Film Review

Women Without Men: A Step in the Right Direction

women-without-men-filmIn 1953, the democratically elected government of Iran was being overthrown thanks to a CIA-backed coup d'etat with the aid of an oil-greedy Great Britain. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was installed, and numerous lives were lost, not counting many freedoms. The aftermath? Turn on CNN.

Situated in that pivotal year, photographer Shirin Neshats startling feature debut, Women Without Men, is meant as a tribute to those Iranis who fought, those who were crushed, and those who died thanks to foreign imperialist interference. Read more »

Mother: M is for . . .

mother-filmMother

There's a quote in the book For Mom with Love that goes, "A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."

That's the kind of parent the eponymous Mother (Lim Hye-ja) is in this engrossing, Korean Hitchcockian thriller that showcases the dangers of unbridled maternal affection. Read more »

Shutter Island: Warning! Rocky, Shallow, and Adrift. Vacation Elsewhere.

shutter-islandShutter Island

Martin Scorsese, wanting to be Stanley Kubrick, has failed big time. I know The Shining, and Shutter Island is no The Shining.

Elephantine in every aspect, this attempt at a psychological horror thriller exploits the Holocaust, the plight of those incarcerated for insanity in the '50s, and the victims of anti-Communist purges by splicing together moments of those inhumane historical atrocities into an empty-headed, grotesquely dissatisfying cinematic journey. Read more »

Eyes Wide Open: Brokeback Mezuzah

Eyes-Wide-OpenJerusalem. A kosher butcher with a huge family. A hunky Yeshiva student wandering the streets with all of his belongings on his back. Forbidden love. Stir them together, and you have one of the best movies of 2010.

I know it's only February, but I won't be budged.

Superb acting, a nearly flawless screenplay, and focused direction make Haim Tabakman's feature debut, Eyes Wide Open a stirring film experience. Read more »

Shorties: Fat Israelis, Unhinged Angels, a Depressed Naturalist, and Much More

girl-on-train1) A Matter of Size

A pack of highly insecure, obese working-class Israeli gents decide to stop dieting and become sumo wrestlers. Yes, The Full Monty goes sabra. Amiably lighthearted and blatantly generic, this crowd-pleaser by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor has already been bought by the Weinstein Brothers for an American remake.

'So, Mr. Richard Gere, if you can gain 200 pounds by sundown, have I got a starring role for you." A highlight of the forthcoming 14th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, this big-bellied comedy proves once and for all the Jewish proverb "Worries go down better with soup."

Read more »

The Book of Eli: The Road for Dummies

If George W. Bush has left one legacy to the arts, it's that under his administration more films about the Apocalypse and ecological destruction went into production than under any other presidency.

The latest to be released is the Hughes Brothers' The Book of Eli. Consider this tepid offering "Cormac McCarthy Lite."

Like McCarthy's Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Road (and its recent first-rate screen adaptation), The Book of Eli takes place after civilization's been decimated. Read more »

Willem Dafoe on Barebacking, Playing a Martian, and Indie Traumas

daybreakersACE HOTEL, MANHATTAN -- "This is as safe as barebacking a $5.00 whore," notes Lionel "Elvis" Cormac, a former vampire who’s regained his mortality, in the highly entertaining new sci-fi thriller Daybreakers.

Smiling impishly, Willem Dafoe who plays Lionel, notes, "Nothing was improvised...but there’s a couple of lines [in the film] that when I hear them, I can think that’s my line. I can remember the one about 'barebacking.' I thought, can we say that? That’s kind of racy. This word 'barebacking' is quite specific. I know it more from -- oh, boy, I’m getting -- it’s kind of gay cruise parlance. Read more »

Red Riding Trilogy: de Sade Yorkshire Style

red-riding-quartetIf Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, and Lovely Bones haven't sated your hunger for watching entertainments showcasing the abuse, torture, and murder of children and women, you are in luck.

