Clint Eastwood might be one of the most overrated directors currently making movies — don’t get me started on the heavy-handed melodramatics of 2004 Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby — but you can’t call him lazy. The 79-year-old has made five movies since 2006, all of which can be admired for their thematic ambition and steadfast technical economy if not their narrative clumsiness and overly earnest emoting.
Many people have complained in recent years (including Scott Renshaw in his review of Everybody’s Fine below) that Robert DeNiro is not the actor he used to be. Maybe, maybe not.
Lee Daniels’ Precious, which won audience awards at both the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, has drawn largely positive reviews for its unblinking look at a 16-year-old black female dealing with myriad challenges, including but certainly not limited to a serious weight problem, a monstrous mother, an incestuous father and an ineffective school system.
Yet Precious also has its detractors, none more vociferous than The New York Press’ Armond White, a critic who has never shied away from airing his contrarian views.
I know we’re in the midst of an economic recession not seen since before The Wizard of Oz — but we only have one Hollywood studio release this week? And the one is 2012, the latest effects-driven, apocalyptic nonsense from Roland Emmerich?
Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko might be the cult film of the new millennium.
The young auteur’s moody opus struggled to find an audience amid a post-9/11 climate that apparently had little patience for the film's head-scratching, reality-shifting narrative and apocalyptic overtones — it received a limited theatrical release about a month after the terrorist attacks and quickly faded from view.
What’s up with the current vampire/zombie craze?
Yes, there’s always been interest in the genre and its preoccupation with the dark side of human nature and sexuality — from the books of Bram Stoker and Anne Rice to the movies of Bela Lugosi and George A. Romero to the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No doubt blood and bare necks and sucking and such will always be alluring, but what is it about this cultural moment in time that has so many geeking out on the idea of the undead?
Spike Jonze is a curious case.
Born into the Spiegel mail-order catalog fortune (his given name is Adam Spiegel), the teenage Jonze found solace in the skateboard/BMX bike culture of the 1980s. A DIY-bred autodidact with an oddball sense of humor, Jonze’s filmmaking “career” kick-started with a series of crafty skateboard videos that caught the attention of the Beastie Boys, who eventually recruited him to direct their playful, refreshingly lo-fi video for 1994’s “Sabotage.”
A series of inventive music videos followed, all of which were informed by Jonze’s boundless imagination and complete indifference to the flashy, jump-cut-laden techniques that flooded other MTV fare.
What’s up with this supposedly scary movie called Paranormal Activity?
Paramount Pictures, the film’s distributor, has been sending me e-mail press releases with big, bold-faced titles like “More Than 230,000 Fans “Demand” Paranormal Activity" and "Fans Spur the Film’s Opening in Twenty Additional Cities Across the Country” and “Paranormal Activity Sells Out Midnight Screenings Across the Country.”
The fall movie season gets a much-needed kick in the ass this week, as no fewer than a half-dozen worthwhile (or at least intriguing) films in a variety of genres hit movie houses.
The fall movie season has gotten off to a pretty mediocre start, and this week’s slate of new multiplex offerings does little to reverse the trend: a pair of ho-hum-looking sci-fi thrillers, Pandorum and Surrogates, and what looks to be a glossy remake of Fame, the 1980 movie musical that would serve as the senior play for yours truly many years later (I played Ralph Garcy.) Not coincidently, all three screened after our print deadline, typically a sign that they’re not ripe for much critical love.