Monday, December 31, 2012

My New Year's Resolution...

To see fewer films like this...


And more films like this...


Of course, I'd like to increase my output here. What can you expect in the coming weeks?

1.) Our interview with Joe Queenan
2.) A big, fat review of "Django Unchained"
3.) Our Year in Review
4.) An essay from film critic turned filmmaker Jeremiah Kipp
5.) And much, much more.

Thanks to all who have read, commented, and put up with the noise. Your checks are in the mail. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review of "Les Miserables"

One day more? No, thanks.
My last review of 2012 for "The Weekender." Read my musings on the emotional inauthenticity right here. And if you're going to a regular showing, please try not to sing along like the one moron at the critics' screening I went to last month. Really, don't do that--especially when people have asked you repeatedly to stop.

This began a trend of awful audience behavior, which included a member of the Philadelphia Film Society barging his way to the front of the line for a screening of "Promised Land." That was followed by two dirtbags stealing a critic's reserved seats.

What's remarkable about the latter act was the two men, according to my wife, went their separate ways after they were caught. It was like a warm-hearted Christmas story involving grifters. Maybe David Mamet can write a homogenized romantic script for Fox Family: "Alicia Silverstone and Jay Mohr star in The Christmas CON-nection."

Oh, and my apologies for not wishing everyone Merry Christmas yesterday. Sorry, Santa. Sorry, Jesus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review of "Playing for Keeps"

Oh, Gerard Butler....What are you doing?

Watching "Playing for Keeps"--my review for "The Weekender" can be found here--I couldn't help thinking about him and Jeremy Renner. Butler, of course, became a household name after his rough-and-tumble work in "300." Renner, with a look straight from a Wrangler jeans ad, found his profile rising after "The Hurt Locker."

In 2012, Renner is a gigantic star while Butler is trying to find the emotions within Jessica Biel, a fool's errand if ever there was one.

What gives?

Renner has shrewdly decided to star in movies that duplicate what made him so appealing in "The Hurt Locker": stoic, mysterious tough guys. Butler hasn't gone back to the well, starring in a string of romantic comedies that have turned him into the guy who buys roses after the first date. The ladies are smelling the desperation, and guys can't figure out why Butler wants to follow the footsteps of D.B Sweeney or Andrew McCarthy.

I mean this is as a compliment, but Butler is a walking erection. He should be insulting his superior officer, shooting people in the face, and bedding women half his age. In a time when everyone is too polite and too aware of decorum, we need a rule breaker now more than ever.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Film Round-Up: December 2012: Dying To Do Letterman, Funeral Kings, Anna Karenina, Silver Linings Playbook

I can't imagine how much "Silver Linings" would have grated my ass if Cooper and Lawrence weren't in it. I probably would have ranted like Joel Siegel during his infamous Clerks 2 screening.

These reviews appeared in the December issue of ICON and are reprinted with permission. 

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Dying to Do Letterman (Dirs:  Joke Fincioen and Biagio Messina). Diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, stand-up comic Steve Mazan sets a goal in January 2006: to perform his act on Late Show with David Letterman within a year. (For comparison’s sake, Ray Romano tells Mazan he spent 11 years before Letterman proffered an invitation.) An Internet campaign gets attention, but not in a good way. An executive producer informs Mazan, who has at worst five years left, that appearing on the show is impossible. Determined to get there on skill, he develops new material, hits the clubs, and deals with mounting pressure from creditors and his wife, Denise, who is eager to start a family. The earnestness and dignity of Mazan, who is actually quite funny, makes you pull for him as he navigates his personal issues and the frequently frustrating world of professional stand-up comedy. An entertaining and enlightening documentary. [NR] ***1/2


Funeral Kings (Dirs: Michael and Kevin McManus). Starring: Dylan Hartigan, Alex Maizus, Jordan Puzzo, Charles Kwame Odei, Kevin Corrigan. The not-so dangerous lives of altar boys. It’s another typical week for friends Andy (Hartigan) and Charlie (Maizus)—copping altar wine, leering at cleavage, cutting class—filled with a few eventful developments. Andy’s wayward older brother has left behind a locked trunk. The new altar boy (Puzzo) is kind of a square, though he did star in a big movie with alleged nudity, which makes him a millionaire. And there’s a high school party—with beer and girls—they have to figure out how to attend. Deliberately paced, slice-of-life comedy/drama is more concerned with moments and tone than an actual narrative arc, which is a bit frustrating. Cast that aside and you get a gentle reminder of how big and scary and wonderful the world is as a 14-year-old boy. At that age, survival is based on how much bluster you can muster and endure. The McManus Brothers’ feature directorial debut. [R] ***

Anna Karenina (Dir: Joe Wright). Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Olivia Williams, Emily Watson. I have not read Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, but I will after thoroughly enjoying Wright’s haunting adaptation. Here, the scenes are set up as a play, giving a sweeping theatricality to the title character’s epic late-19th century tale of woe. Anna (Knightley), a devoted mother married to a government official (Law), is perfectly content as a pillar of St. Petersburg high society. When Anna visits Moscow to help alleviate the rift between her sister-in-law (Macdonald) and her relentlessly cheating brother (Macfadyen), she meets the dashing Count Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson). Knowing the trouble in betraying her dull husband, Anna initially resists Vronksy’s advances but ends up eschewing convenience for love—and discovers the consequences in following your heart. Terrific story, which (sadly) still has relevance today, becomes electric thanks to the breathtaking work of cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and production designer Sarah Greenwood. You cannot look away as Anna’s world turns from magic to misery. Knightley is excellent. Screenplay adapted by Tom Stoppard. [R] ****

Silver Linings Playbook (Dir: David O. Russell). Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, Anupam Kher, Julia Stiles. Against all good judgment, Pat, a troubled young man (Cooper), leaves a Baltimore insane asylum early for the comfort of his Philadelphia-based parents (De Niro, Weaver) determined to find his silver lining: reconciling with his wife and returning to substitute teaching. Such optimism, given the restraining orders involved and Pat’s unbalanced behavior, is delusional—until he’s introduced to young widow Tiffany (Lawrence), another tortured, attractive soul. Tiffany agrees to reach out to Pat’s wife, if he becomes her dance partner. Philly native Cooper, shedding his handsome guy act, and Lawrence are terrific together, so you occasionally forget Russell’s heavy-handed treatment of the material. Again, The Fighter director uses the feel-good genre as a club, slamming us with inspirational dialogue (conveniently listed on the poster) and sweep-us-off-our-feet camerawork, giving the movie a disingenuous feel. But what’s particularly galling is how Russell, working from Matthew Quick’s novel, keeps honoring the lower middle-class by caricaturing them, burying Pat and his family’s dignity with each Eagle jersey and working class accent. Silver Linings Playbook is a snob’s version of how real people live, so it will probably rule the Academy Awards in three months. [R] **

The Big Review: "Hitchcock"

The peerless Matt Zoller Seitz asked on Twitter if there was any reason why he should watch this. I replied: "You get to see Jessica Biel in a bra." 

