Quite a good portion of Claude Chabrol’s tasty cocktail of romance and jealousy, A Girl Cut in Two, has gone by before you realize that, in essence, nothing much of consequence has happened. This is not a bad thing, and is more a testament to Chabrol’s talent behind the camera that he’s able to keep his film engaging well past the point that it should have any real right to be. It gives the film a certain drifting quality, even if one knows that something more momentous is waiting in the wings.
A Girl Cut in Two is in limited release now. Read the full review at filmcritic.com.
At some point in the future, the story of how the United States government, in a paroxysm of panic and paranoia following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, turned rogue like out-of-control authoritarians from a bad thriller, will become as well-trod an anecdote as the Cuban Missile Crisis or Watergate. Even now, with the broad outlines of the narrative well established, new bits of the puzzle continue to be slotted in. But even though the story is still one in flux, there is certainly a need for a general purpose retelling of it that incorporates all the facts and suppositions that can be made now. While it won’t go down in history as one of the more thrilling reads to come out of this scandal, Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side is an excellent book to occupy that position for now.
The Dark Side is on sale now, and doing respectably well on the bestseller charts. You can read the full review at PopMatters.
New on DVD
All good things come to an end. Everyone knows that cliché is true, or at least nods knowingly when it’s invoked. That doesn’t make it necessarily any easier to deal with that conclusion when it comes around, though. In the same sense, everyone knows it’s better for TV series to close up before things take a turn for the worse, when the desire for more seasons eclipses the need for those seasons. This doesn’t mean, though, when a series that could be the single best piece of televised drama ever broadcast decides it’s time to close up shop, that one wants to see it go. It’s a great thing to go out on top, a beautiful thing. But knowing that fact doesn’t quell the petulant little inner voice that is shouting, “What’s going to happen to Bubbles? What happens next?“
The Wire: Season Five is out on DVD now and should be rented. Soon. Read the full review at PopMatters.
For something that was supposedly 11 years in the making, most audiences are going to want a little more out of a film than Steven Sebring’s cozy little home movie Patti Smith: Dream of Life is able to deliver. Sebring, a commercial photographer, is clearly rapturously in love with Smith; it’s an understandable fault. This is a film fully entranced by Smith the icon, Smith the poet, Smith the rocker, Smith the inveterate scenester who seemingly embodies in her lank little-boy frame all the dark secrets and passions of the New York art scene as it was transitioning from mellow, folky strumming to electric CBGB fury. In Sebring’s worshipful hands, Smith is truly transformed into an icon, but an icon of style, not of substance.
Patti Smith: Dream of Life is in limited release now. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.
As 2008’s sultry midpoint has come and gone, the looming tower of incoming books and comics often begins to attain critical mass. Perhaps it’s the approach of the holiday season that spurs the increase, or maybe it’s nothing more than the recalcitrant procrastination of the receiving writer. Unfortunately, these books aren’t going to review themselves, though hopefully such plans are in the works at Amazon’s R&D department. One can dream.
Whatever the truth may be, the year has so far been an impressive one for graphic novels, whether they’re of the brooding caped superhero type or your standard-issue shoe-gazer indie introspective. The sheer number seems to grow from year to year, but so too does the quality increase, with a respectable stream of praiseworthy work coming out of a number of the smaller houses, who haven’t let the major publishers’ forays into the field crimp their style. And so, on to looking at what’s worth reading, graphic novel-speaking, before fall comes calling…
The remainder of the article, covering new graphic novels like Nate Powell’s creepy Swallow Me Whole and Yoshiro Tatsumi’s excellent Good-Bye, can be read at PopMatters.
Cute where it should be savage, writer-director Rodger Grossman’s take on the rise and fall of early American punk legend Darby Crash has great respect for the troubled artist, and it’s that respect which kills the movie’s chances for greatness. Like many films where the point of view is a tricky creature from the start, What We Do Is Secret uses a faux-documentary approach for much of the film. This allows Grossman’s star to wax grandiloquent in interviews and the rest of the cast to directly deliver their exposition—this in lieu of carefully crafting plot and characters through fictionalized drama. While this directness means the film doesn’t drag, it also keeps the characters at arm’s length. Given Crash’s propensity for direct confrontation, Grossman’s approach doesn’t do his subject any favors.
What We Do Is Secret is now in limited release, for better or worse. The full review is at Film Journal International.
Some years ago, it may have seemed the kiss of death to cast Ben Kingsley in a film based on a Philip Roth novel. Fortunately, in Isabel Coixet’s Elegy—a just-tasteful-enough version of Roth’s The Dying Animal—we are seeing Kingsley in his more liberated later period, an actor of impeccable manner who can downshift into the basest emotions without skipping a beat. Without him, this perfectly competent film might have lapsed into indolent literary respectability, something the world could well do without.
Elegy opens in limited release today. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.
Yet another summertime widget of gleeful obscenity and disarming male vulnerability to come out of the Judd Apatow comedy factory — Apatow had the original idea, while Superbad‘s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the script — Pineapple Express comes with high expectations, not all of which are dashed. While much of Apatow’s previous work has focused on the perils of sex or the camaraderie of social outcasts, this film comes with more of a standard-issue plot that harkens back, mostly in unfortunate ways, to the action-comedy hybrids that ruled the multiplex back in the 1980s.
Pineapple Express opens today. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.