Monday, September 30, 2013

Don Jon

Uproariously funny and very sexy, "Don Jon" makes a perfect date movie and an exceptional directorial debut for its too-cute-for-words star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mademoiselle C

After fashion biographies as insightful and entertaining as 2008's "The September Issue" and last year's "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel," the genre crashes to Earth with "Mademoiselle C," a shockingly inept vanity project for the former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld (hardly a mademoiselle), who in 2011 left Conde Nast to start (with Stephen Gan of Visionaire) her own magazine, CR Fashion Book.


"Incendies" director Denis Villeneuve, whose sensibility is to try to make the audience turn away, moves to America for "Prisoners," about the torturous extremes to which a prepper dad (Hugh Jackman) takes his vigilantism when his daughter and, oh by the way, that of their black best friends (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) go missing, apparently abducted by the mentally retarded young man a few doors down (Paul Dano). You know how I feel about Dano as an actor, but even I wouldn't wish the brutal beatings and scalding showers Jackman inflicts on him here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Thanks For Sharing

Stuart Blumberg's "Thanks for Sharing" isn't exactly as searing a portrait of sex addiction as Steve McQueen's "Shame," but it's true enough to its subject to earn our goodwill, and rewards us by getting appreciably better - smarter and funnier - as it goes on.

Mother of George

Set in the Nigerian community in Brooklyn, Andrew Dosunmu's "Mother of George," while lovely to look at, allows its single issue to crowd out the character development that might have given it greater resonance.

Haute Cuisine

The first test of a food movie is whether it makes your mouth water.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Enough Said

Nicole Holofcener made my top-ten list in 2010 with "Please Give," but her new film, "Enough Said," falls well short of that standard. Too often, the writer-director's insights into human nature and behavior are obscured by a plot barely above the level of "Three's Company" and an overly diffuse script populated by too many characters.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Touchy Feely

I can't tell you how disappointed I am in Lynn Shelton's "Touchy Feely."

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Recalcitrant opacity may impart a certain cool to the film actor Harry Dean Stanton and the characters he enacts, but they render him a lousy subject for director Sophie Huber to interview in the new doc "Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction."

Red Obsession

The "red" in the title of David Roach's and Warwick Ross's new documentary "Red Obsession" refers to two things: the Bordeaux wines of the top four French châteaux (Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Latour et Haut-Brion), which yielded generational vintages in the back-to-back years of 2009 and 2010, and the status-seeking Chinese nouveau riche (including the country's dildo king), who drove their prices to unprecedented (but not necessarily unsustainable) levels.

Fire in the Blood

In "Fire in the Blood," director Dylan Mohan Gray does a thorough job of reporting on the confluence of events that caused so many in Africa to die needlessly of AIDS before obtaining relief.

The Family

If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the two decent minutes of Luc Besson's "The Family," a painful exercise in paycheck cashing by Robert De Niro, as a former Mafioso who ratted out his colleagues, and Tommy Lee Jones, as the Witness Protection Program agent assigned to watch over him and his family.

You Will Be My Son

Part of one's cinematic development involves learning to recognize low art even when it's dressed up in haute-couture finery.

Una Noche

"Only in Miami is Cuba so far away." - Bette Midler, "Only in Miami"


More compelling for its backstory than what's onscreen, "Wadjda" is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and by a female director, no less.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Good Ol' Freda

You don't have to rush out to the theater to catch "Good Ol' Freda," Ryan White's breezy documentary about the Beatles' secretary Freda Kelly, but I hope you'll make a point of finding it when it hits the tube.

My Father and the Man in Black

Hollywood agent Jonathan Holiff has made a documentary entitled "My Father and the Man in Black," about his dad Saul, who managed Johnny Cash from obscurity to stardom during the 1960s and 1970s and took his own life eight years ago.


In the 1958 of director Régis Roinsard's trifle "Populaire," Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François), a young lady from the tiny village of St. Fraimbault, musters her courage, travels to the slightly larger town of Lisieux, and lands a job as a secretary to insurance agency manager Louis Echard (Romain Duris).

Monday, September 9, 2013


In "Adore," Naomi Watts and Robin Wright play Lil and Roz, best friends since childhood who live in neighboring beach homes in Australia.

A Teacher

A friend and I put together a Scandalous Saturday double feature of "A Teacher" and "Adore." "A Teacher" stars newcomers Lindsay Burdge and Will Brittain as Diana Watts, a young high school teacher, and Eric Tull, the student with whom she conducts a sexual affair.


Not for "Salinger" director Shane Salerno exegeses of The Catcher in the Rye or the many short stories J.D. Salinger published in The New Yorker and other magazines; at one point, Salerno uses an embarrassing title card to synopsize Catcher as if we in the audience had never read it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

This is Martin Bonner

Writer-director Chad Hartigan's "This is Martin Bonner" (available on VOD) is, in scope, one of the smallest films I've ever seen. Yet by focusing on just a few weeks in the lives of two ordinary men, refusing to contrive conflict, and giving his actors room to find the goodness in their characters' souls, Hartigan has effected a cinematic achievement of quiet grace, uncommon beauty and lasting resonance.

I Declare War

Early in their "Lord of the Flies" wannabe "I Declare War," directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson set forth the rules of War, a game for two teams of five high school kids: 1.) Each of two generals selects his team's home base, which cannot be moved. 2.) If you are shot, you must count off "ten steamboats" (or, as we called it, "ten Mississippi") before reviving. 3.) If you are hit with a grenade (which looks like a large, cranberry-red paintball), you're dead and must go home. 4.) The team whose general captures the other team's flag wins.


Watching Selena Gomez pretend to act tough in "Getaway," I was reminded of Talia Shire's remark upon returning to her penthouse apartment in "Life Without Zoe," Francis Ford Coppola's contribution to the 1989 anthology film "New York Stories": "So, is this what your father calls sophisticated? Twelve year old girls sipping strawberry daiquiris and reading Paris Vogue."

The Lifeguard

After last year's "Hit and Run" and now "The Lifeguard," we can put an end to the Kristen Bell-as-leading-lady experiment.

Closed Circuit

In the opening sequence of "Closed Circuit," a bomb explodes in London, killing dozens.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I don't spend a lot of time re-reading my old reviews, but I must admit I rather liked my note on 2011's French import "Love Crime": .  Now Brian DePalma has remade "Love Crime" as "Passion," and I'm afraid to say all he's achieved is to eliminate (most of) the campy laughs that made the original, as I called it, more fun than a good movie.

Instructions Not Included

The surprise hit of the Labor Day weekend, with around $10 million in box office, is the stillborn Mexican comedy "Instructions Not Included," a perfect example of the puerile and scatological humor that in my review of "When Comedy Went to School" I labeled endemic to cultures that have not (yet) been transformed by the Jewish sensibility.

Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride

Amy Nicholson's elegiac documentary "Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride" offers a basic primer on the history of this unique (down to its zoning) panel in the crazy quilt of New York City life.

Drinking Buddies


Writer-director Joe Swanberg's "Drinking Buddies" is a slice-of-life movie that grows on you even after it ends, with its keenly observed relationships and refusal to conform to pat expectations.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Afternoon Delight

Usually studios put all of a movie's funniest lines and most memorable moments into the trailer, so that by the time you get around to seeing it, you've already seen the best parts. Jill Soloway's "Afternoon Delight" exemplifies the opposite phenomenon: a great movie whose unfunny-chick-flick preview makes you want to avoid it like the plague. That's a shame, because this is one of the wisest films of the year, knowing and insightful on matters of the heart and the libido.