Pinhole Movie Reviews

Philomena by Thomas
March 2, 2014, 8:04 pm
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Last week Philomena was re-released in the Portland area, mere days before the Academy Awards ceremony, to allow me to finally cure my afore mentioned Oscar fever. Steve Coogan plays a posh journalist embroiled in political scandal who turns to the dreaded “human interest” genre; his subject is Judi Dench, a simpleton whose baby was stolen from her by evil Irish nuns! As the yellow poster indicates, it’s a quirky indie movie — in this case, part buddy comedy, part tear jerker.  The actors carry it off flawlessly. Coogan also helped write the screenplay, so it’s got some great puns in it!  Worth checking out.


Her by Thomas

It’s the near future. Joaquin Phoenix is a lonely city dweller who stumbles on companionship in the form of Scarlett Johansson’s disembodied computer voice.  This unusual trope means that we spend almost the entire film looking at Phoenix’s face, which should be ridiculous but isn’t.  The movie is innovative, poignant, and beautiful. It’s Blade Runner during daytime hours — a sci-fi romance instead of a film noir.  I hope it wins Best Picture even though the Oscars are dumb! Required Viewing



12 Years a Slave by Thomas
January 30, 2014, 6:59 pm
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In another Best Picture nominee, Chiwetel Ejiofor is a free black man circa 1840 who gets lured down to Washington, DC and sold into slavery.  He endures bigotry and back breaking labor, his body riven with scars; the director of photography uses long lenses to focus in on every pore of Ejiofor’s tortured face. Michael Fassbinder also appears, as a drunk and sadistic slave owner.  The movie is visceral and unbearably intense, but, unlike most Hollywood films, all of this violence is actually meaningful.  Worth watching.

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12 Years a Slave 

Dallas Buyers Club by Thomas
January 30, 2014, 6:15 pm
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It looks like Matthew McConaughey has transcended his checkered past of trashy rom-coms to become a real dramatic actor. I thought Matthew Modine was the better of the two Matthews! Well, perhaps that’s no longer true. McConaughey is great as a red neck oil rig engineer diagnosed with AIDS in the early days when it was still thought of as a “gay disease.” He befriends a trans lady (Jared Leto) and goes into business importing HIV meds that haven’t been approved by the soulless bureaucrats at the FDA.  They Hollywood-ized the real story a bit too much, inventing the Leto character as well as Jennifer Garner’s earnest-but-attractive doctor character.  But the movie is intriguing and well made.  I would suggest watching the documentary How to Survive a Plague instead, but this is a strong Worth checking out.


Dallas Buyers Club

Captain Phillips by Thomas
January 30, 2014, 5:37 pm
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In this fast-paced thriller, Tom Hanks captains a shipping vessel through the dangerous waters around the Gulf of Aden and, as everyone knows, gets attacked by Somali pirates.  This too is part of Oscar Fever 2014 because I guess it came out at the right time of year and has a plot lifted from the headlines, which provides a sense of gritty realism that people crave.  Or maybe folks just like watching Tom Hanks suffer miserably? It’s Watchable Plus.


Captain Phillips

Nebraska by Thomas
January 30, 2014, 5:22 pm
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I’ve got a fever and the only remedy is more Academy Award Best Picture nominated movie reviews!  Bruce Dern is a senile grandpa determined to get from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick up his Publishers Clearinghouse winnings, which are obviously bogus. Shot in grainy black and white, it’s Alexander Payne’s signature dark comedy against a bleak Midwestern backdrop. Dern’s hapless son Will Forte is good, but it’s his amazingly shrill wife June Squibb who deserves an Oscar.  Worth Watching.   



The Wolf of Wall Street by Thomas

Oscar Fever 2014 continues! Leonardo DiCaprio is an unscrupulous self-made trillionaire who builds a brokerage firm selling worthless stocks.  In three hours of screen time, he and his random friends (who completely steal the show) also do a LOT of drugs and sleep with a LOT of women.  The FBI catches on, but we don’t see much of their investigation — instead we just get more outrageous hijinks! This causes domestic conflict between Leo and his forgettable wife, along the lines of the Robert DeNiro/Sharon Stone scenes in Scorsese’s Casino but much less compelling.  That said, Jonah Hill is a hilarious sidekick.  There’s a scene involving Quaaludes that makes it all worthwhile.  I say: Worth checking out.


The Wolf of Wall Street

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