Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Death Every Afternoon: A DVD review of The Hit

"...despite its generic title and the professions of its central characters, The Hit bears little resemblance to the gangster film in the traditional sense. It’s closer in nature to Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s Performance, a film that opens as a full-on gritty gangster film but radically shifts gears to become a psychedelic head trip about questioning self-identity. The Hit is a less complex (and less frustrating) film but it follows a similar trajectory of using gangster film qualities to philosophize about the nature of death."

Click here to read my review at PopMatters

Friday, June 12, 2009

One Night with the Boss: A DVD Review of Bruce Springsteen On the Road

"Bruce Springsteen On the Road: 40 Years with the Boss is the definition of a mixed bag; and also a misnomer – these two discs neither show tour footage nor cover the promised 40-year span of Bruce’s career. The second disc might be too technical for casual fans of Springsteen and the first disc is so shoddily constructed that it can’t even serve as a primer for new recruits. Nevertheless, strong Bruce supporters will definitely be captivated by the second disc and I’m inclined to say that if you can find the set at a reduced cost it would be worth picking up."

Click here to read my review at PopMatters

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Under the Harvest Moon: A Review of Food, Inc.

"Kenner appeals to enlightenment rather than condemnation, and the text-based conclusion offers specific practices for viewers to consider. Even if they're only micro compared to the policy reform that the film essentially bids for, it at least offers tangible suggestions (scored to Bruce Springsteen no less). Participant Media also published a paperback companion that further explores issues raised in the film, and shipped it to bookstores in advance of the film’s theatrical release. By suggesting alternatives in a controlled, persuasive manner, Food, Inc. distinguishes itself from social awareness ego-trips like Richard Linklater's pedantic adaptation of Fast Food Nation and from the scores of fear-mongering documentaries that criticize without offering solutions: Michael Moore, Charles Ferguson, etc. take note."

Click here to read my review in The L Magazine

Sunday, June 07, 2009

You’ve Got a Friend in Me: An Appreciation of Quantum of Solace

When Quantum of Solace hit theaters this past November, it was met with a fierce critical drubbing for being too frenetic, too downbeat, too un-Bond. All salient points that deserve attention; in many ways it feels like an indie Bond made on the quick to let out some aggression in between grander, more satisfying efforts. And I concede that the first twenty minutes borders on the unwatchable with enough incomprehensible action to suggest that Bond is the progeny rather than the progenitor of Bourne. But I choose to turn a blind eye on its flaws because Quantum of Solace and its superior brethren Casino Royale do something that no other Bond films do: engage me both viscerally and cerebrally.

For me, the movie begins when Bond is picked up by Olga Kurykov’s Camille who notices a tail and asks sarcastically, "Friend of yours?" Bond responds, "I don't have friends." In any other iteration of Bond, the line would be merely a quip but with Daniel Craig's Bond, it's an insight into his personality. From that scene on the film can be viewed as a meditation on friendship: Can it exist within business / politics? Can you have an enemy if you're not capable of having a friend? What’s the difference between a friend and a lover? I couldn't believe how many times the word friend or friendship is uttered throughout the film: Mathis, Felix, M, Camille, Vesper's Ex, etc. I haven't heard the term friend used with such frequency since I saw River's Edge.

In the film’s penultimate scene, Bond interrogates Vesper's ex and when he notices a woman wearing the same necklace Vesper had worn he states, "I have one just like it… He gave it to a friend of mine, someone very close to me.” In a sense, the film begins with Bond rejecting the notion of friendship and ends with him accepting not only the possibility but the existence of a friend. Of course, this is certainly not a healthy understanding of friendship, as the friend in question is now deceased and their relationship was built upon duplicity.

Perhaps a cold war nut can find just as satisfying an analysis of For Your Eyes Only or a sci-fi guru can gleefully dissect the intricacies of Moonraker but for my money, Quantum of Solace is the most thought provoking Bond entry yet. Does that make it the first Bond movie to play better in the classroom than on the big screen?