Film Review

Puccini for Beginners

pucciniDid anyone ever argue that being a beautiful, witty, opera-loving, critically-acclaimed-but-poorly-selling novelist who's a New York lesbian is easy? Well, truthfully, in 2007, it doesn't seem like that much of a chore. Even Truman Capote once noted, "There's nothing cozier or safer than a nice little lez-nest."

But for Allegra (Elizabeth Reiser) nothing is ever that effortless.

Take her current relationship with Samantha (Julianne Nicolson). After nine months of extremely heavy dating/delirious sex, Sam wants a commitment. Read more »

Alice Braga: A Legend in the Making

bragaThis coming December, Warner Brothers will release I Am Legend, a much anticipated horror thriller that stars Will Smith as the last man on Earth unaffected by a plague-like virus that turns its victims into blood-craving mutants. However, there's no doubt Smith's character will be affected by his costar Alice Braga, world cinema's latest seductive siren. By the way, she can also act.

In fact, last year The New York Times' headlines screamed out in its Arts and Leisure section that Alice Braga had given one of the five "breakthrough performances" of the year. Read more »

Solomon Grundy Vs. Superman Returns

superman_returns.jpgSuperman Returns (Warner Home Video)

Solomon Grundy finally get to see new Superman movie. Him expect lots but think movie not deliver. Make promises. Lie. Make Solomon Grundy angry!

Solomon Grundy think problem start with script. Try too hard to be like original, suffer for it. Solomon Grundy not think bad thing. But him think some change not bad thing either. Solomon Grundy once made of flesh. Now him made of peat bog. Not dying a good thing, Solomon Grundy think (even if Brainiac right and peat bog mostly manure run-off). Read more »

Venus In Grey

venus"I have no memories I'm prepared to share with you," Peter O'Toole once noted, possibly to some prying journalist.

What a giant fib! The countless memories this actor has already indelibly shared with us range from such classics like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becket (1964), Lord Jim (1965), and The Lion in Winter (1968) to My Favorite Year (1982) and The Last Emperor (1987). Read more »

Some Serious Bonding

casino_royaleI fully expected Casino Royale to suck. All the Daniel Craig hype aside, the thought of seeing a franchise picture, slated for the holidays, with rampant product placement and all the sins of our millennial movie-going madness left me cold. Still, it was a rainy Saturday, so I did a “what the hell” and went.

There were times during this movie when I wanted to stand up and cheer. They got it right. Very right.

Somehow the makers of this film managed to tap into the menace and genuine fear that has to fuel a thriller like Bond. Read more »

Metaphysical Anime

gitsGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Complete Collection (Magna Home Video)

In 1991, when writer and artist Masamune Shirow released his action-packed but metaphysically driven cyberpunk manga Ghost in the Shell, he probably never imagined he was giving birth to a cottage industry that would one day encompass movies, video games, action figures, novels, T-shirts, and some inappropriate fan-made art of his hero, Major Motoko Kusanagi. Or that it -- and especially the now-classic animated G.I.T.S. movie that followed four years later -- would inspire a legion of other cyberpunk animes, mangas, and live-action movies, most notably the equally adrenalized and philosophical Matrix saga. Read more »

GoodbyeWe'llRobertMissAltmanYou

robert_altman.jpgYou can't do overlapping dialogue in writing. That's just one of the reasons this appreciation of American filmmaker Robert Altman will be inadequate. The real way it should be done is a group of people -- some who knew him for Gosford Park some who knew him for M.A.S.H. some for California Split orThe Long Goodbye, some who never heard of the dude -- all these people running in and out of rooms gabbing and talking over one another. But to remember Altman just for his over-lapping dialogue would be like only remembering Hitchcock as the "master of suspense." (Interesting aside, it was Hitchcock who salvaged Altman's flagging career and gave him a break. Read more »

Old Yaller Goes to Mongolia

yelllow_dog.jpgThe Mongolian film The Cave of the Yellow Dog is one that I really wanted and expected to like, since I am generally a sucker for films set in that area of the world. But it proved a rather long 93 minutes. The problematic issue may be genre. This film proves a somewhat unsatisfying blend of fiction and documentary, lacking the dramatic story line we expect in fiction and the depth of depiction we expect in documentary.

