Film Review

Amreeka: A Palestinian in White Castle and Other Tales of Woe

amreeka_movieOnce a year, a movie about an immigrant, with or without a family, appears upon our screens . . . and if you include small indie and foreign releases, make that once a month. The archetypal hero is either impoverished, in need of love, and/or relentlessly experiencing bigotry at the hands of the local populace, the police, and other governmental authorities. (Goodbye Solo (2009), The Visitor (2008), plus Live and Become (2005) are a few of the exemplary examples of this genre.) Read more »

Shorties: Tarantino's Jews, Giamatti's Soul-Searching, & Two Hitlers

cold_soulsA quick look at what's in the theaters:

1) Cold Souls

In the most deliciously off-beat comedy of the year, Paul Giamatti plays an actor named Paul Giamatti who has his soul removed to feel less pain when portraying Uncle Vanya. But by the time he learns that a little angst in life is necessary to be an above-average thespian and an affable human being, his essence has been lost. Read more »

Ol' Dirty Basterds

inglourious-basterdsDisney should have taken the four billion they paid for Marvel and bought Tarantino instead. Why? Inglourious Basterds is the only movie that I've seen that has had a director in something like the last five years. What's more, it's just about the only movie I've seen that has had a writer (who also happens to be the director, but what you gonna do?). It also has a movie star. And a supporting star. To say Inglourious Basterds is good would be like saying water is wet. It is so, so much more than that. Read more »

Extract: A Testicular Romance

extract-filmWhat's the difference between a comedy on TV and one in the theaters? Is The 40 Year Old Virgin funnier than Everybody Loves Raymond? Is The Hangover edgier than Will and Grace? Is The Proposal wilder than Sex and the City? What are we yearning for on the big screen that will egg us on to shell out $12 dollars for a ticket and another $20 or so for popcorn and a Coke?

It's oddly Mike Judge's latest big screen offering, Extract, that elicits these thoughts. Mr. Judge, the creative force behind "everyone's favorite" juvenile-delinquent slacker cartoon, Beavis and Butthead; the animated Texas redneck with a heart of gold, King of the Hill; and surprising cult DVD hit Office Space (1999). Read more »

My One and Only: The Childhood of a Very Tan Man

one-and-onlyYour familiarity with the creature known as George Hamilton -- or your lack thereof -- won't have too much of an effect on your appreciation of My One and Only. Yet for the curious, here's a little background.

Mr. Hamilton, before he became best known as the King of Tanning, had hit the tabloids for dating one of President Lyndon Johnson's daughters, a Byrd of moderate plumage. Before that, Mr. Hamilton had been an actor, never one of much note, more of one note, but he had been extremely attractive.

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The Time Traveler's Wife: Break Your Clocks!

If I could revisit my past, the first thing I'd do is travel several hours back and not see The Time Traveler's Wife.

Seldom has a romantic fantasy drummed up by Hollywood been so drab and ridiculous. Not a moment here makes any sense. What's worse is, by the time you crawl out of the theater, whacked into submission by the idiocy of the tale, you'll feel no one involved in this pallid product comprehends its premise either. No wonder the lead character asks, "Is this too weird?"

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Julie & Julia: You Can Never Have Too Much Butter

julie-juliaWhoever placed the blame for American obesity on McDonald’s and its fast-food peers, shame on you! Julie & Julia, one of the year’s most delectable films, proves Julia Child was the real culprit: Julia and her obsessive, inviolable love for the culinary delights of France and especially its B-U-T-T-E-R.

Yes, seldom has an edible item -- let alone a human -- been as highly praised or as erotically "whisked into submission" as has this dear, mutedly golden, highly caloric substance. With complete disrespect for those suffering from lactose intolerance, director/writer/producer Nora Ephron has created a sprightly, bombastic paean to fame, feasting, and infatuation. Read more »

Funny People: Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Sandler

funny-peopleThere are moments during Judd Apatow's Funny People where you are just swept away by the brilliant incisiveness of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen's performances.

With an at-times seemingly autobiographical screenplay, Sandler portrays George Simmons, a Sandler-like comedian who often makes seriously stupid comedies that are embraced by America to the tune of $265,000,000 grosses. In one hit, his character asks to be young again, and winds up with his old head attached to an infant's body.

