Monday, July 29, 2013

This week’s DVD releases (from best to worst)

Black Rock **½ Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth. Directed by Katie Aselton. Childhood pals Sarah, Abby and Lou’s reunion on a remote island off the coast of Maine turns into a nightmare when they realize a sinister neighbor doesn’t appreciate their presence. Ultimately, it’s hard to shake the sense that Aselton’s picture is a character study bending itself, painfully and unnaturally, into the shape of a nightmare-in-the-boonies horror flick. Is this the only way films about female friendship can get greenlighted these days — by drenching themselves in genre tropes?

G.I. Joe Retaliation Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson. Directed by Jon M. Chu. The elite G.I. Joe assault team is framed for treason by the global mercenary Zartan. Forced into hiding, the surviving warriors form a desperate plan to defeat Zartan’s combined forces. Although this is merely a movie based on Hasbro toys, the action — the real point of all this — feels just as lifeless.

Rushlights * Beau Bridges, Haley Webb, Josh Henderson, Aidan Quinn. Directed by Antoni Stutz. Two delinquent teenage lovers from the suburbs of Los Angeles travel to a small southern town to falsely claim a dead friend’s inheritance. A by-the-numbers thriller that wouldn’t even have made for a particularly good hour-long episode of a weekly crime procedural, never mind an honest-to-God feature-length movie.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Who’s the real bad guy here?

Why is everyone upset at this guy ....
I am somewhat bewildered over all this holier-than-thou hand-wringing going on among the self-anointed morally superior over the fate of New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner while no one seems to be talking about San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

Let’s compare their transgressions.

Weiner sent a picture of his crotch from his phone to and exchanged X-rated text messages with a woman last summer. The seriousness here is that all this happened more than a year after he resigned from Congress in disgrace after admitting to similar activities.

...while letting this jerk off the hook?
But unlike the moment when he announced his resignation from Congress, his wife, Huma Abedin, a woman I greatly admire, was by his side for Tuesday’s disclosures. She said Weiner told her before he decided to run for mayor that more of these pictures might be revealed (pun intended), but the decision was made that he should run anyway.

By the way, all sides agree there has never — ever — been any face-to-face or any other sort of physical contact between Weiner and the woman who received a picture of his weiner. Yet, it seems that whole world is up in arms.

Meanwhile, all away across the country, a third woman is accusing Mayor Filner of actual hands-on sexual harrassment, saying the mayor tried to kiss her no less than four times during a business meeting. Those accusations came today, just one day after political consultant Laura Fink said Filner patted her "posterior" during a fund raising event.

And on Monday, Filner’s former communications director Irene McCormick Jackson actually sued Filner for sexual harassment, claiming Filner subjected her and many other women to "crude and disgusting" comments and inappropriate touching. Among other things, Filner allegedly told Jackson she should not wear underwear to work.

Look, I’m not saying Weiner deserves a pass here, but let’s put these things in perspective. How about some of that outrage directed out West?

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Week’s DVD Releases (from best to worst)

Graceland ****½ Directed by Ron Morales. When a kidnapping goes wrong, a desperate father risks everything to save his daughter from the men who hold her captive. This is a tense, twisty cinematic artichoke brimming with moral complexity and intriguing shades of gray. Even while embracing the breathless beats of the crime thriller, the movie holds tight to its concern for exploited children. Morales’ spin on the old ransom plot is fresher and more gripping than most big-budget Hollywood products.

Pieta ****½ Directed by Ki-duk Kim. A loan shark is forced to reconsider his violent lifestyle after the arrival of a mysterious woman claiming to be his long-lost mother. Morally cunning and with a tone as black as pitch, Pieta is a deeply unnerving revenge movie in which redemption is dangled like a cat toy before a cougar. It is one of Kim’s most complex and mature efforts, melding violence and humor into dark entertainment.

The Silence **** Directed by Baran bo Odar. When a 13-year-old girl goes missing from the same spot where another girl was murdered 23 years earlier, a retired investigator teams up with a younger colleague to unravel the parallel mysteries. This is an exemplary German-language thriller, a complex and disturbing examination of guilt, violence and psychological torment that chills us to the core not once but two times over. What you’ll carry away is the film’s austere sympathy for the struggles of its benighted characters and its bleak conviction that justice and resolution mostly happen in movies.

