Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year



May your new year be filled with love, flowers, wacky adventures, and the creative power to Live the Dream!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: THE FIGHTER


THE FIGHTER packs more of a wallop than THE TOWN or CONVICTION. It's yet another gritty true-tale of life in the big/little city of Boston. Lowell Mass, actually. Mark Wahlberg stars as boxer Micky Ward who floats to the top of the welterweight heap, but not before fighting off his family: his mother/manager Alice-- Melissa Leo in a knock-out performance, his tattooed bar-tending girlfriend Charlene played by Amy Adams who socks one of Micky's sistas in the kissa in between expletives, and his once promising fighter-turned-crack-addict brother Dicky: Christian Bale.

Bale is scary good as the older brother with inner demons to battle. Hollow-eyed and echoing the well worn tale of how he once knocked out Sugar Ray, he now coaches his kid brother. Taught him everything he knows. When Dicky lands in prison and sits down with the other inmates to watch the big screening of the documentary film that's been made about his life, he caves in as he sees onscreen what he has become: a drugged-out has been. The scene hits you right in the gut.

Wahlberg plays Micky like the calm center at the eye of a hurricane, his snarky, frizzy-haired sisters hovering on the outskirts of every grueling scene like a Greek/Irish chorus. Micky may be the guy in the ring, but he's the most appealing and least pugnacious member of this yelling, screaming tribe.

THE FIGHTER rolls to a predictable close, but not before making you catch your breath and root for these "charactas," duking it out for a little dough, a little dignity, and a swing at the big time.

6 GOLDEN GLOBE nominations-- watch for it at Oscar time!

Plus Ca Change...

Everything old is new again...here is an early New Year's gift to you! I may be late to this party, but she is one of the best new performers on the scene and made her network TV debut on Letterman in May: a cute little dynamo of a woman channeling James Brown. Cape and all-watch who brings it out.

Be sure to watch the whole clip! Here is JANELLE MONAE!

ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE

So I'm sitting in my kitchen and the phone rings. A quavering voice on the other end of the line hesitates then says,"This is Dorothy. I'd like a cup of soup."
I haven't made soup in years. I promptly inform Dorothy that she probably has the wrong number and where was she calling? She says, "I was calling downstairs." I assure her that she has reached a private residence, that she should re-dial, and wish her a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

I get to thinking. Dorothy probably lives in the retirement community up the street. So I call them and ask if they have a resident by that name-- I know the whole name because it showed up on my caller ID. They say they do indeed. So I tell them that Dorothy needs a cup of soup. I explain how I know. We immediately start laughing. I wish them a happy New Year, and they get busy on Dorothy's order.

Dorothy, there's no place like home-- but soup helps.

By the way--today's special?
Cream of Broccoli.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The BEST MOVIE of the year: THE KING'S SPEECH


The queen's English has nothing on THE KING'S SPEECH. This is quite simply the best film of the year, and I think this true story has gotten short shrift, despite its 7 Golden Globe nominations, which it deserves.

Colin Firth stars as the Duke of York("Bertie" to his family)and younger brother of King Edward VIII who scandalously left the English throne for the insufferably shallow divorcee from Baltimore, Wallis Simpson. No matter; Bertie was much the better man for the job and dad the King--George V played by Michael Gambon-- knew it, despite one small glitch: Bertie stammers. As conveyed here, it's a stammer of epic proportions,leaving stadiums full of people sweating uncomfortably on the edge of every cavernous pause. Enter Geoffrey Rush as eccentric speech therapist Lionel Logue-- yes "Logue" ironically related to the Greek and Latin roots "logos"/"logus" for"speaking"! What follows is a beautifully shot and paced period piece featuring an astoundingly sympathetic,funny,subtle,and complex performance by Colin Firth as the man who would be King George VI.

But it's a larger tale of anyone finding his/her voice in the deepest sense of LOGOS. The movie is quietly moving, and heralds the importance of emerging technology to shape a persona and the world. The supporting cast is superb: Helena Bonham Carter as the warm and witty future Queen mum, Guy Pearce as the weak-willed abdicating Edward, and Rush as Bertie's quirky mentor. Only Timothy Spall overplays as the cigar-toting, speech impaired (yes!) Winston Churchill.

I have seen THE KING'S SPEECH twice, and enjoyed it twice as much the second time. It's the film to beat this season(no I haven't forgotten THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and Colin Firth is the actor who should have the last word.

Captain Beefheart R.I.P.


I miss Captain Beefheart who died this past Friday at 69.

A.K.A. Don Van Vliet, he was to me the quintessential experimental artist whose vision expressed in music and painting-- let everyone else see. He made his high school classmate Frank Zappa (with whom he had a love/hate relationship)seem mainstream. He made the first music video in the early '70's creating his own ingeniously complex brand of subversion. You gotta love a guy whose answer to "I wanna hold your hand" is "I wanna swallow you whole" from LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY.

Click here for an early 80's interview with Letterman.

Then read the following lyrics which my husband knows by heart and regales us with regularly. Hooray for Captain Beefheart.

“The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back”
Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart)

"There's old Gray with her dove-winged hat_
There's old Green with her sewing machine_
Where's the bobbin at?_
Totin’ old grain in a printed sack_
The dust blows forward and the dust blows back
And the wind blows black thru the sky_
And the smokestack blows up in the sun’s eye_
What am I gonna die?_
A white flake riverboat just flew by_
Bubbles popped big_
And a lipstick Kleenex
hung on a pointed forked twig_
Reminds of the bobby girls_
Never was my hobby girls_
Hand full o’ worms and a pole fishin'_
Cork bobbin' like a hot red bulb_
And a blue jay squeaks_
His beak open an inch above a creek_
Gone fishin' for a week_
Well I put down my bush_
And I took off my pants and felt free_
The breeze blowin' up me
And up the canyon_
Far as I could see_
It's night now and the moon looks like a dandelion_
It's black now an the blackbird's feedin' on rice_
and his red wings look diamonds 'n lice_
I can hear the mice toes scamperin'_
Gophers rumblin'
in pile crater rock hole_
One red bean stuck in the bottom of a tin bowl_
Hot coffee from a crimped up can
Me and my girl named Bimbo
Limbo
Spam"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

THEATER: THE BLUE FLOWER


Trailer:THE BLUE FLOWER
It just about broke my heart. THE BLUE FLOWER is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of sight and sound. It's the A.R.T.'s latest, a multimedia musical play with video, movement, song and dance, live band and a killer cast of seven juggling a new "language," and many achingly beautiful songs.
THE BLUE FLOWER is at once familiar and strange, funny and shattering. Creators Jim and Ruth Bauer have given us a narrative which flashes back through the memory of one man Max (Daniel Jenkins). From Belle Epoque Paris, through WWI, Weimar Germany, WWII, and its fall out.. three artists and a scientist (inspired by historical figures) struggle to make art, make love, and survive as the world falls apart around them. The score-described as Country Western by way of Kurt Weill- is deeply evocative and melodic, lyrical, angry, and bittersweet. This ardent cast delivered the goods: the four leads are a perfect ensemble, their voices seeped into my bones, as these war-wounded souls sang songs of pain and loss, and the haunting refrain that "things will never, will never be the same."
It's a long evening, and not for everybody-- but it was for me; I was deeply reminded that perfection is elusive and we must make our peace with that.
I left with tears running down my cheeks.
See it at The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge through January 8.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BOSTON CRITICS VOTE!!!


