Ed Koch Movie's Reviews
A superb, sleeper film not to be missed.
The movie opens in Quebec, Canada, with a notary, Jean (Remy Girard), reading the will of Nawal (Lubna Azabal) to her two adult twins: Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette). Nawal’s instructions are bizarre. She states that she is not to have a proper burial with headstone and epitaph until the twins find their father whom they never knew and their brother whom they never knew existed. Jeanne and Simon are instructed to give each of them a letter from their now deceased mother.
Bizarre yes, but also fascinating. Flashbacks of Nawal’s early life are shown. (Although the country is never named, it is clearly the Republic of Lebanon.) When Nawal and her Muslim lover sought to leave their village, they were pursued by her two brothers for disgracing the family. They shot and killed her lover and would have killed her as well had her grandmother not intervened. We learn that Nawal was pregnant and the child was placed in an orphanage but not before the grandmother scarred the child’s foot so that it could be identified at a later time.
Nawal’s efforts to find her child during a civil war between Christians and Muslims are heartbreaking. She is imprisoned and tortured by Abou Tarek (Abdelghafour Elaaziz). There are moments of shock, torture, and crimes against humanity. While the storyline is unbelievable, it is very moving and held my attention . It comes together as it unfolds and makes shocking sense when the letters to brother and father are delivered. (Oddly, the deliveries take place in Canada.) The acting by all major and minor characters is of the highest caliber. Again, this picture is not to be missed. (In French and Arabic, with English subtitles.)
Movie Review: “Le Quattro Volte” (-)
May 2, 2011
I decided to see this picture after reading A.O. Scott’s review of it in The New York Times. He began his analysis:
“ Le Quattro Volte,” an idiosyncratic and amazing new film by Michelangelo Frammartino, is so full of surprises – nearly every shot contains a revelation, sneaky or overt, cosmic or mundane – that even to describe it is to risk giving something away.” The closing line of Scott’s review was “You have never seen anything like this movie, even though what it shows you has been there all along.”
As far as I’m concerned, both sentences are undeserved. The movie is ridiculous, incomprehensible, and totally pointless from beginning to end. It contains no dialogue or subtitles – it is neither a silent movie similar to those of early cinema nor is it a modern movie breaking new ground.
Although it takes place in southern Italy, no beautiful pastoral scenes are depicted, and no acting is involved as far as I could discern. The only moments of interest and movement occur when a flock of goats appear and reappear, their presence announced by the cowbells tied to their necks. I truly had to pinch myself to stay awake.
The film is part of a new Independent Film series held at the Quad Theater in Greenwich Village. The night I went, a red carpet and television camera person were in the theater. After seeing the picture I was asked for my opinion by the TV crew to which I replied, “This is the worst movie I have ever seen.” The interviewer did not blink or swallow hard. He simply replied, “Thank you so much Mayor Koch.” I left feeling as though I should demand a refund, even though I had not paid, using my critic’s pass generously provided by the theater. I hope I’m not banned from future attendance.
Henry Stern said: This is a movie that is quite unlike all the others that I have seen. There is minimal dialogue, none in English, spoken off-screen and without any subtitles. The same goes for the plot. There is hardly any connected narrative, and whatever is shown is not particularly related to what came before.
The picture may be praised as a cinematographer’s work of high art. The scenery is beautiful, the small town with its empty streets is eerie, the rams and the sheep (or goats) are noisy and crowd each other as they scramble toward the pasture where they spend the day. Co-stars in the film are a lost lamb and a tall tree. The lamb bleats a lot, the tree is silent except for a whoosh when it falls.
The tile, “Le Quattro Volte” means the four times, i.e. seasons. I certainly would not have figured that out from watching the movie as it very slowly unfolded. If you want to see this film, read A.O. Scott’s review in the March 29 New York Times. Using the review as a crib sheet, you may find the movie intelligible, or at least understand what you have missed.
“The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” (-)
April 25, 2011
An appropriate French word for this film, acceptable in mixed company, is merde.
In his New York Times review of this movie, Stephen Holden wrote:
“Morgan Spurlock could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. After watching his documentary ‘Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ I could imagine this charming red-headed 40-year-old filmmaker raking in money as a door-to-door salesman of crummy encyclopedias in the slums of Philadelphia or as a pitchman in an infomercial peddling a flimsy abdominal toner. He could probably earn millions as a motivational speaker.”
Holden was thrilled and delighted with the film. I was bored to tears. That’s not to say there weren’t occasional moments of comic relief, but there were too few to undo the damage.
Spurlock got a sizeable number of corporations to finance this movie, paying the cost of production even before it was released. He did it by prominently displaying their products in the picture. The number one featured item is POM: pomegranate juice, billed in the film as a kind of Viagra. You either like the taste of pomegranate or you don’t. I don’t. The bottle itself has a shape as unique as the original six-and-a-half-ounce Coke bottle still served in most restaurants today.
Anyway, the joke my friends is on you, not on the screen: avoid.
Henry Stern said: I happen to be particularly interested in brand marketing. Two good friends who are park alumni founded the Civic Entertainment Group, which has grown virally over the years. So I found the movie moderately absorbing because of the chutzpah of the promoter, and the ingenuity of some advertisers. My favorite was “Mane and Tail: shampoo, for people, dogs and horses.
The film featured Ralph Nader, mellow and wise at 77. Noam Chomsky had a bit part. Morgan Spurlock’s films can be compared with Michael Moore’s, but Morgan is amused rather than appalled at the foibles he illuminates. He gives us a slice of the promotional side of business, which is corny but not outrageous. Morgan is also much thinner than Michael Moore, which is helpful since he is on the screen for most of the movie. BTW, the title was inspired by “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” which this film is definitely not.
