Friday, February 26, 2010

Fighter pilot and the monk

Posted on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Did you hear the one about the fighter pilot and the monk? If that sounds like the beginning of a joke, think again! We just got an announcement for a speaking engagement featuring those unlikely bedfellows. In this case, it’s a talk about staying fearless in a tough economy, featuring...

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blood Done Sign My Name

Earnest, racially charged story suffers from its own patience

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Set in an early ’70s North Carolina town so bucolic you can almost taste the peach cobbler, the film, based on Timothy Tyson’s memoir, very patiently unfurls a yarn about the true-life murder of a young black Vietnam vet, a senseless act of violence that sets long, simmering tensions to full boil. White liberal Methodist pastor Vernon Tyson (Rick Schroder) and young African-American schoolteacher Ben Chavis (Nate Parker) share star billing, with Parker playing a future NAACP leader whose political awakening is just beginning. Their sleepy town is still living under de facto Jim Crow, where blacks can’t find jobs downtown, or even get the city council to reinstall the basketball hoops in the public parks. The community’s frustration becomes outrage when Ben’s cousin is beaten and shot by a bigoted shopkeeper and his sons, allegedly for insulting a white woman, and the trial becomes a circus. Chavis responds by organizing a march on the state capital, but others demand stronger action.

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Requiem for a nuthouse

DiCaprio and Scorsese ace this beautifully wrought psychodrama

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Haunted by the death of his wife (Michelle Williams), U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes a case on isolated Shutter Island, home to the Ashecliffe hospital for the criminally insane. Teamed with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), he’s in pursuit of an escaped psychopath (Emily Mortimer), but clues suggest the asylum’s top docs (Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow) may be hiding dark secrets. Suddenly, Teddy begins to suffer from debilitating migraines and disturbing hallucinations. The visions are connected to the atrocities he witnessed during World War II (the film takes place in 1954), when his platoon liberated the Nazi work camp Dachau. Images of slain children and conversations with his dead wife induce fevered paranoia. Worse, a hurricane strikes, sealing off the island from the outside world. Soon, Teddy is uncovering an elaborate conspiracy that involves HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee), ex-Nazis, psychotropic drugs and sinister psychological experiments. From start to finish, Shutter Island is a Hollywood product, boasting impeccable craft, scenery-chewing performances, cheap thrills and a sly understated wit. The tone is set in its first moments; the melodramatic score swells and blares with mystery and import. Slowly — almost too slowly — Scorsese immerses you in the island’s period trappings and creepy locales, creating a claustrophobic labyrinth for the looming mind games. There are long Hitchcockian tracking shots, detectives in fedoras, a King Lear-sized storm and ghostly inmates with mysterious wounds. For those paying attention, the sinister supporting cast is filled with a rogue’s gallery of unnerving actors. John Carroll Lynch (Zodiac), Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs), Emily Mortimer, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson and, especially, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) revel in their unstable characters.

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The White Ribbon

Michael Haneke’s cinematic intellectualism is an exercise in tedium

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Austrian director Michael Haneke's film is shot in austere, soft-focus black-and-white that recalls the work of Carl Dreyer and invokes its eve of World War I period setting. Haneke trains his chilly gaze on Eichwald, a small, still-feudal village in northern Germany. The village doctor is badly injured after his horse is tripped up by a wire strung between poles, a cold-hearted pastor lashes his son’s arms to the bed to keep him from masturbating, a poor woman falls through rotten floorboards to her death, the local baron’s son is strung up and beaten, and on and on. Unexplained accidents, petty acts of revenge, secret sins and mysterious crimes breed a culture of low-level paranoia. And as you might expect, the children are affected in unexpected ways, roaming through their community like the possessed tots in Village of the Damned (a comparison I’m sure others will make). Cruelty begets cruelty, the director suggests, and malice is a virus that becomes amplified with each generation.

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Deep listening

From Little Rock to CBGB's and Morocco with Robert Palmer

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The thrill of an anthology of the late Robert Palmer's work is a far cry from the years-ago thrill of watching for his byline, wondering what he was up to — or out to lunch with — now. When he wrote about something you were already onto, he was likely...

