Archive for June, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Posted in Biography, Comedy, Documentary on June 29, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Documentary chronicles a year in the life of Joan Rivers, iconic comedian.  Watch as she recounts the milestones in her life, deal with an irate heckler, fire a dear friend and struggles to remain relevant.  Behind-the-scenes showbiz account is entertaining, to be sure, but a biography such as this, is most interesting when it’s an exposé.  Unfortunately, the revelations aren‘t very surprising.  The fact that she’s a workaholic and she unceasingly desires approval to a fault, isn’t surprising.  A person who treats plastic surgery like a visit to the hair salon or her nasty public falling-out with Johnny Carson are fascinating subjects only superficially addressed.  The documentary is more about scheduling her next gig.  Her drive to keep working is her all consuming passion, not dwelling on the past.  In the end, the documentary won’t make you like her any more and it won’t make you like her any less.  It just is, a decent testimonial to a woman who has been in show business for over 50 years.


Posted in Drama, Mystery, Thriller on June 28, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Unsettling slasher film masquerading as a crime thriller.  NYC cop goes undercover in the gay underworld of S&M leather bars in order to uncover a murderer whose victims are patrons of those establishments.  As he become more involved in the investigation, it changes him.  Sensationalistic drama is marked by heavy handed direction that portrays the victims as inhuman deviants which removes any sympathy the viewer might have for them.  Actor Al Pacino brings a sincere innocence to his role that benefits the material, but the drama is given to sloppy editing which betrays coherent story or character development.  The action suggests multiple killers but never addresses those suggestions.  How the character’s exposure to this “community” has caused him to become increasingly violent is never explained either.  Even the ambiguous ending leaves the viewer with frustratingly unanswered questions.  A crudely made effort.

I Am Love

Posted in Drama with tags on June 25, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Sophisticated tale of a married woman’s affair with her son’s business partner.  Film really takes its time in the details, recounting  the restrained existence of the Italian upper class.  At times the film’s deliberate pace can be a frustrating exercise in style over substance.  But oh what style!  Sumptuous photography highlights the film’s lavish set design and gorgeous Milan locations.  The film is a visual treat and its style, and not the story, carries the drama single-handedly.  Indeed, the last 30 minutes of the film scarcely has a single word of dialogue.  A beautiful, but flawed film.

The Secret in Their Eyes

Posted in Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller with tags on June 22, 2010 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketNicely crafted crime drama about a former criminal court employee who re-opens a decades old murder case he never forgot.  Film maintains the viewers attention as it frequently flashbacks to 1974, then returns to 1999, when the movie is set.  Detailed plot deftly blends such disparate elements as an unresolved murder,  political corruption, and an unrequited love affair, into a seamless story that gradually seduces the viewer’s attention.  Stunning cinematography by Félix Monti is also worth mentioning.  One beautifully photographed sequence at El Monumental soccer stadium in Buenos Aires starts out overhead, zooms into the stands, ultimately becoming a handheld shot once a suspect gives chase.  At 127 min, the investigation occasionally succumbs to Law & Order-like monotony.  In truth, Argentine director Juan José Campanellahas has actually directed some episodes of the American TV series.  However,  the action eventually climaxes to a satisfying conclusion.

Come and Get It

Posted in Action, Drama, Romance with tags on June 20, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Overlooked melodrama about a lumber tycoon who marries to further his career and abandons the woman he truly loves. Credible production is perhaps more fascinating for its behind-the-scenes shenanigans.  Howard Hawks was fired by producer Samuel Goldwyn after directing the first half, and subsequently hired William Wyler to complete the film.  This is reflected in the shifting storyline.  Starts out as virile logging adventure then fades into an over plotted soap opera, all the while distinguished by solid performances.  Character actor Edward Arnold stars as Barney Glasgow, the businessman determined to succeed.  As both mother and daughter, troubled actress Frances Farmer is also worth watching in one of her rare film performances.  Interestingly it was Walter Brennan who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his likable but unremarkable work as Glasgow’s lifelong friend.  Sweeping drama is also notable for the extraordinary logging sequences in the first half.

