An interview with director Rob Garver about his Pauline Kael documentary, What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael.
Marie writes: I love photography, especially B/W and for often finding color a distraction. Take away the color and suddenly, there's so much more to see; the subtext able to rise now and sit closer to the surface - or so it seems to me. The following photograph is included in a gallery of nine images (color and B/W) under Photography: Celebrity Portraits at the Guardian."This is one of the last photographs of Orson before he died. He loved my camera - a gigantic Deardorff - and decided he had to direct me and tell me where to put the light. So even in his last days, he was performing his directorial role perfectly, and bossing me around. Which was precious." - Michael O'Neill
Orson Welles, by Michael O'Neill, 1985
Marie writes: I love illustrators best in all the world. There's something so alive about the scratch and flow of pen & ink, the original medium of cheeky and subversive wit. And so when club member Sandy Kahn submitted links for famed British illustrator Ronald Searle and in the hopes others might find him interesting too, needless to say, I was quick to pounce; for before Ralph Steadman there was Ronald Searle... "The two people who have probably had the greatest influence onmy life are Lewis Carroll and Ronald Searle."-- John LennonVisit Kingly Books' Ronald Searle Gallery to view a sordid collection of wicked covers and view sample pages therein. (click to enlarge image.) And for yet more covers, visit Ronald Searle: From Prisoner of War to Prolific Illustrator at Abe Books.
Gathered here in one convenient place are my recent reviews that awarded films Two Stars or less. These are, generally speaking to be avoided. Sometimes I hear from readers who confess they are in the mood to watch a really bad movie. If you're sincere, be sure to know what you're getting: A really bad movie. Movies that are "so bad they're good" should generally get two and a half stars. Two stars can be borderline. And Pauline Kael once wrote, "The movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we shouldn't go at all."
"Just Go With It" (PG-13, 116 minutes). This film's story began as a French farce, became the Broadway hit "Cactus Flower," was made into a 1969 film and now arrives gasping for breath in a witless retread with Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker. The characters are so stupid it doesn't seem nice to laugh at them. One star.
"Sanctum" (R, 109 minutes). A terrifying adventure shown in an incompetent way. Scuba-diving cave explorers enter a vast system in New Guinea and are stranded. But this rich story opportunity is lost because of incoherent editing, poor 3D technique, and the effect of 3D dimming in the already dark an murky caves. A "James Cameron Production," yes, but certainly not a "James Cameron Film." One and a half stars
"I Am Number Four" (PG-13, 110 minutes). Nine aliens from the planet Mogador travel across the galaxy to take refuge on earth and rip off elements of the Twilight and Harry Potter movies, and combine them with senseless scenes of lethal Quidditch-like combat. Alex Pettyfer stars as Number Four, who feels hormonal about the pretty Sarah (Dianna Agron), although whether he is the brooding teenage Edward Cullen he seems to be or a weird alien life form I am not sure. Inane setup followed by endless and perplexing action. One and a half stars
"Certifiably Jonathan" (Unrated, 80 minutes). Jonathan Winters deserves better than this. Jim Pasternak's mockumentary is not merely a bad film, but a waste of an opportunity. Nearing 80, Winters is still active and funny, and deserves a real doc, not this messy failed attempt at satirizing--what? Documentaries themselves? Lame scenes involving an art show, a theft and the "Museum of Modern Art" fit awkwardly with cameos of too many other comics, who except for the funny Robin Williams seem to be attending a testimonial. One star.
"The Green Hornet" (PG-13, 108 minutes) An almost unendurable demonstration of a movie with nothing to be about. Although it follows the rough storyline of previous versions of the title, it neglects the construction of a plot engine to pull us through. There are pointless dialogue scenes going nowhere much too slowly, and then pointless action scenes going everywhere much too quickly. One star.
"The Nutcracker in 3D" (PG, 107 minutes) A train wreck of a movie, beginning with the idiotic idea of combining the Tchaikovsky classic with a fantasy conflict that seems inspired by the Holocaust. After little Mary (Elle Fanning) discovers her toy nutcracker can talk, he reveals himself as a captive prince and spirits her off to a land where fascist storm troopers are snatching toys from the hands of children and burning them to blot out the sun. I'm not making this up. Appalling. And forget about the 3D, which is the dingiest and dimmest I've seen. One star
"I Spit on Your Grave" (Unrated; for adults only. Running time: 108 minutes) Despicable remake of the despicable 1978 film "I Spit On Your Grave." This one is more offensive, because it lingers lovingly and at greater length on realistic verbal, psychological and physical violence against the woman, and then reduces her "revenge" to cartoonish horror-flick impossibilities. Oh, and a mentally disabled boy is forced against his will to perform a rape. Zero stars.
