Film Reviews by Joanne Laurier
By Joanne Laurier, 14 November 2015
Denny Tedesco’s lively documentary is a heartfelt tribute to a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles, nicknamed the Wrecking Crew, who were behind some of the biggest hits of the 1960s.
By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2015
Based on a documentary, the new David Gordon Green movie, Our Brand is Crisis, is a comedy-drama about the activities of American political operatives in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.
By Joanne Laurier, 24 September 2015
Iranian-American writer-director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, 2005; Chop Shop, 2007; Goodbye Solo, 2008) has created a compelling work that puts flesh and blood on the foreclosure epidemic.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 September 2015
Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, a Jewish concentration camp survivor, Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss), is grossly disfigured and traumatized.
By Joanne Laurier, 12 August 2015
Asif Kapadia’s documentary is a straightforward and compelling account of the performer’s life starting at the age of fourteen.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2015
Turner Classic Movies, the US cable and satellite television network, presented Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) at selected theaters on July 19 and 20.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 July 2015
The Face of an Angel is a fictional treatment of the Amanda Knox murder trial. Danny Collins is the story of a rock star who changes his life after receiving a letter that John Lennon wrote him decades earlier.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 July 2015
The Wolfpack is a documentary about seven children who were locked away for many years in an apartment in a public housing project in Manhattan.
By Joanne Laurier, 19 June 2015
Two new, not-so-comic comedies: one preoccupied with the life of Hollywood celebrities and the other, with the intelligence apparatus. What fun.
By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2015
Wild tells the true story of one woman’s 1,100-mile hike of self-discovery. Black or White recounts a custody battle between the white maternal grandfather and black paternal grandmother of a seven-year-old girl.
By Joanne Laurier, 29 January 2015
In a small Belgian factory, a woman fights to keep her job by trying to convince her workmates not to take a pay bonus.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 January 2015
Tim Burton’s new film Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane, the American artist who created the “big-eye art” that became a mass marketing sensation in the 1960s.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2014
Some interesting films opened in North America in 2014, a greater number than in many recent years. At the same time, sections of the film industry associated themselves more than ever with the American state.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 December 2014
Bennett Miller’s film is based on events that culminated in the shocking 1996 murder of an Olympic wrestling champion by the multimillionaire scion, John Eleuthère du Pont, of the American chemical dynasty.
By Joanne Laurier, 15 December 2014
As 2014 draws to a close, the WSWS will comment on a number of films that were released in North America and, in some cases, globally in the course of the past 12 months.
By Joanne Laurier, 4 December 2014
A young drummer at an elite music conservatory becomes the protégé of an abusive instructor who believes artistic genius is formed by sheer force of will.
By Joanne Laurier, 21 November 2014
Stewart, host of The Daily Show, has written and directed a film treating the Iranian government’s incarceration and torture of a London-based, Iranian-born journalist in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.
By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2014
Birdman deals with the washed-up star of a super-hero franchise. The Skeleton Twins portrays two siblings trying to overcome a painful psychological legacy. St. Vincent features a misanthropic Vietnam veteran who forms a life-changing attachment.
By Joanne Laurier, 17 October 2014
Michael Cuesta’s film tells the story of the journalist whose 1996 investigative series, “Dark Alliance,” uncovered ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and massive drug peddling by the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras.
Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 5
Director Ramin Bahrani: “The villain is the system”
By Joanne Laurier, 10 October 2014
99 Homes deals with the foreclosure and eviction crisis, Shelter with the homeless. Also screened was a documentary about a Mexican citizen 30 years on death row, The Years of Fierro.
By Joanne Laurier, 1 August 2014
The film deals with post-9/11 intrigues and conflicts between European and American spy agencies triggered by the illegal arrival in Germany of a suspicious young Chechen
By Joanne Laurier, 10 July 2014
The 40-minute documentary on the postwar American painter Robert De Niro, Sr. is a delicate and moving homage, in which his son, the actor Robert De Niro, figures prominently.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 June 2014
Entre Nos dramatizes the plight of a Colombian immigrant and her two children in New York City. Red Father, a documentary, recounts the life and career of Bernard Ades, a lawyer and longtime member of the Communist Party.
Million Dollar Arm and Words and Pictures: Two Australian directors in Hollywood, for better or worse
By Joanne Laurier, 13 June 2014
A sanitized version of how professional baseball made its entry into India, and a clichéd version of how writing and painting complement one another.
By Joanne Laurier, 30 May 2014
Amma Asante’s film recounts the remarkable 18th century story of Dido Belle, a mixed-race girl who ends up in the care of William Murray, England’s lord chief justice. James Gray’s The Immigrant is set in New York in 1921.