This review appeared in ICON and is reprinted with permission. Also, kids, if you want to read the review online, please head to www.icondv.com. But be sure to come back here, you hear? 

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Let’s start with the obvious:  In Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins looks nothing like the great director. Crammed into a fat-suit, his handsome features barely distorted by buttery jowls, he resembles Jeffrey Tambor—if the Arrested Development actor swallowed a large beach ball and had his legs amputated. The image created is a constant distraction that places Hopkins, a wonderful actor, in a hopeless situation.

Good news for Hopkins, if you can call it that: he’s not the lone faulty party. Sacha Gervasi’s biopic is a lumbering, forgettable collection of half-thoughts. Aside from Hopkins’s stupendous non-transformation, the film’s other memorable aspect is its ironic refusal to create a stir.

Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil) does one thing right, focusing on a distinct period of time. It’s 1959 and Hitchcock, 60 years old and his legacy secure, is high on the success of North by Northwest. The feeling is over in minutes. “Shouldn’t you quit while you’re ahead?” a reporter asks after the premiere. In an unfortunate harbinger of the movie’s style, thunder crashes in the distance.

Hitchcock is determined to find something fresh. He passes on The Diary of Anne Frank and Casino Royale. Neither is a “nasty, little piece of work.” Psycho, a new book about mother-loving serial killer Ed Gein, fits the bill nicely. A skittish Paramount won’t make it, so Hitchcock finances the movie—a whopping $800,000—himself. Why go through the trouble? “I want to feel that kind of freedom again,” he tells his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren), who has been his creative lifeblood from the beginning.

Alma is the strong woman behind the famed shapely silhouette—killing Marion Crane in Psycho’s first 30 minutes is her suggestion—but she’s tired of getting second billing. She’s tired of her husband’s obsession with beautiful, young blondes. She’s tired of being at his beck and call. She’s tired that she can’t carve her own niche other than being the faithful, supportive Mrs. Hitchcock. It’s been going on too long, so you can’t blame Alma when her dapper married friend (Danny Huston) gets increasingly chummy during their writing collaboration.

The conflict behind Alma and Alfred’s union would make for a compelling film. It’s too bad Hopkins looks like a human Grimace. But Gervasi wages a constant battle with no clear winner: recalling the last golden age of Hollywood movies vs. reveling in its dark undercurrent. John McLaughlin’s script focuses more on revealing facts about the production, which keeps the movie locked at a strolling pace. Gervasi’s stabs at darkness are either unintentionally comical (Hitchcock taking out his anger on a pool skimmer) or, reminiscent of that aforementioned lightning bolt, condescending and overdone. Hitchcock periodically talks to Gein (Michael Wincott) and envisions all his enemies as he shows Anthony Perkins (a perfectly cast James D’Arcy) how to stab Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson). There’s a politeness to those scenes, which would have benefitted from utilizing Hopkins’ famed intensity. It’s too bad he resembles the Michelin Man in a suit.

Missed opportunities accumulate. Two wonderful actresses are present. One is used sparingly (Toni Collette) and the other (Johansson) serves as a subterfuge for Hitchcock’s blonde ambitions. That’s what you hire Jessica Biel, cast here as Vera Miles, for. The feisty, independent Alma gets defined with a stock “you need me” speech and by replacing her ailing husband on set, a scene so hokey that it should have been accompanied by “I Am Woman.” (I won’t even go into the ending.) Hitchcock could have been a Hollywood satire veiled in Eisenhower-era stodginess, a merciless portrayal of a tortured genius and his unsatisfied wife. Instead, it just stands there— one foot in the sunshine, the other in the darkness—wasting our time. [PG-13] 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review of "Life of Pi"

An average Ang Lee effort is still better than most directors' best work. You can read my review for The Weekender right here.

The one thing that bothered me when I saw this on a Sunday afternoon was the number of families present for such a heady film. I have a strange feeling that parents saw the preview and said, "Hey, it looks like a kid-friendly tale about a plucky boy and his pet tiger. Sasha and Mason will love it!"

A quick look at Lee's filmography and a trip to Rotten Tomatoes could have saved everyone a lot of grief, but maybe the adults wanted to have bragging rights at the PTA meeting. "Oh, Brave was cute, but we expose the kids to more substantial fare. That's why we all saw Life of Pi."

Cue audible eye-rolling from listener. 

Adding to the absurdity was that "Rise of the Guardians," by all accounts a solid animated feature, was playing like 100 feet away.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

From all of us at What Pete's Watching--um, me--have a wonderful holiday. Let's hope that your weekend travel plans don't involve hitching a ride on the back of a milk truck.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review of Skyfall

This ran last week in The Weekender though I'm just getting around to posting now. The previous week was ripe with deadlines, and posting a review for one of the best Bond films ever didn't take precedence. For the curious, you can read my thoughts here.

As you might have heard, Skyfall had the best opening ever for a Bond film, raking in close to $90 million over its opening weekend, its impressive box office undoubtedly helped in that it was the weekend's only big premiere. 

Knowing this, my wife and I arrived 10 minutes early for the 10:10 a.m. show. By that time, the place was about 75 percent full and I considered us lucky to get two seats that weren't behind the screen. 

Others were not so lucky. 

