Alfredon’s ‘Tinker, Tailor’ smolders on screen

Posted by · 5:23 pm · September 19th, 2011

I don’t want to write too much about “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” right now because, point blank, I want to see it again and digest and — gasp! — consider. For now, though, I’ll start with this: It’s an impeccably made, satisfyingly dense piece of work from director Tomas Alfredson. It’s the rare film that […]

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VENICE: Delicious ‘Damsels’ breaks the Closing Night curse

Posted by · 9:57 am · September 10th, 2011

“Oh, Christ, that means it’s going to be shit,” wailed a friend of mine, an ardent devotee of long-dormant American auteur Whit Stillman, when the director’s new film, “Damsels in Distress,” was announced as the Closing Night film of this year’s Venice Film Festival. I consoled him that it needn’t be the case, but only […]

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VENICE: ‘Texas Killing Fields,’ ‘Faust,’ competition stragglers

Posted by · 7:39 am · September 9th, 2011

After a ten-day, 23-film Venice Competition that started slowly but respectably, hit a healthy stride midway through and began wheezing with exhaustion in its closing stages, things have finally ground to a permanent halt with “Texas Killing Fields” (**), the sophomore feature from Ami Canaan Mann — daughter of Michael,  who predictably takes a producer […]

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VENICE: ‘Killer Joe,’ ‘The Exchange,’ ‘4:44: Last Day on Earth’

Posted by · 10:11 am · September 8th, 2011

With two days to go until wrap-up, and a host of journalists having defected to Toronto, one can feel the air not-so-slowly hissing out of the Venice balloon. And while this certainly has its upsides — it no longer takes half an hour to get an espresso as the festival café, for example — it’s […]

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REVIEW: “Wuthering Heights” (***1/2)

Posted by · 5:41 am · September 7th, 2011

Venice Film Festival British filmmaker Andrea Arnold would have been 16 years old when Kate Bush topped the UK pop charts with “Wuthering Heights,” a swirling art-rock ballad that stripped the Emily Brontë novel for which it is named down to a few key lines and narrative details, but evoked its grand-scale tragic romance in […]

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REVIEW: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (***1/2)

Posted by · 8:22 am · September 5th, 2011

Venice Film Festival An uncharacteristically dark Venetian downpour greeted this morning’s premiere screening of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” and if some flashbulbs of lightning last night hadn’t already previewed the turn in weather, I’d suspect the pervasively, necessarily drab atmospherics of Tomas Alfredson’s artful John le Carré adaptation of bleeding out from the screen and […]

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VENICE: ‘Dark Horse,’ ‘Chicken With Plums,’ ‘Sal’

Posted by · 4:53 am · September 5th, 2011

(Review of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” landing later this morning. Hang tight.) Todd Solondz has forged a loyal friendship with the Venice Film Festival across the second half of his career: all three of his last features have premiered here. Their mutual devotion somewhat surprises me, given that both Solondz screenings I’ve now attended on […]

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REVIEW: “Shame” (***1/2)

Posted by · 5:36 am · September 4th, 2011

Venice Film Festival If “Hunger,” artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen’s remarkable debut feature, was a study of a body strenuously denied its fundamental needs, his satisfyingly rigorous, explicit follow-up, “Shame,” traces the very different damage done by a body over-gifted with wants. A sternly formalist parable on the pruning and stunting of relationships both familial and carnal […]

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VENICE: ‘Alps’ and other drugs

Posted by · 11:57 am · September 3rd, 2011

The first few days of the Venice Film Festival were so jam-packed with the big-name premieres you’ve been most restless to hear about that, between thrashing out full-length individual reviews of those and negotiating the braided Venice obstacles of crippling humidity and crippled wi-fi facilities, my usual roundups of less flashy fare got a bit […]

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TELLURIDE: Close’s passion for ‘Nobbs’ unmistakable, though maybe blinds to flaws

Posted by · 12:29 am · September 3rd, 2011

Hats off to Glenn Close. Really. When you’ve lived with and loved a role and a story for as long as she’s hung on to “Albert Nobbs” (which she first performed as a play way back in 1982), you deserve a pat on the back. She’s been trying to get this made as a film […]

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TELLURIDE: ‘The Artist,’ ‘Pina’

Posted by · 11:30 pm · September 2nd, 2011

Today began, as already conveyed, with the first-ever screening of Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.” I managed two more films, one of them capsuled here. I’ll get to “Albert Nobbs” separately, but just to clean my plate a little… Hazanavicius’s ‘Artist’ doesn’t quite reach the hype There is very little doubt in my mind that we’ll […]

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‘Contagion’ keeps you at arm’s length — by design

Posted by · 11:02 pm · September 2nd, 2011

Spinning off of comments made in the podcast this morning, I liked Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” quite a bit. It doesn’t reinvent the outbreak movie wheel per se, but it manifests a unique cross-section of characters and dissects them clinically, perhaps the film’s (and screenplay’s) biggest stroke of genius. There isn’t a lot of heart to […]

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TELLURIDE: Payne’s ‘Descendants’ plays, but doesn’t quite reach the bar he’s set for himself

Posted by · 4:23 pm · September 2nd, 2011

Over the years Alexander Payne has been invited to Telluride to debut various films, but conflicts with other festivals have always kept that from becoming a reality. He finally attended his first SHOW here two years ago as a Guest Director for the festival. And today, he finally brought a film with him, debuting “The […]

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REVIEW: “A Dangerous Method” (**1/2)

Posted by · 8:50 am · September 2nd, 2011

Venice Film Festival “Do you think they know we’re on our way, bringing them the plague?” So asks Viggo Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud of his younger colleague Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), as the two approach New York City to gift the untreated denizens of America with their equally grueling brands of psychoanalysis, in the closing stretch […]

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REVIEW: “W.E.” (*1/2)

Posted by · 11:47 pm · September 1st, 2011

Venice Film Festival There’s such a bounty of ripe absurdities in Madonna’s sophomore directorial effort “W.E.” — an over-the-spectacles glance at the supposedly for-the-ages romance of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, blending the story of “The King’s Speech,” the structure of “Julie & Julia,” the styling of “A Single Man” and the collected smarts of […]

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REVIEW: “The Ides of March” (***)

Posted by · 7:14 am · August 31st, 2011

Venice Film Festival “I’m not a Christian. I’m not an atheist. I’m not a Muslim. I’m not Jewish. I believe in the American constitution,” intones a spiffily-suited and even fresher-faced-than-usual Ryan Gosling as the opening line of “The Ides of March,” George Clooney’s crisp, diverting and typically (even overly) studious political thriller. Standing at the […]

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‘Martha Marcy,’ my, my, my

Posted by · 8:52 am · August 30th, 2011

After the film caused a major splash at Sundance in January and continued the discussion at Cannes in May, it’s safe to say I’ve been champing at the bit to see what Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” had in store. I expected an above average indie experience with highlights of talent to likely be […]

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Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba

Posted by · 1:56 pm · August 27th, 2011

Disney held it’s big premiere for “The Lion King 3D” today at The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, fit with live African bongo music, a green carpet (made of fake grass) and a “Hakuna Matata” dress code. Not a bad way to spend an early Saturday afternoon, and I’ve been looking forward to this for […]

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