese professed this opinion in a recent Associated Press article proclaiming “Cinema is Gone,” and while film culture is still consistently flourishing in pockets around the world, only four of the dozen films listed here as 2016 favorites are by U.S. directors, surely an all-time personal low. People carry with them a lot of myths about creativity being a […]

BEST OF: Dan Buskirk’s Favorite Films Of 2015

  BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC It was a memorable year for big Hollywood blockbusters even if the best of them (Mad Max, Star Wars, Mission Impossible) were pieced together from ancient sources. But as someone who still shells out the premium to watch films in theaters, I don’t want to be catered to, I want to be shocked and thrilled by something I’ve never seen on screen before. Bemoaning the state of the U.S. film industry can seem like my default setting yet as I pieced together this year’s film list I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost […]

BEST OF CINEMA: Dan Buskirk’s Top 10 Of 2011

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Most critics get their year-end piece done before Santa’s arrival, I’m always holding out hope that I could still see a year-end contender in the final days before the New Year. I finally caught up with Michel Hazanavicius’ silent film homage The Artist on New Year’s Eve and left feeling it has been preposterously over-praised. Conceptually, I am sold on celebrating silent and black & white cinema history, but its feel for the era is so lazily inauthentic and its plot so derivative and thin that it failed to levitate my spirit, although I’ll attest […]

CINEMA: Dancing In The Dark

WALTZ WITH BASHIR (2008, directed by Ari Folman, 90 minutes, Israel) BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Like last years’ Persepolis, the true-life mystery Waltz With Bashir delivers the West some much-needed Middle Eastern history in an easy-to-digest cartoon format. Make that “easier-to-digest” format, because even when told with this expressionist mix of flash and hand-drawn animation this difficult-to-shake tale of the toll of war lures us to stare at some truly grueling memories that would be unbearable on film. With interviews collected as documentary then sculpted and rendered in animation, filmmaker Ari Folman presents the stories of his comrades from […]

CINEMA: Film Festival Guidance

WHAT WE DO IS SECRET (2007, directed by Rodger Grossman, 92 minutes, U.S.)BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC What is no secret is that the old-fashioned Hollywood bio-pic is over-due for an overhaul; why hasn’t first-time director Roder Grossman received the news? Indistinguishable from about fifty percent of VH1’s Behind The Music scripts, this bio of quintessential L.A. punk Darby Crash and his briefly viable band The Germs hits most of the same notes as Judd Apatow’s Dewey Cox parody from last winter. The Germs‘ music still kicks ass and E.R.s Shane West (collecting the Festival’s Rising Star Award at Saturday’s […]

CINEMA: Philadelphia Film Festival Guidance

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC In too many ways, Philadelphia is not much of a cinema town. We have fewer screens than most cities our size, no full-time repertory theater (a fact that irks me daily) and too many foreign films just do not open here. But for a the next couple weeks, we can pretend we all live in a first-run town, as the 17th Philadelphia Film Festival spreads out across six area venues to supply more film choices than anyone can consume. The Festival has followed the same basic template since the TLA folks took it over a […]

FILM FEST PICKS & PANS: Dante’s Inferno; Wicked Flowers; Book Of The Dead; Severance

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Heading into its last weekend, the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival unleashes the big celebrity guns, giving us this year’s American Independent Award winner, Dermot Mulroney. I spent a few minutes this week trying to stoke a friend’s memory on exactly who the very recognizable Mulroney is, and finally had to give up. His specialty in nearly 20 years of film acting has been in supporting roles, often playing ingratiating nice guys who are romance-bait for the female lead. He’s worked with Altman on Kansas City, with Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding and most […]

CINEMA: The Deerhunter

  THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017, dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos, 121 min.) BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC The world of computer generated effects has allowed filmmakers a seemingly inexhaustible ability to to create the most audacious worlds imaginable. This week’s release of the latest Thor movie is an example of a colorful multi-hued universe conjured with a level of detail unimaginable in the days when Jack Kirby was first drawing such things in the pages of Marvel comics. Yet despite these tools, the CGI universes created for the big screen are disappointingly similar, showing visions of the future […]

CINEMA: The Tragic Kingdom

THE FLORIDA PROJECT ( Directed by Sean Baker, 115 minutes, U.S., 2017) BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC With 2015 much-discussed indie hit Tangerine (forever remembered as “the film shot on an iPhone”) audiences began to catch up with New Jersey-born writer/director Sean Baker. Tangerine’s electrified storytelling, following a pair of audacious transgender streetwalkers as they hunt for one’s cheating boyfriend along the Hollywood strip, revealed Baker to be a director who could capture a rare naturalism that obscured his savvy plotting and instinct for drama that made his films transcend mere anthropological curiosity. Tangerine seemed to come out of nowhere […]

CINEMA: Rise Of The Machines

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Dir. by Denis Villeneuve, 163 minutes, U.S., 2017) BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Right off the bat, let’s say I’m relieved this didn’t turn out to be the wrong-headed, half-assed mess that was so easy to imagine. There’s a lot to digest but Blade Runner 2049 feels like a real film, not some sputtering, franchise-launching, million cook stew. Thirty-five years is an awful long time to wait before returning to a story, but director Denis Villeneuve has crafted a sequel that organically conjures the universe created by Ridley Scott although its ultimate destination takes us a little […]

CINEMA: Suffer The Children

It (2017, directed by Andrew Muschietti, 135 minutes, U.S.) BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC This week the movie industry bemoaned there limpest summer ever, hopefully giving some studio honchos a moment to rethink the trend of larding up what was once a season of innovation and fresh ideas with a seemingly endless string of sequels, remakes, franchises and corny old super heroes. The fall trend of Oscar-worthy releases might relieve us a bit yet one of the most-hyped films of the early fall season is another Hollywood no-brainer: an adaptation of horror icon Stephen King’s 1986 novel, It, previously brought […]

CINEMA: On The War Path

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017, directed by Matt Reeves, 140 min, U.S.) LOST IN PARIS (2016, directed by Dominique Abel & Fiona Gordon, 83 min, France/Belgium) BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC I remember how perplexed Charlton Heston’s Taylor was back in 1968 when he made the realization that the planet he and his men landed on was ruled by apes. As the third of the rebooted sequels touches down in blockbuster season I find myself similarly flummoxed by glowing reception of War For the Planet of the Apes, a terribly turgid, self-serious, gloomfest.  Have the critics all […]

CINEMA: Beggars Banquet

  BEATRIZ AT DINNER (2017, directed by Miguel Arteta, 83 minutes, U.S.) BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC It’s a truly classic premise at the heart of the new film from director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White, the pair who previously worked together on indie dark comedies Chuck And Buck (in which White co-starred as “Buck”) and the under-appreciated Jennifer Aniston vehicle The Good Girl. Their latest, Beatriz At Dinner, centers around a wealthy dinner party that takes on an unexpected interloper, the working class mystic/masseuse, Beatriz (played by the always-intelligent beauty Salma Hayek, suitably dressed-down here.) You can see […]