Ginger & Rosa *** Elle Fanning, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Alice Englert, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening, Jodhi May. Directed by Sally Potter. A look at the lives of two teenage girls — inseparable friends Ginger and Rosa — growing up in 1960s London as the Cuban Missile Crisis comes to redefine their relationship. With this film, Potter manages to avoid nearly every pratfall of such period pieces, focusing on extreme alienation rather than enlightenment, and wringing a powerful and jaundiced coming-of-age story from the decade’s less trod corners. It’s an adult look at the teenage years, an examination of how personal emotions inform political action, a noteworthy change of pace for writer-director Potter and, most of all, the showcase for a performance by Fanning as Ginger that is little short of phenomenal.

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files *** Directed by Chris James Thompson. An experimental documentary film that uses archival footage, interviews, and fictionalized scenarios to tell the story of the people around Jeffrey Dahmer during the summer of his arrest in 1991. In the end, the filmmakers don’t reveal a lot of new insights into Dahmer’s character, or answer questions about how all these murders went unnoticed before Dahmer was apprehended. In some ways, we are left to fill in the blanks — and that can be a queasy experience.

The Bitter Buddha *** Directed by Steven Feinartz. This documentary follows unconventional comedian Eddie Pepitone as he prepares for a show in New York City, all the while struggling with self-doubt, sobriety and a challenging family history. The film closes with Pepitone pondering whether he’s wasted his life by focusing on comedy rather than family, but everything that’s come before suggests that decision has led to a life that’s a triumph rather than a tragedy. An amusing, freewheeling documentary.

Welcome to the Punch **½ Andrea Riseborough, James McAvoy, Mark Strong. Directed by Eran Creevy. Ex-criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives his nemesis, detective Max Lewinsky, one last chance to catch the man he’s always been after. Writer-director Creevy shows himself to be well versed in the mythic sweep of Christopher Nolan’s and Michael Mann’s crime sagas, if not their intelligence with storytelling.

Trance **½ James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel. Directed by Danny Boyle. An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting. There’s a little too much happening in the film’s violent, frenetic conclusion, which involves the retrieval of fractured memories, the confession of betrayals and so many narrative loops within loops that the film’s big reveals never make perfect, deeply satisfying sense. Maybe they’re not supposed to.

Kiss of the Damned **½ Directed by Xan Cassavetes. The vampire Djuna resists the advances of Paolo, but soon gives in to their passion. When her trouble-making sister unexpectedly comes to visit, Djuna’s love is threatened, and the whole vampire community becomes endangered. Paying slavish homage to culty genre predecessors from the sixties, seventies and eighties, this steamy tale of a hunky screenwriter, his ethereal blood-sucking paramour and her bad-girl sister can’t quite decide whether to be seductively stylish or knowingly cheesy.

Hunky Dory **½ Minnie Driver. Directed by Mark Evans. In the heat of the summer of 1976, a drama teacher fights sweltering heat and general teenage apathy to put on an end-of-term musical version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It’s too broad in both its humor and its melodrama, and there are so many narrative threads that none of them aside from Driver’s really get their due.

Vehicle 19 **½ Paul Walker. Directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil. A foreign traveler unknowingly picks up a rental car that will tie him to a web of corrupt local police. The movie sets up a fascinating conceit for itself, and then loses interest in delivering on it. It just wants to get to the cool car chase, but by the time it does, we’ve stopped caring.

Starbuck ** Patrick Huard, Julie Lebreton, Antoine Bertrand. Directed by Ken Scott. A fortysomething slacker’s life is turned upside down when he learns that his many sperm donations have resulted in more than 500 children — 100 of whom are now suing to meet their father, who’s desperate to keep his identity a secret. Almost all the charm of the real story is lost through the contrivances and overacting.

Love and Honor ** Liam Hensworth, Austin Stowell, Teresa Palmer, Aimee Teegarden. Directed by Danny Mooney. When a young soldier in Vietnam gets dumped by his hometown girl, he and his best friend decide to go AWOL and return to the States to win her back. It’s a lightweight drama filled with heavyweight war-is-hell monologues, delivered by a cast that lacks the gravity to sell them.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stand Your Ground laws: The NRA’s latest outrage

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: "Stand Your Ground laws," which, in one form or another, are in effect in 22 states, are another in the long string of outrageous acts perpetrated by the National Rifle Association, the same group that said the Newton Massacre was something freedom loving Americans must just learn to live with and accept.

The picture above depicts then Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signing the first Stand Your Ground Law in 2005. The only woman in that picture is Marion Hammer, a former NRA president and the association’s chief Florida lobbyist. She is credited with writing and pushing through the Florida law.

