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Entries from Cinecultist tagged with 'review'

Recent Opinions on Kid's Movies

Cinecultist's reviews that have been appearing over on Kaboose.com:

Slapstick, female empowerment and dreamy Gerard Butler in Nim's Island.

Springy, bright and elastic Whos in Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who.

Raven-Symoné's star wattage and pet pigs in College Road Trip.

Reese Witherspoon's producing debut and Christina Ricci's plastic snout in Penelope.

Michel Gondry's visual styling and the advent of "Swede" as a verb in Be Kind Rewind.

P.S. We've also been doing a little tumblring and are in search of more folks to follow, so let us know if you've also joined. It's 2.0-tastic!

Confounded by Lukas Moodysson

containerposter.jpgInnovative Swedish director Lukas Moodysson continues to challenge the devotion of your Cinecultist. Last night, we went to see his most recent work Container at Lincoln Center, where it was playing as a part of the annual Film Comment Selects series and we walked out of the hushed theater perplexed. On the way home, we even contemplated accosting Film Comment's pithy editor Gavin Smith on the platform of the downtown 1 train for some further explanation, but then thought better of it. Sometimes it's better to struggle with the thoughts evoked by a Moodysson movie alone.

Moodysson has said cryptically that Container is his silent film with sound, which makes sense in a way because the diegetic characters, a cross-dressing fat man and his tiny female Asian alter-ego, don't speak. Instead we hear a continuous train-of-thought voice over from American actress Jena Malone who narrates what seems to be the man's twisted and self-hating inner life. Obsessed with religious iconography, celebrity culture, consumer detritus and cross-dressing, the voice-over is both fascinating and maddening. It leap frogs from topic to topic, musing over Paris Hilton's ubiquitous fame one minute, then gender confusion and the desire to lick everything the next. The droning buzz of Malone's whispers even began to make Cinecultist feel a little ill, which isn't surprising after sitting through the graphic surgery footage in Moodysson's last movie A Hole In My Heart.

Surely anyone paying for a ticket to see this film at this series would expect a challenging movie, but apparently a bunch of the audience members weren't digging Moodysson's avant-garde experimentation because at the 20 minute mark about 15 or so people boldly got up and exited the theater. Cinecultist though wasn't tempted to flee, we still wanted to see where Container was going. As the final pixelated gray image cut to black, we didn't have a concrete conclusion on Moodysson's purpose, though it seems clear that the movie is interested in false exteriors masking true interiors. We're all containers for something, etc. Interestingly, of all the oddities that flashed past in the 72 minutes, that shot of the beige cooked ravioli swirling around the bathtub was perhaps one of the most oddly unsettling images from the whole proceeding. Don't ask us why. It was just too weird for words.

Thank goodness, Cinecultist found out that our man Lukas doesn't intend to stay on this provocative avant-garde track for ever. As he says in a Channel 4 article on Moodysson and an exhibit of his work at London's Institute of Contemporary Art:

"I'm thinking of going back to making a film that's not about broken or ruined things but whole things," he says surveying the jumbled chaos of his installation. "I had all these things in the room where I write. But when I started working on the exhibition I had to clear everything out. My room is empty and clean and that's inspiring me. My next film is mainstream and totally linear. I need to tell simple stories again."

Whew, that's good news. Cinecultist needs some serious simplicity after convoluted complexity of Container.

Includes More Girlish Squealing, Hugs and Denim

Screw the much anticipated Indiana Jones trailer—Cinecultist is super duper psyched to get a taste of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2! No official site yet but it's supposed to hit theaters on August 8. Yay.

Speaking of sappy chick movies you think you will be embarrassed to buy a ticket for, Cinecultist heartily agrees with A.O. Scott's assessment that in the sea of horrendous dreck passing for romance in Hollywood Definitely, Maybe is one of the most interesting romantic comedies we've seen in a long time. Page Lindsay: it actually has smart, interesting, culturally literate women characters! Isla Fisher's character April is introduced in a The Smiths t-shirt, travels the world on a lark and can express an opinion, while Rachel Weisz's character Summer unapologetically sleeps with her brilliant advisor, has a kid on her own but also knows the lyrics to a standard like Gershwin's "I've Got a Crush On You." The general adorableness of Ryan Reynolds plays a worthy foil to these rockin' chicks. Plus, the movie includes some choice New York locations like Cafe Gitane in Nolita and Odeon in Tribeca. The premise may be cribbing HIMYM (btwm new episodes Mar. 17), but all in all a cute little movie that's worth seeing over the long holiday weekend.

Age-Appropriate and other Misnomers

What movies are appropriate for children? is the subject of A.O. Scott's well-written essay in today's New York Times. This very topic has been on the Cinecultist brain lately too, between hanging out with our 11-year-old brother and 14-year-old sister over the holidays and writing reviews for Kaboose.com, a parenting website. "If it's PG-13, should we write a review about it?" is often a discussion between CC and our editor.

