Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet

Look, I raved about An Inconvenient Truth -- and, hell, I voted for Al Gore -- but I must admit: This piece on made me laugh out loud.

Welcome to Telluride

I can't go to the Telluride Film Festival this year -- so Telluride has come to me. And I'm bringing it to you. Thanks to the miracle of modern science, you'll be able to refer to the right side of this blog for updates, highlights, schedules, and plenty of other stuff that'll make you and me wish we were actually attending the Aug. 29-Sept. 1 event. Hey, wait a minute! Could that be why the Telluride folks sent me that widget thing in the first place? Oh, those crafty film festival people!

Monday, July 28, 2008


I'm up to something like 15,248 hits over at YouTube for this clip of a 1997 interview I did with George Clooney. I guess everything even remotely connected to Batman is hot-hot-hot right now. You'll notice, though, that some of the comments left by viewers are... well, shall we say, impolite?

Friday, July 25, 2008

If you can see only one movie about lesbian cannibal witches...

Well, maybe it shouldn't be this one.

Truffaut lives!

As a neglected child growing up in Paris of the 1940s, François Truffaut took joy where he could find it. He found it more often than not within the darkness of movie theaters, often playing hooky and sneaking in side doors to see favorite films again and again.

Time went by and he would sit ever closer to the screen, as though wishing to literally lose himself inside the images that promised a better, more stable world. Outside, he was at best an indifferent student, usually ignored by his self-absorbed parents and often brutalized by unsympathetic teachers. But once inside a theater like the Gaumont-Palace, beguiled by larger-than-life fantasies and excited by the danger of discovery, Truffaut blossomed like some exotic night-blooming orchid. Here, in the magical kingdom of lights and shadows, he was a prince of the realm.

"For me," Truffaut would say three decades later, "cinema is not a sad imitation of life. It is an improvement on life."

Little wonder, then, that after years of immersing himself in his favorite art form, of discovering cinema with all the attendant ecstasy and guilt one normally associates with sexual awakening, Truffaut chose film as his life work.

He began as a critic for Cahiers du Cinéma, the celebrated French film magazine, where he proselytized for a "cinema of the first-person singular," encouraging the creation of movies "even more personal than an autobiographical novel, more like a confession or an intimate diary."
When he was ready to make the transition from critic to creator as a founder of the maverick nouvelle vague ("new wave") movement, he took his own words to heart. And while he was at it, he made a timeless masterpiece.

The 400 Blows, Truffaut's profoundly affecting and enduringly influential first feature, is on view in revival screenings this weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It's a frankly autobiographical drama, at once brutally specific and brilliantly emblematical, about Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a 14-year-old boy whose acute sensitivity makes him tragically vulnerable to the hard knocks of an emotionally deprived childhood. Don't look for anything so comforting as rosy-hued nostalgia here. "Adolescence," Truffaut pointedly noted in a 1959 essay, "leaves pleasant memories only for adults who can't remember." Truffaut, who was 26 when he filmed 400 Blows, couldn't forget. Read more here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Harold & Kumar 3

A sequel to the sequel? Sweet!

Barack Obama: Master showman

No wonder Obama's people wanted him to speak at this particular time of day in Berlin. Look at the way the "magic hour" lighting enhances his stage presence. Sure, he's saying all the right things -- and saying those things very effectively -- but, my God, what a showman he is. And I mean that as a compliment.

Sure beats the hell out of someone answering important questions in front of a cheese display!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kismat Konnection

It's difficult for a featherweight musical romance to remain light and breezy for 151 minutes, but the disarmingly charming Kismat Konnection rarely dawdles long enough for you to note the passing of time or the padding of plot. One of a handful of recent Bollywood confections to get relatively wide North American release simultaneously with first run engagements in India, it could very well click with U.S. moviegoers heretofore unexposed to such flavorsome fare. A sweetly sincere love story, engaging performances by attractive leads, and spirited presentations of peppy production numbers are its major selling points.

You can read my entire Variety review here.

And can groove to the title song here:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

In the Heat of the Night

So I'm in my hotel room near LAX, waiting for a call from Viggo Mortensen to talk about Appaloosa, and I'm channel surfing. Guess what I found on Turner Classic Movies? Guess what I can't help watching for, like, the zillionth time?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Stranger than fiction, funnier than parody

John McCain is sooooooooooooo busted in this interview clip. Amazing. You know, you really can't make up stuff like this. Trust me: It's funnier than anything in War, Inc.


