In Books


There’s always another sucker. It’s a truth that was just as real back in the Great Depression as it is today in the post-Bernie Madoff present. Frank Partnoy’s
The Match King, about 1920s financial scam-artist Ivar Kreuger, pictured above—which should be required reading for every financial whiz or businessman who claims to be performing due diligence on a too-good-to-be-true investment opportunity—is not just a proof of that truism but a painfully captivating account of just how easily those suckers are found and fleeced by the Madoffs of the world…

The Match King is in stores now and well worth picking up. You can read the rest of the piece at Short Ends & Leader.

In Theaters


Are we just counting the days until the announcement comes that Mad Max IV is on again, only now with Christian Bale replacing Mel Gibson as the burned-out wanderer of the endtimes? The casual and authoritative ease with which Bale (already the new face of Batman) slips into the warrior skin of Terminator Salvation‘s John Connor clues you in to the fact that he’s the new millennium’s action-hero everyman…

Terminator Salvation opens everywhere on Friday, apocalypse be damned. You can read the full review at Short Ends and Leader.

In Theaters


A perfectly swell caper film that ultimately can’t sustain the propelling giddiness of its first hour, The Brothers Bloom burns bright with brilliance before sputtering out in the end. In a case of extreme overreach, writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick) sets out to make a magical-realist brother-buddy screwball romantic comedy heist film, and actually comes close to making it all work. Given the cock-eyed neo-noir linguistic mania of his first film, Johnson seems to be just the right kind of blooming genius to pull off this kind of over-ambitious cinematic caper, but in the end he just sets himself an impossible task…

The Brothers Bloom opens in theaters today and is worth seeking out, even if just barely. The full review is at filmcritic.com.

In Theaters


Just minutes into J.J. Abrams’
Star Trek, it’s clear that this is going to be a dramatically different creature. As James T. Kirk’s mother screams in the pains of labor while onboard a shuttle hurtling away from a doomed Starfleet vessel that his father is piloting on a kamikaze mission toward a menacing Romulan ship (sacrificing himself to save the hundreds of crew on those shuttles), it seems less like something out of Next Generation than a flash-forward scene from Lost. Not surprisingly, Kirk (Chris Pine, who assumes the character’s egomaniacal mantle with shocking ease) grows up to be a danger-seeking punk with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Enterprise, and a dueling interior drive to either ignore or somehow surpass his father’s towering legacy…

Star Trek opened everywhere today. See it soon, maybe twice. You can read the shortish review at Short Ends and Leader.

In Movies


The Tribeca Film Festival still seems unformed. And for the most part, that’s good. Founded in 2002, it’s not old enough yet to take on the identifying quirks of its bigger and older competitors, like Cannes, Berlin, Toronto or even Sundance. The Festival has been refining its lineup, paring it down from year to year until it stands at a manageable 85 features from 36 countries, almost half what it was a couple of years back. At that size, this year’s Tribeca—which ran 22 April to 3 May—increased the quality quotient, cutting the number of embarrassing failures that once studded the schedule like a minefield. The venues now are also pared down: if most are still not in Tribeca per se, they’re at least clustered closer to downtown than other installments, which had ticketholders running all the way to the Upper West Side.

Some things never change, of course, such as the beside-the-point opening and closing night films—Woody Allen’s Whatever Works and Donald Petrie’s My Life in Ruins—and a predilection for sports films (which cynics could be tempted to regard as a naked ploy for ESPN sponsorship) and issue documentaries. The result is a solidly enjoyable and well-run experience, offering a few near misses and at least a couple outright gems.

My full coverage of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival is available at PopMatters.

New on DVD


Like some half-thought-out Japanese gutter-trash take on one of Celine’s midnight-express rides to hell, Masashi Yamamoto’s
Carnival in the Night is a wallow in an urban hell that spins well out of control more times than should be legal in a feature film. It gathers up the excessive bile of its punk ethos and spits it right in the viewer’s face, but the effect is more likely to be bemusement (the occasional giggle, perhaps) than the desired shock and awe. Still, it’s something to behold, when all is said and done, a sociopathic spasming that goes further in plumbing the debilitated core of go-go capitalist Japan than most comparable Western underground filmmakers tend to dare. But, then, it was the ‘80s…

Carnival in the Night is now available at finer video stores everywhere. You can read the full review at PopMatters.