Monday, June 29, 2009

As the world tweets

Posted on Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 12:00 PM

To those not paying attention to world news in the days leading up to the Iranian election, it appeared as if nothing was wrong, especially in the social-networking world. Twitter’s trending topics included Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon, the iPhone and PETA. We all went to bed, only to...

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monster mash-up

Japan's leading comedian makes his grab for the Beta Capsule

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Ultra-deadpan and fitfully funny, co-writer, director and star Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Big Man Japan is the ultimate midnight movie, a wonderfully weird mockumentary that pays homage to the cheesy superhero vs. monster movies that dominated Japanese cinema during the 1960s and ’70s. The movie starts as a straight-faced doc following a long-haired, sad-sack loser named Masaru (Matsumoto), who lives in a cluttered house with a sign over the door that reads “Department of Monster Protection.” Then Masaru gets an important phone call and suddenly we’re following him on his scooter to the local power plant where jumper cables are clipped to nipples, jolting him with massive amounts of electricity, turning him into 70-foot-tall Big Man Japan, a hero who battles the ridiculous monsters that regularly attack Tokyo. The only problem is that the public has soured on Big Man Japan, sending his ratings into the toilet. To make matters worse, Masaru’s personal life is a wreck. Bouncing between investigative documentary footage and silly, CGI fight sequences, Big Man Japan earns most of its laughs via a rogues gallery of wacked-out foes, sporting names like Squeezy Baddy, Jumpy Baddy and Smelly Baddy.

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The Stoning of Soraya M.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The Stoning of Soraya M. is set in rural post-revolution Iran, in the grip of Islamic Sharia law. A woman accused of adultery must prove her innocence, and the penalty is death. A dutiful mother of six, the bright and resilient Soraya (Mohzan Marno) is deemed an “inconvenient wife” by her vain husband, who wishes to marry a younger, prettier woman from the next village over, but can’t wait for a divorce. So he conspires with the town elders and a phalanx of cronies to back his baseless claims of infidelity between Soraya and the gentle widower she cooks and cleans for. Slowly the walls close in around her, and everyone in Soraya’s life turns their backs on her, except for her brave, headstrong Aunt Zahra (the amazing Shoreh Aghdasloo), who fiercely battles to stop the outrage. As powerful as the film is, it occasionally feels like an unbalanced polemic in search of drama. Yet it’s hard to ignore that this 8th century barbarism took place in 1986, and there is evidence that similar atrocities continue in some parts of the Muslim world.

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Guilt trip

Rom-com road-trip is the season's prime guilty pleasure

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The Proposal is a crisp and effective exercise in rom-com construction, sticking unfailingly to the blueprint down to the last rivet. Sandra Bullock stars as the sort of ruthless, no-prisoners ice queen that, according to Hollywood, the publishing industry is wholly comprised of. The snag in her pantyhose is a visa violation on a business trip that means she’ll soon be deported back to Canada, so she instantly enlists her long-suffering assistant (Ryan Reynolds), and he caves, on the condition that she “stop eating babies as they dream.” The pretend-happy couple then zips off to Alaska for his grandma’s 90 birthday party, where they need to put on a unified cuddle front or risk being busted by the feds. Despite being a good 20 minutes too long, it's the cinematic equivalent of a Snickers bar: gooey sweet and guiltily satisfying.

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Year One

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Jack Black and red-hot millennial Michael Cera play slacker cavemen who take a comedic stroll through biblical times after being banished from their hunter-gatherer tribe. Along the way this Cro-Magnon Abbott and Costello meet a galaxy of Old Testament stars, including a two-faced Cain (David Cross) and his quickly dispatched brother Abel (a wasted Paul Rudd), a circumcision-happy Abraham (Hank Azaria) and his punk-ass son Issac (Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse), as well as a whole city full of Sodomites (in the city of Sodom, natch). Director Harold Ramis knows a thing or two about comedy but seems, like much of his cast, to be on cruise control here.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ménage à Tweet

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 4:25 PM

With Facebook, Skype, Youtube, BlogSpot/WordPress and now Twitter, the world is experiencing the most rapid, significant technological shift in post-millennium modern culture. High school and college students, businessmen and women, politicians, Hollywood starts and local poets are in constant tête-à-tête with Twitter. Some criticize it as an electronic consortium for...

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Friday, June 19, 2009

RUNWAY A LA VINTAGE

Posted on Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 11:11 AM

by Sara Axelrod Shopping sprees may not be an option right now — that’s just time and money we don’t have. Still, we’ll subject ourselves to a buying Bazaar to peek at the latest trends and essential pieces for fall. We melted at the hot Fall 2009 runway. Jean...

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DAM GARDENS!

Posted on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 2:08 PM

Can you picture one of those immaculately unkempt gardens you see illustrated in children's books, the ones wrought with twisted branches and serpentine vines? They remind me of the minds of some artists I know — beautiful, dense and tangled. Navigating their headspace requires interpreting their art — but...

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Underground classic

Tony Scott's thriller goes off the rails

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Tony Scott’s whipping, zooming, totally unnecessary remake brings a spastic ADD approach to what is, at its heart, an over-the-radio radio showdown between John Travolta’s frothing villain and Denzel Washington’s decent but ethically compromised MTA desk jockey. You see, Travolta seizes a subway car and demands $10 million from the city of New York. Washington is the unfortunate schmoe who answers his ransom call. An hour of stalling maneuvers and colorful monologues later, Pelham launches into standard action-movie territory as we learn how the robbers intend to escape from the subway tunnels with their ill-gotten gain. What starts as a taut war of wits between the two charismatic actors ends up exploding into a moronic and clichéd final act filled with car crashes, generic gun duels and a climax that fizzles instead of pops. There’s no getting around the fact Tony Scott’s the wrong director for this, as he desperately fills the screen with his usual bag of visual tricks: freeze frames, fancy angles, fast edits and speed shifts.

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Don't imagine

Why Eddie Murphy is so awful

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Here, Eddie Murphy is Evan, an ambitious investment broker who’s got no time for his cute little moppet of a daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi), until the imaginary friends under her security blanket begin to offer up amazingly accurate stock tips. This is just the edge he needs to finally beat out his competition inside the firm, Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church), a blowhard who mixes big doses of phony new age shamanism with his portfolio creations. It’s an arms race of crazy financial gimmicks, but will Evan’s success replace all the respect he’s lost from his child and from his ex-wife, (Nicole Ari Parker, who looks like the love child of Halle Berry and Kristen Wiig)? If you’ve never seen a movie before, you may be in suspense.

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