Film Reviews

TEENAGE: Matt Wolf’s Documentary Brings the History of Growing Up to Life

TEENAGE: Matt Wolf’s Documentary Brings the History of Growing Up to Life

teenage matt-wolf

 TEENAGE, the new documentary film written and directed by Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell) is based on the book Teenager, by Jon Savage, and uses both found footage and lush, fake Super 8 recreations to illustrate how adolescents came into being, as both a social and actualized concept, in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

The Naked Emotions are more Raw than the Rampant Sex Scenes in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac-Vol 1

The Naked Emotions are more Raw than the Rampant Sex Scenes in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac-Vol 1

By Francesca McCaffery

nymphomaniac shia

With his latest film NYMPHOMANIAC, bad boy and cinematic provocateur Lars von Trier has found a way to communicate through film that is rarely felt, even in literature: Whether you agree with what is being portrayed onscreen, or not, you still have the feeling of being spoken to in the most profound of ways- both cerebrally and viscerally- the sheer ride that only  the most dazzling, life-changing novel can offer.

NYMPHOMANIAC, VOL 1, is one of two films, (Vol 2 being released in the US in April ) both released in their uncut, European versions. The film stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe, who meets lonely bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) only after he finds her lying, curled up, bloody and beaten, in his courtyard as he goes out to get his daily cup of coffee and rugalach.

Film Review: LENNY COOKE

Film Review: LENNY COOKE

lenny cooke documentary review

Arguably the most disappointing story I can relate to basketball wise, that of Lenny Cooke, is one marred by bad decision, misguidance, and maybe what I would call serendipity.  The fortunate mistake in it all is the example that his experience has and can be for generations to come. A legendary NYC hardcourt story, at one time Lenny Cooke was defined by his talent level and beyond anything else the potential of what he could do for others.  Knowing him personally, I can remember the attention he garnered walking into the room let alone putting the ball in the basket.  Such a charismatic individual, admittedly so his goal was to appease never to self-reflect.

Film Review: GARIFUNA IN PERIL-The Movie

Film Review: GARIFUNA IN PERIL-The Movie

garifuna in peril

GARIFUNA IN PERIL, written, produced and directed by Ali Allie and Ruben Reyes, is a film that chronicles the history of a people.  It explores the culture, language, and history, surrounding an indigenous group of people called the Garifuna.  Who are the Garifuna?

The Garifuna are descendants of Carib, Arawak, and West African people. The British colonizers referred to the Garifunas as Black Caribs.  At first the Garifunas called the island of St.Vincent home, but disease, horrific treatment by their captors and the trip across the seas, claimed the lives of many of the Garifuna people.  Today, an estimated 600,000 Garifuna populate a number of areas; Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. 

Film Review: CUT TO BLACK

Film Review: CUT TO BLACK

CUT TO BLACK

CUT TO BLACK, the latest film from Brooklyn-based writer/director/star Dan Eberle, is an Audience Award-winning film from this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival that is one of those films that shouldn’t be unnoticed by larger audiences because of its nearly hypnotic, somewhat dream-like imagery and narrative.

Film Review: BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL

Film Review: BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL

BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL A film by Mark Mori

Even if you don’t think you know who Bettie Page is, you know her.  What do I mean by that?  At some point of your life you have seen references to Bettie Page, the most popular pin-up model of the 1950s.  That is because her style and persona has been a constant source of inspiration for decades by nearly every facet of pop culture.  For example, just in the last few months pop star Katy Perry heavily referenced Page’s famed “Jungle Bettie” photo shoot in her artwork and video for her hit single “Roar.”  It’s only one of hundreds of reference to Page’s famed pin-up photography that you probably encounter every year, a phenomenon that continues today (Bettie Page is one of the highest-earning deceased celebrities).  In the new documentary Bettie Page Reveals All, the pin-up legend herself narrates her life story, revealing once and for all what the woman behind those photos was like and what happened to her after disappearing from modeling seemingly overnight in 1957.  It’s an absorbing look at the life of an iconic woman, one many of us know little about beyond her photos.  While this is the first film documentary that Mark Mori has directed since 1991’s Building Bombs (which was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar in 1991) and writer Doug Miller is film newcomer, the pair have created a loving in-depth portrait of Page with this documentary.

