Gone Girl

(David Fincher, 2014)

with Jess de Martine, Cobble Hill Cinema, 10/24/14

4

Gone-Girl-Movie-Rosamund-Pike-Amy-Dunne

Gleefully lurid thriller with a truly bizarre structure.  Gone Girl is fundamentally pretty silly, and some of the dialogue is painfully bad, but it has a certain What the hell am I watching? fascination to it, even as it drags on too long and seems eager to lose itself in every little cul-de-sac along the way.  Not good – not even close to good – but sort of a compelling specimen, if only by virtue of its strangeness.

Published in: on October 28, 2014 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Lost in La Mancha

(Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, 2002)

with Jess de Martine, 115 Fourth Place, 10/7/14

3

lost-in-la-mancha

Watching things go badly is not intrinsically interesting.  To be honest, I think this documentary would be more compelling if The Man Who Killed Don Quixote had actually been completed.  As it stands, it’s just a chronicle of frustration and failure, and it’s pretty frustrating to watch.

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Two Faces of January

(Hossein Amini, 2014)

with Jess de Martine, Nitehawk Cinema, 10/4/14

5

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It’s hard to know what to say about a movie like this – skillfully filmed and acted, with an engaging enough story, but with no discernible urgent reason to exist.  Is “Because we can” a good enough reason to make a movie?  Is “Because it won’t suck”?  Viggo Mortensen is excellent as always, but the story is too linear, too simple, too repetitive – and, in the end, too novelistic.  The Two Faces of January passes the time, but it doesn’t do much more.

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Skeleton Twins

(Craig Johnson, 2014)

with Mom and Devin, Millerton Moviehouse, 9/29/14

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THE SKELETON TWINS, from left: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, 2014. ©Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett

Generic, downbeat indie dramedy, with way too much time-lapsing and not nearly enough things-happening.  There’s nothing actively offensive about The Skeleton Twins, but there’s not much to recommend it, either..

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

(Alfred Werker, 1939)

with Mom, Barn Screening Room, 9/26/14

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Basil Rathbone deserves better.  His Sherlock Holmes is suave, sharp, and palpably intelligent – the perfect blend of sleek Victorian gentleman and on-the-trail bloodhound.  Unfortunately, he’s stuck in a clumsy screenplay with a painfully incompetent Watson – and this, by the way, is reputed to be the best of the Rathbone Holmes movies.  I pity the poor fool who tries to watch all fourteen …

Published in: on October 9, 2014 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Fitzcarraldo

(Werner Herzog, 1982)

with Jess de Martine, BAM Rose Cinemas, 9/6/14

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7

Where lyricism meets sweat, you’ll find Werner Herzog.  There’s something wonderfully concrete about his films; however poetic and symbolic they may be in the outline, they still manage to fill your nostrils with the scents and stenches of the world you’re being thrust into.  There’s all the difference in the world between understanding the phrase “drag a steamship over a mountain” and the experience of actually watching people drag a goddamn steamship over a goddamn mountainFitzcarraldo gets off to a bit of a rocky start, and the ending is perhaps not as cathartic as we’d like it to be.  But as long as they’re dragging that steamship over that mountain, the movie is absolutely transfixing – and delectably surreal.

Published in: on October 9, 2014 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  

The Shootist

(Don Siegel, 1976)

with Darcy, Theo Meneau, and Lucy Frisch, Barn Screening Room, 9/1/14

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7

John Wayne may be one of the cinema’s quintessential tough guys, but I think it’s the twinkle in his eye that made him a star.  In the role of a past-his-prime gunfighter trying to go out with a little dignity, Wayne is all soft-spoken, easygoing charm – which somehow doesn’t make him seem any less dangerous.  Lauren Bacall is a worthy foil for the Duke, and the warmth of their bickering gives the movie much of its underlying sweetness.  Like many of the great Westerns, The Shootist is both a critique and a celebration of violence – an elegy for America’s frontier past, and an acknowledgment of the inevitability of progress.  Best of all, the movie offers an ending that is wholly unpredictable, yet undeniably right.  What a fine and pleasurable movie.  When we talk about great Westerns, let’s not forget this one.

Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Chef

(Jon Favreau, 2014)

with Jess de Martine, Brooklyn Heights Cinema, 8/12/14

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5

If you love food and you hate plot and character development, then boy is this the right movie for you.  Chef could just as easily have been titled Things Jon Favreau Likes; it’s less a movie than a catalog of its director’s favorite music, favorite cities, favorite actors, and – most importantly – favorite dishes.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie so stubbornly shapeless and digressive – but there’s a lot of charm to the proceedings, and so, in its own odd way, it kind of works.

Published in: on October 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Guardians of the Galaxy

(James Gunn, 2014)

with Kristin Olson, Union Square Regal, 8/10/14

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6

On paper, this is a great sci-fi action comedy.  It’s clever; it’s entertaining; it has plenty of action and humor and weird-looking aliens and romance and everything we crave from the genre – plus a killer soundtrack of infectious oldies.  Ultimately, though, the movie feels a bit like a by-the-numbers affair, and matters aren’t helped by some weak performances and a reflexive jokiness that undermines any potential suspense.  Guardians of the Galaxy is a solid comic-book movie – maybe even better than solid.  But it doesn’t live up to the mark set by The Avengers, and it doesn’t live up to its own hype.

Published in: on October 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment