Film Review

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, or Where’s John Waters When You Need Him?

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X is the brainchild of director Paul Bunnell, one he carried about for nine grueling years. The birth of the DVD, released last week, was not an easy one, but no one was surprised. There were warnings that the end result would be deplorably off-kilter. Some, who were in the room when Bunnell's fertilized idea was first sonogrammed -- in "Ghastly Scope," a vivid black and white, by the not untalented cinematographer Francisco Bulgarelli -- had high hopes; others hinted subtly, yet harshly, for a termination of the celluloid fetus. Read more »

I Stand Corrected: A Tale of a Left-Handed Bassist

For some documentaries to work, all the director needs to do is turn on the camera and let her subjects chat away. In I Stand Corrected, there's chatting plus the bonus of some real fine jazz, the interplay of which combines to create a simple, compelling look at a very brave, extremely talented woman, Jennifer Leitham. Read more »

Laurence Anyways or One Life to Live Two Ways

Watching Xavier Dolan’s nearly three-hour long Laurence Anyways is like being enveloped in a grand 500-page novel written by a master in the making. There are frequent moments of genius where you are rendered blissfully immobile by the onscreen carryings-on; uncountable witticisms you wish you yourself had dashed off; unbridled passions that hit the heavens and then bounce back harrowingly; several paeans to those filmmakers who’ve inspired him (e.g. Ken Russell); and now and then a slight unwieldiness that’s easy to sidestep. Read more »

Wish You Were Here

Whatever sentiments the title Wish You Were Here evokes in you, flush them. Here is no lighthearted vacation comedy but, instead, a well-acted "psychological thriller" with few thrills but much angst. Read more »

After Earth: I Babysat for Will Smith

After two hours of observing a moping 15-year-old Jaden Smith scamper about, whimper, and throw a rock at a monkey with all the credibility of Pauly Shore essaying King Lear, you'd expect his dad Will Smith to say, "Good job," hand you $20, and then drive you home. Sadly, life isn't always fair. Read more »

Fast and Furious 6 or Fucked Up and Futile, The Sequel

The most surprising moment in Fast & Furious 6 comes when someone mentions Moby Dick. The notion that anyone involved in this sequel has ever read a book, or even a BookRags synopsis of one, is quite earth-shattering. Read more »

Shahid: India's Malcolm X?

Winner of the Best Director Award at this month's New York Indian Film Festival, Hansai Mehta's Shahid covers a lot of ground. The opening, which commences with a bang, depicts the assassination of Shahid Azmi (Raj Kumar Yadav). The Muslim human-rights-activist lawyer was just 32. The year: 2010.  Read more »

Musical Relationships

Greetings from Tim Buckley

A promising young musician visits New York for a week to headline a tribute concert. He bonds with a young woman interning at the performance space, and they run around the city being chatty, artistic, and physically beautiful together. These would be the makings of a light and romantic film, except that the young man portrayed is musician Jeff Buckley in his early twenties and the concert he's been called for honors his father, prolific and renowned musician Tim Buckley, who breezed away from Jeff's mother before Jeff was born and died at age 28 without knowing his first child. Read more »

Tribeca Triumph: The Kill Team

In the documentary The Kill Team, Oscar-nominated director Dan Krauss tells the story of a young U.S. soldier who attempted to prevent the war crimes being committed by his platoon and was instead charged with those crimes. Without resorting to over-the-top propaganda, The Kill Team follows whistleblower Adam Winfield during his trial and simultaneously tells the story of the events that led up to that trial. Krauss uses footage taken by soldiers in Afghanistan to paint the landscape where it was possible for soldiers to kill Afghani civilians, plant guns on them, and call it a win for America.

Krauss encourages his subjects, who include Winfield as well as two soldiers who participated in murdering Afghani civilians, to speak freely. Read more »

Trio of Tribeca Documentaries

In God We Trust

What makes a hero? In God We Trust, a documentary profiling native New Yorker Eleanor Squillari, reminds us that heroism takes many forms. Squillari was personal secretary to the now-notorious Bernard Madoff for 25 years; since Madoff's 2008 arrest, she has distinguished herself as a hero for sure. Read more »

From Tribeca: Six Acts

Israeli cinema has finally come up with its own Larry Clark.  Similarly bearded and mustachioed, director Jonathan Gurfinkel, with an unrestrained vigor, showcases how secular teens residing in the affluent beachfront suburbs of Tel Aviv are every bit as horny, lonely, self-centered, and destructive as their fresh-faced American cousins grinding up against one other in the likes of Kids and Bully. Read more »

Two from Tribeca: Floating Skyscrapers and Lily

If these two quality celluloid offerings from the upcoming Tribeca Festival are harbingers of what's to be offered, get your tickets now for as many films as you can. Here are engaging, vital, and timely features that beg your attendance.

For example, Tomasz Wasilewski's beautifully crafted Floating Skyscrapers is a heartfelt chronicle of a love affair between two young men in still highly homophobic Poland. Amidst the grey, barren urban landscapes of Warsaw, the closeted bisexual swimmer Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk) is in a quandary. In between his daily massaging of his mother's back while the two are nude in the bathtub -- and in the midst of the frequent sex bouts with his long-time girlfriend Sylwia (Marta Nieradkiewicz), who resides with him and his jealous ma -- he receives anonymous guilty blowjobs from young male admirers he refuses to kiss or reciprocate on in kind. Read more »

It's a Disaster: A Fitting Title for a Butchered Brunch-pocalypse

For folks searching for a knee-slapping comedy about a group of unlikely friends who find strength in each other during the oncoming apocalypse, you will not find it in It's a Disaster. For those searching for a slow-paced, mildly amusing comedy where almost nothing of interest happens, Todd Berger's It's a Disaster is right up your alley.

The film has a fairly simple premise: eight characters with no chemistry gather for a monthly couples brunch and slowly realize that the world outside their bacon- scented house is coming to an end. Read more »

The Angels' Share or A Fairytale for Ne'er-Do-Wells

Ken Loach's The Angels' Share gets underway as a hard-hitting squint at the unemployed of Glasgow before rather perversely turning into an uplifting crime caper with a Disneyesque finale. But maybe, just maybe, a little Walt is what the have-nots are crying out for right now.

Loach, who has been zeroing in on the working class for over 45 years (Poor Cow (1967); Riff-Raff (1991)), and his longtime screenwriter Paul Laverty (The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)) have concocted a group of societal misfits who've all wound up in court and sentenced to community service. Read more »

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga or Walden Pond, Siberian-Style

What is happiness?

According to Thoreau, "Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."

Well, according to Werner Herzog in his latest documentary, Happy People, which he co-directed with Dmitry Vasyukov, contentment can be achieved without the said butterflies. Just ask the snowbound trappers of the Siberian Taiga as they construct their lives along the Yenisei River in much the same ways folks did hundreds of year ago, with just the addition of a power saw or two. Read more »

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