Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To sir with lust

A killer cast and a Nick Hornby credit lifts this Pygmalion-y twist

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

It’s the early 1960s, and bright, beautiful Jenny (Mulligan) is so far ahead of her peers in both smarts and savvy there’s little doubt she’ll be on the forefront of the budding feminist movement. Along comes older Jaguar-driving David (Peter Sarsgaard), who gently sweeps the 16-year-old off her feet and introduces her to a world of continental delights and boho grooviness. Her parents (including the magnificently baffled Alfred Molina) are similarly seduced by David’s charisma and culture, thwarting all expectations of sexual propriety. Romance blooms, grades slip, and soon the promise of an Oxford education is in jeopardy. Plus there are hints that David isn’t quite Prince Charming. And, of course, he isn’t.

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Blowed 'em up good!

Implausible, nihilistic and preachy, this year’s blockbuster catastrophe flick is a total disaster

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Overlong, overwrought and underthought, 2012’s a plodding muddle of vacant stereotypes pointlessly clanging to a noisy, exhausting carnival ride of destruction. Random solar flares radiate pesky neutrinos that magically work like microwaves that superheat the planet’s core, leading to “earth’s crust displacement.” That’s a bad thing. The defacto lead is John Cusack, as a struggling novelist turned chauffeur, still carrying a torch for his ex-wife played by bad-movie poster girl Amanda Peet. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the earnest scientist nobody listens to, and Oliver Platt is the scheming politician with a secret plot to keep the world’s elite safe in huge arks. Danny Glover, looking way too old for this shit, plays the shell-shocked president. (And why is it that black presidents get the short end of the catastrophe movie stick, as did Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact?) One bright spot is Woody Harreslon, appropriately cast as a wild-eyed, raving conspiracy theorist radio host who’s oddly delighted to be proven right. A dumb and soulless exercise in CGI dick-waving.

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Rock the boat, baby

Phillip Seymour Hoffman shows us how to remember rock ’n’ roll radio

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

In the 1960s, unlike in the freewheeling USA where DJs were kings, the stodgy BBC in England controlled the airwaves, and said “no way” to the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, etc. In defiance, radio pirates rose, often broadcasting from ships anchored just off the British coast, and just beyond the reach of the law. These rock ’n’ roll rebels are personified here as a jovial bunch of hedonistic preachers, gleefully spreading the rock ’n’ roll gospel to anyone in earshot of their converted World War II-era minesweeper. Turns out a hell of a lot of ears tuned in and turned on, turning the jocks into underground icons, none bigger than “The Count” (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a leather-jacketed prophet on a mission to cut through red-tape bullshit and let the good times roll — at max volume. The other DJs include such funnyman character actors Nick Frost and Rhys Darby, and their groovy boss Bill Nighy, in full-on mellow mode. Kenneth Branagh is the starched-shirted, mustache-twirling bureaucrat charged with taking these punks down, and he relishes every nanosecond of it.

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Gentlemen Broncos

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

In some dumpy Western town, a milquetoast teen named Benji Purvis (Michael Angarano) spends his time scribbling a notebook tome called “Yeast Lords,” an overheated Freudian adolescent fantasia about hyper-macho killer stags and scarf-wearing Cyclops warriors who have stolen his gonads. His story (and an entrance fee) earns him a trip to a writer’s workshop, where he meets his idol, Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), a pretentious and phony sci-fi novelist. When the novelist steals Benji's idea, even as Benji has sold the idea to a no-budget film crew, complications ensue.

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American Harmony

Go inside the heady, competitive world of … barbershop quartets

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Who knew tens of thousands of fans attend barbershop quartet competitions every year? And that so many take it so seriously? Aengus James’ highly entertaining American Harmony captures the personalities and performances of its a cappella competitors. He does a fine job taking you inside the preparations, anxieties and strategies of the competitors. Unfortunately, he skimps on content and context. Those quibbles aside, American Harmony is 90 very engaging minutes, filled with soaring harmonies and lively subjects who win us over with their enthusiasm and camaraderie.

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The Messenger

Silent war casualties left behind on the home front

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Oren Moverman’s quiet, neo-realistic The Messenger is the story of decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) who returns to the United States after rehabilitation and is assigned to the Army’s Combat Notification Unit. Paired with seasoned pro, Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), Will must notify family next-of-kin that their enlisted loved ones have been killed in the line of duty. It’s miserable, heartbreaking work that tests and inevitably bonds the temperamentally incompatible officers. Moverman’s humanist portrait of the enduring damage wrought by conflict is so patiently and sensitively constructed that it’s jolting when the film sometimes derails into artifice.

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Crude

Killer doc exposes Texaco/Chevron’s ugly role in polluting Ecuador

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Crude chronicles the compelling saga of a nearly two-decade-long legal struggle between oil conglomerate Texaco/Chevron and the people of Ecuador. After 30 years of operations in the Amazon, the petroleum giant denies any role in the massive contamination that has disrupted the area’s ecosystem and devastated the local population. And it's amazingly level-headed, taking a fairly nuanced, thoughtful look at a story that could be easily exploited for sentimental value.

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Bronson

Fans of fist-to-face violence will dig this

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

“Britain’s most violent prisoner” Michael Peterson (renamed Charles Bronson) is the subject here. Writer-director Nicolas Refn pulls out every trick, gimmick and pantomime he can think of. From soliloquies delivered in clown makeup to a violent naked brawl set against classical music, to a gleeful dance with the mentally ill, his portrait of this jolly madman is played as a violent vaudeville. Too bad Refn’s approach is so relentlessly shallow that it flatlines the drama and renders his bullet-headed brute a nihilistic cartoon.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

CAID NEEDS A CURATOR, TAKE A SHOT AT IT

Posted on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 10:36 AM

We got word this morning that the Contemporary Art Institue of Detroit will be holding a curator’s exhibition at its Ladybug Gallery in South-West Detroit on December18. Curators who participate will be considered to curate a larger exhibition at a later date based on their prototype exhibition displayed on the...

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City Bird spreads its wings

Posted By and on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 9:05 AM

For the last four years, brother-and-sister team Andy and Emily Linn have been marketing Detroit-themed odds and ends under the City Bird name. Anybody who has seen their colorful soaps or plates or glasses emblazoned with a classic Detroit map (sans freeways, natch) knows the disarming appeal of their various...

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