Sunday, May 28, 2006


I went to see the Yankess trounce the Royals 15-4 yesterday. My cousin Bob had some extra tickets (he and a group of friends have season tickets) and since the people he was going to invite begged out at the last minute, he gave me the chance to go.

I hadn't gone to a Yankee game in all of a week [prior to that I han't gone in a couple of years], and this was better. The weather was perfect and the Yanks were hot. I mean that the Royals pitching was some of the worst I'd seen in ages. The Royals fielding was awful too, but the crowd was loving every minute of it, something that wasn't the case the week before, when the Bronx Bombers lost.

It's a good way to spend the memorial day weekend.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The outer boros

Brooklyn and Staten Island are having film festivals next weekend, and there are actually a few films I want to see. In the meantime, it hit the thirties early this morning. It's warmer and they say it should hit the 80s by the weekend. Good, it's fucking cold out there.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Daisy Party

The new government of Italy is a colalition affair, and the minister of defense is head of the Daisy party. How could anybody vote for a party with a name that astoundingly dumb?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rain and Relations

My nephew graduated from Columbia this morning. I didn't stay for most of the ceremony as the rain was so intense that i couldn't see anything. So I left and am now waiting for my pants to dry. There's a lunch in about an hour that I'm going to attend. It's at least indoors....the rain didn't ruin everything, however.

The Yankee game up in the Bronx was rather good. Mostly a pitcher's deul the Rangers managed to get a four point lead before the thing was temporarilly called on account of rain. I did get to see both my brothers and the first eight innings were under clear skys. There's stuff going on with the Staten Island film Festival, but I'm not sure what's doing with that.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Sundance Brooklyn roadshow

The Sundance Film festival has decided to expand this year by having some of it's more obscure and unsellable films shown at the Brooklyn Acadamy of Music for a week in May.

This is a good idea because most of them won't actually get more than a cursery distribution and the only way to get them seen is to have them as part of a fest. So here we are. A documentery about a celebrity crack-head and hard core porn aren't exactly the kind of things you'll find in your local bijiu, would it?

We've also got a slightly more mainstream story...

TV Junkie

A Documentary Directed by
Michael Cain and Matt Radecki

Rick Kirkham was both a nationally syndicated TV journalist ("Inside Edition,") and a crack addict. He also recorded pretty much everything he ever did with amateur video cameras, and that in itself was a tale to tell.

Cain and Radiecki took thousands of hours of his video ramblings and confessionals to produces a heartbreaking tale of woe, as he went from being a dancer on “American Bandstand” to local TV reporter to national celebrity to a physical and mental wreck, as well as wife-beater and drug addict. This is not a fun picture to watch, it’s more like a train-wreck, and a warning for those of us who can’t actually turn away from stuff like that.


Produced by
Neville Wakefield
and Mel Agace

A number of years back, producers asked a number of famous “artistic” directors to do a cinematic critique of the phenomenon of pornography and it’s omnipresence in the American culture. Exactly what Wakefield and Agace wanted isn’t made clear in this festival of shorts, but it’s quite clear that they didn’t actually get it. There is really no critique of porn here, just porn.


Written and Directed
By Matthew Barney

We begin with a ten minute prologue where we watch a man’s uncircumcised penis get hard, then we travel to Brazil where a giant truck is hoisted into the air. Barney very nicely digitally obscures the faces of the workers doing the heavy lifting.

The main part of the film is a fellow with gourds stuck up his ass and in his mouth, in a tribute to Barney’s “Cremaster 3,” and we watch him basically have sex with the universal joint of the giant machine.

Like most of Barney’s work, the film is hideously expensive and completely obtuse. Which is basically what the entire “festival” is about. IK.

House Call

Written and Directed
By Richard Prince

Good old fashioned ‘70s porn given a digital makeover (which makes it look even worse) and an annoying soundtrack.

The plot is typical of the original genre, a doctor and a patient have sex. YAWN! A complete waste of time and money, although it’s not the worst of the bunch, which is probably Gaspar Noe’s crap.


Written and Directed
By Larry Clark

Clark put an ad on an internet porn site, and filmed the various male applicants give their opinions on the business and why they want to get into it. The winner gets to interview the female applicants, all of which are quite experienced.

The winner is a 40-year-old chanteuse who seems really frisky, Then they fuck. This is very funny although I don’t think Clark intended it that way.


Written and Directed
By Marco Brambilla

This is one of the better films in the series. We’ve got Bramilla editing what seems like seven hundred porn films together in an extremely quick paced three-minute montage. It’s visually interesting and makes the point, whatever that is, quite nicely.

Onan: Death Valley

Written and Directed
By Sam Taylor-Wood

Man masturbates in the middle of the desert. That’s it. He doesn’t even cum. We get it. Men masturbating is boring.

Balkan Erotic Epic

Written and Directed
By Marina Abramovic

This is the only really good short of the bunch. A filthy Monty Pythonesque look into the pagan sex folklore of the Balkans, we get lots of bawdy jokes with men fucking bridges to make the crops grow, and traditionally clad women exposing themselves in order to placate nature and keep everything fertile. If only the rest of the bunch were this good.