IFC Films is now releasing three films based upon four intertwined novels by David Peace that are known to mystery aficionados as The Red Riding Quartet. If viewed in one sitting, as they were at last year's New York Festival, you can be blithely battered by the battered for 305 minutes. Read more »

Vicious from All the Inside Angles

sid-those-who-knew-him
Sid! By Those Who Really Knew Him (MVDvisual DVD)

In a short twenty-one years of life, with less than a year of them spent with The Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious created a legacy that has secured his position as one of the predominant icons of Punk. Sid! By Those Who Really Knew Him attempts to get an inside perspective on Vicious by combining the testimonies of those who surrounded his brief life. Archival footage, photos, and concert posters punctuate the DVD documentary, which arrives at no definitive conclusion. It's accompanied by a thick little booklet plus a live CD with 10 tracks of Sid playing in N.Y.C. Read more »

Avatar: Hot Aliens Rule the Roost

avatar-movieAvatar

Strike up the band. Light up the fireworks. Bake the cannoli. Yes, everything you heard about Avatar is true. James Cameron’s epic fantasy trip is as wondrous and engrossing as his Titanic was over-praised and ultimately silly.

Utilizing the latest computer innovations, many of which he seemingly spearheaded, Cameron has created a multidimensional, imaginary world in 3D, one that is peopled by hunky, barely attired creatures that will no doubt spark long-lasting desires in the teen-boy/teen-girl side of each of us. Read more »

Feel Good: 1/Art: 0

invictus-movieInvictus

After 27 years of unjust imprisonment, the noble Nelson Mandela has suffered enough, so one can only hope he will not see this movie. Morgan Freeman makes an admirable attempt to salvage what seems to be a inspiring story, but director Clint Eastwood just can't whip the muddled screenplay that is Invictus into any cohesive shape.

Someone please take the camera away from Mr. Eastwood and allow him to retire with some dignity. Read more »

An Ode to Self-Centeredness

nine-movieNine

Back in 1982, the Broadway musical Nine opened and won a Tony for Best Musical. An adaptation of Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film classic 8-1/2 with a book by Arthur Kopit, music by Maury Yeston, and direction by the great Tommy Tune, the show was a perfect blending of the cerebral and heart, a slightly tongue-in-cheek exploration of the creative process, and a fond but critical look at a man whose relationships with women were based either on his adoration for his mother or his pleasant encounter with a robust prostitute when he was a mere child.

Helping spur the show on to greatness were Raul Julia as Guido Contini, the solipsistic director; Karen Akers as his wife; plus Anita Morris, Camille Saviola, and the knock-‘em-dead Liliane Montevecchi as several of the women in his life. Read more »

Up In The Air and Hitting Greatness

Creativity emerges from chaos, and vice versa, unless yo're watching a network or cable news show. Then you might conclude insipidity arises from turmoil.

Anyway, the recent state of the world might explain why so many fine films are being released in this battle-weary time of Obam's broken promises, Pali's growing cult, continued foreclosures, health-care absurdities, the inability to resolve the situation in Afghanistan, continued homophobia, a Kardashian wedding, and White House gate-crashing. Possibly, in search of an artistic foothold to weather the moment, several directors of note are tackling the Romantic Comedy genre, and the results are nothing less than superlative. Read more »

The Twilight Saga: New Moon -- An Ode to Blue Balls

twilight-new-moonThe Twilight Saga: New Moon

Seldom has a film disparaged the state of virginity as much as does this lethargically paced and often inane paean to thwarted post-pubescent horniness. Believe me, chastity can be fun. Ask Doris Day. She knew how to do celibacy right. Kristen Stewart doesn't. 

With Day, after 50 dates and a wedding ring, you knew you'd wind up with a luscious fruit salad. Here was a woman worth marrying just to imbibe on her peachy sweetness. Stewart, on the other hand, is a moping prune that someone just discovered on the kitchen floor. Dusty and unappetizing. One-note. Tasteless. Irritating. Read more »

Shorties: Bashing Cruz, Singing Lulu, and Woofing Canines

Pirate-RadioBroken Embraces

Finally, a celluloid gift for all scholars in the midst of writing a thesis on Pedro Almodovar. However, for the rest of us who might have a less academic bent, Pedro's latest offering is an unending, un-suspenseful, increasingly irritating, yet well-acted paean to Hollywood of the '50s, filmmaking in general, passion, and jealousy, all topics he's handled with much more wit and panache in the past.

Here, blind screenwriter Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar), who uses the pseudonym Harry Caine, is visited by a young man with an idea for a script about a young homosexual who doesn't get along with his father. Read more »

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