DVD Review: All Good Things

Things Are All Too Real in 'All Good Things'

"Many directors fudge true stories by introducing made-up or re-imagined material for effect; Jarecki fudges his fictional work by basically making it as true and accurate as possible. The director is lucky that he found a story that doesn’t need much fictionalizing to still be so engrossing.

In a way, however, this attention to detail might account for the movie’s biggest flaw. The film is framed by courtroom scenes that, if anything, detract from the tension set up by the true-life events. It seems that these scenes exist to provide an excuse to do a voice-over and have a lawyer come out and point-blank ask Marks to explain his motivations for certain events. A DVD feature later reveals that the transcripts from that trial—2,000 pages worth—provided much of the source material for the film. The movie doesn’t need these direct explanations, and Jarecki should have trusted the story to shine through without them."

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters.com.

April Issue: Catch That Snitch!

Catch That Snitch

A Q&A with the two moderators of a high school Quidditch club: "If you’re not a member of the wizarding world, you can be forgiven for not knowing about Quidditch. In the Harry Potter series, Quidditch is a magical sport played by wizards who fly around on broomsticks, dodging hazards and scoring points by either knocking balls into a goal or catching the elusive golden 'snitch.' One enterprising athlete from Middlebury College painstakingly adapted the rules for an on-the-ground version of the game. (Yes, he kept the broomsticks.) While at first it was just a sport for college fantasy geeks, Quidditch is now one of the fastest growing club sports, and it’s even trickled down into some high schools—including the Ursuline School in New Rochelle. The Ursuline Koalas were one of 46 teams that took the field at the sport’s biggest tournament, the Quidditch World Cup, in the fall. (The tournament drew 20,000 spectators.) We caught up with Urusuline American History teacher Jackie Geller and Italian teacher Francesca LaGumina—the club’s moderators—to ask them about the road to the cup."

Read the rest of the Q&A here.

April Issue: Malled or Mauled?

Malled or Mauled?

A Q&A with a writer who, after getting laid off from a prestigious newspaper, found a retail job in the mall, then wrote a book about it: "Many retail employees don’t receive any training. Kelly reports that, due to low wages and few opportunities for advancement, 50 percent of retail workers leave every three months, leading to 100-percent turnover every year—and companies often conclude that it’s not worth putting in the time and expense to train. 'If you ask where something is and the associate doesn’t immediately know, it’s probably not because she’s stupid or lazy,' she says. 'Now that I understand that, I try to be nicer.'”

Read the rest of the Q&A here.

April: Earth Day--The Right Way

 

Earth Day--The Right Way

An article on local ways to participate in Earth Day: "Here, it’s cool to be green. Our buildings use renewable energy. Our fine restaurant menus are chock full of ingredients from local family farms. Our boutiques are filled with handmade items constructed from recycled or sustainable materials. So, when you think of Earth Day, are you still picturing hippies in tie-dye and love beads sitting around in a drum circle? You shouldn’t be. This Earth Day, Westchester goes back to its roots—its roots in the soil, that is—at events that’ll connect people with the land they live on, with nary a VW bus in sight."

Read the rest of the article here.

Photo credit: Mark Jordan/Jordanstudio.com

Film Review: Sucker Punch

'Sucker Punch': Amped Up

"Though we follow five girls, two—Amber and Blondie—are mostly props. Sure, they all look striking and sexy while fighting robots and dragons in short skirts and piled-on makeup, sauntering into battle, guns in one hand and samurai swords in the other. Just don’t ask why they’re there or what they’ll do if they ever gain their freedom.

The movie often brushes the girls’ stories aside in favor of major battle sequences. Amped up and exciting, these images have all of the trademarks of Snyder’s tricked-out style, slow motion at times and blended to look like long tracking shots at others. They’re set to loud music. They take place in far-off worlds and they’re incredibly fun. Much as the girls believe, escape into fantasy is its own reward."

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters.com.

914 Inc Premiere

My contributions to our recently launched business magazine:

Our Power Dozen: Catherine Marsh

Profiling a nonprofit leader for our "Power Dozen" cover story: "Philanthropy is hard. There’s deciding what kinds of organizations you support, vetting them for legitimacy, and setting up a payment plan, not to mention all of that paperwork. Catherine Marsh, executive director of the 30-plus-year-old, five-employee Westchester Community Foundation, makes philanthropy easy—and possible for people who wouldn’t be able to do the legwork otherwise...'It’s one thing to give away fifty thousand dollars,' she adds, 'and it’s another thing to say, "Where can this fifty thousand dollars have the most benefit?"'"

A Picture of Success in Tarrytown

How one local performing arts institution has been successful during the recession: "In tough times, economists say life’s little extras—like tickets to concerts and plays—are the first things slashed from the family budget. Maybe those economists should study the Tarrytown Music Hall. Today, when many arts organizations are pulling back, the historic Main Street theater is growing. The Music Hall saw an increase of 31 percent in paid attendance from 2008 to 2009—just when Wall Street was hitting its roughest patch—and those numbers have held steady for 2010. Look back further, and the picture gets even rosier: attendance has grown more than 400 percent since 2005."