We Fuck Alone

Written and Directed
By Gaspar Noe

A young Hitler look-alike watches port on the video while he masturbates with a blow-up doll while in another room a woman covers her snatch with a large teddy bear while she does it. Noe uses grainy video and a stroboscopic effect, which makes watching the film pretty nigh impossible. This is truly ugly.


Written and Directed
By Paul Fitzgerald

The death penalty has been controversial for over a century now, and the question of the possibility of an innocent person getting “put to sleep” has been always been the driving force of activists on the subject. The question here is whether or not one can be even handed about it.

Well in his vanity project, actor Paul Fitzgerald gives it that good college try, and he almost manages to get away with it. Almost.

Fitzgerald plays Peter Miles a DA in a small North Carolina city who’s about to make it into the big time. He’s just about the perfect person to make it big in politics. He has the perfect wife(Susan Floyd), a wonderful kid(Cooper Agar) and a newly found faith in Jesus which gives him moral certitude. The powers that be want him in the US Senate, and so does he.

Therefore he must be destroyed.

The instrument of that destruction is Ronald Bradler(Russell Hornsby), a convicted murderer who’s on the gurney for a lethal injection and the needle is already in his arm when the Governor calls with a pardon. Apparently the defense was incompetent and the main witness later recanted but Peter didn’t do anything to exonerate him.

So Peter’s people leak to the press that Ronald was convicted of a felony long before. This makes him unemployable. So unable to get his life back together, he decides to make Peter pay.

This revenge fantasy would be more satisfying if Fitzgerald wasn’t of two minds about it. In order to make it actually satisfying, we need to make the difference between hero and villain more stark, Fitzgerald tries to make Peter be “inadvertently” evil, and has his black campaign manager tell him he might be racist.

No. Too clunky. The character of Ronald’s lawyer Jamie(Kate Jennings Grant) is really muddled. While she’s supposed to be on the side of the angels, her actions near the end of the film are so hateful that it ruins Fitzgerald’s whole argument.

If you’re going to have a revenge fantasy, make it more fantasy. Otherwise you get an ambivalent mess like this one.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Back to Sundance....

With the DJI down another hundred points, I was able to get some tickets to the Sundance roadshow festival at the Brooklyn Acadamy of Music this and next weekend. Between that, the Yankees and my nephew's graduation, there's lots to do.

The Dow Jones Industrials

I was about to go to my broker and invest in stock-average trusts when the market fell about a hundred and sixty points. I guess I'll try again tomarrow unless it falls more today. I hate high finance!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


The rain has started and it's not getting any warmer. the weather report is predicting a lousy weekend, and the following week is going to be kind of weird. I just hope that the Yankee game isn't going to be a washout, because it's the first that I've been to in about two years. My brother Larry bought it as a kind of graduation present to my nephew or something like that.

The kid is graduating Columbia University on Teusday. I remember MY graduation, I found the diploma in the mailbox and walked back to the elevator humming ruffles and flourishes If there was a January ceremony, I might have gone.

But enough sour grapes. I'm going to have to figure out where to go on my next trip real soon in order to get around the summer release...or give up on the movies.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

There was this explosion see...

I was writing a new post here when the entire cable system exploded. I"m not sure if it was a virus from here or not, but it blew out the cable and I was unable to even watch TV for the better part of an hour. Fox is having a secret screening for the Lindsey Lohan flick tomarrow, they said it was today, but they made a mistake...

What a week. I still have to pay some bills....shit!

Monday, May 08, 2006

The final batch from Tribeca

We finish with two horror flicks. Why? Because we didn't get to them until now. The Sundance film festival is having a roadshow at the Brooklyn acadamy of music over the next two weeks. I think I'll go to that. In the meantime, here they is:

Sam's Lake

Written and Directed
byAndrew C. Erin

The first great horror sequel was “Bride of Frankenstein” then we had “Son of Frankenstein” then “Dracula’s Daughter.” Over the years, monster’s relations became a joke. Before we started having roman numerals after the title, we had brothers and sisters.

But not recently, sure Jason’s mother was the original monster in “Friday the Thirteenth I,” and Freddy’s daughter made an appearance [as a good guy] in at least one of the “Nightmare on Elm Streets,” but for the most part, the profession of supernatural slasher/killer hasn’t usually been one passed down from generation to generation. Which makes this one a bit different.

Every summer, Samantha(Fay Masterson) likes to take friends up to her old homestead on the lake, way out in the Canadian wilderness. This time, she’s bringing her gay friend Dominik(Salvatore Antonino) his business partner Kate(Sandrine Holt) and their friends
Franklin(Stephen Bishop) and Melanie(Megan Fahlenbock) to spend a beautiful week lounging around the natural world.

So we see them joking around back home and looking at all the beautiful scenery on the way north. But all is not well. When we get near the area of the lake, we see strange corncob figures hanging from the houses and at the last-chance general store. There’s even a mysterious figure that scares one of the friends.

