Sunday, September 28, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Read My Feature Article on "Towelhead"

I don't have a Minute with Abe for this one because it was a critics' screening, but I do have a front-page Washington Square News feature article about the new film "Towelhead," which includes quotes from my roundtable interviews with stars Peter Macdissi and Summer Bishil and director Alan Ball. Check it out here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

Home Video: Duck

Directed by Nicole Bettauer
Released June 3, 2008 (DVD)

I had been waiting to see this tiny film for such a long time, and I don’t think it ever made it to theatres. If it did, I missed it, and I was delighted to discover that it was in fact in stock at the local Blockbuster. It’s always a risk to make movies with essentially only two characters, especially when one of them is effectively mute (“Cast Away” is an example of doing it right). The attempt pays off here, and a wonderful film results. For those who need some sort of action throughout, this is not the way to go. The film proceeds along at a remarkably slow pace, yet still remains furtively engaging throughout. Philip Baker Hall turns in a terrific lead performance, playing his character the way I wish Richard Jenkins had in “The Visitor” earlier this year. It’s impossible not to love the duck, but Hall gives it his all with humor, wit, and an endearing nature that makes him equally entirely likeable. The slightly futuristic setting presents an interesting message about pollution and waste which doesn’t drown out the enjoyable tendencies o the film, but creates an additional frame of thinking to contemplate. I doubt many will see this film, but I highly recommend it as one of those tiny independent films I wish could reach a larger audience.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Home Video: Sleepwalking

Directed by William Maher
Released March 14, 2008

I was completely unprepared for what this movie would be after looking at the DVD cover and presuming it would be a fantasy-filled wonder of an artistic film. Instead, it is an entirely generic broken family drama with falls far below the par. The setup is rushed and the film feels like it’s already midway through right at the beginning. It simply never gets off the ground, and the result is a painstakingly slow, unimaginative drawl. Charlize Theron does a decent enough job in a brief performance, as does Dennis Hopper. Their characters, however, are hardly developed enough to be fully engaging. Nick Stahl is especially disappointing, as he is an actor who is able to successfully deal with underwhelming material (“Terminator 3”, “Carnivale”), but his performance here falls flat. The true revelation is fifteen-year-old AnnaSophia Robb, who does a terrific job embodying the role of a girl far too mature for her age stuck in this unfortunate situation. There is a scene or two midway through the movie which provides a brief glimpse into what the movie could have been if it had attempted more to allow Robb’s character to lose herself in a fantasy world where all her problems were gone, but the movie as a whole is hopeless to recover any element of originality.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Home Video: Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Released March 7, 2008

I was immediately intrigued with the extremely deliberate camerawork and distinctive style of this film. Unfortunately, the intoxication faded quickly. Much like Van Sant’s previous effort “Elephant”, the film is mostly a collection of replayed shots which attempt to lend further clues to the larger picture, with little development occurring along the way. I’m all for subtlety and artsy filmmaking, yet this is another time where a brief runtime of just over 80 minutes still feels like an eternity, and not in a good way. Van Sant’s choice of Gabe Nevins as the actor to play his protagonist, keeping with his usual preference to work with unknowns, doesn’t really pay off as Nevins doesn’t seem sure of what kind of character he is playing, often bouncing back and forth between a headstrong, cocky kid with no worries to a nervous little boy incapable of fitting in with the popular kids. I understand that his transformation is part of the movie, but the character feels far too uneven. The dialogue is particularly difficult to believe, as the attempted realism results far too often in conversations that feel terribly forced and simply unreal. The plot of the movie and the journaling narration also don’t do the film any favors – a mystery that needs solving hardly belongs in such an attempt at an artistic film.