Film Review

From Tribeca: The Tavianis' Wondrous Boccaccio

Boccaccio's 14th century masterpiece has inspired artists for centuries, from Chaucer to Shakespeare and from Voltaire to Poe. His classic recounts how seven women and three men, who escaped from a plague-ravished Florence to the countryside, entertain themselves over two weeks, each telling ten stories a piece. Read more »

From Tribeca: A 9-Minute "American Renaissance"

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"God save the Queen!" the masses cheered.

A solid narrative short, like a short story, in most cases, should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Of course, in the proper hands, this rule is meant to be broken. As for a documentary short, information should be supplied, a world revealed, and the viewers' sense of a certain topic should be transformed or heightened. Read more »

The Anti-Disney, Bill Plympton, on Cheatin’, Hitler, and Fellini

Bill Plympton is not a genius, or so he insists, although none of his thousands of fans would be shocked if a MacArthur "Genius Grant" came his way. This former contributor to Playboy, The New York Times, and MTV has been a cult cartoonist and animator now for over a quarter of century, garnering an Oscar nomination in 1987 for his short "Your Face." Read more »

The Third Man - A Haunting Noir

What is it that makes an artwork important? Relevance over time is one answer. This past summer in New York City, both the Museum of Modern Art and Film Forum ran a month-long series of Film Noir screenings. And this December of 2014, the Brooklyn Academy of Music ran a "Sunshine Noir" series of Film Noir shot in Los Angeles. Three revivals in one year speak to the continued pertinence of this genre: Film Noir is timeless. On the surface, Noir is stylized and sexy, but its hidden undercurrent illuminates something about our deeper vulnerabilities. Read more »

The Riot Club: When Being Posh Is Not Enough

Those of us who lead hapless lives know how frightening getting up in the morning can be. Instead of rising and embracing the daylight with an ardent cuddle and a zealous "Yahoo!" we see grey clouds overhead and wonder aloud, "What now?" Another egg carton with broken shells? A second bedbug infestation within twelve months? Still no replies to our Christian Mingles ad even though we've noted we can recite the Book of Revelation by heart in Latin? Read more »

Insurgent or There's a Bomb in the Theatre

Insurgent is a relentlessly exasperating sci-fi film made, miraculously, with a half-baked imagination, a slaughtered wit, and insufferable direction by Robert Schwentke, the man who supplied 2013 with one its biggest flops, R.I.P.D. Read more »

Tracers: Taylor Lautner Runs, Bikes, and Jumps

I'm one of those "glass half-full "critics when it comes to Taylor Lautner. Film after film I hope he'll pull a Sally Field, who went from The Flying Nun and Gidget to Sybil and Norma Rae. Would Abduction or Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 reveal the young man's inner Laurence Olivier? No, sadly. The lumbering hunk remains just a lumbering hunk in those two. Prize-winning pecs and abs plus a cute smile were what the glamor boy's fans had to settle for. Read more »

Eastern Boys: Hustling for Love

At the finale of Robin Campillo's masterful Eastern Boys, bourgeois, middle-aged Frenchman Daniel (Oliver Rabourdin) has overhauled his relationship with the Ukrainian hustler Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) into something totally unexpected. The journey to that climax is a rollercoaster of flirtation, betrayal, larceny, lust, love, dauntless deeds, comeuppance, and finally a benevolent acceptance of the pair's interconnectedness in a manner that neither of these devoted halves could foretell. Read more »

Silenced

 

John Kiriakou is not well known to every American, but he should be. I regret that I had only a vague idea of who he was until I saw James Spione's extraordinary documentary Silenced, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014 -- at which point Kiriakou was in jail. He was released last month, having served almost two years in a Federal prison. After seeing the film, I'll never forget him or his story. Read more »

The Last Five Years' Richard Lagravanese Films a Musical for Purists


"It's important to think. It's what separates us from lentils." --Richard Lagravanese, The Fisher King

He did it the hard way, like David battling Goliath this past Valentine's Day. Yes, Richard Lagravanese's latest effort, The Last Five Years, a romantic musical of sorts with next to no spoken dialogue, opened against the whip-wielding Fifty Shades of Grey, a syrupy soft core melodrama with perhaps too much dialogue. Read more »

Desecrating Pynchon. Inherent Vice Arrives on DVD

There are films that make you want to run to the bookstore or, in reality, Amazon.com. Any Jane Austen or Dickens adaptation. Atonement. Requiem for a Dream perhaps.

Then there is Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Maya Rudolph, and Benicio Del Toro, plus a bevy of other game thespians. This adaptation has a contrary effect. It makes you want to hightail it to the incinerator with every Pynchon paperback you might own. Farewell, V. Sayonara, Gravity's Rainbow. Read more »

Seventh Son and Jupiter Ascending: Two Current Oscar Nominees Fizzle

Who doesn't adore Julianne Moore?

Especially in Still Alice, the film for which bookmakers are betting she'll take home the Best Actress Oscar, Moore's portrayal of a linguistics professor battling early onset Alzheimer's is letter perfect. Myself having a sibling now encased in a memory care facility in Florida after being ravaged by the same affliction, every step of Alice's deterioration is recognizable: the random loss of memories, the awareness she's losing her identity, the outbursts of anger, the inability to control bodily functions, and the short-lived moments when the person you have always loved reemerges out of a fog of despair.

Sadly, Moore's performance and that of her peers in Seventh Son capture a forgetfulness, too, although not one symptomatic of an infirmity, but one characteristic of creative bankruptcy. By the time this adaptation of Joseph Delaney's bestselling young-adult classic, The Spook's Apprentice, ends and you've emptied your bladder in your mall's stall, you'll have trouble recalling what you've viewed on screen. So generically configured is this tale of medieval witches who turn into dragons, and the alcoholic heroes who try to eradicate them, you'll swear you'll have come down with an incurable case of chronic déjà vu before the credits finish rolling. Read more »

Mommy’s Boy: Xavier Dolan on Women, Gays, and Taylor Lautner

The former boy wonder, Xavier Dolan -- he's now 25 -- sauntered into New York about a week or so ago with a new movie, Mommy -- his fifth -- for which he won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and received a thirteen-minute standing ovation. Well, truthfully, he shared the prize with Jean-Luc Godard (Goodbye to Language), which is inarguably like winning a second award. After all, having one's name forever linked with a kingpin of La Nouvelle Vague is nothing to sneeze at. (Who will ever forget Streisand and Hepburn sharing a Best Actress Oscar? New guard joining old guard.) Read more »

Appropriate Behavior: "Bi"-Polar Sexcapades in Brooklyn

If Woody Allen were a tall Iranian bisexual woman with a gawky Sandra-Bullockish beauty and an exasperating, egocentric outlook on the world, Appropriate Behavior would have been his Annie Hall.

"Banal sex shouldn't happen until maybe a year into the relationship.... She wasn't even fucking you at the end," advises a best friend at the beginning of Appropriate Behavior, the indie film directed and written by the Iranian-American Desiree Akhavan.  Read more »

That's Illogical, Captain: Why Star Trek: Into Darkness Screws Everything Up

Forgive me. I am always quite late to feature films, since I refuse to pay $15 to watch 20 minutes worth of ads, and then (all too often) deal with annoying people during the film, often missing important dialogue. So I wait until most films are on cable before I see them. Read more »

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