John le Carré‘s 23rd novel, A Delicate Truth, is a tiring piece of work. Not that it’s not a perfectly good read, because it hums along at a swifter clip than some of the master’s classic older works. But it has a sense of moral outrage embedded in the scandal-espionage plotline, about a rogue mercenary operation that goes south, that feels just plain worn out by the modern world’s venality.
My review was published at PopMatters, here’s a bit of it:
Le Carré has long operated as a shadow Ian Fleming. For all the lone-man heroics of the Bond stories, with their (of late) painted-on world weariness, le Carré‘s men and women operated in murkier territories. They root about in cavernous bureaucracies where the deadly game of spying, information-trading, and executive actions are handled by committee meetings no more dramatic than a gathering of insurance sales executives. The only glamour came from the occasional grim satisfaction of a task well handled. In A Delicate Truth, there’s even less for the characters to hang on to, or readers. The world has gone foggy…
A Delicate Truth is currently on sale just about everywhere. Here’s an excerpt.
Rooney Mara in Soderbergh’s ‘Side Effects’
Steven Soderbergh’s pharma-thriller Side Effects —out today on DVD and Blu-ray—appears to be the polymath filmmaker’s last feature film. (His apparently truly last film, the Liberace biopic, Beyond the Candelabra, premieres on HBO this weekend, since no studio had the imagination or spine to release it even to a few theaters.)
My full review of Side Effects originally ran at Film Journal International, here’s part of it:
The film’s ad campaign hinted at something vaguely related to Contagion, playing up the fact that both movies share a director (Soderbergh) and screenwriter (Scott Z. Burns), and that they are structured around a specific modern-day fear. While that pandemic film was more a fully realized, flesh-and-blood fictional story than it was a docudrama, Side Effects is really a sleekly constructed noir where the pharmaceutical topicality is mostly backdrop…
You can watch the trailer here:
- Ah, House of Representatives, don’t ever change your crazy self.
- Raves on the Great Wall: Indie music fests hit China.
- This might be the last word in Iranian theocratic insanity.
- Suicide is now the fourth-leading cause of death for middle-aged Americans.
- Facebooking and texting while studying correlate to lower GPAs.
- Making games that people will actually pay for.
- He loved fishing and guns, Ginsberg called him a “neurotic creep,” and he once tried to shoot Wim Wenders; the infamous Richard Brautigan.
- Yes, Michael Bay made all the Transformers films, does he deserve any credit as a filmmaker?
- Print and read: Rock and roll the soft, 1970s way.
- Bonus print and read: All the articles the (improbably nonfiction) film Pain & Gain was based on.
Sarah Polley films the film in ‘Stories We Tell’
With her films Away From You and Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley has proven to be a ridiculously sharp and gimlet-eyed young filmmaker—who’s also an accomplished actress, should she ever want to return to it.
In her newest, Stories We Tell, Polley digs into the not-so-hidden secrets of her family history using a variety of methods: self-aware techniques, contradictory stories, re-created “home movie” footage, and plenty of dry humor. It’s a wonderful piece of work all things told, honest and playful and curiously wise.
Stories We Tell opens on Friday. My review is at Film Racket, here’s part of it:
To understand how memory is fluid, just ask two relatives to recall the same incident. More often than not, their recollections will have major discrepancies. Next, throw in more family members from different generations, and layer onto that a mealy mix of secrets; pretty soon a simple story turns into a Russian novel. That’s what Sarah Polley comes up with in her engrossing documentary exploration of how the bricks of memory are untidily piled together to create messy and incomplete personal stories, and out of those stories comes a life. Or a version thereof…
You can check out the trailer here:
David Mitchell’s 2004 novel Cloud Atlas is one of those books that has been long assumed to be unfilmmable. But then the Wachowskis jumped into it, bringing on board Run Lola Run‘s Tom Tykwer for additional directing help. The result is a nearly three-hour karmic sci-fi epic that just keeps hitting crescendo after crescendo and made for one of 2012′s most memorable, if under-seen, epics.
Cloud Atlas is available today on Blu-ray and DVD. My full review is available at PopMatters, here’s part of it:
Eager to entertain and suffused with nervous energy, Cloud Atlas spans many continents and about half a millennia of human history. As faithful to David Mitchell’s novel as any $100 million enterprise could be, it’s the most daring, thrilling, satisfying, swiftly churning engine of big screen adventure to come along in some time. It even works in a halfway decent Soylent Green joke, which one would imagine wasn’t possible anymore. And oh yes, Hugh Grant plays a bloodthirsty cannibal…
You can watch the extended trailer here:
Bella Heathcoate and John Magaro in ‘Not Fade Away’
It wasn’t the most obvious project for David Chase to take on after The Sopranos—many thought he should just do a crime movie—but his 1960s garage band comedy Not Fade Away has some of the same roots of the TV show (dysfunctional family, Jersey) while striking into new territory (a lighter, satirical touch).
For everyone who missed Not Fade Away in theaters (which was most everybody, given how short its run was), you can now check it out on DVD and Blu-ray.
My full review is at PopMatters:
If it weren’t for the playful sense of fantasy and satire that licks through Not Fade Away, the weight of its pop cultural nostalgia would be almost overpowering. Every TV seems to be playingThe Twilight Zone and most of the young people are listening to the circa 1960s brash new music or aping the mannerisms of the bands themselves. The walls of these suburban New Jersey homes feel like those of small prison cells. Everybody’s either resigned to living inside them forever or itching to bust out…
The trailer is here: