The New York Film Festival will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from September 26 – October 12, 2014. Although the press screenings have just started, this year’s line up looks to be a formidable one with over 30 feature films from around the world, in addition to 21 revivals and 15 documentaries.
From Ireland, director Yann Demange’s “’71” is a suspenseful, pulse pounding, riveting account of a British soldier, cut off from his unit, lost and trying to stay alive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1971 at the height of what was called “the Troubles.” “’71” is a skillfully directed thriller with plenty of action, solid characters and a real sense of the historical and political situation of the time. Read the rest of this entry
“Love Is Strange” could have been a very good movie. In fact, I am still quite surprised that it was not. It has an interesting premise and very engaging main characters played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, with the, always fine, Marisa Tomei in a supporting role.
Without giving away any spoilers, I will simply say that going into its third act the story takes a very sharp left turn, flies off the rails, crashes and burns. Simply put, “Love Is Strange” suffers from a time worn malady, of both stage and screen, called “trouble in the third act.” In other words, there was a good idea here, which was well sustained for the first and second acts. Writer/director, Ira Sachs, seems to have not known how to resolve his story. As a result, he has come up with something completely out of left field, for the third act, that conveniently lets him off the hook in regard dealing to his characters’ situation. In fact, for a moment, I honestly thought that there was a technical glitch and that the particular copy of the movie that I was watching was missing a scene or two. Part of me is still hoping that this is the case, but I do not think it is.
When creating a documentary a filmmaker has basically two options. One option is to be present, camera running, when events are actually unfolding. These events can then be supplemented with interviews. What are the filmmaker’s options, though, when making a documentary today about an event that occurred in 1975? Director and Producer Rory Kennedy, and her crew, have answered this question with a highly compelling and riveting documentary, “Last Days in Vietnam.”
I have seen “Last Days in Vietnam” twice. It is a pulse pounding, suspenseful, fascinating, thriller like account of the final days of the United States’ presence in Vietnam. This documentary takes off like a shot and does not let up until the end of its 98 minute running time. I defy any formulaic Hollywood summer movie to match it. Read the rest of this entry
“The Dog” is one of the best documentaries I have seen in quite some time. The film covers everything you could possibly want to know about the famous (or should I say “infamous?”) “Dog Day Afternoon” bank robber, and hostage taker, John Wojtowicz, immortalized by Al Pacino in director Sidney Lumet’s brilliant, scorching, 1975 film “Dog Day Afternoon.” It is also a fascinating and highly entertaining documentary, to be enjoyed even if you have not seen “Dog Day Afternoon.”
However, if you love “Dog Day Afternoon” the way I do (and I’ve been a fan ever since seeing it at the age of 13 – my God, what were my parents thinking?) “The Dog” is a fascinating and compelling compendium of things we know, and many things we do not know, about the actual events that transpired before, during and long after that blistering hot afternoon of August 22, 1972, in Brooklyn, when two men held up a branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank.
Watching “The Dog,” it is very interesting to see how much of the story “Dog Day Afternoon” got right. I had the privilege of seeing Lumet speak on many occasions. He always said that the story telling emphasis in “Dog Day Afternoon” was on the fact that this event really happened. Read the rest of this entry
Obfuscate: To stupify or bewilder. To darken or confuse.
I am writing this article to bring to light my experience with the misleading business practices of Verizon FIOS. I am hoping to save others the problems I have had.
Two years ago, in May of 2012, I accepted a FIOS offer for TV, internet and telephone. The cost was $84.99 per month, with a two year contract. Adding in taxes and other charges the monthly total came out to $94.00 and change. The service that I received was fine.
This past May, knowing I was at the end of my two-year contract, I called Verizon FIOS to see what kind of a deal I could make to continue the service. I spoke to a Verizon representative (I’ll call him Representative #1) who told me that I could have the same services, with a two year contract, for $95.00 a month (not including taxes and other charges). I asked Representative #1 if I could have a lower rate if I dropped some channels from my cable package. He told me that he could put me on a lower channel tier but that I would lose some sports channels. I was fine with that but emphasized that I did not want to lose CNN or TCM (Turner Classic Movies). Representative #1 assured me that I would not lose CNN or TCM. I agreed to the two year contract. The next time I turned on my TV I discovered that I no longer had TCM. Read the rest of this entry
“Life Itself” is an absolutely fascinating, absorbing, entertaining and honest documentary about the life and work of film critic Roger Ebert. Being a big fan of Ebert’s work (granted I have not always agreed with him) on TV and in writing, and having once seen him and his TV partner, Gene Siskel, at an appearance at the Museum of TV & Radio (now the Paley Center), I just could not get enough of “Life Itself.” In fact, the only criticism I can think of is that I wanted it to be longer than its current two hour running length. As a result, I cannot wait for the DVD extras. Read the rest of this entry
Siddharth (Director Richie Mehta and Lead Actress Tannishtha Chatterjee to appear following 7:40 show at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Fri. 6/27/14)
From India, “Siddharth,” a film by writer and director Richie Mehta, is a harrowing, thoughtful movie. It has been beautifully made, with a fine cast. The film has a narrative that is direct, simple, even suspenseful, yet, at the same time, brings out the complexities facing a poverty stricken family living in modern day India. Read the rest of this entry
“No profanity, come to church, don’t spill coffee on the carpet,” are the rules laid down by Pastor Jay Reinke of the Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota. He provides shelter and food to people who have come from all over the country to, hopefully, find employment in the oil industry. Hydraulic fracturing has resulted in a rich oil field, in or near Williston, and jobs are many. Those who show up are desperate for work. As one man, at the end of his rope, puts it, “I can’t afford to live.”
“The Overnighters” is a highly charged and engrossing documentary about one man trying to apply the concept of “Love Thy Neighbor” to floods of humanity, mostly men, who come to his church. At the center of it all is Pastor Reinke who, right from the start, is a very compelling character. As I’ve said many times in this column, even a documentary has to have great characters. Reinke delivers. Read the rest of this entry
Jon Favreau has written, directed and starred in a nice, but unchallenging story with likeable characters that, unfortunately lacks the one crucial element that all films need, conflict.
To be fair, “Chef” does have a promising start. Favreau plays Carl Casper, an idealistic chef who strikes out on his own to make the kind of food that he likes, as opposed to the tiresome menu that restaurant owner, and unfeeling boss, Dustin Hoffman wants him to make. Carl’s actions follow a quite funny online twitter feud with acerbic food critic Ramsey Michel, played by Oliver Platt. This makes for great conflict and I was hoping the film would have more with this. Twitter does play a prominent role in “Chef” as the internet unsavvy Carl learns the “ins” and “outs” of Twitter via his pre-adolscent son, Percy (nicely played by Emjay Anthony).
The bulk of “Chef” though concerns a long cross country trip with Carl, Percy and loyal co-chef buddy, Martin, played by John Leguizamo, driving a taco truck and “wowing” food oficionados along the way. Leguizamo, not exactly stretching here, plays, well, John Leguizamo, the funny, wise-cracking, “knows how to get the job done,” side kick, something which he does well.
“Chef” does have a game, energetic cast that also includes Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey, Jr.
As fellow festival goers became impatient with the film’s nearly two hour running length and started to leave, I stuck it out, hoping that a second act crisis would kick things back into gear (much like the Twitter feud in the first act) but, outside of Carl having some squabbles with his son (which were easily patched up) none was delivered. The film’s conclusion is strictly “Deus Ex Machina.”
I think “Chef” could use a good trimming prior to a theatrical release.