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Hardy boy

The gritty life of a real strongman and all the attendant damage

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

If showbiz is tough at the top, it’s sheer agony at the bottom, a shadow realm explored in this doc, a probing, often maddening slice of gritty vérité. The subject is a tormented dime-store Hercules named Stanley Pleskun, who performs uncanny feats of strength under the stage name “Stanless Steel.” Though he can lift three people with one finger, bend pennies and leg-press trucks, Stan’s a piece of human wreckage, a shambling hulk of middle-aged muscle, every bit as twisted and mangled as the steel bars he deforms with his mighty paws. Stan ekes out a living hauling scrap, between demeaning gigs doing stunts at gymnasiums, school parking lots and kids’ birthday parties. Fame eludes him, though he lands the occasional plum job, like a spot on a British TV show, his alleged “act,” or lack of one, leaves him one step beyond carnival sideshow. His strength is legit, and his displays of power are impressive, but he’s got no sizzle to go with that steak, and no earthly clue how to market himself. He employs his beleaguered wife Barbara as a barker, but her cigarette-ruined wheeze is a long way off from Michael Buffer.

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White Lightnin’

Classic indie doc gets the indie feature treatment

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The shot-on-video documentary short "Dancing Outlaw" allowed Jesco White, of Boone County, W.Va., to tell his “real people” story of juvenile delinquency, gas huffing and redemption. White’s triumph over adversity came through channeling his energy into the Appalachian folk form of mountain dancing, an art he learned from his father. Now comes the movie “Inspired by the life of Jesco White.” But first-time director Dominic Murphy and first-time screenwriters Eddy Moretti and Shane Smith take White’s story to a much darker place. This disturbing film, filled with mood swings and violent, explicit revenge fantasies, shows a Jesco White that walks the line between the mountain-dancing straight and narrow, and the evils of substance abuse and vengeance obsessions. As the substance-inhaling demons within him simmer, and White fantasizes about extracting revenge on his neighbors who murdered his father, the film’s creators throw in a little Requiem for a Dream, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, maybe even Passion of the Christ — there’s a twisted, distorted theology at work in this film that culminates in White’s grotesque auto-crucifixion.

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Sad sack ditches wife for hotties, loses big

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

TV weatherman Oskar (Jirí Machácek), who one morning wakes up and notices that his wife Zuzana (Simona Babcáková) has a helluva big schnoz. And so he leaves her, in search of … well, it’s not quite clear what Oskar’s looking for. His mid-life leap of faith mostly ends up eroding what little life he had. After losing his cushy job, he takes one transporting people too drunk to drive home. For most people, the fall would be too much, but Oskar seems oddly content. Less successful is his affair with the hot teenage babysitter (Eva Kerekésová) who broke up his marriage, and who seems to have more affection for her pet turtle than him (until he accidentally kills it). This sends him into the arms of Nora (Emilia Vasaryova), a popular but aging chanteuse who only ends up dumping him too. And still Oskar soldiers on, never showing an ounce of regret for his choices. Meanwhile, his parents act as his ex-wife’s wingmen, helping her to get it on with the blue-collar divorcee who’s been courting her. As Zuzana’s love blossoms, Oskar’s soulless promiscuity leads only to numb loneliness. By the end of the film, he’s in a bathtub with a former student-turned-professional escort, being interviewed on the radio by his ex (she’s a radio host) about his failed romance with Nora. No matter how far down the spiral goes, Oskar is unfazed.

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Friday, February 19, 2010


Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 2:46 PM

And the winner of our Live and Lust Poll III drawing is ... 27-year-old Annika, who told us she looks for hands in a man, small waist-to-big ass ratio in a woman, who wold like two guys at once, and who advises (for long-term relationship mojo maintenance): "Make sure sex...

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Benefit for Mick Vranich on Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Those who know Mick Vranich, whether through his Word Band, his books of poetry, his spoken word performances, or through the private gallery space he runs with his wife Sherry Hendrick, know he is a kind and gentle person who's not easily forgotten. But now is an especially important time...

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