Month: March 2007

RIP: The Guy From That Show

Ever flip past, like, the Long Island or Jersey PBS station and catch a few minutes of that show where they’re all in the department store? Well, the main guy died. I never knew his name (or the character’s name) but the few minutes I’ve caught of that show here & there were always very...

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The Year of the Yao (2005), Adam Del Deo & James D. Stern, B-

Should you be flipping channels and come across this well-meaning and simple doc, you won’t be entirely wasting your time. The story of Yao Ming is fascinating. (The documentary isn’t; the documentary is hack work.) Yao Ming, if you don’t know, is a 7 foot 6 inch sweet boy from China who is one of the NBA’s greatest players. Watching the move from his spartan room in his parents’ proletarian apartment to VIP suites in Vegas is highly entertaining. Seeing the new development of a “celebrity culture” in China is strangely compelling. B-Ball’s been big in China for a century (there’s footage of Mao cheering a team on) but it wasn’t until recently that they even kept statistics on individual players. (Those damned commies keeping us from tallying the triple double!!!) Anyway, if you can look past the gloss and cheese of the officially sanctioned “NBA Films” production, there’s lots to like in this movie. And Shaquille O’Neal is a...

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Cobra Verde (1987), Werner Herzog, A-

The lost Werner Herzog/Klaus Kinski film gets its theatrical release. . .20 years later. This time Klaus plays a notorious Brazilian bandit called “Cobra Verde” whose stare-down of a rebellious slave impresses a local sugar baron. He finds himself the slave overseer on a massive plantation, until he knocks up the boss’ daughter(s). The powers that be realize that anyone who tries to discipline or exact revenge on Kinski will wind up dead — so they come up with a brilliant idea. Shipments of slaves have dried up in the last few years. The British have outlawed the trade, the Arabs have the East Coast of Africa all tied up and their old contact, the King of Dahomey, has gone completely batshit. Any white man who goes over there will surely be killed. Why not send Cobra Verde? He’ll probably be killed, and what’s the worse case scenario if he doesn’t? More slaves! It’s win-win! So we’re off to Africa, and if this were a Hollywood film here’s where Cobra would find redemption. He’d recognize the nobility of the indigineous African and learn a lot about himself. And while there are trace elements of this arc in Herzog’s film, it’s never as easy as you expect. For one thing — everyone in this movie is evil. More so than “The Sopranos,” there is not one character with a shred...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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