Film

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

78/52

When the latest British Film Institute greatest-films-of-all-time poll came out a few years ago, it wasn’t terribly surprising that an Alfred Hitchcockfilm had displaced “Citizen Kane,” which had occupied the top spot for several decades. But why “Vertigo”? If the importance of Orson Welles’ classic had stemmed from the common view that it launched sound-era auteur cinema (especially in its influence on the young critics who would become the auteurs of the French New Wave), surely the Hitchcock film that had a similar game-changing impact was “Psycho.” That thought may well cross the minds of viewers of “78/52,” which, in providing a detailed analysis of the shower Read More

tom of findland

How to describe the art of Touko Valio Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland? Shall I compare thee to a Village People wet dream? No, that’s not quite it. His depictions of gay masculinity, to my eye, are kind of a gender inversion of the iconography of, say, a female bombshell like Jayne Mansfield. The men who sprang from the imagination of Tom of Finland are perfectly chiseled, bubble-butted, well-endowed boys who can’t help it. Their emotional range runs the gamut from friendly (there are some big smiles) to intimidating (there are more impassive-to-frownlike expressions, often camouflaged by thick mustaches). Heterosexual males had their Vargas pinups and other Read More

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Over 163 stylish minutes, “Blade Runner 2049” wrestles with nothing less than what it means to be human, serving as a beautiful thematic companion to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” a film that redefined a genre. It’s too soon to tell if the follow-up will have the influence and staying power of the groundbreaking original but it’s clear from the beginning that this no mere piece of nostalgic fan service. Unlike a lot of reboots or long-delayed sequels that merely remix the themes and characters of the beloved original to give viewers the hollow comfort of familiarity, Denis Villeneuve and his team are remarkably ambitious, using the topics Read More

AMERICAN MADE

The makers of the based-on-a-true-story black comedy “American Made” fail to satisfactorily answer one pressing question: why is CIA operative and Colombia drug-runner Barry Seal’s story being told as a movie and not a book? What’s being shown in this film that couldn’t also be expressed in prose? In telling the true story of American airplane pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), writer Gary Spinelli and director Doug Liman (“Edge of Tomorrow,” “Jumper“) choose to overstimulate viewers rather than challenge them. They emphasize Barry’s charm, the exotic nature of his South American trade routes, and the rapid escalation of events that ultimately led to his downfall. Cruise’s smile is, in this context, deployed like a weapon in Liman Read More

MOTHER!

Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” is one of the most audacious and flat-out bizarre movies that a major studio has released in years. The director has never shied away from controversial filmmaking, but this deep dive into metaphorical horror finds him working in a register that feels crazy even for the man who made “The Fountain” and “Noah.” “mother!” is at times horrifying, at times riveting, at times baffling, and at times like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It both owes a debt to horror masters like Polanski and De Palma and is so distinctly a movie that no one else could make. At its core, it is a Read More

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

I am a little out of touch with the inside-baseball commentary on superhero movie and sci-fi franchises, so I have to ask the reader to indulge me a bit. I’m perhaps not the best person to draw the distinction between something called “fan servicing,” which I understand is very, very bad, and giving an audience what it wants, which I have been told from an early age is at least kind of good. That said, I can report from where I sat at a preview screening that was evenly divided between what I suspect were sympathetic-from-the-get-go reviewers and enthusiastic fans and their families, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a Read More

IT

Clowns are creepy no matter what. We can all agree on that, right? But Pennywise, the dancing clown who tracks down and torments the children of small-town Maine in “It,” is deeply unsettling. At least, he is in the latest incarnation of Stephen King’s iconic novel. Infamously, Tim Curry’s take on the character in the 1990 TV miniseries version was so over-the-top, it was laughable—not that you’re looking for understatement in your homicidal clowns. But what Bill Skarsgard does with the role works well precisely because he doesn’t appear to be laboring so hard to frighten us. He doesn’t vamp it up. He’s coy—he toys with these Read More

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (2015) Danny Boyle’s thrilling film, which takes place behind the scenes at three key product launches during the late Jobs’ career, begins with the Apple co-founder freaking out minutes before introducing the Macintosh in 1984 because his team couldn’t get it to say “hello.” It was nitpicky and obsessive—qualities he was famous for—but he was also onto something, as we now know: this idea of technology serving as a constant and comforting companion. Boyle, writer Aaron Sorkin and star Michael Fassbender explore the character of Steve Jobs with a great creative mind. Fassbender himself, who doesn’t really resemble Jobs in any physical way but rather embodies his drive, his Read More