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.

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.

Film Review: The Complete Metropolis

If There Was Ever a Movie That Deserved This Degree of Re-Examination, It’s Metropolis

"So, after 83 years of cutting and re-cutting, trying to piece together Lang’s original take we’re left to ask, Does the film live up to all the effort put in to save it?

Absolutely. Sure, on Kino’s Blu-Ray release, the newest 25-minutes of additional footage are scratched and grainy, and come in at a different aspect ratio than the rest of the film (the missing information is filled with black and gray bars), but that just underlines how gorgeous the rest of the film looks, filled with Lang’s soaring Art Deco towers and ornate cathedrals.

In fact, if there was ever a movie that deserved this degree of re-examination, it’s Metropolis. Every aspect of the movie is dense. The frames are full, sometimes with people (the DVD extras point out that 36,000 extras were used in the making of the film), sometimes with the light that bathes the saintly Maria, sometimes with smoke from the whirring machines. The story is packed with layers of symbolism. Sometimes machines are used as symbols for parts of the body, sometimes people are symbols as cogs in a machine, and on top of it all is a gloss of Biblical imagery. Even Gottfried Huppertz’s musical score—also restored to its original glory—swells and soars more often than it demurs. (Kino’s Blu-Ray is similarly exhaustive extras, mostly via a 50-minute documentary, 'Voyage to Metropolis', about the film’s making and restoration.)"

Read the full review on PopMatters.com.

Film Review: Eat Pray Love

Me Me Me, AKA "Eat Pray Love"

"Gilbert's objective is normally reserved, especially in movies, for 20-somethings. (Isn’t 'traveling to India to find oneself' the ultimate post-graduate cliché?) Liz, leaving a childless marriage in the beginning of the film, is beholden to no one. She is only responsible for herself, much like a privileged 20-something. The question is: Is there an age at which this emerging-into-a-whole-person storyline becomes vulgar? Or, considering the amount of scorn the younger generation brings down upon itself for being so similarly vain—broadcasting every interior thought on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the like—is there an age where this kind of selfishness isn’t vulgar?"

September & October Issues

September Issue

Fall Arts Preview
A look ahead at the movies, books, network television shows, and cultural events premiering in the fall. Due to the size and number of components in this package, it looks much better in PDF form than on the web. See "Recent Work" for an excerpt.

Where the Laughs Are
Comedians come to the county: "Who says that every-thing in Westchester has to be so serious all the time? No, we don’t have our own dedicated comedy club, and we’re missing improv culture that’s present in a place like Astoria, Queens. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want a good laugh every now and again."

Home Theater
Iron Man 2, The Secret of Kells, and TV on DVD

This Month's Highlights
Roller Derby, circus art, and more.

October Issue

Rock-a-Bye Baby
One local musician arranges Simon & Garfunkel and Billy Joel tunes for babies: "How many times can you listen to one baby-oriented album before you wish they’d be old enough to start listening to Metallica, just for something different?"

Haunted Hudson Valley
A preview of a new Halloween attraction in Sleepy Hollow: "Unlike at certain other haunted attractions, don’t expect to see a man with a Scream mask wielding a knife at an off-model Freddy Krueger here. Lance Hallowell, the man behind Norwalk’s Misery Mansion FestEvil and last year’s haunted hayride in Sleepy Hollow, is in charge of keeping all the haunts—including the 40 to 50 professional actors working in the event—in line with our local history."

Home Theater
Scary movies: The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Splice, and the Alien box set.

This Month's Highlights
An Arts Fest in New Rochelle, Harvesting at Stone Barns, John Lithgow's one-man play, and more.

Popmatters Round-Up

It's been a while, and there are more in the pipeline, so I figured it was a good time to do another PopMatters Round-Up

The Square

"In unfolding these events, The Square is almost remarkable in its straightforwardness. It is unadorned, like a square—all straight lines and right angles. This isn’t a twist on the noir genre, or an attempt to update and recontextualize it. This is straight-up about bad things happening to bad people."

Remember Me

"Tyler and Ally. They are a bundle of quirky affectations. He works in a used bookstore and re-arranges the books according to the sexual proclivities of the authors! She believes that life is short and disaster can strike at any moment, so she eats desserts before dinner! Ostensibly, Remember Me is a love story – is this a love story that filmmakers really feel the need to tell? Two self-involved adolescents take the time to see past their own problems and affectations to notice someone else for a brief moment in time?"

Mystery Team

"Though everyone in the cast is well matched to his or her role, it’s clear that they were chosen for the movie for their abilities to be naturally funny, not because they can disappear into their characters. The result is a series of encounters with small-town misfits that are exaggerated and distorted versions of the actors who play them (or at least were created with their comedic strengths in mind). This is the right way to approach the material, primarily because the actors they rounded up are really darn funny."


"Gorgeous, high-contrast black-and-white images—courtesy of cinematographer Mihai Malaimare, Jr.—give the film a more classic, timeless look.Tetro is worth viewing just to see the breathtaking shots of Argentina—which can easily be stunning with all of the naturally occurring color —done in the dreamy, luscious black-and-white style. Shown in a 2:35 aspect ratio, the shots in the film could be museum quality as still photography."