By Joanne Laurier, 15 April 2014
This is the latest film installment featuring Marvel Comics’ character Captain America, one of the most prominent and patriotic superheroes introduced in American comic books in the World War II era.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 April 2014
Actor-director Jason Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a petulant, miserable 40-year-old who breaks into the spelling bee circuit by taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.
By Joanne Laurier, 25 March 2014
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a stylish, fantastical film, sometimes comic and sometimes tragic in its re-imagining of the period between the two world wars and the emergence of fascistic forces in Europe.
By Joanne Laurier, 8 March 2014
The intriguing documentary centers on the attempt by Texas inventor Tim Jenison to explore the possibility that painter Johannes Vermeer used optical devices to help achieve his intricate interweaving of light, color and proportion.
By Joanne Laurier, 21 February 2014
The second season of House of Cards, the series produced by Netflix, reveals more of the exploits of Frank Underwood, Democratic Party vice president and chief conspirator.
By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2014
George Clooney’s new film is the story of a squad of art experts serving in the US and Allied military who, toward the end of World War II, attempt to rescue art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis.
By Joanne Laurier, 31 January 2014
The Invisible Woman, directed by Ralph Fiennes, sets out to treat the relationship between 45-year-old novelist Charles Dickens, then at the height of his fame in the late 1850s, and his 18-year-old mistress Ellen Ternan.
By Joanne Laurier, 6 January 2014
David O. Russell’s new movie is loosely based on the “Abscam” sting operation conducted by the FBI in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which led to the conviction of one US senator, six members of the House of Representatives and the mayor of Camden, New Jersey.
By Joanne Laurier, 16 December 2013
Brian Percival’s movie deals in part with the horrors of the Kristallnacht period and is an effective reminder of the impact of Nazi atrocities on everyday life.
By Joanne Laurier, 6 December 2013
The comedy-drama, shot in striking black-and-white, centers on Woody Grant of Billings, Montana, who is determined to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim one million dollars in a sweepstakes prize.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 August 2013
Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a fiction film based on the life of Eugene Allen, an African American who worked in the White House for 34 years, from the administration of President Harry Truman to that of Ronald Reagan.
By Joanne Laurier, 16 August 2013
Woody Allen has directed more than 40 films in the past 44 years, not to much purpose in recent years. The Way Way Back is a likable, but overly familiar take on growing up.
By Joanne Laurier, 24 July 2013
What is the significance of director Ron Maxwell, who made the generally laudable Gettysburg two decades ago, coming out with a favorable treatment of Lincoln’s Northern opponents in the year of the battle’s sesquicentennial?
By Joanne Laurier, 11 July 2013
The documentary film, directed by Richard Rowley, follows reporter Jeremy Scahill into the covert, murderous world of American Special Forces as the latter prosecute the US government’s so-called war on terror.
By Joanne Laurier, 14 June 2013
Frances Ha and Stories We Tell are articulate and well-made films. What’s missing from them, however, is as interesting as what’s there.
By Joanne Laurier, 1 June 2013
The much anticipated new season of Arrested Development was released last week. Steven Soderbergh’s biography of Liberace also aired on HBO. Christopher Guest’s Family Tree is a new and promising series.
San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part four
By Joanne Laurier, 27 May 2013
Moussa Touré’s The Pirogue is a fictional account of West Africans seeking to escape grinding poverty in a desperate voyage. Also, Joanne Laurier comments on documentaries about the Beatles’ secretary and the Chinese art scene.
San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part one
By Joanne Laurier, 16 May 2013
The 56th San Francisco International Film Festival recently concluded. The event this year screened 158 films from 51 countries, including 67 fiction features, 28 documentary features and 63 short films.
By Joanne Laurier, 12 April 2013
No by Chilean director Pablo Larraín is the last in a trilogy of films about life under the Pinochet dictatorship. The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, centers on an all-Aboriginal female singing group in the late 1960s.
By Joanne Laurier, 4 April 2013
Dror Moreh’s new documentary is a glimpse into the crisis wracking Israeli society. Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles has brought Jack Kerouac’s Beat novel to the screen.
By Joanne Laurier, 25 February 2013
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie, The Master, a World War II US Navy veteran facing an uncertain future is attracted to a quasi-religious movement and its charismatic leader.
By Joanne Laurier, 1 February 2013
The movie concerns itself with a group of retired opera singers and musicians housed in an elegant manor in pastoral Britain.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 January 2013
Sacha Gervasi’s new film focuses on the making of Psycho (1960), one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best known works.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 29 December 2012
The general state of the film world presents a sharper contradiction than ever, as underlined by a number of recently released films and the critics’ reactions to them.
