Film Review

A Tale of Loss

petit_lieutenant.jpgA French film about cops? Sounds promising. But unfortunately Xavier Beauvois’s Le Petit Lieutenant doesn’t deliver on its initial promise. It opens at a large police academy graduation ceremony, full of pomp and military precision. Antoine (played with charm and energy by Jalil Lespert) is in the class and eager to move to Paris for his first assignment in a detective unit. Normandy, where he has grown up, is just too dull—too few crimes. Meanwhile, Caroline Vaudieu (the lovely Nathalie Baye) is returning to the force after a couple of years dealing with her drinking problem. Read more »

Good To Be Bad Girls

Purchase thru AmazonprincesasA film that focuses on the lives of prostitutes is likely to be more moving than informative, since—as the cliché goes—it’s the world’s oldest profession. Princesas (in Spanish with English subtitles), then, does not blow the viewer’s mind with any particularly new insights. Rather, it charmingly and quite engagingly tells the story of two contemporary Spanish hookers, one home-grown and one an illegal immigrant from the Dominican Republic.

By virtue of their different origins, they fall on different rungs of the sex business pecking order. Read more »

Johnny and Clyde

pirates.jpgBy now you've seen Pirates of the Caribbean. Probably twice. You loved it. Come on, admit it. It's really hard and churlish not to like it. It has scares, thrills, laughs and chills. And it's beautifully photographed. And then, of course, there's that Depp character. You loved him. Come on, admit it. In the great tradition of the original Rat Pack (not the Brat Pack) we were privy to one huge mega gonzo star hamming it up, smirking all the way to the bank, and we cheered every step of the way. It's like Casino Royale's entire cast rolled into one. Insta-bedlam. To quibble with the movie (too long, too confusing, too unresolved, too many effects) would be missing the point.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I'll quibble. Not with the picture -- borrowing from Apocalypse Now and Indiana Jones and many of my nightmares -- but with the picture business. Read more »

Rhyme Tyme

rkelly.jpgNo one would have thought four years ago that R. Kelly could record anything more infamous than the tape allegedly showing him engaging in sexual activities with a minor. That video earned him a day in court. But late last year he released the long-form video of his hit Trapped in the Closet that is a masterpiece of Ed Wood proportions.

His "urban operetta" purports to tell the story of Sylvester (Kelly) who wakes up in a strange woman's bed one morning. And this being an operetta, he starts to singing. He realizes he has to get home to his own wife and sings about that as well. But then her husband arrives. And then the husband's boyfriend. And all of that has to be sung about, too. Read more »

Redemption Song

squid.jpgThe Life Aquatic was a disappointment to a lot of Wes Anderson fans. But, with his record, including Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, one good film could put him back in everyone's good graces. For co-writer Noah Baumbach, however, life was a little less certain. His films until then had been well received but not particularly career making. And if Anderson's rabid fans wanted a scapegoat for why Anderson swung and missed this time out, they could point to his three previous triumphs, all co-scripted with actor Owen Wilson, as prima facie evidence that Baumbach was the weak link this time. Read more »

Kicking Big Brother's Teeth In

vendetta.jpgSet some decades in the future, V For Vendetta is really a product of the past. Not just because it grew out of comic writer Alan Moore's resentment of Maggie Thatcher and everything that she came to represent at the time the original story was conceived, but because it draws so heavily on a fantasy of what the future might look like from a radicalized perspective that emerged from the post-'60s/punk era. In fact, had the picture been made twenty or thirty years ago, we might be recalling it as having been a bit prescient about how a campaign of fear might engender a totalitarian regime, the same way that 1984, a story that can certainly claim parentage to this picture, looked to the invasive eye of a malevolent authority.

Read more »


BrokebackThe word is out – and the word, apparently, is “cowboys.” As the year limped to a close and filmmakers made their last, frantic stabs at Oscar glory, two of the most-talked about films are, basically, Westerns turned inside out. Although Walk the Line and Brokeback Mountain may not have much in common (apart from the fact that they are both, at times, very good), they are decidedly more country than rock ’n’ roll.

Cowboys have always been a way for filmmakers to explore the frailty of human nature. Read more »

Ape and Essence

King KongKing Kong. The critics are loony for it, audiences love it, and it’s certain to make the kind of money most often seen these days by the top shelf superhero franchises. No wonder, really, since there’s a double barrel branding at work, Kong, the big ape, himself, and the other 8000-lb. gorilla, director Peter Jackson.

