In Books:
How I Became a Famous Novelist

Pete Tarslaw, the desperately hopeless protagonist of Steve Hely’s bracingly funny debut novel, takes his own sweet time figuring out how to actually do what the title of the book announces. We’re about 50 pages into How I Became a Famous Novelist before Tarslaw gets around to cracking the task at hand. In short, he Googles some stuff and wanders around a chain bookstore before creating a list of rules (“Rule 1. Abandon truth.” “Rule 2. Write a popular book. Do not waste energy making it a good book.” “Rule 6. Evoke confusing sadness at the end”) that will help carry him through…

How I Became a Famous Novelist is in stores now. Buy it and laugh. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

In Theaters:
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men


Just about as abstruse in conception as his infamous gargantuan novel
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men features a string of literate, unrelenting, and often savagely honest monologues by (frequently disturbed) men identified only by number, speaking to some unnamed interlocutor located somewhere behind the reader’s eyes. Its verve and wordplay make for dazzling reading, but it’s all set at a critical emotional remove, as though written with gloves on. As source material for a film, it would seem sheer death…

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men opens today in limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.

In Theaters:
Paris


Dancers, immigrants, attitudinal intellectuals, models, harassed bureaucrats, brawling market workers, and snippy shopkeepers make up the patchwork of characters whose lives gloriously sprawl through the neatly orchestrated tragicomedy of Cédric Klapisch’s Paris. Instead of contemplating the whorls of Gauloise smoke hanging between their eyes and a rain-dappled window in one of the fancier arrondissements, as proper cinematic Parisians should, writer/director Klapisch’s characters rail, pout, and flail at the strictures of their lives. Some are in love, some are dying, and others are just floundering in frustration, but almost every one of them is straining for something better. What with all the fatal accidents, deadly diseases, bar fights, and virtual stalking going on, this could almost be an American film…

Paris opens in limited release tomorrow. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.

In Books:
The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard


In J.G. Ballard’s stories, the world is always ending. No surprise, given that the late author (who died this past April at the age of 78) spent several years as a boy in a Japanese prison camp outside Shanghai…

The long-needed Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard is in stores now. You can read my full article about it at The Barnes & Noble Review.

In Theaters:
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers


After seeing Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s earnest, smart documentary about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers controversy, viewers not old enough when it unfolded might wonder why the story has played such a minor role in popular histories of the era. This informative account deserves more than the very limited theatrical release it’s likely to get…

The Most Dangerous Man in America opens tomorrow. You can read the full review at The Hollywood Reporter.

In Theaters:

Crude

The story behind Crude, Joe Berlinger’s documentary about the fight to bring an oil company to justice, is unfortunately a pretty simple one: corporation pollutes, people die, corporation refuses to take responsibility. What lies behind this formulation is infinitely more complex, of course, but Berlinger’s film never loses sight of that awful calculus…

Crude is in limited release now. Try and seek it out now before the Chevron lawyers get to it. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.

In Theaters:
It Might Get Loud


There are many things to like about Davis Guggenheim’s nifty documentary on the electric guitar, It Might Get Loud. Sketched up in an engagingly loose fashion, it tosses three music legends of different eras and genres—Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White—together onto a stage in a vast warehouse and gets them to talk about guitars. And if they decide to jam together, so much the better…

It Might Get Loud
is playing now in limited release. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

On the Tube:
Glee


It’s hard to imagine that television in the year 2009 will bring us any greater joy than the high school glee club performance of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” in the pilot episode of Glee, first broadcast in May. A showstopper in every sense of the word, the number is choreographed with blitzkrieg cheerfulness and adds a huge and soulful backing chorus to the original’s Motown revival sound. The kicker is that it is performed by the rivals of the show’s underdog stars. The members of the show’s titular glee club are left sitting in the audience, jaws agape, realizing exactly how much work they had to do…

Glee shows on Fox most Wednesdays through the fall — until the network kills it, as they almost inevitably will. You can read the full review of the first few episodes at PopMatters.

In Theaters:
9


Preceded by an obnoxious ad campaign (with generic hard-rawk squeal on the soundtrack, and the promise that this is “not your little brother’s animated movie”), Shane Acker’s
9 comes to theaters with several strikes against. Its big-name mentor-producers (Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov) have made a specialty of empty spectacles and writer Pamela Pettler is a trafficker in Clueless episodes and the decidedly under-plotted Corpse Bride. The film itself is a grey and grim thrill ride packed full of kiddie morality lessons and creepy frightenings, as though Steven Spielberg had induced the Brothers Quay to create a summer blockbuster…

9 is in semi-wide release now. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

In Theaters:
The September Issue


Hitting theaters near the one-year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers meltdown, R.J. Cutler’s
Vogue documentary The September Issue could seem to be quite poorly timed. Recent narratives like Confessions of a Shopaholic, Ugly Betty, or The Devil Wears Prada — the latter a poison-pen jab at Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour — sweated hard to keep alive the idea of Manhattan’s magazine world as some couture Disneyland. But Cutler’s film makes it clear that while high fashion might be a fun place to work (sometimes), it’s still a workplace, and one that can be just as tedious as any other...

The September Issue is in theaters now. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.