Monthly Archives: April 2008

MISTER LONELY

Writer-director Harmony Korine (KIDS, GUMMO, JULIEN-DONKEY BOY) has crafted an odd, bizarrely entertaining and sort of hypnotic dramedy about a Michael Jackson impersonator in Paris (Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN’s Diego Luna). He meets a Marilyn Monroe clone (Samantha Morton) and falls in with her commune of celebrity impersonators. Quirky, whimsical and often full of non-sequitors (Werner Herzog as a priest flying a plane full of sky-diving nuns? What the frack?!?)… Korine is an original, that’s for damn sure.

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BABY MAMA

PG_13, 99 min, 2008

Director: Michael McCullers
Writer: Michael McCullers
Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sigourney Weaver

Here is a sitcom that could’ve been stupid, but isn’t, that could’ve been stale and unfunny, but isn’t, that could’ve been boring, but isn’t, that could’ve been edgier, but isn’t. Continue reading

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DECEPTION

Deception Movie Review

R, 107 min, 2008

Director: Marcel Langenegger
Writer: Mark Bomback (written by)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, Michelle Williams

Deception is a thriller which fails to thrill, or do anything else for that matter, and contains all the excitement of watching paint dry. Continue reading

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STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Standard Operating Procedure Movie Review

R, 116 min, 2008

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Megan Ambuhl Graner, Javal Davis, Ken Davis

Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure, a powerful, angering documentary, is not an expose of the criminal acts committed at Abu Ghraib military prison, as the cat’s already out of the bag, but rather an absorbing examination of the meaning behind the infamous photographs which leaked out of the facility, causing an uproar over the apparent torture of prisoners. Continue reading

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HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY

R, 114 min, 2008

Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Writers: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg (written by), Jon Hurwitz (characters) & Hayden Schlossberg (characters)

Stars: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is a sequel to 2004′s surprisingly entertaining stoner comedy by the same minds behind Dude Where’s My Car?, and it is completely outside of the same league. Scratch that: there is no league in existence befitting a film of this bewildering level of ineptitude. Continue reading

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THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES

Vadim Perelman’s dour drama is one of the best-looking films I can imagine about such a disturbing, dark subject. Uma Thurman is Diana McFee, a woman who survived a would-be massacre at her Catholic high school 20-some years ago. At the time, she (portrayed as a high schooler by Evan Rachel Wood) and her friend Maureen (the quirky and lovely Eva Amurri) were traumatized by the incident. Now, Diana is married to her college professor (Brett Cullen of “Lost”). On the eve of the anniversary, Diana is feeling the strain – false alarms, panic attacks, etc. So far, the premise could also work for a modern slasher movie, but this is a more thoughtful and inspired tale. The film flashes back and forth between memories leading up to the incident and Diana’s present – which is haunted by her past. More I will not reveal (nor should anyone), but those who have a problem with how this film turns out are, I think, mistaken. There’s a bit of trickery in the vein of Marc Forster’s “Stay” (2005), but I’m not sure that this film is any less effective – perhaps even more so, given the level of the performances. Vadim Perelman, who directed, is the man who so wonderfully brought us “House of Sand and Fog” (2003), which was my favorite film of its year. Here, he has created no less of a great-looking film about similarly dark subject matter, and it has turned out beautifully. Working with cinematographer Pawel Edelman (Polanski’s “Oliver Twist” and “The Pianist”), every single shot (from the first to the last) looks like a painting – or a glossy photo out of a magazine. Perelman, working from a screenplay by Emil Stern based on the novel by Laura Kasischke, has crafted a stunningly beautiful portrait of survivor’s guilt, trauma and how those can affect a life.

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FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL

Forgetting Sarah Marshall Movie Review

R, 111 min, 2008

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writer: Jason Segel
Stars: Kristen Bell, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd

Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the latest entry from the Judd Apatow assembly line to join the hit parade, is a romantic revenge comedy that isn’t simply raunchy – it’s the sort of film that makes raunchy blush. Continue reading

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88 MINUTES

R, 108 m., 2007

Director: Jon Avnet
Writer: Gary Scott Thompson
Stars: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Ben McKenzie

Jon Avnet’s 88 Minutes is a would-be thriller – indeed, just about the dopiest, lamest, most contrived, and laughable film of its type in many a moon.

