Review: Magic Mike

July 25, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

Chances are if you are seriously considering going to see this movie, you have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for – a sex-soaked exploitation film starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey. On the other hand, if you are reading this review before making up your mind, you’re probably someone who is looking for something a little deeper than that. 

Let’s get this out of the way first: Magic Mike does have a plot, but it is a very weak one. In fact, there were a number of times during the screening that I found myself irritated at the attempt. It feels more like a game the actors are playing – let’s make this up as we go along. The upside of this is that, under Stephen Soderbergh’s direction, the actors play with their characters and their dialogue, giving it a fun feeling. No one is really earnestly trying to say something deep in Magic Mike, and that’s a good thing.

The story follows Mike (Tatum), a hard-working construction worker by day and the male stripper “Magic Mike” by night, who really wants to be a furniture-maker. His path crosses with Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old ne’er-do-well living with his permanently grimacing sister Brooke (Cody Horn). Adam comes to work with Mike and is suddenly thrown onto the stage when another stripper falls ill. After what is perhaps the most unerotic male striptease I’ve ever seen in my life, sleazy club-owner Dallas (McConaughey) inexplicably decides to give him a permanent slot in the show. Adam’s sister is disturbed not only by her brother’s new occupation, but by the drug abuse and general wildness that accompanies it. In the mean time, Mike begins to lose interest in his groupies, and starts falling for Brooke.

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Review: To Rome With Love

July 11, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

If you’re a fan of Woody Allen, you have the great advantage of being able to see a new film from him pretty much every year. And chances are good that as with any great auteur director, that film is going to deal with familiar themes in the recognizable Woody Allen style. This year is no different in that regard. His latest film, To Rome with Love, starring an international ensemble cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Ellen Paige, Jesse Eisenberg, Roberto Benigni, and Penelope Cruz, may be a far cry from last year’s marvelous Midnight in Paris, but still it is an excellent character-oriented film with a lot of great moments.

In this new film, Allen places the action in the storied city of Rome where we find a set of characters that span a range of stations in life, from the millionaire American on vacation (Baldwin) to popular Roman call girl (Cruz) to the everyday office worker whose life has become as mundane as can be (Benigni). The characters’ lives intertwine in interesting ways, all along the famous Woody Allen theme – we always want what we cannot have and we always think things are perfect for the person leading a life opposite to our own.

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Review: BearCity 2 – The Proposal

July 4, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

Things are about to get a little hairy in Provincetown.

In conjunction with Bear Week, Waters Edge Cinema will host a sneak preview of BearCity 2: The Proposal, the sequel to the 2010 breakout hit BearCity. In this Sex in the City with chest hair, the boys are leaving Manhattan for Provincetown’s Bear Week, one of the largest bear events in America. Filmed in Provincetown last summer and fall, BearCity 2 is a sweet and sexy romp through love, sex, and marriage that is as scruffy as it is sentimental. It is also a love letter to Provincetown.

BearCity 2 comes to the Cape tip as the characters Roger (Gerald McCullouch) and Tyler (Joe Conti) plan to marry, Fred (Brian Keane) begins a documentary on bear culture, Brent (Stephen Guarino) learns to swim (well, almost), and Michael (Greg Gunter)  is about to produce a new Broadway musical, keeping him tied to his phone as Carlos (James Martinez) can’t tear himself away from Scruff, a phone app for bears. As family and friends gather for the big day, the ties that bind are tested; love and lust swirl around in the midst of thousands of reveling bears on the beach, and ex-lovers and prospective “husbears” come on the scene.

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Review: Moonrise Kingdom

June 27, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

When director Wes Anderson makes a film, there’s no mistaking it for someone else’s. His unique visual style, penchant for quirky characters and awkward dialogue, and tendency to cast movie stars against type have made his films, from the breakout success Rushmore (1998) to The Darjeeling Limited (2007), undeniably unique.

This latest film, Moonrise Kingdom stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy, two 12-year-olds who have fallen in love and run away from home on a small New England island. Sam is an orphan enrolled in a Boy Scouts-like operation called the Khaki Scouts, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). Suzy is a melancholic preteen who wears mini-dresses, go-go boots, and dark eyeliner to accentuate her angst. Together they make an odd-looking couple, but like most things in an Anderson film, the awkwardness of the pair assists in creating a strangely realistic world.

