Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Whether feeling neglected by their families or British society or burdened by expenses or old age in general, a group of pensioners seek their retirement at the Marigold Hotel, which is billed by its advertisers as the crown gem of India. When they arrive, they find a decaying, run-down boarding house, but begin to take a new stock in their Golden Years of life. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a pat, hokey, occasionally funny geriatric hyperlink fantasy that does exactly what you expect it to do, but is hard to dislike due to the star talent on hand (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson) and positive nature of the material.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Two backwater Arkansan adolescents (Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland) journey down the river to retrieve a boat which had been planted on the treetops by a recent flood, and noticed on a previous visit. Scaling the tree and examining their new fine, they realize someone has taken quarters in their boat and quickly encounter Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a fugitive from justice, guilty of committing a crime of passion for his childhood sweetheart (Reese Witherspoon). Inspired by this tale of romance, they decide to help their new friend plot his escape, while dealing with their own family and personal heartache in their last summer of innocence. "Mud" is another demonstration of of the versatility of writer director Jeff Nichols who, following the tragic "Shotgun Stories" and allegorical "Take Shelter", returns with a coming-of-age story which is much more contemplative than its plot description supposes. The film boasts excellent photography, which alone makes the film worth seeing, and fine performances (McConaughey is a little hard to take seriously) especially from the well-cast Sheridan and Lofland.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


"Happiness" follows the despondent lives of trio of sisters in working class New Jersey: Joy (Jane Adams) works as a telemarketer and, feeling her life lacks meaning, decides to tech English to foreigners in the city, becoming involved with a brutish Russian cab driver (Jared Harris). Her beautiful sister Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle) is a best-selling author and toast of the family, but finds herself strangely drawn to the weirdo (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who continually directs harassing phone calls towards. Lastly, Trish (Cynthia Stevenson) seems to have an ideal middle class life, yet is utterly clueless as to what kind of a monster (Dylan Baker) she is married to.  Todd Solondz's film is an unrelenting exercise in misery and morbidity which, instead of other bleak, downtrodden movies which you feeling cold in empty, causes you to think and has a strange, cathartic effect.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend

For a tough guy, maybe the foremost tough guy in the movies alongside John Wayne, Gary Cooper was an extremely sensitive actor. Born to British parents and a comfortable existence in Helena, Montana, he struggled for several years making his name in acting, taking on bit roles before breaking through in the World War I fighter pilot movie "Wings." From there on he used his cool, downplayed image in such classics as "High Noon", "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", and "Sergeant York", winning two Oscars along the way and cementing his image as one of the greatest and most respected Hollywood actors. "American Life, American" is a film from film critic Richard Schickel has a niche for these clip show style documentaries. That being said, I would have preferred to hear more on Cooper's life and even the comment on his films is minimal (for "The Pride of the Yankees" all that is said is he had to learn how to play ball lefthanded!). The film is also hosted by Clint Eastwood who contributes ultra hokey narration for the man who must have been his hero.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Birds

A gorgeous, idle debutante (Tippi Hedren) plays a prank on an attractive man (Rod Taylor) at a San Francisco gift shop, which he quickly foils. She decides to track him down on his island home, bearing a peace offering of two parakeets. There, while contending with a rival (Suzanne Pleshette) for the man's affections and endearing herself to his mother (Jessica Tandy), the local seagull population grows increasingly hostile, eventually posing a threat to everyone on the island and trapping the party inside the island home. Alfred Hitchcok's "The Birds", his third adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier work following "Jamaica Inn" and "Rebecca", is an alternately scary and silly work, which I'm not quite sure belongs on the list of his greatest classics. Tippi Hedren is excellent, and carries much of the film.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Guilty Hands