Apparently, in the past, people would disappear and be replaced by one of the dolls. But that was a story. When they finally get to the lodge, they’re met by Sam’s old pal Jesse(William Gregory Lee), who helps set up a cookout, and tells scary stories about the famous boogieman(Robert William Smith). Then they explore the notorious ruined house. Then we get the plot twist, and the second half of the film is one long chase. Who’s going to get offed first?

Will the boogieman get our campers before his kids do? Who are the kids anyway and how do they relate to Sam? That’s part of the fun and is in fact one of the neater twists in recent years. The acting is really good, especially the actors who change into the monsters.

Conversations on slasher tactics on the fly is something genuinely new. Worth the money.

The Gravedancers

Directed by
Mike Mendez

The art of the slasher movie is getting old. It’s pretty much the same tired old game. Who gets it first? The question is are there any thrills before you get bored to death.

It’s the funeral of an old friend, and Allison(Clare Kramer) and Harris McKay(Dominic Purcell) have an encounter with Kira Hastings(Josie Maran), an old girlfriend that Allison obviously hates. But there are times when bygones should be bygones, and She lets Harris and Kira go off to do some drinking with Sid Vance(Marcus Thomas), who was good friends with Harris, Kira and the corpse long before. After drinking quite a bit, the threesome goes over to the graveyard to share some liquor with the dear departed, when they come across a strange greeting card on his gravestone.

They read the poem printed on it and dance on some graves (natch—otherwise they’d have to call it something else) and are followed home by some evil poltergeists. These drive the foursome crazy [Kira gets it too, she lives with Harris], they get in touch with Professors Vincent(Tchéky Karyo) and Culpepper(Megahn Perry), who are the official ghostbusters for the local college. They have this big spooky house with all sorts of nifty instruments.

So we’ve got a final battle with the ghosts, who get stronger and stronger as the movie progresses. The film isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, the inconsistencies don’t stick out like a sore thumb, and the implied commentary on science and adultery is actually kind of refreshing, but there’s not enough of it.

Most of this thing is your typical slasher shit, but if you’re a fan of same it’s worth a look.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Tribeca 16: Jeff Goldblum is a dirty old man

More stuff. I think we may have one or two before we're done.....

Pittsburgh (U.S.A.)

A sort of Documentary Directed
by Kyle LaBrache and Chris Bradley

Catherine Wreford is a 25-year-old Canadian actress who has been married to a big shot movie star named Jeff Goldblum, who is old enough to be her father, for a couple of years now. If this film is to be believed, and we're not exactly sure if it should, she needed a green card, and the best way to get it was to get a part in a play before her work visa expired.

Now a few years back, Goldblum got together with filmmakers Kyle LaBrache and Chris Bradley about doing a film of some sort about him going to his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, exactly what, he wasn't sure. Then Catherine said that she might be up for a part in “The Music Man” there.

Ah-HAH!!!! Bradley, LaBrache and Goldblum thought. Why not do a Christopher Guest-style mock-umentary which actually crossed over the line to turn into a genuine documentary at some point.

So they decided to basically take over the production in Pittsburgh, which was real, and have everything leading up to it be improvisational comedy. It was a neat idea, but would it work?

Not really. Goldblum got his friends Ed Begley Jr. and Illeana Douglas to play along, and she may have gotten punker Richard “Moby” Hall to come aboard as her faux boyfriend. They “break up” at the Coney Island Mermaid parade. It doesn't work all that well.

The problem here is that we're not sure which is real and which isn't, so we can't exactly know what we supposed to be feeling. Is director Richard Sabellico really chewing Goldblum out for doing a lousy performance? We can't be sure.

Movie stars make vanity projects every now and then. Big deal.

Mini's First Time (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Nick Guthe

There is nothing Hollywood hates more than Hollywood, with the possible exception of President Bush. So without mentioning W. again here, Nick Guthe has decided to concentrate on that which he despises most, and comes up with a deliciously evil black comedy that's sure to elicit lots of shameful giggles throughout.

Mini(Nikki Reed) is the first person in her high school's history to become valedictorian while having a C-average. She's clearly not going to be that dumb.

Our protagonist lives with her über-bitch mother Diane(Carrie-Anne Moss) and her cuckolded stepfather Martin (Alec Baldwin) in one of the more expensive neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, where Mom spends her time lying around and planning to screw the pool boy and other members of the zillionaire support industry who are horny that day.

With nothing better to do and lots of money to do it with, Mini goes off on a meaningless existence of trying out “firsts,” one of which is working as a call-girl for a ritzy escort service. Here she's sent to service a guy who she later discovers is her step-dad.

Can incest and murder be far behind? Of course they can. But what to do about mom? That's where it starts getting good. This is one of the meanest movies in quite a while and it's hilarious.

Baldwin is a wonder. So is Moss, who takes a character she rarely ever does, and makes it her own. While it goes on they parody a few dozen genres and urban myths from slasher films to the casting couch. Jeff Goldblum is great in a small part as the horny next door neighbor. It's clear that everyone in the cast is having a whopping good time and we're invited to join in. Do so.

