Dear Will Smith: Please, no ‘Wild Bunch’ remake

May 30, 2013

wild bunch

Dear Will Smith,

I read recently that you are involved in remaking Sam Peckinpah’s classic western, “The Wild Bunch.”

So I’m writing this open letter, pleading with you to reconsider this unnecessary exercise. (More…)


‘The East’: The hidden enemy

May 29, 2013

the east

A movie that’s bound to set your paranoia sensors flashing, “The East” (opening in limited release Friday 6/31/13) is a cerebral thriller in which it’s hard to tell who’s the hero and who’s the villain.

That’s especially true for the film’s central character, a former FBI agent named Sarah, played by the film’s producer and co-writer, Brit Marling. Sarah works for a secretive security firm that specializes in corporate espionage. Her chilly boss, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), gives her a new assignment: infiltrating a radical environmental group that calls itself The East. (More…)


‘Fill the Void’: Drama, not dogma

May 28, 2013


“Fill the Void” is as interesting for the things it doesn’t do as for what it does.


Written and directed by Rama Burshtein and set in the Hasidic community of Tel Aviv, it’s a story about family and a sense of duty, informed by a devout faith. The faith itself doesn’t dictate the characters’ actions, yet it is the world in which they live. (More…)


‘The Hangover Part III’: Dry up

May 24, 2013

This apparently is the week for multiple unnecessary sequels, with “The Hangover Part III” going up against “Fast & Furious 6” (twice as uncalled-for) for that all-important teen-age dollar.

So I’ll give the same “meh” response to “H3” as I did to “Iron Man 3”: better than the second one, not as good as the first. (More…)


‘Before Midnight’: Keep talking

May 23, 2013

before midnite

Anyone who’s been married for any length of time should be able to enjoy Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” if squirming in your seat can be considered a form of enjoyment.

The third in a trilogy that began with “Before Sunrise” (1995) and continued with “Before Sunset’ (2004), this film picks up with the same two characters: Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). They’re married now, with twin girls; he divorced the wife he had in the second installment. He’s a successful author, she’s still trying to be an environmental activist and they’re just finishing a month-long sojourn on an island of Greece. (More…)


‘Fast & Furious 6’: Speed kills (brain cells)

May 22, 2013


Here’s the nicest thing I can say about “Fast & Furious 6”:

It’s not in 3D.

That’s apparently the only restraint that the makers of this high-end piece of cinema junk-food indulged in.

Otherwise, as exercises in preposterous mayhem go, “Fast & Furious 6” is, well, preposterous. And full of mayhem.

That’s not meant as a compliment. (More…)


‘We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks’:

May 21, 2013

Other documentarians may be more famous than Oscar-winner Alex Gibney, but there’s no one working right now who afflicts the comfortable with more energy and pointedness than Gibney.

“We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks” is Gibney’s second documentary in less than a year, after the upsetting and revealing “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” about the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. In taking on the story of Julian Assange and his sometimes misguided career, Gibney keeps the focus where it should be – on the concerted efforts by the U.S. government to shroud its most unfortunate practices in secrecy. (More…)


My annual anti-3D sermon

May 20, 2013

I was heartened to read that, on its opening weekend, “The Great Gatsby” did solid business, despite some unjustly vicious reviews.

I was even more uplifted when I read that, in placing a strong second to “Iron Man 3,” “Gatsby” only earned one-third of its box-office take from people who saw it in 3D. (More…)


‘The English Teacher’: Jolly good

May 17, 2013

engl tchr

I often note how difficult it is to create a comedy that’s not only smart and funny but also charming and surprising. But first-time director Craig Zisk, a TV veteran, has done that with “The English Teacher,” which opens in limited release today (5/17/13) and is already available on VOD.

Like a witty update on Jane Austen, the script by Dan and Stacy Charlton details the life of a single woman, Linda Sinclair. As played by Julianne Moore with deliciously mousy energy, she’s a high school English teacher who, at 45, is a dedicated spinster (though we see her various abortive – and judgmental – attempts at dating). (More…)


‘Black Rock’: Deliver us

black rock

Having broken through as a filmmaker with the intriguing and moving “The Freebie,” actress Katie Aselton suffers the sophomore slump with her second film as a director, “Black Rock.”

Written by her husband, Mark Duplass, “Black Rock” is meant to be a “Deliverance”-style thriller, a girls-vs.-boys tale set on a deserted island off the coast of Maine. The girls have boated out there for a weekend getaway, a chance to reconnect and sort old personal grievances. (More…)