We just concluded our year-end voting meeting of the BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS(BSFC) and THE SOCIAL NETWORK cleaned up:

Best Picture
Best Director-David Fincher,
Best Actor-Jesse Eisenberg,
Best Screenplay-Aaron Sorkin
Best Music-Trent Reznor

Here's the rest of the list:

Best Actress-Natalie Portman BLACK SWAN
Best Supporting Actor-Christian Bale THE FIGHTER
Best Supporting Actress-Juliette Lewis CONVICTION
Best Ensemble-THE FIGHTER
Best Cinematography-TRUE GRIT Roger Deakins
Best Animated Film- TOY STORY 3
Best Editing-BLACK SWAN
Best Documentary- MARWENCOL
Best new Filmmaker-Jeff Malmberg MARWENCOL
Best Foreign Language Film-MOTHER

We will officially announce these awards at a star studded ceremony on Sunday night January 30th at the Brattle Theatre!Stay tuned for more details!

***FINALLY--The BSFC issued the following statement urging better exhibition of films in our theatres:

"BOSTON — The Boston Society of Film Critics expresses concern over the regularly inconsistent quality of movie projection by the AMC and Regal Cinema chains. Problems include incorrectly maintained digital projectors that guarantee that 2D movies appear far darker than their makers intend. The BSFC urges AMC and Regal management to institute the improved projection policies paying customers should expect."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

MOVIE: BLACK SWAN


There's black Friday. The Black Death. Blackbeard. Now... BLACK SWAN!!! "I'm molting!I'm molting!!!!"

Part psychological thriller, part horror flick, part claptrap, it looks gorgeous, and dives right in--ballerinas on the edge competing for the big part, the prima dual role in SWAN LAKE. Natalie Portman wasted away to nothing, and dug out all her old ballet technique to fit the bill. Alas, real ballerinas will be screaming at her stiff arms, and slack carriage. The editing attempted to cover Portman's prancing, but I was thoroughly distracted by it. The images are nevertheless arresting, and the situation brutally captured by the overwrought Darren Aronofsky who never saw a plot he couldn't over-dramatize.

I've never seen such a visceral take on Tchaikovsky's ballet. To win the big part, Nina the ballerina must transcend her virginal self--Odette the white swan, and find the evil seductress within--Odile the black swan. This, of course, echoes her relationship with her mother- played by the now shrivelly-lipped Barbara Hershey who has infantilized AND cannibalized little Nina, redeeming her own failed career by feeding off her daughter's success-- AND failure. Wow this is getting deep. Nina must of course break free, leave her girlish ways behind, and grow the hell up. So she has sex with another aspiring prima ballerina played by Mila Kunis-- her girlfriend? her vampy nemesis? her alter ego? HERSELF??!!! All the while she's trying to please another master--her artistic director, played to the diabolical hilt by Vincent Cassel. So has Nina triumphed in the end?? Or what?

Look, BLACK SWAN has tarted up rather standard "coming of age" psychology in pretty fine feathers. Great make-up, costumes, great style. But it's still a bird in some pretty silly sheep's clothing. The ridiculously melodramatic staging of a scene where the past-her-prime prima ballerina (played by a bleary-eyed, maniacally mascara-ed Winona Ryder)publicly retires, had me in stitches. Who was the event planner-- Cruella De Vil? No. Darren Aronofsky.

Loved the cinematography; laughed myself silly over the dancing and denouement. Is it art? Is it garbage? You decide; I already have.
BLACK SWAN is one wild turkey.

Monday, November 22, 2010

THEATRE: NICHOLAS NICKELBY vs VENGEANCE IS THE LORD'S


Not even close. NICHOLAS NICKELBY is the clear champ, springing from 19th century England by way of Dickens, into 21st century New England by way of adapter David Edgar and artistic director Spiro Veloudos. This Lyric Stage Company production is a regional premiere of a work seldom performed because of its size and scope; "The Life and Adventures of"our eponymous hero require no fewer than 25 of Boston's finest thespians playing 150+ characters, in and out of some 1600 costumes, in the course of six hours. I saw the whole thing in one glorious marathon sitting- matinee, dinner, evening performance. I emerged exhilarated, satisfied, like I'd been far away and much better for it. In a roiling sea of first-rate performances many floated to the top: Nigel Gore as the scurrilous Wackford Squeers and the smarmy Sir Mulberry Hawk; Will Lyman as Nicholas'cold and stingy Uncle Ralph; Jason Powers exquisitely touching as Smike, an abused orphan adopted by Nick. The whole thing ticks along like a well-oiled 19th century machine on a logistically inventive set; the view from backstage must be equally entertaining. It's on til December 19 at THE LYRIC STAGE

As for VENGEANCE IS THE LORD'S, the world premiere by Bob Glaudini, directed by Peter DuBois over at The Huntington, I hesitate to pronounce; if vengeance is the lord's, I wish it would happen sooner rather than later.
This is a foul-mouthed, Arthur Miller rehash about familial guilt. But there is no tragic fall; this family can't get much lower on the moral and ethical food chain: the family business involves stolen auto parts and faulty repairs, murder,regular brawling and drinking, the foulest language, all of it happening over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. On top of it, mom's a lousy cook. There's one son who seems to have wandered in from another family; he keeps asking questions like "What about the truth?" The plot pivots on this moral dilemma: should they support parole for the guy who brutally murdered their daughter. HUH? Is that a trick question? We're not talking about whether or not they should forgive him--we're asked to believe that THIS family would actually agonize over whether the man serving 3 concurrent life sentences for a violent murder of a member of their family should be out walking the streets. Is that even possible under the law? Where did all their scruples suddenly come from? The whole thing is so trumped up, I could barely keep from screaming. The whole cast seemed stiff and under-rehearsed. Oh, and there is no Act II. Nice set. Thank goodness. Vengeance may be the audience's. Now through Dec 12.

Friday, November 19, 2010

MOVIE: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS


HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I is a shocking surprise. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at, and the decision to turn the final book into two movies turns out to have been brilliant. What I at first thought was merely a greedy ploy to prolong the life expectancy of this cash cow of a movie franchise, and thus lead to no good, has resulted in a carefully told, beautifully shot and edited work of some subtlety, words I haven't applied to a Potter film, ever.

The film is one of sustained tension, as Harry,Ron,and Hermione take off in search of Horcruxes (pieces of Lord Voldemort's soul)in order to destroy them-- and him. There is a palpable eeriness and melancholy, a quiet, broody atmosphere that has insinuated itself into every frame, every sound, like the fascist tentacles of the Dark Lord that now have a stranglehold on the Ministry of Magic. The original music by Alexandre Desplats is haunting and the special effects staggeringly beautiful-- not to mention scary to the bone. Director David Yates and cinematographer Eduardo Serra have framed our young, weary wizards in shots that resonate with the expressive beauty of still life paintings. The film takes its time and doesn't get bogged down with exposition. There's time to re-absorb these characters, now older and more complicated; Emma Watson in particular has grown considerably as an actress. There's time for a little dance here, a tender moment there, so when the action sequences come, they are explosive and frightening, and again, thrillngly beautiful.

I saw it with one of the world's premiere acousticians, with a sound system of his design: Theatre 6 at THE AMC FRAMINGHAM. He had not read the books, but could follow the plot easily. Moreover, the sound was superb; we could hear the faint tinkle of bells, a whisper of wind just before the calamitous whoosh of death eaters trailing smoky plumes across the sky. And sometimes we heard nothing-- like the collective holding of breath just before the next jolt.

Jolly good time. Can't wait for HP7 Part 2!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MOVIE: "Morning Glory"


I couldn't wait to see MORNING GLORY which promised a charming cast in a sweetly comic plot-- or so I thought. There's Rachel McAdams as the sprightly young morning TV show producer chock full of earnestness who has been hired to breathe life into a dead dog of a morning newscast. The warring anchors are a prima donna (Diane Keaton), and a really "hard" newsman (Harrison Ford) who's out of work but nonetheless looks down his long row of Peabody Awards in disgust at the shallow depths in which morning news regularly wallows. In one awkward cameo appearance by Morley Safer, Bob Schieffer,and Chris Matthews, it's clear he only lunches with the big guys. And now I'm starting to get the picture: we're supposed to think he's the BAD guy, turning up his nose at cooking demonstrations and cute little animal segments, while our GOOD girl producer is simply trying to get him to lower his standards and loosen up for goodness sake. The climactic moment comes when he, to win her over, spontaneously makes a fritatta on live TV. I had a tear in my eye.
I think I'm going to be sick. Remember BROADCAST NEWS when the roles were reversed and we were cheering for Holly Hunter as the spunky executive producer, holding the line against the encroaching blandishments of infotainment in the form of a pretty boy anchorman (William Hurt)? At least we knew what and whom to root for, even if it was hard. Those characters were complicated.

