Theatrical/Independent Reviews
A calculated first step to a possibly interesting trilogy buoyed by interesting characters.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A calculated first step to a possibly interesting trilogy buoyed by interesting characters.

A smartly written, brutally realized western.

Dear Bone Tomahawk

A smartly written, brutally realized western.

A brutal, potent thriller poised on the brink of many borders - political, geographical, and moral.

Dear Sicario,

A brutal, potent thriller poised on the brink of many borders – political, geographical, and moral.

A thoughtful, beautiful tale that explores the roots of humanity and the price of intelligence.

Dear Ex Machina,

A thoughtful, beautiful tale that explores the roots of humanity and the price of intelligence.

A documentary about the creation of a new ballet for the New York Ballet Company.

Dear Ballet 422,

A documentary about the creation of a new ballet for the New York Ballet Company.

What are you, really? Sure it’s easy to lose oneself in the trappings of the sci-fi stage upon which you play out your drama. But the truth is apparent very […]

Dear Interstellar,

What are you, really? Sure it’s easy to lose oneself in the trappings of the sci-fi stage upon which you play out your drama. But the truth is apparent very […]


The Newest Reel Talk with Brian Roan and Dan Gvozden

Watch the newest episode of the TV show no one saw coming.

You know you’ve missed us. You know you want to know what we think about three movies that have been maligned, marginalized, and ignored. So click the link and check out what Dan Gvozden and I think about about Lone Survivor, Labor Day, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. 

Comment and share away, me lads.

Click Here To View


Brian’s Top 10 Films of 2013

Brian names his top 10 films of the past year.

Dear 2013,

Way to go. Seriously. Last year my Top 10 list was a dire compilation of films which were just fine, but outside of maybe my top 3 or top 5, I had no strong feelings regarding any of them. This year, I spent upwards of a month shuffling and reorganizing my Top 10 list, and I’m still not sure I agree with some of these placements. My list was initial compiled and ordered by my gut feelings. Then I went through and tried to apply logic to the selections. If I liked a movie based on a particular aspect (emotional resonance, cinematography, etc.) then I tried to think if another movie had surpassed it in that same field.

Well, needless to say at some point you just have to look at the list and go “this just feels right.” So here it is, the list that nearly drove me to insanity, much as Brian Wilson was nearly driven to insanity by Smile.

Blurbs accompany the choices below. For the full review, click the title.

10. (Tie) Only God Forgives/Spring Breakers

God Spring-Breakers-poster

(I know, I know. Bad form, beginning with a tie. However, if I ever wanted to create a double-bill whose sole function was frustrating people looking for an easy viewing of something awesome, this would be it.)

Only God Forgives: You are a chilling and painful tale of the madness at the heart of vengeance, the emptiness and pain that envelopes those who seek to satisfy themselves rather than yield to justice or morality. It is a fight picked by selfish people against the greater powers of good and order, which are equally as savage but justified in the mathematics of punitive justice.

Spring Breakers: There are no shortage of moments both joyous and worrying, real and surreal within your narrative. The best way to see you, I’m sure, is with only the barest inkling as to your plot, the better to lose oneself in the hyperactive madness. That said, even though I’ve seen you already and know all of the twists and turns and surprises in store, I cannot wait to spend another heady, blissfully insane holiday with you.

9. Like Someone In Love


Cowardice and a sense of fairness make us hold our tongues as those around us create more and more elaborate lies for us to live within. We aren’t spinning the web, but we are not stopping the weaving, either. And in the end, that kind of lie-through-inaction could be more damaging than all the falsities and half-truths one could ever speak.

It’s a fantastic film that not only takes that idea as it’s chief theme, but manages to say as much with nuance and subtlety in the midst of a gripping, engrossing story. You, Like Someone in Love, are that film.

8. The Counselor


We love watching tourists in the murky depths of criminality outwitting the people who make their living there.