Hammer has tried to push through other heinous laws such as one that would have fined pediatricians a whopping $5 million and sentenced them to five years in prison if they asked their patients any questions about guns in their homes. The bill effectively stopped physicians from seeking information that might protect the lives of infants and toddlers. Thankfully, a federal judge (and a President Bush appointee) blocked implementation of that law, saying it violated the First Amendment.

Stand Your Ground laws are solely intended to shield the person in a confrontation carrying a gun from using it against someone else in the confrontation who is not carrying one.

Today I was in a telephone conversation with a friend of mine who happens to be a criminal defense attorney in Florida, and I came up with the following scenario: I am a gun-carrying burglar who decides to break into a residential home home in an exclusive neighborhood sometime after midnight. Someone in the home hears me, grabs a baseball bat and comes out to confront me. When I see him, I pull out my gun and shoot him dead.

The attorney said I would be perfectly within my rights under the Stand Your Ground law in Florida because the moment I saw that bat I feared for my life. He said I would be acquitted if the case ever came to trial, which it probably wouldn’t. He also said what I described is essentially what happened in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin confrontation.

Now that’s scary.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another Dylan bootleg series coming next month.

Columbia Records will release another in its Bob Dylan bootleg series August 27 covering material from one of his more controversial periods during which he recorded Self Portrait, a collection of mostly cover tunes done in a Tin Pan Alley fashion, and New Morning, one of his more under-appreciated albums.

Called The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 — Another Self Portrait (1969-1971), the 2-disc set will contain 35 previously unreleased recordings, demos and alternate versions of songs he recorded during the sessions for Self Portrait and New Morning.

But the real lure of rhe collection will be the fact that it will also contain the entire concert Dylan performed with The Band Aug. 31, 1969, at the Isle of Wight music festival.

Here’s the track list

Disc 1
1 Went To See The Gypsy (demo)
2 In Search Of Little Sadie (without overdubs, Self Portrait)
3 Pretty Saro (unreleased, Self Portrait)
4 Alberta #3 (alternate version, Self Portrait)
5 Spanish Is The Loving Tongue (unreleased, Self Portrait)
6 Annie's Going To Sing Her Song (unreleased, Self Portrait)
7 Time Passes Slowly #1 (alternate version, New Morning)
8 Only A Hobo (unreleased, Greatest Hits II)
9 Minstrel Boy (unreleased, The Basement Tapes)
10 I Threw It All Away (alternate version, Nashville Skyline)
11 Railroad Bill (unreleased, Self Portrait)
12 Thirsty Boots (unreleased, Self Portrait)
13 This Evening So Soon (unreleased, Self Portrait)
14 These Hands (unreleased, Self Portrait)
15 Little Sadie (without overdubs, Self Portrait)
16 House Carpenter (unreleased, Self Portrait)
17 All The Tired Horses (without overdubs, Self Portrait)

Disc 2
1 If Not For You (alternate version, New Morning)
2 Wallflower (alternate version, 1971)
3 Wigwam (original version without overdubs, Self Portrait)
4 Days Of '49 (original version without overdubs, Self Portrait)
5 Working On A Guru (unreleased, New Morning)
6 Country Pie (alternate version, Nashville Skyline)
7 I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Live With The Band, Isle Of Wight 1969)
8 Highway 61 Revisited (Live With The Band, Isle Of Wight 1969)
9 Copper Kettle (without overdubs, Self Portrait)
10 Bring Me A Little Water (unreleased, New Morning)
11 Sign On The Window (with orchestral overdubs, New Morning)
12 Tattle O'Day (unreleased, Self Portrait)
13 If Dogs Run Free (alternate version, New Morning)
14 New Morning (with horn section overdubs, New Morning)
15 Went To See The Gypsy (alternate version, New Morning)
16 Belle Isle (without overdubs, Self Portrait)17 Time Passes Slowly #2 (alternate version, New Morning)
18 When I Paint My Masterpiece (demo)

Bob Dylan & The Band
Isle of Wight - August 31, 1969
1 She Belongs To Me
2 I Threw It All Away
3 Maggie's Farm
4 Wild Mountain Thyme
5 It Ain't Me, Babe
6 To Ramona/ Mr. Tambourine Man
7 I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
8 Lay Lady Lay
9 Highway 61 Revisited
10 One Too Many Mornings
11 I Pity The Poor Immigrant
12 Like A Rolling Stone
13 I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
14 Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
15 Minstrel Boy
16 Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Monday, July 15, 2013

This week’s DVD releases (from best to worst)

Evil Dead **½ Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore. Directed by Fede Alvarez. Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. Is this movie any good? Yes and no. It several genuinely hair-raising moments and presents, for your edification and enjoyment, some of the most graphic horror violence ever presented on the screen. I did learn a total of two things from it: No camping kit is complete without duct tape, and sometimes end credits are worth sitting through for a movie’s best gag.