I counted at least 25 people who came in after 10:10 a.m, looking dazed and confused. Why is it so crowded? Usually it isn't this bad until the fifth preview. Granted, not everyone knew this was the only new thing coming out this weekend--unless you were one of the cities that got an early release of Lincoln. But, jeez, Bond is super-popular. People are bound to come in droves, even if it's during a time when people are usually sleeping, eating breakfast, or settling in for 15 hours of pro football.

So, here's a list of characteristics signifying when you should arrive early for a movie. These apply for opening weekends. 

1.) Any movie based on a comic book, especially from the Marvel or DC family.

2.) Any movie based on a hot book (e.g., The Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey)

3.) Any movie involving Kate Winslet, Woody Allen, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Thomas Anderson, or Alexander Payne (art house only)

4.) Any movie based on an iconic, long-running character or is a massively successful franchise (i.e., Bond, The Twilight movies) 

5.) Any movie featuring a superstar loved by grandmothers and gangsters.

6.) When early arrival is most important: Friday and Saturday nights; Sunday afternoons.

UPDATE from our pal, NYC film critic Jesse Hassenger: "Ten minutes before is early? NYC says ha! Arrive 30 minutes early for everything, 60 for a big movie, 90 for real IMAX!" 

This post is according to SST, Suburban Standard Time. Also, Jesse's quote illuminates why I can't abide living in New York, a city I love. Not only would I have to make twice what I'm making now to live like I do now--I'm a regular Prince of Versailles, baby--I don't want to destroy my day in an attempt to see "Taken 2." 


Monday, November 12, 2012

Latest for Philly Post: On the Awfulness A "Casablanca" Sequel Will Inspire

Who's up for "The Wrath of Zihuatenejo" or "Aloha, Memories"? You can read my apocalyptic musings right here.

Janine White, my editor at The Philly Post, gives me freedom to respond to pop culture nuggets, instead of having a set weekly deadline. That's a really nice offer that becomes dreadful when it's Thursday morning and the pantry is bare. I was striking out left and right with ideas last week, until I found the item regarding a "Casablanca" sequel. After that, I got cracking.

One myth about professional writing that I must tear into a thousand pieces: You will get absolutely nowhere if you wait for the muse to pay a visit. Just ask anyone who's ever written for a newspaper, or needed to write something to pay the electric bill. It's a job--a fantastic job--but a job just the same.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Film Round-Up, November 2012: A Royal Affair, Sister, The Black Tulip, Smashed

In this edition of the Film Round-Up: One of the best movies of the year and Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivering a wonderful, nuanced performance. Oh and there are two more foreign movies thrown in to makes us look all smart and sophisticated.

These reviews previously appeared in ICON and are reprinted with permission. 

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A Royal Affair (Dir: Nicolaj Arcel). Starring: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Trine Dyrholm, David Dencik, Thomas W. Gabrielsson, Cyron Melville. In the late 1760s and early 1770s Denmark ‘s ruler is the whoring, boozing, and mentally precarious Christian VII (Følsgaard). His beautiful, neglected wife, Caroline Mathilde (Vikander), wisely stays in the background, giving birth to a son and lending placid class to the national farce. When Christian is appointed a personal physician (Mikkelsen) to rein him in, Caroline’s indifference vanishes upon discovering that she and Dr. Strauss share two loves: books and the tenets of the Age of Enlightenment. They start a torrid affair in the bedroom and legislative chambers, where Strauss uses Christian’s trust and admiration to overhaul Denmark’s punishing laws, in the process drawing resentment from the nobility. Sumptuously filmed historical drama is well acted by the three principals (particularly the rugged and dignified Mikkelsen), ripe with backroom intrigue, and always engaging. Perhaps its most useful purpose is serving as a reminder, like last month’s The Other Dream Team, that sacrifice for a fair and just way of life is not just an American concept.  [R] ***  

Sister (Dir: Ursula Meier). Starring: Kacey Mottet Klein, Léa Seydoux, Martin Compston, Gillian Anderson. Whip-smart, 12-year-old Simon (Klein) takes advantage of living near a fancy Swiss ski resort, stealing ski equipment and reselling it to the neighborhood kids at reduced prices. His entrepreneurial hustle is out of necessity; his independence is a mirage. Living with an older sister (Seydoux) more concerned with having a good time than earning a steady paycheck, Simon runs the household and pays the bills. Desperate for love and submerged by responsibility, he is the world’s oldest, loneliest boy—a condition that becomes harder to endure as his sister drifts further away from him. Meier builds the plot and the characters through small moments (Simon learning English through ski magazines) and leitmotivs (the brother and sister’s isolated, towering apartment; wide-angle shots that emphasize space). The movie’s power and poetry gradually seize your attention then never let go. A haunting, beautiful film about a family that runs on obligation, not love, brought to vividness by Klein and Seydoux’s desperate, stirring performances. [NR] ****  

The Black Tulip (Dir: Sonia Nassery Cole). Starring: Haji Gul Asser, Sonia Nassery Cole, Walid Amini, Somaia Razaye, Hosna Tanha. In 2010, a husband and wife (Asser, Cole) open a restaurant in Kabul called The Poet’s Corner, where guests can recite poetry. This development enrages the Taliban, which employs extreme measures to shut down the business. Shot entirely in Afghanistan, The Black Tulip provides an extensive look at the real lives of Afghanis. If you want to observe a wedding and learn about women’s changing role in the country, look no further. But by serving as a fact-heavy cultural brochure, Cole extinguishes the narrative momentum, resulting in a violent second half that feels dissonant and shrill. In the film’s production notes, it’s clear that Cole wants to portray Afghanistan beyond the accounts we’ve absorbed in sobering news reports. If that’s the case, why not make a documentary about this unseen side instead of incorporating it into a spiritless, forgettable revenge film? Afghanistan’s official entry for the 2011 Academy Awards. [NR] **

Smashed (Dir: James Ponsoldt). Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman, Octavia Spencer, Mary Kay Place, Megan Mullally. Frightened by her increasingly erratic behavior—which includes succumbing to a hangover in front of her elementary school class and waking up in strange places—a young woman (Winstead) decides to quit drinking and attend AA meetings. She gains support from a sympathetic co-worker (Offerman) and her straight-shooting sponsor (Spencer) but lacks support where it matters most. Her writer husband (Paul, TV’s Breaking Bad), sill stuck in booze-induced neutral, is upset that he and his wife’s common bond has vanished. Director Ponsoldt and writer Susan Burke, a recovering alcoholic, offer an unflinching, refreshingly blunt account of the unexpected rewards and obstacles that occur in forging a new, unpopular life path. Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) is fantastic—you never stop rooting for her. And she’s supported by a sterling group of actors that lends depth and humanity to characters usually presented as devils or Samaritans. [R] ***1/2

The Big Review: The Sessions

"I'll get up when the Academy calls."

