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Articles by

<Matt Peterson>

05/09/07 12:00am

Luke Wilson (co)directs and (co)writes this modestly charming and watchable comedy about a man, “call me Wendell” Baker (Wilson is also the star), as he attempts to get his life back in order. It is fun enough, and at times likeably silly and irreverent, with a warm, personal touch, and some cute throwbacks from the more innocent comedies of the 70’s. You have to get past some clumsy directing, a sophomoric script, an overly sentimental attempt at character building, and the Scorsese syndrome of pop song saturation. It’s hard not to feel like this is a Bottle Rocket (where Wilson made his movie debut) done with less quirky finesse, or perhaps a more expensive My Name Is Earl, whose redemptive plot structure is quite similar. But you won’t be disappointed by the performances put in by the legendary Harry Dean Stanton and Seymour Cassel. They without question steal the show, and at times feel like the only saving graces to an ass-dragging 3rd act. I’d say wait for this to hit TBS in a few years, and watch it on a lazy Sunday evening.

Opens May 18

05/09/07 12:00am

Werner Herzog is one of a tiny pool of directors to have mastered both fiction and non-fiction cinema, blurring the lines and challenging the conventions of both. He had one of his 40-year career’s biggest hits with the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man. This led to what many are calling his “Hollywood film,” his upcoming “summer blockbuster,” Rescue Dawn, itself a fictional retelling of his 1997 doc, Little Dieter Needs To Fly. Film Forum has programmed a 3-week series showcasing his substantial body of work as a “documentarian” (as well as a few films handpicked for the series by man himself).

Most of these films are not available on DVD (and were never released on video), so this career spanning retrospective is a rare treat. Must sees include Land Of Silence And Darkness (1971), my all-time favorite (and playing on my birthday to boot). One of his first films, it centers on the deaf and blind and their struggles to communicate, both with each other and the outside world. Never will you see a better film about the dignity of humanity. Also, The Great Ecstasy Of Woodcarver Steiner (1975) on the (moderately) big screen. It is as good an example of any of Herzog’s obsession with man’s striving for transcendence in the face of pettiness, confusion, and chaos.

Werner’s “Picks” include Chris Marker’s 1982 masterpiece Sans Soleil (soon to be released on DVD by the Criterion Collection), Hubert Sauper’s Oscar-nominated Darwin’s Nightmare (2004); and films by Errol Morris, Les Blank, and Jean Rouch.

Last but not least, Mr. Herzog will be in attendance for some of the screenings, so buy your tickets now!

04/25/07 12:00am

The film is, like it or not, a traditional romantic comedy, with the characters, relationships, plot development, and outcome you expect. But don’t let that scare you off, you might just enjoy it. It fits quite comfortably in the mold set by Woody Allen, and his post-Reagan successors of white male New York neurosis, Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach.

Stillman and Baumbach regular Chris Eigman — his recognizable face a bit chubbier since his early 90’s heydey — plays the lead, Jake Singer, a 30-something English teacher in need of direction. Singer seeks “treatment” from a ruthless Freudian played by Ian Holm. Their moments on-screen together make up the best bits of the film, showing great chemistry and comic timing. Singer’s love interest, a recently widowed parent to one of his students, is played by Dutch-born Famke Janssen. Janssen is so gorgeous she seems to have to understate to not steal the show entirely.

There are some plot holes and secondary stories that don’t entirely work, and you get the feeling the film might have worked better as a cable series. Though the casting — with Roger Rees and Harris Yulin in small but effective parts — and performances keep the film moving with an enjoyable energy and warmth. 

Opens May 4