Film Review

Catching Up: Gross-Out Fun plus Death à la Eastwood

due_dateDue Date

Over a decade ago, Todd Phillips co-created the New York Underground Film Festival. Those were the days when this event was really, really underground and almost too scary to attend. (Try sitting through Roadkill.) He went on to direct the highly entertaining Frat House for HBO, a "documentary" never to be released for the masses. Then he surprised everyone by becoming one of the most commercially profitable directors in America, with Road Trip, Old School, and The Hangover -- the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time -- under his belt. Read more »

Shorties: Brassieres on Strike, Uncle Boonmee, and Primroses

dagenham-filmMade in Dagenham

Norma Rae goes Brit in this fact-based tale of exploited women working for the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham, England, in the Sixties.

Ford already has one of the more dreadful histories in American business. Henry Ford helped spread anti-Semitism around the world, and thanks to the recycling of his original publications today, these very same writings are continuing to advocate hatred of the Jews to newbie neo-Nazis. If this weren't enough, according to one source, "Ford sent Hitler 50,000 Deutsche Marks every year on the Führer's birthday." Read more »

Shorties: Assassins and Diaper Changing

life-as-we-know-itThe Ghost Writer

Now on DVD, Roman Polanski's clever adaptation of Robert Harris' thiller bows down to Alfred Hitchcock, especially with its superb Bernard Herrmann-like score by Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Fantastic Mr. Fox).

The plot starts off simply enough. A nameless writer (Ewan McGregor), unambiguously known as "The Ghost" in the production notes, is hired to rewrite the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a former British Prime Minister (based upon Tony Blair). The previous ghost who had penned the rather boring first draft had recently fallen off a local ferry dead drunk and drowned. Or did he? Could it have been murder and if so, why? Read more »

Never Let Me Go: True Love and Kidneys

never-let-me-go-filmNever Let Me Go

Please do not read on.

Part of the joy of viewing the film Never Let Me Go, or engrossing yourself within the pages of Kazuo Ishiguro's acclaimed book on which it's based, is slowly perceiving the dystopian nature of the tale.

Since you have apparently ignored my warning, I'll proceed. Read more »

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: Woody Splinters

woody-stranger-filmYou Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger Considering Woody Allen, 74, makes a film a year, the question to be asked is not why so many of his movies are uneven, but why so many are to be treasured. Even in this past decade, there's been Vicki Cristina Barcelona (2008), Match Point (2005), Hollywood Ending (2002), and Small Time Crooks (2000). Although none achieve the magic, wit, or depth of Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), or Annie Hall (1977), they all are embraceable entertainments, worthy of numerous viewings. Read more »

Take No Prisoners...

kick_ass_dvdKick-Ass Blu-ray/DVD (Lions Gate)

The least interesting thing about Kick-Ass, the comic and the movie, is Kick-Ass, the character. Mild-mannered high schooler Dave Lizewski tells us he's neither geek nor jock, class clown nor genius -- his main talent seems to be an unremarkable ability to acknowledge his utter nothingness-ness, which is not exactly red zone on the mutant scale. Second to that he's a pretty capable whiner, a better than average moper, and an ace masturbator, with an apparent need to share.

And he's willing to pretend to be gay if it means he can get next to a high-caste female schoolmate who needs a gaymate. Read more »

Soul Kitchen or Deep-Fried Comedy

soul-kitchen-movieIt's frequently argued that American comedies do not travel as well to the rest of the world as our dramatic exports do. Some major exceptions include features starring Charlie Chaplin and Jerry Lewis, plus TV fare with The Simpsons. Possibly death is a universal phenomenon, while what makes us laugh is a more localized affair.

And this is possibly considered a truism for films heading across the Atlantic from the east. Clearly, at least outside the few art houses and the Sundance Channel, foreign comedies seldom appear on our shores. Read more »

Eat Pray Love or Sex and the Ashram

eat_pray_loveCarrie Bradshaw and her gang would no doubt claim Liz Gilbert is the anti-Christ. Yes, these gals are clearly at odds.

The mindless Sex and the City brigade clearly thinks with its crotches while strutting about in designer pumps. While in her bestselling Eat Pray Love, Gilbert, with a lone party dress and, I'm told, great charm, goes on a one-year journey to find herself, learning to think with her heart and not her mind.

