There’s little better that a film can have going for it than a cute child, and four-year-old Marla Olmstead — the putative star of Amir Bar-Lev’s studious documentary My Kid Could Paint That — has cuteness in spades, with a big, toothy grin and a world-embracing attitude. She’s a disarming presence, wandering about at the feet of all the film’s adults, who stand around jawing about art, the price of art, what constitutes art in general, and Marla’s art in specific, while the girl herself seems almost ignored, the goofy smile occasionally cutting through the chatter while the remarks of her and her little brother go mostly unnoticed by anybody but Bar-Lev and his camera.The film is out now in limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
On November 13, 1990, David Gray—a man described by most of the people who knew him in the small New Zealand town of Aramoana as “eccentric”—took it into his head to begin shooting anybody and everybody he could with an assault rifle fitted with a scope. Gray killed neighbors whom he’d known for years (he had even helped to build the house of the first man he shot) and small children sitting in the back of a pickup truck, and took potshots from a distance at people standing hundreds of yards away who probably wouldn’t have known him from Adam. By the time it ended almost a full day later, 13 people were dead, and no answers were forthcoming—which presents more than a few problems to the filmmakers of Out of the Blue, many of which are unfortunately not resolved.The film is out now in (very) limited release. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.
New on DVD
Entourage has a mimic quality that allows it to somehow slide underneath the cultural radar without attracting the same kind of heat as HBO’s other touchstone shows. That is, the popularity of Entourage isn’t then necessarily written up in magazines and op-ed pages as a sign of (fill in the blank); it arrives with low expectations and leaves a half-hour later, those expectations most always met, with a little change to spare. That’s not to say that HBO doesn’t know how to get the most out of its most Maxim-reader-friendly property, a fact perfectly well displayed in the channel’s decision to split up the DVD release of season three into two parts, nicely maximizing revenue. The second part, containing the piddling last eight episodes on two discs, is barely enough to get you through a long and dreary Saturday, but is nevertheless a worthy distraction from the messy realities of life.Part Two of Season Three is out now on DVD. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
At the back of the first issue of Rick Veitch’s rip-roaring Vertigo series Army @ Love, Veitch includes a note for readers that starts with the helpful Lenny Bruce quote: “Satire is tragedy plus time.” He’s trying to throw a line to people who may be scratching their heads after finishing his bawdy, prophetic and just slightly insane comic and are wondering, “What in God’s name is this?” The series vividly imagines the U.S. military a few years from now, still in Iraq (a look-alike stand-in here, called “Afbaghistan” and so pressed for manpower that it’s resorted to selling overseas deployment as a juiced-up adrenaline kick: it’s like playing XBox in a whorehouse during a raging shootout, offering soldiers bacchanalian “retreats” and letting them carry cellphones into battle, all the better to call Mom from the Humvee. It’s all coordinated by a Pentagon department called Motivation & Morale, whose personnel operate more like soulless public relations flacks than career military.
I interviewed some of the people behind Army@Love for Publishers Weekly. You can read the article here.
Graham Greene leans like a Delphic shadow over the imagery-packed pages of Denis Johnson’s towering and mystifying new novel, Tree of Smoke, as it seems necessary for most any Vietnam-centric novel to be worth the paper it’s printed on. But Johnson is no obvious worshipper of the old master. He’s intent instead on creating his own hopped-up mix of jungle-rot, soiled idealism, and downbeat sewer talk. Greene is present over and around these pages, not in them, his Quiet American a reference point for all the Americans and Vietnamese who themselves are playing out the tragedy which that book so presciently outlined. The language, the characters, the hop-skip-and-a-jump narrative, the slightly sun-dazzled weight of it all is entirely Johnson’s.
You can read the full review at PopMatters.