Most producers of reality-TV series can only dream of finding subjects as fascinating as the family examined in Surfwise, a provocative documentary about a man who dropped out to follow a dream that gradually evolved into something not unlike a nightmare. You can read my Houston Chronicle review here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hilary Duff: Nasty as she wants to be

Despite flashes of comic inspiration and an abundance of anything-goes boldness, War, Inc. is a chaotic free-fire zone in which savvy satire, sophomoric silliness and sappy sentiment collide, commingle and ultimately cancel each other out. But there's some good news: Hilary Duff's risky and frisky performance as a foul-mouthed Central Asian pop tart is a genuine revelation.

Meet Dave

Cynics may expect the worst of another Eddie Murphy vehicle involving extraterrestrials -- insert joke about The Adventures of Pluto Nash here -- but that only makes Meet Dave all the more pleasant a surprise. You can read my Variety review here.

Spike smacks Jesse

Spike Lee heard about Jesse Jackson's dis of Barack Obama. He wasn't amused.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Read at your own risk

Inspired by the surprise twist of Hancock -- which, to his credit, he doesn't reveal -- David Germain considers other classic curveballs tossed at moviegoers. Unfortunately, this means he spills the beans while considering the surprises of Psycho, The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game and other flicks. Don't say you weren't warned. (In fact, if you've never seen Psycho, you might not want to click that link.)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The early word on The Dark Knight

Justin Chang of Variety raves: "An ambitious, full-bodied crime epic of gratifying scope and moral complexity, this is seriously brainy pop entertainment that satisfies every expectation raised by its hit predecessor and then some... It's a tribute to [Heath] Ledger's indelible work that he makes the viewer entirely forget the actor behind the cracked white makeup and blood-red rictus grin, so complete and frightening is his immersion in the role. With all due respect to the enjoyable camp buffoonery of past Jokers like Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson, Ledger makes them look like -- well, clowns."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Neatly balancing full-hearted celebration with evenhanded examination, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson offers an often amusing, always engrossing and ultimately melancholy portrait of a groundbreaking, risk-taking writer who became, for better and worse, a larger-than-life character. You can read my review here.

Mister Lonely

There are moments in Mister Lonely that will convince you filmmaker Harmony Korine is some sort of whimsical visionary, highly amused yet deeply sympathetic as he celebrates the eccentric and marvels at the magical. There are other moments, however, when you can't help but suspect Korine really is a snarky con artist, a condescending ringmaster who's inviting us to giggle at tarnished stars in a campy freak show.

And here's the really weird part: There are extended scenes in which both kinds of moments uneasily coincide.

Mister Lonely requires your patience and your indulgence, which it repays with vibrant images of surreal beauty, vital outbursts of rude humor and tender passages of delicate poignancy. You can read my full review here.

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hancock rocks the house

The vertiginous mood swings and abrupt tonal shifts of Hancock may too jarring, too unsettling, for moviegoers who prefer movies that are more smoothly consistent – and who may feel this apologetically all-over-the-map opus is as zig-zaggedly sloppy as one of the title character's flight patterns. But if you find yourself thinking, as I do, that this is some kind of terrific entertainment, chances are good that you'll feel that way because of, not despite, its free-wheeling, risk-taking untidiness.

Of course, lead player Will Smith deserves a fistful of kudos for his fearless performance as Hancock, a surly superhero who drinks himself into super stupors, passes out on bus-stop benches, and only reluctantly rouses himself to take flight in pursuit of bad guys. (Before you ask: No, he doesn’t wear a costume. And if you asked him about that, you’d probably wish you hadn’t.) Maybe he’s killed too many brain cells to think clearly. Or maybe he’s so bored with being bulletproof and super-strong that he must go to extremes to amuse himself. Either way, Hancock makes it very clear very early that he does whatever he damn well pleases, and to hell with the consequences, while pursuing fugitives, dousing burning buildings or, in one especially memorable scene, rescuing beached whales. If Smith weren’t around to generate at least a modicum of rooting interest in this mighty malcontent – well, it would be ridiculously easy to join Hancock's ever-expanding on-screen chorus of disapprovers.

Off-screen: Larry Ratliff has the eyes to see, the mind to discern and the heart to understand. So does Sean Axmaker, and David Denby. You can read my Houston Chronicle review here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Maverick marathon

Great news for fans of James Garner and classic television: You can celebrate July 4th with 12 back-to-back episodes of Maverick on the Encore Westerns cable network. The marathon kicks off at 12 noon EDT on Independence Day. And with all due respect to Mel Gibson -- Garner remains, now and forever, the coolest and craftiest cardshark cowboy to ever ride tall in a tongue-in-cheeky sagebrush saga.

Happy Canada Day!

To all my friends and colleagues in the Great White North -- best wishes, and g'day!