Film Review

Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures or "Blow Job" Meets Harry Potter

warhol-film"An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have," Andy Warhol once noted. But after viewing the superb new presentation of Andy's early films at MOMA, you might reword that to: "Art is something people don't need to have but are better off having." Sublimely organized by Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA's acclaimed Chief Curator at Large, the films, each situated in a black frame, some measuring seven feet high and nine feet wide, are almost reminiscent of the paintings hanging at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, except these won't scream at you, which is a bit of a shame. Who wouldn't like to be vocally abused by Nico or Dennis Hopper?

Chance: The Discreet Charm of the Proletariat

chance_filmAbner Benaim's Chance was beating out James Cameron's Avatar at the box office in its third week of release in its native Panama . . . and deservedly. This hard-hitting, anti-bourgeois comedy opens with the dapper Fernando González-Dubois (Francisco Gattorno) running for political office. Interviewed on a TV news show, he avers, "I am a man of the people. My job is to work for the well-being of my country." His "heartfelt" words start ringing empty when the camera starts exploring his home life. His wife Gloria (Isabella Santodomingo) splits her time between getting breast implants, taking classes, and shopping. His twin teen daughters are into group sex and demeaning the help.

Knight and Day: DVD Innocuousness

knight_day_dvdKnight and Day (20th Century Fox, Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Holiday Gift Set)

Fresh off his film- stealing part as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (not to mention his performance at the MTV Movie Awards with J.Lo), Tom Cruise ventures back to the big screen as leading man in Knight and Day co-starring Cameron Diaz. He plays rogue agent Roy Miller on a mission to save the world. Cameron Diaz's June is the all-too-willing beautiful bystander who gets caught up in his world of espionage and intrigue.

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.

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."

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?

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.

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.

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.