You are a story that seeks to decimate and rebuke these romantic notions, The Counselor, and you succeed with a ruthlessness and sense of purpose that only adds to the sense of dread and inevitability that pervades your tale. Each line of dialogue is a single thread, each action and reaction the deft and foreboding stroke of the needle. Thus, you craft a great tapestry of ideas, writ in blood and pain.

7. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints


The tangible reality of a memory blended with the beauty and flow of a dream, laden with the honesty of grounded yet impassioned performance, and a narrative with the focus and clarity of a well-honed novella. In a season seemingly bereft of feeling or thought, bloated by needlessly complex webs of plot, and weighed down by scads of CGI and pyrotechnic bluster, what more could a weary traveler across the cinematic wilderness ask for?

6. Upstream Color


I feel as though I could spend hours defining what makes you brilliant, extolling what makes you so moving, and yet here I am already at a loss for words. You are a film that makes me think and feel beyond my ability to articulate. You are a film that demands a second viewing not as a way to clarify plot or themes left obscured, but so that one can luxuriate in so complete, uncompromising, and effective an artistic vision.

5. To the Wonder

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Love in film is often portrayed as a binary system. Love is present, or it is not. Love is reciprocated, or it is unrequited. Love is alive, or love is dead. This system of “yes” or “no” creates in the real world a false sense of security around the idea of love, one that is shattered the moment one finally comes to accept the idea that they are loved, or are in love. It would take a bold, accomplished filmmaker to attempt to create a cinematic perspective of love that approaches the utter bafflement and uncertainty of real world love, and an even more audacious artist to make such a statement work.

Needless to say, Terrence Malick is such an artist.

4. Gravity


You are stunningly, marvelously, exhilaratingly perfect. I cannot wait to see you as many times as I can on as big a screen as I can (and yes, in 3D). More than any film I have seen this year, you are the one which has caused me the most anxiety, driven me to the greatest extremes of emotional response, and elicited in me the most passionate evangelizing of my friends and family.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

(Review forthcoming)

Holy shit. Hoooooly shit you guys. What did I just see? The sex. The drugs. The energy behind both the filmmaking and the performances. I spent a week after seeing this movie quoting it and telling everyone they had to see it.

And I’ll tell you one more thing. I’m never going to Benihana again. I don’t care whose birthday it is.

2. Her


What makes you so different, Her, is that you find a way to strip away the baser levels of love, allowing the illogical mental processes of attraction to take center stage, leaving the more easily conveyed aspects of physical attraction to wither in the dark. In this way you are able to create a more purely intellectual glimpse at the mystery of romance, while at the same time delivering a pure emotional journey, complete with characters in whom we can fully invest on a level far below skin deep.

1. 12 Years a Slave


Just see it.


Dear Luc Besson,

Rick runs down a list of his favorite films by the French action pioneer.

When I hear others disparage your recent career and even comment that your best is behind you, I think about your vision and your films and I want to yell out “never sell this visionary short!” And so, I chose the top 10 projects that make Luc Besson one of the greatest French filmmakers ever and prove the worth of seeing his work in the future.

Okay granted of late the Arthur films and The Family have not helped his cause but when you look at a whole career, this is when his value cannot be denied. Even from the start, Besson’s projects set themselves apart from the standard French fare that film fans were used to. From the black and white nearly dialogue free feature debut, Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle), it was clear that you would go onto do some amazing things. This debut was the first of many projects with Jean Reno and it told a post-apocalyptic story of three men rattling around the bones of a French city and how all survivors having lost the power of speech makes for a strange story of survival and how the last battle sets one man free.

After my late arrival in ‘camp Besson’ I found not only his debut mentioned above but The Big Blue as well. This is an amazing story of childhood members of the same village, Enzo and Jacques and how their love of water and the sea takes them via different routes to the highly dangerous open water diving sport scene and delves into Jacques almost spiritual connection with the water and the dolphins he spends time with. That which makes this film special is too numerous to list, but foremost of is its soul searching resolution.

