Film Review

The Perfect Movie

4_months.jpgWelcome to the perfect movie. Cristian Mungiu's
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is the accomplished melding of both an aesthetic and a moral sensibility, of politics and art, of love and disillusionment, of acting and being.

The winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes and showcased at the recent New York Film Festival, this faultlessly shot and edited offering has already won over the world's critics. Read more »

Tyler Perry Gets Serious

tyler_perry.jpgTyler Perry started out writing about his abuse as a child, so he's had a serious side from the start. It just got overlooked in the wake of a series of comic movies he wrote (and often directed and produced as well) and starred in the cross-dressed role of Mabel "Madea" Simmons, the matriarch of an African-American family. His Madea movies have been wildly popular, despite a lack of attention or respect from most of the critical establishment.

His newest film, Why Did I Get Married? (Lionsgate, PG-13), which was the #1 release in its opening week, again finds him writing, directing, producing, and starring. This time, though, not only does Perry play a male role, he has a somewhat more serious tone, while still providing laughs. Read more »

The Division of Joy Equals Control

control_movie.jpgControl by Anton Corbijn

A talk with Peter Hook, Mark Greenhalgh and John Robb at the Cornerhouse, Manchester on Friday, October 19, followed by a screening of the Ian Curtis biopic. It could have been three guys locked in music-related conversation in the Gay Traitor, the Hacienda's basement bar named after the spy Anthony Blunt (now seriously expensive apartments). It was, however, the tiny stage of Screen Two of Manchester's premiere arts cinema, the Cornerhouse, and these three had an audience. Read more »

I Shot Jesse James

jesse_james.jpgThe First Films of Samuel Fuller: I Shot Jesse James/The Baron of Arizona/The Steel Helmet (Criterion Collection)

Samuel Fuller came out of WWII guns a-blazin’, anxious to get back into the movie game in a big way. Fuller had done some scripting before the war, had made connections, but the tabloid jockey-turned-infantryman had yet to hit personal paydirt.

B-movie producer Robert Lippert, responsible for dozens of B pictures, could greenlight anything that looked interesting and would cost peanuts to shoot, and when Fuller said he wanted to make a picture about Jesse James’s killer, Robert Ford, Lippert gave him the go-ahead. Read more »

The Price of Sugar: Not for Those with a Sweet Tooth

price_of_sugar.jpgThanks to the Ethical Consumer and its list of boycotts, those of us who haven't turned our backs on any product in decades--possibly since Caesar Chavez's grapes and Coors beer--can now once again jump into the thick of things.

First, stop sipping that Coca-Cola because of "its repression of trade union activity in Colombia and its depletion of groundwater resources in India." Read more »

I Now Pronounce You Knocked Up

knocked_up.jpgSocial justice has been served up. Yes, just as the Supreme Court has begun to curtail the rights of American women to control their bodies, Knocked Up, the first great anti-abortion comedy, impregnated both our theaters and our minds June 1, and it still refuses to miscarry. This past weekend (July 29), it still raked in over a $1 million for a U.S. total so far of over $145 million. Yes, Jude Apatow's latest cash cow refuses to be knocked down. If that wasn't enough, it's received a 91% approval rating from the nation's critics according to Rotten Tomatoes. Read more »

Grin and Bare It!

bart_simpson.jpgAfter surviving the initial stampede into the movie theater, with people climbing on top of each other to get to the “good seats” first, I was left wondering why I actually came to see The Simpsons Movie. I never was a huge fan of the television show, but I always enjoyed its irreverent, witty humor. I guess that I was curious to see what Matt Groening and his team could deliver for their long-awaited transition to the big screen. I have to admit that I was also sucked in by the movie’s marketing campaign, when 7-Eleven stores were converted to Kwik-E-Marts carrying Springfield’s finest: bright pink donuts, Krusty O’s Cereal, Buzz cola, and frozen Slurpees! Read more »

Legal Eagle

harvey_birdman.jpgHarvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Vol. 3
Birdman and the Galaxy Trio: The Complete Series

(Turner Home Entertainment)

When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “there are no second acts in American lives,” he obviously hadn't watched Adult Swim. The grown-up section of Cartoon Network's otherwise childish line-up has often given new leases on life to such career-dead characters as Space Ghost, who went from intergalactic superhero (Space Ghost and Dino Boy) to punch-drunk talk show host (Space Ghost: Coast to Coast). Clearly, Adult Swim has shown that there are second acts in American lives…if you draw them. Read more »

Macbeth: The Bard Strips Down

macbeth.jpg"Fair is foul, and foul is fair," note the three witches in Macbeth's opening act, and that is a justifiable critique of director Geoffrey's Wright's audacious adaptation of the ultimate tale of untethered ambition gone awry.

