Film Review

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 »

I Am Love or Mama Sleeps with the Chef

i_am_loveOperatic in scope, Luca Guadagnino's mesmerizing I Am Love chronicles the carryings-on of an aristocratic Italian family from one grand meal to another. But with each bite taken from each exquisitely prepared dish, the final course of tragedy gets more and more ready to be served up.

In the opening scenes, in an overwhelming Milan manor, the matriarch, Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), along with her brigade of servants, sweeps from room to room, making sure every detail is perfect. Even in the kitchen, a misplaced drop of sauce on a plate is carefully wiped away.

And while the pots are ever so carefully stirred, the children and the guests arrive like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don't quite fit together. Read more »

Band on the Run

stones-in-exileStones in Exile DVD (Eagle Records)

Time passing creates a tremendous sense of reverence, but at the time, the exit of the Rolling Stones from Britain to the south of France wasn't seen as a sublime act of creative integrity, but one of supreme betrayal, the petulant flouncing of the newly spoilt rich of rock. It was also a move of extreme expediency, escaping the trappings of tremendous success, appalling mismanagement of their affairs, and a massive tax bill. They really were the original band on the run.

Nellcote was Keith Richard's mansion, and after a fruitless search of empty theaters, recording studios, and halls, none of which proved suitable, it was decided to take root there to record a new album. Read more »

ReGeneration: Why Do We Know So Much About Lindsay Lohan?

sex_and_the_city_sequelLittle more than a week ago I was going Hollywood in mid-Manhattan with dozens of other Big Apple critics. In other words, cabbing from a 6:00 p.m. midtown advance screening of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time to an Upper West Side 8:30 p.m. S.R.O. showing of Sex and the City 2. Yes, from a surprisingly charisma-less Jake Gyllenhaal in search of a magical dagger to a rancid Sarah Jessica Parker seeking empty post-marriage passion in the Middle East.

Verdict: both stars should avoid sand.

Jake, so good bottoming in Brokeback Mountain, here lacks top appeal. Too bad gravitas can't be sprayed on like a tan. Read more »

Before the Days of Answered Prayers

douglas-boothWorried About the Boy

Some people were born to be sold, and George O'Dowd always seemed to have a price on his head -- one of his own making. He was one of the children of the revolution in dark corners, the bastard spawn of Bowie, that distant father-figure of difference who deserted those he had inspired, then returned to their gaudy playground to use them in his next chameleon project, namely his Ashes to Ashes video. The late '70s and early '80s revealed a legacy, and a need to challenge that has all but expired. The New Romantic era was the baroque riposte to punk's safety pins, and Boy George became its ambassador to a startled world. Read more »

MacGruber: SNL Makes a Big Doody on Screen

macgruberDo you remember when you first learned the word "ka ka" or "poo poo" and then kept repeating the term incessantly for days on end at inappropriate moments? If so, you have a handle on the woefully unfunny, extended Saturday Night Live sketch MacGruber.

Apparently a takeoff on the '80s TV series MacGyver, which itself was a takeoff on spy movies, the film -- co-written by its star Will Forte, its director Jorma Tacone, and SNL resident scribe John Solomon -- has nothing on its little mind except trying to cash in big on opening weekend. Read more »

Singing in the Changes

lerna-horne-obit
LENA HORNE 1917-2010

Some things are impossible to deny. One of those was that Lena Horne was beautiful, another was her talent as an actress and singer, the third was that she was black. Horne once quipped that what the MGM Studios knew about black people, they'd gleaned from the Tarzan films, and she flatly refused to pretend to be Latin American so that her movies might fare better in the Southern States. It is hard to believe that scenes containing black actors were routinely chopped from films before they were shown there. A fitting testament to this spirited woman and her bravery in the face of stupid prejudice is that the world has moved on somewhat, and has all but forgotten these sins; now a black man resides in the White House. Read more »

Syndicate content