Film Review

Shades of Dark & Darker

half-blood-princeThe latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, continues the franchise’s progressive departure from fun. All the bright, festive colors that decorated the earlier films have vanished, leaving these young wizards to play out their drama within a spectrum ranging from black to dark blue. Though the film is still enjoyable, it lacks some of the imaginative fancy of its predecessors.

The acting is solid enough all around aside from the nagging suspicion that Daniel Radcliffe is starting to tire of playing Harry. This could be attributed to the character's loss of his child-like innocence, but it feels as if Radcliffe is applying less energy in his performance. Read more »

She Served Us Well: Mollie Sugden 1922-2009

mollie-sugdenMollie Sugden, star of the British sitcom Are You Being Served? (1972-85), died on July 1 of natural causes. Her five-decade acting career made her a beloved figure in her native England and, surprisingly, in the U.S. as well.

Are You Being Served? was set in a department store, a dying breed even in the Seventies. Sugden's Mrs. Slocombe was the doyenne of ladies underwear, a role mirrored in menswear by Mr. Humphries, whose airs and graces she deplored, probably because they got in the way of her own array of affectations. Read more »

Brüno: A Queer God for the Ages

bruno-filmYes -- if you're asking -- Brüno is quite possibly the most uproarious, groundbreaking, and shocking comedy of the past decade -- and that includes its sister film which showcased the Jew-phobic Borat.

Actor/co-writer/producer Sacha Baron Cohen has now taken the image of the homosexual as propagated by the Right Wing for fund-raising purposes, and he's exaggerated that stereotype one hundredfold.

His Brüno, host of a defunct German-language fashion-oriented TV show, is a limp-wristed fop; a blatant misogynist with a special distaste for the vagina; a dildo-carrying satyr; and an inhumane, racist, child-endangering, self-promoting anal warrior. He's, in other words, a solipsist nonpareil. Read more »

Public Enemies: Depp-utizing the Thirties

public-enemiesMichael Mann's Public Enemies is epic filmmaking with B-movie content. It's as if a wannabe David Lean got down and dirty Americana-style.

Yes, every prodigious moment is so artfully rendered, every frame so thoughtfully blocked, that even the machine gun bang-ups have a choreographed sensibility to them. Yet for all of this thoughtful grandeur, and possibly because of it, the film lacks the hit-you-in-the-bladder, shocking gutsiness of Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde.

John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), best known in recent decades for the urban myth his prodigious body part inspired, is the antihero of this crime saga. Read more »

An Ode to George W.

bumblebee-1If when you were a child--either with Mr. Wizard or alone--you had passed a magnet over a pile of iron filings, you would have unknowingly created the action scenes of Michael Bay’s latest blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Yes, for what seems like the first half hour of this exploration of the psychotic lives of former Hasbro toys, the screen is filled with the pounding of metal upon metal accompanied by very loud kabooms on the soundtrack. Read more »

The Proposal: Doris Day Redux

the-proposal-movieSAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE -- Watching The Proposal in a Mexican multiplex does supply this romantic comedy about immigration with an unsettling moral twinge. So let's quickly address the little that's wrong with Sandra Bullock's latest.

As you've garnered from the commercials or viewing the film -- as much of the female American movie-going public has already -- the visa application of Margaret Tate (Bullock), a high-end editor at a major publishing company, has been denied, and she's being deported.

Tate: "Deported? It's not like I'm an immigrant or something. I'm Canadian."

To remedy the situation, Tate blackmails her assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), a full-blooded American, into marrying her. Read more »

The Hangover: A Pissin' Good Time

hangover-movieAmerican filmmakers have finally gotten over their fear of the penis. This once unpopular organ is now being showcased in one blockbuster after another, frequently in comedies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but also in superhero sagas, most notably in Watchmen. Read more »

Gender Fabulous

gender-fabSome of my best friends were transsexuals.

Actually, only one. Back in the seventies, Liz Eden, whose life was redacted in Dog Day Afternoon, befriended me.

