Film Review

My Week with Marilyn: Needy, Needier, Neediest

My Week with Marilyn is one of the most innocent of love stories to hit the movie screens in recent years, and one of the most satisfying.

It also a rather astute tale of filmmaking, specifically the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957, an adaptation of a Terrence Rattigan stage comedy. The movie starred Marilyn Monroe at the height of her fame and Sir Laurence Olivier, who at age 50, was the world's most acclaimed Shakespearean actor -- or should we say, "aging Shakespearian actor and former matinee idol." He was also its director. Read more »

The Descendants: Hawaii Without the Hula

Until this very moment, Alexander Payne has made a rather successful career with his ability to seamlessly meld pain with biting black humor. His Citizen Ruth (1996) brazenly tackles the Pro-Life movement and its foes. Election (1999) wickedly chronicles the disasters raging high-school hormones wrought on both self-centered teens and their instructors. About Schmidt takes its aging eponymous widower (Jack Nicholson) on a caustic trip to self-discovery while attending his daughter's wedding. And Sideways (2004), an ode to oenophiles in search of love, won him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Read more »

Melancholia: Lars Von Trier's "Bleak" House

The grand George Cukor, after such works as The Women, Camille, and Sylvia Scarlett were released, was branded a "women's director." There's no question he knew how to make his female leads shimmer as if they were residing in the firmament and not just on the screen. That's one rumored reason why he was released from Gone with the Wind. Apparently, Clark Gable was afraid he might be overshadowed by his female lead if Cukor did the helming.

Gable would no doubt have had a similar jitteriness with Lars von Trier, who after Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, and Antichrist, has merited the moniker of "depressed women's director." No one else since Ingmar Bergman and Chantal Akerman has so consistently and illustriously particularized the disintegration of females stuck in an interminable, patriarchal dystopia. Read more »

The Woman with the Red Hair, or, "I'm Going to Now Sing to My Penis"

As one of the 37 films being screened by The 49th New York Film Festival in celebration of Japan's Nikkatsu Studio's centennial, Tatsumi Kumashiro's The Woman with the Red Hair (1979) has one thing certainly going for it: it's never boring. Just sample the dialogue:

"I can't stay panty-less forever."

"My prick's still aching." Read more »

Suburban Desire under the Elms: The Family Tree

The week before Hurricane Irene struck, I viewed a film that certainly could have benefitted from some of that storm's gusts.

The American indie The Family Tree does, truthfully, blow about quite a bit thanks to its choice cast (e.g. Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Selma Blair, Keith Carradine, Jane Seymour), but its overabundance of inane plot lines configured by screenwriter Mark Lisson and its unfocused direction by Vivi Friedman couldn't get a kite knee-level. Read more »

Fright Nights, Ogres in Your Sheets, and Clever Baboons

"Fright Night is not a distinguished movie, but it has a lot of fun being undistinguished," Roger Ebert noted about the original 1985 take on vampires.

The same could be said of director Craig Gillespie's 3-D remake, which should be no surprise. At least the "fun" part. After all, Gillespie was responsible for the joyous and "distinguished" Lars and the Real Girl (2007), the definitive comedy about falling in love with a blow-up doll. Read more »

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 »

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