Here Harrison Ford's overacting makes him and all those silly journalistic principles he represents--seriousness, relevance-- seem stodgy and inhuman, as though only a bloated egotist could have such standards. The film throws him a bone at the end in the form of a breaking news story that he sniffs out--when and how we never know-- so I wasn't buying it. And how are we supposed to root for a heroine who repeatedly insists that her anchorman comport himself like an idiot on camera? And she never recognizes the importance of the news story he breaks until after it gets headlines, and then, only because it's good for the ratings.

And what of the glorious Diane Keaton? She's left howling and ranting and preening. What a waste. And McAdams' love interest, the attractive Patrick Wilson? He's merely a prop for her to run from, usually in her underwear.

MORNING GLORY is a clueless ode to fallen standards everywhere; there is no glory, and it left me in mourning.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

THEATRE: THE SHIRLEY, VT PLAYS FESTIVAL


Never heard of Shirley, Vermont? It's a figment of playwright Annie Baker's imagination and is the setting for a trilogy of plays that have recently found a home in our town: CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION, BODY AWARENESS, and THE ALIENS. I finally saw all of them beginning with "CIRCLE" presented by THE HUNTINGTON about the interpersonal dynamics of an acting class. It's barely a play; it was "survivable," in the damning words of my mother who raced to see it with me one night. It's over.

No matter; the next two were better and there's still time to see them through November 20: BODY AWARENESS presented by SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY features Paula Plum and Adrianne Krstansky as Joyce and Phyllis, a lesbian couple who host an artist in their home during "Body Awareness Week" on the college campus where Phyllis is a professor. They also have a son who may have Aspergers. The artist in their residence turns out to be a male photographer who specializes in female nudes. With the introduction of this additional testosterone, the family dynamics go kaflooey. Well-acted and nimbly directed by Paul Daigneault, with quietly hilarious observations about small-town college life and the politics of sex, the play is charming, if slight.

"The Aliens" presented by COMPANY ONE

But I've buried the lead. By FAR the best of the plays is THE ALIENS presented by COMPANY ONE. It's a minor masterpiece that put me in some kind of pre-verbal trance; I laughed myself silly till I cried, and remembered things I had long buried. The play involves two hippie-like dropouts, hanging out with the garbage behind an old coffee shop, drinking, smoking, playing music, and philosophizing: lost girlfriends, Bukowski, novels, poetry-- all in a haze of sustained torpor. They discover an acolyte in the person of a mumbly, unformed 16 year-old boy who comes to regard their trippy ramblings as genius. It's all about loneliness, and connection, and longing... they are latter day Beckett hobos on drugs... the play has more silence than most theater-goers are used to-- and most playwrights can bear. Director Shawn LaCount lets this work breathe its beautiful rhythms. There's at least one towering performance: Alex Pollock as"KJ," a space cadet of the first order who calls himself "a martian masterpiece...a triple dimensional superstar." No I'm not on anything; just see THE ALIENS at Company One through November 20.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

MOVIE ROUND UP

I have not dropped off the face of the earth. I have been so swamped--just closed down mom's house in Connecticut and moved her up here. But have managed to see a bunch of things in recent days, and can share them briefly.

MOVIES: THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST the third film adaptation of the best-selling Swedish author Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy. The compelling Noomi Rapace is back as Lisbeth Salander but she spends most of the movie in a hospital bed, while all the loose ends are tied up. The third installment reveals just how trite the books actually are; it's two and a half hours of diminishing returns, culminating in one of the oldest tricks in the genre (see CARRIE).

Then there's CONVICTION-a true story based on a Mass.case of wrongful conviction. Hilary Swank plays the sister who bails out her brother (Sam Rockwell in a dull performance that people will mistake for brilliance) after decades of wrongful incarceration, and yes, the title also refers to her conviction. I am sick of Swank in these earnest do or die, against all odds parts. It's time she played an upper class twit with a heart of stone. In any case, the film is two dimensional and fails to even tear jerk me to the ending. Ultimately boring.

A FILM UNFINISHED: This is an extraordinary holocaust documentary by Israeli director Yael Hersonski who has unearthed and recontextualized a heretofore buried Nazi propaganda film about the Warsaw ghetto. The film contains never before seen footage of the heartless conditions, and reveals how the Nazis warped that horrific reality into one even more gruesome. Starving and brutalized inhabitants were forced to act for the camera in staged scenes, designed to show how good life was there, and how the wealthy Jews turned a blind eye to corpses in the street. We see the retakes, with real dead bodies, and the "extras" who were forced to continually step over them "unmoved." The filmmakers have found survivors--now elderly, who lived in the ghetto as children. We watch with them as they recognize loved ones, and neighbors. In this, they and we are the ultimate witnesses, and ironically the film is finished as the truth behind these misleading images is reflected in the eyes of those who were there.

See this when it's released on DVD, and watch for it at Oscar time.

More soon!
Good night and good morning!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MOVIE: HEREAFTER


Clint Eastwood, that long, lean, laconic cowboy of yesteryear, is thinking about death. In HEREAFTER he has crafted a movie that gently explores the subject of what lies beyond with soulful brevity and a flood of emotion; it begins with a violent tidal wave and ends in a wash of tenderness.

Three stories gradually and inevitably flow toward each other; in one, Matt Damon plays a psychic whose gift has cut him off from life. In another,a French TV reporter's life (Cecile de France) is turned upside down by a natural disaster. In a third story, a young boy (Frankie/George McLaren) suffers a cruel loss.

All of these stories explore the fragility of life, the buffeting that we suffer in its turbulence, and the deep desire to anchor ourselves to each other. The film has a quiet majesty, and inspires real compassion. Damon's beautifully controlled performance draws us into a well of loneliness so dark, we yearn for his release. Bryce Dallas Howard is heartcrushingly vulnerable as a young woman trying to find her way after a broken relationship.

Somehow the movie manages to avoid sentimentality, and even pokes fun at the mumbo jumbo this subject matter is heir to. Rather, the movie is extraordinarily believable, and its conclusions feel rooted to real subliminal human experience.

I left HEREAFTER feeling profound relief from the tumult of the here and now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: SECRETARIAT


(Secretariat winning the Triple Crown June 9,1973)

I just saw SECRETARIAT. The horse deserved a better movie.

You have to know I love Secretariat. I have articles about the horse written by the great Bill Nack under my bed. I know arcane little details about the greatest racehorse of all time-like he had a perfect heart --except that it was more than twice the size of normal horse's heart. I am a Secretariat groupie. He inspires me. He is my hero. I have watched that final Triple Crown race at Belmont so many times, where he wins by 31 lengths -- and my heart practically stops every time I see it. (The video above tells the tale.) While all the other creatures were stuck on earth, Secretariat seemed to be running in a different universe. The movie doesn't begin to capture the shock and awe of this incomparable athletic feat, and how it must have astonished everyone who was there to see it that day June 9,1973.

What we've got here is a disneyfication in progress. It feels small, clumsy, and contrived. There are clunky voice-overs designed to elevate the story to the level of myth. Secretariat's real accomplishments ARE already mythic. John Malkovich as grouchy eccentric trainer Lucien Laurin comes dangerously close to playing it like someone's dotty old uncle. Diane Lane as owner Penny Chenery looks too deliberately dowdy and delivers equally starchy, exposition-laden dialogue. In one climactic scene, her husband rushes into a ballroom with the kids on the eve of the Belmont (didn't she know they were coming?) and earnestly declares,"You've taught our children how to believe in themselves, and you've taught me something too." And that taught me Director Randall Wallace sure has an ear for corn.

