Film Review

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."