Toy Story 3

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy with tags on June 18, 2010 by Mark Hobin

An epic adventure, part 3 of the landmark animated series explores what happens when Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toys are accidentally shipped to a day care center after Andy leaves for college.  Part buoyant comedy, part jail break action adventure, and part deep emotional drama. The sadness caused when people move on, is explored with depth and soul.  A stunning exploration of friendship and love and how we can unknowingly hurt the ones we love.  Rarely has a film, let alone a cartoon, explored an existential crisis so effectively.  But this film has a lot of warmth too.  The camaraderie of this group of toys is so touching and close, you’ll wish you were one of them.  Cowboy pull-string toy Woody is more lovable than ever.  He’s the glue that holds them all together.  As the film nears its conclusion, there is one emotional climax after another.  If you are not affected, perhaps you should check your pulse.

The Boys Are Back

Posted in Drama, Family with tags on June 13, 2010 by Mark Hobin

After his wife dies of cancer, a sports writer must confront the responsibilities of single parenthood with his two young sons.  A glossy and superficial film.  Spiritless postcards of a life are presented one after the other.  A sample scene: warm sunlight shines down as the kids play and giggle in an outdoor tub while folksy guitar music underscores the action.  Cinematically pretty, but not particularly dramatic or engaging.  The languid pace doesn’t really benefit the depressing subject matter.  Actor Clive Owen does his best with an honest and heartfelt performance.

Get Him to the Greek

Posted in Comedy on June 11, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Thoroughly repellent comedy about a record company intern trying to get a faded rock star to Hollywood for a big comeback concert.  Comedy should feature amusing characters, so why does everyone have to be so unpleasant in this film?  Russell Brand is a spoiled, tiresome bore as Aldous Snow.  He’s doing the same rock star shtick that was funny as a side character  in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but not funny enough to carry an entire film.  The only mildly humorous jokes are the parody videos of pop singer Jackie Q and rock star Aldous Snow’s hilariously awful single “African Child” that was supposed to be his career low in the film.  So why does everyone now want to hear him sing it?  Don’t even bother looking for sense in this brainless film which has no story arc, just lots of scenes of people partying.  The cinematic equivalent of being at a celebration where everyone is drunk and you’re sober and everyone is laughing hysterically because someone just vomited all over you.  Oh that happens too, by the way.  A worthy contender for worst comedy of the year.

Party Girl

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Romance with tags on June 6, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Quirky romantic comedy about a flighty, free spirited hedonist.  Parker Posey is likable as spunky and sassy Mary, a Holly Golightly for the 90s.  We follow her as she learns the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal system, flirts with a falafel vendor and dances the night away at the many house parties she throws.  Manhattan’s trendy loft and club scene is nicely captured in this Gen X comedy drama from the mid 90s, but stylistically has more in common with 80s films like Desperately Seeking Susan and Something Wild.  Also of note is actress Sasha von Scherler, the director’s real life mother, who anchors the film as the no-nonsense librarian godmother who hires her.


Posted in Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on June 4, 2010 by Mark Hobin

Unsettling science fiction about two young scientists who combine various animal DNA samples with human DNA to create a hybrid creature.  Their disregard for the ethical and legal boundaries of society is a cautionary tale explored in a (mostly) intelligent manner.  What could have been an unrestrained gore fest, wisely favors creepy mood over slasher techniques.  The fully realized life form they create is mesmerizing.  Exploiting themes of biological horror, director Vincenzo Natali is clearly influenced by the films of David Cronenberg.  However the film takes a decidedly unpleasant departure in the third act.  The off-putting turn of events will either evoke disgust or laughter.  Intriguing exploration of genetic-engineering starts out as stylish horror but ultimately becomes something of a camp fest.  A good film that could have been great.