Set to meet his daughter (Madge Evans) for a dinner party, an attorney (Lionel Barrymore) with a background with both the prosecution and defense informs fellow train travelers just how easy it is, for an intelligent person that is, to get away with murder. When he arrives at the reception. his lascivious friend and client (Alan Mowbray) informs him that he is taking his daughter for his wife come hell or high water, which gives the attorney the opportunity to put his theory to the test. "Guilty Hands" is a silly but fun precode film with Barrymore giving a diverting, animating performance.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Following the success of "Valley of the Dolls", 20th Century Fox secured the naming rights to a sequel and hired successful sexploitation pioneer Russ Meyer to direct, who in turn hired Roger Ebert, a young Chicago critic who had defended his work, to write the screenplay. Deciding to go in the different direction of madcap horror and satire, Meyer and Ebert worked at a frenetic pace and completed the screenplay in about six weeks, which tells the story of a female rock band who set out for fame and fortune in L.A. but fall prey to the sex and drug crazed depravity of the time. Following Roger Ebert's passing earlier this month, I decided to finally check out "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls", although I did not technically watch the film, opting to play it with Ebert's commentary track instead. This mode of viewing was engaging and informative, as Ebert describes the genesis of the film, speaks to the times and importance of the movie (which he may slightly oversell), and largely speaks of Meyer, who became a lifelong friend. There are many interesting tidbits to be found here which include how Meyer would boarded up windows on the living quarters of his films so the actors would save up their sexual energy for the camera or how a bizarre real life incident with footballer Jim Brown worked its way into the screenplay. Ebert also relays fantastic WWII stories Meyer would tell (including a failed attempt to capture Hitler with General Patton) and recalls how they were later hired to pen an ultimately unfilmed Sex Pistols movie and how Meyer berated a slightly taken aback Johnny Rotten during a meeting. "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is not a film I would typically seek out and probably would have viewed with cynicism. But like many films which he reviewed throughout his illustrious career, Roger has helped provide insight and appreciation I may not have found on my own.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Requiem for a Heavyweight

Following a thorough beating in the ring (administered by a then named Cassius Clay), doctors, a loyal trainer (Mickey Rooney), and a kindly social worker (Julie Harris) try to convince a feeble-minded, brute (Anthony Quinn) that his boxing career is over. However his manipulative, disreputable manager concocts a humiliating plan to keep him in the ring in order to pay off his gambling debts. "Requiem for a Heavyweight" is a doleful and well drawn film from Rod Serling, who adapted his own teleplay (which originally featured Jack Palance), which is as dark and ironic as any of his "Twilight Zone" episodes. Quinn is excellent, although his character makes Rocky Balboa seem like an elocutionist and he receives fine support from veterans Rooney and Gleason. In addition to the cameo by Muhammad Ali, Jack Dempsey also appears in a notable cameo.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Italian Job

A recently release ex-con (Michael Caine) gets right back in the thick of things, and assembles a team to pull off the complex job of relieving the Turin mafia of a large amount of gold bullion, all as me means of revenge following the death of his former business partner. "The Italian Job" is a cheesy, Swingin' 60s movie, unworthy of Caine's talents (as has been the case for a lot of projects he's chosen) and filled with unmemorable characterizations. It is worth seeing for the breathtaking European scenery, riveting chase sequences, and the hair-raising, atypical conclusion. Also, the British playwright and director Noel Coward appears in his last film, and is amusing as Caine's fence.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blood and Wine

Deeply in debt, a Florida wine dealer (Jack Nicholson) plots with his steamy Cuban girlfriend (Jennifer Lopez) and depraved safe cracking partner (Michael Caine) to rip off one of his clients. When his suspicious alcoholic wife (Judy Davis) and stepson (Stephen Dorff) are brought into the fold, the affair takes a quick and deadly turn. In "Blood and Wine", Nicholson reunited with Bob Rafelson, a familiar collaborator, for this cleverly plotted crime thriller, where you can feel the noir emulation running in the film's blood. The film does turn relentlessly ugly and strangely, Nicholson and Caine's scenes together aren't quite as entertaining as you'd expect (Jack is way over the top). The film is also seriously diminished by Dorff's abysmal performance, with Davis and Lopez (who is incredibly sexy here) not really working either.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

