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Solitaire (127 Hours, 12/13/10) Forewarned is forearmed:
though sorely tempted, this review is not going to be a string of lame
arm jokes. Danny Boyle, who made one of the best movies in the '90's
in Trainspotting and one of the most overrated ones of the '00's
in Slumdog Millionaire, deserves better than that for giving
us his latest, 127 Hours...
Our Children Learning? (Waiting for Superman, 11/8/10) The
heartless critic strikes again. How can he find serious exception with
Davis (An Inconvenient Truth) Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman,
an exposé on the crisis in American education that is getting
serious buzz andincidentallymade his own wife cry at a recent
screening? Mind you, this is a woman who didn't cry when the
dolphins were being slaughtered in The Cove...
Secular Saint (Agora, 10/25/10) Secularists can have heroes,
but not saints. Yet what else can we call Hypatia of Alexandria, the
ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician? Intellectual heroes are
usually remembered for some message, some disposition that might ideally
be boiled down to a few bullet-points. All we know about Hypatia is
that she was brilliant, she was thought beautiful, and she was dismembered
alive by a mob of crazed Christian monks in the 4th century AD...
Friends Like These (The Social Network, 10/11/10) Who cares
about the origins of Facebook? Well, obviously the makers of The
Social Network do, as do the moviegoers who made it the nation's
#1 box office draw last week. One imagines other interested parties,
such as the few hundred souls who make serious study of the history
of the tech industry, and business journalists, and management students.
But the vast majority of just plain folks are probably much like Bill
Maher, who asked the other day, "What's next, Google, the Musical?"
(The Kids Are All Right, 8/30/10) We all know that the creation
of compelling movie titles is a lost art. I mean, does much thought
need to go into calling a movie Saw, Suck, A Prophet, or An
Education? But titling a poignant, off-beat drama like Lisa Cholodenko's
The Kids Are All Right is truly a head-scratcher. Did somebody
think the classic concert film by the Who, The Kids Are Alright,
has faded that completely from public consciousness? Or shall we expect
more tender domestic dramas with titles like The Song Remains the
Same, Gimme Shelter, or Stop Making Sense...?
Again? (Inception, 7/26/10) So you're dreaming you're on
a beach in Portofino, strolling with Monica Bellucci. You've got your
arm around her waist, and you're savoring the memory of Christopher
Nolan's psycho-thriller Inception, because in a summer full of
dumbed-down movies, it actually seems to have required some thought
to put together. You tell her you loved the visualsthe zero-G
gymnastics Nolan exploits better than anybody since Kubrick for 2001.
You love the image of Paris physically folded upon itself, as seen in
the preview. And she agrees, nodding in the wind as she tucks a raven-haired
lock behind her ear...
of Life (Splice, 6/14/10) With the public's appetite for
vampires seemingly nowhere near its bottom, making a movie on a Frankenstein
theme must qualify as some kind of counter-programming. Vincenzo Natali,
maker of the certifiable strange indie horror Cube, has taken
that plunge with his new techno-thriller, Splice. For anybody
over the glandular age of seventeen, the result should be far more compelling
than teen bloodsuckers in love...
Another Iron on the Fire (Iron Man 2, 5/17/10) In the story
from the Bible, King Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a statue with a head of
gold, torso of silver, legs of iron, and feet of clay. The prophet Daniel
interprets this as a vision of the descent of mankind, with each empire
always inferior to its predecessor. Hollywood's Iron Man franchise isn't
quite in "feet of clay" territory, but with Iron Man 2
we're not speaking of precious metal anymore. "Legs of iron"
sounds just about right...
of the Clunkers (Clash of the Titans, 4/12/10) So what's
the point of remaking a movie like Clash of the Titans, the 1981
Ray Harryhausen sword & sandal epic that, truth be told, was not
very good to begin with? Simple: in Hollywood's view, the advent of
CGI has wrought a revolution in filmmaking as momentous as color or
sound. Remaking an effects epic from antiquity (that is, before the
year 2000) amounts not just to making it again, but making it
right. So for those who thought that all the original Titans
needed was photo-realistic special effects, your ship has arrived. Release
Man Who Saw Too Much (The Ghost Writer, 3/15/10) The Ghost
Writer is a timely reminder that Roman Polanski isn't just the man
at the center of a bi-continental
legal circus surrounding a thirty year-old statutory rape chargehe's
still one of the most gifted filmmakers we have. Love him or loathe
him, the director of Knife in the Water, Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby,
Chinatown, Tess, and other near-classics cannot be ignored. He's
the real heir to the legacy of Alfred Hitchcock, except that his work
is more inspired, kinkier, and painted on a much broader thematic canvas...
Traditional, Marriage (Big Love, 2/1/10) The HBO series Big
Love is not for everybody. In a time when mere gay marriagethat
is, between just two peoplequalifies as a white hot issue, asking
an audience to sympathize with a family of fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS)
polygamists in suburban Salt Lake City takes a certain amount of faith.
The gamble seems to be paying off so far: the series began its fourth
season last month...
of a Frequent Flyer (Up in the Air, 1/18/09) Here's a proposition
for you: in exchange for a salary, I want you to devote at least half
your waking lifeeight to ten hours a dayto making me rich.
I want you to devote your time and energy to the tasks I assign to you,
at the expense of your family and social life. I'm going involve you
in nerve-wracking competitive evaluations with your peers, after which
I might reward you for good performanceor I might not. You may
get some health insurance, but I get to dictate the terms. A pension?
Forget it. In exchange for the absolute loyalty I demand, I reserve
the right to dump you from my payroll anytime I see fit...
Your Father's Apocalypse (The Road, 12/21/09) Is it time
for the world to endagain? John Hillcoat's The Road has
a lot of company in envisioning the end of days. On the other side of
the multiplex wall, there's the Mayan-inspired apocalypse of 2012
(mark your calendars, folks); the previews before The Road promise
no less than two world-ending visions, The Book of Eli and The
Crazies to add to the list of Terminators and Matrices
and zombie epidemics and planet-killing asteroids that already seem
to have destroyed us many times over...
A Girl (An Education, 11/23/09) If there's a better British
Thing That Wouldn't Leave (Paranormal Activity, 11/2/09)