Solomon Kane **½ James Purefoy, Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Alice Krige, Mackenzie Crook, Patrick Hurd-Wood, Jason Flemyng. Directed by Michael J. Bassett. A ruthless mercenary renounces violence after learning his soul is bound for hell. When a young girl is kidnapped and her family slain by a sorcerer’s murderous cult, he is forced to fight and seek his redemption. A brutal fusion of angst and action, this mini-epic gives the sword-and-sorcery genre a bleak, brusque new life. Watch it for some terrific limb-chopping and a mighty turn by Purefoy.

42 **½ Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni, Andre Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater, Ryan Merriman, Alan Tudyk, John C. McGinley. Directed by Brian Helgeland. The life story of Jackie Robinson and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey. Helgeland’s epic about Robinson’s first year in Major League Baseball is uneven — often exciting, and just as often shallow and ham-handed — but if there’s one thing to which it remains true, it’s that the almighty American greenback and the all-American athlete are the great destroyers of bigotry. It is blunt, simple and sentimental, using time-tested methods to teach a clear and rousing lesson.

The End of Love **½ Mark Webber, Isasac Love, Shannyn Sossamon, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried. Written and directed by Webber. When the mother of his infant son unexpectedly passes away, struggling actor Mark grapples with fatherhood and his inability to grow up. When he meets a single mother, he learns how his choices have real-life consequences. It’s a kind of self-portrait made out of quotidian meals, naps and scattershot car-seat conversations, and though the loss that underlies Mark’s emotional state feels like a scripted conceit, the movie excels at conveying the moment-to-moment frustrations and exhilarations of being a dad.

Bullet to the Head **½ Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater, Jason Mamoa. Directed by Walter Hill. After watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hitman and a Washington D.C. detective form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy. It’s good enough for a brainless night of fun in front of the TV set, though your enjoyment might hinge on your nostalgia for old-fashioned dude movies, complete with a soundtrack of wailing electric-guitar solos and a wealth of random topless babes. Unfortunately, it could have been a lot better if someone had taken out a hit on the script.

Erased * Aaron Eckhart, Liana Liberato. Directed by Philipp Stölzl. An ex-CIA agent and his estranged daughter are forced on the run when his employers erase all records of his existence, and mark them both for termination as part of a wide-reaching international conspiracy. Viewed solely as a string of action sequences, this film delivers the kind of dryly efficient, wearyingly familiar entertainment that already clogs too many of our TV screens. It is eminently forgettable.

An artist may be on the verge of receiving long overdue recognition

Steve McQueen, not to be confused with, ahem, Steve McQueen, is a British filmmaker with a track record of writing and directing two extraordinary films that did not receive widespread public acceptance (although critics and film festival juries went wild over them). The first was Hunger (2008), starring Michael Fassbinder, which tells the story of the 1981 IRA prison hunger strike. This film was named the best film at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival from a first-time director, marking the first time a British filmmaker received this prestigious honor. His second, also starring Fassbinder, was Shame (2011) in which Fassbinder played a New York advertising executive who is also secretly a sex addict. The late, great Roger Ebert named Shame the second best film of 2011 and I, for one, thought it was an injustice ranking right up there with the George Zimmerman verdict that Fassbinder did not receive an Oscar nomination for his performance in the movie.

Neither of those films were certified hits (it has been argued Shame’s numbers were hurt by its NC-17 rating), largely because neither conformed to the Hollywood hit-making formula. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say they couldn’t wait for the latest Michael Fassbinder film? How many regular movie goers even know who he is? And 99 out of 100 of those movie fans will argue Steve McQueen is died more than 30 years ago.

All that may be changing for McQueen because his latest film not only has critic/festival cred, but also some star power in the name of Brad Pitt. Take a look at the trailer for McQueen’s latest in which it appears Fassbinder even takes a backseat in the powerhouse performance category to what could be a career-making performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Saving Mr. Banks

Helen Lyndon Goff was born in 1899 in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. She had her first poems published when she was still in her teens, but what she really aspired to be was an actress, Thinking the name Helen Lyndon Goff was not the best one for a lady of the stage, she changed it to Pamela Lyndon Travers and, under this moniker, toured Australia and New Zealand with a Shakespearian company.

