I may have seen better films so far this year -- though, to be quite honest, few are coming to mind -- but nothing has given me quite as much pound-for-pound pleasure as "Muppets Most Wanted," the eighth big-screen outing for Jim Henson's lovable band of felt vaudevillians, arriving 35 years after their first. I've already expressed my enthusiasm for the goofy European adventure in my review, but I know a number of critics' reactions have been closer to those of Statler and Waldorf. What do you say? Share your thoughts in the comments if/when you've seen the film, and be sure to vote in the poll below.
MIAMI - We've so often seen Andy Garcia performing in an Italian-American gangster guise – from “The Untouchables” to “Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead” to, of course, his Oscar-nominated breakout role in “The Godfather Part III” – that it's easy to forget the Havana-born actor's Cuban heritage.
By general agreement, it wasn't a banner year for documentaries at January's Sundance Film Festival, but one of the stronger entries I saw was Ryan White and Ben Cotner's "The Case Against 8." The HBO film maps out the history of the landmark legal battle over California's Proposition 8 (that's the ban on same-sex marriage, if you're returning from a decade-long Arctic exile) is exhaustive, intelligent detail; it's not a flashy or formally daring documentary, but it's all the more moving for focusing on fundamentals. (You can read my review here.)
Kelly Reichardt's cool, composed eco-thriller "Night Moves" is pretty much the definition of a slow burner: I saw the film at its Venice premiere and was aloofly impressed, only for it to have wormed its way under my skin by the time I reviewed it a few days later. Six months on, I find my mind wandering back to its snaky ambiguities -- it's one that probably should have placed on my Best of 2013 list, and certainly seals Reichardt's place in the top ranks of American independent auteurs.
Nearly two months after the Sundance Film Festival wrapped up for another year, the acquisitions news is still trickling in, and the latest hit from Park City to find US distribution is "Dear White People." Justin Simien's debut feature was one of the few to generate critical discussion and debate in what was a pretty low-temperature US Dramatic competition, and was duly recognized with a special Breakthrough Talent award. Now Lionsgate and their adventurous indie arm Roadside Attractions have picked it up for the North American market, with a release pencilled in for the autumn.
Lars von Trier's critically acclaimed "Nymphomaniac, Pt. 1" has already been available on VOD for a few weeks, but is finally hitting the big screen this Friday. The second part plays on VOD tomorrow before hitting theaters on April 4. And, at some point, you'll likely be able to watch the entire five-hour cut which was released in Denmark late last year. That being said, if von Trier's sexually dramatic exploits have awakened something in you or you don't get what all the fuss is about then we've got 10 other films you really need to see. One of them is actually another von Trier production and a few others might even make the infant terrible director blush.
As a professional film critic -- whatever that may be -- I have a handful of concrete rules by which I ply my ostensible trade, and not reviewing films by or heavily involving close friends is one of them. Which presents a bit of a problem when tasked with writing about any given Muppet movie.
No, I can't claim I've ever knocked back a beer with Kermit the Frog, gone shopping with Miss Piggy or got close to any of the cloth-skinned crowd without the dividing wall of a television screen between us, but damn it if I don't feel closer to them than I do to any number of human names in my address book. Growing up, I knew their vaudeville numbers inside out. I'd record the umpteenth rerun of even the Crystal Gayle episode with completist's excitement. And I treasured my Kermit toothbrush until the bristles began falling out, ignoring the fact that he wasn't the most dentally appropriate role model.
MIAMI - Being the director of any film festival requires a dauntingly broad skill set: the best in the business are at once discerning cinephiles, persuasive businesspeople, savvy media monitors and charismatic public figures. Their own expert appreciation of the artform can't interfere with their intuitive popular touch; they must interact with industry, journalists and paying audiences with equal care and cordiality, usually at the same time. A film festival lasts less than a fortnight; building and running it is a year-round job.
This July will mark a special occasion for independent cinema. It was 20 years ago that Tom Rothman joined 20th Century Fox to launch Fox Searchlight Pictures, a division of the studio meant to capitalize on a growing movement in the industry like Miramax Films and Sony Pictures Classics before it. It was the rise of the "dependents," studio-sanctioned arms run autonomously that would be havens of sorts for filmmakers with bold voices, led by teams geared toward matching those voices with the audiences that craved them.
Dom Hemingway just got out of jail. Dom wants what he's owed. That may turn out to be a tall order.