By Joanne Laurier, 22 December 2012
British filmmaker Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard have collaborated on a new film adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel. Starlet tells the story of a relationship between two women in California’s San Fernando Valley.
By Joanne Laurier, 12 December 2012
Directed and produced by renowned documentarian Ken Burns, daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon, The Central Park Five chronicles an infamous case in 1989.
By Joanne Laurier, 29 November 2012
In this comedy-drama, former substitute history teacher Pat has just been released from a psychiatric facility when he meets Tiffany, the widow of a policeman. Together they struggle to overcome their difficulties.
A comment and an interview with filmmaker Minda Martin
By Joanne Laurier, 15 November 2012
Minda Martin’s 2010 film Free Land, at the same time a documentary-essay and personal memoir, poetically and evocatively connects a variety of social and personal events.
Toronto International Film Festival 2012
By Joanne Laurier, 6 November 2012
Robert Connolly, director of Underground: The Julian Assange Story, responds to questions from Joanne Laurier of the WSWS.
By Joanne Laurier, 27 October 2012
Robert Miller, a powerful Wall Street figure, is trying to sell his business to cover losses from a bad investment. His seemingly idyllic personal life falls apart after a car accident in which his mistress is killed.
Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 7
By Joanne Laurier, 12 October 2012
Julian Assange’s early life is fictionalized by Australian director Robert Connolly, while documentarian Marina Zenovich offers the latest installment in the Roman Polanski saga.
Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 5
By Joanne Laurier, 5 October 2012
A number of films about Detroit have suddenly emerged … including now a fiction work about the complicated interactions between the city’s Arab and African American populations.
Toronto International Film Festival 2012--Part 3
By Joanne Laurier, 28 September 2012
The 2012 Toronto film festival screened numerous serious documentaries and docu-dramas, reflecting the impact of the current social crisis and the increasing resistance of the global working class.
By Joanne Laurier, 20 August 2012
The Intouchables is a predictable but touching comedy about the relationship between an upper class Frenchman and his Muslim Senegalese caretaker. Ruby Sparks is a version of the Pygmalion myth.
By Joanne Laurier, 4 July 2012
Set in 1965 on an island off the coast of New England, Wes Anderson’s new movie tells the story of two pre-teenage misfits who escape to a deserted corner of the island.
Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Not really a movie about 9/11, whatever else it might be
By Joanne Laurier, 25 February 2012
A young boy, grieving for his father, a victim of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, searches New York City for the lock that matches a key left behind by his beloved parent.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 February 2012
In New York City, cordiality turns to anger and chaos when two sets of parents meet to discuss an altercation between their 11-year-old sons.
By Joanne Laurier, 7 January 2012
The near-silent, black-and-white film recounts the demise of a fictitious silent screen icon.
By Joanne Laurier, 17 November 2011
Clint Eastwood’s new film treats the life and times of J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director and a malignant presence in American society for nearly half a century.
Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 5
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 26 October 2011
The recent Toronto film festival screened several films from Iran—including This is Not a Film, about the house arrest of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, co-directed by Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, and Good Bye from Mohammad Rasoulof.
Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 4
By Joanne Laurier, 15 October 2011
A number of films at the recent Toronto film festival offered serious presentations of life and artistic problems themselves.
Toronto International Film Festival 2011—Part 2
By Joanne Laurier, 5 October 2011
The best films from France in recent years have concerned themselves with the country’s colonial past and related issues today.
By Joanne Laurier, 28 June 2011
Based on the acclaimed play by Wajdi Mouawad, French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has fashioned a movie that evokes Lebanon’s painful conflicts in the 1970s and 1980s.
By Joanne Laurier, 29 April 2011
Based on the novel by James M. Cain, director Todd Haynes’s five-part miniseries is an account of an unhealthy mother-daughter relationship in 1930s southern California.
By Joanne Laurier, 11 January 2011
Set in the early 1990s, the movie fictionally recounts the story of welterweight Micky Ward and his trainer, half-brother Dicky Eklund, as they battle poverty and adversity.
By Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2010
A drama starring Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks in which a woman is accused of murdering her boss after an altercation at work. Her college professor husband becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her out of jail.
11 November 2010
Joanne Laurier of the WSWS recently commented on the documentary film, Inside Job. A WSWS supporter adds this comment.
By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2010
A number of films that appeared at the 2010 Toronto film festival, and on which we commented, have opened in North America. We repost the comments today.
Toronto International Film Festival 2010—Part 2
By Joanne Laurier, 28 September 2010
Tears of Gaza, directed by Norway’s Vibeke Løkkeberg, is a powerful documentary. The filmmakers collected video footage shot by Palestinians during the Israeli onslaught in December 2008-January 2009. The film follows three children in particular.