Film Review: MUSICWOOD

Film Review: MUSICWOOD

musicwood documentary film

What makes a Gibson or Martin acoustic guitar a better instrument (and thus more expensive) than a no-name guitar that you could buy for $50?  It’s the wood.  Premium acoustic guitars are made from four types of wood that come from across the world.  For three of the best U.S. guitar makers – Gibson, Martin, and Taylor – the soundboard (i.e., the “top” or front of the guitar) is made from a type of Sitka Spruce from Alaska’ Tongass National Forest via a Native American-owned logging corporation, Sealaska. Until several years ago, as far as the owners of these guitars companies were concerned they would continue to get their spruce from the Tongass National Forest for as long as guitars would be made.

Film Review: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

Film Review: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

On paper, the behind the scenes story being pushed about this joint North Korean-U.S. production is extraordinary: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN is a film that took six years to make and was a historical first-ever collaboration between North Korea and a U.S. film company.  The film was actually shot in North Korea with a North Korean cast and crew and was written and produced by Joon Bai, who was born in North Korea but immigrated to the United States in 1959, and starting in the late 1990s has made dozens of humanitarian trips to North Korea.  He decided to make this film to spread his message of the suffering people of North Korea and their hopes for reunification.

Film Review: THE PRIME MINISTERS

Film Review: THE PRIME MINISTERS

THE PRIME MINISTERS, a documentary film by Richard Trank

THE PRIME MINISTERS documentary directed by Richard Trank is based on the eponymous best-selling book, The Prime Minister, written by Ambassador Yehuda Avner.  Yehuda Avner, who served as a chief aide, English language note-taker and speechwriter to former prime ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres, takes the audience into this powerful office, with never before seen and heard details on major historical events such as the Six-Day War, the development of Israel’s close strategic relationship with the United States, the fight against terrorism, the Yom Kippur War and its aftermath. 

Review: ZERO CHARISMA

Review: ZERO CHARISMA

 Zero Charisma

So much conflict comes out of the struggle for power, even regarding the smallest stakes possible.  ZERO CHARISMA is a film about struggles regarding what might seem like small stakes to an outside viewer, but to the characters involved it is literally an epic struggle between a “hero” and his nemesis.

REVIEW: BabyGirl

REVIEW: BabyGirl

BabyGirl

Growing pains may easily be one of the things that mostly all human beings can relate to. I can speak for myself assuredly when I say that life’s lessons come in all shape, sizes, and consequence.  For Lead actress Yainis Ynoa, better known as Lena AKA “Babygirl” it seems like they come all too frequently.  Already dealing with. being a 16-year-old latina in the Bronx which comes with many an obstacle economically, and socially there are expectations of her; her complex homelife is a constant theme throughout the film, documenting a relationship that seems like she is the parent most of the time.  Their bond is undying, of course, but their relation to each other is awkward at times, as you witness the responsibilities of the home and in guiding each other too often fall in the lap of Babygirl. 

Review: MUSCLE SHOALS

Review: MUSCLE SHOALS

MUSCLE SHOALS

As a huge music fan who nevertheless can’t play a note, I always enjoy watching documentaries about behind the scenes details about the music business and how the greatest records of all time were recorded.  While there are hundreds of music documentaries, many are fairly pedestrian and focus on household names who have sold millions of records and whose stories are already well-known.  The stars of MUSCLE SHOALS, a documentary about two prolific recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, certainly have had that “sold millions of records” part down since the 1960s, but their lives have been anything but open books.

REVIEW: The Rugby Player

REVIEW: The Rugby Player

The Rugby Player

Documenting the years of transition which encompass his growth from awkward teen to daringly rebellious yet entertaining young man, Mark Bingham left the greatest momento to be appreciated for years to come, real life footage.  Always one to keep a video camera in tow he and his friends bonded over pranks, and slams, on the way to becoming productive members of society. However malicious they could be, there was always an angelic aura to the outcome, that being the leadership quality and authentic manner in which Mark Bingham lived his life.  The product of what many would call a broken home, Mark was not in the need of anything, the least bit-love; adored by his aunts and uncles whom always took active roles in his life Mark was like any other youth, exploring life on life terms.

