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Film reviews and other thoughts

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Monday, May 29, 2006

Short takes: recently seen

The Notorious Bettie Page – A disappointment. I was a big fan of Mary Harron’s I Shot Andy Warhol, and although I didn’t much like American Psycho, I salute her audacity in attempting it. But this new film is downright bland and lacks the kind of punch, immediacy and in-your-face quality the subject cries out for. Good performances, especially by Lili Taylor.

X-Men: The Last Stand – Even though this features material that ought to be wrenching [more than one major character dies], it remains a big, soulless spectacular. It may be hard to pinpoint the specifics of why a director makes all the difference in a comic-book epic…but just compare this to the operatic heights of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, Ang Lee’s underrated The Hulk, and of course Bryan Singer’s X-2. All the explosions are here…but far too little of the heat. However, I agree with the person who said Ian McKellen should just be in every movie…he raises the caliber of nearly every scene he touches.

An Inconvenient Truth – Very effective, straightforward, unpretentious. Not a mind-blower like The Power of Nightmares, or a rabble rouser like Fahrenheit 9/11. Al Gore’s eloquence is a happy surprise. Still, it is basically an illustrated lecture and might benefit from being a bit shorter. But it’s well worth seeing.

B-Noir at Film ForumTwo by Robert Siodmak: Film Forum is one of the best repertory cinemas ever, an invaluable asset for New York. The current series of mostly low-budget 40s and 50s crime thrillers is splendid. The pair I caught this weekend, Phantom Lady and The Suspect, provided nifty summer entertainment…and also object lessons in beautiful craftsmanship. Robert Siodmak invests preposterous and/or lightweight material with tight pacing and construction, and draws consistently vivid performances from players as varied as Charles Laughton and Maria Montez. They absolutely do not make them like this any more, but thank God we can still see them…and in 35mm yet.


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