And what is with this family? The film never fleshes out its dynamics. One daughter is "rebellious" and is preparing for a protest march decked out like an escapee from the Partridge family. Why weren't they at the Derby? and the Preakness? Instead, they watch it on TV which is one way to avoid having to stage it I suppose. I believe the filmmakers do use actual footage of the real race but it's strangely anticlimactic. I've already mentioned that they completely blow the climactic race at Belmont. The best race dramatized is the first one, the Kentucky Derby. And the filmmakers do a pretty good job of conveying the sheer intensity and visceral power of an animal that fleet and beautiful exploding out of the gate and tearing up the ground. Jockeys take their lives in their hands.

If you want to see a great horse movie, rent SEABISCUIT.
If you want to know more about Secretariat, read William Nack.
SECRETARIAT the movie is just coasting on its title; the horse leaves this film in the dust.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: THE SOCIAL NETWORK


I finally saw THE SOCIAL NETWORK--and kept saying to myself as I watched, why didn't I think of that??? Is it worth four stars? Maybe 3 1/2. Is it engrossing? Yes... especially the speed and acuteness of the dialogue, and the maniacal focus and narcissism of the protagonist, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg(brilliantly embodied by Jesse Eisenberg)who we are led to believe created FACEBOOK--the ultimate internet connector-- after he was abruptly disconnected by his girlfriend. He seals (steals?)the concept when his vanity is further wounded by the Winklevoss twins, a pair of blindingly blond Harvard crew gods who look down their aquiline noses at the nerdy computer whiz.
"THE FACEBOOK" takes off, then is further tweaked ("Lose the 'THE.'") by "Napster" Sean Parker(Justin Timberlake in a sly, funny take on the nap"star")and the rest is history: gazillions of hits and billions of dollars.
David Fincher directs screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's ingenious script. Ingenious because of its intricate structure which propels a simple story into an intriguing maze of chronology, personalities, and hidden motives. Every scene is "Sorkinized"-- pumped with the screenwriter's own obsessiveness; Sorkin admits to taking 8 to 10 showers a day and talks a blue streak. When we first meet him, Zuckerberg attempts to pummel his date into submission (the lovely Rooney Mara, soon to star in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) with compulsively self-absorbed questions, smart-ass asides, and infuriating "know-it-all-ness," like an idiot savant on speed. This opening scene alone is worth the price of admission.
Whether or not Zuckerberg is the vindictive wunderkind who ruthlessly disposed of his co-creator Edouardo Saverin (as the film cagily implies) I do not know. Sorkin's script is deliberately opaque in this regard and that's a flaw, that and the way Eisenberg's face goes slack whenever his character is called to account. How convenient--or lazy of Sorkin not to commit. I also thought the sight of Harvard coeds casually stripping on tabletops in wood paneled dorm rooms a bit of a stretch.

But THE SOCIAL NETWORK does a good job of stripping this true story down to its bare essentials and entertaining us with a modern fable of no small net worth.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

THEATER REVIEW: BUS STOP


THE BUS STOPS HERE! Don't miss it: The Huntington Theatre Company refuels Inge's classic comedy BUS STOP and its season is off to a roaring start!

I must admit, I had my reservations, having never seen a theatrical production, and was only familiar with the dull 1956 Josh Logan movie in which Marilyn Monroe played Cherie.

Here under Nicky Martin's pitch perfect direction, Nicole Rodenburg plays a sexy, feisty version of nightclub singer Cherie who has fallen into the clutches (literally) of a lovestruck cowboy who's dragged her onto a bus bound for Montana-- and matrimony. The action takes place at a bus stop diner where the passengers have been stranded overnight in a snowstorm, giving Inge the opportunity to explore the need for love in all of its guises. This cast--without exception- is extraordinarily winning and skilled, and makes the creaky formulaic premise truly entertaining and sympathetic, if not wholly believable. From Karen MacDonald and Will Lebow who provide ballast as seasoned lovers, to Noah Bean as Bo Decker, the hilariously out of control lovesick cowpoke in hot pursuit of his gal. And then there's the adorable Ronete Levenson as the naively exuberant Elma, who steals the show as a latter day Juliet in a sides-splittingly funny re-enactment of Shakespeare's balcony scene.

I also couldn't take my eyes off James Noone's evocative set with its snow falling faintly in the background, collecting in snowbanks that look like clouds, as though this bustop were floating in the center of the universe.

I was absolutely onboard--and I'm urging you to catch the bus.
MORE INFO

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW:THE TOWN


It's #1 at the box office and deserves to be: THE TOWN--Ben Affleck's un-valentine to CharlesTOWN Massachusetts. Ben grew up right next door in Cambridge, but says it was a world apart; this movie proves him right. Based on the novel PRINCE OF THIEVES by Chuck Hogan, the film zeros in on one particular square mile of Boston as a breeding ground for bank robbers. Ben plays Doug MacRay, and Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER) is his hair-trigger foster brother; they are part of a gang of work-a-day crooks who topple a bank, take the teller (Rebecca Hall) hostage, elude the FBI (Jon Hamm) who's closing in on them, and wrestle with the dynamics of this inbred neighborhood and the local bosses who control them.

Ben directs THE TOWN with a surer hand than his last effort GONE BABY GONE, which he also co-wrote with Aaron Stockard, and thus inherits some of the former film's problems. These guys don't know how to write women--Rebecca Hall as Claire the bank teller who takes up with Doug, may as well be an amnesiac; she seems to have no past, and functions merely as a catalyst for Doug's evolution. So their relationship lacks real heat and tension; it is the film's one major flaw.

But here's what's great about THE TOWN: Affleck captures the claustrophobia of this neighborhood, and the scary elders who have a chokehold on it. Jeremy Renner is explosive as a limited guy who uses his temper to force those close to him to stick. Blake "Gossip Girl" Lively is a revelation as Renner's blowsy drugged out sister and Doug's sometime squeeze. She has perfected the "I slept in my make-up" look (and apparently, the actress did), but the performance is more than skin deep. Best of all is Ben Affleck in one of his most convincing portrayals. He's leaner -and so is the performance; he's "acting" less, but revealing more. He's subtle and vulnerable and tough and funny. Sorry to say, the only person I didn't buy, was Jon Hamm as a hard-boiled FBI guy...he just doesn't convey that hungry, relentless killer instinct, which would have juiced up the tension between him and his prey the way, say, Tommy Lee Jones did when he pursued Harrison Ford in THE FUGITIVE.
But the plot builds to a taut climax, and the action sequences have real energy, particularly one car chase that garnered spontaneous applause from our premiere audience! There are a few killer lines of dialogue, and several quieter and very effective scenes involving tense conversations played for maximum suspense. Ben knows just where to put the camera and how long to stay with a scene; he's developing a rhythm for this terrain. He's become the teller of dark tales from Boston. The question is how long he'll stay in this neighborhood... perhaps next time around, a light romantic comedy set in the Back Bay?
Who knows--I'm just so happy he's out there doing it all, in his and my hometown.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ON THE TOWN



Last night Jon Hamm and I got to first base. Unfortunately he was wearing a hat at the time and his girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt (looking fierce in higheeled ankle boots), was not far afield--and what a field: Fenway Park, between first base and home plate where a red carpet was rolled out for the premiere of Ben Affleck's new movie: THE TOWN, as in Charlestown. That's where the movie was set and shot last year. Ben chose Fenway for the premiere because a scene in the film was shot there, and Ben and Matt (Damon of course), are Red Sox fanatics. In fact, Matt who showed up with his family to support Ben, mentioned that he and Ben had actually both shot at Fenway before--when they were teenagers with stars in their eyes and were hired as extras in FIELD OF DREAMS!!!