When Cinecultist thinks back to the movies we loved as a child, a huge chunk of them were not children's movies per se. As Scott writes, it's great for kids to feel challenged by their entertainment. Why does everything have to be so sanitized and stripped of all points controversial? Surely there are bloody, disturbing movies like No Country For Old Men out in theaters now that should be avoided with a kid in tow, but something like Persopolis would be perfect for my politics-minded little sister.

When CC, our 27-year-old sister and her boyfriend wanted to take our little brother to the movies over the vacation, we all went to see National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It seemed safe for him and entertaining enough for us. During a few of the more suspenseful moments, CC turned to look at Mark and noticed he had pulled his feet up onto his seat and had his fingers in his ears. Smart strategy: he didn't want to hear the explosion that was about to happen but he wanted to know the outcome. Despite a few of those anxious moments, Mark totally dug the movie and all the way home was asking us if he could become a treasure hunter. When we all encouraged him to let his imagination fly, he seemed a little skeptical but still excited about learning more about his own ancestors just like Nic Cage's character does. Movies do have the power to thrill and inspire, especially for children. They don't always have to fluffy and G rated.

pirates4.jpgAnd speaking of CC's Kaboose reviews, you can read our opinions of Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie on their site. Regarding the Veggies, it was perhaps one of the more boring flicks we've reviewed but at least the angry Cheetos were cute.

Just Be Glad You Don't Live in L.A.

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There aren't a lot of movies that Cinecultist has walked out of, but Robert Altman's Short Cuts is one of them. Our Dad took us, and our sister, to see it when it came out in the theaters in 1993 because it was playing at the local art house theater and M.A.S.H. was one of his favorites. But Short Cuts's a meandering 189 minute movie about a bunch of vaguely interconnected, dysfunctional people in Los Angeles, and understandably we were all bored. But as CC learned more about cinema, we'd always felt bad that we never appreciated this supposedly great Altman flick, so we put the Criterion version in the Netflix queue and finally watched it this weekend.

Fourteen years later, and with an arguably more worldly perspective, CC can see both sides of the story. Granted, it's still a long, convoluted movie. Plus with a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old in tow, it was pretty racy material for our movie going group. CC even remembers being shocked then by Jennifer Jason Leigh's bored housewife/phone sex operator dialog. No wonder our Dad was willing to leave. Then as the movie grinds on, you begin to wonder if any of these sad souls captured on screen are redeeming. They all seem so lost, depressed and mere moments from doing something immoral or illegal.

But then again, CC can see why it garnered Altman his fourth Oscar nomination for best director and won the cast a special ensemble award at that year's Golden Globes. To have that many distinct characters running around and for them all to seem like real people, not mere sketches, is quite a feat. It takes a real master like Altman was to orchestrate that much modern day malaise on screen, and you can understand why later directors like Paul Thomas Anderson so blatantly stole from his model. (Though PTA's raining Biblical frogs are obviously not as cool as RA's med flies and 7.4 earthquake.)

Maybe you have to be a certain age before "bleak" is an adjective that you can enjoy in a movie watching experience. Certainly some of our favorites from this year's roster, like No Country For Old Men, The Savages and There Will Be Blood, are decidedly unhappy films filled with unhappy characters. Or maybe CC just has more patience now at 30 for a 3 hour movie to unfold slowly and with little obvious purpose, than we had at 16. At 16 it's tough to understand why you'd want to spend 3 hours watching sad people live sad little lives in Los Angeles. At 30, it starts to look a little more like art.

More Opinions on Kiddie Movies

Over on Kaboose.com, Cinecultist has been weighing in on the new releases for the youngsters. We gave Enchanted 3 1/2 stars, and The Golden Compass 3 stars (out of five), 3 stars for Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium because we have a soft spot for living toys and Jason Bateman, and a less-than-buzz-worthy review for Bee Movie. Har dee har har.

All of this kid flick viewing has reminded CC that we've got a sentimental interior, masked by our high heel-wearing, Eee Vee-dwelling cynical exterior.

Cinecultist's (Internet) TV Debut

Last week in the brisk fall morning air, Cinecultist chatted with Stu Van Airsdale in Washington Square Park about two new releases this week, Margot at the Wedding and Redacted. You can see CC gushing about Noah Baumbach's use of natural light and trying diplomatically not to call Brian de Palma a hack over on the Reeler. That's right, see! Video blogging, it's the wave of the future, people. While CC does admit we need to hone our on screen persona a touch, don't you think we look and sound pretty good on the tape? Remember it was cold out there and we were talking totally off the cuff. Hopefully this is just the first foray into our on air movie punditry career.

CC saw both of these movies during our coverage of the New York Film Festival and another NYFF vet which we highly recommend, and is now out in theaters, is No Country For Old Men. This is a real return to form for the Coen brothers, sort of like if Blood Simple went on a road trip with Fargo to West Texas and was listening to a Cormac McCarthy book on the cassette deck. All the performances are pitch perfect, particularly the brusque Josh Brolin (who CC found oddly alluring during the post-screening Q&A) and the utterly freaky Javier Bardem. Be forewarned, his character Chigurh (pronounced "Sugar," if you can believe it) will haunt your nightmares. Go to see it, CC thinks its the best movie of the year.

