Film Review

Shorties: Drugged-Out Doors, Disgruntled Soccer Players, & Parched Africans

pumzi_film1. Pumzi

It's 35 years after World War III, all water sources are radioactive, and the land is infertile. As for the robotic remnants of mankind, they live underground in a high-tech, totalitarian empire with a regime so invasive that when a computer detects you are dreaming, a recorded voice commands, "Take your dream suppressants!"

As for sources of water, one's urine and sweat are gathered and then recycled into drinkable liquids

How to Train Your Dragon: The Post-Avatar Blues

dragon-filmHow to Train Your Dragon concerns a youth and his best friend, a dragon. Sound familiar? Been there, done that with Eragon, Mulan, Pete's Dragon, and a dozen others. For a refresher course, check out the site Dragons of the Silver and Small Screen.

Of course, this 3D effort by the writers/directors of Lilo & Stitch, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, is often visually enticing, yet after viewing Avatar so recently, the Pow! Factor is at times missing.

A Crippled Lyricism

andy_ianSex & Drugs & Rock & Roll By the time of his death in 2000, illness had once more had a transfigurative affect on the life of Ian Dury. Cancer, and the public knowledge of his impending absence from the world, turned him into a national treasure, the much-beloved rogue who had a magical turn of phrase. Mat Whitecross is no stranger to touchy subjects -- he proved that with Road to Guantanamo -- but Dury, notoriously cantankerous and volatile, is presented here in a warts-and-all cavalcade of chaos. He remains strangely lovable when many of his actions are not. The pace of the movie is as jagged and frenetic as one of Dury's frequent rages, but once it settles into a semi-narrative, the spirit of the man emerges. It is a white-knuckle ride of pathos and monstrosity.

Women Without Men: A Step in the Right Direction

women-without-men-filmIn 1953, the democratically elected government of Iran was being overthrown thanks to a CIA-backed coup d'etat with the aid of an oil-greedy Great Britain. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was installed, and numerous lives were lost, not counting many freedoms. The aftermath? Turn on CNN.

Situated in that pivotal year, photographer Shirin Neshats startling feature debut, Women Without Men, is meant as a tribute to those Iranis who fought, those who were crushed, and those who died thanks to foreign imperialist interference.

Mother: M is for . . .

mother-filmMother There's a quote in the book For Mom with Love that goes, "A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie." That's the kind of parent the eponymous Mother (Lim Hye-ja) is in this engrossing, Korean Hitchcockian thriller that showcases the dangers of unbridled maternal affection.

Shutter Island: Warning! Rocky, Shallow, and Adrift. Vacation Elsewhere.

shutter-islandShutter Island

Martin Scorsese, wanting to be Stanley Kubrick, has failed big time. I know The Shining, and Shutter Island is no The Shining.

Elephantine in every aspect, this attempt at a psychological horror thriller exploits the Holocaust, the plight of those incarcerated for insanity in the '50s, and the victims of anti-Communist purges by splicing together moments of those inhumane historical atrocities into an empty-headed, grotesquely dissatisfying cinematic journey.

Eyes Wide Open: Brokeback Mezuzah

Eyes-Wide-OpenJerusalem. A kosher butcher with a huge family. A hunky Yeshiva student wandering the streets with all of his belongings on his back. Forbidden love. Stir them together, and you have one of the best movies of 2010.

I know it's only February, but I won't be budged.

Superb acting, a nearly flawless screenplay, and focused direction make Haim Tabakman's feature debut, Eyes Wide Open a stirring film experience.

Shorties: Fat Israelis, Unhinged Angels, a Depressed Naturalist, and Much More

girl-on-train1) A Matter of Size

A pack of highly insecure, obese working-class Israeli gents decide to stop dieting and become sumo wrestlers. Yes, The Full Monty goes sabra. Amiably lighthearted and blatantly generic, this crowd-pleaser by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor has already been bought by the Weinstein Brothers for an American remake.

'So, Mr. Richard Gere, if you can gain 200 pounds by sundown, have I got a starring role for you." A highlight of the forthcoming 14th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, this big-bellied comedy proves once and for all the Jewish proverb "Worries go down better with soup."

The Book of Eli: The Road for Dummies

If George W. Bush has left one legacy to the arts, it's that under his administration more films about the Apocalypse and ecological destruction went into production than under any other presidency.

The latest to be released is the Hughes Brothers' The Book of Eli. Consider this tepid offering "Cormac McCarthy Lite."

Like McCarthy's Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Road (and its recent first-rate screen adaptation), The Book of Eli takes place after civilization's been decimated.

Willem Dafoe on Barebacking, Playing a Martian, and Indie Traumas

daybreakersACE HOTEL, MANHATTAN -- "This is as safe as barebacking a $5.00 whore," notes Lionel "Elvis" Cormac, a former vampire who’s regained his mortality, in the highly entertaining new sci-fi thriller Daybreakers. Smiling impishly, Willem Dafoe who plays Lionel, notes, "Nothing was improvised...but there’s a couple of lines [in the film] that when I hear them, I can think that’s my line. I can remember the one about 'barebacking.' I thought, can we say that? That’s kind of racy. This word 'barebacking' is quite specific. I know it more from -- oh, boy, I’m getting -- it’s kind of gay cruise parlance.