Star Wars: The Clone Wars

It’s no secret that I love Star Wars — and not just “the old ones” but all six movies: their mythic scope, their conceptual and visual inventiveness, the cheesy characters and blunt dialogue, the structural complexity, the joy they take in speed and color. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the all-new animated Star Wars adventure, is a worthy addition to the original six-film cycle, staying true to the spirit of the series while overhauling it in a number of important ways. Read the rest of my review on About.com.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Dave Filoni, 2008. ****

Also recently seen:

The Dark Knight vs. Revenge of the Sith

Like any critic who dared to show themselves less than impressed with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight juggernaut, I caught a lot of abuse for my dismissive review. Being called a mouth-breathing mountain dweller and a hat-wearing Brooklynite is fine by me, but when my nerd cred was insulted, I knew it was time for a fanboy throwdown: The Dark Knight vs. my favorite film of 2005, George Lucas’s much-maligned pop masterpiece Revenge of the Sith.

Click over to About.com to read why Star Wars beats Batman in every respect — and then I’ll promise to return to your regularly scheduled coverage of art house films, including the lovely In Search for a Midnight Kiss, Johnny To’s Mad Detective, and the much anticipated Fear(s) of the Dark.

The Dark Knight



Christopher Nolan and Maggie Gyllenhaal just aren’t enough of an indie connection to cover this on Worldfilm, so I’ll just say this here: godawful. Two hours and twenty minutes, a gazillion dollars, a sterling cast, and an eight story IMAX screen weren’t enough for this movie to tickle a single thrill out of me. Instead, endless turgid tripe about vigilante morals, heaps of vicious violence, Gotham City politics that play a little bit like The Wire, only stupid, and muddled action sequences that are — and I say this without hyperbole — duller than the scenes in which Bruce Wayne is having dinner.

What else? Christian Bale doesn’t go anywhere near Rescue Dawn levels of intensity, poor Maggie is wasted, Aaron Eckhart pays for his sins in Thank You for Smoking with a nasty case of Visible Man, Morgan Freeman turns into a FISA-protected wiretapper, and Michael Caine will always be Michael Caine. Heath Ledger’s Joker, a sadistic freak with curious facial ticks, is the most compelling person on screen, but tragedy or not, he can’t beat Jack Nicholson dancing in the pale moonlight to a Prince track.

Tim Burton knew how to have fun with Batman rather than turning it into plodding, puffed-up kitsch mistaking itself for profound psycho noir that the source material won’t support. As Hellboy 2 amply illustrates, there’s nothing wrong with fun — but there’s none to be had here. Previously: Batman Begins.

Prince, Jack, Keaton, Burton:



The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan, 2008. *

America The Cherry Blossoms Are Falling

Yesterday, I escaped the puerile, disgusting, and (worst of all) staggeringly unfunny Poultrygeist to enjoy a banana in Central Park.

Today, unrelenting construction noise on our block makes me wish I could seek refuge at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, where the cherries are in full bloom. They’ve delighted us in the past — but alas, the Tribeca Film Festival begins today, and Cannes announced the linup.

A vaguely appropriate Ginsberg poem has been added to my muxtape.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. Lloyd Kaufman, 2006. N/R

The Dhamma Brothers

One afternoon last week, I found myself explaining the benefits of transcendental meditation — and its much cheaper, guru-free alternative Natural Stress Relief — to a junkie at an East Village pizza joint. (He asked.) You see, I was predisposed to love The Dhamma Brothers, a documentary about inmates of an Alabama high security prison who take up Vipassana meditation. Despite its fascinating subject, the film turned out to be a disappointment. Read my review on About.com to find out why.

I also saw Redbelt, David Mamet’s latest. It’s an entirely enjoyable fight movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as noble jiu-jitsu teacher that’s perched somewhat uncomfortably between Mamet’s usual snappiness and a few very tired genre conventions. In typical Mamet style, Redbelt is thick with cons, counter-cons, and strange coincidences, but this time, it’s nearly impossible to tell which is which. Opens on May 9.

Tonight, I’m excited to see Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely, and on TV, we’re enjoying the continuing adventures of Liz Lemon and Kara Thrace. In the mobile department, Peeping Tom and Paths of Glory have proven themselves eminently watchable on a packed subway — just don’t tell Messrs. Powell and Kubrick.

The Dhamma Brothers. Andrew Kukura, Jenny Phillips, Anne Marie Stein, 2007. **
Redbelt. David Mamet, 2008. ***
Peeping Tom. Michael Powell, 1960. ***
Paths of Glory. Stanley Kubrick, 1957. ****

The Redbelt trailer:

Konsum: One More Saturday Night

ratdog.jpg

Fewer movies than usual because I’m working on several top secret plans for world domination, we’re still catching up with The Wire, and my obsession with Daniel Plainview shows no signs of abating. (Check out the new entries in the contest.) The notable exception was Etgar Keret’s Jellyfish, a sweet film that plays like minor-key Israeli version of Magnolia. I also tried to talk Marcy into watching Southland Tales, hoping that Richard Kelly’s sophomore disaster might improve upon second viewing. The answer was a resounding no — we didn’t make it past the 15-minute mark.

It’s been a good week for concerts, though. I never blogged about the March 19 benefit for Scotty Hard, a cause that brought all the champions of the downtown groove scene to the Highline Ballroom. My personal highlight was an outrageous and all-too-brief set by elusive dub god Bill Laswell, accompanied by Bernie Worrell. This weekend, Ratdog was back at the Beacon — unlike the Rolling Stones, they’re a band that actually belongs there. I missed Thursday’s sit-ins by Jimmy Herring, Warren Haynes, and Steve Molitz, but witnessed Friday’s ups (Tomorrow Never Knows! Hard Rain!) and downs (ridiculous sound problems during The Weight), as well as Saturday’s just-about perfect four hours of rock’n roll heaven. And now you’ll have to excuse me while I retire to my favorite secure undisclosed location.

The Wire. Season 3. ****
There Will Be Blood. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007. *****
Jellyfish/Meduzot. Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, 2007. ***
Southland Tales. Richard Kelly, 2007. *

Ratdog
4/4/08 Beacon Theatre, New York NY

I: Jam > Playin’ in the Band > Tomorrow Never Knows > Tennessee Jed, Sitting in Limbo > West L.A. Fadeaway, Even So > October Queen > The Deep End > Big Railroad Blues
II: K.C. Moan, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, The Weight, Eyes of the World, The River Song > Stuff > Dear Prudence > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
E: Casey Jones

4/5/08 Beacon Theatre, New York NY
I: Jam > Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Maggie’s Farm, Row Jimmy, Dark Star > Weather Report Suite > Let It Grow
II: You Win Again, City Girls, Victim or the Crime, Lazy River Road > Jack Straw > Dark Star > Stuff, Days Between > Two Djinn > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower
E: One More Saturday Night