Category Archives: Drama

Naked Lunch

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Release Date: December 27, 1991 (screened June 20, 2014 – 16th Annual Provincetown Film Festival)
Runtime: 115 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Peter Weller; Judy Davis; Ian Holm; Julian Sands; Monique Mercure; Roy Scheider

OK, full disclosure: this is one weird fuckin’ movie. David Cronenberg has never been the most mainstream of directors, but this one is truly odd. Talking cockroaches that masquerade as typewriters; horny centipedes; Judy Davis shooting up roach killer…it’s all here. Welcome to “Naked Lunch.” Continue reading

Sorcerer

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Release Date: June 24, 1977
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: PG
Studio: Paramount Pictures / Universal Pictures
Director: William Friedkin
Cast: Roy Scheider; Bruno Cremer; Francisco Rabal; Amidou

God bless the Film Forum! If it wasn’t for this extraordinary little theater on W. Houston, special engagements of overlooked movies like “Sorcerer” might never be seen on the big screen again, relegated to not-exactly-the-same laptop viewing.

A reimagining of the classic French thriller “The Wages of Fear,” William Friedkin’s follow up to his groundbreaking and genre-defining “The Exorcist” was an ambitious flop back in 1977. The victim of shifting tastes in popular entertainment at the dawn of the blockbuster era, as well as timing (it opened a weekend before “Star Wars,” the phenomenal success of which immediately shattered any chance it had at success), “Sorcerer” has thankfully enjoyed a resurgence in critical acclaim over the years, and rightfully so. While not a perfect movie, it nonetheless fits very much within Friedkin’s oeuvre of hyper-intense, challenging work. Shit, movies don’t get much more intense than this! Continue reading

Taxi zum Klo

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Release Date: January 9, 1981
Runtime: 98 minutes
Rating: NR – Adults Only
Studio: Exportfilm Bischoff & Company
Director: Frank Ripploh
Cast: Frank Ripploh; Bernd Broaderup; Peter Fahrni

This is an interesting piece for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is notable for being a pioneering film for gay cinema. Released in 1981, “Tazi zum Klo” (Take Me to the Toilet” in German…nice), was a fairly mainstream movie, one that could never be made today, at least not without being labeled as out-and-out porn. Secondly, it showcased the sometimes blissful, sometimes complex relationship between two gay men in pre-AIDS, early 80’s West Berlin. One must not forget that at that time, it was somewhat shocking and definitely controversial to show two men, not only in a sexual relationship, but in ANY emotionally binding relationship. Thirdly, the lack of modesty of the main character: writer, director, star, Frank Ripploh. This film is clearly an exorcism of demons for this guy and he holds nothing back in chronicling his life for us. He is unapologetic for his rather hedonistic lifestyle and wants us to join him in this journey. In fact, the first words spoken in the film are, “Do you want to come cruising with me? Good.” Continue reading

August: Osage County

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Release Date: January 10, 2014
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: John Wells
Cast: Meryl Streep; Julia Roberts; Ewan McGregor; Chris Cooper; Dermot Mulroney; Juliette Lewis; Julianne Nicholson; Sam Shepard; Benedict Cumberbatch; Abigail Brelsin

If there were an Olympic category for “Best Team Acting,” this big screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play would have swept the competition. Captained by ferocious performances by Meryl Streep (reminding us all of why she IS Meryl Streep) and Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County” invites us in for some seriously dysfunctional family good times. Continue reading

The Wolf of Wall Street

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Release Date: December 25, 2013
Runtime: 180 minutes
Rating: very, very R
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio; Jonah Hill; Matthew McConaughey; Margot Robbie; Rob Reiner; Kyle Chandler; Jon Bernthal; Jean Dujardin; Joanna Lumley; Ethan Suplee

Jordan Belfort’s helluva story comes to life guns blazing in director Martin Scorsese’s epic account of greed, sex, drugs, excess…all the good stuff. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a ferocious performance that in the hands of a lesser actor could have gone right off the rails into camp territory. Less showy in terms of camerawork and style than other Scorsese pictures, “The Wolf of Wall Street” nonetheless maintains a quick pace (much like the heartbeats that most of the main characters must have had in real life if the drug use in this story is accurate) despite a three-hour running time, and energetic and dedicated performances from all of the actors. Kudos to all for keeping it up (pun definitely intended)! Continue reading