A huge success on screen, off screen Simmons has the world as his oyster, but apparently he's not crazy about seafood, just addicted. Read more »

Flame & Citron: Something's Rotten in Denmark

flame-citronYes, now that you have asked, the inhabitants of Denmark do change their facial expressions. There's even a site to prove it.

However, in this lushly beautiful (thanks to cinematographer Jorgen Johansson) film, director Ole Christian Madsen seems to have ordered each of his cast members to embody Hamlet, a rather dour Hamlet. This is not totally absurd, considering the screenplay, but it can be a bit ponderous at times. The plot, based on a true story, takes place during World War II -- 1944 to be exact -- in Copenhagen. Read more »

Shades of Dark & Darker

half-blood-princeThe latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, continues the franchise’s progressive departure from fun. All the bright, festive colors that decorated the earlier films have vanished, leaving these young wizards to play out their drama within a spectrum ranging from black to dark blue. Though the film is still enjoyable, it lacks some of the imaginative fancy of its predecessors.

The acting is solid enough all around aside from the nagging suspicion that Daniel Radcliffe is starting to tire of playing Harry. This could be attributed to the character's loss of his child-like innocence, but it feels as if Radcliffe is applying less energy in his performance. Read more »

She Served Us Well: Mollie Sugden 1922-2009

mollie-sugdenMollie Sugden, star of the British sitcom Are You Being Served? (1972-85), died on July 1 of natural causes. Her five-decade acting career made her a beloved figure in her native England and, surprisingly, in the U.S. as well.

Are You Being Served? was set in a department store, a dying breed even in the Seventies. Sugden's Mrs. Slocombe was the doyenne of ladies underwear, a role mirrored in menswear by Mr. Humphries, whose airs and graces she deplored, probably because they got in the way of her own array of affectations. Read more »

Brüno: A Queer God for the Ages

bruno-filmYes -- if you're asking -- Brüno is quite possibly the most uproarious, groundbreaking, and shocking comedy of the past decade -- and that includes its sister film which showcased the Jew-phobic Borat.

Actor/co-writer/producer Sacha Baron Cohen has now taken the image of the homosexual as propagated by the Right Wing for fund-raising purposes, and he's exaggerated that stereotype one hundredfold.

His Brüno, host of a defunct German-language fashion-oriented TV show, is a limp-wristed fop; a blatant misogynist with a special distaste for the vagina; a dildo-carrying satyr; and an inhumane, racist, child-endangering, self-promoting anal warrior. He's, in other words, a solipsist nonpareil. Read more »

Public Enemies: Depp-utizing the Thirties

public-enemiesMichael Mann's Public Enemies is epic filmmaking with B-movie content. It's as if a wannabe David Lean got down and dirty Americana-style.

Yes, every prodigious moment is so artfully rendered, every frame so thoughtfully blocked, that even the machine gun bang-ups have a choreographed sensibility to them. Yet for all of this thoughtful grandeur, and possibly because of it, the film lacks the hit-you-in-the-bladder, shocking gutsiness of Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde.

John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), best known in recent decades for the urban myth his prodigious body part inspired, is the antihero of this crime saga. Read more »

An Ode to George W.

bumblebee-1If when you were a child--either with Mr. Wizard or alone--you had passed a magnet over a pile of iron filings, you would have unknowingly created the action scenes of Michael Bay’s latest blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Yes, for what seems like the first half hour of this exploration of the psychotic lives of former Hasbro toys, the screen is filled with the pounding of metal upon metal accompanied by very loud kabooms on the soundtrack. Read more »

The Proposal: Doris Day Redux

the-proposal-movieSAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE -- Watching The Proposal in a Mexican multiplex does supply this romantic comedy about immigration with an unsettling moral twinge. So let's quickly address the little that's wrong with Sandra Bullock's latest.

As you've garnered from the commercials or viewing the film -- as much of the female American movie-going public has already -- the visa application of Margaret Tate (Bullock), a high-end editor at a major publishing company, has been denied, and she's being deported.

Tate: "Deported? It's not like I'm an immigrant or something. I'm Canadian."

To remedy the situation, Tate blackmails her assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), a full-blooded American, into marrying her. Read more »

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