Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies: "Punch Drunk Love"

Welcome to "Saturday Night at the Movies," a weekly feature in which I recommend an older title that you can go watch, right this very minute (provided you have Netflix Instant). 

From October 2002Let me make this as plain and simple as I possibly can: Punch-Drunk Love is a perfect movie. Perfect, perfect, perfect. This is an odd, off-balance, daring little movie that never steps wrong once in its entirety (an unfortunately short 89 minutes). It swims across the screen, propelled by the pure bliss of a master filmmaker at the top of his game, and those who don’t like it don’t deserve it. A gift like this is wasted on those who are incapable of experiencing the joys it offers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On DVD: "Knight and Day"

To some degree, it seems strange that Knight and Day even exists. It doesn't seem strange that there is a romantic action/comedy starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz; it's frankly a little surprising it took them this long to make one. What's odd is how little attention was paid to it, and how quickly it was forgotten. Just for fun, try asking the next person you see what Knight and Day is, and watch the blank looks you'll get in response. Five years ago, understand, this movie would have been epic; it would have been the biggest movie of the summer. In 2010, in opened in third place. Behind Grown Ups, for Chrissakes. Its domestic numbers were barely better than those of Killers, which was basically a JV version of the same movie.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On DVD: "Howl"

Howl is directed by the esteemed documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Celluloid Closet); every word is taken from transcripts, previous writings, and interviews. “In that sense, it is like a documentary,” the opening titles inform us. “In every other sense, it is different.” What they have cooked up is a kind of documentary-docudrama-literary hybrid, a clever hopscotching of poetry performance, first-person narrative, and courtroom drama. It is, indeed, different, a film that dispenses with the tropes of the biopic and forges its own eccentric path. Not all of its contrivances work; not all of its beats are successful. But it is a passionate picture, a live wire, and that counts for something.

On DVD: "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.

On DVD: "The Yellow Handkerchief"

We don’t ask for much out of a film like The Yellow Handkerchief—a few tears and a few smiles, that’s about all—but it can’t even deliver on those modest goals. Picturesquely directed by Udayan Prasad, it fancies itself a moving road drama with a little something to tell us about life and love and so on, but it never gets out of the gate; from the very beginning, it feels like such an obvious construct that we don’t buy a word of it, and nothing that follows is particularly convincing either. It doesn’t feel like anything remotely connected with reality; it’s the stuff of sudsy TV movies and bad books.