The fact is, Kong is an astonishing achievement and authentically spectacular—no CGI creation has ever seemed this real—and the film cries out for huge screens and state-of-the-art sound systems. This is not a movie for the DVD footdraggers.

But those imagining this might be a revisionist look at the original Kong are going to miss the fact that while the 1933 version was a simple story, the new version is equally simple, with a similar amount of clunky undertow. Read more »

Nowhere Men

JarheadJarhead is many things, but a war picture is pretty far down the list.

First things first: Sam Mendes, the director, is a subversive, anxious for some reason to tell Americans about America, which is really not such a terrible thing as some of our best reflections come from overseas, whether via Nabokov or the Rolling Stones, aping and reshaping our sense of ourselves.

American Beauty, his first picture, had some delightful moments, but was still nothing more than a Zap Comix view of suburbia--it could have been scored by ’60s-era Zappa. Read more »

Kiddie Cheese

Kiss DVD

Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park Directed by Gordon Hessler (Cheezy Flicks DVD)

The marriage of rock 'n' roll and cinema has always been a troubled one. From Elvis to Eminem, countless campaigns have been waged to turn musicians into movie stars, often (if not usually) with flaccid results. For every laudable success there have been some tragic catastrophes. Even the Beatles themselves laid their share of cinematic rotten eggs. Some critics have suggested that the Fab Four's scriptless 1967 made-for-television movie, Magical Mystery Tour is the worst rock 'n' roll movie of all time. Clearly, these critics haven't seen Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Read more »

Reconsider Baby

Two For The MoneyIt happens every so often that a movie appears, reviled by the critical thundering herd, the Rotten Tomatoes Marching Band, that has unique qualities beyond its obvious flaws. While it might not be entirely redeemed, a movie of this sort can deserve a second look.

Two for the Money falls into that category, a picture that was blasted into powdery dust last week, and will likely drop off the box office map in short order, which is a bit of a shame.

The movie is about a small-time Vegas fan-phone basement sweatshopper named Brandon (Matthew McConaughey), who’d been a local football hero but was permanently sidelined with a busted knee. Read more »

Whiz Show

Good NightGood Luck, and Good Night, George Clooney’s grab-bag paean to the glory days of monochromatic news broadcasting, when men were men and they had the lung cancer and cardboard livers to prove it, is something more than it appears to be.

The critical reception has been good to excellent, and the general opinion is that Clooney does a terrific job of recreating that atmosphere, when CBS News represented a degree of dignity in news reporting that they brought back from WWII. Read more »

First We Take Manhattan!

WarriorsThe Warriors - Ultimate Director's Cut
Directed by Walter Hill (Paramount Home Video)

Ask your average American male in his late thirties about Walter Hill's 1979 film The Warriors and in all likelihood, he'll reply with either a robustly barked "CAN YOU DIG IT?" or a strenuously whined "WARRIOOOORRSS....COME OUT TO PLAAAA-YAAAAAAYYY!" I was a paltry twelve years old when The Warriors hit theatres in 1979, but even being too young to get in, I can vividly remember the sensation it caused. The movie poster alone was enough to capture my rapt, wide-eyed attention. Read more »

Punk Redux

punkPunk: Attitude
Directed by Don Letts (Capital Entertainment DVD)

Let's be honest, shall we? The world needs another documentary about the origins of Punk Rock like the American South needs another hurricane. Still, even as the genre approaches its hotly debated thirtieth birthday, the exhumation continues. To the credit of filmmaker Don Letts, himself a veteran of the original British Punk scene and erstwhile Reggae archivist, his latest documentary, Punk: Attitude, at least tries to be all-inclusive in attempting to encapsulate the amorphous cultural movement. Read more »

For Fans Only!

Directed by Ondi Timoner (UMVD DVD)

The premise is a relatively flimsy one at best – pit two rival rock ’n’ roll bands against each other and document their respective trajectories over a seven-year period. We’re not talking Zeppelin and Sabbath here, though. Ondi Timoner’s award-winning DIG! depicts the strikingly diverse paths and ambitions of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, two American alternative rock bands from the 1990s. Neither band is a particularly big draw or a household name (the Dandy Warhols did manage to trouble the pop charts once or twice, albeit to no lasting effect). Despite the bands’ borderline anonymity in the grand scheme of things, DIG! is assuredly more than just a fans-only feature. It’s a hugely compelling film and a striking glimpse into the world of struggling musicians. Read more »

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