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PROM NIGHT

Here are ten basic rules for modern slasher films which, if you are aware of them, will save you the need to watch idiotic formula junk like this one:

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THE VISITOR

Thomas McCarthy’s brilliant but simple study of a lonely professor (a widower) who has an apartment he hasn’t been to in years. In New York City for a weekend seminar, the Connecticut professor finds a couple of foreign squatters in his old apartment and lets them stay. The man is a Syrian drummer and his girl is a Senegalese jewelry maker who sells her wares in the Saturday market. They soon become good friends but a misunderstanding poises the Syrian for deportation. This is a powerful film centered on a lovely performance of few words by recurring “Six Feet Under” guest star Richard Jenkins. Hiam Abbass is wonderful as the Syrian’s mother, who might want to help Jenkins’ professor through his lonely life. Simply put, this is a wonderful film.

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<br/><br />NOTE: This was deservedly nominated for a 2008 Oscar for Best Actor.

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STREET KINGS

Street Kings Movie Review

R, 109 min, 2008

Director: David Ayer
Writers: James Ellroy (screenplay) and Kurt Wimmer (screenplay) and Jamie Moss (screenplay), James Ellroy (story)

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie

Here is a violent, over-the-top melodrama that swings for the fences, attempting (apparently) to be the corrupt cop film to end all corrupt cop films – and that’s the best thing that can be said for it. Continue reading

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SMART PEOPLE

Smart People Movie Review

R, 95 min, 2008

Director: Noam Murro
Writer: Mark Poirier (written by) (as Mark Jude Poirier)
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Sarah Jessica Parker

Noam Murro’s Smart People is a dark-ish comedy, an acidically-witty, if somewhat watered-down, little independent film about family, loss, love and – above all – being smart. Or at least a smart ass. Continue reading

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NIM’S ISLAND

PG, 96 min, 2008

Directors: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Writers: Joseph Kwong (screenplay) & Paula Mazur (screenplay) and Mark Levin (screenplay) & Jennifer Flackett (screenplay), Wendy Orr (novel Nim’s Island)

Stars: Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, Abigail Breslin

Here is a family film in which nothing much really happens but it’s all more or less pleasant enough while it’s…going on; 8-10 year-old girls will probably love it. Sadly though, I am not now nor have I ever been an 8-10 year-old girl. Continue reading

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THE RUINS

R, 90 min, 2008

Director: Carter Smith
Writers: Scott B. Smith (screenplay), Scott B. Smith (novel)
Stars: Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker

The Ruins is a horror film that begins stupid, gets mildly intriguing, and then dumps us out groaning into a pile of ridiculousness. Continue reading

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SHINE A LIGHT

Martin Scorsese’s “Shine a Light” accomplishes two remarkable things: it reaffirms (yet again) my love of Scorsese as the GREATEST AMERICAN DIRECTOR ALIVE(!) and…makes me love the Rolling Stones(!!!).

 

I was not a particular fan of the Stones going into Scorsese’s new documentary/concert film, shot over two days as a benefit for the Clinton Foundation at the Beacon Theater in October of 2006 (around the time his Oscar winning “The Departed” was released), but I am now.

 

From the opening explosion that is “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” through many slower or lesser known works, culminating with such hits as “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Satisfaction,” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood are at the top of their game!

 

Seeing the film in IMAX at a nearby theater, I was blown away (literally) by the sound levels and the amazing cinematography by Robert Richardson (he oversees 9 Oscar winning and/or nominated cinematographers operating the cameras including Ellen Kuras, Robert Elswit, Stuart Drysburgh, etc.). This film makes you feel like you’re not only at this concert two years hence, but that you’re ON STAGE WITH THE ROLLING FRICKIN’ STONES!

 

This film is not only an ecstatic reconfirmation of the vitality (and energy) of the Stones, but it’s just a rocking good time!

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LEATHERHEADS

George Clooney’s goofy, lovably hardscrabble football-based romantic screwball comedy is a throwback that, if not exactly necessary, is nevertheless more than welcome.

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