"Life As We Know It" (PG-13, 113 minutes). When their best friends are killed in a crash, Holly and Messer (Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel) are appointed as joint custodians of their one-year-old, Sophie. Also, they have to move into Sophie's mansion. But Holly and Messer can't stand one another. So what happens when they start trying to raise Sophie. You'll never guess in a million years. Or maybe you will. One and a half stars
"Hatchet II" (Unrated, 85 minutes). A gory homage to slasher films, which means it has its tongue in its cheek until the tongue is ripped out and the victims of a swamp man are sliced, diced, slashed, disemboweled, chainsawed and otherwise inconvenienced. One and a half stars
"The Last Airbender" (PG, 103 minutes). An agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. Originally in 2D, retrofitted in fake 3D that makes this picture the dimmest I've seen in years. Bad casting, wooden dialogue, lousy special effects, incomprehensible plot, and boring, boring, boring. One-half of one star.
"The A-Team" (PG-13, 121 minutes). an incomprehensible mess with the 1980s TV show embedded within. at over two hours of Queasy-Cam anarchy it's punishment. Same team, same types, same traits, new actors: Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, "Rampage" Jackson, Patrick Wilson. One and a half stars
"Sex & the City 2" (R, 146 minutes). Comedy about flyweight bubbleheads living in a world where their defining quality is consuming things. They gobble food, fashion, houses, husbands, children, and vitamins. Plot centers on marital discord between Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth), a purring, narcissistic, velvety idiot? Later, the girls are menaced for immodest dress during a luxurious freebie in Abu Dhabi. Appalling. Sure to be enjoyed by SATC fans. One star
"The Good Heart" (R, 98 minutes). Oh. My. God. A story sopping wet with cornball sentimentalism, wrapped up in absurd melodrama, and telling a Rags to Riches story with an ending that is truly shameless. That fine actor Brian Cox and that good actor Paul Dano and that angelic actress Isild Le Besco cast themselves on the sinking vessel of this story and go down with the ship. One and a half stars.
"Kick-Ass" (R, 117 minutes). An 11-year-old girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), her father (Nicolas Cage) and a high school kid (Aaron Johnson) try to become superheroes to fight an evil ganglord. There's deadly carnage dished out by the child, after which an adult man brutally hammers her to within an inch of her life. Blood everywhere. A comic book satire, they say. Sad, I say. One star
"Nightmare on Elm Street" (R, 95 minutes). Teenagers are introduced, enjoy brief moments of happiness, are haunted by nightmares, and then slashed to death by Freddy. So what? One star
"The Bounty Hunter" (PG-13, 110 minutes). An inconsequential formula comedy and a waste of the talents of Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. He's a bounty hunter, she's skipped bail on a traffic charge, they were once married, and that's the end of the movie's original ideas. We've seen earlier versions of every single scene to the point of catatonia. Rating: One and a half stars.
"Cop Out" (R, 110 minutes). An outstandingly bad cop movie, starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan as partners who get suspended (of course) and then try to redeem themselves by overthrowing a drug operation while searching for the valuable baseball card Willis wants to sell to pay for his daughter's wedding. Morgan plays an unreasonable amount of time dressed as a cell phone, considering there is nothing to prevent him from taking it off. Kevin Smith, who directed, has had many, many better days. One and a half stars.
"The Lovely Bones" (PG-13). A deplorable film with this message: If you're a 14-year-old girl who has been brutally raped and murdered by a serial killer, you have a lot to look forward to. You can get together in heaven with the other teenage victims of the same killer, and gaze down in benevolence upon your family members as they realize what a wonderful person you were. Peter Jackson ("Lord of the Rings") believes special effects can replace genuine emotion, and tricks up Alive Sebold's well-regarded novel with gimcrack New Age fantasies. With, however, affective performances by Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan as the victim. One star.
"The Spy Next Door" (PG, 92 minutes). Jackie Chan is a Chinese-CIA double agent babysitting girl friend's three kids as Russian mobsters attack. Uh, huh. Precisely what you'd expect from a PG-rated Jackie Chan comedy. If that's what you're looking for, you won't be disappointed. It's not what I was looking for. One and a half stars.
"Old Dogs" (PG, 88 minutes). Stupefying dimwitted. John Travolta's and Robin Williams' agents weren't perceptive enough to smell the screenplay in its advanced state of decomposition. Seems to have lingered in post-production while editors struggled desperately to inject laugh cues.Careens uneasily between fantasy and idiocy, the impenetrable and the crashingly ham-handed. Example: Rita Wilson gets her hand slammed by a car trunk, and the sound track breaks into "Big Girls Don't Cry." When hey get their hands slammed in car trunks, they do. One star. View the trailer.
