Recently by S.Edward.Sousa

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Blu-Ray Review: Embraces Optimism over Snarky Fantasy

Beloved children's classic from the 1970s finally gets its turn on the big screen.
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Where have all the family films gone? Movies that cross genres and give every generation of kinfolk a little bit of the film-going experience they’re asking for. I’m talking action and adventure coupled with romance and fart jokes and out-dated references sailing clear over kids' heads and into the deep, nostalgic recesses of parental minds dragged yet again to the theatre for something dull and overexposed. What passes for family fare these days are often dark and brooding films, like Into the Woods, or crass excursions into the juvenile, think Sponge-Bob Square Pants, movies whose adult elements are laced with

The Party (1968) Blu-ray Review: Psychedelic Comedy of Errors

Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers team up for a subversive, slightly racist classic.
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We open on a desert film set, the high-strung director—played with ‘look at me, Ma’ gusto by eternal character actor Herb Ellis—appears over budget and out of time in constructing his latest, Gunga-Din style epic. There’s elaborate sets and high priced explosives, an expanse of extras to coordinate and Hrundi V. Bakshi, a bumbling Indian character actor hot off the Bollywood Express. He’s here to goof it all up, infuriating the extras until they turn their guns on him on like a prop armored firing squad. Bakshi manages to make it through the shoot, pun intended, until the last day

Wetlands (2013) Blu-ray Review: Filth Presented as Frankness

German director David Wnendt's misguided and NSFW tale of filthy femininity finds its on to Blu-ray.
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I’ve seen plenty of repugnant films, the kind that shock for the sake of shocking. I’m not just talking Death the Ultimate Horror either, an hour-long collage of real-life murders, mishaps, and violent pratfalls set to the unrelenting pummel of speed metal. They bore a morbid fascination for me at seventeen, the same sick and twisted attraction driving teenagers into the arms of GG Allin or to the midnight cinema for Spike & Mike’s. No, I’m thinking more of Catherine Breillat’s stark explorations on female sexuality, or a certain coming-of-age pie-screwer, or Jackass, or Harmony Korine’s Gummo—easily one of the

Rye Coalition: The Story of the Hard Luck Five DVD Review: A Band of Brothers Bound Together

New Jersey underground rockers take a look back at a career unknown.
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There’s an old essay by Sarah Vowell, “These Little Town Blues,” it’s in the Take the Cannoli collection from a few years back. The piece talks about why New Jersey turns out great musicians. She’s talking mostly about how Sinatra, and Springsteen for that matter, embody the essential elements of punk. She writes “Punk is rhythm, style, poetry, comedy…Punk means moral indignation,” referring to Sinatra forming Reprise Records on his own, referring to Springsteen’s early endless desire to bust loose. Vowell taps into the desire for change or transformation that punk rock facilitates. That being from Nowhere, New Jersey—and believe

She's Beautiful When She's Angry Movie Review: A Sober and Sentimental Reflection

Documentarian Mary Dore's celebration of 2nd Wave Feminism opens in limited engagements in New York and Los Angeles.
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The problem for Feminism is the same oversimplified and problematic perception of all political movements in America, they lack joy. Almost all radical movements in America endure this same media-driven hose job, from protests in Ferguson to Tea Party rallies it’s all a bunch of un-fun, fringe aggressors. This image ignores the exultation of being swept by both radical mobilization and camaraderie. But American Feminism in particular, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Andrea Dworkin, is haunted by an image of self-serious man-haters, full of a sexless anger and void of personality. Even the Third Wave Movement of the 1990s is

Style Wars Blu-ray Review: Capturing Street Art in Its Infancy

Original Hip-Hop culture and graffiti documentary gets well deserved restoration.
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“Is that an art form? I don’t know I’m not an art critic, but I can sure as hell tell you that that’s a crime.” That’s Detective Bernie Jacobs, a crime-prevention coordinator for the New York City Transit Authority being interviewed for the PBS documentary Style Wars. The groundbreaking documentary, beloved for capturing hip-hop culture close to its inception, is now out in a beautifully restored Blu-ray edition, complete with forty minutes of well-worth-it outtakes, commentary, and behind-the-scenes videos. The year was 1983 and Jacobs was talking about the cat-and-mouse game between graffiti writers bombing trains and the cops chasing