Moonrise Kingdom takes place in 1965, and Anderson certainly delights in revisiting that era, with all the hyper zooming in and out, warm hues, and pre-sexual-revolution fashion that entails. The script, which Anderson co-wrote with Roman Coppola, picks up on the nihilism and anti-heroic focus of American cinema of the 1960s, as well. But while there is a decidedly retro feel to the movie, these stylistic choices do not make it a predictable film. On the contrary, we never know exactly where the script is going to take us – another hallmark of Anderson’s filmmaking.

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We Love Short-Shorts

June 13, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

 It seems that when it comes to mainstream films and media all the attention goes to feature films, while the shorts get short-changed.  However, thanks to the rise of film festivals around the world, there are more opportunities for audiences to see the artistry of short films. With over 40 short films screening this year, the Provincetown International Film Festival contributes to this growing and robust art form.  Short films have always been a part of the cinematic world, but now with the technological revolution making equipment more accessible and affordable, and the Internet making raising money and getting distribution easier, short films are booming.

“People now have access to a whole new way to tell their stories,” says Beth Grant, co-writer and director of The Perfect Fit.  “Women, people of color, gays; we have a shot now. We don’t have to go through the WASP-y establishment. This shatters the glass ceiling. With the Internet we can find our audiences. If you wanted to you can take a short and tour the world.”

Grant is perhaps best known for her work as a character actress with memorable roles in Donnie Darko, No Country for Old Men, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, and as Sissy in the cult classic Sordid Lives. In her directorial debut, Grant decided to make The Perfect Fit an almost entirely silent film after she appeared in the Academy Award winning film The Artist. Starring Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and Frances Fisher, the short follows five women who meet by chance at a vintage clothing shop, each looking for something different only to find out they have a lot in common. Shot over three months, the idea that a short is easier to make than a feature-length film may be true in some aspects, but not in others.

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Triumph of their Will

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The story of ACT UP comes alive in How to Survive a Plague

The title of journalist David France’s first documentary feature, How to Survive a Plague, says it all. Just as the famed AIDS Quilt was a collective expression of tragedy and loss, France’s film is one of triumph in the face of that devastating disease, created from a vast collection of archival footage documenting the inner workings of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) at the height of the AIDS crisis, in New York City in the 1980s.

“The whole video revolution – the prosumer video world – was maturing simultaneously to the epidemic. HIV showed up in ‘81 and the camcorder that made this possible showed up in ‘82. And the film starts in 1987,” France explains.

We spoke by phone as France prepared to attend his film’s screening in the Boston Independent Film Festival this past April. This important, compelling documentary has been making the rounds of festivals, including showings at prestigious festivals like Sundance, New Directors/New Films, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, and others. It will be shown this week in the Provincetown International Film Festival, as well.

A key source of the footage for How to Survive… was a subgroup from within ACT UP called DIVA (Damned Interfering Video Activists). “Their principal goal was to shoot actions that the organization was involved in as kind of police surveillance, to make sure that [when] cops were freely pummeling AIDS activists… that it was being recorded. They wanted to show the spirit of strength and the fearsomeness of AIDS patients and activists and reflect it back to them… to show this isn’t going unrecognized,” France explains.

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Taking Down Goliath with a Camera: The Documentaries of Kirby Dick

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 Thus far in his career, documentarian Kirby Dick has taken on the Motion Picture Association of America, closeted anti-gay politicians, and the Catholic Church.  And now he is focusing his attention, and lens, on another behemoth of a powerful institution: the United States military, in  a new documenatry showing at this year’s Provincetown International Film Festival.

The Invisible War, a heartbreaking and shocking film about the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military, tears into the disturbing lack of action by the Pentagon to bring the perpetrators to justice, support the victims, and institute effective prevention policies to keep sexual predators out the armed forces. In fact, often, the victims become the target of retaliation for reporting the rape. 

It’s these explorations of corruption, hypocrisy, and abuse in some of our country’s most powerful institutions that have made Dick an important figure in our culture, and it’s why he is receiving the 2012 Faith Hubley Career Achievement Award at this year’s festival.

“They’re so powerful they don’t have to change,” says Dick of the subjects of his documentaries. 

