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A Lighter Shade of Noir: “The Black Dahlia,” “Gridiron Gang,” “The Last Kiss,” and “The Protector” PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 19 September 2006 22:34

Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett in The Black DahliaTHE BLACK DAHLIA

The opening sequence of Brian De Palma's L.A. noir The Black Dahlia is so busily choreographed that, at first, you think it has to be some sort of put-on. A melee involving a street full of cops and sailors in downtown Los Angeles circa 1946, the balletic, slow-motion punching and flailing is orchestrated within an inch of its life; nothing about it seems real, but it's so dazzlingly executed that you hardly care. But with Josh Hartnett's ersatz tough-guy narration droning away, it quickly becomes clear that the scene isn't meant to be funny. It isn't comedy that De Palma's going after here but stylization, and as The Black Dahlia progresses, it's obvious that the director doesn't have the cast or screenwriter required to give his baroque touches a context. A few nastily enjoyable moments aside, the film is dour, dull, and confusing, enlivened only by a few zesty supporting portrayals and whatever directorial wit De Palma can bring to it.

 
Shooting Stars: “Hollywoodland,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Invincible,” “The Illusionist,” "Crank," and "The Wicker Man" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 12 September 2006 22:49

Ben Affleck and Diane Lane in HollywoodlandHOLLYWOODLAND

Against all expectation, the most touching performance in current releases is probably Ben Affleck's turn as George Reeves in the Tinseltown drama Hollywoodland. Director Allen Coulter's work centers around the mysterious shooting death of the famed Superman star of '50s television, and Affleck is just about perfect here. Seen in flashbacks, he plays Reeves' heartrending rise and fall with the abashed sweetness of a man who knows his good looks and moderate talent will only carry him so far, and Affleck's strong, subtle turn is effortlessly moving. And as trophy wife Tony Mannix, Diane Lane nearly matches him, suggesting entire generations of women carelessly tossed away by Hollywood's obsession with youth and beauty; Hollywoodland's tragedy is hers as much as Reeves', and the emotionally naked Lane turns in a fierce, brave portrayal.

 
Where’s the Love? – Summer Movies 2006 PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 05 September 2006 22:16

Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith in "Clerks II"It's awkwardly paced. It's often indifferently acted. The composition is remedial, the humor is juvenile, and for every scene that soars, another one crashes.

When all is said and done, though, you know which summer movie was my favorite? Clerks II. And do you know why? Because it isn't cynical.

 
Open Cities Goes DVD: Local Film Buffs Attempt to Rejuvenate the Movie Experience PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 22:41

JunebugTed Priester, the new president of Open Cities Cinema - formerly the Open Cities Film Society - knows he has a fight on his hands.

He admits that Open Cities, as it nears its 30th anniversary, is widely considered "rather a grandfatherly organization."

He's aware of the difficulty in marketing a weekly film series - one featuring titles readily available to home viewers - to a modern audience, saying, "Anymore, in our society, people work themselves into a frazzle. They want to go home at night and maybe watch a little TV and then lights out."

And he understands that when the organization opens its new season on September 22 - beginning with the Oscar-winning Danish film Babette's Feast - cinephiles may balk at the group's decision to screen DVDs as opposed to 16- or 35-millimeter prints, ceding that "there's a certain richness of sound that can't be replicated" with DVD.

Priester knows all of this.

 
The Cotton Flub: “Idlewild” and “Accepted” PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 22:29

Andre Benjamin in IdlewildIDLEWILD

It's pretty clear that a musical doesn't know what it's doing when Ben Vereen and Patti LaBelle appear in supporting roles and the movie doesn't let them sing. But writer/director Bryan Barber's Idlewild isn't all that concerned with being a musical. It's concerned with being a music video. This tune-laden, period gangster/show-biz drama - fronted by OutKast's Andre Benjamin and Antwan A. Patton (a.k.a. Andre 3000 and Big Boi) - is all touches and visual motifs, and while it's earnest, it's also devoid of emotional connection; we admire the pretty images but don't necessarily feel anything for it. Idlewild is a fascinating failure. It's a movie you really want to like - especially if you're a fan of musicals - but one that only comes alive in fits and spurts.

 
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