Looking For Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders DVD Review: Even in Death, He Still Slings Six-strings

Spanish filmmaker Danny Garcia unravels the mysterious sadness of a guitar god.
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The Murder City Devils, one of the great outsider rock bands of the past two decades, once sang “Took a city like New Orleans to kill a man like Johnny Thunders / A man who died with a guitar in his hands.” It’s the city as beast slaying Thunders, The New York Dolls' guitarist and former Heartbreakers' front man who even in death still slings six-strings. Named after its subject, the song’s as tough as Thunders whose music couldn’t be pried from his cold dead hands. Solidifying the man’s mythos as he drifts off into death they scream, “And the

Are You Here Blu-ray Review: Never Fleshes Itself Out

Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakas blow smoke for emotional growth in Matthew Weiner's feature-film debut.
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Both charming and overwrought by a cadre of undeveloped plotlines and too many man-child clich├ęs, Are You Here really is a genre all its own, habitual pot-smoking middle-aged men and the thoughtful women who love them. Just released on Blu-ray and DVD, it’s an endearing first feature-length film from writer-director Matthew Weiner, the creator and driving force behind Mad Men, which for seven seasons has been an emotional examination of mid-century soullessness, drawing its power from tense silences and character deceits. Are You Here runs eagerly in the other direction with women who demand living in the moment and the

The Midnight Special Six-Disc Set Review: Offers a Glimpse at 1970s America

Wolfman Jack's celebrated '70s revue sheds light on dim decade.
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Ask me about the 1970s and two images come to mind: Joey Ramone’s jean clad crotch and Alisha “I Love the Nightlife” Bridges proto-punk disco haircut. One’s the soulful height of youth and young manhood while the other’s a glittering image of midlife femininity as it works the dance floor. Yet despite the skin-tight Levi’s versus bell bottom retrospective culture war we’re often treated to, these images are plastered on the same pole at the same of end of the spectrum, for the Seventies were a bleak and miserable decade. A chasm often existed between pop culture’s escapist tendencies and

Book Review: Brainquake, Samuel Fuller's Lost Novel

Samuel Fuller's "lost" noir novel finally gets published in the U.S.
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Best known for provocative films such as Shock Corridor, The Crimson Kimono, or The Big Red One, Samuel Fuller spent his life making inescapable art. He was a filmmaker’s filmmaker and a writer’s writer, whom director Wim Wenders—Paris, Texas among others—once called “one of the great movie directors of the 20th century, most certainly its greatest storyteller.” Fuller had spunk and punch, and very little of what drags most artists to the ground, excess. His ideas were straightforward and to the point. Take for example his most controversial work White Dog, the tale of a virulent racist German Sheppard and

Dom Hemingway Blu-ray Review: A Seedy and Sordid Bit of Charm

Jude Law taps into his inner savage brute for the latest from Richard Shepard.
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“I’ve got a peasant’s heart,” Dom Hemingway says. It’s a fair self-assessment for a British crook with no blue blood in his veins; he doesn’t carry an air of gentry or nobility about him. No, Dom Hemingway is an underclass degenerate all the way—the mannish demeanor, the criminal intellect, the sleazy clothes, all of it. And I mean underclass. Dom Hemingway is no working-class hero, he’s not even an anti-hero. He’s a fresh-out-of-jail, angry, crass, loudmouth safecracker with no prospects and no respect. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s charm to writer/director Richard Shepard’s Dom Hemingway, a seedy and sordid

A Summer's Tale Movie Review: Dissecting Love and Sex with Philosophical Precision

Eric Rohmer's 1996 joyful musing finally gets a U.S. release, sixteen years later.
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French filmmaker Eric Rohmer was in his mid-seventies when in 1996 he wrote and directed A Summer's Tale, the third in a quartet of features grouped together as Tales of the Four Seasons. It would take another sixteen years for the film to find distribution in America. Dissecting love and sex with philosophical precision, A Summer's Tale—like most of Rohmer’s films—avoids ideologies, opting to unpack the contemplative emotions of man infatuated. It’s a marvel that Rohmer, at his age, captured the uncertain and self-serious nature of being on the cusp of adulthood. Over the days of summer, Rohmer breaths a

