A quick note for my guests...

Updated by Joel Copling on October 8, 2015

Welcome to my website. Here, you'll find my reviews of the latest cinematic releases. If you're looking for a review of a particular film, check under the 'Films by Title' section. It just may be there. Not seeing a film you'd like to see reviewed? Send me a Tweet with your recommendation!

Coming soon to Joel on Film: Joel on Oscars! I'm making changes, some cosmetic and others a bit more necessary, to the front page of this website and various others throughout (Pardon my dust as I clean up around here), and that includes tackling the awards season. Yes, this will be a permanent fixture at the site now, updated every two weeks from October to broadcast. Just keep an eye on the top of the page for that soon!

Mia Madre

Posted by Joel Copling on September 11, 2016

Lest it seem like a flippant descriptor, "Mia Madre" is the definition of "pleasant." That isn't meant, as it might indicate, as a backhanded compliment but as a genuine one. It is a pleasant, sweet-natured effort -- modest in its ambitions and production and roughly equal to them. That, of course, means that the film, as written by Francesco Piccolo, Valia Santella, and director Nanni Moretti, is entirely unpretentious in its ideals and themes. It speaks them directly to the audience with a surprising softness, and the lead performance is a major aid in this factor. Margherita Buy plays a director who shares the actress's Christian name, dealing with issues both personal and of business matters, with a weariness entirely belied by the life in her eyes. It's a very solid performance as a woman who must exert control that often ignored or challenged.

Other People

Posted by Joel Copling on September 11, 2016

Its almost clinical mastery of tone is captured in the opening sequence of "Other People," in which the mother of a family of five has, just seconds previous, succumbed to the human curse known as cancer. Her husband, son, and daughters are sprawled across her body, weeping openly for the loss they have just suffered, and then the phone rings. No one, of course, answers it, just as no one would capture this moment with a camera, because courtesy dictates the death must be treated with respect, but it does eventually go to voicemail. The caller is a friend, just checking in after years of not having heard from the woman now lifeless in bed, until the call is interrupted by a menial drive-thru transaction. I’m sorry, says the friend, for the inconvenience of hearing that interaction.


Posted by Joel Copling on September 11, 2016

The controlled emergency landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, on January 15th, 2009, is one of those events that, years from now and perhaps with the help of this dramatization, will inspire a question that begins with, "Where were you when...?" I can tell you, reader, where I was -- in the midst of an eight-hour class of a wintry mini-semester at Taylor University in Fort Wayne, Indiana, entering its final hour for the day, when news broke. My reaction mirrored everyone else's: shock that such an event was possible and relief that every soul onboard survived. Todd Komarnicki's screenplay for "Sully" reflects that kind of reaction by entirely living within the moment. Of course, everyone in real life knows that the emergency landing was a success, but the inherent drama of the story is in the landing itself and in the fact that so-called miracles look different from the inside out.

The Light Between Oceans

Posted by Joel Copling on September 3, 2016

The drama of "The Light Between Oceans" hinges upon a decision whose morality is, in spite of extenuating and mitigating factors that superficially complicate that decision, so clear-cut that, by some point, the grief the audience is put through to question its rightness or wrongness feels dishonest. This review will build up to the decision without giving it away outright, although the mere acknowledgment of questions of morality might be all that one needs to know what happens at the inciting moment in the narrative. For a while, director Derek Cianfrance's screenplay (adapted from the novel by M.L. Stedman) is comprehensive in its build-up to that moment. There's such a gentleness in the way the central relationship is built and an authenticity from the actors who play them that it's hard not to get swept up.

Last Week's Best

Ice Age: Collision Course

Posted by Joel Copling on July 22, 2016

Well, here is a pleasant surprise. After four films pushed him to the background, "Ice Age: Collision Course" embraces the character who has always been the best part of this surprisingly long-running series. That, of course, would be Scrat, the manic squirrel voiced by Chris Wedge and obsessed with catching his beloved acorn. The film is the byproduct of a short film from November 2015 that essentially opens this fourth sequel and sets up the main thrust of its plot with very funny results. The extended joke, delivered by a certain astrophysicist, is that Scrat is the one responsible for the creation of the solar system. The planets were the billiard balls, the rings around four of them were the pockets, and the Great Red Spot in Jupiter was a result of another planet bouncing off of it.

New to DVD and Blu-ray

The Jungle Book (2016)

Posted by Joel Copling on July 22, 2016

t seems that the awe inspired by blockbusters of yesteryear is becoming lesser and further from our grasp in this current climate of superheroes and explosions, so the presence of something like "The Jungle Book" in 2016 is a blessing. Yes, it's another adaptation (this one by screenwriter Justin Marks) of the stories by Rudyard Kipling that have inspired other screen adaptations (from Zoltan Korda's 1942 version to the classic 1967 animated film, which was the last to be overseen directly by Walt Disney, to various sequels and television adaptations). This version, a towering achievement among all of them, immediately justifies its existence in two ways.

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