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Checking in with Price Check’s Parker Posey

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It is the smoldering intensity and the atomic effervescence that Parker Posey brings to each role that has made her a star. Respected for her insightful acting, smart choices, as well as her impressive body of work known for its artistry and quirkiness with films like Party Girl, Waiting for Guffman, and her film debut Dazed and Confused, the actress is one of a kind and has cemented a place in the cinematic arts by bringing a unique depth to each role. It’s why she’ll be receiving the Excellence in Acting Award this week at the 14th Provincetown International Film Festival.

Posey is the perfect selection for recognition at the film festival, which showcases and rewards the best in independent film as well as those who take risks and create movies “on the edge.”  In 1997, Time magazine dubbed her “The Queen of the Indies,” a title that has stuck, for better or worse. 

“I think having all these years pass and to have the title still in the culture might be a good thing, but I’ve seen it work against me in Hollywood,” says Posey. “I’ll be up for a Hollywood film and they’ll say ‘she’s too much of an indie queen.’ I’m just a working actor. In these days I think it’s good to be called something, I’m just not sure if it hurts more than it helps.”

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Talking Pictures with Roger Corman

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More than a century into its existence, the cinema still struggles to be seen as a true art form. And in an effort to legitimize film as an art on the level with sculpture and painting and music, well-meaning film theorists tend to privilege one type of film over another. In the face of movies that don’t quite fit their preconceived notions about what art is, the tendency is to take one of two paths: either over-interpret the “hidden meanings” of the films or completely ignore them hoping they will go away. 

Legendary director and producer Roger Corman has been subject to both approaches, and everything in between. His own analysis of the film/art relationship is characteristically both optimistic and practical.

“I looked at them from the beginning till today as a combination of art and business,” Corman says from his office at New Horizons Pictures. “A painter, all he needs is a couple of bucks for some paint. A person making films needs a crew, a camera and things – needs money. Yet at the same time, it is an art form and that’s what makes it unique; the quintessential modern art form, and that is an art and a business combined.”

Over the course of his 60-year career and over 400 films, Corman has created a body of work known for exploiting societal angst and upheaval in an entertaining manner, and for doing so on ridiculously small budgets (relative to Hollywood, anyway) and with record speed. One of his best known earlier films, The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) was shot over the course of two days, reportedly because Corman wanted to break his record for shooting a feature (it had been five days for the film A Bucket of Blood). 

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Offseason: Provincetown’s Television Debut

June 6, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

 Provincetown has a lot to say. For such a tiny town we have a lot of media. A weekly newspaper, a radio station, one television station and two channels, several theaters and performance venues, and of course, Provincetown Magazine.  Films have been made about and in Provincetown, but there has never been a television series about P’town. 

“For this tiny town, it holds an amazing amount of talent,” says Nathan Butera, creator of Offseason the first television series to be set in Provincetown. “Plus, the town is so beautiful and that translates on camera. The show was just a slam dunk to me.”

Offseason is a nine episode series that follows the lives of Dianne Delroy, a member of the Provincetown Board of Selectmen; Joe Silva, a Portuguese-American fisherman; Tony Gouveia, local boy gone gay; Doris Demsey, a straight female hairdresser; Margarita Rosa Flores Maldonado, a Latina business owner; Olga Woods, the vegetable lady; Maya Wholly, the general contractor/yoga instructor; Ivan Zamir the questioning Wall Street trader; Captain Dory Pearl Souza, Ph.D., the female ship captain; and Chris Christopherson, the evangelical soul-saver. 

Provincetown is of course a generally eccentric town year-round, but it’s at it freakiest perhaps in the winter, which is the setting for the series. Butera and co-producer Frank Vasello say those that know Provincetown as the “beachy, funky, artist colony and gay Disneyland” are about to have their perceptions of the town turned “inside out.” However, the production team stresses this is a fictional series, and not a reality show or a based-on-a-true story comedy/drama. A team of writers assembled, with the actors, and a synergy was let loose to create a fictitious representation of winter in P’town, a la Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure. 

“It features twelve characters living here in the winter as their lives intertwine in ways that can only happen in P’town,” says Vasello.  “It’s fun and it’s weird. And we threw in some sex, drugs, and death. You know. All the good stuff.”

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