John Hawkes gets his moment...and doesn't blow it. This review previously appeared in ICON and is reprinted with permission. 

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The poster I saw for The Sessions includes this breathless blurb from Examiner.com: “Destined to be a player at the Academy Awards.” This comment is as deceiving—does the person actually like the movie?—as it is telling.

Between now and the end of December, we will be inundated with movies aimed directly at Academy members, efforts usually affixed with such adjectives as “inspiring,” “heartwarming,” and “crowd-pleasing.” Let’s be clear: there’s a difference between movies that shamelessly mug for awards (War Horse) and ones that earn them by being terrific and without agenda (The Artist).

Written and directed by Ben Lewin, The Sessions lies somewhere in between. It will be discussed come awards season because it covers the prestige picture playbook: earnest characters facing challenges, a storyline celebrating the tenacity of the human spirit, tasteful, functional nudity. Even though we know the film is conning our heartstrings, we don’t mind. We like the main character. His problems resonate with us. We can cry without feeling duped.

The Sessions introduces us to real-life journalist and poet Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) whose body has been rendered twisted and immobile since a childhood bout with polio. It’s a setback he’s overcome quite nicely. By 1988, he is a college graduate with a career as a working writer. And he has an upbeat attitude, something rarely found even in healthy writers.

In a life full of professional and personal accomplishments, Mark has never enjoyed a romance—in any form. He falls in love with his assistant (Annika Marks), a charming young woman who sees past his physical shortcomings but can’t reciprocate his feelings. Shortly afterward, he’s assigned to write an article about sex and the disabled. It’s unfamiliar terrain. “I feel like an anthropologist interviewing a tribe of headhunters,” Mark says.

But 38-year-old Mark wants to feel what his interview subjects discuss, so he hires Cheryl Cohen Greene (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate, to get his body and mind to respond sexually. Mark is as skittish as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but Cheryl is calm, soothing, and has unlimited patience. He soon falls in love with her. The therapist in Cheryl expects that. What she doesn’t expect is that she begins to feel the same way, which gives each of their mandated six sessions a delicious uneasiness.

The Sessions is a vexing movie because Lewin unintentionally trivializes the material. William H. Macy co-stars as Mark’s priest. Instead of offering a moral counterpoint to Mark’s plan, the padre playfully furrows his brow over these organized sexual conquests, proving that the Catholic Church is a swinging place, baby. During one of Mark and Cheryl’s Holiday Inn therapy sessions, his new assistant (Moon Bloodgood) discusses today’s agenda, simultaneous orgasms, with the hotel manager. “What’s that?” he asks, in a moment better suited for a sitcom. Lewin even has trouble steering the story; the finale is a deflating series of postscripts that almost negates Cheryl and Mark’s relationship. But he never loses sight of Mark’s plight, which is why we stick around. It’s not about getting laid. Sex allows Mark to feel like everyone else after a life of being in everyone’s way.  Anybody who hasn’t felt undesirable or unwanted hasn’t breathed a breath.

Attribute the movie’s heights to Hawkes, an ace character actor who refuses to chew the scenery or emote to the heavens. The obstacles imposed by polio aren’t part of the performance. It’s stripped to the essentials: a man wants to experience sex so he’s one step closer to reciprocal love. Hawkes’ fine work atones for another labored performance from Hunt, who still believes that ridiculous accents are the key to authenticity, and the criminal misuse of Macy’s talents.

The Sessions should be a player at the Academy Awards, thanks to Hawkes’ restraint and the film’s almost accidental dignity. It’s solid and spirited. And that’s probably more than can be said for the eventual Oscar nominees that will heartwarm and crowdplease their way to blandness. [R]

Review of "Cloud Atlas"

On tonight's episode of Medical Center..
Apologies for the delay. We're just getting over Hurricane Sandy disrupting our lives for a week, a situation that readjusted my work routine--but made me truly appreciative of the conveniences we have. 

One of the last things I did before the storm hit Monday night was write this review. And for the next five days, Monday night through Saturday night, there was very little I could do aside from sit and have PECO tease us with status updates about when power would be restored. 

(Though I did buy a nifty Pele shirt at Old Navy for six bucks, and get a new pair of basketball sneakers at Kohl's. See, the suburbs are good for something.)  

It's good to be back. You can read the review for "Cloud Atlas" right here


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review of "Argo"

"Yeah, that's right, I was in Forces of Nature. What's it to you?"
Good, not great. I will say this: Affleck is one or two movies away from making something worth the award-worthy, best-of chatter. 

You can read my review for The Weekender right here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book of the Month, October 2012

I love books. They're fun, educational, and they never talk back.

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending my first pro football game, a Sunday night tilt between the Giants and Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. 

Here are a few observations.

1.) As a Giants fan, I am relieved that I did not wear any kind of NYG hat, shirt, whatever to the game. Eagles fans are positively rabid. Their hatred for their longtime rival is tangible. They are large and capable of drinking a lot of cheap alcohol. There's a good chance I would have been killed if I had worn an Eli Manning jersey. And I'll bet my murderer would have worn a Reggie White jersey that cost more than my car.

(Kudos to Eagles fans for wearing the widest and most obscure array of jerseys. Sure, Vick and Jackson were there. But so was Harold Carmichael. And Mike Quick. And Chuck friggin' Bednarik.) 

2.) By far, this was the loudest, most frenzied sporting event I've ever attended. Going to a game reinforced why football is so popular in America. The gladiator-like violence plays a role, but so does this: the sport demands your constant attention. With only 16 games in a season, every one matters. Hell, every play, player, and decision matters. 

And no sport does a better job of turning itself into a decibel-shattering, fireworks-exploding spectacle. I was fascinated. 

