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Jordan Hoffman

‘Carrie’ Review

Carrie review
Screen Gems

For a gal named Carrie White, she's sure got a lot of red on her.

Watching Kimberly Peirce's 'Carrie' is an odd experience. If you've seen Brian De Palma's version from 1976, this new version is - and there's really no point in denying this - like watching a cover band. There's a tweaked scene here and there (including a new, creepy-as-heck opening) plus the addition of cell phones and references to 'Dancing With The Stars.' This remake, more than most, really feels like hitting the same marks. It may be a peculiarity specific to 'Carrie,' because, let's face it, not a whole heck of a lot happens in this story. Considering most moviegoers' familiarity, there's plenty of room to stew and think, "Why is this considered such a classic?"

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‘Gravity’ Review

Gravity review
Warner Bros.

“Film as dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.” - Ingmar Bergman.

Is it appropriate to open a review for a sci-fi film, a Sandra Bullock movie, with a quote as heavy-handed as this one? Since I did it, obviously I think so, because the only other phrase I could think of that would tersely sum up my feelings toward 'Gravity' goes something like, “Aggghghghghghhhdhhghhhh! *droool *drool *drool” and that makes me look like an idiot.

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‘Captain Phillips’ Review

Captain Phillips review
Sony Pictures

With piracy drama 'Captain Phillips,' Paul Greengrass ('Bloody Sunday,' 'United 93') has defended his ground as the go-to man for tragic, reality-based pressure-cooker films. The dude really knows how to get your palms sweaty, even when you kinda-sorta know how things are going to end up. Note to self: don't take your cargo ship through the Somali Basin if you don't have to.

Greengrass is also the director of the best two 'Bourne' movies ('Supremacy' and 'Ultimatum') and just as Matt Damon glided through those films as the steely, mixed-martial killing machine, Tom Hanks' center-seat performance here is a master class in keeping it cool.

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‘Don Jon’ Review

Don Jon's Addiction Scarlett Johansson Joseph Gordon Levitt

Before I write anything else about 'Don Jon': yes, there are some guys in Northern New Jersey who really do act this way. Some of the particulars are exaggerated, but not really. Whether the interior life of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's protagonist gym rat, club denizen, muscle car driver is accurate is something I'll never know, and considering the emotional dysfunction on display, I think I'm okay with it.

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‘Labor Day’ Review

Labor Day review
Paramount Pictures

Jason Reitman's new film 'Labor Day' is adapted from a Joyce Maynard novel, and while her literary pedigree holds some water, what ends up represented here leads me to think it's one of those books with Fabio on the cover.

It's New England, it's the 80s and Hank (Gattlin Griffith) is the emo-ist kid in the world. He's got a reason to be. He lives alone with his clinically depressed mother (Kate Winslet). While still new to adolescence, he's basically taking care of her. His father (Clark Gregg) couldn't hack it anymore, but lives in the same town with a new wife and new kids.

Stagnancy has hit the (large, old) house but one Labor Day weekend Winslet's longing for an adult connection will be met. Josh Brolin enters her life and he is the dreamiest of dreamboats every to emerge from a dream. He's handsome, he's attentive and he fixes things around the house. He teaches Hank how to swing a baseball bat and he bakes his own pie crust from scratch, for heaven's sake. There's only one problem - he's just escaped from prison and he's wanted for murder.

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‘The Family’ Review

The Family review
Relativity Media

It is no easier for me to report this than it is for you to hear it, but we're all adults and let's get real: Robert De Niro's name on a film project is now more a red flag of warning than a sign of quality. For every 'Silver Linings Playbook' there's a 'Big Wedding' or 'Righteous Kill' or a slapped-together piece of tone-deaf dross like 'The Family.'

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‘The Double’ Review

The Double Jesse Eisenberg
TIFF

Whoever said nightmares couldn't also be funny?

Richard Ayoade's 'The Double' is a clever mash-up of Eastern European despair and paranoia against stylized indies of the late 1980s. Its roots are Dostoyevsky's 1846 novella of the same name, but its look and tempo draw heavily from Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' and Martin Scorsese's 'After Hours.' While it does take a little while to truly get rolling, those who delight in movies where every single shot is art directed within an inch of its life will luxuriate in its craftiness.

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‘August: Osage County’ Review

August Osage County review
The Weinstein Co.

If disses were marble, Tracy Letts would be Michelangelo and 'August: Osage County' would be his David. His characters in this film, directed by John Wells and based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, are an extended family of well-off Oklahomans loaded with secrets and festering emotional wounds. They have gathered to bury the patriarch, played by Sam Shepard in one outstanding prologue scene.

Shepard may have been the Dad, but the Mom (Meryl Streep, in peak form, even for her) is the real power. A strong and severe woman who speaks her mind loudly and frequently, and is currently suffering from mouth cancer - an irony not lost on anyone - is facing her winter years by popping pills and settling scores. A major early set piece around a dinner table has Streep sitting like a General, barking humiliating things at her family. Why, you might be thinking, would I ever want to see such a thing? For starters, it is very, very funny.

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‘Under the Skin’ Review

Under the Skin
A24

From the center of a black screen a white dot forms into a sphere. Then, blue discs and then, finally, what looks like tar draining away from pure white. Mixed in with eerie music and some incoherent babble from a female voice. Even though I've seen all of 'Under the Skin' I still only have a vague, gut reaction idea of what these opening moments are meant to represent. And...I think that's exactly the idea?

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’12 Years a Slave’ Review

12 Years a Slave Review
Fox Searchlight

It would be a lot easier if you could say, "it's just a movie." The sickening thing, the thing that may make it difficult to convince you to buy a ticket, is the opening card that reads, "based on a true story." But facing the cruelty of America's original sin is what '12 Years a Slave' is all about. That's what Solomon Northup did.

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