Endless Love

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Release Date: July 17, 1981
Runtime: 116 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Cast: Brooke Shields; Martin Hewitt; Shirley Knight; Don Murray; James Spader; Richard Kiley; Beatrice Straight

Watching this movie, I had an overwhelming feeling of “I get it.” Let me explain. I get how this movie could have been seen as a good career move for Brooke Shields. It was based on a phenomenally popular (at the time) young adult novel, it was a classy production all around with a well-respected director (Franco Zeffirelli), and was mounted as a serious drama about young, obsessive love. No subtle winks to the audience, no flagrant comic relief characters, no cheesy filmmaking tactics engineered to appeal to the short attention spans of pre-teens. In its day, this movie was probably much like what the “Twilight” movies are to today’s pre-teen audiences. Coupled with “The Blue Lagoon” having been released a year earlier, I get how Brooke Shields was the poster child for angsty adolescent girls everywhere. Continue reading

Why Mariska Hargitay Is The Patron Saint Of My Apartment

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If you’ve ever watched “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit,” you know Mariska Hargitay. She’s been on the show since its inception in 1999, one of several spin-offs from Dick Wolf’s wildly popular and NYC-based “Law & Order” franchise (the original and its other spin-offs, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: Trial By Jury” are no longer on the air). It’s an especially gritty show, following a team of special victim detectives (among them, Hargitay, master hunk Christopher Meloni (replaced by super hot Danny Pino later in the show’s run), Kelli Giddish, Ice-T, and Richard Belzer, an original “L&O” cast member) as they investigate sex crimes in New York City.

One of the hallmarks of the show, for that matter, all “L&O” shows, is the wonderful use they make of New York City locations. Whether a story takes place in rush hour traffic in Manhattan or in the middle of the night in Red Hook, these are quintessential NYC shows and if you live here, they’re sort of a part of your life. You’ve seen them filming and probably, if you travel in artistic circles, know someone who’s been on one of the shows at some point.

At the heart of “SVU” though, is Mariska Hargitay, the daughter of 50’s icon Jayne Mansfield and former Mr. Universe/actor Mickey Hargitay. A tall, striking but not traditionally beautiful actress, Mariska possesses an innate strength and power that makes her a natural for the role of Detective Olivia Benson. Benson is one tough, yet versatile broad. She can pull a gun on a hardened criminal with as much ease as coaxing a murder confession out of a 16-year-old girl. Of course, it helps that Mariska has had over a decade now to grow into the role of Benson, but it still takes a rare talent to play simultaneously and convincingly tough and caring. It is her no-nonsense approach to Benson’s work and the “don’t bullshit me” attitude Hargitay brings to the role that makes Mariska Hargitay, in the opinion of my housemates, the patron saint of our apartment. Continue reading

Gravity

Gravity

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Release Date: October 4, 2013
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock; George Clooney; Ed Harris (voice)

This is one spectacular movie! Alfonso Cuarón creates a sort-of “2001: A Space Odyssey” for the 21st century. It is tense, expertly filmed and choreographed, and beautifully acted by both George Clooney and an Oscar-worthy Sandra Bullock. “Gravity” grabs you right from the beginning and carries you along for 90 breathless minutes and when it’s over, believe me, you will need to catch your breath. Continue reading

Southland Tales

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Release Date: November 14, 2007
Runtime: 145 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: Dwayne Johnson; Sarah Michelle Gellar; Seann William Scott; Justin Timberlake; Nora Dunn; John Larroquette; Bai Ling; Mandy Moore; Jon Lovitz; Cheri Oteri…many others!

Whoa, is this one boondoggle of a movie! Sporting a cast and a scope that would make Cecil B. DeMille salivate, Richard Kelly’s follow up to his cult classic “Donnie Darko” is one of those not-too-distant futuristic commentaries, but it is so all over the place you almost need an org chart. Continue reading

The Canyons

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Release Date: August 2, 2013
Runtime: 99 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Studio: IFC Films
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Lindsay Lohan; James Deen; Nolan Gerard Funk; Amanda Brooks; Gus Van Sant

You would think that a collaboration between the writer/director of “American Gigolo” and “Hardcore” and the writer of “American Psycho” and “Less Than Zero” would make for some titillating cinema. As it turns out, it’s more lukewarm bath than sizzling heat. Continue reading