Month: May 2009

Whatever Works (2009), Woody Allen, B

My deep rooted inability to say anything too negative about Woody Allen prevents me from telling you how I really feel about this movie – that it is a limp noodle, a shrug, a cast-off half-project. It’s a movie that you can watch and talk on the phone at the same time. And still – there are parts that are stone cold hilarious and even a little bit...

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Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs (2008), Peter Avanzino, A-

When it was announced Futurama would be back with four feature-length DVDs I was ecstatic. The first one came out, I loved it, and then. . .that was it. I turned on Futurama for a stupid reason I won’t get into here. But I finally watched movie #2 last night and it is fantastic. It truly embraces insane, stream-of-consciousness thinking blended with hardcore nerdish sci-fi. It’s been said before, but there is more hard SF in an episode of Futurama than almost any other TV show, really. This one involves a polygamous octopus monster from space voiced by David...

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Burnt By The Sun (1994), Nikita Mikhalkov, B

Perhaps if I were Russian I’d have more feelings toward this film. It’s won every award imaginable, I left thinking, “yeah, that was pretty good.” The first 90 minutes feature and an extended family and group of artists at a collective colony out in the country. It the Stalin years, pre-WWII. An old(ish) war hero and his young bride are up there and all is well until her old lover returns. What follows is a fairly classic character-driven tale of romantic upheavals. Almost British is its presentation. The final 30 minutes, though, take an odd political turn. Stalin’s purges come down hard and we realize (Spoilers) that the returned lover is actually there to take the old man away for giving secrets to the Germans. Violence concludes the tale. A closing crawl implies that the dude wasn’t actually giving secrets away. Tugs on the heartstings a bit, I guess, but hardly angered up the blood. In Russia, in 1994, that was a different story I am sure. Most Russian films I’ve ever seen (Soviet or not) are very technical, very formal. This is not. (It is also a French co-production.) Just saying, is...

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Chocolate (just the fight scenes) (2009), Prachya Pinkaew, C+

It’s takes a lot for a martial arts movie to make it into my sphere of knowledge, but this one a) stars a woman and b) features “thai boxing” instead of the other leading brand. To my untrained eyes, it is all just kicking and punching and going “eeek” with each move, but who am I to say it isn’t “thai boxing.” We tried to watch the movie proper, but the opening sequence made that simply unbearable. The midi-esque music! The slow dissolves! The incomprehensible storytelling! “Is this the movie, or still a trailer?” On FF we determined that a special needs child is blessed with the gift of catching tennis balls with great speed and kicking mounds of ass. She needs to collect “mother’s money” because mother is dying (and has been doing so for about 17 years) so the young tennis ball catcher (and her tubby, goofy friend) proceed to put some muscle on varying bad guys who hang out in warehouses. First they hit the ice warehouse. Then it was the box factory. Then the meat lockers. Then, just, I dunno, some room. The big boss fight, and, frankly, the only one that made me really say, “Wow, that is cool” happened on various ledges of sign-heavy three story buildings. Lots of jumping up and down levels, straight out of games like Prince of Persia. The...

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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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