Film Review

ReGeneration: Why Do We Know So Much About Lindsay Lohan?

sex_and_the_city_sequelLittle more than a week ago I was going Hollywood in mid-Manhattan with dozens of other Big Apple critics. In other words, cabbing from a 6:00 p.m. midtown advance screening of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time to an Upper West Side 8:30 p.m. S.R.O. showing of Sex and the City 2. Yes, from a surprisingly charisma-less Jake Gyllenhaal in search of a magical dagger to a rancid Sarah Jessica Parker seeking empty post-marriage passion in the Middle East.

Verdict: both stars should avoid sand.

Jake, so good bottoming in Brokeback Mountain, here lacks top appeal. Too bad gravitas can't be sprayed on like a tan.

Before the Days of Answered Prayers

douglas-boothWorried About the Boy Some people were born to be sold, and George O'Dowd always seemed to have a price on his head -- one of his own making. He was one of the children of the revolution in dark corners, the bastard spawn of Bowie, that distant father-figure of difference who deserted those he had inspired, then returned to their gaudy playground to use them in his next chameleon project, namely his Ashes to Ashes video. The late '70s and early '80s revealed a legacy, and a need to challenge that has all but expired. The New Romantic era was the baroque riposte to punk's safety pins, and Boy George became its ambassador to a startled world.

MacGruber: SNL Makes a Big Doody on Screen

macgruberDo you remember when you first learned the word "ka ka" or "poo poo" and then kept repeating the term incessantly for days on end at inappropriate moments? If so, you have a handle on the woefully unfunny, extended Saturday Night Live sketch MacGruber. Apparently a takeoff on the '80s TV series MacGyver, which itself was a takeoff on spy movies, the film -- co-written by its star Will Forte, its director Jorma Tacone, and SNL resident scribe John Solomon -- has nothing on its little mind except trying to cash in big on opening weekend.

Singing in the Changes

LENA HORNE 1917-2010

Some things are impossible to deny. One of those was that Lena Horne was beautiful, another was her talent as an actress and singer, the third was that she was black. Horne once quipped that what the MGM Studios knew about black people, they'd gleaned from the Tarzan films, and she flatly refused to pretend to be Latin American so that her movies might fare better in the Southern States. It is hard to believe that scenes containing black actors were routinely chopped from films before they were shown there. A fitting testament to this spirited woman and her bravery in the face of stupid prejudice is that the world has moved on somewhat, and has all but forgotten these sins; now a black man resides in the White House.

Mademoiselle Chambon: A Masterwork on Love

m_chambon4The great French film Mademoiselle Chambon, based on a novel by Eric Holder, never strives for greatness. It just gently saunters there with a majestic, relentless vision of an impossible love. From the opening scene of a picnic where two parents awkwardly try to help their son with his grammar assignment (what is a “direct object”?), director and co-screenwriter Stéphane Brizé sends forth his simple plot along with nary a shove. Jean (Vincent Lindon), the dad, is in construction: he builds houses. Anne Marie (Aure Atika), the mom, works at a printer, assembling books. One afternoon, Mom twists her back, and Dad must pick up Jérémy (Arthur Le Houérou) at school. There Jean meets Véronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain), the teacher.

Metal-Munching Moon Mice: Iron Man 2

iron_man_2To muck up the sequel to Iron Man for the hungry legions of metalheads would require mistakes so monumentally stupid that it's barely worth imagining. All that's needed is screens, seats, Robert Downey Jr., the suit, and the CGI, and it's got all of those things in abundance. In fact, it has several suits, as well as a legion of killer robots, Scarlett Johansson in Emma Peel drag, and Mickey Rourke as a greasy Russian bad guy with bad teeth and a degree in physics. Rourke's character, Ivan Vanko, wants to de-chrome Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), primarily because Stark's father (Mad Men's John Slattery) screwed his inventor dad back in the '60s. There's a lot of back story that bubbles up in this picture, but it really boils down to dueling hi-tech chest bling and a lot of close-ups of Rourke gnashing his metal-lined choppers and pining for his cockatoo.

Shorties: Finnish Machos and Persian Cats

persian-catsFreetime Machos

If you're not offended by blond, Finnish, amateur rugby players who have a penchant for blowup dolls, homosexual allusions, the frequent use of "pussy," and a fear of being fired by their employer, Nokia, Mika Ronkainen's affable documentary might just be up your alley. This oddball look at the Oulos, the third lousiest rugby team from their area, clearly argues that men will be men no matter the latitude: "In Finland, you rather get stabbed in the back than complain of female trouble."

Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons): Queer Brothers in Arms

Mine-VagantiOpenly gay Turkish film director Ferzan Ozpetek, like Almodóvar, has never been nelly about scattering characters of his own persuasion throughout his oeuvre. In Steam (1997), a young married Italian inherits a steam bath in Turkey, and when he visits his bequest dressed in a towel, he unexpectedly falls for a young male native. In The Ignorant Fairies (2001), a widow discovers that her deceased spouse, who had been hit by two cars traveling in opposing directions, had a secret life composed of drag queens and gays of all varieties. Infiltrating this campy cabal out of a depressed curiosity, she, against her will, rediscovers happiness.

Black Dynamite Gives You Oooooooooo!

BD_GunBetween its attention to detail and subtle humor, Black Dynamite is one of the most original approaches to film making since Woody Allen's early comedies. It’s hard to say what’s more tragic, that moviegoers have been reduced to relying on the mediocre talents of Judd Apatow and Jason Friedberg to provide them with big screen laughs, or that the funniest film in years was released this past October and couldn’t build an audience until it came out on DVD. Labeling this film as a mere Blaxploitation spoof would be a gross simplification, as it boasts action sequences that could take on Bruce Lee and bad-ass dialogue that could rival anything to come out of Shaft’s mouth.

March Hares, Hatters and 3D Glasses: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

alice_in_wonderland_johnny_deppIt wasn't a matter of if, but when Johnny Depp would adopt the guise of the Mad Hatter. It was a role that had long lain in wait for him. Lewis Carroll's sublime text has been given the full Tim Burton treatment. The unreality made real provides a seamless and Gothic, visual deception. Computer animation has erased all the cracks and joints we used to notice in the days of older celluloid fantasy -- the strings, the painted backdrops, the clunky animation. Burton's audience is instantly transported into a world that they know can't possibly exist, but which their eyes are forced into passive acceptance of. Although this is a Disney Studios feature, Burton makes no concession to the house style. Here is a dark location, a perfectly realized nightmare in which anything can, and does, occur.