Friday, September 23, 2011


Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" ushers us into the fall movie season. It's time to get serious, to tell stories rich with drama and meaning and resonance. Or at least to get Brad Pitt an Oscar nomination - that's a good thing, right? It'll have to be, because "Moneyball" is thin, forgettable and dramatically inert.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Drive": To Live and Drive in L.A.

The more I sit here thinking about "Drive," the more parallels I find to "To Live and Die in L.A." This is high praise, as TLADILA is one of my all-time favorite (and most often watched) films. Nicolas Winding Refn's picture opens with Ryan Gosling acting as a getaway driver for two robbers (his day job is as a stunt driver for the movies). "I give you a five minute window," he tells them. "Anything that happens in those five minutes, I've got you covered. Something happens a minute on either side, you're on your own." The gorgeous lights of downtown L.A. at night play across Gosling's face, which we see mostly through his rearview mirror. This sequence can't compare to TLADILA's definitive car chase (driven the wrong way through the L.A. freeway system), but it's a terrific opening set to - of all things - Ralph Lawler's radio call of a Clippers-Raptors game (you had to know I was going to like this movie). Did I hear echoes of William Petersen extolling the virtues of Quentin Dailey's jumper in TLADILA? Yeah, I did. (By the way, later in the movie Gosling takes his neighbor Carey Mulligan and her son on a ride through the same L.A. River basin featured prominently in the TLADILA chase.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Restless": a career nadir for Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant has made some terrific pictures, including several of his recent, more under-the-radar works: "Elephant," "Gerry," "Paranoid Park."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Happy, Happy": Adultery in the outskirts of Oslo...

Ever been really into a movie, relating to it on an emotional level, when the idiots around you laughed in all the wrong places? That was my experience of "Happy, Happy,"

"My Afternoons with Margueritte": Sleep-inducing, go-nowhere...

The average foreign film we see in America is better than the average Hollywood production if for no other reason than the limited number of art-house screens and the resultant winnowing process that happens before a subtitled flick ever gets U.S. distribution.
That doesn't explain the sleep-inducing, go-nowhere "My Afternoons with Margueritte,"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mr. Nice

Rhys Ifans gets a rare starring role in "Mr. Nice," the true story of Howard Marks, an accidental hashish dealer who in the 70s and 80s became a high-living, fun-loving, identity-morphing kingpin always just ahead of the law (and simultaneously an unacknowledged agent of MI6).

"Contagion": Come on in, the water's fine...

Steven Soderbergh would seem to have the right impersonal, clinical detachment required to make "Contagion" taut, gripping and seminal - the kind of issue movie that makes the cover of Time magazine. (Certainly the thought of a biological weapon such as the film's mutant bat-pig virus strain is deeply frightening.) Unfortunately, cinematizing even the most epidemic subject matter involves some choice of characters through whom to tell the story, and Soderbergh has created several uninteresting ones.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


"Littlerock" takes place not in Arkansas but in the Antelope County freeway town of Littlerock, CA, population 1377, where a Japanese brother and sister stop on their way to Manzanar and San Francisco and stay a bit longer than expected.

"Love Crime": Much More Fun than a Good Movie

Of Ludivine Sagnier's performance in the new howler "Love Crime," let me just say that I have not been so moved by an actress since Pia Zadora in "Butterfly." As a senior executive in the Paris office of an "ago-business" firm, Sagnier looks like a thirteen-year-old girl playing dress-up. Some of the dialogue from the business-world scenes has to be heard to be believed: "I speak for all of us," one male colleague tells Sagnier, "when I say you are the perfect woman."