Other stars on the red Carpet-- writer,director,star Ben Affleck of course, gorgeous Gossip Girl Blake Lively who confessed she had to beg Ben to audition her for the part which she eventually won, the talented Brit Rebecca Hall (VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA) smashing in a gown by Italian leather house Bottega Veneta--did she actually say that? The top of the gown did appear to be made of red leather...! And Chris Cooper who raved about Affleck's directing skills, and Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER)who said he had absolutely become a Red Sox fan.

But getting back to Jon Hamm. He couldn't have been nicer. Or more beautiful, despite the hat which he said he was wearing because he didn't like his hair. He does however "love" Boston. Loves our boy Ben whom he found very funny, and said he'd gotten an appreciative note from Scott Brown after Hamm nailed him in that infamous SNL skit. AND...he agreed to pose for the above photo with yours truly.

I have been covering this beat for 28 years. I have never asked for a photo with ANYONE on a red carpet, ever. But this week is my birthday. Jon (that's what I call him) asked if I was turning 25. Then my camera crew snapped the photo. I think my birthday celebration just started.

Monday, September 13, 2010

THEATER REVIEW: THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND


Publick Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND is a real dog. Bow wow. And it's not just because I've recently been in court on account of my unfortunate encounter with a creature of the canine persuasion. (See THE CASE OF THE WAYWARD WEIMARANER blog post). No no no. If the playwright saw this flaccid attempt at his crackling whodunnit, Stoppard would put a stop to it. Perhaps that's too easy. Perhaps he wouldn't recognize it at all.

Let's begin with Moon and Birdboot, critics watching the show within the show. Barlow Adamson and William Gardiner deliver their lines like they were delivering dead orchids to a funeral. The pacing is off. The diction sloppy. There's no energy. The show which usually breezes in at just under an hour, has now been stretched into two lumpy acts, the momentum lost, the whip cracking wordplay now simply, whipped. Two performers standout: Gabriel Kuttner as Magnus, a deadpan wit on wheels. And Sheridan Thomas as the haunted housekeeper Mrs. Drudge; she moves like lead, and acts with lugubrious abandon. Georgia Lyman looks great but that's it. Anna Waldron as Felicity is practically non-existent. The timing is off. The thing had absolutely no impact. I was nearly asleep. How I longed for the cast that played it the first time I saw it at THE NEXT MOVE THEATRE, 30 years ago. Yes, it's that vivid in my mind.

The real show started afterwards, and I know I'll be thinking about it 30 years hence. YOU MUST GO TO COPPA on Shawmut Ave. in the South end, Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette's latest culinary adventure. It's a romantic, rustic, dark, little corner Italian bistro. Try everything. We had pizza with zucchini flowers, and small white bowls of gnocchi with lamb and mint and white bean ragout. Then luscious orechiette pasta with broccoli rabe and fresh tomato, not to be outdone by fusilli mare, twisted curls of pasta with seafood; and a small slice of rabbit pate, and a succulent little beef heart crostini. We finished with a dollop of fresh fig sorbetto, glasses of sparkling Lambrusco, and two divine espressos. We were lucky to have Mark Voss as our server who is gorgeous and charming. We wafted out into the night, fully satisfied.
Theater? What theater?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

THEATRE REVIEW: CABARET


Life is a CABARET-- but not quite--at the A.R.T.'s production of the Kander and Ebb musical presented at their ultra flexible, glammo theatre space turned nightclub, Oberon. It's the perfect setting for this show--better than artistic director Diane Paulus' smash THE DONKEY SHOW last season which turned Shakespeare into A disco-fevered Midsummer Night's Dream. This is sort of like The Donkey Show with Nazis.


As the show opens, the Kit Kat Dancers(you won't be able to take your eyes off Jordy Lievers as Helga),half naked ambi-sexual showgirls/guys, slowly invade the space. Then Amanda Palmer as that creepy Emcee hits the stage to sing the emblematic "Willkommen" (and vee know the Nazis vill be comin')--and it's auf wiedersehen. Palmer, lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, has a name-- but lacks the acting and vocal chops of a true theatrical performer. She's strangely unexpressive, imitating a performance rather than fully inhabiting a character. Aly Trasher is dynamic but not quite charismatic as a blond, curly-haired Sally Bowles, an English tart trying to make it onstage and off in Berlin. When she meets a young American would-be novelist stiffly played by Matt Wood, the show almost goes kaput. The actor lived up to his last name. I honestly didn't know what he was doing there.
No; it was A.R.T. stalwart Tom Derrah who blew everyone off the stage in a poignant tragic-comic turn in drag as Fraulein Schneider. That man can SING. His timing is impeccable. His scenes with Remo Airaldi were remarkably tender and the source of what little emotional engagement there was to be had.

So life is a Cabaret sometimes, but last night, on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it was more like an undercooked noodle pudding--a little lumpy, and in need of some seasoning.
Happy 5771!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

THE CASE OF THE WAYWARD WEIMARANER

I testified under oath in court today because four years ago a dog bit me. It happened on the very day I decided to start "walking" outdoors for exercise. On that lovely October morning a frisky little Weimaraner charged and took a chunk of my thigh in its jaws. In shock, and vowing never to exercise again, I stumbled home and eventually discovered that the dog had a long history of nibbling on passersby, and was owned by a Russian couple named Boris and Natasha. Could a moose named Bullwinkle be far behind?

A little worked up, I told my emotional story on the stand and was asked if the owner of the pesky pooch was indeed present in the courtroom. "Yes, your honor," I proclaimed, "that man there"-- and pointed a finger at the stone-faced Boris. Three other bitees told their stories, one witness for the prosecution going so far as to lift her pant leg all the way up to reveal a high heel, a naked gam, and a telltale scar on her upper thigh. As judge and attorneys leaned over the witness stand to get a closer look, I found myself daydreaming about Marlene Dietrich.

4 hours and many whispered deliberations later, the judge awarded damages to the damaged one, while the wily Weimaraner remains on the loose in Waltham, where it has been banished. Yes "banished." Sounds medieval, you say, but believe it or not it's what passes for a solution in towns that haven't yet figured out what to do with an unruly pup. In this case it seems downright unneighborly since the canine in question has reportedy begun sinking its canines into a fresh batch of unsuspecting Walthamites.

When all is said and done, I am happy I had my day in court, but the case of the wayward Weimaraner has weft me with a wittle case of weltschmerz. Woof.

Friday, September 3, 2010

HURRICAN'T EARL

Well, it's 11PM and we're in the teeth of the storm!
--Or is it the gums?

I just flipped on the news and have been informed by damp reporters in shiny rain gear that it is, indeed, raining. The wind reportedly is "howling." Some boats are being "jostled." "Two" people have checked into a shelter in Barnstable; one of them may have stubbed his toe. Otherwise, no reported injuries. People on the Cape are lined up on the beach in their lawn chairs and cars eating cheese and crackers, waiting for the show: Hurricane Earl!!!

Wait just a minute. Earl is no longer a hurricane. Earl began petering out this afternoon, from category 3, to 1, to mere tropical storm status and every meteorologist in town knew it. But that didn't stop every major TV station from sticking to its pre-fab story, ramping up the drama to support that story, and even pre-empting regular programming to provide non-stop coverage of what they KNEW was going to be a non-event.

Do they think we're idiots? We had more rain last week! This is not only irritating, it's lying. I know I'm naive. I still cling to the quaint notion that we should be able to count on THE NEWS to report the facts and not spin a story for maximum drama. The last time I checked they weren't giving out Tony's for the weather report. Once again, they made a big muddy mountain out of a soggy little mole hill.

My forecast for tomorrow? The news is all wet.

