"Political, subversive, wickedly funny, wildly imaginative — this doesn't even begin to describe the films and videos that Creative Capital has supported and nurtured over the past eleven years." MoMA's celebrating the tenth anniversary of the New York–based national nonprofit with a series opening today and running through June 9. Jesse P Finnegan in the L Magazine: "Fete-worthy as such an anniversary may be, one bundle of films from the characteristically inclusive 37-title series befits a more specific rubric: the best experimental work of the decade — or at least a bunch of it. While Migrating Forms kicks off the next ten years of avant-advances downtown, MoMA's program provides an opportunity to catch up on some strange trips you may've missed, and here — appropriately enough for a decade retrospective — meta-histories reign supreme. Robert Smithson wrote 'I am convinced that the future is lost somewhere in the dumps of the non-historical past' and the CC series serves up treasures aplenty scavenged from the dustbin."
Richard Koszarski "calls the history of the NY film industry between the wars a 'black hole,' and in his book Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff, newly released in paperback, he reveals himself as its Stephen Hawking." Shaun Brady for the Philadelphia City Paper: "In a program sponsored by Secret Cinema, the author will present one example of that industry, the rarely seen 1950 noir Guilty Bystander, which follows an alcoholic detective (played by Zachary Scott) tracking down his kidnapped son. The film was made after the period covered by Koszarski's book but marks the transition to a new period, which he plans to cover in his follow-up volume."
"Nicole Holofcener's fourth feature, Please Give, is a notable rebound from the insufficiently examined self-absorption of her last, Friends With Money," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "Please Give is not quite Lovely & Amazing — Holofcener's mordant, quasi-autobiographical 'three sisters' spin — but it is, for the most part, witty and engrossing."
"Few American filmmakers create female characters as realistically funny, attractively imperfect and flat-out annoying as does Ms Holofcener," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "You may not love them, but you recognize their charms and frailties, their fears and hopes. They may remind you of your friends, your sisters or even yourself, which makes them attractive and sometimes off-putting, an unusual, complicated mix."
"[T]here's no doubt that as a writer-director she penetrates some nasty deep-seated areas," writes Michael Koresky in Reverse Shot. "That she rarely lets any of her characters — whether ostensibly heroes or antagonists — off the hook indicates a cynicism that's at least grounded and far-sighted, but it also often makes her films feel agenda-driven, narrow, and guarded. Not to mention, in the case of her latest film, Please Give, preciously overdetermined: there's little room for surprise in a story where the mopey, guilt-stricken protagonist's profession is to buy furniture from the loved ones of the recently deceased and sell them off at exorbitant amounts in her high-end antique shop."
More from David Edelstein (New York), Nick McCarthy (L), Noel Murray (AV Club), Mary Pols (Time), Andrew Schenker (Slant), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), Ella Taylor (NPR), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times), James van Maanen, Armond White (New York Press) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline). Earlier: Reviews from Sundance. Oliver Platt's a guest on Fresh Air. Movieline's ST VanAirsdale talks with Catherine Keener. Interviews with Holofcener: Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), David Poland (video), Melena Ryzik (NYT) and Scott Tobias (AV Club).
"Like most vigilante dramas, Harry Brown is comforting but might make you question your need for comfort," writes JR Jones in the Chicago Reader. Michael Caine "brings to the project not only his own formidable skills but more than half a century of movie history. Despite the rather routine social politics of Harry Brown, the movie ends with a haunting and ambiguous image of Harry strolling down the asphalt to the darkened mouth of the pedestrian walkway. Thanks partly to him, it's now a safe passage for the people of the council estate. But as he nears the darkness, it also unmistakably suggests an open grave."
Before Michael Atkinson surveys that half-century at Moving Image Source, he has a few words on the nature of stardom: "[O]ccasionally, a man or woman will stride onto our movie screens and without moving a muscle hold our attention the way gravity holds a moon in orbit, and these individuals often have careers that last half a lifetime. As a result, we grow up with them, age with them, correspond our own passages with theirs, and much of what we think we know about movies, acting, drama, and (dare we say) human expression we learned by osmosis in their presence, standing alongside them, absorbing their rhythms, getting so familiar with them that it's sometimes a secret shock to realize that they do not know us back."