February and March Issues


Westchester: Off-Off-Off Broadway?

How Westchester is becoming a destination for emerging theater: No doubt, playwrights, directors, and producers benefit from trying out their new material on an audience of regular theater-goers. 'When artists do these kinds of readings in the city, industry professionals, critics, and bloggers show up,' says Anna Becker, curator and founder of the Insights & Revelations Performance Series, which has brought new works to the county since 2005. 'That’s exactly the kind of pressure that you don’t want when figuring things out. In Westchester, the audience is intelligent and savvy, but they’re not as critical as industry insiders. It’s the perfect place to try something out.'”

First Kisses—Remembered

One artist's Valentine's Day performance work: "What happens when you think about your first kiss? Do you smile sheepishly? Blush? Cringe? Marcy B. Freedman, an artist and art historian from Croton-on-Hudson, wants to know. She’s collecting these stories for a work of performance art titled First Kiss Remembered, which she will perform on February 12 from noon to 3 pm at the Peekskill Coffee House—right across the street from her art studio. We caught up with her to talk about the state of kissing in the county."

Pet Events

Where to party with Fido and Fluffy: "Your pup appreciates the finer things, but never gets invited to cocktail parties—until now. The SPCA of Westchester’s Top Hat and Cocktails gala invites people and their pets to put on their best duds and venture out together. After your portrait is taken by a professional pet photographer, take Spot to the doggie ice-cream bar while you enjoy drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and live and silent auctions."

Teaming with Excitement

Looking at a recent expansion to a local children's bookstore: "The [bookstore] is expanding—taking over the adjacent storefront, previously held by a rug seller—and nearly doubling in size. With the increased space, the shop is adding a tea salon with an assortment of teas, French-press coffee, hot cocoa, pastries and scones. 'I’m thinking of moms at three o’clock, when it’s too early to go home and start making dinner, and the kids might be getting a little fussy,' says owner Francine Lucidon. 'Instead, they can come here, and Mom can have her tea and the kids can have hot chocolate, and everybody can read their books together.'”

February Cultural Highlights

Anthony Bourdain, Jim Breuer, Step Afrika, etc.

March Cultural Highlights

A Woman's Life, Bernadette Peters, Randy Newman, etc.

February Home Theater

It's Kind of a Funny Story, Let Me In, Monsters, and A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop.

March Home Theater

TV shows: Mad Men, Treme, and The Walking Dead.

DVD Review: Futurama Vol. 5

'Futurama Vol. 5': The Branier Common Denominator

"Futurama‘s return to television has been a slow, strange process. Unlike Family Guy—which was cancelled and then returned to its original form, network, and night—Futurama had to spend some time in a return-to-TV-halfway-house. Comedy Central revived the series as four direct-to-DVD films which, after their debut, where chopped up into half-hour segments and aired in reruns as individual episodes.

Though the creators performed admirably within those limitations, it was not the most natural structure for a television show. Each movie had to have its own narrative arc, with a setup and a payoff befitting a feature-length film. Then, within each story, beats had to be doled out in half-hour increments so that, in reruns, the stories would make sense and feel satisfying as individual episodes. Finally, after the success of the DVD-to-TV experiment, Futurama was allowed to start making new episodes without any of those limitations, with the first of the new batch premiering on Comedy Central on 2010-06-24. 

To the show’s credit, the audience doesn’t often feel the behind-the-scenes machinations—the time restrictions, the unsteady sense of not knowing if the plug will be pulled again—in episodes themselves. 'You guys have gotten really good at writing episodes where you don’t know if it’s the last one or not,' creator Matt Groening tells his crew during the commentary for 'Rebirth', the most recent season premiere. And it’s true: The Futurama writers have mastered the art of finagling a satisfying conclusion with just the right amount of open-endedness.

Thankfully, Futurama Volume 5—which contains the first 13 episodes of the most recent, TV-only season—doesn’t have to concern itself with endings. The series picks up immediately after the last film, Into the Wild Green Yonder. The writing, gorgeous 3D animation, and vocal performances pick up just as quickly, as if the series never had to experience the interlude of cancellation and direct-to-DVD movies."

Click through to read the rest of the review at PopMatters.

DVD Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Watch Out for the Moral Hazard in 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'

"It’s especially interesting to hold Gekko up against the hedge-fund managers of 2008, when Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps takes place. In the spectrum of villainy, where does he fall, especially since the Street has gotten so much hungrier and greedier in his absence? The only thing more fun that Gordon Gekko, Master of the Universe is Gordon Gekko the Underdog, trying to sleaze his way back to the top. (There’s just something humorous about seeing him ride the subway.) Unfortunately, though, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is not about that story."

Click through to read the rest of the review at PopMatters.com.