Tribeca 15: the preantepenultimate batch

With the Festival over, we've been writing up what's left of what we've got. I've seen over 70 films and we're probably going to write up most of them. I don't think we'll do them all, though.

Five Fingers

Written and Directed
by Laurence Malkin

According to the press notes, Martijn (Ryan Phillippe) is an idealistic Dutch pianist on his way to Morocco to work on a humanitarian food project. His girlfriend (Touriya Haoud) is Moroccan and wants to help those less fortunate from her country, fair enough. So since she doesn't have a passport, Martijn and his bodyguard Gavin(Colm Meaney) head off to North Africa with a million bucks (US) and high expectations.

But once they arrive there, the pair are kidnapped, and they wind up in a basement somewhere in Africa, or at least we think it's Africa. Greeting them is Ahmad (Laurence Fishburne), their captor, who doesn't quite believe that their intentions are as good as they claim.

With Gavin dispatched almost immediately with a shot between the eyes, we're treated with what might be called a psychological thriller. On the one side we've got Martijn, who must try to outwit Amad and fellow terrorists Youseff (Said Taghmaoui) and Aicha (Gina Torres), who are more than happy to follow Amad's lead and cut off Martijn's fingers from his left hand when he refuses to give out the information requested.

This is a horror flick with a political agenda, and not the one you would think at the beginning. Things begin to change as the film goes on and by the end, the whole situation has been stood on it's head. This may be one of the few PRO torture films to ever be made.

This film is clearly Oscar@-bait. The performances by Fishburne and Phillipe are terrific, Torres is really good as well. The questions it raises are the right ones to be asked at this point in history and may actually be worth full price.

The Treatment (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Oren Rudavsky

Romantic comedy is always better with a little hallucination. Jake Singer(Chris Eigeman) is an English teacher in a fancy prep school where he also assistant coaches basketball. His life is kind of on the boring side, what with his still pining for his lost love Julia (Stephanie March) and all. This torch will have to be put out as she's about to marry someone else.

This is not that kind of movie. His shrink Dr. Ernesto Morales(Ian Holm) is the last of the great Freudians and won't allow for that sort of thing. Not only does he give bizarre advice when he's presiding over his $125-an-hour sessions, but he's apt to appear at the most opportune moments out of the blue to give sage advise.

This is mostly of no help when he meets the beauteous Allegra Marshall(Famke Janssen), a widow with two adopted children. It's not exactly love at first sight, but it's your typical romantic comedy relationship. There are the usual complications. Jake's father(Harris Yulin), with whom he's not talking has a major illness and Allegra's having problems with the adoption agency.

Then there's the problems with the shrink, who's more of a pain in real life than as a hallucination. It's all rather predictable, but the cast is so damn winning, and the script so cute that we can't help but have a good time watching the romance bloom, crumble and bloom again. The jokes all work and the pathos is just right temperature. This is worth seeing.

House of Sand (Casa de Areia)

Directed by
Andrucha Waddington

When one thinks of Brazil, one tends to imagine the Amazon rain forest but that's not what the country looks like. It's as big, if not bigger than the United States, and one of the stranger parts of the country is Maranhao, which is kind of like an endless desert that turns imperceptibly into an endless beach. It's that way now, and was that way back in 1911, when a certain Vasco de Sa (Ruy Guerra) has dragged his young pregnant wife Aurea(Fernanda Torres), mother-in-law Maria(Fernanda Montenegro), and a bunch of extras over miles of sand to a small oasis near the sea.

They are menaced by the descendents of escaped slaves and most of the immigrants escape back to civilization, but Saa won't let his wife and mother-in-law go. He himself bites the big one soon enough, and the women try to make a run for it, but Maria doesn't have the energy. They have to go back, and it's a life sentence.

All of a sudden it's ten years later, and Aurea is now the mother of a ten year old girl named after her grandmother (Camilla Facundes), and is in a relationship with Massu (Luiz Melodia), one of the local population in this desolate area. There is a window for escape, with an expedition of scientists testing Einstein's theory or relativity, but this fails.

The various scenes in the film are sometimes decades apart with Torres and Montenegro changing parts as grandma dies and mom and daughter grows old against a timeless landscape.

With very few characters, it's just the two women and Massu as everything and nothing happens. This isn't bad as art films go, and the two lead actresses, who are mother and daughter in real life, are terrific. Worth a look when it comes out on cable.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Tribeca 14: Three Docs from Persia

There are lots of films from Iran this year for some reason. Most of them bitch about the evil regime there. Here are three typical ones:

Siah Bâzi (France, Iran) – North American Premiere.

a documentary directed
by Maryam Khakipour

Back in the bad old days of the evil Shah, Tehran had some really good nightlife. Theater on Laleh Zar, the so-called "Street of Joy," as the old theater district was known, had everything from movie theaters to opera and everyone liked vaudeville. When they began filming this documentary, there was just one left on the street, the Nasr, an old vaudeville theater that still kept packing them in in the middle of the afternoon.