REVIEW: My Father and The Man in Black

REVIEW: My Father and The Man in Black

MY FATHER AND THE MAN IN BLACK

With no disrespect intended to any ladies reading this, it’s been said that no story carries the emotional impact of a story about the relationship between a father and his son.  From the days of the Bible and mythology, countless stories have used that relationship as a basis for emotional conflict, from fantasy films like Star Wars and Field of Dreams to biographical films like Walk the Line. Indeed, it is because of that last film that the documentary MY FATHER AND THE MAN IN BLACK exists.

REVIEW: ABIGAIL HARM

REVIEW: ABIGAIL HARM

Abigail Harm

Totally detached from society, as a matter of personal choice Abigail Harm is as anti-social and introverted as they come. Her only human interaction from day to day is that of her commitment to the service of reading to clients whom she sees at their home, as she reads from their favorite novels or other materials of choice. As the famous Korean folktale would have it,  one which tells of love, true love, the ever lasting kind which results from the taming of a deer, who is appears robe-less in need of consolation. One most unexpected evening a gentleman in need of food and temporary shelter appears in Abigail’s home. Over a meal she prepares, the man questions Abigail’s understanding of  love, to which she admits her only experience with it was through her parents, as an infant.  His one wish for Abigail becomes that she truly gets to feel what love is. He enlightens her to the myth of ‘The Woodcutter and the Nymph’ impressing upon her the importance of keeping her eyes open to her true love which is forthcoming.  In a matter of days, Abigails entire existence is revamped via this revelation, and literal appearance of a man in need of her as she is in need of he.

REVIEW: THÉRÈSE

REVIEW: THÉRÈSE

Thérèse Desqueyroux

All screen adaptations of classic novels face the same inevitable obstacle: though they need not best their source material, they must work twice as hard as an original film to justify their existence. Why watch an adaptation of Jane Eyre, of Pride and Prejudice, or of Madame Bovary when those original texts are so celebrated and so readily available?

REVIEW: Drinking Buddies

REVIEW: Drinking Buddies

DRINKING BUDDIES

Appearances are often deceiving. Two people who might appear to be perfect for each other on the surface by the way they interact might be incompatible once things get deeper. In DRINKING BUDDIES, a romantic comedy from writer/director Joe Swanberg (V/H/S), pretty and playful Kate (Olivia Wilde) works as a marketer at a Chicago-area brewery. Though she is in a relationship with the pedantic Chris (Ron Livingston), she clearly has better chemistry with one of the brewers she works with, Luke (Jake Johnson). However, the outgoing Luke is engaged to Jill (Anna Kendrick), a somewhat shy special education teacher.

REVIEW: Sparrows Dance

REVIEW: Sparrows Dance

SPARROWS DANCE

The clock is ticking; the days are passing, as she sits behind closed doors, paralyzed by fear.

SPARROWS DANCE, directed by Noah Buschel, explores the life of a former actress (Marin Ireland) who has been sequestered in her apartment for a year. Her daily existence is plagued by fear. This fear serves to clog her life, until she meets Wes the plumber (Paul Sparks).

REVIEW: THE HAPPY SAD

REVIEW: THE HAPPY SAD

 thehappysad

When Stan’s girlfriend of six months, Annie drops the bomb on him that she has been preoccupied more recently and not fully committed to their relationship, he becomes unsettled. Reminding her of their agreement to always be candid about the things that happen in their lives, she elaborates to the truth of her infatuation for and brewing relationship with Mandy. Baffled to say the least Stan admits that he no longer wishes to date Mandy, for now. Meanwhile, Marcus and Aaron are looking for ways to spice up their relationship, at the exact moment when their sexual peak is seemingly in reach; agreeing to explore an “open relationship” the two attempt to set boundaries for their trysts, collectively which they assume would lead to mountains of fun for these liberal New Yorkers, marked by exploratory flings.

