Glorified version of a pellet gun: Pearl Jam Twenty

Watching Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam Twenty, I couldn’t escape the conclusion, based on Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, and Stone Gossard’s remarks, that the band thinks, “So, like, one of our best friends OD’d, we sent a tape to a surfer dude with a great voice, we jammed, and suddenly topless chicks at Lollapalooza were screamingContinue reading “Glorified version of a pellet gun: Pearl Jam Twenty”

Mummified: The American

I thought the failure of Solaris (2002) had taught George Clooney the peril of choosing roles in which he’s asked to impose his unimpressive physicality over his talent for glib chatter. The American, Anton Corbijn’s attempt to turn Clooney into Alain Delon, is attenuated and vacant; it nods towards the “leisurely” thrillers of the seventiesContinue reading “Mummified: The American”

“I would follow you into the mists of Avalon if that’s what you mean”

Friends swear by Step Brothers, the 2008 comedy starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as two grown child-men forced together by marriage (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins play their parents). One went so far as to say it was the best comedy of the decade. This was okay! Talladega Nights boasted much better one-linersContinue reading ““I would follow you into the mists of Avalon if that’s what you mean””

Gusto and polyurethane cuteness: Me & Orson Welles

Were it not for a sickly ending involving a pigeon trapped in the Museum of Natural History and a bogus moment in which The Great Stentorian Ham (Christian McKay) confesses to Richard (Zac Efron) that actors perform because Deep Down they’re scared of Being Themselves, Me & Orson Welles would be a minor triumph —Continue reading “Gusto and polyurethane cuteness: Me & Orson Welles”

Village of the Damned

Black and white photography as rich as Christian Berger’s in The White Ribbon is as much a triumph of legerdemain as it is of lighting; the imprimatur of black and white in a post-Ted Turner world signals seriousness of intent. Very serious. Michael Haneke is no Judd Apatow. He’s a proselytizer, a thesis writer, aContinue reading “Village of the Damned”

Wanted: ironist, not fetishist

“Exotic” and “colorful” are the most baneful adjectives used to describe Pedro Almodovar’s work (“stylish” is a close third), and in recent years their synonyms transform into a kind of shorthand by which an entire ethos is evoked without analysis. On the evidence of Broken Embraces, I’d use “saccharine,” “otiose,” and “rote.” If Almodovar hadContinue reading “Wanted: ironist, not fetishist”

“I won’t be giving any hugs”

After a terse, unsentimental first third, The Messenger drifts into the weeds when Ben Foster teases the audience with a will-he-or-won’t-he pass at grieving wife Samantha Morton and comes to a full stop when Woody Harrelson and Foster turn the movie into attenuated psychotherapy. Before that though, first-time director Oren Moverman (he cowrote Todd Haynes’Continue reading ““I won’t be giving any hugs””

Tetro: It’s not Francis Ford Coppola’s newest wine

Written and acted like a musical without song, Tetro is the work of an old artist recreating the follies, turpitudes, and half-formed fantasies that he would have embalmed and buried in his first film or novel (like Bernardo Bertulucci’s Before The Revolution or star Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66, say). In Coppola’s imagination, men ask toContinue reading “Tetro: It’s not Francis Ford Coppola’s newest wine”

35 Shots of Rum: Shot of Love

It took thirty minutes of watching 35 Shots of Rum to figure out that Lionel (Alex Descas) is Josephine’s (Mati Diop) father, not her lover. In the manner of the Taiwanese cinema with which she shares stylistic affinities, Claire Denis places considerable demands on the audience’s patience. What links her work with recent films byContinue reading “35 Shots of Rum: Shot of Love”

How bad? Not very.

I was disappointed that Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans wasn’t as lurid and purple as last fall’s reviews suggested. Breakdancing corpses and emotive iguanas aside, the only element that distinguishes this from a two-hour episode of “The Wire” is Nicholas Cage’s Death Star forehead (are those hair implants?). What Cage does onscreenContinue reading “How bad? Not very.”