Film Review

The Lunchbox: Seeking the Heart through the Stomach

We're barely into the new year and one of the top ten films of 2014 has already arrived.  

"Isn't it a bit too soon?" you are asking. "Is this pundit just chomping at the bit in an inexcusably neurotic manner just to break away from the 2013 moviola pageantry that won’t end until the last Oscar is handed out by someone encased in a Givenchy gown and a Harry Winston tiara?" Read more »

Labor Day or Love’s Labor's Lost (and Found)

Viewing the first fifteen or so minutes of Jason (Up in the Air) Reitman’s latest offering unencumbered with any foreknowledge of its genre, you might just imagine you were encountering a gripping thriller in the making a la Panic Room. Read more »

The Rocket: Blasting Away a Laotian Curse

Kim Mordaunt's The Rocket is about a child’s at-times comic battle against the insanity of the post-war culture in Laos. In a country riddled with governmental corruption and inefficiency; in one spattered with the remnants of still-live bombs and other remnants of a lengthy, brutalizing bloodshed; and in one populated by impoverished communities often without such basic necessities as electricity and plumbing, the odds seem stacked against ten-year-old Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) achieving any lasting happiness in this lifetime. Read more »

Family Jewels

Saving Mr. Banks (Disney)

How many of you remember Walt Disney and Tinkerbell's opening every Sunday night on his primetime television show? That director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) recreates that magical moment is just one of the many small charms in this wonderful movie. Award-winning actors taking on American's greatest children's entertainment advocate seems a delicious proposition. And it is. This is the story of Walt's (Tom Hanks) -- he preferred that everyone refer to each other by their first names on his studio lot -- relentless pursuit (20 years!) of Mrs. P.L. Travers's (Emma Thompson) much-beloved literary classic Mary Poppins. Read more »

The Sins of Our Nation - 12 Years A Slave

Some believe that America is still paying a karmic debt for the kidnapping, enslavement, and centuries-long degradation of millions of Africans. Watching UK-director Steve McQueen's brutally honest film 12 Years A Slave leaves no room for doubt that we deserve to. This brave, disturbing movie tells the story of free Saratoga-based black man -- Solomon Northup -- who is kidnapped by circus carnies and sold into slavery in 1841. Scripted by John Ridley, it's based on a memoir written by Mr. Northup in 1851 after he had finally won his freedom. Played with transcendental brilliance by the English actor Chiwetel Ejofor, one feels as if he were channeling the soul of every African ever held in American captivity. Read more »

Alan Partridge Lays an Egg

This past Friday at ten in the morning, the lovely folks at NYFF screened the superb Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, a sensationally acted, edge-of-your-seat thriller in the Argo vein that will have its lead seriously competing for all of the Best Actor nods coming up this season, with its co-star Barkhad Abdi nailing numerous Best Supporting Actor slots.

Sadly, from a high, a low must often follow. Take Declan Lowney's Alan Partridge with Steve Coogan, which screened afterwards. If, on the first day of Christmas, your true love sends you this bird, get a new mate. Read more »

The Most Fun I've Ever Had with My Pants On and Mrs. Prindable's Caramels

Many films torture their characters (e.g. the Saw series; I Spit on Your Grave). Drew Denny, a truly beautiful woman who has written, helmed, and stars in this semi-lesbian road trip, has decided instead to scourge the audience with directorial incoherence, an abysmal screenplay, inane antics, and incessantly showing off her ultra-white teeth. At times, you’re not sure if you are watching an exploration of two women’s lives or the world’s longest Crest commercial. Read more »

Sparrows Dance: An Agoraphobic Boogie

Masterful in its silences, a little less so in its chatter, writer/director Noah Buschel's Sparrows Dance  begins almost as a tribute to Chantal Akerman’s masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Qual du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, the difference mainly being a dissimilar choice of heroines. Instead of a bored housewife turned prostitute, we have a former actress turned agoraphobic who hasn't left her apartment in over year. Read more »

Real Housewives Who Want To Be Strippers

If I could rename Afternoon Delight, I would call it Depressed Housewife Rescues a Prostitute. I expected Jill Soloway’s new indie flick about a family who adopts a “sex worker” to be a bit cheekier, perhaps a twist on the old Pretty Woman Cinderella story. Alas, this prostitute is not the heroine of the story, or even the main focus. The film instead explores angsty housewife Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) in the suburbs of Los Angeles as she deals with extreme boredom, mostly with her husband Jeff (Josh Radnor). I would be bored too if my husband were an uncomfortable plank of a man whose greatest line is -- “Not everyone gets to be happy” -- delivered with arms in the air, as if he were physically grasping for emotion. Read more »

NewFest: Celebrating the Queer in Celluloid

It's that time of year again -- or what used to be that time of year. NewFest is here (September 6-11). Yes, the celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and what-have-you cinema is back for its 25th anniversary. The main venue will be the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater, considered by some to be the best cinema in Manhattan, one that boasts a truly superior sound system. Read more »

Cine-Simenon: Georges Simenon on Film

The Belgian-born Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote over 200 novels (by Wikipedia's count) plus many shorter works. The New York Times estimates that number (including his memoirs and nonfiction works) as being between 400 and 500. Simenon's creation, Inspector Jules Maigret, who appeared in about 75 works, "ranks only after Sherlock Holmes as the world's best known fictional detective." (I'm not sure how Poirot feels about that.) Of course, such popularity could not be overlooked by the entertainment industry, and imdb.com has compiled a list of 132 movies and TV shows based on his oeuvre. And now the Anthology Archives, with Kathy Geritz and the Pacific Film Archive, is presenting 14 of these celluloid joys within the series appropriately entitled Cine-Simenon: George Simenon on Film, which runs until August 21st. Read more »

Lee Daniels’s The Butler or Serving Up Equality

Lee Daniels tries very hard to become the next Steven Spielberg with The Butler, a 132-minute heartfelt, epic paean to the Civil Rights struggles of black Americans in the 20th century. The result is a film that is indeed convincingly earnest, yet intermittently clumsy in its attempt to shoehorn too much history into a family tale of survival, dysfunction, alcoholism, adultery, rebellion, and disco dancing -- or vice versa. Read more »

The To Do List, or What's a Rim Job?

The female raunch comedy has now really come into its own with The To Do List (formerly The Hand Job), and at times shockingly so. But maybe not if you consider biting into feces nothing to sneeze at. Directed and written by Maggie Carey, the spouse of Bill Hader, this is the tale of a 1993 high-school valedictorian, Brandy Clark (Aubrey Plaza), who's apparently the last virgin in Boise, Idaho. Read more »

Broken or Love Thy Neighbor...With Great Care

Childhood can be tough, but how tough you can't imagine until you've witnessed Rufus Norris's Broken, a film of innocence getting roundly trounced. Based upon Daniel Clay's highly readable tome, which was itself inspired by Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the action takes place in a cul-de-sac in Southampton, where three damaged families reside. The "dead-end" metaphor is not to be taken lightly. Read more »

Taylor Mead's Ass, or Arse You Like It

It's a Monday night with occasional downpours, but the steamy weather and the chance to view Andy Warhol's rarely screened tribute to the underground legend, poet, and actor Taylor Meade's posterior has the crowd, composed mainly of artsy gayboys, both young and old, lining up en masse in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art.

 A murmur of true excitement, amidst the chatter about organic art exhibits and mild flirtations, greets the ear as the flip-floppers are ushered into the Sculpture Garden. Instantly, stylized composure is disposed of as there's a mad rush for seats with an unobstructed view. Those who lose out on the "Musical Chairs Grab" wind up sitting on steps, which actually proffer a better sight line. Read more »

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