Friday, September 17, 2010

On DVD: "Community: The Complete First Season"

It’s a wonderful thing, watching a rookie TV show find its way. When Community premiered on NBC in fall of 2009, it was an immediately likable and legitimately funny show, thought not in a terribly exciting way; it functioned, as so many of today’s sitcoms do, as a character-based comedy heavy on pop culture references (albeit one without a laugh track). The expectation was that, as the season continued and the characters grew more entrenched, it would get marginally funnier and remain a slightly off-beat and frequently enjoyable series—something along the lines of How I Met Your Mother.

But that’s not what happened.

Hey look! Hate mail!

Greg Pearman writes:

I read your review of 'Casino Jack and the United States of Money' and...consider the film another leftist rant and the review an endorsement by a leftist critic.  Will we every see a documentary on the disgraced Democrats Rangel or Waters?  No, because they both give lip service to forcing the "greedy' rich to  redistribute their money (through government entities, who, of course, will take a share for themselves and the powerful public union (the beat paid workers in America, look it up) so they may build and rule bloated, incredibly wasteful federal agencies and programs). Rangel,Waters,and of course, the perjurer, Clinton, and their kind do this under the guise of helping the "victims" of poverty.  When a leftist politican is caught with his/her "hand in the cookie jar", it is considered simply a attempt to get social justice for the poor.  Until people like you wake up and understand putting more power into the hands of such people who KNOW what is "best" for the us as a
 society, is the greatest danger to us, there is no hope for any citizen of this country.  Give me corrupt, greedy corporations trying to screw me  out of my money over a group of corrupt politicians (mostly lawyers, do you really believe that is a good thing?) who are going to do what is best for the me by redistributing my income to a "fairer' way.

The quest for more power is the ultimate "greed".

Glad to see DVD Talk is getting some Tea-bagger traffic.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Theaters: "The Town"

Fitzgerald famously wrote that “there are no second acts in American lives,” but Fitzgerald wasn’t a film critic. He might have revised his opinion had he witnessed the somewhat spectacular resurrection of one Ben Affleck, who went from Oscar winner and must-have leading man to overexposed pop culture punchline in the space of about half a decade. Some of this was his fault (he certainly didn’t have to make Surviving Christmas, or Paycheck, or that cameo in then-girlfriend J-Lo’s music video), and some of it wasn’t, but Affleck did just about the smartest thing he could’ve done—he went under the radar. Onscreen, he limited his appearances to compact character roles; off-screen, he cast an eye towards the future, co-writing and directing the critically-acclaimed 2007 adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel Gone Baby Gone.

In Theaters: "Easy A"

Will Gluck’s Easy A is such a step above the standard high-school sex comedy, so much smarter and funnier and drier than expected or, frankly, required, I can’t imagine it will actually make any money. It’s a breezy, sly effort, with a quick wit and a charmingly dirty mind, and those tend to be the “teen movies” that flop—unless you go back to something like Clueless, which it bears a more than passing resemblance to. Like that film, Easy A takes a classic piece of source material (in this case, The Scarlet Letter) and whirls it through a blender of knowing satire, relatable situational comedy, and pop-culture percipience to whip up something new and fresh and genuinely funny. And, like Clueless, it could very well make a movie star out of its lead. (Hopefully that works out a little better for this one.)

In Theaters: "Catfish"

The fact of the matter is, if you can see Catfish without knowing anything about it—without seeing the trailer, without perusing the back story, without hearing about its controversy—you should just do that. It’s just impossible for us to talk about the picture or any of its secondary concerns without giving away more than, frankly, I wish I’d known going in; if you have an interest, then yes, it’s worth your time, so go see it and read this later.

In Theaters: "The Freebie"

The Freebie is the kind of movie that surprises you with its boldness, and then disappoints you with its timidity. It deals in matters of monogamous intimacy with a frankness and honesty that is downright refreshing in the current cinema, independent or otherwise, but then gets itself all hung up in conventional conflicts and fake-outs. It builds up a tremendous amount of power and goodwill in its first two acts, and then, unfortunately, chips a good chunk of it away.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kael of the Week: On Paul Newman

"Newman is an actor-star the way Bogart was. His range isn't enormous; he can't do classics, any more than Bogart could. But when a role is right for him, he's peerless. Newman imparts a simplicity and boyish eagerness to his characters. We like them but we don't look up to them. When he's rebellious, it's animal energy and high spirits, or stubbornness. Newman is most comfortable in a role when it isn't scaled heroically; even when he play's a bastard, he's not a big bastard--only a callow, selfish one, like Hud. He can play what he's not--a dumb lout. But you don't believe it when he plays someone perverse or vicious, and the older he gets and the better you know him, the less you believe it. His likableness is infectious; no one should ever be asked not to like Paul Newman.

"What Newman does here is casual American star-acting at its peak; he's as perfectly assured a comedian as Bogart in The African Queen, even though the role isn't particularly well-written and the picture itself isn't in the same class. In The Sting, he was smooth and charming, but there was no hardness in him; he wasn't a con man for a minute. He's gone beyond that sweetie-pie succulence here. What he does as Reggie isn't very different from what he's done before; it's that the control, the awareness, the power all seem to have become clarified. He has the confidence now to value his own gifts as an entertainer. In a picture such as Winning, he was impressive but a little somber; there was nothing to crack open--he couldn't use his resourcefulness. Here his technique seems to have become instinct. You can feel his love of acting; he's not fighting it or trying to hide it."

-From review of Slap Shot
The New Yorker, March 7, 1977

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In Theaters: "Kings of Pastry"

The blue, red, and white striped collar is worn by French chefs who have been awarded the honor of M.O.F. (Meilleur Ouvrier de France), after a rigorous and complicated competition that is only held once every four years. If the collar is worn by anyone who is not an M.O.F., they can go to jail. So yeah, they take it pretty seriously over there. Kings of Pastry, the new documentary by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, tracks three of the sixteen M.O.F. semi-finalists through the final days of their years-long prep for the competition, and walks with them through the fast-paced, nerve-jangling event.

Monday, September 13, 2010

On DVD: "Casino Jack and the United States of Money"

There’s plenty to be said, mostly by people smarter than me, about the corrupting influence of lobbying and campaign fundraising on the legislative process. Everyone, no matter what their political stripe, will complain that “nothing gets done in Washington, D.C.”—that no meaningful legislation that’s good for Americans can get to a vote because of the wealthy business interests who money up against it, that politicians can’t get any work done because of the amount of their time they have to spend hosting fundraisers and calling people to beg for money. And thanks to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling, now corporations can spend freely to buy even more influence. But start talking about fixing the system, about comprehensive campaign finance reform, and everybody loses their minds. You can’t dictate that, genie’s out of the bottle, socialism, whatever.

On DVD: "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?"

"So, this is odd," reads one of my early notes from my viewing of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, though I’m not sure what the hell I was expecting—it’s directed by Werner Herzog and executive-produced by David Lynch, after all, so the fact that their collaboration bore a peculiar offspring certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise. What is shocking about the enterprise is how borderline-unwatchable the whole thing is. It doesn’t play like the work of the men who made Fitzcarraldo and Stroszek, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr.; it feels instead like a poorly-executed copycat film by an untalented film school student. It’s strange, but in a self-conscious and frankly self-indulgent way.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On DVD: "Janeane Garofalo: If You Will- Live in Seattle"

She tells the story early in her new special If You Will, and it’s hard not to wince while hearing it. “No offense,” the Starbuck’s barista said to her, “but you look like Janeane Garofalo!” But that’s not the bad part (“None taken?” she replies). The scorcher is the follow-up question: “What ever happened to her?”