Film Review

Redemption Song

squid.jpgThe Life Aquatic was a disappointment to a lot of Wes Anderson fans. But, with his record, including Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, one good film could put him back in everyone's good graces. For co-writer Noah Baumbach, however, life was a little less certain. His films until then had been well received but not particularly career making. And if Anderson's rabid fans wanted a scapegoat for why Anderson swung and missed this time out, they could point to his three previous triumphs, all co-scripted with actor Owen Wilson, as prima facie evidence that Baumbach was the weak link this time. Read more »

Kicking Big Brother's Teeth In

vendetta.jpgSet some decades in the future, V For Vendetta is really a product of the past. Not just because it grew out of comic writer Alan Moore's resentment of Maggie Thatcher and everything that she came to represent at the time the original story was conceived, but because it draws so heavily on a fantasy of what the future might look like from a radicalized perspective that emerged from the post-'60s/punk era. In fact, had the picture been made twenty or thirty years ago, we might be recalling it as having been a bit prescient about how a campaign of fear might engender a totalitarian regime, the same way that 1984, a story that can certainly claim parentage to this picture, looked to the invasive eye of a malevolent authority.

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Cowboys!

BrokebackThe word is out – and the word, apparently, is “cowboys.” As the year limped to a close and filmmakers made their last, frantic stabs at Oscar glory, two of the most-talked about films are, basically, Westerns turned inside out. Although Walk the Line and Brokeback Mountain may not have much in common (apart from the fact that they are both, at times, very good), they are decidedly more country than rock ’n’ roll.

Cowboys have always been a way for filmmakers to explore the frailty of human nature. Read more »

Ape and Essence

King KongKing Kong. The critics are loony for it, audiences love it, and it’s certain to make the kind of money most often seen these days by the top shelf superhero franchises. No wonder, really, since there’s a double barrel branding at work, Kong, the big ape, himself, and the other 8000-lb. gorilla, director Peter Jackson.

The fact is, Kong is an astonishing achievement and authentically spectacular—no CGI creation has ever seemed this real—and the film cries out for huge screens and state-of-the-art sound systems. This is not a movie for the DVD footdraggers.

But those imagining this might be a revisionist look at the original Kong are going to miss the fact that while the 1933 version was a simple story, the new version is equally simple, with a similar amount of clunky undertow. Read more »

Nowhere Men

JarheadJarhead is many things, but a war picture is pretty far down the list.

First things first: Sam Mendes, the director, is a subversive, anxious for some reason to tell Americans about America, which is really not such a terrible thing as some of our best reflections come from overseas, whether via Nabokov or the Rolling Stones, aping and reshaping our sense of ourselves.

American Beauty, his first picture, had some delightful moments, but was still nothing more than a Zap Comix view of suburbia--it could have been scored by ’60s-era Zappa. Read more »

Kiddie Cheese

Kiss DVD

Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park Directed by Gordon Hessler (Cheezy Flicks DVD)

The marriage of rock 'n' roll and cinema has always been a troubled one. From Elvis to Eminem, countless campaigns have been waged to turn musicians into movie stars, often (if not usually) with flaccid results. For every laudable success there have been some tragic catastrophes. Even the Beatles themselves laid their share of cinematic rotten eggs. Some critics have suggested that the Fab Four's scriptless 1967 made-for-television movie, Magical Mystery Tour is the worst rock 'n' roll movie of all time. Clearly, these critics haven't seen Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Read more »

Reconsider Baby

Two For The MoneyIt happens every so often that a movie appears, reviled by the critical thundering herd, the Rotten Tomatoes Marching Band, that has unique qualities beyond its obvious flaws. While it might not be entirely redeemed, a movie of this sort can deserve a second look.

Two for the Money falls into that category, a picture that was blasted into powdery dust last week, and will likely drop off the box office map in short order, which is a bit of a shame.

The movie is about a small-time Vegas fan-phone basement sweatshopper named Brandon (Matthew McConaughey), who’d been a local football hero but was permanently sidelined with a busted knee. Read more »

Whiz Show

Good NightGood Luck, and Good Night, George Clooney’s grab-bag paean to the glory days of monochromatic news broadcasting, when men were men and they had the lung cancer and cardboard livers to prove it, is something more than it appears to be.