But that’s all gone now. The mullahs have decided that since the place needs patching up, a centuries-old theatrical tradition should be thrown out with the trash. The actors, some of them quite old, are without pensions, and one was begging in the street.

This is really a sad film, but what can one do? That’s progress, for ya. I hope the film had an effect in Iran.

Inside Out

45 minutes isn’t exactly a short, in fact it was just about as long as the feature. This is about Iranian transsexuals, not homosexuals.

Homosexuality is a crime in Iran, while transsexuality is considered a disease. The mullahs approve of the need for sex-change surgery, which is something that is a bit unexpected.

We meet three of them, and a junior ayatollah who explains the theological implications of this situation. Rather boring all the same.

President Mir Qanbar

Directed By
Mohammad Shirvani

Mir Qanbar is a 75-year-old joke. A retired beaurcrat, he has been running for office ever since the Iranian Republic was established and keeps on coming in last or next to last.

He goes around on a bike or his crippled friend’s horsecart, and makes a few speeches and hands out leaflets. He’s harmless, so the mullahs don’t generally throw him off the ballot like they do many other, worthier candidates. Still one has to admire the fellow’s gumption. One can’t really be sure if the filmmaker is doing this as a joke or as a real look at the politics of the nation.

This really a waste of time, although it’s nice to see that he’s finally getting his bachelor’s degree at the local community college. A pathetic film about a pathetic guy.

The Street Fair

Each year, the Tribeca Film festival has a street fair. If you're in Manhattan and are sick of movies, come down and take a look...or don't. The lines for the films are going to be long today.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Tribeca 13...I'm giving up on catigorization

So here we are with another batch. We no longer have any press screenings, so there are a few public screenings to go to for stuff with no press or those I missed.

A Stadium Story: The Battle for New York's Last Frontier (U.S.A.) World Premiere.

A documentary Directed by
Jevon Roush and Benjamin Rosen

Local doesn't always mean that it's interesting. The Olympic stadium controversy was something that was best forgotten.

Why the hell did we in New York need the Olympics anyway? The games are a waste of time, the IOC is one of the most corrupt organizations in the world, and we weren't going to get it anyway.

One of the things that the filmmakers forgot was that the City hosted Ted Turner's “Goodwill Games” a sort of counter-Olympics to protest Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Moscow games, in 1998, and that pretty much killed them.

But the problem here is that there doesn't seem to be a bad guy. Both sides are seen to be on the side of the angels, and we sympathize with both the pro- and anti-stadium sides.

With no real negatives set out for one argument or the other, we get lots of interviews with the principles and clips from vintage movies as golden oldies play in the background.

Meanwhile, nothing has been done with the Hudson yards site. Unless you are into NYC politics, then this is basically a waste of time, albeit a well done one.

The Architect (USA) - World Premiere

Written and Directed
by Matt Tauber

Families in crisis always make for good drama. What we've got are the usual good people suffering for little or no reason, and for some audiences, that's always forefends a rollicking good time.

So we've got two families: one rich living in the suburbs, one poor living in a certain public housing block that is so bad people commit suicide rather than continue living there.

So we begin with Martin Waters(Sebastian Stan) coming home after dropping out of his college the middle of his first semester. His father, Leo(Anthony LaPaglia), the architect of the title, doesn't seem all that much concerned, although he's glad to see the young man in one piece. His mother Julia(Isabella Rossellini) and sister Christina(Hayden Panettiere) don't seem that concerned, although they're clearly aware of the situation. Typical suburban angst, of which we've seen all too much before, Is there a divorce in the offing? Why not?

The other family is in that housing block which, of course, Leo designed. Tonya Neeley(Viola Davis) is trying to have the whole development torn down and thus end the living hell that it is. In fact her sone killed himself by jumping off the roof several years back and she had her younger daughter Cammie(Serena Reeder) sent off to some rich people in the suburbs, much to the shagrin of her older sister, who's now an unwed mother. She wants Leo to sign a petition demanding the developments demolition, which Leo won't do because he's still proud of it.

Which brings us to the question: Is Martin really gay? The “recruitment” of him by a black fellow named Shawn(Paul James) is entirely gratuitous. Do we really need sexual awakening to bring any more angst than we already have? Does Christina's shagging a truck driver Joe(Walton Goggins) add anything to the main plot about architecture and the lives of ordinary people?

Holiday Makers (Ucastnici Zajezdu) (Czech Republic) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Jiri Vejdelek

Literal translation sometimes doesn't cut the mustard. What this should have been called is “Vacation,” “The Trip” or maybe just “Holiday,” It's a very cute film and the English title is clunky.

The movie itself isn't clunky. However, the film is a bit on the tame side. A bunch of people have paid for a vacation in the Croatian side of the Adriatic sea. It's the standard bunch of people, some gays, some homophobic parents with a possible gay son, some horny teenagers, a middle aged couple who's sick of each other, their horny daughter and a a possible perv.