Then comes your first critically acclaimed effort La Femme Nikita. Nikita, is a young lady who with two Nihilist friends commits robbery and murder while on drugs. After her trial she is not executed or taken to prison, but to a school for special government operatives. She is told that Nikita no longer exists and she will be trained to pay back society for what she has done, as a spy/assassin. This film was so iconic that it influenced espionage tropes to come in filmmaking at large. It also generated an inferior ‘Hollywood’ remake and television series.

Four short years later after two widely heralded documentaries you release the legendary Léon: The Professional. Not only do you possess the wisdom to cast Jean Reno a second time in his most riveting and endearing role to date, you take a chance on a then unknown 12 year old by the name of Natalie Portman. If that weren’t enough to make this thing special you rev up a brilliantly villainous Gary Oldman as bad to the bone drugged up cop. What transpires is movie magic that tells the story of that young girl trying to survive as her entire family is slaughtered by cops and she turns to the kindly next door neighborhood hitman. This film is so hallowed that it sits easily in my top 100 films of all time!

Three for three on feature films and next up is the revered The Fifth Element. This Oscar-nominated film set 250 years in the future where life as we know it is threatened by the arrival of all-encompassing Evil. Only the Fifth Element (Milla Jovovich) can stop the Evil from extinguishing life, as it tries to do every five thousand years. She is assisted by a former elite commando turned cab driver, Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis,) who is, in turn, helped by religious expert Father Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm,) and galactic celebrity, Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker.) Unfortunately, Evil is being assisted by Mr. Zorg (Gary Oldman,) who seeks to profit from the chaos that Evil will bring, and his alien mercenaries. The epic nature of all that is shoe-horned into this film, really requires its own article. Suffice it to say for me it’s included in my personal top 50 scifi films of all time.

Just when you might wonder if Luc could dabble outside the realm of quirky or unique fictitious story telling he releases The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. In what is clearly the finest modern take on the story since the 1928 masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Besson calls again on Milla Jovich to helm the heroine and uses a star studded cast to re-tell the iconic tale. Though he didn’t always stick close to the accurate facts, Luc also doesn’t apply the typical hero stuff you would expect in a biopic like this. It has many facets to its portrayal and gave me space to make up my own mind about the character Joan of Arc. And that is exactly what I liked most about this version of her story.

5 years later brings us to Luc’s black and white rumination on self esteem and redemption. The widely unknown 2005 French language masterpiece Angel-A. Clearly demonstrating yet again his knack for brilliant casting and engrossing dissertations of human nature, he again creates screen magic. Tapping relative unknowns Jamel Debbouze as Andre and Rie Rasmussen as Angel-a, Luc weaves a stunning gritty fairy tale about down and out Andre and the Angel from heaven sent to save him. Using such a physical dichotomy as the diminutive Andre and Amazon statured Angel-A, the story unfolds like a personal catharsis that is a journey and process and not an end. Once again it makes it to a top 100 both transformative and romance film of all time for me.

Last of the Directorial work I will cover just to make sure there isn’t any doubt about Luc’s ability with adaptation and historical content I present 2011’s The Lady. This is an epic and true love story about how an extraordinary couple and family sacrifice their happiness at great human cost for a higher cause. It’s the story of Activist Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, Michael Aris. Despite distance, long separations, and a dangerously hostile Burma regime, their love endures until the very end as she becomes the woman who is at the core of Burma’s democracy movement. It’s a poigniant story of devotion and human understanding set against a background of political turmoil which continues to this day.

As I pause here and look back across the vista of what I have covered there isn’t a director living that wouldn’t dream of such a career. But I would be remiss in not mentioning some of his screenplay work. In addition to all his work above he wrote or co-wrote, Wasabi, The Transporter films, District B13, Taken and Lockout.

So I don’t know how Lucy, his next feature will turn out, but I know one thing, I will be eager to give it a chance and to see it! Keep doing what you do Luc, you will always have a fan of your work.


DVD/Retro Reviews