"Five Easy Pieces," "Boogie Woogie," More

The Auteurs Daily

While TCM's festival runs on through the weekend, Los Angeles has a couple of other classic numbers playing as well. The Nuart Theatre is screening Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces (1970), digitally restored on its 40th anniversary, and Laemmle's Music Hall is presenting a newly struck 35-millimeter print of Fellini's (1963). Wild to think that just seven years separate these two films; both get write-ups in the Los Angeles Times.

Glenn Kenny talks with Rafelson and Karen Black and notes of Jack Nicholson's lead performance, "Bobby's way with an arch putdown, his random explosiveness and, finally, his deep disappointment with life itself seem emotions that Nicholson was born to play." Vadim Rizov at Indie Eye: "Five Easy Pieces is remembered as part of the angry-young-man changing-of-the-guard movies, as well as the start of a promising directorial career that lapsed into indulgence and failure, with Bob Rafelson slotted alongside William Friedkin, Michael Cimino and Peter Bogdanovich as Lessons In Hubris. Seen freshly 40 years on, the film has aged unnervingly well, mostly because it's not about anything particularly 1970-centric."

Back to the LAT. Kenneth Turan: "Though much has changed in cinematic fashions and styles in the interim, [] retains an ability to enthrall and delight that has not diminished over the years."

Jazz Week '10: Made in Boston, Played in Boston is on through May 2 and the Globe's Mark Feeney points out the highlights of an accompanying film series.

George Romero x 3 is a mini-retro at New York's Anthology Film Archives this weekend featuring The Crazies (1973), Knightriders (1981) and Day of the Dead (1985). Nick Schager: "George Romero's cinema is one of opposition — and not simply between the living and the undead. In his finest efforts, be they sagas of zombies, madmen or wild visionaries, conflicts between the human and inhuman also function as metaphoric battles of race, politics, gender and self."

Also in the L Magazine, Mark Asch on the new weekend series at IFC Center, Cage Heat: Cage at Midnight.

Saturday sees screenings at the Japan Society of Tokuzo Tanaka's New Tale of Zatoichi (1963) and Kazuo Ikehiro's The Sword of Seduction (1964).

 

OPENING TODAY


"Hate mail for the hoity-toity art world, Boogie Woogie demonstrates the same mercy to its milieu that a flesh-eater might show a fresh carcass," writes Nick Schager in Slant. "Cannibals certainly abound in Duncan Ward's snapshot of London's ritzy art scene, in which gallery dealers and directors, established and would-be artists, and wealthy collectors carry out their private and professional lives with ambitious ruthlessness. From dealer extraordinaire Art Spindle (Danny Huston) and his regular clients Bob (Stellan Skarsgård) and Jean (Gillian Anderson), to Art's right-hand woman Beth (Heather Graham) and her lothario boyfriend Jo (Jack Huston), everyone wheels and deals from a self-interested position, whether in bed, the office, or the showroom."





"A travesty no matter how you look at it, this flaccid art-world farce is best approached as a landmark of dubious ensemble work," growls Eric Hynes in Time Out New York, but Benjamin Sutton, writing in the L Magazine, finds the film "fleshing out some real people amidst its contemporary art industry characters and saying something actually quite resonant about how we attach value to works of art." More from Sam Adams (AV Club), Marcy Dermansky, Steve Dollar (Paste), Bilge Ebiri (IFC), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Stephen Holden (New York Times), Michelle Orange (Movieline) and Armond White (New York Press). Aaron Hillis talks with Danny Huston for IFC.

"Someone involved in the making of The Back-Up Plan, a not very good and yet painless waste of time, has certainly thought through some life and love questions," writes the NYT's Manohla Dargis. "Written by Kate Angelo and directed by Alan Poul, the movie is essentially a vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, an appealing screen presence with a disappointing big-screen track record."

But at IFC.com, R Emmet Sweeney argues that "Lopez is actually a sly, insolently funny performer, and one who repeatedly selects roles that are defined by their work. Lopez has played a wedding planner, a maid, a dance instructor, a temp, a caterer, a dog walker, and she's actually depicted on the job. Hollywood generally prefers to ignore the day-to-day expertise that goes into cleaning a room or serving an appetizer (a telling sign in Maid in Manhattan reads, 'strive to be invisible'), but Lopez actively seeks out these moments. The Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan, Shall We Dance and Monster-in-Law are a remarkably similar quartet in this respect, presenting Lopez as the rare actor who can be read as an auteur."

As for what this one's about, we turn to Jonathan Kiefer in the Faster Times: "The premise alone might induce morning-after sickness: Jennifer Lopez plays a single Manhattanite who wants to get pregnant without waiting any longer to meet Mr Right. So she gets pregnant. Then she meets Mr Right. Ruh roh!"

More from Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Robert Horton (Herald), Rob Humanick (Slant), Dan Kois (Washington Post), Shawn Levy (Oregonian), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Mary Pols (Time), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), Betsy Sharkey (LAT), Dana Stevens (Slate) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline).





"One way to look at the career of the South Korean director Kim Jee-woon would be to praise him for refusing to repeat himself; another would be to write him off as a dilettante who dabbles in one film genre after another without putting down any roots." Mike Hale in the NYT: "His trajectory has not been promising: a charming knockabout comedy (The Foul King) was followed by a creepy but unsurprising horror movie (A Tale of Two Sisters) and then a slick, soulless film noir (A Bittersweet Life). He hits a new low with The Good, the Bad, the Weird, a hyper-violent action movie that takes the form of an Asian western."