It's now set in Melbourne, where Aussie drug-dealing crime boss Duncan (Gary Sweet) is about to fatally discover that his brutal, yet true-hearted, henchman Macbeth (Sam Worthington) is switching his loyalties to more selfish aims.

Spurred on by pronouncements from a trio of nymphet soothsayers traipsing through a graveyard, and later on by his calculating spouse (Victoria Hill), Macbeth decides that he wants to be the head hoodlum of Down Under, and he'll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. Read more »

SiCKO: The Prognosis Isn't Good

First, let's get through the superlatives. SiCKO is one of the most important films you'll ever see in your lifetime, which might be rather short depending upon your HMO. It's additionally one of the most entertaining, illuminating, contumelious, and brave documentaries unspooled on American screens to this date.

Yes, the director is Michael Moore, the Steven Spielberg of reality cinema. But whether or not you adored his Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), his valentine to Bush's ineptness; or Bowling for Columbine, in which he used Charlton Heston for target practice; or Roger & Me (1989), a letter bomb to uncaring corporate America, you'll adore these 123 minutes that he has now wrought. Read more »

Hot House: Live Free or Die Hard Palestinian-style

hot_house.jpgPeter Greenaway once noted, "We somehow expect cinema to provide us with meaning, to console us. But that's not the purpose of art." If that's so, the annual Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (HRW) is possibly the most artful gathering of new cinema in the world.

For 18 years now, HRW's curators have gleaned the most informative, accomplished, disconcerting, and challenging narrative features and documentaries from disparate centers of chaos. Their goals are to spotlight the often-overlooked inconsistencies in modern life, the miscarriages of justice, and the invincible heroes who surmount the most titanic devastations. Consoling is not a top priority here. Read more »

Finally, a Date Film for the Lobotomized

ATCL_7.jpgThere's a telling paragraph in the production notes for the new romantic comedy And Then Came Love: "On the first day of production, a grip was electrocuted and had to be rushed to the emergency room; a P.A. had a fender bender in a rented production vehicle; the location fee ended up being twice what was anticipated; and a second meal was called as production went over schedule. [Producer/writer Caytha] Jentis did her best to recall the deep breathing exercises from her Lamaze class."

Instead, Ms. Jentis should have looked up the Ten Plagues in the Bible. God was apparently giving her a hint: "Stop or your creative first born will be decimated." And believe me, God wasn't pulling any punches. Read more »

Aboriginal Time

ten_canoes.jpgA tale within a tale within a tale: Ten Canoes is all about narrative. But for all its complexity of structure, the tale itself lacks drama. In fact, the viewer at the end may even feel hijacked by a sort of aboriginal shaggy dog story. Writer/director/producer Rolf de Heer, who was born in Holland but migrated to Australia in 1959, is considered one of Australia’s leading filmmakers. Set in a swamp area, surrounded by crocodiles, leeches, and mosquitoes, Ten Canoes is his eleventh feature. Read more »

A Terrorist in Our Midst

day_night.jpgA young woman is riding on a bus, and you can’t see her face. But you hear her mumbling about death, all sorts of death (she mentions “lung cancer… smoking …some get bitten by dogs”). She seems disturbed, and yet her words also appear as a kind of mantra or prayer. When she descends from the bus in an anonymous station, we don’t see her face for a while, just her back, her long baggy skirt, her sneakers, her denim shirt, her black straight hair. When we finally see her face, it is a relief—she is pretty—but also a puzzle—those deep-set, haunted eyes, the sense of alonEness. She is clearly going somewhere, but at the same time appears lost. Read more »

Tribeca Film Award Winner: My Father, My Lord

volach.jpgIf you can believe (and why shouldn't you?), David Volach, 37, is one of 19 children born to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. His folks obviously took the Lord's commandment, "Be fruitful and multiply!" much too seriously.

Raised in a Haredic community in Jerusalem, Volach studied in the Ponevezh yeshiva, said to be one of the most renowned Talmudic yeshivas. But then at 25, he moved to Tel-Aviv and became a film student. Read more »

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