Film Review

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse or The Virgin Chronicles

twilight-eclipseHaving had a virgin or two in my day and having been one once, I'm not quite sure why this state of inexperience is so prized in our society and, for that matter, the world over. I surmise some folks want to be the first, whether it's for an iPhone purchase, the initial screening of a Star Wars entry, or just saying hello to a clitoris.

I've always felt being second or third or tenth is much wiser, whether it's walking on ice, being on a conga line, or having intimate relations. Technique can improve over the years. Just take a second and ask yourself whether you'd want your gall bladder removed by a newbie or an experienced M.D.

Animal Kingdom: My Uncles are Losers

animal-kingdom-filmWriter/director David Michod's Animal Kingdom is another one of those tiny, volcanic Australian dramas (e.g. Romper Stomper (1992); Blessed (2009)) that explode off the screen more from superb casting and direction than from originality of plot, which is not to say the plot here is ever less than engrossing. Animal Kingdom is a searing study of the characteristic impossibility of breaking out of the crime cycle, especially when all your blood relatives are hoods, drug addicts, insane, or all of the three. At least that’s what 17-year-old Joshua “J” Cody (James Frecheville) swiftly ferrets out.

I Am Love or Mama Sleeps with the Chef

i_am_loveOperatic in scope, Luca Guadagnino's mesmerizing I Am Love chronicles the carryings-on of an aristocratic Italian family from one grand meal to another. But with each bite taken from each exquisitely prepared dish, the final course of tragedy gets more and more ready to be served up. In the opening scenes, in an overwhelming Milan manor, the matriarch, Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), along with her brigade of servants, sweeps from room to room, making sure every detail is perfect. Even in the kitchen, a misplaced drop of sauce on a plate is carefully wiped away. And while the pots are ever so carefully stirred, the children and the guests arrive like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don't quite fit together.

Band on the Run

stones-in-exileStones in Exile DVD (Eagle Records) Time passing creates a tremendous sense of reverence, but at the time, the exit of the Rolling Stones from Britain to the south of France wasn't seen as a sublime act of creative integrity, but one of supreme betrayal, the petulant flouncing of the newly spoilt rich of rock. It was also a move of extreme expediency, escaping the trappings of tremendous success, appalling mismanagement of their affairs, and a massive tax bill. They really were the original band on the run. Nellcote was Keith Richard's mansion, and after a fruitless search of empty theaters, recording studios, and halls, none of which proved suitable, it was decided to take root there to record a new album.

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.