Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Becoming Traviata

There are some fascinating dialogues between director and star in Philippe Béziat’s opera-rehearsal documentary “Becoming Traviata.”

Fast & Furious 6

Is there a better action franchise at the moment than the Fast and the Furious? I don't think so.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

"We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks" is the latest work by the prolific and widely interested documentarian Alex Gibney, who over the past decade has given us highly infotaining films on subjects as disparate as financial fraud ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"), sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ("Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God"), chemically enriched journalism ("Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson"), and Iraq-war interrogation techniques (his Oscar-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side").

Before Midnight

In 1995's "Before Sunrise," Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American on a Eurail pass, met Celine (Julie Delpy), a French student, on a train.

The Painting

78 minutes has rarely felt so long as in the moralistic multicultural animated import "The Painting," in which the characters of an unfinished painting come to life.

The Hangover Part III

While it doesn't approach the heights of hilarity and freshness attained by the original "Hangover," Part III of the trilogy delivers an unexpected number of big laughs.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The English Teacher

The suddenly ubiquitous Julianne Moore stars as Linda Sinclair, the title character in the exceedingly odd new comedy "The English Teacher."

The Source Family

In 1971, Jim Baker (not to be confused with Jim Bakker of PTL/Tammy Faye infamy) was a charismatic L.A. restaurateur who owned the pioneering health-food restaurant The Source on the Sunset Strip, as well as the Aware Inn and the Old World mini-chain.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Frances Ha

After one of our day trips, Daniel told me he'd especially enjoyed it because it seemed so spontaneous. "You have no idea," I assured him, "how much planning spontaneity takes."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I'm no prude, but every so often I have to write the Rex Reed review. "Pieta" is a vile movie made by, about, and for sociopaths. It is, as the late Roger Ebert wrote of "I Spit on Your Grave," a geek show.


Did anybody laugh freely in France in the 1870s, or smile broadly, or have any fun at all? You'd be within your rights to wonder after watching "Augustine," a somnolent period piece that makes the nineteenth century seem about as much fun as the Bubonic Plague.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Stories We Tell

I don't want to say too much about Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell," because this is a film (she calls it a documentary, though it uses reënactments so realistic they look like found home-movie footage) that gets a lot of its power from the surprises in its story.

What Maisie Knew

Sensitive, knowing and true, Scott McGehee's and David Siegel's "What Maisie Knew" takes familiar material involving divorce and child custody to new heights with its intelligence and emotional honesty.

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay

I feared the new documentary "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" would rehash a lot of material from Jay's David Mamet-produced "52 Assassins" and "Rogues' Gallery" shows, both of which I saw at the Geffen within the past several years. There are some card tricks from those shows, but "Mysteries and Mentors" smartly focuses on the mentors, the century-long lineage of prestidigitators Jay has studied about and with.

Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams and a highly talented cast of actors increasingly comfortable in their roles bring wit and humor to "Star Trek Into Darkness" and this new generation of "Trek" that elevates it well above the level of Shatner and Nimoy.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Love Is All You Need

I'd hate to see the appealing and funny Danish-Italian romantic comedy "Love Is All You Need" get lost among the wreckage of "Iron Man" and "The Great Gatsby."

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Great Gatsby

You remember "The Great Gatsby," don't you, old sport? Probably read it in American Lit in high school. Long Island, mysterious multimillionaire, opulent parties, all that jazz. Didn't care much for it, old sport? Yeah, me neither. And I know how you feel about Baz Luhrmann. Better not to say anything at all.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's

A New Yorker cartoon by Victoria Roberts lends its name to the new fashion documentary "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's," about the landmark department store at 57th & 5th.


It's hard to imagine what chits director Sophie Lellouche had to call in to get Woody Allen to lend his voice and, for the briefest of scenes at the end, his presence to the witless, charmless and wafer-thin French romcom "Paris-Manhattan," which takes place entirely in Paris and not at all in Manhattan.

Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner

The documentarian Cindy Kleine turns the camera on her husband for the scattershot biopic "Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Something in the Air

"Jackal" director Olivier Assayas sets his semiautobiographical new film "Something in the Air" in 1971, when the French counterculture is dawning just as the American scene sets.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Iceman

Dating Edward Scissorhands undoubtedly helped Winona Ryder prepare for marriage to Michael Shannon in "The Iceman," a new film about the contract killer Richard Kuklinski, responsible for more than 100 hits before his arrest in 1986.

Iron Man 3

Ask somebody who likes the "Iron Man" franchise what makes Iron Man a great character and I suspect he'll be at a loss for words. It's really not an especially interesting character; without the tremendous goodwill Robert Downey, Jr. brings to the table, Iron Man would be (ahem) leaden. And, as one who doesn't like the franchise, I'm here to report that Downey is again not enough. "Iron Man 3" is loud, dark, severely bloated at about two hours and twenty minutes, and not very much fun.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


I haven’t seen a coming-of-age adventure story quite like “Mud” maybe since “Stand By Me” almost three decades ago. Though set in the present, “Mud” has that film’s timeless quality, like a lived experience remembered with precision and powerfully felt.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Arthur Newman

"Arthur Newman" is a strange, dreary movie about Wallace Avery (Colin Firth), a professional golfer from Florida whose mental fragility has kept him from success on the tour.

Kon Tiki

This new "Kon Tiki," filmed in English contemporaneously with a Norwegian version that lost the foreign-language Oscar to "Amour," is a gripping adventure yarn and good clean fun for the whole family.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

There's a reductionist quality to Mira Nair's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" that doesn't wash with me. Riz Ahmed plays Changez Khan, brilliant and brimming with self-confidence, who comes to America from Pakistan, aces college and business school, and lands a high-paying job with a top Wall Street consulting firm. Only after 9/11 does he feel the tug of his homeland, and only because a couple of dehumanizing civil liberties violations force him to grapple with his identity. On one occasion, he's pulled from a TSA airport line and strip-searched; on another, he's mistaken for a thief to whom he bears at best an attenuated physical resemblance and arrested and brought in for questioning ("How do you feel about America?").

At Any Price

The square, out-of-time Dennis Quaid-Zac Efron father-son drama "At Any Price" throws together wildly disparate but overfamiliar elements, failing to generate traction with any of them.

Pain & Gain

"Pain & Gain" is a comedy, folks. A Michael Bay comedy. And believe it or not, it's funny, sometimes very funny. Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a Miami personal trainer with dollar signs in his eyes who puts together a ragtag crew of dim-bulb criminals (Dwayne Johnson as an ex-con who found Jesus in stir and, from "Night Catches Us," Anthony Mackie as a juicehead who's sacrificed his family jewels at the altar of anabolic steroids) to kidnap the ultimate wrong guy, one of Lugo's clients, a seemingly unbreakable Colombian deli owner with the great movie name of Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub).

The Big Wedding

How sad is it that Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, and Susan Sarandon have made a movie together, and that that movie is "The Big Wedding," a crude, cynical comedy with a couple of chuckles at most. Its oversexed humor comes off not playful and horizon-expanding but crass and desperate.