"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" (PG-13, 103 minutes). Feuding couple from Manhattan (Hugh Grant and Jessica Sarah Parker) are forced to flee town under Witness Protection Program, find themselves Fish Out of Water in Strange New World, meet Colorful Characters, survive Slapstick Adventures, end up Together at the End. The only part of that formula that still works is The End. With supporting roles for Sam Elliott and Wilford Brimley, sporting the two most famous mustaches in the movies. One and a half stars.
"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (PG-13, 130 minutes). The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. The sequel to "Twilight" (2008) is preoccupied with remember that film and setting up the third one. Sitting through this experience is like driving a tractor in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson return in their original roles, she dewy and masochistic, he sullen and menacing. Ah, teenage romance! One star
"The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day" . (R, 21 minutes) Idiotic ode to macho horseshite (to employ an ancient Irish word). Distinguished by superb cinematography. The first film in 10 years from Troy Duffy, whose "Boondock Saints" (1999) has become a cult fetish. Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus are Irish brothers who return to Boston for revenge and murder countless enemies in an incomprehensible story involving heavy metal cranked up to 12 and lots of boozing, smoking, swearing and looking fierce and sweaty. One star. View the trailer.
"Gentlemen Broncos". (PG-13, 107 minutes) Michael Angarano plays Benjamin Purvis, a wannabe sci-fi Doctor Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement). Alas. the great man rips off the kid's book, just when get kid has sold the miniscule filming rights. All sorts of promising material from Jared Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite"), but it's a clutter of jumbled continuity that doesn't add up, despite the presence of Jennifer Coolidge. Two stars. View the trailer.
"The Fourth Kind". (PG-13, 98 minutes). Nome, Alaska (pop. 3,750) has so many disappearances and/or alien abductions that the FBI has investigated there 20 times more than in Anchorage. So it's claimed by this pseudo-doc that goes to inane lengths to appear factual. Milla Jovovich is good as a psychologist whose clients complain that owls stare at them in the middle of the night. One and a half stars. View the trailer.
21 and a Wakeup . (R, 123 minutes). A disjointed, overlong and unconvincing string of anecdotes centering around the personnel of an Army combat hospital in Vietnam. Amy Acker plays an idealistic nurse who is constantly reprimanded by absurdly hostile officer (Faye Dunaway). Plays like a series of unlikely anecdotes trundled onstage without much relationship to one another. One episode involves an unauthorized trip into Cambodia by a nurse and a civilian journalist; it underwhelms. One and a half stars. Visit the website.
"Cirque de Freak: The Vampire's Assistant". (PG-13, 108 minutes) This movie includes good Vampires, evil Vampanese, a Wolf-Man, a Bearded Lady, a Monkey Girl with a long tail, a Snake Boy, a dwarf with a four-foot forehead and a spider the size of your shoe, and they're all boring as hell. They're in a traveling side show that comes to town and lures two insipid high school kids (Josh Hutcherson and Chris Massoglia) into a war between enemy vampire factions. Unbearable. With Joh C. Reilly, Salma Hayek, Ken Watanabe, Patrick Fugit, and other wasted talents. One star. View the trailer.
"Couples Retreat" (PG-13, 107 minutes). Four troubled couples make a week's retreat to an island paradise where they hope to be healed, which indeed happens, according to ages-old sitcom formulas. This material was old when it was new. The jolly ending is agonizing in its step-by-step obligatory plotting. I didn't care for any of the characters, and that's about how much they seemed to care for one another. Starring Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis and Kali Hawk. Two stars. View the trailer.
"Fame.". (PG, 90 minutes). A pale retread of the 1980 classic, lacking the power and emotion of the original. A group of hopeful kids enroll in the New York City School of the Performing Arts and struggle through four years to find themselves. Their back stories are shallow, many seem too old and confident, the plot doesn't engage them, and although individual performers like Naturi Naughton sparkle as a classical pianist who wants to sing hip hop, the film is too superficial to make them convincing. Two stars. View the trailer.
"All About Steve". (PG-13, 87 minutes ) Sandra Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a crossword puzzle constructor who on a blind date falls insanely in love with Steve, a TV news cameraman (Bradley Cooper, from "The Hangover"). The operative word is "insanely." The movie is billed as a comedy but more resembles a perplexing public display of irrational behavior. Seeing her run around as a basket case makes you appreciate Lucille Ball, who could play a dizzy dame and make you like her. One and a half stars. View the trailer.
"Splice" has the DNA of a really great philosophical horror/science-fiction movie, but in the less-than-fully formed thing that was delivered to theaters, some of its most promising traits remain recessive, under-developed.
You may notice the first sign of this gestational glitch in the otherwise wonderfully gooey in vitro credits sequence, where the title and the names of the lead actors are spelled out in mutant organic forms, like veins bulging beneath the surface of fetal skin. The credits read: "Screenplay by Vincenzo Natali & Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor" -- which indicates that director Natali worked on it with Bryant, and Taylor was probably either the original writer or did enough of a re-write to merit a screen credit. Someone -- or something -- almost certainly re-formed the last half-hour of the movie, when it suddenly dies and comes back as the predictable horror clone into which it had successfully avoided mutating up until that point.