Monday, August 30, 2010

THE FABULOUS FALLON

I can contain myself no longer. I've been thinking about him for months. He's virtually the last person I see before I close my eyes every night. I said virtually. He used to be jittery and made me jumpy. I had to look away his first weeks on the air. Then slowly I turned, and step by step, he relaxed into the best talk show host on late late night TV. He's an extraordinary mimic. A nimble singer and dancer. He makes every guest better, funnier, looser, livelier-- because HE's having such a good time.

The comedy bits are genius. The wet and wild "Competitive Spit Takes." The improbably good "Battle of the Instant Bands." The unpredictably effervescent "Dance Your Hat and Gloves Off." The hilariously kooky spaceshot chanting HUBBLE GOTCHU!!! And finally,the sublimely droll nightcap at the end of every week, with its wistful musical accompaniment: "Thank You Notes." Tears are rolling down my eyes as I think about this. And now I'm remembering "Robert(as in Pattinson) Is Bothered." And the dead-on "Lost" take-off called "Late." And "The Real Housewives of Late Night." Jimmy is the prettiest, except for maybe Renee.

And Did I mention the hippest band on TV today-- THE ROOTS led by ?uestlove who takes the wackiest soundbites of the week and proceeds to "Remix The Clips"?! And how about the most brilliant bit of all, executed with hilarious aplomb by NBC's cool on wry newsman Brian Williams: prepare to die laughing as he, The Roots, and yes, Jimmy Fallon groove on "Slow Jammin' The News."

Jimmy just hosted the best Emmy Awards in recent memory. Anyone who saw his opening number Sunday night has to agree: he's the guy to watch right now. Gotta go--he's on right now.
Good night!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MOVIE MUST SEES


WINTER'S BONE is one of the best films of the year. So many people have been saying there's nothing to see at the movies this summer. And if you're just patronizing your local mainstream multiplex, it's pretty bleak. But here's a quick run-down of better films you may have overlooked and you'll find them at what we used to call"art houses"--which are few and far between these days, but if you're in the Boston area, check out The West Newton Cinema, The Stuart Street Playhouse, and Kendall Square in Cambridge

Here goes:
--WINTER'S BONE is a chilling but ultimately inspiring coming of age tale starring Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, a teenage girl whose father has disappeared. It's up to Ree to rescue her nearly insane mother and destitute younger siblings from crushing poverty and the equally crushing rituals of tribal life in the Ozarks. Lawrence's performance will stir your soul, and what she must face will curdle your blood. The film sheds a terrifying light on a grim corner of American life. Extraordinary film.

--THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO & THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE are the film versions of the late Stieg Larsson's first two books in the best-selling Millennium Trilogy starring red-hot Noomi Rapace as Scandinavian ice queen, hacker slacker Lisbeth Salander at the heart of this murder and sex thriller. Rooney Mara (who can be seen in the upcoming Facebook biopic, THE SOCIAL NETWORK)will take over the role when Hollywood takes a crack at this material. For now see it in Swedish. The first two films are better than the books.

--PLEASE GIVE stars Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, and Rebecca Hall in a subtle and quirky slice of NY life. Keener's character buys and re-sells the belongings of the recently deceased; she lives next door to an elderly woman and her two granddaughters who squabble while waiting for grandma to die. Keener is also waiting--for the vacancy so she can then expand her apartment. This is not as harsh as it sounds. The characters wrestle with guilt and life and death in this inescapable generational roundelay, while director Nicole Holofcener gives us reasons to be kind to ourselves and each other, please.

Monday, August 16, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: EAT PRAY LOVE


"Eat Pray Love" is the latest incarnation of the archetypal female journey. It's the trip every woman wants to take. Unlike Ulysses whose journey requires him to fight all manner of monsters and physical obstacles in order to literally get "home," author Liz Gilbert's journey- a woman fleeing an unhappy marriage on a year-long sojourn to Italy, India, and Bali-- requires her to turn inward; the demons she fights are spiritual, emotional, psychological,and the home she seeks is herself.

Whew. Are we clear? Women get this, seek this, crave this experience. And in the person of Julia Roberts the experience is a voluptuous escape. She is transparently alive in every moment. She suffers and seeks and rejoices in infinite ways. We feel her need to break free. That big grin of hers has become much more subtle over time, and we're in on the whole experience. She's glorious to watch, really.

Richard Jenkins as Liz's meditation mentor has an exquisite scene of barely contained emotional pain; it's almost unendurable to watch. Javier Bardem as Liz's new man is tender and earthy; Billy Crudup is pitch perfect as the husband who is just "off putting" enough. And the supremely appealing James Franco has never been more unappealing--a testament to his acting prowess.

The film delivers a rich sense of place-- and we are immersed in the unique light of these places-- and their pleasures. I tasted every luscious strand of spaghetti, felt the burnished heat of India, and breathed in Bali's lambent glow.

The movie has some difficulty maintaining forward momentum and flattens out some of the more unbelievable real life extrasensory and transcendent experiences; the ending drifts off. The book's last third has similar difficulty. But given the lay of the land Gilbert and the filmmakers have mapped out, I remained inspired; what a trip.

Friday, August 13, 2010

EAT PRAY LOVE: location location location!!!


In the upcoming movie Eat Pray Love, Julia Roberts plays Liz Gilbert, a woman who steps out of her comfort zone and risks everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery. The film, which is based upon Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, inspired the filmmakers to enjoy their own gastronomical trek through Italy – including famous places and some off the beaten track – that put them on their own version of Gilberts “no carb left behind” tour.

L’Orso 80, a crowded restaurant near Piazza Navona famous for their antipasti, became a favorite spot for the production– not only did the cast and crew eat here, but it’s featured in the film, as a gathering spot to watch Rome take on Lazio in soccer. (However, L’Orso 80’s owners must have been mildly chagrined to see the 75 extras were decked out in Rome’s orange and burgundy – they are Lazio fans). More information about L’Orso 80 can be found at http://www.orso80.it/index.htm.

Another favorite Rome restaurant and filming location near Piazza Navona was Osteria Dell Antiquario. Located in a 16th-century stone stable, this out of the way place between the Piazza and St. Peter’s is just beginning to be discovered.

The production also shot at Antico Caffe Della Pace. Since the 18th Century, there’s been a restaurant on this spot, providing inspiration and libation to artists and writers. This enchanting location inspires anyone who manages to get a highly coveted table on the terrace. More information can be found online at http://www.caffedellapace.it/.

Moving on to Naples, the production filmed at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele – a simple place so highly regarded by the locals that the line for a pizza is often out the door and around the block. Founded in 1933, the pizzeria today makes 180 pizzas every hour – each pizza takes only 30 seconds to bake in the 800-degree oven. The pizza is sold in only two sizes (regular and large) and variety (marinara – dough and sauce – or marinara and mozzarella), but with basil and a little olive oil it becomes an unforgettable delicacy. The restaurant can be found at http://www.damichele.net/.

Susan Spungen was the production’s food stylist. After serving in a similar role on the hit film Julie & Julia, Spungen was responsible for cooking, prepping, and styling all of the food in the Italy sequence (except for the Naples pizzas, where the restaurant handled things – “no one does it better,” she says). She also cooked 20 turkeys and tracked down cranberry sauce – not an easy thing in Rome – for a Thanksgiving celebration scene.

To find images for the food and locations just mentioned go to ftp://sphoto01:spf0to29@speftp.spe.sony.com. To see the trailer and find more information about Eat Pray Love, please visit www.sonypicturespublicity.com.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS



"Schmuckin' funny" is the lead quote describing DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS, the American remake of a French film called "LE DINER DE CONS" which in 1998 was loosely translated as THE DINNER GAME. But by 2010, the translation has devolved to the offensive DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS -"schmuck" being Yiddish for "penis." So I guess we know which way this thing is headed. It's a film that has descended from its French roots and washed up on our shores as a coarse and nauseatingly funny piece of flotsam in which Steve Carell is barely able to contain himself as Barry the "idiot" whom Tim (Paul Rudd)brings to dinner. It's blood sport for Tim's boss and his ring of corporate cronies who amuse themselves by seeing who can win the prize for bringing the biggest jerk. Though Rudd is a great straight man and Carell does lovable nerd better than anyone, I didn't believe in any of these characters.