The filmmaker, Byambasuren Davaa, was born in Mongolia in 1971, and her goal in this film is to bring that lost world of her youth to our attention: “the viewer is introduced to my Mongolian culture. Read more »

Second Honeymoon

honeymoon.jpgThe Honeymoon Killers
Directed by Leonard Kastle, 1970. (Criterion DVD, 2003)

Some movies were destined to be in black and white. Monochrome becomes them, not just because of the period in which they were realized, but somehow their subject matter would appear cheapened by the gaudiness of color. Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, and Psycho are three prime examples that benefit from the other worldliness of flickering grays.

A rather late addition is the 1970 cult curio The Honeymoon Killers. Read more »

Tony Kushner Deserves Better

kushner.jpgTony Kushner certainly deserves a film on his theatre career. He’s a helluva writer, and he takes risks. But the film Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner takes no risks; it’s more like an infomercial trying to sell us Tony Kushner than it is like a documentary. Yes, he’s great and an obviously intelligent, warm and witty guy, but without the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, the overall effect is more Hallmark card than incisive view of an artist at work. Kushner deserves better. Of course, those who love Tony may love this film. But then, your mother loved the Mother’s Day cards you hand-colored for her as a child. That didn’t make them art. Read more »

Jagshemash! Do Not Watch Borat's Movie and Drive!

borat.jpgBorat: Cultural Learning of America Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is not a movie to watch while you're drinking chocolate milk. It will come back up through your nostrils and stain your shirt. Not once. Not twice, but many, many times. Breaking on the American screens November Sixth -- just in time for Election Day -- I predict Sasha Baron Cohen's new movie about the hopelessly misguided, disgusting and thoroughly reprehensible Kazakh TV reporter may cause more electoral carnage then the Foley affair. Consider -- if everyone in America goes to see it on opening day -- as they should -- they will be so paralyzed with joyous, politically incorrect rage they will simply stay home, eat Cheez-curls, and replay scene after insane scene in their Borat-addled minds, spewing curls all over the couch with each guffaw. Read more »

A Tale of Loss

petit_lieutenant.jpgA French film about cops? Sounds promising. But unfortunately Xavier Beauvois’s Le Petit Lieutenant doesn’t deliver on its initial promise. It opens at a large police academy graduation ceremony, full of pomp and military precision. Antoine (played with charm and energy by Jalil Lespert) is in the class and eager to move to Paris for his first assignment in a detective unit. Normandy, where he has grown up, is just too dull—too few crimes. Meanwhile, Caroline Vaudieu (the lovely Nathalie Baye) is returning to the force after a couple of years dealing with her drinking problem. Read more »

Good To Be Bad Girls

Purchase thru AmazonprincesasA film that focuses on the lives of prostitutes is likely to be more moving than informative, since—as the cliché goes—it’s the world’s oldest profession. Princesas (in Spanish with English subtitles), then, does not blow the viewer’s mind with any particularly new insights. Rather, it charmingly and quite engagingly tells the story of two contemporary Spanish hookers, one home-grown and one an illegal immigrant from the Dominican Republic.

By virtue of their different origins, they fall on different rungs of the sex business pecking order. Read more »

Johnny and Clyde

pirates.jpgBy now you've seen Pirates of the Caribbean. Probably twice. You loved it. Come on, admit it. It's really hard and churlish not to like it. It has scares, thrills, laughs and chills. And it's beautifully photographed. And then, of course, there's that Depp character. You loved him. Come on, admit it. In the great tradition of the original Rat Pack (not the Brat Pack) we were privy to one huge mega gonzo star hamming it up, smirking all the way to the bank, and we cheered every step of the way. It's like Casino Royale's entire cast rolled into one. Insta-bedlam. To quibble with the movie (too long, too confusing, too unresolved, too many effects) would be missing the point.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I'll quibble. Not with the picture -- borrowing from Apocalypse Now and Indiana Jones and many of my nightmares -- but with the picture business. Read more »

Rhyme Tyme

rkelly.jpgNo one would have thought four years ago that R. Kelly could record anything more infamous than the tape allegedly showing him engaging in sexual activities with a minor. That video earned him a day in court. But late last year he released the long-form video of his hit Trapped in the Closet that is a masterpiece of Ed Wood proportions.

His "urban operetta" purports to tell the story of Sylvester (Kelly) who wakes up in a strange woman's bed one morning. And this being an operetta, he starts to singing. He realizes he has to get home to his own wife and sings about that as well. But then her husband arrives. And then the husband's boyfriend. And all of that has to be sung about, too. Read more »

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