Friday, April 27, 2007

The Hoax

Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, and Marcia Gay Harden star in the apparently true story of Clifford Irving's royal scam of McGraw-Hill in the 70's. Irving made claims that he personally knew and interviewed reclusive Billionaire, Howard Hughes. He managed to get a million dollar advance out of McGraw Hill for the publishing rights. The story has been documented many times over but "The Hoax" still manages to entertain and amuse.

Gere and Molina are a terrific team...a modern day Laurel & Hardy playing well against each other with Gere as Irving and Molina as Dick Suskind, his best friend and co-conspirator. Ms. Harden plays Edith Irving in what I can only assume is a spot on depiction of the real Edith. Hope Davis plays Andrea Tate, the lead editor at McGraw Hill who is first to be suckered by Irving.

Director Lasse Hallstrom captures the period of the 70's perfectly with costumes, makeup and an accurate and appealing soundtrack. "The Hoax" is interesting, both in subject and performance but ultimately will play just as well on DVD.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Black Book

A great return to form for director Paul Verhoeven. Going back to his Dutch roots, Verhoeven co-writes and directs this WWII story inspired by real events. The story centers on a Jewish woman hiding from the Nazi's in 1944 German occupied Holland.

After a series of horrific circumstances force Rachel Stein to join the Dutch resistance, she dyes her hair blonde and changes her name to Ellis de Vries. When she meets a high ranking Nazi officer, Ubercaptain Muentze, on a train, Ellis goes undercover as his clerk and lover. An unlikely romance begins between them and their situation become more complicated and dangerous as the film goes on.

At a very quick paced 2 & 1/2 hours, this film has it all. Romance, sex, intrigue, action, last second escapes, double and triple crosses, and terrific acting from the principle cast. Carice van Houten is wonderful as Rachel/Ellis and Sebastian Koch, so good in "The Lives of Others", stays true to form as her sympathetic Nazi lover, Muentze.

For the most part Verhoeven drives the story with some restraint towards bad taste however, be warned, there a few few scenes that push the envelope. After all, this is the same man who brought us "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls". But don't let that stop you from a exciting and satisfying movie experience. "Black Book" is in English, German and Dutch.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Namesake

A thoughtful and emotional drama that explores one's place in family and society. When the Ganguli family moves to America from India, their American born son, Gogol, rebels against his traditional values and drifts further and further away from his family. He changes his lifestyle, his name, and integrates himself into the life of his girl friend's family.

Events occur that force Gogol to re-evaluate his life and the story is propelled on a journey of self discovery. The film moves at a leisurely pace beginning with the arranged marriage of Gogol's parents and moves through the years with much attention to detail.

We are exposed to much Indian culture as the film divides it's time between India and the U.S. but the story, at it's heart, is a universal one. Each generation must discover their own identity and yet, maintain the traditions and values that help shape the individual they are to become.

Kal Penn, a long way from "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle", stars as Gogol with a terrific multi-layered performance. Irrfan khan and Tabu play his parents and both are excellent. The entire cast does a wonderful job bringing all the characters to life. Directed by Mira Nair, "The Namesake" is a richly woven fabric that will appeal to an audience looking for a film with depth and feeling.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Certainly not for everyone's taste but if you like fast cars, blood spattered zombies, loose women and big explosions, then this one's for you. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have teamed up to bring you the full experience of "Grindhouse" movies from the early 70's. "Grindhouse" features great fake coming attractions for films like "Werewolf Women of the SS" and "Machete". It also includes scratchy film, missing reels, bad acting, cheesy sets and dialog, old animated ratings messages, psychedelic previews of coming attractions and lots and lots of blood.

Each director has made a "grindhouse" film and both have their appeal. The two films, "Planet Terror" and "Deathproof" are bound together by the fake coming attractions and the three hour experience is a fun return to the glory days of cult films being shown all along 42nd street in New York and similar neighborhoods across America.

"Planet Terror" stars Rose McGowan and Freddy Rodriguez battling killer zombies. If you've seen the ads, you'll know Rose ends up with a machine gun for a leg and is quite the CGI highpoint. "Deathproof" stars Kurt Russell as a crazed stuntman driver who likes to crash into and run down women. At first you think the film exploits women but Mr. Tarantino is clever enough to turn the genre on it's head and portray the women as the heroes of the film. "Deathproof" has some great Tarantino dialog and a terrific car chase climax. Rosario Dawson is along for the ride in "Deathproof" but literally takes a backseat to Zoe Bell and Tracie Thoms.

Both films have many cameos including Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, and Michael Parks, as well as cult horror film directors like Eli Roth and Tom Savini. For fans of the genre, Grindhouse is lots of fun and a visual treat but as I started out by saying, it's not for everyone.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Meet The Robinsons

The Disney machine cranks out another mass market advertisement for it's merchandising, theme parks, website and anything else it owns or can partner with to make a buck.

Expanding on a quote from from Walt himself, "Keep Moving Forward", "Meet The Robinsons" strings together plot points from other movies (liberally from "Back To The Future") to move the Disney machine forward. The plot is confusing for very small kids and mildly entertaining for older kids. The pop reference "in-jokes" are few and far between and the "twist" can be seen coming midway through the story.

When Lewis, the hero of the film, finally meets the Robinson family, he is introduced to a wide assortment of comic characters who are never fully developed resulting in an attitude of "who cares" about any of them. They all have individual oddities that have lots of potential which is never explored.

The saving grace for the film is the terrific animation and lively 3D effects (if you see it in 3D). Even without the 3D, the quality of the animation is still what you've come to expect from Disney. The film is preceded by a experimental 3D Donald Duck cartoon from 1953. In 3D or not, it's better than the feature film.