Film Review

Lee Daniels’s The Butler or Serving Up Equality

Lee Daniels tries very hard to become the next Steven Spielberg with The Butler, a 132-minute heartfelt, epic paean to the Civil Rights struggles of black Americans in the 20th century. The result is a film that is indeed convincingly earnest, yet intermittently clumsy in its attempt to shoehorn too much history into a family tale of survival, dysfunction, alcoholism, adultery, rebellion, and disco dancing -- or vice versa. Read more »

The To Do List, or What's a Rim Job?

The female raunch comedy has now really come into its own with The To Do List (formerly The Hand Job), and at times shockingly so. But maybe not if you consider biting into feces nothing to sneeze at. Directed and written by Maggie Carey, the spouse of Bill Hader, this is the tale of a 1993 high-school valedictorian, Brandy Clark (Aubrey Plaza), who's apparently the last virgin in Boise, Idaho. Read more »

Broken or Love Thy Neighbor...With Great Care

Childhood can be tough, but how tough you can't imagine until you've witnessed Rufus Norris's Broken, a film of innocence getting roundly trounced. Based upon Daniel Clay's highly readable tome, which was itself inspired by Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the action takes place in a cul-de-sac in Southampton, where three damaged families reside. The "dead-end" metaphor is not to be taken lightly. Read more »

Taylor Mead's Ass, or Arse You Like It

It's a Monday night with occasional downpours, but the steamy weather and the chance to view Andy Warhol's rarely screened tribute to the underground legend, poet, and actor Taylor Meade's posterior has the crowd, composed mainly of artsy gayboys, both young and old, lining up en masse in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art.

 A murmur of true excitement, amidst the chatter about organic art exhibits and mild flirtations, greets the ear as the flip-floppers are ushered into the Sculpture Garden. Instantly, stylized composure is disposed of as there's a mad rush for seats with an unobstructed view. Those who lose out on the "Musical Chairs Grab" wind up sitting on steps, which actually proffer a better sight line. Read more »

The Lone Ranger: Crap in a Mask

When the Spirit Horse relieves his bowels midway through The Lone Ranger, and the screen is filled with his ever-piling-up turds, it will take you a while to realize that this shit is different from the rest of the excrement that director Gore Verbinski has been showcasing the previous hour. Read more »

Under the Dome

[Spoiler Alert!!  If you have not seen the pilot episode, this review contains numerous spoilers.]

Stephen King's teleplays for his many mini-series (usually three to six episodes) have ranged from superb ("Storm of the Century," "The Shining") to good ("It," "The Stand") to silly but fun ("The Langoliers"). However, his work has never been turned into a full-season TV series until now. And if he and the other writers can sustain the level of intrigue and character development of the pilot episode, they may have a hit on their hands. Read more »

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, or Where’s John Waters When You Need Him?

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X is the brainchild of director Paul Bunnell, one he carried about for nine grueling years. The birth of the DVD, released last week, was not an easy one, but no one was surprised. There were warnings that the end result would be deplorably off-kilter. Some, who were in the room when Bunnell's fertilized idea was first sonogrammed -- in "Ghastly Scope," a vivid black and white, by the not untalented cinematographer Francisco Bulgarelli -- had high hopes; others hinted subtly, yet harshly, for a termination of the celluloid fetus. Read more »

I Stand Corrected: A Tale of a Left-Handed Bassist

For some documentaries to work, all the director needs to do is turn on the camera and let her subjects chat away. In I Stand Corrected, there's chatting plus the bonus of some real fine jazz, the interplay of which combines to create a simple, compelling look at a very brave, extremely talented woman, Jennifer Leitham. Read more »

Laurence Anyways or One Life to Live Two Ways

Watching Xavier Dolan’s nearly three-hour long Laurence Anyways is like being enveloped in a grand 500-page novel written by a master in the making. There are frequent moments of genius where you are rendered blissfully immobile by the onscreen carryings-on; uncountable witticisms you wish you yourself had dashed off; unbridled passions that hit the heavens and then bounce back harrowingly; several paeans to those filmmakers who’ve inspired him (e.g. Ken Russell); and now and then a slight unwieldiness that’s easy to sidestep. Read more »

Wish You Were Here

Whatever sentiments the title Wish You Were Here evokes in you, flush them. Here is no lighthearted vacation comedy but, instead, a well-acted "psychological thriller" with few thrills but much angst. Read more »

After Earth: I Babysat for Will Smith

After two hours of observing a moping 15-year-old Jaden Smith scamper about, whimper, and throw a rock at a monkey with all the credibility of Pauly Shore essaying King Lear, you'd expect his dad Will Smith to say, "Good job," hand you $20, and then drive you home. Sadly, life isn't always fair. Read more »

Fast and Furious 6 or Fucked Up and Futile, The Sequel

The most surprising moment in Fast & Furious 6 comes when someone mentions Moby Dick. The notion that anyone involved in this sequel has ever read a book, or even a BookRags synopsis of one, is quite earth-shattering. Read more »

Shahid: India's Malcolm X?

Winner of the Best Director Award at this month's New York Indian Film Festival, Hansai Mehta's Shahid covers a lot of ground. The opening, which commences with a bang, depicts the assassination of Shahid Azmi (Raj Kumar Yadav). The Muslim human-rights-activist lawyer was just 32. The year: 2010.  Read more »

Musical Relationships

Greetings from Tim Buckley

A promising young musician visits New York for a week to headline a tribute concert. He bonds with a young woman interning at the performance space, and they run around the city being chatty, artistic, and physically beautiful together. These would be the makings of a light and romantic film, except that the young man portrayed is musician Jeff Buckley in his early twenties and the concert he's been called for honors his father, prolific and renowned musician Tim Buckley, who breezed away from Jeff's mother before Jeff was born and died at age 28 without knowing his first child. Read more »

Tribeca Triumph: The Kill Team

In the documentary The Kill Team, Oscar-nominated director Dan Krauss tells the story of a young U.S. soldier who attempted to prevent the war crimes being committed by his platoon and was instead charged with those crimes. Without resorting to over-the-top propaganda, The Kill Team follows whistleblower Adam Winfield during his trial and simultaneously tells the story of the events that led up to that trial. Krauss uses footage taken by soldiers in Afghanistan to paint the landscape where it was possible for soldiers to kill Afghani civilians, plant guns on them, and call it a win for America.

Krauss encourages his subjects, who include Winfield as well as two soldiers who participated in murdering Afghani civilians, to speak freely. Read more »

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