Almost every scene goes on too long, i.e. the female stalker who busts up Paul's relationship and chic apartment; Jemaine Clement as a randy satyr with hooves; Barry helping Tim when Tim's back goes out. There is one unbelievably funny scene where Barry meets a rich Swiss client and tries to make friends. But then there's Barry's hobby which involves dressing up dead mice and staging them in poignant scenes from Barry's own pathetic life. As the movie strays into sentiment, it gets creepy--especially the climactic dinner scene where Barry is emotionally flayed and hung out to ridicule. If we're going to take that trip, we need a much surer hand at the helm. As it was I was too queasy to laugh.

Let's just call the whole thing "schmawkward."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: SALT



Back from the beach and into SALT starring Angelina Jolie as a secret agent or two or three-- who is she, Evelyn Salt? I really didn't care. All I cared about was seeing her in different clothes and wigs and eyecolors and hats--like my own giant cinematic Barbie. In big luscious close up. Those lips. Those eyes. Those cheek bones. Those legs. That gait. The way she leaps tall buildings in a single bound like superwoman, flying onto moving vehicles, fashioning impromptu explosives out of ketchup and chair legs, disabling mountains of men with a flick of her perfectly turned calves and a couple of guns rambo style. Make that "rimbaud" style. There is no more sensual killing machine in all of movies today. Step aside Iron Man, Bat Man, Spider Man, X-men, and Jason Bourne. Forgive me, but Angelina makes me proud to be a woman.

The movie is a trifle, big on marginally believable exposition and frenetically directed action. There's little texture in the way of character and drama. The great actor Liev Schreiber has little to do. And we know Angelina can act. Remember GIRL INTERRUPTED? Well one of these days she's going to make a movie that harnesses all of her visceral, physical impact, and enormous emotional clout-- and we'll be beside ourselves. But for right now, this summer, let's just say she's doing what all larger than life movie stars can do--act out a few fantasies to entertain us. So I've extended my week at the beach, the salt air, the salt water-- and now that I'm back: SALT.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WILD PHOTOS!



























IT'S HARD TO SAY WHICH IS MORE AMAZING... THE ANIMALS OR THE PHOTOGRAPHY!

Monday, July 19, 2010

MOVIE: "INCEPTION"



INCEPTION--I saw it today with three teenagers and we had a lot of plot analysis to get through. It didn't help that I dozed off for a bit during the first third of the movie. This thing hangs on the details, and they overwhelmed me and I lost consciousness.

But I do remember the first scene--Leonardo DiCaprio washed up on some archetypal shore(did he survive the sinking of the Titanic after all?) fresh from SHUTTER ISLAND and once again exploring what's real and what isn't. He and his team(Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are "dream extracters." Ouch. My psyche is killing me. They are on a mission to infiltrate a particular target's(Cillian Murphy) dreams and gain access to his subconscious, and even his sub-sub conscious so as to plant the seed of an idea there, in other words "Inception." Uh oh. Playing God is never as easy as it sounds.

The movie then becomes an elaborate psychodrama/adventure with some way cool effects. The team plays cops and robbers, racing against time and from level to level within the target's psyche like it's some big metaphysical multi-storied apartment complex/ complexes they're sub-consciously sub-letting! There are gun battles and fist fights, and shape shifters, and time warps, as they fend off projections, hidden desires, and emotional defenses, with Leo simultaneously fighting off a guilt complex and Marion Cotillard-- who keeps singing in French. Are you with me?

As I admitted, I wasn't with me some of the time, but oddly enough, even after my brief snooze, the labyrinthine plot and all of the rules of the world it posits actually held up. The film does take itself pretty seriously. A little bit of Jung and Freud go a long way; I kept flashing on what Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock have done with such material. In any case, ply yourself with coffee and try to stay awake. Or not. I had fun anyway!

Sweet dreams...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

MOVIE:THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT


THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is getting a lot of play, and it's a very good movie without being a great one. No doubt the set-up is grabby: lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) have two kids, who look up their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). He re-enters the picture, this time creating drama in the form of an unexpected romantic entanglement. There's something a little contrived about the set-up, but there's real meat on these bones;the script honors the complexities here,provides no fancy answers, and offers a fabulous canvas for some very detailed performances. Moore is the earthy stay-at-home mom, Bening the super-achieving doctor, both of them hilariously PC. Ruffalo gently ruffles their feathers in different ways, and these scenes subtly reveal the cracks in the relationship. There are funny moments of everyday awkwardness, sudden and earth-shaking revelations, and the poignance of a family trying to keep its bearings. It's a smart slice of modern life.

MOVIE ROUND-UP: BABIES/JOAN RIVERS/TS3


YES to BABIES which charts the first year in the life of four infants from around the globe, from San Francisco to Mongolia to Tokyo to Namibia! The film unfolds--sans dialogue--in extraordinary pictures like a fascinating wild life documentary--except the wild life is human. The common denominator is the love of the mothers for their babies, and the inescapable sense that whatever their physical surroundings,the babies are remarkably alike and different. We watch their personalities branch out as if cued by mysterious and unique internal maps. They are destined to become themselves and we get to watch act I.

YES! The new documentary which had them gasping and laughing at Sundance "JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK" is hilarious and jaw-droppingly revealing. The groundbreaking comedienne is driven, damaged, and scary to behold. This documentary peels back the layers to reveal the desperately needy diva beneath the cracker-jack quips and plastic surgery; her career in comedy is her lifeline. We spend a year with Joan on the road, kvetching unless she's triple booked, refusing no offer however humiliating, swearing she'd wear diapers if necessary to advertise an incontinence remedy. She needs the love. But she doesn't hesitate to lash out at a heckler who challenges her style of joke-making; it's breathtaking to watch her take a stand for her brand of truth-telling. See it!

YES! TOY STORY THREE truly deserves its blockbuster status. Tom Hanks as Woody is back with the gang in a film that has everything for everyone: it’s technically splendid, with those wonderfully alive characters, and an emotionally and psychologically rich story that will resonate with anyone who ever had a toy, an imagination, or has suffered the pangs of growing up and leaving home. I actually cried. Don’t Miss this.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE



"THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE" TRAILER
It's beyond an eclipse. It's a black out of intergalactic proportions.

No one really expected this movie about Edward (Robert Pattinson) the vampire and Jacob(Taylor Lautner) the werewolf fighting over Bella (Kristen Stewart) the reluctant Swan to be great art. But I didn't expect it to put me into a coma. I listened to the books on tape and they definitely have the whole teen yearning romantic angst thing down--they are great outlets for all that ill-defined, unexpressed sexual energy--and the movie has NONE OF THAT.

This is without a doubt one of the most half-hearted, half-assed, cold-blooded imitations of a film I have ever seen. It's moviemaking by numbers. It's as though the filmmakers were all multitasking-- doing their laundry, filing their nails, returning phone calls-- and oh by the way making this movie, knowing they had a built in audience who'd come anyway. Just give them some young good-looking flesh, have them recite their lines, maybe twitch an occasional eyebrow, and teenage girls and their moms (you know who you are) would swoon.

It's cynical and lazy. There's nothing real here--no romance, tension, excitement,terror, beauty, sadness, humor,suspense,or coherence. Every scene is stripped of its dramatic potential and limply put forth in chronological order. Seeing Jacob phase into a werewolf is about as exciting as seeing him brush his teeth. There is ONE scene that sort of works--the one where Edward proposes--it's surprisingly tender and effective. But if you haven't read the books, you are lost in a heap of bad makeup, mumbled dialogue, and phony-looking, awkwardly staged action sequences. None of the characters have any real juice. It's like they all drank the Kool aid, and now it's being served up to us.