3.) That I could take my wife to a football game--and she didn't blanch or get scared--is further confirmation that I married the right woman. And she had a good time. 

4.) Drunks are fun! A little bit before halftime, a pint-sized douche-in-training rumbled into our row, beer in hand. He and his trashy girlfriend bumped into everybody, causing me to plot my course of action should this happen again.

Turned out there was no need to worry.

About halfway through the third quarter, I noticed my friend had his head between his legs. OK, maybe he's sick, I thought. Five minutes later, he was in the same position and maintained it through the third quarter. His girlfriend soon left, never to return. The fourth quarter: still immobile. Through it all--30 minutes of noise that rattled my ear wax--he was quieter than Grandma at Sunday mass. The game ended. The crowd filed out. My friend was still hammered to the point of stillness. 

Sincerely, The Breakfast Club
The Giants may have lost, but I had my own victory. 

5.) On TV, you always see inevitable cheesecake shots of 21-year-old cheerleaders crammed into circulation-hindering hot pants. But what surprised me at the game was how many there are. Four groups of 12 cheerleaders worked the entire game. And I couldn't get a phone number from one of them.

Strength in numbers, my ass!

Seriously, let's get to the Book of the Month. Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote an observant, shockingly human piece on the Bengals cheerleaders for GQ. It's now published in an excellent collection of profiles called Hidden America. You can read my review for BookPage here

That's it for now. Until later, read in peace. (Go Giants!) 

Review of "Taken 2"

Am I the only who sees that in continuing this "daddy's little girl on testosterone" routine (with a hot 30-year-old actress), that this burgeoning series is becoming increasingly incestuous? But, man, people can't get enough. I saw the movie at 10:30 a.m. on a Friday: the place was packed.

As my brother pointed out, "Commando" covered this same territory years ago--and with a wink and a smile. Sigh...

You can read my review for The Weekender here

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Latest for The Philly Post: Movie cliche bingo!

My version, which I'm quite proud of. You can read it here. 

(Surprisingly, this didn't take that long to write.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Film Round-Up: October 2012: The Oranges, The Other Dream Team, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Francine

Strap on the feedbag, folks! It's time for another Film Round-Up. These reviews previously appeared in ICON and are reprinted with permission. 

Boy, Melissa Leo terrifies me. But she is wonderful in Francine.

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The Oranges (Dir: Julian Farino). Starring: Hugh Laurie, Leighton Meester, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Catherine Keener, Adam Brody, Alia Shawkat. Too much rind, not enough fruit. David and Paige (Laurie, Keener) and Terry and Carol (Platt, Janney) have been neighbors and friends for years. Separately, the two couples struggle. David is spending more nights sleeping in his man cave, while Carol ignores the tech-obsessed Terry. The northern Jersey suburban façade starts crumbling when Terry and Carol’s heart- broken daughter, Nina (Meester), returns home for the holidays and bonds with the vulnerable, lonely David. Writers Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss’ script abounds with good storylines: a wacky comedy of keeping up appearances, an ode to midlife renaissance, the woe of being young and in the suburbs (sporadically narrated by Shawkat). It doesn’t mean they had to use all of them. That misguided ambition shortchanges the emotional complications of David and Nina’s tricky relationship while shackling the actors—including the perennially marvelous Keener. Only Janney’s clucking crazed mother hen performance breaks free. [R] ★★

The Other Dream Team (Dir: Marius A. Markevicius). The Dream Team, that collection of American basketball leg- ends headlined by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, eviscerated the competition at the 1992 Summer Olympics en route to a gold medal and international stardom. Among its opponents was a talented team from the newly independent Lithuania, whose presence was a political and social triumph. Interviewing former Lithuanian players and politicians, Markevicius demonstrates how basketball infused Lithuania’s citizens with dignity and pride, rarities in Russia’s oppressive rule. The Olympics showcased Lithuania’s individuality—Grateful Dead-influenced attire aside—to the rest of the world just two years after its bloody standoff with the Russian army. The Other Dream Team springs patriotism and freedom from the confines of history books and parades. They can only occur when the oppressed demand to be treated like human beings. History has rarely felt this personal. And few sports films possess such inspirational purity. One of the year’s best documentaries. [NR] ★★★★

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (Dir: Lisa Immordino Vreeland). As the fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, Vreeland (1903-1989) shaped how the world viewed fashion, and not just by discovering iconic faces such as Lauren Bacall and Twiggy or introducing the bikini to the shocked masses. Her forward thinking and story sense transformed fashion magazines from lush catalogues into artistic endeavors. (The movie’s title refers to how Vreeland thought people should ideally read a magazine.) Fashion became a living thing. Clearly made with good intentions and soft corners by Vreeland’s granddaughter-in-law, the documentary is essentially a collection of friends, family members, and colleagues swapping war sto- ries. Joel Schumacher describes Vreeland enthusiastically watching Chinatown in a Harlem movie theater; Ali MacGraw recalls the fear and respect she had working as Vree- land’s assistant, and then disciplines her pet. (We hear Vreeland’s perspective through news footage and interviews with author George Plimpton, who assisted on her memoir.) But for someone who was as brazen and bawdy—really, one of America’s last great dames—a loving approach works just fine. [PG-13] ★★★

Francine (Dirs: Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky). Starring: Melissa Leo, Victoria Charkut, Keith Leonard. Refreshingly sparse, concise character study stars Leo as the title character, a stoic middle-aged woman who relocates to a rural small town straight from prison. The new life is a big adjustment. Strangers and new places intimidate Francine into silence. Small talk and eye contact are painful. She finds comfort in the bucolic surroundings and comes alive around animals, a passion that mutates into something bigger and perhaps poisonous. Light on dialogue or obvious conflict, Cassidy and Shatzky string together short scenes to create a portrait of a perpetually defeated woman struggling to find the sliver of light in a bleak life. The haunting, moving film is held together by Academy Award-winner Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter), who manages to convey tender- ness and toughness without swallowing the scenery whole. Really, it’s a miraculous performance, providing heart and soul to complement the credible, working-class grittiness. [NR] ★★★

The Big Review: The Paperboy


In the beach scene, you want me to do what to Zac? 
This review appeared in the October issue of ICON and is reprinted with permission.