Sean O'Neal interviews Caine for the AV Club. More on Harry Brown from Simon Abrams (Slant), Jeannette Catsoulis (NPR), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Bilge Ebiri (IFC), David Edelstein (New York), David Fear (TONY), Tim Grierson, Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Mary Pols (Time), Hank Sartin (Time Out Chicago), Henry Stewart (L), Ella Taylor (Voice), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Armond White (NYP).
"Horror movie franchises — as it's been said about Marines — don't die, apparently. They just go to hell and regroup." Robert Abele in the Los Angeles Times: "Now comes the return of A Nightmare on Elm Street, thanks in part to producer Michael Bay, who, when he's not frightening movie snobs as a director, has made something of a profitable side job resurrecting scare brands — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th — from the pop-culture graveyard. This time around he's coaxed back the estimably creepy Freddy Krueger from our bloody memories, but it's hardly what you'd call a dream reunion."
"Wes Craven's 1984 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street owes at least part of its success to reasons evident in the title," writes Keith Phipps at the AV Club. "For his setting, Craven didn't use some cobwebbed old house or fog-drenched Eastern European village but, like John Carpenter's Halloween, a bucolic suburban anywhere, the sort of prosperous picket-fence neighborhood previous generations had strived hard to reach. But Elm Street had a troubled past that included child murders, vigilante justice, and, in Freddy Krueger, a dream-haunting bogeyman determined to shed some teenage blood to make sure everyone knew about it." To the remake, director Samuel Bayer, "a veteran commercial and music video director responsible for Nirvana's 'Smell Like Teen Spirit' video back when the original Nightmare series was still a going concern, brings a slick visual sense but not a hint of vision.... Some recurring dreams get less powerful with repetition."
More from Richard Corliss (Time), Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Ed Gonzalez (Slant), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago), Peter Martin (Cinematical), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Michael Phillips (Tribune), James Rocchi (MSN Movies), Nick Schager, AO Scott (NYT) and ST VanAirsdale (Movieline). Interviews with Jackie Earle Haley: Kevin Maher (London Times) and Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York, where you'll also find a list of three "frighteningly good horror remakes." Movieline's Kyle Buchanan interviews Kyle Gallner.
"The Good Heart isn't the first movie about the redemption of a cantankerous, intolerant man, but perhaps because writer-director Dagur Kári seems so committed to making his character as unbearable as possible before suddenly switching gears, it's one of the least convincing," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Stephen Holden (NYT), Noel Murray (AV Club), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Betsy Sharkey (LAT) and James van Maanen. With Brian Cox and Paul Dano.
"In My Sleep is meant to be Hitchcockian — the writer and director, Allen Wolf, more or less says so in his director's statement — and maybe it is, if you think of it as, say, Hitchcock's senior project for film school." Mike Hale in the NYT: "Mr Wolf, in his feature film debut, generates a few genuine scares but he doesn't yet have the style to pull off the kind of lightly surreal comic thriller that he's trying for." More from Vadim Rizov (Voice) and Henry Stewart (L).
"Don't let Mercy's title fool you, as there's no clemency here, from cliché or pretentiousness," writes Nick Schager in Slant. "Written by star Scott Caan according to a cornball formula, Patrick Hoelck's indie charts the maturation of Johnny (Caan), a novelist who writes about love but personally prefers meaningless one-night stands, a contradiction that more than one person points out via the type of leadenly explicit dialogue that fills every character's mouth." More from David Fear (TONY), Stephen Holden (NYT), Karina Longworth (Voice), Nathan Rabin (AV Club) and James van Maanen. For Filmmaker, Damon Smith talks director Patrick Hoelck "about the films of John Cassavetes, the art of framing, and why music videos are boring."