But at the AV Club, Noel Murray gives it a B+ — "It's hard to knock any movie that opens with an eye-popping train robbery, followed by a balls-out siege, and then a super-cool heist.... Kim's inventive action sequences develop like short films, with their own plots and props. If a character comes across a diving helmet in the middle of a gunfight, he puts it on; if another tries to chop off a finger, he needs to be certain his blade is sharp. Each action determines the next action, and each counter-action affects the whole. The movie is like a compact explication of Pacific Rim politics, in oater form."

More from Bilge Ebiri (IFC), David Fear (TONY), Nicolas Rapold (Voice) and James van Maanen. Listening. IFC's Matt Singer and Alison Willmore discuss "other revisionist Westerns and the traditional themes, tropes and trappings they refute, from Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch to Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man."

"A cross between Greenberg and The Answer Man with a few extra helpings of quirk, Paper Man dully reconfirms that the new millennium's favorite indie-film cliché is the man-child struggling to grow up," writes Nick Schager in Slant.

"Fine performers [including Jeff Daniels and Lisa Kudrow] can't salvage a toxically precious script, though [Emma] Stone (Zombieland), with her disarming poise, makes a go of it," finds Eric Hynes in TONY. "Husband-and-wife writer-directors Keiran and Michele Mulroney try to smooth over implausibilities with an intrusive emo soundtrack and 'dramedic' feints, but the effort is useless." More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Michelle Orange (Voice) and ST VanAirsdale (Movieline). Brandon Harris talks with the Mulroneys for Filmmaker. James van Maanen has notes from a roundtable with Daniels and Stone.

"The Losers may not be a particularly good film, but it is unapologetic in its candy-colored visuals, deployment of lame wisecracks and drool-worthy shots of Zoe Saldana writhing in her underwear while bullets whiz all about her," notes Bilge Ebiri at IFC.com "It's almost endearing. Almost. But most of the time, it's annoying."

"Originating as a DC Comics World War II series in the early 70s, The Losers got its title from a Special Forces group who dubbed themselves 'The Losers' to honor the military personnel lost under their command," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "This is helpful background information, because in the new version — updated for Vertigo in the mid-00s by writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock, and now adapted into cinematic dreck of the highest magnitude — the meaning of the title gets completely lost. There isn't a whiff of humility or self-deprecation to Clay, Roque, Jensen, Cougar, and Pooch, a collection of black-ops douchebags and our ostensible heroes."

More from Simon Abrams (Slant), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), William Goss (Cinematical), Jesse Hassenger (L), Dan Kois (Voice), James Rocchi (MSN Movies), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Nick Schager, Gene Seymour (Salon) and Armond White (NYP).

 

DOCUMENTARIES


"Although now swathed in nostalgic longing/hipster appropriation," writes Ernest Hardy in the Voice, "the art of burlesque was once a vibrant, multi-tiered cultural enterprise — escapist family entertainment for the working-class, an erotic getaway for men of all classes, and a carefully constructed art form. Leslie Zemeckis's slightly ramshackle but utterly entertaining Behind the Burly Q is a painstakingly researched love letter to the women and men who once made up the community of burlesque performers."

More from Manohla Dargis (NYT), Aaron Hillis (TONY), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Andrew Schenker (L) and James van Maanen.

Aaron Hillis in TONY on Breath Made Visible: "If nothing else, Ruedi Gerber's celebratory portrait of Anna Halprin — a postmodern-dance pioneer and Gerber's former teacher — is a fascinating testimonial to the healing, age-defying powers of both her art and artistry.... So much information, context and personality is squeezed into such a succinct package that, primer or not, you're left with a strongly realized sense of who Halprin is and what she's accomplished." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT).

 

IN THE UK


"Granted, any film that features a child asking his mother, 'What exactly does a man do to a boy when he's raping him?', is not going to be everyone's cup of tea," concedes Sukhdev Sandhu in the Telegraph. "But as far as the cinema of squirm goes, Life During Wartime proves that [Todd] Solondz, even when he's producing milder fare than when he first came to attention, is still in a league of his own." More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian; "The shock continues to diminish") and Ryan Gilbey (New Statesman).

"On set in the highlands of Scotland, in March 2009, when it's not snowing it's hailing and when it's not hailing it's raining. And in those rare moments when fluid isn't flowing, the wind slaps the skin like an angry dad." As the Independent reports, making Centurion was no picnic.

How's it turned out? Xan Brooks in the Guardian: "Full marks to director Neil Marshall, who gave us Dog Soldiers and The Descent, for putting the corpulent Roman epic on a crash diet; it's just a shame his rationing extended to the plot and characters too." Charlotte Higgins: "The autumn will bring The Eagle of the Ninth by Kevin Macdonald, adapted from Rosemary Sutcliff's 1954 children's story by Jeremy Brock (who also adapted Giles Foden's novel The Last King of Scotland for Macdonald.) It promises to be a more thoughtful and decorous vision of the Roman province."

Gurinder Chadha has a new comedy, It's a Wonderful Afterlife, and it's been widely panned (see, for example, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw or the Telegraph's Tim Robey), but it has given John Preston a fine reason to interview Sally Hawkins for the Telegraph. Similarly, Cherrybomb; Laura Davis (Independent) and Helen Pidd (Guardian) get to meet Rupert Grint.

 

IN JAPAN


"Tomoyuki Furumaya's Bushido Sixteen is the rare Japanese film about female martial artists based on real-life models and targeted mainly at women," writes Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. "But it's also less an action film, despite all the on- screen swordplay, than a perfectly cast, sensitively made seishun eiga (youth drama)."

 

IN OTHER NEWS


Cineaste introduces "Webtakes," a series of reviews that'll be appearing between quarterly issues. They're a little hard to find, so here's what they've got so far: Robert Sklar on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Bill Krohn on Green Zone, Richard Porton on Sweetgrass and Christopher Long on Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

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