You can almost feel the splice at which the erratically paced, action-packed ending to another, lesser scary movie has been grafted onto the genetic horror of this one. It happens right around the time Sarah Polley says something like "What's happening?" and Adrien Brody (off-screen, looped dialogue?) says, "I don't know. But she's dying." Thank you, Dr. Exposition.
The full-screen In Memoriam montage is linked below.
It was the best Oscar show I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty. The Academy didn't bring it in under three and a half hours, but maybe they simply couldn't, given the number of categories. What they did do was make the time seem to pass more quickly, and more entertainingly. And they finally cleared the logjam involved in merely reading the names of the nominees. By bringing out former winners to single out each of the acting nominees and praise their work, they replaced the reading of lists with a surprisingly heart-warming new approach.
I had a feeling Hugh Jackman would be a charmer as host, and he was. He didn't have a lot of gag lines, depending instead on humor in context, as when he recruited Anne Hathawy onstage for their duet. His opening "low budget" song-and-dance was amusing, and we could immediately see how the show would benefit from the reconfigured theater.
View image SJP sports her power flower.
"The weekend opening [of 'Sex and the City'] also ranked as the strongest ever for a movie carried by a female lead (at least if ticket-price inflation is not taken into account). Paramount’s 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' was the previous record-holder, with $47.7 million in ticket sales for Paramount during its opener in 2001.
“'I am so excited about the possibilities for movies about women,' Ms. Parker said."
-- "Gal Pals of 'Sex and the City' Knock Indiana Jones From Top Spot," New York Times, June 2, 2008
Summer's here and the time is right for fart, diarrhea and masturbation jokes in the theaters. Not just in raunchy male-oriented comedies, but in so-called "chick flicks" -- the kind groups of pals attend together after a few cocktails. I'm speaking, of course, about "Sex and the City." Could it, perhaps, be the long-awaited Judd Apatow(ish) movie for gals? You know, the one about a group of friends who hang out and get drunk or stoned, complain about their relationships (or lack thereof), make dirty scatalogical jokes, and generally prefer one another's company to that of the opposite sex?
You tell me. Because, sadly, nobody has enough money to pay me to go see "Sex and the City." I am not the target audience and I know that. I have no objection to it, either. As Roger Ebert succinctly stated at the top of his review "I am not the person to review this movie." Me, too. I am also not that person.
Hugh Laurie as Dr. House. His mind is his temple, his body is his house.
"Two TV icons are demoted to the big screen." That's the headline over Christopher Orr's piece in The New Republic about the careers of Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker, who seem diminished in the multiplex. Not that their TV shows -- "Friends" and "Sex in the City," respectively -- were anything special. They made for mediocre television at best, and on the occasions I attempted to pay attention to them I likened the experience to visiting a distant planet populated by synthetic creatures who could not have been less interestingly humanoid if they tried. I did not enjoy my time spent in the company of these banal, studio-fashioned aliens, and I question their resemblance to any carbon-based life-forms on Earth.
But at least on their long-running series Aniston and Parker were big, pretty fish in their teeny-tiny sitcom puddles. In the movies ("Rumor Has It," "The Family Stone"), the comedy hasn't gotten any bigger or better, but they've seemed outscaled, like little floundering fish out of water. I'm not convinced either has the presence for the big screen, although Aniston was terrific in "The Good Girl" (a small movie) and Parker, who strikes me as more of a character actress than a leading lady, was suitably kooky and vivacious in Steve Martin's "L.A. Story" and hilarious as Johnny Depp's exasperated wife in Tim Burton's low-scale "Ed Wood." On the other hand, in the company of incandescent actresses such as Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack in "Friends With Money," Aniston -- ostensibly the biggest name in the cast -- faded out, becoming blurry and indistinct almost like that actor played by Robin Williams in Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry."
TORONTO -- I missed the first Toronto Film Festival. So did a lot of other people. I've attended every one since. The second was like a gathering of conspirators who raced from theater to theater on the rumors of screenings. But the festival has grown so steadily that its 25th anniversary event, which begins today, can safely be called the most important film festival in North America, and one of the top handful in the world.
In a review published in 1984, I wrote that Steve Martin was "an actor who inspires in me the same feelings that fingernails on blackboards inspire in other people." This judgment, sincerely made at the time, was just a tad premature. In a review published later that same year, I was astonished to find that I genuinely admired his work in "All of Me." And in the years since then I have also appreciated his work in such movies as "Roxanne," "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Parenthood" - not to mention two films that hardly any critics liked, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "My Blue Heaven."