Film Review

Forgiveness and the Ordinary Girl: Jade Goody 1981-2009

jane-goodyTo translate Jade Goody into American, you require a dollop of Jerry Springer, Paris Hilton in a proper trailer devoid of the redemptive qualities of wealth (because class cannot be bought), and that uncertain something which media exposure confers upon the unwitting or the needy. Jade, as she became known, came to prominence on Big Brother seven years ago, a reality television series on which she only came in fourth. Winners past and present have long since burned up their fifteen minutes of celebrity, but she, initially by default, and later by design, became a beacon of hope to many young girls: The poster child for those who have been told the world belongs to others, the prettier and more privileged than they. Read more »

Every Little Step: Going Cuckoo for A Chorus Line

every_little_step

You don't have to be a little girl or a gay man for A Chorus Line to be the central inspiration of your life, although it certainly helps.

Zach: Tell me about the Bronx.
Diana: What's to tell about the Bronx? It's uptown and to the right.
Zach: What made you start dancing?
Diana: Who knows? I'm Puerto Rican. We jump around a lot. 

Anime Presents Curious Choices

Ghost-In-The-Shell-2-InnocenceGhost in the Shell 2: Innocence
(Bandai)

There has long been a debate among English-speaking anime fans about the best way to watch Japanese cartoons. While some believe they should only ever be watched in the original Japanese with English subtitles (assuming you haven’t learned Japanese…yet), the other has no qualms about watching these ’toons with a dubbed English voice track. Read more »

Watchmen: An Ode to Misanthropy

watchmen_movieAs Lord Byron so finely observed, "All men are intrinsical rascals, and I am only sorry that not being a dog I can't bite them."

Shakespeare went canine, too, when evaluating humanity in Timon of Athens: "I am misanthropos, and hate mankind, For thy part, I do wish thou wert a dog, That I might love thee something." 

There are dogs, too, in Zack Snyder's visually masterful Watchmen, an adaptation of Alan Moore and David Gibbons' 12-issue comic book that was released during 1986 and 1987. As Wikipedia so authoritatively notes, Watchmen is "regarded by critics as a seminal text of the comic book medium." Oh, as for the dogs? Here we have two mad mutts fighting over the bones of -- if I remember correctly -- a six-year-old girl who had been previously dismembered by a pederast. This perv's just rewards include repeated axe whacks into his skull by a deranged superhero named Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley). Read more »

A Hunky Jew in Tunisia

villa-jasminVilla Jasmin Basically, with some minor exceptions scattered here and there, you seldom find really hot Jewish males depicted in film before Paul Newman took on the Brits and the Arabs in Exodus (1960). (We're talking characters here, not actors.)

Nowadays, finding a cute-as-a-button kosher hunk in the media is no longer like hunting down a four-leaf clover or a dream apartment on Craig's List, yet there's still room for improvement. Read more »

Epic Twenty-Six Episode Expansion of Seven Samurai

Samurai_7_Blu-raySamurai 7: The Complete Series
Box Set [Blu-ray] (FUNimation)

It's interesting how a good idea can be interpreted in many different ways. Take the premise behind Akira Kurosawa's classic movie The Seven Samurai. Since being released in 1954, this film's simple story -- about a small village whose residents hire a rag-tag group of samurai to defend them from bandits -- has inspired a virtual film festival of variations on the theme. Besides such classic reinterpretations as the 1960 Western The Magnificent Seven and the 1998 Pixar animated insect movie A Bug's Life, Samurai has also inspired the 1975 Indian film Sholay and the 1980 sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars. Read more »

Yatterman: A Batman for the Brain Dead

Doronjo_Kyoko_FukadaBeing imprisoned in someone else's nostalgia trip can be a mind-numbing living hell. That's certainly what it felt like at the world premiere of Yatterman, a special presentation of the New York Comic Con this past Friday. (That it was screened at the New York Directors Guild Theatre, one of the worst venues in Manhattan, certainly didn't help any.)

Based on a cult Japanese anime television series that ran from 1977 to 1979 -- there were 108 episodes -- this live action version is directed by Takashi Miike, a helmer who in 2001 gained critical acclaim Stateside for his horrific thriller Audition. Read more »

The Funny Assassination Movie

painintheass.jpg"To write a comedy is a terrible pain. It has to be very precise, you know," explained writer/director Francis Veber after the U.S. premiere of A Pain in the Ass at this year's Palm Springs International Film Festival.