*******

IN THE PAPERBOY, HIS follow-up to the critically lauded Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, director Lee Daniels distills the drama and feeds us the pasty, bland remains—and it isn’t the most depressing aspect of the film.

Based on Pete Dexter’s novel, The Paperboy takes place during the summer of 1969 in south Florida, where social progress is a four-letter word. Intrepid journalist Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns home to write about Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a white trash lowlife facing the death penalty for murdering the beloved county sheriff. Ward and his black partner, Yardley (David Oyelowo), believe the charges against Hillary were built on deceit. So does Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), who has become the inmate’s beloved following a jailhouse correspondence.

The driver for this trio is Ward’s younger brother, Jack (Zac Efron), a moody college dropout. It’s a menial job with a large emotional burden. Jack can’t spend time with Ward, who is strangely devoted to Yardley and consumed by the story. He falls hard for Charlotte despite her constant rebuffs and warnings. But Jack can’t help himself. As the Jansen family maid puts it: Charlotte is a high-school girlfriend, mother, and Barbie doll all rolled into one.

Screenwriters Daniels and Dexter expertly set traps that add intrigue and spice to the “race against time” plot before spending an hour steering us away from them. They randomly decide what subplot interests them, but never settle on which one takes priority so the story starts and stalls and caroms—kind of like broken bumper cars. We get so disoriented that we never know where to invest our time.

Despite the activity and displaying his exploitative touch with some rough sex and grisly violence, Daniels’ pacing is positively pedestrian. Perhaps it’s atonement for the lack of urgency. Every big reveal in The Paperboy is explained away or squeezed into a quickly summoned scene that fits right into the film’s short-attention span. A movie like this needs elec- tricity and slowly escalating anticipation. Daniels occasionally summons the over-the-top drama of Precious, like when Hilary and Charlotte drive each other wild (without touching each other) during a prison visit. But we keep wondering why we’re so bored.

Look no further than Anita (Macy Gray), the aforementioned maid, who also serves as the film’s narrator. The way Dexter and Daniels define her is disastrous, almost as bad as if the actors were instructed to speak every other line in gibberish. If the character is not stat- ing what we already know (Jack’s love for Charlotte), she is slaughtering any dramatic potential. A major plot twist involving Ward and Jack that would have benefitted from acting has its conflict and resolution neatly summarized by Anita. Who cares that she’s recalling the twisty tale perfectly for someone who was only peripherally involved? Her existence here confuses me, unless the three people who haven’t seen or read The Help need to understand the plight of Southern black domestics in the 1960s.

The maid’s omnipresence may signal Daniels’ lack of confidence in Efron, who is at- tempting more mature roles after graduating from High School Musical. Every emotion is assigned to Jack via Anita’s memories, and the script avoids running the action through Jack though he’s the best candidate to tell the story. It’s probably the right decision, even if it halves the movie’s I.Q. Efron again proves that he lacks the adult intangibles that separate handsome men from leading men. That might explain why Daniels has the actor (who turns 25 this month) in his underwear for most of the film—or attacked by jellyfish.

Any pleasures in The Paperboy you hang onto with grim desperation: Cusack as psychotic swamp trash; McConaughey playing his fourth complex role in 2012 after years of romantic claptrap; Kidman moaning and groaning as a southern-fried trollop, even though her longtime friend Naomi Watts would have set the screen on fire in that role. There are plenty of assets on hand. Everything else is missing. Anyone who sees The Paperboy won’t be part of an audience; they’ll be part of a doomed search party. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Review of "Trouble with the Curve"

Why is Clint wearing my Champion letterman's jacket from eighth grade?
Insert awful baseball cliche here. And, oh yes, please read my review for The Weekender.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Hometown Movie Theatre: Hopeless

It took me 10 minutes to figure out what the hell "Hope" referred to. "Hope Floats"? "Chicago Hope"? Actually, it's "Hope Springs." Of course. I'm looking forward to "Beasts of the Southern Wild" being abridged to "Beasts" and "This is 40" being shortened to "40" or "This."

Or it could be a theatre employee, still warm and fuzzy over 2008, creatively endorsing Obama.

And I would definitely see 'House at End, Trouble With Curve." That sounds like an early Ang Lee effort.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review of "The Words"

Me write pretty one day: Bradley Cooper in The Words
A hollow morality tale that favors atmospheric flashbacks and intense conversations over substance and insight. But, hey, that Bradley Cooper is easy on the eyes! 

You can read my review for The Weekender right here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My field trip to see "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure"

One day I'll sit my grandkids on my knee and tell them this tale. Or they--like you--could read about it in The Philly Post. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Film Round-Up, September 2012: You've Been Trumped, For A Good Time Call, Arbitrage, Keep the Lights On

The appealing stars of the delightful For A Good Time Call...
And with these four films, I bid a sweet adieu to a fun, eventful summer movie season and greet the fall movie season with a firm handshake and a slap on the back.  Do you know that The Master opens in Philly in less than three weeks? I was shocked when I saw that. Stuff with that kind of buzz usually premieres with the turkey and garland. 

These reviews were previously published in the September issue of ICON and are reprinted with permission. 

*****

You’ve Been Trumped (Dir: Anthony Baxter). In the Scottish village of Aberdeenshire, real estate magnate/reality TV buffoon Donald Trump has bought hundreds of acres of beachfront property to build a luxury golf resort that should serve as a gaudy monument to conspicuous consumption. Local residents, led by the defiant, blunt Michael Forbes, are outraged. The project was originally denied on the local level until the federal government, seduced by dollar signs, granted approval. Now, townspeople could lose homes in a place they cherish. Scientists are appalled at Trump for treating an environmentally precious swath of land with the tact of a brat in a sandbox. Baxter, who gets arrested by local police for no reason and evaded by Trump (who only wants to answer questions from “real journalists”), captures the bewilder- ment of the little guy and his determination for justice. But what stays with you is how in the hands of a wannabe titan like Trump, celebrity and money can smash decency, logic, and legal rights into a million pieces. [NR] ***1/2