The critical reception has been good to excellent, and the general opinion is that Clooney does a terrific job of recreating that atmosphere, when CBS News represented a degree of dignity in news reporting that they brought back from WWII. Read more »

First We Take Manhattan!

WarriorsThe Warriors - Ultimate Director's Cut
Directed by Walter Hill (Paramount Home Video)

Ask your average American male in his late thirties about Walter Hill's 1979 film The Warriors and in all likelihood, he'll reply with either a robustly barked "CAN YOU DIG IT?" or a strenuously whined "WARRIOOOORRSS....COME OUT TO PLAAAA-YAAAAAAYYY!" I was a paltry twelve years old when The Warriors hit theatres in 1979, but even being too young to get in, I can vividly remember the sensation it caused. The movie poster alone was enough to capture my rapt, wide-eyed attention. Read more »

Punk Redux

punkPunk: Attitude
Directed by Don Letts (Capital Entertainment DVD)

Let's be honest, shall we? The world needs another documentary about the origins of Punk Rock like the American South needs another hurricane. Still, even as the genre approaches its hotly debated thirtieth birthday, the exhumation continues. To the credit of filmmaker Don Letts, himself a veteran of the original British Punk scene and erstwhile Reggae archivist, his latest documentary, Punk: Attitude, at least tries to be all-inclusive in attempting to encapsulate the amorphous cultural movement. Read more »

For Fans Only!

DIG!DIG!
Directed by Ondi Timoner (UMVD DVD)

The premise is a relatively flimsy one at best – pit two rival rock ’n’ roll bands against each other and document their respective trajectories over a seven-year period. We’re not talking Zeppelin and Sabbath here, though. Ondi Timoner’s award-winning DIG! depicts the strikingly diverse paths and ambitions of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, two American alternative rock bands from the 1990s. Neither band is a particularly big draw or a household name (the Dandy Warhols did manage to trouble the pop charts once or twice, albeit to no lasting effect). Despite the bands’ borderline anonymity in the grand scheme of things, DIG! is assuredly more than just a fans-only feature. It’s a hugely compelling film and a striking glimpse into the world of struggling musicians. Read more »

Very Last Days

Last DaysLast Days, Gus Van Sant’s film about the isolated stupor that his fictionalized account suggests was the mindset of the last days of Kurt Cobain, feels like it was filmed when the director himself was in a heroin nod. In take after take, we gaze for protracted minutes at the lanky blond hair of actor Michael Pitt as it swings forward in the famous greasy, neglected curtain that Cobain sported and, sometimes, hid behind. But he didn’t hide behind it all the time. Van Sant’s character seems barely to exist – his withdrawal is so profound that he seems suspended in a world between life and death. But this world is far from the one we recognize as one Cobain inhabited. Read more »

So A Man Walks Into A Talent Agent's Office...

The AristocratsThe Aristocrats is supposedly how nothing is shocking anymore. The movie is built around one infamous joke that comics occasionally tell just for each other’s amusement, trying to outdo each other in grossness and invention. And “The Aristocrats” is the punch line to the joke, which involves a lengthy setup – one that stretches comics to think of the worst possible ideas they can to involve a family and their unbelievably foul stage act. Trying to get more and more outrageous, many comics have made the joke involve incest with the family fucking each other; mother and father and children all sucking and fucking in a pool of their own vomit and feces. Read more »

Alien Opera

The Nomi Song
Directed by Andrew Horn (Palm Pictures DVD)

Much like the willfully enigmatic artist it profiled, Andrew Horn’s 2004 documentary, The Nomi Song, came and went through select art houses here in the States to undeservedly sparse fanfare. Despite having won the “Teddy Bear Award” for Best Documentary Film at the Berlin Film Festival, Horn’s portrait of the late singer/performance artist Klaus Nomi might have seemed a bit too tailored to certain demographics to achieve a wider audience. Now released on DVD with a clutch of archival performance footage, further back-story, anecdotal interviews and other Nomi ephemera appended, the film has been granted a second shot at larger exposure. Read more »

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