"I understand very well it's better to write a drama," the Frenchman continued. "People will never reproach you that that they haven't cried enough, but they will reproach you that they haven't laughed enough. So you're not safe when you're writing comedies." Read more »

A Romance for the Post-Gym Set

last-chance-harvey.jpgAt the opening night gala for the 20th Palm Springs International Film Festival, CultureCatch (CC) sidled up to the 38-and-bearded Joel Hopkins. This affable director of the Dustin Hoffman-Emma Thompson starrer Last Chance Harvey was looking quite pleased standing walking distance from the liquor tables and cheese platters.

And why shouldn't he? His film had earned the most prestigious spot at one of America's top festivals, Palm Springs, home to a moneyed, robustly aging, Oscar-voting populace.

However, what was on CC's mind was why the title was seemingly ungrammatical. Weren't the options Last-Chance Harvey or Last Chance, Harvey? Aren't the Brits rather finicky about these matters? Read more »

Nobody Wanted Me, Negro or White: Eartha Kitt 1927-2008

Eartha-KittSometimes, the date of your death colors how you are remembered. Eartha Kitt's on Christmas Day meant “Santa Baby” was singled out as her trademark song, but the one that rather summarized her better was “Old Fashioned Girl.” Kitt embodied a somewhat dated aspect of womanhood: mysterious, mercurial, and malevolent, a strange collision of muse and minx. No mere bauble, she could prove merciless. A hapless BBC interviewer in the early '80s was floundering through his difficult encounter with her. In desperation he asked what, above all, stood out as the worst experience of her long career. Shooting him one of her famously withering feline glances, she purred with implicit disdain, “Being interviewed by you!” Read more »

The Ten Best Films of 2008

ballast-movieAs Gloucester noted in King Lear, "We have seen the best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves." Accordingly, the best of the films I've viewed in 2008 often dealt with the vilest aspects of humanity and how a few brave souls strived to comprehend and possibly survive these man-made obstacles to a happy existence.

1. Ballast

Lance Hammer's feature debut is a brilliant trek into the Mississippi Delta, where three impoverished souls -- both financially and spiritually -- are able to rebuild their lives when reluctantly thrown together by a suicide. Read more »

Mickey Louse: Disney KO's Vegetables

adam-sandler-bedtime.jpgIn the landscape of Hollywood comedy, there are basically two Adam Sandlers. The more recognizable one is the winsome, moronic, little boy in a man's body who always get the girl, the money, and the love of the populace by the end of the film (e.g. Billy Madison; The Waterboy). The other is the petulant, moronic, perpetually horny, teenaged boy in a man's body who always gets the girl, the money, and the love of the populace by the end of the film (e.g. You Don't Mess with Zohan; I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry).

Sandler, like Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has tried to expand his repertoire, brilliantly so in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, but his core audience of halfwits, priapic adolescents, and Jewish pot smokers who rightfully adore his "Chanukah Song" have not embraced his more cerebral efforts. Read more »

Hitler-a-Go-Go

valkyrie-cruiseIt would certainly be nice to be able to say Bryan Singer's take on the July 20, 1944, assassination attempt on Der Fuhrer is eye-popping excitement. It certainly would. But even with the glass orb the film's star, Tom Cruise, keeps installing and then detaching from his socket, the most I can rev up is eye-popping dreariness.

The main problem here is that everyone knows the ending before the film begins. Hitler survives the hit job only to commit suicide during the final hours of World War II. So how do you make the actions of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) and his buddies gripping? Read more »

An After-Thought of Fame

dinner-for-oneFame has never been a reliable mistress. It drives many to the point of destruction in their quest to achieve it, is sometimes bestowed on those who do not wish for nor deserve it, and may arrive long after death if it bothers to show at all. Forty years after his death at the age of 59, and nearly a century since his birth, the English comedian Freddie Frinton epitomizes fame as an after-thought in the after-life. That it rests on eleven flickering minutes of black and white footage, undercuts Warhol's fifteen minutes of the stuff by four. Those eleven minutes are called Dinner for One. Read more »

Santa with a Little Salsa

nothing-like-holidaysNothing Like the Holidays is a generic Christmas offering that would not feel out of place on the Lifetime Network. Nonetheless, this little indie should be cheered on because it has one pequeño difference.

The dysfunctional heroes here, who will be transformed by the spirit of Santa before the end credits roll, are Hispanic, and the accomplished, mostly Latino cast apparently had a blast playing Spanish-speaking Americans who are not under immediate suspicion of sneaking over the border during the night. That the action takes place in Humboldt Park, Chicago, should even put Lou Dobbs at ease. Read more »

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