Well I'm out for blood. Guess I'll look elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: KNIGHT AND DAY



KNIGHT AND DAY is such a kick--from the first accidentally on purpose meeting of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz: he never looked better; she was never more charming. They have instant chemistry and apparently extremely supple limbs given the amount of tumbling around they're about to do. He's not who he says he is, she's just a normal five foot ten inch blond with a killer bod and no apparent life. No matter--this is a sexy, glamorous, summer fantasy -- a cinematic roller coaster ride for grown ups.

The charismatic pair ricochet from Boston(you'll recognize every corner) to Brooklyn to a desert island to Salzburg, flipping on and off trains and planes, in and out of cars and hotel rooms, parachuting, motorcycling, fleeing the bad guys (the good guys?)during insanely choreographed chase sequences, while doing many of their own wildly entertaining and often hilarious stunts-especially Cruise who never looked better--did I already say that? My 16 year old daughter agrees. The script makes enough sense to keep you interested, and the non-stop action gives their buoyant charm even more lift.
Sit back, relax, and take the ride.

Monday, June 28, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: GROWN UPS


CLICK HERE FOR TRAILER

GROWN UPS has me down. How could five such funny men make such an embarrassingly unfunny and pointless movie? Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, David Spade, and Chris Rock have made a film that only 10 year old boys could love. And not in a good way. We're talking the "pee-pee ka-ka doo-doo" school of filmmaking.

The plot involves five friends who re-unite at the funeral of their beloved boyhood coach. They spend a weekend in the woods together with their extended families and then the fun begins. David Spade falls face down in dog poo. Twice. Grandma farts. Mario Bello squirts breast milk at Maya Rudolph. Kevin James pees off the side of a boat and then on David Spade. Salma Hayek skips a stone into her son's crotch. Finally several of them pee in a public pool. An emotional catharsis ensues and they all realize that family, friends, and the simple pleasures are what life is all about.

Not only are the jokes primitive, but the thing has no structure, no dramatic shape or interest, no real characters or feeling, no forward momentum save the need it might arouse in an audience to flee the theater as quickly as possible. I saw it with Adam Sandler's mother in the audience. I wonder what she was thinking?

GROWN UPS--It just opened "number 2" at the box office-- I think that says it all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

THEATER REVIEW: "INTO THE WOODS"


RACHEL YORK IS "INTO THE WOODS" AT THE REAGLE MUSIC THEATRE: CLICK HERE

Just northeast of Broadway--about 205 miles--is a Waltham MA theatre called The Reagle Music Theatre where you can often see Broadway performers and sometimes Broadway quality productions. This is the case with Reagle's first musical of the summer Sondheim's dark and twisted fairytale INTO THE WOODS!

It stars Broadway's Rachel York (who has shared the boards with Julie Andrews, Tommy Tune, and Jonathan Pryce) as the evil-luscious witch. She co-stars with former WBZ Anchorman and heck of a vocalist Scott Wahle! They head up an impressive cast, who manage Sondheim's fractured fairy tale of a plot and diabolically difficult score with aplomb. And they can sing too. The whole thing blew me away--the sets, costumes, staging, LIVE ORCHESTRA ladies and gentlemen,LIVE ORCHESTRA-- made for a first rate summer's eve entertainment with ice cream served at intermission and a "meet & greet" with the cast in the foyer on opening night!!!

And guess what--you don't have to mortgage the house to pay for tickets--prices range from $35-$57.00 with FREE PARKING!!! I must be hallucinating you say. Not true. I have witnesses and we're all still humming the score. REAGLE'S "INTO THE WOODS" will leave you deeply satisfied and happy ever after...!

Monday, June 14, 2010

CATCHING UP!!!

I'M BACK FROM BUENOS AIRES AND BLOGGING IN A FLURRY!!
I missed you all and have only time for some important headlines Today (family emergency!!!)
--but didn't want to leave you one more day!

***GREAT TONY AWARDS LAST NIGHT! Sean Hayes, fabulous host, and all those people in the theatre community can all actually walk, talk, act, sing, dance AND deliver their lines with verve and style in a live telecast. Hollywood--take a lesson. Irony--Hollywood cleaned up last night: Denzel, Scarlett, and Catherine Zeta-Jones all walked away with Tony's. (What was Zeta Jones on anyway???? "Out there" performance from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, and even "farther" out there acceptance speech.

***At THE MOVIES: See "BABIES." I don't care what's number one at the box office: IT'S BEST THING PLAYING RIGHT NOW PERIOD THE END.

***AT THE THEATRE: RUSH TO SEE JOHNNY BASEBALL at the A.R.T. in Cambridge. The New York Times is WRONG!!!!. The show features a top notch cast in a hilarious, touching old fashioned entertainment with a catchy score and some truly memorable numbers. It's not perfect--but it sure is swell.

***I will show you my tango videos later in the week!!!

XOXOXOX
MORE LATER!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

"THE BIRDS" GONE WILD!


Ryan Landry and The Gold Dust Orphans are at it again!

It's Hitchcock's classic set on Cape Cod, where "The Birds" become THE GULLS!

See it through May 30 at Machine 1254 Boylston Street Boston!Tippi Hedren eat your heart out.
INFO

Thursday, May 20, 2010

HORROR MOVIE: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE



***WARNING:Trailer is VERY disturbing!***

OK. I said I wanted to see it. It was the best picture winner at Screamfest 2009. It promised a "one of a kind experience...guaranteed to shock and divide" audiences, a "twisted biological horror film" by Dutch filmmaker Tom Six, involving a gruesome operation--and it is called THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE after all. So I thought, why not? Sure. Send me a DVD. The press rep did-- with the offhand remark, "You're brave."

Then it arrived and I kept putting off watching it. My daughter and five of her friends who love horror movies decided to watch it. Later, they emerged from the dark looking sick and queasy. They bleakly informed me, it wasn't exactly scary, it was much worse. My daughter muttered something about "six teenagers emotionally scarred for life."

I celebrated Mother's Day, and looked at that disc sitting on my desk again. I couldn't do it. Until last night. It's a sick ride all right--two stupid American girls wearing too much eyeliner and mascara land on the doorstep of the warped Dr. Heiter on a rainy night in the black forest. One look at this guy- he leered at them like a jackal in heat--and they should have goose-stepped on out of there. Instead, they accepted a drugged drink and woke up in an operating theatre where the good doctor sketched out his next performance, a kind of "anti-operation." You see--he had once made his mark in the world of surgery by separating Siamese twins. Well now that he's out of his mind, he's decided to reverse the procedure in a particularly unseemly way. He's going to link three human beings, on their knees, mouth to rectum, in one long gastric roller coaster, giving new meaning to the expression "head up your ass."I am not making this up.

I fought back the nausea and steeled myself to the end, unable to peel my eyes away from the extraordinary Dieter Laser, who plays Dr. Heiter, one of the most truly revolting onscreen incarnations imaginable; he makes Hannibal Lecter look like Little Bo Peep. His ultra-creepy mien was enhanced by his elegant surroundings; there's a brilliantly terrifying scene where the doctor is shrieking in ecstasy at his grotesque creation, while the enslaved human centipede is screaming in anguish.

There seemed too many ways for the girls, and later some detectives to have escaped, which diminishes (thankfully?) the tension, but the lingering feeling is one of sheer misery and horror at what is happening. One character cries out for mommy. Another screams "Make it all go away please!!!"

When it was over, I savored the relief of being able to do what those poor, unfortunately made up young women could not: make it all go away, please. Ahhhh. It was only a movie. Now Playing at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline MA and limited late night engagements across the country.