Film Review

Cine-Simenon: Georges Simenon on Film

The Belgian-born Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote over 200 novels (by Wikipedia's count) plus many shorter works. The New York Times estimates that number (including his memoirs and nonfiction works) as being between 400 and 500. Simenon's creation, Inspector Jules Maigret, who appeared in about 75 works, "ranks only after Sherlock Holmes as the world's best known fictional detective." (I'm not sure how Poirot feels about that.) Of course, such popularity could not be overlooked by the entertainment industry, and imdb.com has compiled a list of 132 movies and TV shows based on his oeuvre. And now the Anthology Archives, with Kathy Geritz and the Pacific Film Archive, is presenting 14 of these celluloid joys within the series appropriately entitled Cine-Simenon: George Simenon on Film, which runs until August 21st.

Lee Daniels’s The Butler or Serving Up Equality

Lee Daniels tries very hard to become the next Steven Spielberg with The Butler, a 132-minute heartfelt, epic paean to the Civil Rights struggles of black Americans in the 20th century. The result is a film that is indeed convincingly earnest, yet intermittently clumsy in its attempt to shoehorn too much history into a family tale of survival, dysfunction, alcoholism, adultery, rebellion, and disco dancing -- or vice versa.

Broken or Love Thy Neighbor...With Great Care

Childhood can be tough, but how tough you can't imagine until you've witnessed Rufus Norris's Broken, a film of innocence getting roundly trounced. Based upon Daniel Clay's highly readable tome, which was itself inspired by Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the action takes place in a cul-de-sac in Southampton, where three damaged families reside. The "dead-end" metaphor is not to be taken lightly.

Taylor Mead's Ass, or Arse You Like It

It's a Monday night with occasional downpours, but the steamy weather and the chance to view Andy Warhol's rarely screened tribute to the underground legend, poet, and actor Taylor Meade's posterior has the crowd, composed mainly of artsy gayboys, both young and old, lining up en masse in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art.

 A murmur of true excitement, amidst the chatter about organic art exhibits and mild flirtations, greets the ear as the flip-floppers are ushered into the Sculpture Garden. Instantly, stylized composure is disposed of as there's a mad rush for seats with an unobstructed view. Those who lose out on the "Musical Chairs Grab" wind up sitting on steps, which actually proffer a better sight line.

Under the Dome

[Spoiler Alert!!  If you have not seen the pilot episode, this review contains numerous spoilers.]

Stephen King's teleplays for his many mini-series (usually three to six episodes) have ranged from superb ("Storm of the Century," "The Shining") to good ("It," "The Stand") to silly but fun ("The Langoliers"). However, his work has never been turned into a full-season TV series until now. And if he and the other writers can sustain the level of intrigue and character development of the pilot episode, they may have a hit on their hands.

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, or Where’s John Waters When You Need Him?

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X is the brainchild of director Paul Bunnell, one he carried about for nine grueling years. The birth of the DVD, released last week, was not an easy one, but no one was surprised. There were warnings that the end result would be deplorably off-kilter. Some, who were in the room when Bunnell's fertilized idea was first sonogrammed -- in "Ghastly Scope," a vivid black and white, by the not untalented cinematographer Francisco Bulgarelli -- had high hopes; others hinted subtly, yet harshly, for a termination of the celluloid fetus.

Laurence Anyways or One Life to Live Two Ways

Watching Xavier Dolan’s nearly three-hour long Laurence Anyways is like being enveloped in a grand 500-page novel written by a master in the making. There are frequent moments of genius where you are rendered blissfully immobile by the onscreen carryings-on; uncountable witticisms you wish you yourself had dashed off; unbridled passions that hit the heavens and then bounce back harrowingly; several paeans to those filmmakers who’ve inspired him (e.g. Ken Russell); and now and then a slight unwieldiness that’s easy to sidestep.