Lassoing In Some Box Office Buzz

310toyuma.jpgIt just goes to show that sometime the Cinecultist doesn't know what she's talking about. Case in point, last Thursday night CC and Josh attended a preview screening of 3:10 to Yuma at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens.* While we found the straightforward, genre faithful cowboy story from James Mangold to be quite entertaining, we predicted that it wouldn't do too well at the box office. Despite the Oscar win for Unforgiven a few years ago in '92 (jeez, that long ago? when did we get so old?), CC just didn't think audiences today would choose to see their action on horses and accessorized with ten gallon hats. Especially since Clive Owen was releasing a modern gangster flick this weekend as well, and it has the very self-explanatory title of Shoot 'Em Up.

However, Cinecultist was wrong about 3:10's potential for popularity and as Variety reports this morning it was the top grossing film of the weekend. Was it the good reviews that sent people to the theaters? Or maybe the star power of Russell Crowe, and to a lesser extent, Christian Bale? (Both of whom turn in really strong performances, by the way.) To CC's pop culture barometer, a Western doesn't feel "current" (or relevant) but maybe that's not actually what moviegoers wanted this weekend. A little throwback nostalgia at the cineplex can be more alluring than we thought.

It's a mystery frankly, and all the more reason why Cinecultist should stick to watching movies for their quality, not for their box office potential.

*It'd been a while since we'd taken the trek out to MI and from our day job in midtown it was only about 25 minutes on the subway. The museum is such a lovely screening space and they have such great programming, we always kick ourselves for not going more often. That is until it took CC an hour to get back to the Eee Vee after some post-movie drinks. Ugh.

Deliciously LoFi on a Wednesday Night

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You can tell Gene Hackman's character is a real New Yawker because he eats a lot of pizza standing up or walking on the street.

Cinecultist was feeling the full brunt of our film history guilt because we'd never seen The French Connection. We know, we know, travesty. So CC bought a ticket online yesterday afternoon for a showing at the Film Forum tonight at 7:40 pm, so we'd have to go before the one week run of the new 35 mm print ends tomorrow. $11.75 already charged to the credit card is a great motivator. After work, we took the trusty 9 train downtown and grabbed a turkey burger at Grey Dog while we read this week's Entertainment Weekly. Mmmm Grey Dog and their delicious coffee. It was a gorgeous late summer evening and as we sauntered down Bedford with a to go chocolate chip cookie in our purse we were feeling good. The crowd at Film Forum was buzzing but not crazed and we got a seat near the front.

If you've never seen The French Connection, an understandable oversight that will be more easily remedied when it comes out soon on a new DVD, it's really simple and solid crime story. Gene Hackman and Roy Schneider play narcotics cops on the hunt for a big bust and discover a heroin deal going down between a local dude and a French supplier. The most striking thing about this movie was how deliciously lofi the whole thing is. The police use bully tactics and big boat patrol cars with black walkie talkie phones. We see the Pan Am building and watch Popeye Doyle grab a quick Orange Julius at the stand on the shuttle platform at Grand Central (Somebody bring that bad boy back, CC wants an orange juice during our cross town commute). There's a final shoot out and though the closing intertitles allude to the real life cases' unresolved conclusion, Cinecultist believes that Popeye gets his man. It's clear while you're watching The French Connection that more recent New York movies from Spider Man to The Bourne Ultimatum are deeply indebted to its suspenseful car chases. Some bits of the movie are dated like Popeye's blatant racism but Ol' Willie Friedkin has obviously made an Ur text in terms of cinema history.

On the walk home from Film Forum, CC had these thoughts and the beauty of Houston Street on a September night buzzing in our brain. On the iPod soundtrack was Vampire Weekend.* All was right and good in our world.

* If anyone has a hook up for tickets to their sold out show at the Williamsburg Music Hall on Saturday please email the Cinecultist. A rip off of '80s Paul Simon by Columbia grad students is exactly the kind of music we want to be listening to these days.

New Writing Gig and Mr. Bean

Cinecultist has a new reviewing outlet with the parenting website Kaboose.com. With two much younger siblings and an inherently light-hearted view on movies, we thought we'd be well suited to watch some kid-centric movies and tell their parents if they should shell out the admission price. Although we will say taking detailed notes on how many times there's nudity or swearing in a movie is an odd, slightly prurient sensation.

Our first feature for Kaboose was the Rowan Atkinson slapstick comedy sequel Mr. Bean's Holiday. While this kind of simplistic comedy isn't really CC's cup of tea, we couldn't help but be struck by how much the kids in the audience really seemed to enjoy the movie, so we gave it a surprisingly favorable review. As we know from experience, if you take a kid to the movies and he's laughing so hard he can barely stay in his seat, you're lack of amusement pales in comparison to his good time.