After all the rumors and innuendos about the various now-defunct shows of HBO’s Golden Age—you know, the ones that ruined us for the increasingly decrepit art of cinema—being turned into theatrical fare, the film of Sex and the City is finally upon us, and its success (or lack thereof) could well determine whether or not we will see the continuing multiplex adventures of Tony Soprano, Al Swearengen, and Jimmy McNulty. Obviously there is no single template that HBO would have to follow for film versions of any of these shows, but if such a thing did in fact happen, there are worse models they could follow than Sex and the City. In his wrapup to the half-hour groundbreaker of a sitcom that began on HBO a full ten years ago, writer/director Michael Patrick King takes about two or three season finales’ worth of tears and OMG jawdroppers and whacks them together into a big, sloppy, gooey sundae of a film that is, for better or for worse, just like the show … only longer ….
Sex and the City opens tomorrow around the universe. The rest of the above posting is viewable at PopMatters.
Christopher Bell’s personable documentary about steroids, Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, benefits greatly from his family-centric approach to the subject, without which it might have remained just another narrow-cast film trying to chip off a handful of converts from mainstream wisdom. Starting with his childhood reminiscences about heroes like Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan (the first scenes are actually from a 1984 match in which Hogan “defeated” that Iranian terror, the Iron Sheik), Bell first tracks his obsession with strength and size, before focusing on the nation’s cult of unattainable perfection and coming up with some unexpected insights.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster* has played a few festivals and is in release right now. If there’s any justice, it deserves year-end award consideration, for sparking debate if nothing else. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.
If there was any doubt that music feeds the soul, it has been put to rest by Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi’s frustrating but nearly impossible to forget Heavy Metal in Baghdad. If popular perceptions are to be believed, then every Iraqi citizen would be a worshipful Muslim who hates all pop culture (particularly anything emanating from America) with a fervent zeal. Not so the Metallica-loving lads of Acrassicauda, the heavy-metal quartet from Baghdad portrayed with true concern and understanding in a documentary that succeeds (almost in spite of its filmmakers) in illustrating the necessity of art in even the worst situations.
Heavy Metal in Baghdad played at the 2008 Berlinale Film Festival, and is now having a brief theatrical run before hitting DVD on June 10. Read the full review at filmcritic.com.
New on DVD
Just because a DVD set release just so happens to be primed to the release of the next installment in the series of films contained in said set, doesn’t mean that it’s not a perfectly fine idea: occasionally commerce can actually work towards the consumer’s advantage. Case in point being Paramount’s release of Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection, timed to the blowout opening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. On the one hand, this is another example of the Lucas-ian entertainment complex squeezing yet more eggs out of the golden goose, as all three of the films have been available together on DVD since 2003, and still look and sound great. But on the other hand, it’s an admirable show of restraint—particularly given Lucas’ Star Wars record as an incessant tinkerer—that the films are presented here the same as when they were in theaters. Ultimately what it comes down to is the fact that these are films that should be owned, and now is as good a time as any.
Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection has been in stores for a couple weeks now — what exactly are you waiting for? The full review is available at PopMatters.
New on DVD
There are bad choices made by characters in films that infuriate the audience, as nobody can understand why the people on screen would have any reason to do what they are doing. There are also bad choices made by characters which can be instantly understood, as they’re the kind of unintelligent behavior which pretty much all those watching can understand doing themselves, given the situation. And since the lamentable choice made by Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) early on in Grace is Gone comes not long after he has discovered that his wife has been killed while serving in Iraq, it would be the rare viewer who wouldn’t understand at least some part of why he did it.
Grace is Gone comes out next week on DVD. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
Even for a preview audience, jazzed on free popcorn and the chance to catch a summer blockbuster days early, the waves of cheering and the palpable sense of sheer jubilation that went up from the crowd once the mountain in its Paramount logo did its dissolve (this time to the lowly dirt-mound home of a prairie dog) at the start of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was something to behold. It wasn’t quite the roar that one would have expected from those keyed-up to see a new Star Wars flick, but it was certainly a more intense outpouring of anticipation than one sees at such box-office-stoking events. There was something else going on there besides the return of a beloved film icon whom many of us had first seen before even exiting grammar school. Maybe they actually don’t make ‘em like they used to.
At some point while readers are perusing his The Complex, Tomdispatch.com associate editor Nick Turse appears to want readers to put the book down and breathe out a quiet, awed, “Whoa”. The idea seems to be that readers will have had no idea, none, about the extent to which the military has thrust, crawled, and seeped into practically every aspect of our society over the past few decades. The result would then apparently be something like the moment in The Matrix—that all-purpose touchstone of the 9/11 Generation when it wants to convey the naiveté of humanity—when Neo realizes that everything around him is controlled by sinister and all-powerful forces. There is no moment like that in The Complex, though it’s certainly not for a lack of evidence.
The Complex is available for sale at finer literary outlets everywhere. You can read the full review at PopMatters.com.
After two weeks or so of cinematic frenzy, the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival is finally over. Smaller than previous years and a touch more focused, it was still a festival in search of an identity or a reason — except for being the only major wide-interest festival in a film-mad city choked with more specific smaller fests. There were great documentaries, some mediocre domestic narrative features, and a few great foreign films, even though most of the latter were just pickups from Berlinale a couple months back.
You can read a summation of the fest’s highlights at filmcritic.com, where myself, Chris Cabin and Paul Brenner provide a pithy examination of what you missed, and what was worth missing, not to mention queries as to why exactly the festival included something like Speed Racer…
New on DVD
In the 1949 musical On the Town, you’ll find a lot of things that might seem familiar from other musicals – big set pieces and a whimsical, can-do attitude – but at least one or two that will seem completely foreign. Top of the list: Frank Sinatra himself playing a detail-oriented nerd of a guy more interested in seeing the sights than he is scoring with a big-city dame. Also up there: the women in the film are much brassier than just about any actresses you’d see on screen these days, but more on that later.
On the Town is available as part of Warner’s new Sinatra and Kelly boxed set. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
New on DVD
Discussing the BBC series Planet Earth without resorting to some form of hyperbole is a fairly impossible task. To do anything less would seem to diminish somehow the true scope of its overwhelming achievement. But to oversell it also seems to be a disservice as this is at heart another nature documentary, albeit one of singular beauty. The best description necessitates the borrowing of a phrase from Douglas Adams. Planet Earth could be, when all is said and done, nothing less than the last chance to see the wonders of the natural world (animal, vegetable, and mineral) before they are irrevocably changed or gone.
Planet Earth is for sale as a 5-disc DVD set by itself or as part of the quite remarkable BBC Natural History Collection. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.