“The Strangers” answers the question: could a movie be made where nothing actually happens? A breathtakingly boring motion picture, “Strangers” proves a filmmaker needs more than spooky masked killers and brain-dead protagonists to craft a successful suspense offering.
Every film critic comes across a title they aren’t exactly prepared to fully understand. It’s a complicated part of the vocation, but a necessary situation that’s valuable; perhaps even shedding new light on a cinematic subject. “Sex and the City” was one of those situations for me.
The murder of Barbara Daly Baekeland in 1972 revealed a sordid history behind the woman and the peculiar relationship she held with her son, Tony. “Savage Grace” is the juicy screen version of those events, and director Tom Kalin (“Swoon”) treats the nightmare with a perfect pitch of melodrama and hysterics, easing into the discomfort of obscene sexual violation.
Like many impressionable kids of the 1980s, Chris Bell wanted to emulate his wrestling idols, including the outrageous tearaway-shirted one, Hulk Hogan. Unlike many kids of the 1980s, Bell and his two brothers took the extra step and embarked on a bodybuilding career to toughen themselves up and reach goals previously thought unattainable. It didn’t take long for Bell to learn the ugly truth behind dominating physical achievement.
The last time Indiana Jones was in action, he was riding off into the sunset, with a final quest behind him. It took 19 years to coax him back to the screen, but the archeology O.G. is back, and “Kingdom of Crystal Skull” doesn’t disappoint in the least. This is the high-flyin’, fingernail-chewing, stand-up-and-cheer summer experience as anticipated, yet it’s not exactly the same Dr. Jones as you might remember.
Personal interpretation plays a huge part in the dissection of “The Fall.” This is not a picture to accept at face value; it’s a layered, multi-dimensional fairy tale, splattered with enough ostentation to make a 19-year-old art school student blush. It’s bold, brave, and baffling. It’s also completely intolerable.
On the outside looking in, “Cleaner” seems like a dream. Blessed with an A-list cast, a capable director, and an appetite for “CSI” style mystery, the picture should have no problem offering up some suspense goodies to devour. However, “Cleaner” is far from pulse-quickening entertainment; it’s a bizarrely inert picture more consumed with following through on a watered-down plot than assembling impressive thrills and spills.
Another victim of the recent Bauer Martinez distribution fiasco, “The Flock” is at least more tolerable to watch than Amy Heckerling’s cringe-inducing “I Could Never Be Your Woman.” While not exactly a gift-wrapped present, it’s safe to say that “Flock” will certainly appeal to television cop drama junkies and those who love to see Claire Danes cry, which would now include every film she’s ever made.
Lauren: "I've got this whole high school thing psyched out. It all breaks down into cliques."
Lauren: "Yeah, you know. Cliques. Little in-groups of different kids. All we have to do is click with the right clique, and we can finally have a social life that's worthy of us."
Patty: "No way! Not even with cleavage."
Lauren: "I tell you, this year we're going to be popular."
Lauren: "Yeah. Even if it kills us."
“War, Inc.” aims to be a sly “Dr. Strangelove” for today’s disgruntled generation, who slowly simmer in the misfortune of the Iraq war. The film just isn’t that razor sharp, but look at “War, Inc” as a back-flipping, over-the-top political farce, and the results are far more pleasurable. Consider the film an unofficial sequel to the 1997 classic “Grosse Pointe Blank,” and “War, Inc.” is absolutely wonderful.
I felt indifference to 2005’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” and I feel indifference to its sequel, “Prince Caspian.” There’s something missing from this franchise, and three years ago the absence of persuasive content was baffling. Now, the clues are more apparent.
Comedian Doug Benson (perhaps best known for his commentary on VH1’s “Best Week Ever”) watched Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” and had an incredible idea of his own: instead of ingesting fast food for 30 days, he would smoke weed nonstop for a month, as a way to gauge his dependence on marijuana, along with various other scientific and medical responses. Never one to say no to an endless parade of drugs, Benson embarked on the biggest challenge of his life.
For some, traveling is defined as movement from location to location in as little time as possible. For others, traveling is merely the first step toward greater self-exploration, where adventures can teach and motivate the soul to higher plains of consciousness. “The Art of Travel” is an indie film that explores the very nature of wanderlust, and how it informs character and transforms life. It’s filled with familiar dramatic footprints, but “Art” remains something worthwhile and unexpectedly delicate.
(a.k.a. "Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace")
In the 15 years since their college glory days, the members of a vocal group (think a more angsty Rockapella) have all succumbed to the horrors of growing older. Still bound together by their love of music, the group is reunited when one of their own is about to be wed. Meeting again in the Hamptons for the long weekend leading up to the ceremony, the group embarks on an odyssey of painful reminiscing, pranks and jokes, and confronting the bumpy marital and sexual realities of their lives.
Last week, I was standing in the checkout line at Target eyeballing the impulse items when I spotted a plastic container of mints I’d never seen before.
The Wachowski Brothers have proven their skill with visual gymnastics and their affinity for high-octane action, but an ability to assemble a suitable family film will most likely always elude them. “Speed Racer” is an ocular slap, but it’s strictly empty calories; a joyless, over-plotted nostalgia machine that barely limps out of the starting gate.
What happens in Vegas? Well, it usually involves a truckload of booze, which is something not readily available in a movie theater and would help this shrill monstrosity of a romantic comedy greatly. If I had anything kind to say about Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz before this film, I’m ready to take every word back.
For some, fantasy is a place to go when the real world is too much to stomach. It’s a temporary portal to other worlds where identity can be rebuilt and victory is within reach. For others, fantasy is a requirement; a critical linchpin that removes real-world consequences and demands, and allows insular behavior to grow unchallenged by outsiders. There’s a home for these people, and it’s called LARP (live action role-playing).
“Surfwise” is as much a documentary about an eccentric family as it is about a dream shattered by the persistence of reality. The story of Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz and his extensive brood starts off harmlessly enough, but once the outer layers of kindness and nostalgia are penetrated, the film transforms into a powerful document of familial agitation and disillusionment.
So, the famous television show that makes fun of movies decided to become a movie that makes fun of movies. The translation is a little bumpy, but this is “Mystery Science Theater” we’re talking about here: even a less concentrated effort is guaranteed to be a pants-wetting night of endless laughs and infectious bad movie grimacing.