This is all pretty tame, and not only that, it's been done before. But that doesn't mean that it's not entertaining. It's a cute little comedy, which proves that those government-funded movie commissions can do Hollywood-type comedies if they wanted to.

Tomarrow's the last day...

For me at any rate, but I've still got a dozen or so reviews to finish, so keep on coming back.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Great British Actors with Big Noses

I was asked to group the reviews into themes a while ago, so I guess this might do....

Snow Cake

Directed by
Marc Evans

Just because something is obviously Oscar®-bait doesn't mean it has to suck. Sigourney Weaver hasn't been nominated for one since she got two noms way back in 1989, to be perfectly frank, she could use one. So, since playing disabled people is generally considered a call for help by respected actors who want kudos, this film is on the very early lists.

It may actually deserve to be.

We don't really know who Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire) is when we first see her on the screen. We know she's a neo-hippie, and she's looking for someone special, and she settles on Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman), who's looking depressed although we learn soon enough is a manslaughterer just out of prison. He doesn't like her, but the force of Viv's personality forces him to relent, and soon enough they're on the road headed west, where he's to drop her off at her home town.

That's when the unexpected truck plows into the car, and the person who we think is going to be the main character gets killed.
I include this spoiler here because we're only about fifteen minutes into the film and the rest is about what happens later.

Viv's mom Linda(Weaver) is disabled. She's a highly-verbal autistic person who can take care of herself to some extent, but still acts like she's about five. [That's the Oscar®-bait part. Apparently, the voters are supposed to love that sort of thing.] Alex comes over to pay a condolence visit and winds up spending the better part of the week there. There's a funeral to organize and Linda's parents are off somewhere having fun.

So we have two great actors doing what they do best, and having a wonderful time not grieving. There's even a chance for romance between Alex and Linda's next door neighbor Maggie(Carrie-Anne Moss), who's a bit of a slut and is a glutton for grownup conversation. That balances off the bizarre goings on at Linda's.

The best thing about this is the fact that script is so smart and fresh, scribe Angela Pell has crafted a really funny and touching script. It should be seen.

Land of the Blind

Written and Directed
by Robert Edwards

A political allegory shouldn't actually be as predictable as this. That is unless you've read the book first. But this isn't based on a book.

What we've got here is a political fantasy reaching for great truths and falling flat after proclaiming them. This is a comedy of government and it's been done before, many times in many places, most recently in “V for Vendetta,” which at least had some nifty explosions.

We're somewhere sideways in time. The leader of this unnamed nation is Maximilian II(Tom Hollander), President for life and failed movie director, who's turned his country into a cesspool while he lives it up in a palace with his wife Josephine(Lara Flynn Boyle).

Since this is a fascist dictatorship, the political prisoners are in a hellish prison. Their leader a certain Mr. Thorne(Donald Sutherland), refuses to wear regular prison clothes and writes slogans in his own shit on the walls of the cell. Watching this is our hero Joe(Ralph Fiennes), who's a prison guard. When he isn't serving lunch or watching his first sergeant beat(Don Warrington) the crap out of Thorne and others.

But despite the happy face TV news reports, where everything is a commercial, all is not well, and President Max's top advisors (Jonathan Hyde and Robert Daws) get their fearless leader to cave in bit by bit. IN the meantime, Joe becomes enthralled to Thorne's philosophy and charisma.

Of course, when the revolution comes, Throne proves to be even worse than Max was. We could see that coming a mile away. It's all very “1984.” We've seen this before and seen it much better. Still it's worth a look for the weirdness.

Okay, MI:3 doesn't suck That much.

I forgot to post the review here since it's part of the festival. It'll go up on the regular site tomarrow.

Mission: Impossible III

Written and Directed
by J.J. Abrams

One of these days we’re going to have an action film where the plot is actually interesting. There comes a point where just blowing stuff up just doesn’t cut it. This doesn’t mean that I’m against doing that in movies, I love a really good explosion, what I don’t like is a tiresome story that appears that Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and the redoubtable J.J. Abrams took about ten minutes to write the first draft of this sucker. At least they kind of admitted it when they had
super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) say: “There comes a time when bold becomes stupid.” Truer words were rarely said.

We start with what might be called: The “how’d we get here?” introduction. Ethan is chained to a chair and is sitting across from his significant other Julia(Michelle Monaghan), who is in the same predicament, as über-villian Owen Davian(Philip Seymour Hoffman) prances around threatening to shoot Julia and then use his nifty enema bomb to blow up our hero’s head—>cut to the burning fuse and the “duh-duh-DUH-da, duh-duh-DUH-da” Theme music.

Apparently, Ethan is semi-retired and is about to get married to Julia, when his boss Musgrave (Billy Crudup) gives him a call and gives him the usual package. Apparently they’ve decided not to disavow agent Lindsey Ferris(Keri Russell) and instead have our hero and his usual team: Luther (Ving Rhames) Dermot (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen (Hong Kong star Maggie Q) head off to Berlin to recover her. We’ve got lots of explosions, but not the one we wanted. It’s okay to have Lindsey get killed at the last minute, but why not have her head actually explode when the enema bomb goes off? That would have been cool!!