To the Wonder

A contractor (Ben Affleck) returns to his Midwest home with his childish, Parisian girlfriend (Olga Kurylenko) and her young daughter, where they prance in fields of gold with the wind bristling through their hair alternating with venomous, volatile fights. Meanwhile, a local parish priest (Javier Bardem) wrestles with his own place in the universe as he offers council to the poor and incarcerated. Terrence Malick returns to directing after only a two year respite, a relatively short break for a man who's only released six films now in forty years. Following the wildly erratic critical reception of "The Tree of Life", which ranged from the highest critical lauding and festival awards to cries of derision from many audience members. "To The Wonder" appears in theaters quite some time after its festival debut, seems to be falling on the lower end of both critical and audience approval. Personally, I didn't think it was anymore obtuse than any of his other heralded movies ("Day of Heaven", "Badlands") and furthermore I feel like you know what you are getting into when you see a Malick movie, and his movies are, in some sense, above criticism. It would be the equivalent of walking out of a P.T. Anderson film and complaining about the constantly moving camera or griping about the nervous guy in a Woody Allen picture. With "To the Wonder", I got everything I signed on for: the picaresque imagery,  the reflective, plotless narrative, and yes even the tedium.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Kenneth Branagh's 1996 adaptation, which he wrote, directed and starred as the much maligned Danish prince was and remains the only unabbreviated film version of William Shakespeare's great play. Shot in grand and gorgeous 65mm film stock, the last film to be done so prior to "The Master", the production also features, alongside Branagh's own commanding and very impressive performance, a slew of fine portrayals from the esteemed likes of Richard Attenborough, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Kate Winslet, and Billy Crystal to name a few. Branagh's "Hamlet" is both a sumptuous filmization and, for someone not familiar with the material, proves an excellent introduction and piqued my interest for further exploration of the classic.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


By way of a mutual friend/ex-girlfriend (Ellia Thompson), a cynical, intelligent Princeton student of modest means (Edward Clements) falls in with a crowd of Upper East Side upper crusters quickly heeding to their complex social code while pining for his ex and not realizing that another group member (Carolyn Farina) admires him. Writer/director Whit Stillman's debut film is a talky,particular work that seems very in tuned with the world it depicts (which may as well have been an alternate universe to me) and whose dialogue and tone wash over you and prove to be a refreshing experience. It's cast of unknowns service the film admirably, with Christopher Eigeman a particular standout as the jaded ringleader of the band of debutantes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cinerama Adventure

As at home viewing has become so widespread and cheap, going out to the movies has become less of a gratification and even something of an inconvenience. Yet in the early 1950s, when the movies where threatened by the advent of television, the studios developed several presentations to illustrate the significance of widescreen viewings and attract large audiences. "Cinerama Adventure" charts the history of one of these processes, which is filmed on three cameras and shown through three like 35mm projects which called for the creation of their own specialized theaters. Though very few films were made in this format ("How the West was Won" is the most famous one) and only three of these theaters remain in the world today, the film going experience keeps fondly in the minds of the many who attended them during their heyday. "Cinerama Adventure" is an excellent expository, which thoroughly tells its story, and features breathtaking making-of footage which includes a plane flight into a volcano and a bizarre ritual showing tribesman bungee jumping off of a 1,000 foot wood structure.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top of the Lake

A young detective (Elisabeth Moss), herself a victim of the primitive mindset that dominates her rural hometown, becomes involved in the case of a pregnant 12-year-old, who disappears into the impermeable New Zealand bush shortly after their interview. Into the fray are thrown the girl's malevolent, tribal leader like father (Peter Mullan) who leads a bloodthirsty search for daughter, and a clan of battered and disturbed women, headed by an ominous mystic (Holly Hunter) who have taken refuge in garbage containers on sacred land. "Top of the Lake" is a miniseries that would have escaped my attention 9 times out of 10, but I am more than glad to have caught it. It was written and directed by Jane Campion ("The Piano", "Bright Star") and she brings to this completely unique and captivating project her own particular sensibilities. Moss takes on a role much different from her best known work on "Mad Men" and she is quite good in another demanding role. Mullan, an older actor who has only recently appeared on my radar with excellent performances in "War Horse" and "Tyrannosaur", delivers a fierce and complicated performance. Sometimes  not all of a story can be told in a two hour movie, but seldom does one call to be dragged on over the course of multiple seasons. With "Top of the Lake", Campion uses the miniseries format to effectively explore her offbeat story and delivers admirably and without compromise.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Room 237

