Film Review

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

sicko.jpg
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 Jewcy.com (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 »

Slow Burn, Quickly Forgotten

 ray_liotta.jpgRunning into a midtown Manhattan screening room at 10:07 AM for a 10:00 AM showing of Zoo, a documentary on men who date horses, I was surprised to see Ray Liotta's face being projected. Had the actor, known for his charmingly irascible characterizations and his inability to turn down any role (e.g. Operation Dumbo Drop (1995)) developed a taste for four-legged creatures that didn't require riding them with a saddle? Read more »

French Perfection

the__valet.jpgFive years ago, when The Closet came out, I wrote for indieWire, "Director/writer Francis Veber, 63, who scripted The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972), The Toy (1976), Le cage aux folles (1978), and The Goat (1981), plus wrote and directed last year's hilarious The Dinner Game, (the American remake's planned title is Dinner for Shmucks), has returned with what might turn out to be the funniest film of the year." Ditto for 2007. Read more »

It Slices! It Dices! It Perms!

Afro_SamuraiAfro Samurai: The Director’s Cut (FUNimation DVD)

Between the Independent Film Channel airing Samurai 7 and Gunslinger Girl, Showtime Beyond running Peacemaker, and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block boasting Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Eureka 7, and Blood+, among others, there’s more anime on American TV now than ever before. But while we aren’t expecting CBS to start airing Neon Genesis Evangelion or Ergo Proxy during those rare half-hours between CSI spin-offs, they did come one step closer recently when the cable network Spike TV — which doesn’t even air American cartoons — showed Afro Samurai. Read more »

King of Monsters Restored to Original Glory

gojira_attackGojira, Godzilla Raids Again, Mothra Vs. Godzilla (Classic Media)

With twenty-eight films under his belt, and fifty years in the business, he is, literally and figuratively, the biggest movie star to ever come out of Japan. So it’s only fitting that Gojira “Godzilla” Yoshikawa would finally be getting his due with a series of truly special edition DVDs from Classic Media. Which isn’t just long overdue because of Godzilla’s stature as an actor and icon, but because many of his films, when released in the U.S., were dramatically edited, had new footage added, and were so badly dubbed into English that they made a generation of American filmgoers believe that everyone in Japan talked like bad ventriloquists. Read more »

Father Knows Least

chris__rock.jpgAccording to the statistics showcased on divorcepeers.com, 1 in 20 husbands have admitted to cheating on their wives. On the distaff side, it's 1 in 22. As for the number of men who take off their wedding rings when they leave the apartment without their wives, it's 1 in 3, while the percentage of men caught in their infidelities registers in at 80%.

Wait a second! The New York Times reports higher figures. How about 21 percent of men and 13 percent of women have copulated with a third party! Read more »

Nicolas Cage Is Still Moonstruck

nicolas__cage.jpg2006 was a busy year for Nicolas Cage. The Ant Bully. World Trade Center. The Wicker Man. Apparently those offerings didn't sate our yen for Cage. This past weekend, Ghost Rider, in which the Oscar-winner embodies the demon-possessed comic-book hero Johnny Blaze, brought in an estimated $44.5 million, revitalizing a previously tepid Hollywood box office.

If that wasn't sci-fi enough, there's Next (with Julianne Moore), in which Cage stars as a man who can see the future. Read more »

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