Sunday, June 27, 2010


Review: I Am Love
5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Tilda Swinton has sculpted one of the most enticing bodies of work of any living actor. She is a connoisseur of exotic, avant garde roles, and even after lending her inimitable talents (and supernatural looks) to mainstream fare like the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, she hasn't lost a sliver of her art house credibility. When her work in 2007's “Michael Clayton” earned her an Oscar (an accolade that unquestionably made the film-buff favorite more popular among the unwashed masses, and one so many recipients have used as a ticket to big-paycheck blockbusters), she seemed to grow only more resolute in the pursuit of out-of-step parts. Last year she appeared in Jim Jarmusch's nothing-if-not-unique mystery “The Limits of Control,” and French filmmaker Erick Zonca's offbeat thriller “Julia,” which contains her marvelous turn as an in-too-deep alcoholic. Now she captivates in a foreign language in “I Am Love,” a luscious, intoxicating Italian melodrama and one of the best films of the year.


Monday, June 21, 2010


Review: Jonah Hex
2 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

In the comic-book western “Jonah Hex,” the title character, a sort-of-resurrected bounty hunter with a sort-of link to the land of the dead, has a talent for touching corpses and bringing them back to life, if only for a few intense, interrogative moments. Trouble is, if Jonah holds on too long, the reanimated stiffs start to slowly, painfully burn up, inching ever closer to what I assume qualifies as a second, definitive kicking of the bucket. Watching this movie isn't much different. As safe and standard a Hollywood product as they come, “Hex” bores you to death with its platitudes and processed plot, then revives your attention with blaring noise and frenzied editing that wind up incinerating your senses. What really burns is knowing that increasingly risk-averse studios like Warner Bros. won't get behind gems like “Winter's Bone,” but they'll invest millions in this kind of dime-a-dozen rubbish. There have been worse movies this season, but “Hex” is probably the least necessary.



Review: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

The opening shot of the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” is an unforgiving extreme close-up of Rivers' famous (and famously maintained) mug, which looks slightly alien, is still wrinkle-free at 75 and, for a few delicious seconds, is shown entirely without makeup. It's a totally arresting image, something you never knew you always wanted to see. Eye-opening and eye-grabbing, it's the perfect preview for what's to come in this surprisingly valuable film, shot over a year in the life of the loud-mouthed, trail-and-guns-blazing comedienne. Perhaps what's most surprising is how fully Rivers comes off as a real, live, flawed, scared, breathing, thinking, feeling person, since pop culture basically programmed us to believe she's just a plastic part of the media machine. “Piece of Work” aims to tackle that notion head-on, and does so from frame one.


Monday, June 14, 2010


Review: Solitary Man
4 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

The icepick-sharp character study “Solitary Man” charts the dramatic descent of Ben Kalmen, a very badly-behaving, 60-year-old SOB played by Michael Douglas in a slick and lively performance. The film sees Ben move from one poor, irresponsible and childish decision to the next, all in a blind attempt to deny his age and keep a firm grasp on his youth – the good old days when he was a social and professional rock star. The proud denial and delusional nostalgia are soon the only things this former car-dealership giant has to hold on to, as his reckless, own-worst-enemy choices destroy his career and begin alienating him from his family, his friends and, essentially, reality. Following Ben all the way to the bottom, “Solitary Man” is a slightly exhausted, yet largely offbeat and attitude-infused take on the classic tragedy of a man's fall from grace. Call it “Damn-near Death of a Salesman.”


Monday, June 7, 2010


Review: Splice
1.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

In its early stages of development, the cautionary sci-fi/horror thriller “Splice” surprises you with how non-horror-thriller-like it is. For a time, the bumps, jolts, screams and gore are markedly toned down in favor of the painstaking exploration of themes more provocative than simply the loss of innocence, virginity and limbs. Amazingly, it seems this typically-advertised, don't-mess-with-Mother-Nature freakshow might actually be a scary movie for mature and intellectual viewers. Oh, is that notion ever squashed. Designed to rope horror fans into some slow-boiling, sci-fi psychodrama, “Splice” thinks it's sophisticated, but it's in fact far worse than your average slasher. What it evolves into is a shockingly tasteless bit of sensationalism, which adds insult to inelegance with its absurd self-seriousness.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Review: Sex and the City 2
3.5 stars
(out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

For all its froth and superficiality, “Sex and the City 2” gives the viewer a great deal to consider. Barely contained within this overstuffed sequel's 146-minute running time is much to love...and nearly as much to loathe. It's been two years since everyone's favorite self-involved-sex-columnist-slash-flagrant-fashionista, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), tied the knot with the tall, dark and non-committal Mr. Big (Chris Noth), and all is not well in the world of puns, posh apartments and apartment-sized closets. Marital fatigue is manifesting as surely as Liza Minnelli at a gay wedding, and that flat-screen TV Big just bought for the bedroom certainly isn't helping matters. Meanwhile, eminently upbeat mother-of-two Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is down in the maternal dumps, workaholic lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has finally hit her legal limit, and resident floozy Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is trying everything in the Suzanne Somers Book of Menopausal Reduction to maintain her mojo. Sounds like everybody could use a little well-dressed, slow-motion strut through the deserts of Abu Dhabi.