Tim Roth, the best part in the overblown Arbitrage

Arbitrage (Dir: Nicholas Jarecki). Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Stuart Margolin, Chris Eigeman, Bruce Altman, Graydon Carter. Latest modern-day mo’ money, mo’ problems parable stars Gere as Robert Miller, a financial maven facing two competing, life-altering crises. The sale of his business keeps getting delayed, a potential disaster since Miller’s trading empire is built on fraud and Madoff-like maneuvering. Meanwhile, an overzealous, rumpled NYC detective (Roth, who steals the film) is intent on nailing Miller—who cannot afford any negative publicity—for his role in a fatal late-night car accident. Writer Jarecki (The Informers), in his directorial debut, lets the story unfold in a way that resembles a dripping faucet: slow, predictable, and with nothing of substance ac- cumulating. For all of Arbitrage’s twisty moral ambiguity and crumbling ivory penthouses, Jarecki’s talky original script keeps suspense at arm’s length, explaining away twists and giving us covert conversations as conspiracy. Solid performances by everyone, including Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Carter (as Miller’s skittish buyer) and model Casta (as Miller’s impatient mistress), gives the film some juice. [R] **


For a Good Time, Call... (Dir: Jamie Travis). Starring: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk, Nia Vardalos, Mimi Rogers, Don McManus. New York City’s unforgiving real estate market forces disorganized aspiring writer Katie (Graynor) to take in recently dumped straight arrow Lauren (Miller) as a roommate, even though the women’s hatred for each other goes way back. The arrangement proceeds as expected until Lauren applies her business savvy to Katie’s skill as a phone sex operator, creating a lucrative partnership that leads to an unforeseen development: friendship. Funny, smart comedy avoids reveling in odd couple clichés and dirty talk shock, honestly exploring the difficulty that comes with making friends in adulthood, when change becomes harder to embrace. Graynor and Miller, sparkly and witty and with zero starlet posing, are terrific as the two young women coming to terms with a new kind of love. Miller served as a producer and co-wrote the script with longtime friend Katie Ann Naylon. Seth Rogen, Miller’s husband, and director Kevin Smith have memorable cameos as two of Katie and Lauren’s “customers.” [R] ***1/2


Keep the Lights On (Dir: Ira Sachs). Starring: Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth, Julianne Nicholson, Souleymane Sy Savane, Paprika Steen. Struggling documentary filmmaker Erik (Lindhardt) meets Paul (Booth), an attorney for Random House, on a phone sex line in 1998. And so begins a lengthy, loving, and overall tumultuous relationship. Distrust, drug use, and fighting make frequent appearances as the men appear and reappear in each other’s lives. There is plenty to like in this award-winning, semi-autobiographical drama. Director-co-writer Sachs’ minimalist, low-key approach to the material is perfect. Veteran actors Lindhardt and Booth deliver performances without pretense, allowing us to see a situation where both parties share some blame in the dysfunction. Since no one is a clear-cut villain, and there’s such a history between the two lovers, neither man (especially Erik) can leave for too long. Moments and accents only take us so far, unfortunately, and Sachs (the over- looked Married Life) uses these to stretch the movie to a length that isn’t sustainable. Keep the Lights On never comes together, though you keep hoping it will. [NR]  **1/2

The Big Review: "Compliance"

Reach out and torment someone: Pat Healy in Compliance
My two cents on one of 2012's most controversial movies. I also think it's one of the year's best. Here's my review for ICON, which is reprinted with permission.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Is this torture porn or a look at who we really are? 

*****

I JUST KNEW IT was going to happen,” says the young woman (Dreama Walker) victimized by a prank call that festers into an abomination in Craig Zobel’s masterpiece of discomfort, Compliance. That quote doesn’t just refer to the film’s central incident.

The story, based on true events, unfolds at an Ohio fast food restaurant managed by the middle-aged Sandra (Ann Dowd), whose approach to life is to get along. The delivery guy screams at her, Sandra apologizes to him. Fifteen hundred dollars in food gets spoiled—someone didn’t close the freezer door—and the staff gets off with more of a plea than a warning. Self-respect left Sandra’s world years ago, probably after her first argument. Her words to boyfriend Van (Bill Camp) say it all, “Just don’t get too drunk.” Sandra would qualify as a doormat if she weren’t so afraid of scuffing your shoes.


That makes her a perfect, unwitting henchman. On the eve of the dinner rush, an Officer Daniels calls the restaurant saying that Becky (Walker) stole money from a customer. The call is odd from the start. You would think that the police officer would visit the restaurant and talk to witnesses. But he sounds convincing enough, and he has Sandra’s boss on hold. Sandra tells Becky about the charges, which she fervently denies. It’s caught on tape, the officer says. There are two options. Becky can come down to the station or she can agree to a strip search right there.


Becky is incredulous; Sandra is skeptical. But the officer knows exactly what to say to the manager: “I have to take the full responsibility on this.” Sandra has no time to ask questions. It’s a busy night and a secret shopper may come in. Plus, her boss and the police have every- thing covered. It’s out of her hands now.


Over the course of several hours, the prank caller (Pat Healy, The Innkeepers) takes his power out for a spin. He has Sandra deposit Becky’s clothes in her car, spins a story about the girl’s involvement in a drug deal, and even involves poor Van. Everyone plays along, be- cause the caller knows he’s dealing with powerless people. Work in the service industry for five minutes—I sold books at Borders, ripped concert tickets, and punched register keys at a multiplex—and you know that “the customer is always right” isn’t just a credo; it’s a “kick me” sign that is permanently affixed to your back.


Firmly connected in the day-to-day, nothing feels preposterous in Compliance. A large part has to deal with the acting. Dowd’s agonizing, complex performance doesn’t paint Sandra as dumb or brainwashed. She’s just so used to acquiescence that it’s become as normal as breathing. We can hear the yearning for acceptance in her voice. Healy, gleeful and slick, is profoundly unsettling, which is amazing since we rarely see him.


Dowd and Healy flourish because writer-director Zobel treats us with intelligence. He em- braces ambiguity, so we feel sorry for Sandra even as she counts Becky’s escalating humilia- tion as a job well done. The titillating aspects get handled with a clinical detachment. Zobel’s goal is to show that this event wasn’t the result of a bizarre series of circumstances. It came from real life. The movie’s washed out color schemes, its repeated images of small-town mis- ery (parking lots, snow drifts), and shots filled with sad, weathered faces speak of a world where it’s best to keep your head down.