Movie Review: “Of Gods and Men” (+)
April 25, 2011
A lovely, memorable film with beautiful acting.
The movie is based on a true story about eight Trappist monks who lived in an Algerian monastery during a civil war. The war was not between the French colonists and the Muslim population but rather between Muslim terrorists and the Muslim Algerian government which defeated the French government forces with the fierce Muslim terrorists bent on bringing it down. Also, the terrorists wanted to expel all foreigners from Algeria and cut the throats of a group of Croatians working on a highway in the local village near the monastery.
The monks also came face to face with the terrorists at the monastery. When they appeared, the leader of the residence, Christian (Lambert Wilson), demanded they take their weapons outside or, at the very least, that they go outside with him to talk. The terrorists gave in and left the monastery. An Algerian government representative implored the monks to leave the village they served so as to avoid their predictable deaths. They argued amongst themselves – half believing they should leave and the others wanting to stay. In the end, they all decided to remain.
One extraordinary scene takes place during a meal when Brother Luc (Michael Lonsdale) the “doctor” among them who dispenses medicine to the villagers turns on the radio. As the marvelous, dramatic music from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” fills the room, the camera focuses on the monks’ faces. They are entranced, as I was, by the music. Their expressions are of men caught up in a beautiful, profound vision of God. It was an incredible and unforgettable moment.
Two other poignant scenes remained with me after I left the theater. One involved the poor Croatians having their throats slit by the Muslim terrorists. They died slow, painful deaths, drowning in their own blood. The other scene involved the eight monks – one had escaped and was replaced by a visiting monk. They were led over snowy ground in single file to their ultimate deaths, reminiscent of Jews being led to the killing fields by the Nazis in World War II.
The movie has been around for a long time. See it before it disappears from the screen. (In French and Arabic, with English subtitles.)
You can watch Ed Koch's movie reviews at www.mayorkoch.com.
“Four Lions” (-)
January 18, 2011
The New York Times reviewer, A.O. Scott, lured me into seeing this ridiculous film with the following comments:
“These musings are inspired by ‘Four Lions’ a shockingly hilarious, stiletto-sharp satire directed by Chris Morris and written by a squad of British wits. It concerns a squad of British nitwits eager to wage jihad and unsure of just how to go about doing it. That there are five of them in a movie called ‘Four Lions’ is testament either to their aggregate brain power or to their mathematical skills, though it is also true that one of the group is subtracted by an incident of premature martyrdom involving a sheep.”
Yes, there are some incidents of tomfoolery that will make you laugh. But overall the movie is tedious and grossly boring. Worst of all, the British dialect is so thick that I couldn’t understand 90 percent of it. I followed the plot by reading the subtitles provided when the Pakistani characters spoke.
The four lions are Muslim terrorists, British-born or naturalized, who plot to receive training in Pakistan, return home to Britain, and blow up civic centers which would kill innocent civilians.
Because I doubt that many of you will see this picture, I’ll divulge one scene which made me laugh. Purists, please forgive the break in cinema reviewer ethics. After eating, one of the “lions” wearing a suicide vest begins to choke from food stuck in his windpipe. A nearby diner rushes to his aid and performs the Heimlich maneuver. Guess what? It worked, causing the food to eject and the bombs to explode. I had the Heimlich performed on me, I believe in 1980. There is no adequate description for that moment of relief when you can breathe again.
In my opinion, A. O. Scott went way overboard in his review of this film. What he was thinking or seeing on the screen is a mystery to me. Take my advice, and see another movie. The cast includes Omar (Riz Ahmed), Hassan (Arsher Ali), Barry (Nigel Lidsay), Waj (Kayvan Novak), Faisal (Adeel Akhtar, and Sofia (Preeya Kalidas).
Henry Stern said: “This film is ludicrous and not even amusing. It makes a comedy out of four bumbling suicide bombers whose only desire is to kill Jews. Fortunately, they are so inept that they only injure themselves and other terrorists. I don’t think this is a subject for slapstick humor, but even if it were, this bunch of clowns couldn’t pull it off. “Four Blind Mice” would have been a more descriptive title.
“Hatred for Jews is a given part of their culture, even though nothing happens to show that a Jew injured any of them. The garbled language made parts of the film hard to understand, but I don’t think I missed anything. On the other hand, if the film were an effective and sympathetic portrayal of its characters, I would probably feel worse about it.”
Movie Review: “Barney’s Version” (+)
January 18, 2011
This is a spectacular film that will keep you engrossed until the last frame. Last week the Golden Globe award for best actor in a musical or comedy went to Paul Giamatti for his performance in this movie. I certainly approve of their choice.
The story involves a Canadian television producer, Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), the son of a Montreal policeman, Izzy (Dustin Hoffman). Barney’s job has many rewards, including a high standard of living and the freedom to drink as much as he desires throughout the day.
During the course of the movie, Barney marries three times. The first two are unimportant to him, but the third one touches his heart and that of the audience. He marries his first wife, Clara (Rachelle Lefevre), when she tells him she is pregnant. His second wife, Mrs. P (Minnie Driver) who is not very bright, ends up in bed with his best friend, Boogie (Scott Speedman). The love between Barney and his third wife, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), is very evident and lovely to behold. The performances of all the actors are terrific.
The screenplay is based on a novel by Mordecai Richler. The environment created is totally Jewish and the dialogue sparkles. This is one of the best movies I have seen this year, and I urge you to see it as well.