By Joanne Laurier, 27 July 2010
Numerous critics argue that director Luca Guadagnino’s I am Love represents something of a revival of Italian cinema, and compare the new film favorably to Luchino Visconti’s 1963 masterpiece, The Leopard.
By Joanne Laurier, 6 July 2010
The Red Tail, a documentary co-directed by Dawn Mikkelson and Melissa Koch, is a human drama that treats a question of immense importance: the consequences of a globally-integrated economy.
By Joanne Laurier, 20 April 2010
A 19-year-old homeless youth of North African descent is jailed in a French prison, where he develops into a new type of gangster.
By Joanne Laurier, 5 January 2010
Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air features George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, who fires people for a living while leading the life of an “elite status” traveler who packs light and depends on no one.
By Joanne Laurier, 5 December 2009
A black comedy set in 1967 about a Jewish college professor in an American Midwestern state whose life is falling apart.
By Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, 6 October 2009
Veteran documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story sets out to examine the recent financial collapse. His aim, he suggests, is a critique of the existing economic set-up.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 August 2009
The new film directed by Kathryn Bigelow focuses on an Army bomb deactivation—or Explosive Ordnance Disposal—squad, during its last 38 days of deployment in Iraq in 2004.
By Joanne Laurier, 1 August 2009
In Stephen Frears’ new movie, Chéri, based on a novel by Colette, a voiceover asserts that in Paris, during the Belle Époque (the 1870s to World War I), successful courtesans were the most powerful women in society.
By Joanne Laurier, 11 July 2009
Based on material in Bryan Burrough’s Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34, Michael Mann’s new film chronicles John Dillinger’s spectacular and shortlived crime spree.
By Joanne Laurier, 25 May 2009
The recent San Francisco film festival, its 52nd, presented 151 films from 55 countries to a combined audience of some 82,000 people. This is the third article in a series.
By Joanne Laurier, 30 April 2009
At the age of 77, Swedish director Jan Troell is one of Europe’s more distinguished filmmakers. His latest film, Everlasting Moments, tells the story of Maria Larsson, a Finnish-born mother of seven and wife of Sigge, a flamboyant, militant docker.
By Joanne Laurier, 31 March 2009
Billy the Kid is an unusual independent film, about a teenager in a small town in Maine.
By Joanne Laurier, 31 January 2009
Four Jewish brothers in the Nazi-occupied Soviet Union organize a partisan group in the Belarusian forest and save the lives of more than 1,000 people.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 January 2009
In post-World War II Germany, a young law student discovers that his former lover is on trial for Nazi war crimes.
By Joanne Laurier, 20 December 2008
Director Darnell Martin traces the rise and fall of Chess Records, whose roster at one time or another included such musical giants as Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and Etta James.
By Joanne Laurier, 9 December 2008
Veteran US director Gus Van Sant has made a new film about the life and times of gay politician Harvey Milk, assassinated in San Francisco in 1978, with mixed results.
By Joanne Laurier, 22 November 2008
Barry Levinson’s new film is an adaptation of the autobiography of veteran producer Art Linson, who also wrote the screenplay. It recounts two weeks in the life of a big-time Hollywood producer, whose reputation is threatened.
By Joanne Laurier, 14 November 2008
Clint Eastwood’s Changeling is based on a true story about a Los Angeles mother who is given a runaway boy in place of her kidnapped son.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 November 2008
Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies gives advice on how better to prosecute the so-called “war on terror,” while Flash of Genius provides a moving account of a real-life battle against corporate criminality.
Vancouver International Film Festival 2008—Part 4
By Joanne Laurier, 23 October 2008
This is the fourth in a series of articles on the recent Vancouver International Film Festival (September 25-October 10).
Vancouver International Film Festival 2008—Part 2
By Joanne Laurier, 16 October 2008
This is the second in a series of articles on the recent Vancouver International Film Festival (September 25-October 10).
Toronto International Film Festival 2008—Part 4
By Joanne Laurier, 26 September 2008
This is the fourth of a series of articles devoted to the recent Toronto film festival (September 4-13).
Toronto International Film Festival 2008—Part 2
By Joanne Laurier, 20 September 2008
This is the second of a series of articles devoted to the recent Toronto film festival (September 4-13). Part 1 was published September 18. A deeply felt humanism characterized many of the films seen by this reviewer at the Toronto festival. For the most part, such films exhibited insight and sensitivity about how people operate in their daily lives in distressing social circumstances. Not much was taken lightly, even in comedies. The plight of immigrants or the native-born in some of the poorest—and richest—of lands was often rendered with care.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 22 July 1998
Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66, co-scripted by the director and Alison Bagnall, is one of the most beautiful and moving American films I have seen in a very long time. It deserves the support of every serious moviegoer.