A Serious Man


You don’t have to be jewish to watch this film, but it probably helps! Serious Man manages to capture an aspect of jewish culture, set up by the odd intro, that is not really well understood by, well, other folks. The concept of questions without answers and guilt without warrant. It is all captured rather well, but it sets up all the dominoes for about an hour (more than half) of the film before it starts to knock them over. There are some genuinely funny moments, but mostly it is a slow burn of insight and dark comedy. And the end is one of the most confounding since Southland Tales (which really just never worked IMO). Did I like it?… eh. The mileage on your matzoh ball may vary.

The Runaways


Well done biopic and cutlure slice. There is a real sense of time and people and, of course, the music. While nostalgic, it was not bucolic. And listening to the soundtracks, particularly during the final credits, you realize the impact Jett had… though this movie isn’t primarily focused on her, just on her genesis. Not recommended for parents of young, female tweens–you’ll just have nightmares.

Like Water for Chocolate


Up front, it should be noted that transfer of the DVD was substandard so the visual quality of the film was hurt–a shame when you’re talking magic realism. Immediate reaction was that this was Jane Austin in turn of the century Mexico, except with sex. But the lack of the main character’s ability to choose the life she wants for herself based on social convention was frustrating and, worse, she really makes bad choices–though I don’t think we’re supposed to believe so. Even when presented with clear evidence of who and what love really is, she continues to deny herself happiness and, when finally she provides the grand gesture of the finale, all we could do was wonder why and think she was foolish and selfish. We absolutely believe in grand love and huge gesutures, and have written some, but this just didn’t feel right. Somewhere in here there was a good story and movie, but perhaps we’d need to read the book to truly appreciate the intention.

But I’m a Cheeleader


A little better than the rating, but overall, this is a slightly black-comedy look at reprogramming camps (and “camp” is the operative word here). Just a little too much over-the-top to rise above the well-trod material, even when filmed 11 years ago. A surprising cast of people, many of whom were not well known at the time also makes it a fun Where’s Waldo hunt for actors. If you want some silly entertainment on the subject of personal identity and choice, give it a shot.

The Book of Eli


This is a soft 3 stars despite brilliant cinematography and solid performances. It all comes down to the plot and (potential) message. You should make up your own mind, if you have the time, but despite some good moments and a non-jaundiced view of survival and more than a little echo of Mad Max, the ultimate outcomes and driving motives are left suspect in my own personal set of beliefs and mores. Enough so that I was left with a slight taste of bile in my mouth. I imagine there are interpretations that would not elicit such a negative response, and perhaps I’ll eventually get there, but the initial reaction was not good and required some rationalization and apologies on our side to not be disappointed.

Me and Orson Wells


I really wanted to like this more than I did. I mean, Orson Wells, Joseph Cotton, the advent of the Mercury theatre, pre WWII NYC, what could go wrong? In a word or two: Zac Efron. To be fair, how much of his failure is directing is hard to pull apart. His fresh-faced, non-gravitas was supposed to be endearing amidst the cuthroat entertainment scene, but it came off as lack of ability until near the very end, but by then it was way too late. Ultimately I had wanted this to be a companion piece to Cradle Will Rock (a truly spectactular view of the other end of this legend’s era). But the few glimpses we get into the genius that was Wells and the slimey under-belly of Broadway, and the creative impulse, and rites of passage never really gel… they just stay a sort of gooey mess that you don’t mind too much, but you’re not going to keep it around your kitchen for long.

Art, writing, life explained… or at least commented upon…