Robert Wilonsky in the Voice: "I took the 6-year-old who lives in my house to the Sunday-afternoon sneak preview of Furry Vengeance. The boy's a savvy consumer of kids' popular culture — my greatest parenting triumph thus far. He knew from the myriad Disney Channel commercials (the movie stars Matt Prokop of High School Musical 3) that Furry V featured computer-generated animals inflicting all manner of cruel wackiness upon humans, and so he asked, 'Is it in 3D? Because every other kids' movie is.' I told him no (he was crushed — crushed), and that if he'd seen the commercials he should know we'd be lucky it if was in focus. Ninety minutes later, we agreed that Furry Vengeancewas in B-A-D. Well, I decided this — he argued that it was actually quite hilarious." More from Mike Hale (NYT), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Glenn Whipp (LAT). With Brendan Fraser.
IN THE UK
First up, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw on Jia Zhangke's 24 City, "about the generations of people who worked in a state factory, which is just about to be demolished; it is a docu-fiction hybrid, an essay in contemporary history and an experiment in cine-portraiture, vividly shot on high-definition video. The result is a deeply serious and sombre film, trying to find a way of telling the stories of people affected by the gigantic political and economic changes sweeping that country whose concerns must in the end affect us all: 21st-century China."
And of course, there's universal acclaim for Cléo from 5 to 7. Bradshaw: "The rerelease of Agnès Varda's 1961 classic underscores its claim to be a pioneering glory of the new wave."
Dave Calhoun in Time Out London on The Disappearance of Alice Creed: "Young British screenwriter J Blakeson, co-writer of The Descent: Part Two and the director of two well-regarded shorts, shoots his own script for his feature debut and comes up with an intense, surprising three-hander about a kidnapping. There are hints of Sleuth in this low-budget affair: the claustrophobic energy, the small cast, the wordplay, the single location and the power games driven by sex and sexuality. The set-up is simple: two men, one ruthless with a hair-trigger temper (Eddie Marsan), one more submissive (Martin Compston), kidnap Alice (Gemma Arterton), the daughter of a businessman, lock her in a derelict flat and threaten to kill her unless a ransom is paid." And it's "terrifically enjoyable," declares the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw: "Blakeson is a name to watch." More from Kate Muir in the Times.
"How do you follow a startling summer blockbuster that included a winning performance from Robert Downey Jr, a witty and mildly ironic tone, and a $570 million (£375 million) haul at the box office?" asks Kevin Maher in the Times. "Well, the short answer is, not like this. For Iron Man 2 squanders most of the goodwill created by its leaner, tighter original and instead delivers a movie that is somehow simultaneously hyperactive and lethargic, lightweight and leaden." More from Peter Bradshaw, Tom Huddleston (Time Out London), Anthony Quinn (Independent) and Tim Robey (Telegraph).
"Like its predecessor, Zebraman 2 is more a parody than a genuine action pic," writes Mark Schilling, "though as usual with [Takashi] Miike, the genre lines get blurred — or obliterated. Miike fans won't find much new — and certainly nothing to surpass the wonderful strangeness of Kyofu Yakuza Dai-gekijo Gozu (Gozu, 2003) or Dead or Alive: Final (2002), Miike films whose tropes Zebraman 2 recycles. Also present are stylistic borrowings from his 2009 action-comedy smash Yatterman (Yattaman). The film answers the question Miike fans (including this one) have long asked: what if he got both a largish (for Japan) budget and freedom to play with it? The answer is entertaining in a Greatest Hits way, if not quite Miike at his unfettered best."
Also in the Japan Times, Mizuho Aoki interviews Hikari Mitsushima (Love Exposure).
IN OTHER NEWS
IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez welcomes Todd McCarthy into the fold. In his first entry at Deep Focus, his new iW blog, McCarthy expresses his appreciation for "the support that came from so many quarters" when "Variety cast me off along with my esteemed critical colleagues and close friends Derek Elley in London and David Rooney in New York," and announces that his "coverage will start in earnest at the Cannes Film Festival."
Top image: From Jem Cohen's Chain, one of the films featured in Jesse P Finnegan's overview of MoMA's Creative Capital series.
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