Film Review

Cowboys and Aliens: Bang! Bang! You're Bored

We've all known that the western has been dead for quite some while. Well, according to Blade Runner director Ridley Scott, the science fiction genre is ripe for burying, too. At least he said as much in The Sunday Times a few years back: "There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before. Been there. Done it."

So, accepting Scott's premise, why not combine the two corpses to create something vivid and original and very much alive?

This apparently was the intention of director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and the three screen-story composers and five screenwriters who tackled the adaptation of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's graphic novel. They failed, however, to restore life where there was none. Cowboys and Aliens is DOA. Read more »

Shorties: The Future, The Guard, and The Menstruation Machine

1) The Future

Los Angeleans Jason (Hamish Linklater) and Sophie (Miranda July) are the perfectly matched couple: both being good natured, slightly disheveled, almost attractive, and 35. The two, with their failed dreams and lack of future prospects, do have their love and their commitment to that affection to get them by. At least that's what's gotten them stumbling along smoothly now for four years. Their non-storybook-like romance, however, is about to change. Read more »

Shorties: Brighton Rock and Beginners

1. Brighton Rock

The surly Graham Greene's 1938 misanthropic novel, which was already once adapted in 1947 with Richard Attenborough as its sinister lead, gets a deliciously almost-over-the-top treatment here by Rowan Joffe.

Joffe, previously best known for his director dad Roland (The Killing Fields) and his own screenplays, both good (28 Weeks Later) and less so (The American), clearly has a love for humanity at its most sinister. Read more »

Gun Hill Road: A "Precious" for Trannies

Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Gun Hill Road is astonishingly absorbing: sensuous, hard-hitting, beautifully acted, and well written, with a bang-up closing shot. It is also one of the more perceptive depictions of teen sexual angst, parental and peer bullying, and transsexual identity to have ever hit the screen. There is no doubt that via DVD, cable, and streaming, this low-budget American indie will save many a life in the decades to come. Read more »

Shorties: Codependent Lesbian Space Aliens and Cranky Autos

1) Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same

"Straight" from Sundance, CLSASS might just be the most hilarious film of 2011. This deliriously demented celluloid laugh-fest was screened the other night by Rooftop Films, the weekly summer venue that showcases "independently produced shorts and feature-length films" for a rather hip crowd on a Big Apple roof.   Read more »

Jerry Tartaglia: Cinema's Foucault

Jerry Tartaglia: Is What Was

A few weeks ago, Anthology Film Archives did what it has done so well for decades. The venerable East Village institution spotlighted a director, Jerry Tartaglia, who has spent his life creating nonmainstream films that explore queerness, pornography, Nazis, AIDS, evil, love, homophobia, religion, the relevance of gossip, self-identity, and sexuality. But that apparently isn't enough karmic territory for Mr. Tartaglia.  With each celluloid (or video) frame he seems to ask, "What is the essence of cinema? And what is filmic truth?" Read more »

It Isn't Easy Being Green

Green Lantern

Comic book fans are two for three in a summer loaded with hammers, rings, and helmets. Hopefully, what Marvel may have learned from the success of Thor is to please let the audience have some fun; does it take a Kenneth Branagh to inject a modicum of charm into something so patently absurd as a Norse God dustup? The new X-Men picture was an embarrassment of self-importance layered with special effects -- a mutant Dagwood sandwich, but flavorless.

Green Lantern, the movie, is much closer to Thor in that respect. For one thing, like Thor, it jumps back and forth between sad, quotidian planet Earth and the cosmic outback.  Read more »

Leap Year: S&M Mexico-Style

Kate Gompert, the Ophelia character in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, awakes in a psych ward after ingesting "a hundred-ten Parnate, about thirty Lithonate capsules, [and] some old Zoloft," and notes, "I took everything I had in the world.... I wasn't trying to hurt myself. I was trying to kill myself. There's a difference." Laura (Monica del Carmen), the focus of Michael Rowe's blistering Leap Year (Ano Bisiesto), seems to be heading along the same pathway.  Read more »

Submarine: Drowning in Love

Teen romance is often hilarious, especially for folks who are no longer teens. No wonder filmmakers keep returning to the topic. Why, to witness a hormonally whacked lad taking love so gravely . . . to contemplate an acne-prone youth actually believing another soul will complete his own . . . to see a young man as he slowly moves his lips in for that first smooch as if the earth's rotation depends on it, is to observe a spectacle either as spectacular as Moses' parting of the Red Sea or as delirious as brunch at Pee-wee's Playhouse. Read more »

Angel's Crest Earns Its Halo at Tribeca

There are a handful of similarities between Atom Egoyan's acclaimed The Sweet Hereafter (1997) and Gaby Della's applause-worthy Angels Crest. Both explore the aftermath of children's deaths in self-contained communities, the difference being in the number of tiny coffins: a busload vs. one. Both are also based on well-received novels: the former by the renowned Russell Banks, the latter by the far less known Leslie Schwartz. Additionally, both are extremely well directed and showcase a first-rate cast. Read more »

Do Not Disturb: An Ode to Mundanity

God bless rich, talented parents, for without them, a whole bunch of spoiled, solipsistic kids with credit cards for brains might be holding up corner candy stores instead of making innocuous films that no one really wants to watch other than the relatives of everyone involved. Read more »

Beyond the Black Rainbow: Death by Celluloid

When you start viewing the selections of a film festival, the initial few will definitely color your expectations for the rest. What were the curators thinking? you might just ponder,

Happily, the first offering of this year's Tribeca Film Festival that I screened was Pierre Thoretton's superb documentary on the designer Yves Saint Laurent, L'Amour Fou, a true must-see if you adore fashion, interior design, the Sixties and Seventies, travel, and an exploration of depressed genius with guest appearances by Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger. Read more »

"He had a lot to say…"

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Some documentaries transform their subject into a sculpted statue; others bring them to life. American: The Bill Hicks Story is certainly the latter, digging through personal photos, family interviews, and previously unseen footage to resurrect one of America's most belatedly appreciated national treasures of stand-up comedy. Read more »

A Film Unfinished: Dressing Up the Warsaw Ghetto

Is there a proper way to watch a Holocaust documentary?

There must be. Because while forking down a Hot Pockets Cheese Stuffed Crust Three Cheese Pizza and swigging a can of Coca-Cola Zero as images of the starving residents of the Warsaw Ghetto traipsed across my computer screen, I started feeling rather vile. Rather inappropriate. Read more »

Cracks: Crazed Lesbian Teachers Get Their Due

Oh, my God! I was just about to rip apart Cracks when I started inquiring into the novel it's based upon. Suddenly, I went, "That author's name seems awfully familiar."

Yes, Sheila Kohler, when she was a brunette, was my creative writing teacher, and according to several reviews of her novels, she's done quite well for herself after she recovered from grading my short stories. Note the acclaim for Becoming Jane Eyre. Read more »

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