We finally get to see the IMF headquarters, something that allegedly didn’t exist before, and there’s also internal politics between Musgrave and his boss Brassel (Laurence Fishburne) as well as IMF’s version of Q (Simon Pegg), who’s got some of the best lines in the film. There should have been more of that.

We go from Virginia to Berlin to the Vatican to Shanghai, where we get to see ancient Roman art blown up for little or no reason, to full scale war on the Chesapeake bay bridge. The writers at least acknowledge that the media might have noticed something that big.

But this is pure fantasy, and as such it’s completely unoriginal. The acting is professional, as one would expect, and we know that it’s going to make a ton of money because attendance is mandatory.

If you’re in the demographic, you should only see it once, at a bargain matinee, and forget getting the video. If you’re not, don’t bother at all.

Mission Impossbile 3 Still sucks

Charity. That’s what the so-called “Tent Pole” screenings are. The big studios know that everyone’s going to see this stuff anyway, so they help the poorlittle film festival by having screenings in a couple of the of the venuesand make sure that none of the regular people who’ve bought passes couldget in.

Well, that’s what they did with Mission Impossible III, at least.

The press release began something like this:

APRIL 12, 2006 [New York] – Tom Cruise, the most exciting and successful
action star in the world, returns to one of his signature roles, Secret Agent
Ethan Hunt, in the summer’s most highly anticipated action thriller, “Mission:
Impossible III” – and Cruise will celebrate the U.S. premiere of the film on
May 3 at the Tribeca Film Festival with a full day of screenings and events
throughout Manhattan as part of “Mission: NYC.” Bringing the film and
Cruise directly to fans and filmgoers,“Mission: NYC” kicks off with Cruise
appearing live on “TRL” in Times Square and culminates nearly six hours later
with the U.S. premiere of the film at the Festival.

There were actually three premiers. One was at the Zigfield, the last humongous movie theater in Manhattan (Radio City doesn’t count), where premiers aresupposed to be, the 68th street AMC/Lowes, which is an official venue ofthe TFF, and the Magic Johnson Theater waay uptown in Harlem. That was the one I attended.

I wasn’t planning to go that far north, but I gotan email from one of those “free movie tickets if you pay twenty bucks toget into a party” companies, and they said that there giving out a hundred free tickets I got there by five. So I went uptown.
The line was around the block. They didn’t tell me that Paramount had passed out flyers all over Harlem.

Iwaited on line for the better part of an hour. The thing moved slowly andthe people giving out stuff repeatedly told us we’d get in, but when we gotto the front of the line we were confronted with an old trick dating fromthe days of Studio 54, they just corralled us back on the street. That wasn’tnice at all.

So I put my press pass around my neck and went past thesecurity up to where Black Entertainment Network’s® 106 and Park show washaving the stars of the film as guests and rap star and über-hottie Kanye rapped her way around the stage as a couple of hundred kids who’d been theresince about two in the afternoon danced in the lobby of the multiplex.

It’samazing how many of the girls thought that Tom Cruise was cuter than Larry Fishburne. Doesn’t matter, I was too busy drooling over Kanya, while theyasked the stars stupid questions and everyone in the studio audience juststood there during the commercial breaks.

When the whole mischagas was over, there was the problem of getting into the movie. Everyone elsehad a color-coded wrist band which indicated which theater they should goto. I didn’t have one and didn’t know if I could get passed the burley securityguards that were far too much in evidence.

It wasn’t has hard asI thought. I just went into one of the screening rooms where the guards lookeddistracted. I waited alone a bit, left, came back again, and nobody stoppedme. Then the place filled up and before it did the film had started.

Ididn’t have the address to the party until I got back, but then it was toolate. I was dead tired. I should have gone because the Paramount PR department hates my guts because I’m still a film critic and won’t stop trying to get in their screenings.

Everybody else is fine with that, which is why I get into most movie screenings and have for more than a decade. But that's neither here nor there.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The beginning of the end

We've got a few more screenings, two or three this today, tomarrow and a few later on. The last of the press screenings are on friday and there are a few regular ones over the weekend, then I crash.
Have there been any truly great flims this time out?
Unfortunately, it was United 93, which was a Hollywood film.
Have there been any truly lousy films?
I think there have been three, and we'll get to that later.
Will we get this blog working properly?
Probably not.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mission Impossible 3 sucks.

I"m not sure about that, but since the flacks at paramout publicity are a bunch of royal shits, there may not be a review, even though it's the tentpole film of the festival.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Tribeca 13: Hollywoodland

Well, here are some of the best films of the festival, which were, of course done by professionals with lots of experience in the business.

Lonely Hearts (U.S.A.) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Todd Robinson

Today, they’re history’s forgotten serial killers, but in 1949, they were really big news. The “Lonely Hearts” murders numbered over twenty, and they were pretty gruesome. They were

Then as now, there were lots of lonely people out there and the personals were really big business, and there were predators out there who were more than happy to ruin the lives of the lonely.

