Film Review

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. Read more »

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. Read more »

Vicious from All the Inside Angles

sid-those-who-knew-him
Sid! 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. Read more »

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. Read more »

Feel Good: 1/Art: 0

invictus-movieInvictus

After 27 years of unjust imprisonment, the noble Nelson Mandela has suffered enough, so one can only hope he will not see this movie. Morgan Freeman makes an admirable attempt to salvage what seems to be a inspiring story, but director Clint Eastwood just can't whip the muddled screenplay that is Invictus into any cohesive shape.

Someone please take the camera away from Mr. Eastwood and allow him to retire with some dignity. Read more »

An Ode to Self-Centeredness

nine-movieNine

Back in 1982, the Broadway musical Nine opened and won a Tony for Best Musical. An adaptation of Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film classic 8-1/2 with a book by Arthur Kopit, music by Maury Yeston, and direction by the great Tommy Tune, the show was a perfect blending of the cerebral and heart, a slightly tongue-in-cheek exploration of the creative process, and a fond but critical look at a man whose relationships with women were based either on his adoration for his mother or his pleasant encounter with a robust prostitute when he was a mere child.

Helping spur the show on to greatness were Raul Julia as Guido Contini, the solipsistic director; Karen Akers as his wife; plus Anita Morris, Camille Saviola, and the knock-‘em-dead Liliane Montevecchi as several of the women in his life. Read more »

Up In The Air and Hitting Greatness

Creativity emerges from chaos, and vice versa, unless yo're watching a network or cable news show. Then you might conclude insipidity arises from turmoil.

Anyway, the recent state of the world might explain why so many fine films are being released in this battle-weary time of Obam's broken promises, Pali's growing cult, continued foreclosures, health-care absurdities, the inability to resolve the situation in Afghanistan, continued homophobia, a Kardashian wedding, and White House gate-crashing. Possibly, in search of an artistic foothold to weather the moment, several directors of note are tackling the Romantic Comedy genre, and the results are nothing less than superlative. Read more »

The Twilight Saga: New Moon -- An Ode to Blue Balls

twilight-new-moonThe Twilight Saga: New Moon

Seldom has a film disparaged the state of virginity as much as does this lethargically paced and often inane paean to thwarted post-pubescent horniness. Believe me, chastity can be fun. Ask Doris Day. She knew how to do celibacy right. Kristen Stewart doesn't. 

With Day, after 50 dates and a wedding ring, you knew you'd wind up with a luscious fruit salad. Here was a woman worth marrying just to imbibe on her peachy sweetness. Stewart, on the other hand, is a moping prune that someone just discovered on the kitchen floor. Dusty and unappetizing. One-note. Tasteless. Irritating. Read more »

Shorties: Bashing Cruz, Singing Lulu, and Woofing Canines

Pirate-RadioBroken Embraces

Finally, a celluloid gift for all scholars in the midst of writing a thesis on Pedro Almodovar. However, for the rest of us who might have a less academic bent, Pedro's latest offering is an unending, un-suspenseful, increasingly irritating, yet well-acted paean to Hollywood of the '50s, filmmaking in general, passion, and jealousy, all topics he's handled with much more wit and panache in the past.

Here, blind screenwriter Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar), who uses the pseudonym Harry Caine, is visited by a young man with an idea for a script about a young homosexual who doesn't get along with his father. Read more »

Precious: A Harlem Bildungsroman

precious-filmAdapting Sapphire's searing novel Push for the screen, director Lee Daniel and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher have fashioned an unrelenting drama about a castoff New York soul struggling to survive: a horrid tale of child abuse, a crime in its unabashed frequency that nowadays seems as engrained in mythic Americana as apple pie and the Yankees.

There are no World Series tickets for Harlem resident Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) in 1987, and there are no a la mode pastries, just stolen fried chicken for breakfast, hairy pig's feet for dinner, and a whole lot of being bullied.

Read more »

Super Spit Won't Heal The Vampire's Assistant

vampires-assistantThe most blood-curling aspect of Paul Weitz's Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant is that this anemic adaptation of a popular children's book series is built up as the first in series of post-pubescent vampire films. Imagine Harry Potter on Valium and feel the joy. So let's do everyone a favor and hammer a stake through this abomination's heart before it's too late.

One of the major coagulating problems here is that Chris Massoglia, the Prince of Bland, stars as Darren Shan, a goody-goody teener with a penchant for spiders and high grades. Read more »

2009 Woodstock Film Festival: Fiercely Independent, Indeed

lebron-st-vOne of the regular thrills of living outside of Woodstock, New York is the annual Woodstock Film Festival. This year it celebrated its 10th anniversary. Running Oct. 1 to 4, it screened over 100 features, documentaries, shorts, as well as panel discussions, parties, and awards ceremonies. Spreading out at venues all over the small, quaint, and well-known town, it managed to create a helluva festive event.

Of course any film festival is only as good as the quality of the films it screens, and the WFF, whose motto is "fiercely independent," lives up to its hype. Read more »

Christ and Antichrist: The Road to Salvation

antichrist-movieAntichrist

The prologue to Lars von Trier's current effort might be among the most beautiful and powerful opening moments of cinema ever filmed. A married man and wife, labeled HE (Willem Dafoe) and SHE (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in the production notes, are making passionate love (with full on-camera penetration) while their angelic child escapes his crib in another room, only to shortly fall out of a window to his death in extremely slow motion. Read more »

Shorties: Jews, Lemons, Christ, and Leaking Drag Queens

to-die-like-a-manLemon Tree

One of the more ironic aspects of Israeli cinema is that 90% or so of its features dealing with Palestinians or Israeli Arabs depict the Israeli government's mistreatment of the same. (And, of course, 100% of Palestinian productions assume a similar stance.) But then, Israelis have always been their own harshest critics, which is meant as great praise. Their media in general, when it comes to the open expression of all opinions, puts our own to shame. Read more »

The Bipolar Informant

the-informantHave you ever known a guy that you thought was unquestionably brilliant in some crazed way, yet everyone else dismissively said, "he’s just weird?" Well, Matt Damon is that guy in Warner Brother's new release The Informant!. Like the weird character Damon plays, this movie has a lot of jokes that many people just won't get; the audience I saw it with proved a good example. However, if you do get the jokes, and they are very entertaining, then you will probably stop laughing once their implications set in.

Director Steven Soderbergh has assembled an army of off-beat comedians, asking them to deliver the driest wit with the straightest of faces, and ultimately succeeds in unearthing one of America's greatest scams in the process -- corn. Read more »

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