After a battering divorce and a difficult affair with a "hottie," the travel writer meanders through Italy, India, and Bali in search of a single word with which she can describe herself. Read more »

Step Up 3D: What would Fred and Ginger Think?

step-up-3dWould it be a better musical experience if when Gene Kelly splashed about in Singin' in the Rain, you saw each drop of water bouncing towards you? Or if while viewing Week-End in Havana, you felt you could pluck a berry from Carmen Miranda's turban? And what if it seemed you could almost look up Julie Andrews' skirt as she twirled about the hills that were alive with music?

Step Up 3D, with its relentless kaleidoscopic imagery, begs these questions as its youthful dancers burst off the screen in a nonstop bustle of gymnastic twirls, head spins, and rock 'em-sock 'em gesturing. With the slightest of storylines, even less character development, numerous actors who wouldn't be out of place in the C-movies of the 1950s, and choreography that's more Olympian than Fosse-esque, the third dimension supplied here often seems more gimmicky than artful. Read more »

Brotherhood: Romeo and the Neo-Nazi

brotherhood-filmTrue love seldom runs smoothly, especially in Denmark. Just ask Hamlet. And in Nicolo Donato's discerning Brotherhood, an exploration of the rebirth of the Danish National Socialist Movement, romance has an especially difficult path to tread.

The film begins late at night by a water tower. A gent in a hoodie is wooing a young homosexual man, who quickly discovers, when his pants are down, that he's been set up to be brutally attacked by a group of neo-Nazi thugs. Read more »

Inception: When Dreaming is Bad for You

inception-filmDear Reader, I regretfully must inform you that Christopher Nolan's bombastic Inception has enough startling footage with which to edit 30 exquisitely enticing trailers, but not enough to compose one comprehensible movie from.

So what is the most anticipated film of the summer like? If you recall the scene in Dahmer (2002) where Jeremy Renner as the deranged killer drills holes into his victims' heads, you'll know what watching this Freudian claptrap of a thriller is like. Read more »

Predators: Adrian in Schwarzeneggerland

predators-filmAdrian Brody as an action hero? Yup. The Pianist who survived King Kong only to become Rickity the Field Mouse in The Fantastic Mr. Fox does a star turn here as the mercenary Royce. Especially when Mr. Brody starts running about bare-chested near the finale -- you'll want to applaud his exquisitely chiseled torso. Sadly, a six-pack does not a movie make.

This latest in the Predator enterprise (begun in 1987 with Arnold Schwarzenegger when he still had hero status) is barely a film. An unimaginative plot line, a stilted script, nil character development, and paltry special effects add up to . . . . Well, they don’t add up to much. Read more »

Wild Grass: Get the Lawnmower

wild-grass-filmWild Grass

An early realization of my intellectual inferiority occurred sitting in a San Francisco revival house in the '70s. There, perched on an achingly springy seat, I was unable to comprehend, let alone sit through, Alain Resnais's Last Year at Marienbad (1961).

I have always promised to give myself a second viewing of this groundbreaking, nonlinear classic, even though some critics like David Thomson argue against such an action, citing the film's "enervating High Vogue solemnity" and Resnais's inability "to make a communicative contact with audiences." Read more »

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse or The Virgin Chronicles

twilight-eclipseHaving had a virgin or two in my day and having been one once, I'm not quite sure why this state of inexperience is so prized in our society and, for that matter, the world over. I surmise some folks want to be the first, whether it's for an iPhone purchase, the initial screening of a Star Wars entry, or just saying hello to a clitoris.

I've always felt being second or third or tenth is much wiser, whether it's walking on ice, being on a conga line, or having intimate relations. Technique can improve over the years. Just take a second and ask yourself whether you'd want your gall bladder removed by a newbie or an experienced M.D. Read more »

Animal Kingdom: My Uncles are Losers

animal-kingdom-filmWriter/director David Michod's Animal Kingdom is another one of those tiny, volcanic Australian dramas (e.g. Romper Stomper (1992); Blessed (2009)) that explode off the screen more from superb casting and direction than from originality of plot, which is not to say the plot here is ever less than engrossing.

Animal Kingdom is a searing study of the characteristic impossibility of breaking out of the crime cycle, especially when all your blood relatives are hoods, drug addicts, insane, or all of the three. At least that’s what 17-year-old Joshua “J” Cody (James Frecheville) swiftly ferrets out. Read more »

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