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

"Just as Tim Burton was able to use stop-motion animation to achieve a perfect expression of his gothic sensibility in his 1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wes Anderson takes to the medium to make the most Wes Andersony movie possible. After all, his movies are always about the little details—the wallpapers, the ties—and stop-motion animation itself is nothing if not an amalgam of millions of little details."

PopMatters Round-Up

Some of my most recent PopMatters reviews:

The Box
"Of course, in the hands of director Richard Kelly, even a simple thought experiment becomes not-so-straightforward."

The most compelling movie futures are not necessarily the shiniest. They don’t always show us the sleekest designs, most efficient technologies, or the most spectacular visions of what’s to come.

Staten Island
"With the film Staten Island, director James DeMonaco promises to push past all of the borough’s stereotypes—which, let’s face it, are mostly negative—for a more honest look at what it means to be from the Island. He does so, as he mentions in a thoughtful commentary with stars Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio, because he grew up on Staten Island, and always felt a sense of being mocked when he told that fact to outsiders."

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
"The huge ensemble is reduced to as series of one-note or half-note gags—get this, Ken Jeong’s character is Asian!—used to kill time when Piven is off-screen. And, since yes, it is funny to watch Piven go off on some type of ranting monologue, the film gets out of his way and gives them to him—many times."

The Monster Squad: 20th Anniversary Blu-Ray
"The Monster Squad is one of those ‘80s underdog-adventure movies that’s just one Corey shy of being a Saturday-afternoon television mainstay like the most famous of its brethren, The Goonies."

V: Series Premiere
"Viewers barely had time to wonder at the potential metaphors embodied by the extraterrestrials before we were hit with another shift in identity or expectation."

Flash Forward: Series Premiere
"Instead of engaging in diplomacy and cooperation, the episode focused on investigation: just three FBI agents—Benford, Demetri Noh (John Cho), and Janis Hawk (Christine Woods)—were assigned to figure out the cause of the blackout and the probability of its recurrence. Worse, instead of developing into an international procedural, the show immediately and extremely narrowed its focus, emulating every other unexplained-phenomenon series, from The X-Files to Fringe."

PopMatters's Year-End Lists Contributions:
Best Singles of 2009: Bishop Allen's "Oklahoma."
Best Albums of 2009: The Decemberists's The Hazards of Love (No. 25).
Best Movies of 2009: Coraline (No. 14)
Best TV Shows of 2009: Kings (No. 24).

January, February, and March

We started 2010 with lots of service, and I put together some great packages for the beginning of the year.

How to Do Just About Anything

A huge package full of tips on picking up any skills, from beer pong strategies to nuclear-meltdown preparedness. "Look back on your New Year’s resolutions. Did you vow to become a smarter, handier, more well-rounded person? That’s all well and good, but did you come up with a game plan for how to do it, too? No? Lucky for you, we did. Westchester’s packed with experts ready to teach you everything from the art of faking conversations with wine snobs to shedding those holiday pounds (while at work)."

Read This and Save a Bundle
Another service-packed feature, this time about saving money in the county: "How smart you are, you will think as you gaze at the best buy in your closet, that you were able to find that of-the-moment hot-ticket item for half price while your neighbors had to pay top dollar. And that’s what the best shoppers do: they don’t buy cheap items—they hunt, scour, and hustle until they can find great items at lower prices. And, believe us, it takes a lot of work. Lucky for you, we’ve done a lot of that work for you. We asked the pros, expert shoppers, and proud cheapskates (meet some of them here) to tell us how to find the best bargains in the county. Put down those coupon-clipping scissors and read on."

The Producer: Emily Gerson Saines
A profile of the executive producer of Temple Grandin: "When Cynthia Nixon accepted the Best Actress Tony Award for her performance in Rabbit Hole, there were only three people she mentioned by name: the playwright, the director, and Emily Gerson Saines."

Theater Review: 42nd Street
A review of a local production of the classic musical: "The characters in 42nd Street are excited to be cast in a new Broadway musical, not just for the sake of their showbiz careers, but because the economy is bad and they’re grateful for the jobs—sound familiar at all? Luckily, even if you haven’t been touched by the recession, the Westchester Broadway Theater’s 42nd Street gives you a lot of show for your money."

Five Places to Propose
Where to pop the question: "With Valentine’s Day in the air, and thoughts turning to romance, are you feeling inspired to buy a ring and ask for your true love’s hand? Finding someone to marry is the hard part—proposing should be easy. And, now, it’s even easier with our helpful list of five perfect places to pop the question. Take your pick from our à la carte menu of proposals."

January Highlights
Marianne Faithfull, Gregg Allman, and more.

January Home Theater
The Simpsons, Moon, and more.

February Highlights

Mardi Gras galore!

February Home Theater
A Serious Man, The Wolf Man, and more.

March Highlights
Henry Rollins, Ronnie Spector, and more.

March Home Theater
Kids' movies: Ponyo, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and more.