One of those people was Raymond Martinez Fernandez (Jared Leto), a rake and a gigolo who would romance anyone with money before he would relieve them of it. That is until he met one Martha Jule Beck (Salma Hayek), a nurse who was one of his tricks.

She saves his butt and they become a team.

But, they make a mistake. They start killing people. The first is a beautiful woman who’d been fleeced by Ray and committed suicide, but the lead detective working on the case, Elmer C. Robinson (John Travolta) something is fishy. He and his reluctant partners Hildebrandt (James Gandolfini) and Reilly (Scott Caan) start investigating, and soon they are flying around New York state connecting the dots and building a case.

Robinson has baggage. His wife commits suicide during the opening credits, and his son(Dan Byrd) have had a bad relationship ever since. But in following Fernandez and Beck, he comes to back to life. He also has an affair with a coworker named Rene (Laura Dern). The two stories mesh quite nicely.

The film is quite straightforward, it starts with an introduction to the cops, and then the criminals, and from there it goes logically and without a break. The acting is good, and since the case has become obscure with time, the fact that Beck weighed almost three hundred pounds is completely ignored by the casting of the svelte Heyek. Travolta and Byrd have some real chemistry together, and so do Heyek and Leto. Leto is the star of the film much more than Travolta, he gives a bravura performance here, and his Fernandez is both a charmer and a psycho. Heyek isn’t nearly as good.

If you like true crime stuff, this is worth a look.

A Very Serious Person (U.S.A.) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Charles Busch

Charles Busch is one of the more famous drag queens in the world. Famous in the gay community, his camp classics played in small theaters around Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side for the better part of the 1970s and ‘80s. Busch always played the heroine in what is the epitome of camp. Nothing wrong with that. Some of it was really funny.

He hasn’t done all that well in movies, however. “Die Mommy Die” never actually made it beyond a token release, and “Psycho Beach Party,” in which Busch had only a small part, was a minor hit on cable. It was with great interest that I heard that he was going to play a real guy this time. Could he do it? That was a question.

The film is about as autobiographic as he could really get. He doesn’t play himself, of course, but a talented young kid named
PJ Verhoest does. Technically, he plays Gil, the fourteen year old grandson of a certain Mrs. A(Polly Bergen). Grandma is dying of some horrible disease, has only a few weeks to live, and wants to spend them at the ’Jersey shore with Gil and her faithful housekeeper Betty(Dana Ivey).

Unfortunately, two of the nurses the agency sends over don’t work out, so they send Jan(Charles Busch), who’s that “Very Serious Person” of the title. He’s Danish, gay [I’m not all that sure Busch could write a straight man, although he probably could], and doesn’t take shit from anybody.

The film is the story of the relationship between surrogate father and son, and it’s actually pretty touching. Busch was very fond of his own grandmother, and the emotion shown here is quite genuine. There is a genuine-ness between Jan and Gil as well, made even more real by Verhoest’s superb acting.

There is a genuine concern for the future of gay youth in a debate between Gil and Jan’s hairdresser friend Lee(co-writer Carl Andress) and Jan. This is actually, the most serious thing Busch has written, at least of what I’ve seen, and I’m a bit of a fan.

This is about the least campy thing Busch has ever done, and one of the best. It’s worth a look.

Colour Me Kubrick (UK, France) – International Premiere.

Directed by
Brian Cook

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes we’ve got evidence of this maxim. Take the con man who spent a number of years impersonating director Stanley Kubrick during the last couple of years of his and Kubrik’s life.

This is the story of Alan Conway(John Malkovich) a con man who goes around fleecing innocent artistic types, pretending to be Kubrick, promising his marks the moon, and disappearing when the loans come due. The film begins with two punkers who were thus fleeced harassing some rich shlub demanding that Kubrick pay them the money they lent.

Conway is a flaming queen and a chameleon who changes accents and mannerisms whenever he meets someone new, and he’s also a bit lazy, he gets caught by anyone who knows the work of the real Kubrick just a little bit. Apparently, the real Conway never saw any of his films.

The film is basically a one-man show. Malkovich gives the performance of a lifetime, while the hamminess drips out of every pore, there’s an honesty in the dishonesty of it all which makes the performance priceless. He’s so brazen that he goes up to NY Times film critic Frank Rich (William Hootkins) and his wife Alix (Marisa Berenson) in a London restaurant screaming his displeasure at what the newspapers have been saying about him. This proves the beginning of the end. Rich is suspicious, and so are quite a few others, including the cops.

Meanwhile Conway continues his impersonation, and this time hits real paydirt, a midlevel celebrity(Jim Davidson) who thinks he could make it big in the US. It’s a hoot. The supporting cast, which is made up of has-been TV stars are really good.

Anthony Frewin’s script is a bit erratic. The film goes on in a haphasard way for the first half at least, but Malkovitch’s perfornace makes up for it. This is a perfect revenge by two of Kubrick’s most loyal assistant. Had he lived, I’m sure Kubrick would have wanted to make this film himself.