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

Rock of Ages

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Release Date: June 15, 2012
Runtime: 123 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros. / New Line Cinema
Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Julianne Hough; Diego Boneta; Alec Baldwin; Russell Brand; Paul Giamatti; Catherine Zeta-Jones; Bryan Cranston; Malin Akerman; Mary J. Blige; Tom Cruise

The Broadway musical upon which this movie is based, while not great art by any stretch, is better. Period. Adam Shankman’s adaptation of the hit jukebox musical that’s been rockin’ the Helen Hayes Theatre for years, has style and some fun performances, but this show really doesn’t translate well to film. I think the main reason is this: these songs (“Don’t Stop Believin,’” “Sister Christian,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It”) are the types of rock anthems that are best heard live, blaring through speakers at deafening decibels, sung by singers who look like their vocal chords are about to pop out of their necks! Continue reading

Philip Seymour Hoffman: 1967-2014

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

I, like many, was shocked to hear about the death of actor/director/writer Philip Seymour Hoffman today, a brilliant artist gone way too soon. While it was known that he had a substance-abuse problem, it is still shocking and troubling to hear of the untimely passing of an artist who contributed so much to the performing arts, as a writer, director, and Oscar-winning actor.

I have not seen all of Mr. Hoffman’s films; I can’t even claim to have seen his Oscar-winning portrayal of Truman Capote in “Capote.” However, I always admired his skill and his ability to stay just-this-side of character actor in an industry that traditionally eschews those who aren’t young and beautiful. He has appeared in some of my favorite movies, including “Boogie Nights” and “State and Main,” always giving effective performances that were interesting to watch. That is why I think I enjoyed him so much on screen: he was interesting to watch. Of course, it helped that he was a skilled actor and didn’t just read lines. But I’ve always felt that one of the hallmarks of any great artist, especially a performing artist, is their innate ability to be interesting to watch. Otherwise, why would we as an audience want to look at them for two hours on a screen or on stage? Hoffman was always able to get to the root of a character, to build a performance from the foundation up. He didn’t just play dress up, he lived inside of a character, whether they were based on a real person or not. His choices were bold; his characters were sometimes vulnerable, sometimes strong, sometimes flawed, much like Hoffman himself, or any true artist for that matter. The world lost a unique and talented artist today and he will be missed.

Some of his best movies:

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



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Release Date: December 18, 2013 (limited); January 10, 2014 (wide)
Runtime: 126 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix; Scarlett Johansson (voice); Amy Adams; Chris Pratt; Rooney Mara

This one was a total surprise! My expectations were low: another self-consciously quirky Spike Jonze movie with resident Hollywood oddball, Joaquin Phoenix. And while this movie is definitely left-of-center, it is also quite possibly, the most heartfelt and truly tender movies I’ve seen in ages. Continue reading

The Cutting Edge


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Release Date: March 27, 1992
Runtime: 101 minutes
Rating: PG
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Cast: D.B. Sweeney; Moira Kelly; Roy Dotrice; Terry O’Quinn; Dwier Brown

Ask anyone. I’m a sucker for any movie that ends with the lovers kissing, the music swelling, and the picture fading to black. It doesn’t matter how good the rest of the movie is, if the closing shot is of a gentle kiss backed up by some romantic power ballad on the soundtrack, I’m hooked; the movie has me. This movie [SPOILER, I guess…I mean, how do most PG-rated romantic movies end?] ends this way. The preceding hour and a half are pleasant enough, but the final shot of the kiss kicks it up a few notches in my book. 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


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

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

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Release Date: August 6, 1999
Runtime: 113 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Pierce Brosnan; Rene Russo; Denis Leary; Ben Gazzara; Frankie Faison

This is a remake of the Steve McQueen – Faye Dunaway classic, unseen (at least at the time of this review) by me, but from what I understand, it was a sexy movie back then. Well, it is certainly one sexy movie now! Director John McTiernan (“Die Hard”), one of my favorite directors, saturates the film with lots of shadows and fade effects; this would have looked great as a black-and-white movie. Those aspects, in combination with the suave-as-shit Brosnan and the combustible Russo, make for an extremely stylish film and a beautiful “motion picture.” Continue reading