Zobel doesn’t amplify. The tension in Compliance comes from simple things: the bub- bling of a fryer interrupting the endless quiet; Heather McIntosh’s score reinforcing the film’s grim inevitability, a Greek tragedy with nametags. Zobel relishes not showing us what’s be- hind the curtain. We never fully understand the background behind Healy’s character, making his actions all the more maddening. When does this deviant say enough is enough? And the fact that we only see Walker topless is more than Zobel showing good taste. Piecing together the possibilities on our own is infinitely more terrifying than seeing them.


What Zobel wants us to see is Sandra. She has spent so much time pleasing others and following orders that she can no longer speak for herself. “I did what I was told to do,” she says afterward. The great tragedy of Compliance isn’t that Sandra cannot tell her side of the story. It’s how many of us are in the same position and don’t even know it. We accept our roles, unaware that a willingness to follow the script shapes us—and the lives of others. Weakness is a destructive weapon we’re all carrying. [R]  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Books of the Month, August 2012

I love books. They're fun, educational, and some of them require no recharging.

Originally, I wanted to write a piece for The Philly Post on how Phillies fans could cope with a lost season, an idea that my editor rejected. That surprised me, because as a lifelong Mets fan I could offer readers advice that psychologists from Albany to Zurich would applaud.  

Part of my coping technique included books, specifically ones about baseball. In my opinion, no sport has a greater literary tradition: Ball Four, The Boys of Summer, Roger Angell's voluptuous body of work, and so on. There is a world of words to get lost in as dreams of postseason glory evaporate with each passing game. 

Boy, that sounded like something from that Baseball documentary. Better get back on track. 

Here are five books that Phillie fans--or anyone who appreciates baseball and good writing--will savor.   

1.) A False Spring by Pat Jordan. Philadelphians know Jordan (pictured) as the magazine veteran who wrote not-so-favorable profiles of Steve Carlton and John Bolaris. But Jordan's recollections as a teenage minor league pitcher contribute to perhaps the best memoir about misspent youth ever written. 

2.) The Last Boy by Jane Leavy. Leavy's exhaustive look at Mickey Mantle's private life--which was staggeringly different from his public, good old boy persona--is one of the best biographies I've ever read on anyone. A staggering work.  

3.) The Game From Where I Stand by Doug Glanville. The former Phillie examines the everyday aspects of being a ballplayer. An eloquent, humorous look at the humdrum that the public rarely sees. 

4.) The Bad Guys Won! by Jeff Pearlman. About one of my favorite teams of all-time, the 1986 New York Mets. And it's written by an author with an insatiable appetite for research. Translation: Get ready for some unreal stories, starting with the flight after the Mets won the pennant. 

5.) The Last Night of the Yankees Dynasty by Buster Olney. Because sometimes you need to revel in the misfortune of your betters. And because Olney is a fantastic reporter.

That's it for now. Until next month, read in peace. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review of "Premium Rush"

The movie wasn't that bad, a miracle considering I was in a less-than-objective state of mind before the Joseph Gordon-Levitt 10-speed epic began.

We got to the AMC Hamilton about 10 minutes before the 11:05 matinee. The lights dimmed, the promotional display appeared, and then the lights went back on. For 40 minutes, the audience waited and waited, held hostage by that banal, mall-friendly soft-rock that chain theaters insist on playing.

What bothers me wasn't the delay. Errors happen when humans are involved. What whipped me into a frenzy was that audience members had to trek from the theater to the customer service desk for an explanation, which was insulting. After hearing the second or third complaint, a manager should have walked into the theater and said the following:

"Folks, we're sorry about the delay. We're having some unanticipated issues with the projection system. We hope to have them fixed shortly. If you do no want to wait, we'll be happy to issue passes for the 12:05 show or refund your money. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience. Myself or someone else with AMC Hamilton will be back in 10 minutes with an update. Thank you."

How hard is that?

I've had good experiences with AMC Hamilton, so I'm hoping this was just a poorly handled situation, but I fully intend on writing a letter to theater management. Your free time is a valuable commodity. Don't stand for someone unapologetically frittering it away.

Here's the review of "Premium Rush,"--the reboot of "Quicksilver" we've all been hungering for. It appeared in this week's "Weekender." Flip to page 27 to read it.

Also, a couple of weeks ago, I reviewed "The Bourne Legacy." Flip to page 29 for the review.

Jesse Hassenger, our critic pal at "The L Magazine" had an issue with my complaint on the amount of backstory and dialogue in this outing, saying that Paul Greengrass' previous efforts exhibited the same qualities. Perhaps. But Greengrass always made me feel like I was peering into a world ripe with intrigue. In "The Bourne Legacy" that "we're through the looking glass" dialogue is all the movie offers. And it's boring, destroying any momentum. We're mired in a swamp of details. It reminded me of my days covering town council meetings--with slightly more gunplay.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why the Hell Did I Watch..."Xanadu"

A dangerous mix led me to watch this, friends: morbid curiosity, loneliness, and the naive belief that, "Well, 'Ruby Sparks' was good. So maybe I'll like the same thing, only done much, much worse!"
So, what are the problems with the intoxicatingly bad "Xanadu," where a muse inspires an artist and a former bandleader to do, um, something? 

1.) Our protagonist's main attribute is that chicks dig him. And Michael Beck plays this role with a level of aloof entitlement that makes it impossible to like the guy. I can picture the director shouting, "Make us hate you, dahling!" 

2.) The movie's main conflict doesn't come along for an hour, so get ready to enjoy dance sequences that look like they were shot inside the world's biggest Lite-Brite. 

3.) Gene Kelly, who's like 106 here, has a dance sequence with Olivia Newton-John, a wonderful singer but a stiff dancer, that looks like it was filmed in slow-motion.

4.) Roller disco! 

5.) There's not enough acid I could take that could help me recreate the plot.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Review of "The Watch"

Ran on Wednesday in The Weekender. Sorry I'm just posting it now, but I've been commuting to New York for a freelance copy editing gig--Mr. Leland is busting my hump over these reports--and my schedule is off. I should be back to myself in no time flat.

You can read the review right here.