I still remember how Liz shared late one night, on a Number 6 subway platform, that her operation was so successful, she was capable of fooling Italian truck drivers (I.T.D.s). Having an I.T.D. stand by the quality of your vagina was sort of like getting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval back then. Read more »

The Limits of an Audience’s Endurance

Limits_of_ControlYou’re either a Jarmusch fan or you’re not; there’s not much of a middle ground in rating the value of his work, and his most recent release isn’t going to change that trend. The Limits of Control dabbles in the realm between the real and surreal with a heavy hand of allegory, depicting a representative struggle between the powers that be and the more humanist forces in the world.

The pacing of this film is slow and drawn out, half of its running time being dedicated to watching Isaach De Bankolé (Lone Man) [above left, with Tilda Swinton] sit and drink two espressos in separate cups, a quirk which he repeatedly insists upon. Read more »

The Series That Refuses to Die

terminator_salvationTerminator Salvation asks the ever-important question, "What is it that makes us human?"

The query, inspired by the discovery of a man best described as "flesh and machine," sadly is not addressed to a major philosophical mind such as Claude Lévi-Strauss's. Instead, we get a bunch of pondering cardboard characters looking anguished before they revert to their primary facial expression, most ably denoted as "less anguished."

A subject that might have been better delved into is "what is it that makes a good screenplay," especially for a film that few were actually begging for. Please note that the spin-off TV series was canceled this week by Fox for poor ratings. Read more »

My Life in Ruins: A Film Title or a Cry for Help?

life-ruinsMy Life in Ruins was the Tribeca Film Festival's closing night offering. If favors weren't exchanged for this tepid comedy to garner this honored spot, someone working for TFF has negligible taste -- or even worse, a rather low opinion of the audience the festival is attracting.

Nia Vardalos, best known as the writer/star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, appears here, with a bit less charm, as Georgia, an American academic in search of her "mojo." Read more »

Angels & Demons: Atheism for Dummies?

angels-demonsWhat was most surprising about attending the opening-day, 9:45 A.M. screening of Angels & Demons was not that 200 or so folks had shown up, but how many of these attendees were wolfing down buttered popcorn for breakfast. Hadn't any watched The Biggest Loser or La Grande Bouffe?

As for the 138-minute Ron Howard adaptation of Dan Brown's superbly entertaining novel? It's brisk, brutal, and absorbing. Several ticket holders even applauded as the end credits rolled. Read more »

Vegas: Based on a True Story

vegas_true_storyIf your children enjoy watching forklifts smashing up cars, go purchase Metal Monsters. And if they adore trucks, try out Dirt Monsters.

But if your offspring really has a fetish for hole-digging, look no further than Vegas: Based on a True Story. For the final hour or so of this venture, your loved ones will be able to giggle and coo and applaud as a Vegas couple with gambling, smoking, and drinking problems shovel up their backyard in search of a suitcase containing a million dollars. Read more »

The Fish Child: Girl Interrupted Again and Again

fish-childThe eponymous tot of The Fish Child (El niño pez) is apparently part of a Paraguayan religious belief that a little boy who lives in a lake will take care of your dead children. To initiate this aquatic babysitting relationship, grieving parents set up little tributes composed of plastic dolls and gewgaws on fences and by bodies of water. In a beautifully effective moment of magical realism, a teenager, Lala (Inés Efron), eases herself into Lake Ypoa and communes with this Merboy. Otherwise, The Fish Child leaves its flippers behind and the film remains rather earthbound.

Read more »

High-School Nonmusical 1

17-againIf you had any doubts about whether Zac Efron is major star material, just watch the first few minutes of Burr Steers' 17 Again.

A young, shirtless teen is shooting hoops by himself in a school gymnasium. His sweaty, tightly muscled, yet graceful body is flawless, and then the camera reveals the young man's face. At that very moment, there was a melting "Ahhhhhh!!!!!!" that arose from the audience at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13. It was as if "Love Potion No. 9" had been spritzed on the popcorn. "It's Zac!!!" Read more »

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