Film Review

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.

Red Riding Trilogy: de Sade Yorkshire Style

red-riding-quartetIf Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, and Lovely Bones haven't sated your hunger for watching entertainments showcasing the abuse, torture, and murder of children and women, you are in luck. IFC Films is now releasing three films based upon four intertwined novels by David Peace that are known to mystery aficionados as The Red Riding Quartet. If viewed in one sitting, as they were at last year's New York Festival, you can be blithely battered by the battered for 305 minutes.

Vicious from All the Inside Angles

sid-those-who-knew-himSid! By Those Who Really Knew Him (MVDvisual DVD) In a short twenty-one years of life, with less than a year of them spent with The Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious created a legacy that has secured his position as one of the predominant icons of Punk. Sid! By Those Who Really Knew Him attempts to get an inside perspective on Vicious by combining the testimonies of those who surrounded his brief life. Archival footage, photos, and concert posters punctuate the DVD documentary, which arrives at no definitive conclusion. It's accompanied by a thick little booklet plus a live CD with 10 tracks of Sid playing in N.Y.C.

Avatar: Hot Aliens Rule the Roost

avatar-movieAvatar

Strike up the band. Light up the fireworks. Bake the cannoli. Yes, everything you heard about Avatar is true. James Cameron’s epic fantasy trip is as wondrous and engrossing as his Titanic was over-praised and ultimately silly.

Utilizing the latest computer innovations, many of which he seemingly spearheaded, Cameron has created a multidimensional, imaginary world in 3D, one that is peopled by hunky, barely attired creatures that will no doubt spark long-lasting desires in the teen-boy/teen-girl side of each of us.