Film

WONDER WHEEL

Given that it was very well received by an alarming number of colleagues when it played at the New York Film Festival in September, I’ve been trying to figure out a way that “Wonder Wheel” can be seen as good. Turgid even in its brightness, overwritten in a way that does nothing to camoflauge its first-draft quality, jaw-droppingly overacted by all but one of its central cast members; it’s a Woody Allen disaster that elicits both a cocked head and a dropped jaw. Given that Mr. Allen’s professional approach to moviemaking most resembles a basketball player’s free-throw practice—he endeavors to make a picture once a year, no Read More

THE DISASTER ARTIST

Tommy Wiseau’s cult hit “The Room” leaves the audience with massive questions. Not just about pictures of spoons, strange dialogue, or the star’s penchant for smashing things, but curiosities of a more baffling nature: From what mind and soul did this entirely serious production come from? How could an artistic statement like this exist? The enigma of Wiseau is only partly addressed by James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist”. The movie treats his lack of self-awareness and transparent loneliness as a sweet novelty instead of treating him as a complicated human being, someone worthy of empathy. Though sporadically inspired, especially when trying to call back to the magic Read More

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

There were rumors for years about Jim Carrey’s behavior on the set of Milos Forman’s “Man on the Moon”—stories that he never broke character, either as Andy Kaufman or his alter ego Tony Clifton. Twenty years after the production of that film, Chris Smith (“American Movie”) has directed a very unique behind-the-scenes study that doesn’t just offer insight into the making of that film, but the entire careers and almost parallel personalities of Carrey and Kaufman. Rather than produce a standard press kit for “Man on the Moon,” Carrey asked Kaufman’s girlfriend Lynne Margulies and collaborator Bob Zmuda to handle filming him in his trailer and on set Read More

JUSTICE LEAGUE

For a film about a band of heroes trying to stop extraterrestrial demon-beasts from wiping out humanity, “Justice League” is light on its feet, sprinting through a super-group’s origin story in less than two hours, giving its ensemble lots to do, and mostly avoiding the self-importance that damaged previous entries in this franchise. (Aside from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “Logan,” and a handful of other dark superhero films, excessive moping and brooding tends to be these projects’ undoing.) It’s unfortunate that the film was released on the heels of “Thor: Ragnarok,” another knockabout superhero adventure, because critically it will suffer in comparison, even though it chooses a different route toward Read More

I LOVE YOU, DADDY

By the time you read this review, Louis C.K.’s semi-satirical showbiz comedy “I Love You, Daddy” will have been consigned to the same pop culture memory hole that contains Jerry Lewis’ concentration camp drama “The Day the Clown Cried.” The official release date was November 17, 2017. Orchard Films pulled it from the release schedule this morning, November 10, 2017, a day after the New York Times published a story confirming previously unsourced rumors that, over the course of many years, C.K. had exposed himself to women. It’s as bad as you’ve heard. It was that bad even before the news broke. But the news makes the experience of seeing Read More

HALLOWEEN

“I enjoy playing the audience like a piano.” — Alfred Hitchcock So does John Carpenter. “Halloween” is an absolutely merciless thriller, a movie so violent and scary that, yes, I would compare it to “Psycho” (1960). It’s a terrifying and creepy film about what one of the characters calls Evil Personified. Right. And that leads us to the one small piece of plot I’m going to describe. There’s this six-year-old kid who commits a murder right at the beginning of the movie, and is sent away, and is described by his psychiatrist as someone he spent eight years trying to help, and then the next seven years trying Read More

HOCUS POCUS

“Hocus Pocus” is a film desperately in need of self-discipline. It’s one of those projects where you imagine everyone laughing and applauding each other after every scene, because they’re so convinced they’re wild and crazy guys. But watching the movie is like attending a party you weren’t invited to, and where you don’t know anybody, and they’re all in on a joke but won’t explain it to you. The plot involves three witches who are hanged in Salem, Mass., 300 years ago, and their bodies are placed under a curse. At the same time, under conditions too bothersome to explain, a young boy is turned into an Read More

SUBURBICON

It’s tempting to criticize George Clooney’s “Suburbicon” as two films that never quite coalesce into one complete whole, which is partially true. But that might give the impression that either film works on their own, which is false. This startling misfire is a tonal disaster from start to finish, whether residing in the dark comedy that retains echoes of the Coen brothers’ original script or in the more earnestly inspirational true story of a black family who gets run out of white America. Other than when the movie appears to levitate for a brief period while Oscar Isaac is on-screen, the dull “Suburbicon” lacks in witty dialogue, Read More

HAROLD AND MAUDE

Death can be as funny as most things in life, I suppose, but not the way Harold and Maude go about it. They meet because they’re both funeral freaks, and one day their eyes lock over a grave. They fall into conversation after Maude steals Harold’s hearse and offers him a ride. Harold drives a hearse, by the way, because he is fascinated by death, particularly his own. So fascinated that maybe the only reason he doesn’t kill himself is that suicide would put an end to his suicide fantasies. You can see that Harold is a young man with a problem. Now Maude, on the other Read More

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” would be more fun, I suspect, if it weren’t a picture show. It belongs on a stage, with the performers and audience joining in a collective send-up. It’s been running for something like three years in a former movie theater on King’s Rd. in London – and it’s found the right home here at the Three Penny on Lincoln. Trouble is, it should have opened there as a play. That’s a rather unfair way to approach it as a movie, but then “Rocky Horror” remains very much a filmed play. The choreography, the compositions and even the attitudes of the cast imply Read More