"Room 237" proudly bills itself as a subjective, amateur analysis of "The Shining" and gathers a handful of obsessive fans (aka crackpots) who expostulate their different conspiratorial theories of Stanley Kubrick's film. These range from plausible to engrossingly ludicrous while other interpretations are poorly conveyed, inane, or simply boring. As a fan of the film and Stephen King's book, I found myself engaged, but I think the only truth the film really uncovers are the pitfalls of widespread home viewing and the pathetic idolatry it has inspired.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Yi Yi

"Yi Yi" ("A One and a Two" in Chinese) is an examination of a Tapei family coping with the illness of their matriarch, who is in a coma following a stroke. Her son is an ethical businessman who is entering an uneasy business deal while his wife embarks on a retreat after enduring a midlife crisis. Also their daughter engages in her first, tumultuous relationship while their young song uses photography as a form of escapism for the difficulties he faces at school. Given its material and content, Edward Yang's epic length film is unnecessarily protracted but still features some great cinematography and some poignant observations and performances.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Life Is Beautiful

A droll young Jewish man (Roberto Benigni) uses humor to win over the woman of his dreams (Nicoletta Braschi) in fascistic Italy and uses the same method to protect their son when they are later imprisoned in a Nazi death camp. Begnigni's immensely successful and popular film, for which he won accolades as writer, director, and star, is an obnoxious and artificial movie whose real message is that no matter how mawkish, buffoonish, or forced your film is, if you set it in a concentration camp you are bound to win several Oscars.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Last Waltz

(4/12/13) I watched this tremendous film again and don't have much more to add other than, as far as concert films go, you can't do any better than this. 

(2/3/11) The Band, though largely unfamiliar today, authored many great songs that still do hold familiarity including "The Weight", "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", and "Ophelia". They functioned as Bob Dylan's band when he was transitioning from acoustic to electric and aside from that they toured largely during the era until when. according to frontman Robbie Robertson, him and his bandmates were no longer cut out to be road dogs, fearing that continued touring would get the best of them. So on Thanksgiving 1976, they decided to throw a farewell concert and invited some of their friends to join them on stage. These mates, encompassing a wide spectrum of music, included Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, and Dylan himself, among others. To top it off, they had recently acclaimed and musically inclined director Martin Scorsese film the concert. The result is a joyous collaboration of music and film, with wonderful songs and performances coupled with fine camerawork and entertaining interviews, conducted by Scorsese himself. The Last Waltz is a spectacular sendoff on all levels and one of the great concert films of all time.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cool Hand Luke

In a drunken, late night stupor, Luke Jackson (Paul Jackson) is arrested for cutting the tops off of a row of parking meters and sentenced to hard time in the prison chain gang. There his rebellious spirit makes him a favorite among the inmates and a target of the sadistic warden, who makes the escape inclined Luke a target of his brutality. Stuart Rosenberg's "Cool Hand Luke" features Newman's incomparable, iconic performance in a well-made film that often indulges in an overuse of symbolism. George Kennedy, an Oscar winner for a supporting performance I thought was aces as a kid, now seems screening gnashingly over the top while Jo Van Fleet is quite good in a one scene performance as Newman's sickly mother. It also must be said that viewing this alongside "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang", Rosenberg's film owes much to that 1932 Paul Muni classic, which was likewise released by Warner Brothers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

House of Wax

After his partner torches their museum for insurance purposes, engulfing him in the flames, a wax artist (Vincent Price) emerges disfigured, yet with a state of the art plaster face. As he begins to build his new wax museum, which features impeccably lifelike figures, a masked man is committing murders around town and stealing bodies from the mortuary. "House of Wax" is an entertaining, well-made horror film, whose plot begins to wear thin after awhile, but is completely credible the entire way through due to Price's sincerity and committal to his role. The 3D gimmicks, which created a huge return financially, distract from the film but are interesting as a separate entity (i.e. paddleball man).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

