Category Archives: What were they thinking?

The Canyons

Another day in paradise.  James Deen and Lindsay Lohan in "The Canyons."

Another day in paradise. James Deen and Lindsay Lohan in “The Canyons.”

Writer / director Paul Schrader owes me a movie.  The piece of dreck called “The Canyons” that he unveiled on June 29 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center does not count.

As I made my way to my seat inside the Film Society’s beautiful Walter Reade Theatre, a waiter approached me with a tray containing cups of beer.  I turned him down.  Had I known what I was soon to be in for, I most likely would have taken the entire tray.  I do not know if alcohol would have helped, but, in the case of “The Canyons,” it could not have hurt.  Read the rest of this entry

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Rock of Ages

Please stop! Catherine Zeta-Jones and company drive a nail into the coffin of 80’s rock and roll in “Rock of Ages.”

I have seen the death of rock and roll and it is “Rock of Ages.”   I could see this story perhaps working as a Broadway musical, upon which it is based.  Today Broadway musicals have to be bland enough to attract a wide audience.  “Rock of Ages” certainly fits the bill.  However, as a movie, “Rock of Ages” is trite, corny, unbearably predictable and way too long.  Read the rest of this entry

Safety Not Guaranteed

Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza in “Safety Not Guaranteed.”

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a sluggishly paced, poorly structured, uncompelling, predictable, independent film.  It features stock characters facing predictable complications. Read the rest of this entry

Sound of My Voice

Brit Marling, trying to look intense in the very unconvincing "Sound of My Voice."

I was really disappointed in the “Sundance approved” film  “Sound of My Voice.”  I went to see it because it was co-written by and starred Brit Marling.

Marling co-wrote and played the lead in “Another Earth,” one of the best films of 2011.  I had the pleasure of meeting Marling at a preview screening of “Another Earth” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and enjoyed speaking with her after the film.  When I heard of her involvement in “Sound of My Voice” of course I wanted to see it.   So last Friday I went to the Sunshine Cinema, 143 East Houston Street, with a good friend, also a Marling fan, for opening day.

What I found was a story that was unconvincing, incomplete and dull.  While “Another Earth” intelligently chose a story that fit its low budget aesthetic, “Sound of My Voice” looks as if it was mostly shot in someone’s basement.  Although the film was apparently a big hit at the last Sundance Film Festival, it actually plays more like a spoof of an “edgy-indie” film.  Read the rest of this entry

Green Zone

Matt Damon in Iraq War drama "Green Zone"

“Green Zone” is loud, noisy and confusing which is what war is like.  There is lots of yelling, running around, shooting, blood, exploding bombs and roaring helicopters.  While I appreciated the film’s attention to combat realism this does not change the fact that part of my hearing was left in the Universal Screening Room after the “Green Zone” preview I attended.  Yes, I know war is loud and the movie needs to reflect that.  War also involves bullets, yet no filmmaker would spray their audience with live ammunition (Although in my case a few have threatened to!) Read the rest of this entry

The Yellow Handkerchief

William Hurt and Kristen Stewart hope for a better script in "The Yellow Handkerchief"

I should have known that a film with a 2008 date coming out in 2010 would be trouble.  “The Yellow Handkerchief” is a long slog of a movie featuring William Hurt and a pre “Twilight” Kristen Stewart.  The story concerns three strangers who, for no convincing reason, wind up on a road trip together, which predictably turns into a voyage of self-discovery for all involved.

Hurt plays Brett Hanson, a man who has just been released from jail.  Intermittent flashbacks give us Brett’s backstory.  The film’s slow pacing tries our patience as we wait to find out why Brett was in jail.  It takes way too long for the main story to jell and the payoff is a rip off.  Anyone who remembers the 1973 hit single from Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree,” will know exactly where this is going before it gets there.   What the song tells us in three minutes “The Yellow Handkerchief” takes the length of a feature film to do.

The Yellow Ribbon, Udayan Prasad, Samuel Goldwyn Films, 102 minutes, PG-13

When In Rome

Josh Duhamel and Kristen Bell in "When in Rome"

It is too easy to slam a movie as ineptly conceived, written, shamelessly contrived and directed as “When in Rome.”  “When in Rome” is more than just a bad movie.  It is so insipid that it is a virtual symposium on how not to make a screwball comedy.  To begin with there is no convincing motivation for anything that happens.  Even in a light, nutty comedy there has to be a credible dramatic need that drives the story.  Otherwise you wind up with wackiness for the sake of wackiness which, as this film demonstrates, is simply tiresome.   When I reviewed the movie “Extraordinary Measures,” a few weeks back, I talked about the need to have consumer protection for moviegoers.    Consider “When in Rome” to be exhibit B. Read the rest of this entry

Edge of Darkness

At one point in the new Mel Gibson movie “Edge of Darkness” some one says, “Make it so convoluted that everyone’s got a theory.  No one has the facts.”  Rarely has a movie character so accurately described my feelings about a movie as I was watching it.  While I ultimately understood the destination to which “Edge of Darkness” brought me, it just was not much fun getting there. Read the rest of this entry

Extraordinary Measures

There really has to be some sort of consumer protection for moviegoers.  It should be illegal to charge first run movie ticket prices for a movie like “Extraordinary Measures,” a cloying, nauseating, unconvincing, over-simplified, disease-of- the-week TV film that would have trouble meeting the criteria of a “Lifetime Original Movie.”  Amazingly the film boasts a popular cast: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford and Kerri Russell.

Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford ponder the trajectories of their careers and wonder how they ever got involved in such a bad script in "Extraordinary Measures"

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Police, Adjective

I know a movie is in trouble when its press notes tell me more about the story than the film itself.  Someone is going to have to explain how the new Romanian film “Police, Adjective” arrives critically acclaimed at the IFC Center, and uptown at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, on December 23.  It won the Un Certain Regard jury prize at the Cannes International Festival in 2009, the FIPRESCI international critics’ prize and screened at both the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival in 2009.  Is it just that I am not cinematic enough to get “it,” whatever “it” might be?  I sense a payoff. Read the rest of this entry