REVIEW: LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER

REVIEW: LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER

Lee Daniels’ The Butler 

By now, you’ve likely heard all about LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER, the story of an African-American man who served on the White House staff through eight administrations. In the film Forest Whitaker stars as Cecil Gaines, who is loosely based off actual White House butler Eugene Allen. Of course, don’t be fooled by the marketing – reading the Washington Post article the film was initially based on, shows that the film is fictionalized to a great degree. Because of that, in some ways The Butler is like a real-life version of Forest Gump, though by no means do I mean to compare the obviously completely different protagonists (to be like Forest Gump, Cecil would have had to do something like stop the Cuban Missile Crisis by misplacing JFK’s silverware).

REVIEW: WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL

REVIEW: WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL

“A time when a vacation meant a trip to the Catskills”

when-comedy-went-to-school-1

And with it you were assured to see a show. Now whether or not it was to your liking was no guarantee. Moments afte ther decline of Vaudeville and Burlesque there existed a huge void in American activities and passtime; what once ensured entertainment was now old news, yet the audience remained. 75 miles NW of New York lie a region called the Catskills, still til this day, a place of hotels, rooming houses, and more. As it remains very popular today, there was a time when the Catskills were the end all be all in vacation options. Tourists from all over frequented this area in search of opportunity; to relax, to engage, to mingle, and more.

REVIEW: Jerry Lewis, Jerry Stiller, Robert Klein in WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL

REVIEW: Jerry Lewis, Jerry Stiller, Robert Klein in WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL

when-comedy-went-to-school

I’ve always had a deep respect for standup comedians, which I regard as one of the toughest gigs in all of entertainment. However, standup comedy as we know is a relatively modern form of entertainment, and the origin of how it grew from vaudeville can be pinpointed to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, where dozens of the greatest comedians of all time developed their acts.

WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL, a documentary about the influence the Catskills vacation region had on Jewish comedians, explores what exactly made the area such an enclave for future funnymen (and women). Narrated by Robert Klein, comedian and former Catskills busboy, and featuring interviews with Jerry Lewis, Jerry Stiller, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, and other comedy icons, along with plenty of vintage clips of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, and Rodney Dangerfield, When Comedy Went to School is full of laughs as it tells the story of how modern standup comedy developed among Jewish vacationers.

REVIEW: ROMEOWS (Retired Older Men Eating Out Wednesdays)

REVIEW: ROMEOWS (Retired Older Men Eating Out Wednesdays)

romeow

“If you accept a dinner invitation you have a moral obligation to be amusing”

Famous words of the Dutchess of windsor, which serve as the perfect personification of what the ROMEOWS stand for, as a collective. Comprised of Retired old men, Brooklyn college Alumnus who come together each and every Wednesday for the purpose of brotherhood. Documenting their history, their unity, their commitment to one another and their pride in not only their roots but their alma mater as well, ROMEOWS is a lesson in relationships.

REVIEW: Fruitvale Station

REVIEW: Fruitvale Station

fruitvalestation

FRUITVALE STATION is based on one of those horrific, real-life stories of when a police officer makes a heinous, unjustifiable decision.

The film opens with amateur footage shot on a cell phone of the actual frantic, fatal moments in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009 recreated in Frutivale Station’s harrowing climax. The recreation begins a little over twenty-four hours before, with Oscar (Michael B. Jordan), a twenty-two year old small-time dope dealer and ex-con, arguing with Sopina (Melanie Diaz), his girlfriend and the mother of his four year-old child, Tatiana (the adorable Ariana Neal) about Oscar recently cheating on her. The movie then follows Oscar throughout the rest of his New Year’s Eve – which also happens to be his mother’s birthday – as he tries to follow through on his resolution to give up dealing dope and get his job back at the supermarket, which he was recently fired from for constantly being late. However, it’s New Year’s Eve and Sopina wants to go out to San Francisco to party. Though Oscar’s mother (the wonderful Octavia Spencer) begs him to take the train to avoid driving drunk, it turns out to be the wrong decision when Oscar is confronted by someone from his past and is later detained by the police in a frightening, chaotic scene.