While in Schenectady, New York, a tattoo laden, bleach blonde sideshow stunt rider (Ryan Gosling) discovers he's fathered a son with a woman (Eva Mendez) he had a fling with and decides to take desperate measures to provide for him. Meanwhile, a diligent beat cop (Bradley Cooper) becomes a local hero following an act of bravery, but finds himself a pawn for departmental corruption. "The Place Beyond the Pines", Derek Cianfrance's follow-up to "Blue Valentine", is an ambitious film with a completely bloated, trite, and pedestrian screenplay. Again underplaying his hand as a sociopathic existentialist, Gosling is entirely uninteresting and I'm not sure exactly what he's trying to achieve. On the other hand, Cooper is quite good in his segment as were Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn in key supporting performances. The film also features some nice stunt work and photography, but by the time I realized the epilogue was actually a third act, I was ready to scream, "Enough already!!!" and walk out of the theater.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), a free-spirited, chic, high end call girl, leads men on while never remotely attached, in the hopes of scoring a rich husband with the aims of reuniting with her beloved, enlisted brother. When a handsome, part-time writer, part-time gigolo (George Peppard) befriends, than falls for her, the truth is soon revealed behind her haughty facade. Based on Truman Capote's 1958 bestseller, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is a delightful picture from Blake Edwards and a welcome change of pace from his later slapstick. Audrey Hepburn is positively luminous in her iconic role and I thought George Peppard was quite could as her foil (just what was the deal with the casting of Mickey Rooney as the vexed, Japanese neighbor though?). Franz Planer's cinematography is excellent, especially on the Blu-ray print of the film I watched. It also must be said, despite how tired the notion has become, that the film's nuanced screenplay is so much more interesting than today's leave nothing to the imagination approach.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Following the death of his family and his barbaric turn, Max (Mel Gibson) wanders the bleak, even more desolate Outback. With petroleum being the most valuable commodity, he plots to steal a tanker from a colony he visits but instead decides to join them in their struggle against a plundering gang of baddies. "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" is not as great as the original  (which is a minority opinion) not so much because its incredibly dumb plot, but more so because the viewer isn't emotionally invested in Max's plight. That being said, its silly plot is really an excuse for some outlandish stunt work and the film contains some knockout, nail biting sequences, particularly the finale which I'm still puzzled why I haven't seen it appear on any lists of great all-time chase scenes.
*** out of ****

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Space Cowboys

When NASA discovers an antiquated Russian satellite free falling towards Earth, the only hope in changing its trajectory is an old geezer (Clint Eastwood) who designed its system 30 years prior, and who is bitter as hell at being left out of the space program. He agrees to partake in the mission only if he can bring along his old, likewise forsaken crew (Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Donald Sutherland) to live out their unlikely dream. The Eastwood helmed "Space Cowboys" is an entertaining geriatric fantasy with fun performances from its veteran cast, with Sutherland being a particular standout. It is fun until the final third when the mission reaches outer space and becomes anticlimactic and bogged down by technical details which fail to convey the enormity of the situation.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bonnie and Clyde

The film world lost a giant yesterday. Despite the fact that he never directed or starred in a picture (he did write the screenplays for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" and "Up!", two Russ Meyer B movies), Roger Ebert was as influential as anyone in the industry, authoring thousands of reviews in a career spanning over forty years. He instilled a love of film in millions due to an intelligent, perceptive, unpretentious, and non-caustic style that celebrated the joy in cinema, focusing on the good, not the bad aspects of movies. "Bonnie and Clyde" was one of his most famous and influential reviews, and also one of his first. It helped get the initially untouted film seen, put out to pasture the moralizing old guard approaches to criticism, and usher in a new era of unbounded creativity in moviemaking. Follow the link to find his original 1967 review.

Rest in Peace Roger, your absence will be known.

Here are my thoughts on the great classic:
(8/10/11) As she changes in her room, Bonnie Parker glances out of the window and notices a young man attempting to steal her mother's car. She runs out to stop the man and is immediately attracted to his handsome charm and reckless nature. Clyde Barrow then takes her into town where he robs a grocery and steals a car and she is immediately hooked. Becoming her partner in crime, the two engage on a spree in the southwest where they rob banks and take on a mythic Robin Hoodlike image. Teaming up with a dimwitted mechanic, Clyde's brother Buck and his wife, the two head down a wild and dangerous road that can only end in tragedy. Director Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" is a romanticized version of the famed outlaws. When released common folk authority scorning heroes struck a chord with counterculture film goers while startling many with its images of stark violence. Working from a script by David Newman, Robert Benton, and Robert Towne, the film contains wonderful direction by Penn, great editing by Dede Allen, and superb Oscar winning Technicolor cinematography by Burnett Guffey. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway share perfect chemistry in two roles for the ages and they are given wonderful support. Michael J. Pollard is wonderfully dopey as C.W. Moss, their idiot mechanic. Gene Hackman is great as Clyde's good old boy brother Buck. Estelle Parsons is wonderful in an Oscar winning role as Buck's flighty wife Blanche, and Gene Wilder, in his debut film, has a hilarious and ominous bit part as an undertaker the gang kidnaps. "Bonnie and Clyde" is a modern classic that changed both how heroes and violence were presented in mainstream movies, and at its most basic level, is a sublime example of filmmaking.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Thing from Another World