When she was 25, the family moved to England where she decided to devote all her time to writing, using the name P.L. Travers. In 1931, she and her good friend Madge Burnand moved out of their rented London flat into a thatched cottage in Sussex. It was here, two years later, she began to write the Mary Poppins books.

I’m betting most people, however, think of Mary Poppins as a movie from Walt Disney and not as a series of books by one P.L. Travers. It appears we will learn this Christmas how that transition came about.

I found it interesting that, at least twice in the above trailer, the Walt Disney character refers to her as "Mrs. Travers." From the information I have gathered about her, she was never married.

It also seems from these snippets that the Travers character doesn’t much care for the way Disney wants to adapt her books, especially some of the musical numbers. I don’t know what she thought about the music, although she did agree during the 1980s to let Mary Poppins be adapted as a stage musical (under the condition that no one involved in the film participated in the stage adaptation).

I do know she hated the movie (and the way Disney treated her during its production), so much so she refused to give Disney the rights to make any additional Mary Poppins movies. (She wrote four Mary Poppins novels. The movie was based mainly on the first one, although some elements of the second book, Mary Poppins Comes Back, were also used). What she hated the most were the animated sequences. She was not invited to the film’s premiere, but attended anyway and there she confronted Disney and told him he needed to get the animation out of the movie. As the story goes, he turned his back to her, walked away and then said to her over his shoulder, "Pamela, that ship has sailed."

You can’t tell from the trailer if all that will be in the film.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trailer for upcoming Christian Bale film

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The work of former President Bush

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete joined former President George W. Bush
 for an African first ladies summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Has anyone noticed that George W. Bush is a much better former President than he was a President?

I don’t need to re-recite the list of reasons why Bush will be remembered as one of our worst Presidents. Historians will take care of that job.

But because he is no longer President, his activities have not been as heavily publicized as they were when he occupied the White House.

For instance, while many of his Republican counterparts in Texas and other states have been working feverishly to deny health care to women, Bush has been striving just as diligently to fight cervical and breast cancer in Africa. Just a couple of weekends ago, George and Laura Bush renovated a cancer screening clinic in Zambia.

Not only that, his George W. Bush Institute created the African First Ladies Summit, which he attended a week ago today in Tanzania where he once again spoke out about the need for cancer screenings.

"You can inspire your husbands to do the right thing," he told eight African first ladies at the conference. "You can explain to your husbands that if they’re interested in earning the affection of the people, if they focus on women, they’re really going to be liked a lot."

And today, the former president once again spoke out in favor of sensible immigration reform as provided for in a bill recently passed by the Senate, but one that is being opposed by racist Republicans in the House. Speaking today at this own institute, Bush said:

"The laws governing the immigration system aren’t working. … We’re a nation of immigrants... we’re also a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. We can uphold our tradition of assimilating immigrants... but we have a problem."

Of course, having said this, I will admit Bush was a passionate supporter of immigration reform while he was President as well. He just couldn’t convince members of his own political party to agree with him.

Monday, July 8, 2013

This week’s DVD releases (best to worst)

The Gatekeepers ****½ Directed by Droh Moreh. A documentary featuring interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency whose activities and membership are closely held state secrets. The interviewees have different personalities that suggest varying styles of leadership, but what’s remarkable about the film is how they speak in one voice about the moral complexities of their former jobs and their extreme pessimism about the future. A documentary potent enough to alter how you see the world.

Spring Breakers **** James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine. Directed by Harmony Korine. Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work. Korine wants to give us a portrait of our nation’s children — the girls, especially — as beautifully depraved sharks, pleasure-seeking killers oblivious to the comedy and horror of their existence. And damned if he doesn’t pull it off, or come close enough. A lurid, luminous teen-bender movie, as ludicrous as it is stylish, and Korine’s best film in years.

Boy *** James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Cohen. Directed by Taika Waititi. Set on the east coast of New Zealand in the year 1984, an 11-year-old boy and devout Michael Jackson fan gets a chance to know his father, who has returned to find a bag of money he buried years ago. Waititi’s comic vocabulary hasn’t changed much — there’s a lot of voice-over narration illustrated with ludicrous, cartoonish tableaux — yet the kids’ genuine longing for their no-good dad elevates this above simple deadpan humor.