The Way, Way Back Blu-ray Review: A Coming-of-Age Classic

Awkward teen finds real life is manageable.
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As far as coming-of-age movies go The Way, Way Back is the exception. Most in the genre fall in one of two camps; the Porky’s, "everybody gets laid until someone has sex with a pie" camp, or the She’s All That "everybody emotionally blossoms until somebody kisses the girl" camp. Both have their merits and occasionally cross stitch a classic like Sixteen Candles, equal parts sexual immaturity and teenage sensitivity. They revel in the milieu of adolescence with grown-ups often serving as the oblivious and aggravating folly. It’s rare for these films to maintain a looseness and sense of humor

The Grand Budapest Hotel Blu-ray Review: An Optical Feast

Even at his worst, Wes Anderson is one of our best.
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The Grand Budapest Hotel has all the trademarks of a Wes Anderson film: a vast cast of talented actors used in either requisite amusing cameos, like Owen Wilson as Monsieur Chuck, or in critical tertiary roles, like Willem Dafoe as the Germanic deviant JG Jopling. There is the obligatory young romance rendered here by teenage lobby boy Zero Moustafa and teenage baker Agatha, played with earnest by Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan, respectively. Their relationship, as with all of Anderson’s adolescent couplings, mixes a bit of naivety with world-weariness; they are mature enough to believe their love will save them

The Agony and the Ecstasy Blu-ray Review: The Ham Outweighs the Intellect

Charlton Heston's gruff attitude clashes with his portrayal of Michelangelo.
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Carol Reed’s The Agony and The Ecstasy dramatizes the relationship between Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti and Pope Julius II, who commissioned the sculptor/painter to create among other works the frescos adorning the Sistine Chapel ceiling. My interest piqued when I read Charlton Heston portrays Michelangelo. The idea of a 20th-century symbol of virility portraying a 16th-century symbol of artistry seemed too fantastic to pass up. To be fair Heston had already portrayed Moses, John the Baptist, and Ben-Hur for which he won an Academy Award. Yet his casting in all of these films seems misguided; his melodramatic stoicism and roughhewn

Like Someone in Love Criterion Collection Review: An Authentic Illusion

Iranian filmmaker creates vision of Japanese intimacy.
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Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kariostami has spent a lifetime constructing films meant to blur the line between creator and audience. Emerging in the 1960s during the first new wave in Iranian cinema, Kariostami received international acclaim following the Iranian Revolution with a series of films more reflective of life under the newly imposed Islamic rule, including The Koker Trilogy and its depiction of life in the Middle Eastern countryside. Over the past decade he has abandoned traditional filmmaking techniques in favor of suppler, more compassionate approaches evident in 2012’s Like Someone in Love. Set in Japan—one of only two movies Kariostami

The Pleasures of Being / Out of Step Movie Review: Jazz Critic Nat Hentoff Gets the Soft-bop Treatment

It is unfortunate director David L. Lewis fails to provide the investigation a polemic figure like Hentoff so obviously deserves.
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“Mingus tries harder than anyone I know to walk naked.” - Nat Hentoff in the liner notes to Charles Mingus’ The Clown (1957). His hubris makes you wonder why Nat Hentoff never said this about himself. It certainly is applicable. As the subject of David L. Lewis’ documentary The Pleasures of Being/Out of Step, showing in exclusive engagements throughout the summer, Hentoff carries a deep, sympathetic intellect with the kind of graceful confidence most outspoken cultural critics never know. Nat Hentoff made his name alongside guys like Ralph Gleason and Ira Gitler writing about jazz at the height of its

The Art of the Steal (2013) DVD Review: A Canadian Caper Film

Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon team-up for a funny, slick caper flick heavy on the dialogue and light on the excess.
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A viewer’s got to be leery of a film with so many production companies attached to it, eight on the box, four in the credits on The Art of the Steal—not to be confused with the 2009 documentary film of the same name, both of which deal with stolen art work. This is a heist flick carried by legendary screen charm from the likes of Kurt Russell, Terrence Stamp, and Matt Dillon. I mean what’s going on in the world when movies for men have to scrape together funding. On paper, let alone in print, this film should be green-lit.

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