(8/21/11) At an Arctic outpost comprised of scientists and Air Force officials, a large spacecraft is discovered in the frost at a nearby location. A team goes to check it out and realizes that it is a flying saucer that has been there for a long time. Their efforts to extract the craft result in its destruction but inside they find a giant, still preserved spaceman. Taking him back to base, he is accidentally thawed and begins to wreak havoc on the members of the crew who must quickly devise a way to destroy the seemingly indestructible being. "The Thing from Another World" is one of the foremost monster movies of the 1950s. From the often adapted story Who Goes There? by  John W. Campbell, which was the basis for Alien and the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell remake of this film, which is credited to director Christian Nyby, is often thought to be the work of producer Howard Hawks, whose reputation was too high to have his name on a B picture. Blending science fiction and horror, the movie contains cheesy effects (with the monster being nothing more than a man in high heels dressed in a plastic suit) and character types (the doctor who spews vegetable metaphors and insists on reasoning with the creature for science's sake as well as the know-it-all wisecracking reporter are both particularly annoying) but ends up being pretty entertaining fare. I think the secret to this film, as well as Carpenter's and Ridley Scott's film is the location and atmosphere. The coldness and remoteness are played particularly well here and the result is a highly entertaining popcorn flick.

(4/4/13) I watched the movie again, thinking I would like it more, but wound up enjoying it about the same. I find it bogged down by technical detail and jargon and am not sure I understood the central moral conflict from the point of view of the crackpot scientist or whether or not that was supposed to be taken seriously. I did really like the self-assured performance by Margaret Sheridan (who says feminism was nonexistent in the 50s?) and the scenes with the monster, cheesy as it is, are genuinely scary and exciting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In Darkness

In the Nazi occupied town of Lvov, Poland, an anti-semitic sanitation worker agrees, against all instinct and strictly as a business proposition, to shelter a dozen Jews in the town's labyrinthine sewer system, which he has detailed knowledge of. As the money runs out and the threats to his own safety increase, he develops a bond with the sheltered and takes increasingly dangerous risks to protect them. Agnieszka Holland's "In Darkness" is a well-made, lengthy, occasionally intense and perceptive film which, as much as it pains me to say it, is little more than a poor man's "Schindler's List," and says little else than was said in that great film.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Philip Roth: Unmasked

Born in working class Newark, New Jersey to a home he claimed had virtually no books present in it, Philip Roth would still discover a love of reading and go on to be one of the most acclaimed novelists of our time. Known as an uninhibited Jewish-American author, a label which he disdains, Roth first made a splash on the literary scene with Goodbye, Columbus and completely set it on fire with his lascivious novel Portnoy's Complaint. All part of a career consisting of over thirty novels, which also include works featuring his alter-egos David Kepesh and Nathan Zuckerman. "Philip Roth: Unmasked" is a compelling profile which, besides some commentary from friends and admirers who include Mia Farrow and Jonathan Franzen, consists exclusively of Roth talking at length about his life and career.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bang the Drum Slowly

During spring training, while in the middle of a contract dispute, the star pitcher (Michael Moriarty) of the fictitious New York Mammoths (the NY Giants in real life) takes a rookie, childlike catcher (Robert De Niro) under his wing after learning exclusively that he is dying of Hodgkin's Disease. Based on the 1956 novel by Mark Harris, John D. Hancock's "Bang the Drum Slowly" is a funny, deeply felt film, invested with a humanity that so many other disease movies lack. It was also the film that, when released alongside 'Mean Streets", shot De Niro to stardom. In addition to De Niro, who is excellent, he is joined by a fine cast which is highlighted by Vincent Gardenia as the cantankerous coach and Moriarty who is quite good in the leading role.