Admission **½ Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Wallace Shawn, Gloria Reuben, Lily Tomlin. Directed by Paul Weitz. A Princeton admissions officer who is up for a major promotion takes a professional risk after she meets a college-bound alternative school kid who just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption. This is pleasant enough. Even when off a bit, the talent of the cast assures that. But it’s still a disappointment. You might say it, ahem, doesn’t make the grade.

The Host * Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher. Directed by Andrew Niccol. A parasite soul is fused with a captured human in an attempt to locate the last pocket of surviving humans on Earth. Dopey, derivative and dull, this is a brazen combination of unoriginal science-fiction themes, young-adult pandering and bottom-line calculation. That sounds like it should work (really!), but it never does, largely because the story is as drained of energy as are its moony aliens.

Tyler Perry’s Temptation * Jumee Smollett, Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams. Directed by Tyler Perry. A marriage counselor’s personal and professional life becomes complicated after she enters into a relationship with one of her clients. This film is flat-out ludicrous from beginning to end. Perry’s ongoing disinterest in improving as a filmmaker is now seemingly part of his unshakable belief in himself, his insistence on doing his thing his way.

Would You Rather ½* Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, Jonathan Coyne. Directed by David Guy Levy. Desperate to help her ailing brother, a young woman unknowingly agrees to compete in a deadly game, hosted by a sadistic aristocrat. By the midway point, viewers will be questioning whether they would rather keep watching this DVD or put their eyes out with a fork.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Eric Nadel on the proposed plastic bag ban

According to ace reporter Robert Wilonsky, Texas Rangers' legendary broadcaster Eric Nadel heartily supports Dwaine Carraway's proposal to ban plastic shopping bags.

Wilonsky reports he received the following from Nadel:

Eric Nadel
"Let’s stop the plastic bag madness, please. Plastic bags have a very slow rate of decomposition, and wind up on our streets, in land fills or eventually in our waterways and oceans. They are dangerous to marine life and harmful to the marine environment. They produce toxic microparticles that can enter the human food chain. Plastic bags can easily be replaced by biodegradable and re-usable materials that are not highly dispersed in the environment.

“Banning plastic bags is not the salvation of the environment, but it is a way to easily reduce the negative environmental impact of human activities. This one is a no-brainer. Now let’s move on to Styrofoam food packaging.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

This week’s DVD Releases

6 Souls * Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Jeffrey DeMunn. Directed by Måns Mårland, Björn Stein. A female forensic psychiatrist discovers that all of one of her patient’s multiple personalities are murder victims. A preposterous supernatural thriller that inexplicably managed to sign up Moore to star.

Inescapable * Alexander Siddig, Joashua Jackson, Marisa Tomei. Directed by Ruba Nadda. Years after he left Damascus under suspicious circumstances, a man must confront what he left behind when his daughter goes missing. The film spins its wheels for almost an hour until collapsing under the weight of exposition that renders the mystery nearly besides the point. It’s like Taken without the tension.

Tai Chi Hero ** Yuan Xiaochao, Qi Shu, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Peter Stomare. Directed by Stephen Fung. Picking up where the off-kilter Tai Chi Hero 0 ended, this sequel follows Yang Lu Chan’s training under his master, and new bride, Yu Niang. His new kung fu skills come in handy when Yu’s brother launches an insidious plot against their village. Merely fills the eye, offering little that stays with you. It’s sluggish and rote where its predecessor was aggressively perky and desperate to please.

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu **** Directed by Andrei Ujica. Explores the image of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu using unknown official footage from the Romanian National Television and National Film Archives. Manages to be intimate and impersonal at the same time, a trait constantly reinforced by Ujica’s portrayal of not only Ceausescu but the populace he led, represented, and controlled for nearly three decades.

Venus and Serena *** Directed by Maiken Baird, Michelle Major. This documentary follows tennis megastars Venus Williams and her younger sibling Serena throughout 2011, when disabling injuries and illness threatened to end their careers. One of those documentaries that is more testimonial than investigation. What comes across most strongly is the genuine, overpowering love these two women have for each other, even when they’re in direct competition.

The Girl **½ Abbie Cornish, Will Patton, Martiza Santiago Hernandez, Giovanna Zacarias, Luci Christian, Raul Castillo, Geoffrey Rivas, Austin West. Directed by David Riker. A young Texas mother who loses her child to foster care begins smuggling Mexicans across the border. Writer-director Riker, who previously made the accomplished 1998 Paisan homage The City (La Ciudad), has a great eye for detail: He sketches the narrow boundaries of Cornish’s sad life in Austin expertly while bringing a village square across the border to vivid life. He also gets another fine performance out of Cornish.