the traveler's resource guide to festivals & films
a site
part of Insider Media llc.

Connect with us:

Film and the Arts

June '23 Digital Week II

In-Theater Release of the Week 
(Juno Films) 
The complicated, tragic life and singular artistry of master Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) is dramatized by director Henrik M. Dahlsbakken through an intriguing structure: four actors play Munch at ages 21, 29, 45 and 80, with the 29-year-old artist wandering through modern-day Berlin and the elderly Munch played by Anne V. Krigsvoll in unconvincing makeup and wig that make her look more like Frank Lloyd Wright.
It’s nicely filmed and well-acted by the Munchian quartet—although Thea Lambrechts Vaulen, as journalist Milly Thaulow, with whom the 21-year-old Munch has an affair one summer, is the movie’s liveliest presence—but it ultimately amounts to mere snapshots of a life. Peter Watkins’ masterly 1974 epic, Edvard Munch, is still the film that vividly delves into the artist’s many-faceted creativity.
4K/UHD Releases of the Week
John Wick—Chapter 4 
It’s the last go-round for Keanu Reeves’ zen-like hitman who must survive the latest attacks from all corners, including a blind assassin who comes out of retirement as well as the Marquis, a member of the High table who ends up dueling him.
Director Chad Stahelski keeps the pace frenetic, but at nearly three hours, an exhaustion factor creeps in despite such dazzling Paris set pieces as a spectacularly ludicrous shootout on the Arc de Triomphe roundabout and the final showdown in front of the Sacre Coeur. Through it all, Reeves’ stoicism makes Clint Eastwood’s western heroes seem positively manic. There’s a superb UHD transfer; extras include featurettes and interviews.
Time Bandits 
Terry Gilliam’s first solo extravaganza behind the camera—his co-directing debut with fellow Monty Python alum Terry Jones was the best-forgotten 1977 Jabberwocky—is this delightfully demented 1981 fantasy about a young boy and group of dwarves who fall through holes in time, meeting characters like Napoleon (Ian Holm) and Agamemnon (Sean Connery).
Gilliam’s imaginative movie is a wondrous prelude to his even more extravagant Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Criterion's 4K transfer is especially luminous; extras comprise a commentary, critical featurette, 1998 Gilliam interview and 1981 Shelley Duvall appearance on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow talk show.
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
The Covenant 
(Warner Bros)
Based on true stories of Afghan interpreters being left behind in mortal danger after U.S. forces’ botched 2021 retreat, Guy Ritchie’s drama chronicles the relationship between U.S. Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhall) and his interpreter/translator Ahmed (Dar Salim), who saves Kinley’s life during an ambush but who hides from the Taliban with his wife and young child after the Americans leave. Recovering stateside, Kinley returns to get Ahmed and family out of danger.
For a Ritchie film, this is surprisingly not that frantically ham-fisted; he ratchets up the tension well, even though Christopher Benstead’s music too obviously underscores some sequences. Still, this effective film contains a sympathetic portrayal by Salim. The film looks excellent on Blu; it’s too bad that there are no contextual extras of any kind.
A Question of Silence 
(Cult Epics)
Dutch writer-director Marlene Gorris’ provocative 1982 drama about Janine, a criminal psychiatrist investigating the brutal random murder of a shopkeeper by three women who are strangers, finds its center in her attempts to understand what happened and why.
As Janine concludes that the patriarchy is partly to blame and puts her controversial thesis before the court, Gorris’ sharp feminist tract is humanized by a terrific Cox Habbema, who gives a remarkable performance as Janine, arguing with the patriarchal pillars (including her lawyer husband) or tries to uncover the women’s motivations. The film looks fine if a bit battered on Blu; extras include an audio commentary and archival interviews with Gorris and Habbema.
The Tulsa King—Complete 1st Season 
Talk about “high-concept” programming: Sylvester Stallone plays a New York made man who, out of prison after serving a 25-year sentence, is sent by his mob boss to set up shop in Tulsa, where he’s immediately seen as a fish out of water by the locals, who happen to include an available (and willing) woman whose part of the local ATF.
It’s as one-note as it sounds, but Stallone and a surfeit of fine supporting actors, from Andrea Savage and Dana Delaney to Jay Will and Annabella Sciorra, assure that the first season has “guilty pleasure” written all over it. But can it continue in season two? There’s a fine hi-def transfer; extras are making-ofs and interviews.
DVD Releases of the Week 
How to Be a Good Wife 
(Icarus Films)
In Martin Provost’s at times subversive comedy, Juliette Binoche is her usual commanding self as the head of a French girls’ school in 1968 teaching her charges how to please husbands and be devoted, dutiful wives as the world goes to hell, both personally and politically, around her.
Provost belabors his point about conservatives dealing with a progressive new world, and dropping in a concluding song-and-dance number is dubious. But happily, alongside Binoche, there’s excellent acting by Yolande Moreau as the sister-in-law, Noémie Lvovsky as the head nun and Marie Zabukovec and Anamaria Vartolomei as a couple of rebellious students.
Moko Jumbie 
It’s too bad that this engaging 2017 romantic comedy, made by Brooklyn-based Vashti Anderson in Trinidad and Tobago, has been overshadowed by the tragedy that befell its leading lady, local actress Vanna Girod, who drowned in January 2022 while with her family at a Tobago resort.
As Asha, a young woman who returns to visit family and falls for a local young man of a questionable reputation, Girod has a shining presence that makes this familiar “opposites attract” romance a beguiling 90 minutes. Extras are Anderson’s commentary and her 2005 short, Jeffrey’s Calypso.
A Radiant Girl 
(Film Movement)
For her writing/directing debut, French actress Sandrine Kiberlain introduces Irene, a 19-year-old Jewish woman in 1942 Paris who wants to become a stage actress, seemingly oblivious to what is happening around her in the Nazi-occupied capital.
Through the lovely and nuanced presence of Rebecca Marder as Irene, Kiberlain understatedly explores the fateful dichotomy between the heroine’s joy in her personal life—she falls in love for the first time as well as getting to realize her dream of acting—and the everyday occurrences that are slowly constricting the lives of French Jews. This low-key drama concludes with a simple cut to black that is horrifying in its implications. The lone extra is a Q&A with Kiberlain and Marder.
CD Release of the Week
Rautavaara/Martinů—Piano Concertos Nos. 3 
This enticing disc pairs the third piano concertos by two masters—Finland’s Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016) and Czechoslovakia’s Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)—works separated by a half-century in composition but that are highly expressive, vibrant, even complementary. At least that’s how they sound when played so eloquently by soloist Olli Mustonen, accompanied by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under the sensitive baton of conductor Dalia Stasevska.
Rautavaara’s 1999 concerto, subtitled Gift of Dreams, shimmers in an array of musical colors, and Martinů’s 1948 third, which has a foot in both Romantic and modern styles, is eclectic in the best sense.

Guitarist Gary Lucas Explores Virtuosity at The Loft In City Winery

Gary Lucas with Feifei Yang
Sunday, May 28th 2023
The Loft at City Winery25 11th Ave. (at 15th St.)

After critically acclaimed guitarist Gary Lucas sent out a notice of a gig in The Loft at City Winery — “From Captain Beefheart to Buckley and Beyond” — I perked up. When it comes to the notion of a virtuoso, Lucas fits that idea perfectly. He can do slide guitar immaculately, play around with foot pedals or knobs to create a desired effect and he has incredibly facile fingering skills. He applies all his technical skills to a broad range of styles, yet doesn’t make it seem like three different guitarists at work.

With his intuitive skills finely honed and at peak performance, Lucas makes all the various styles in his wheelhouse mesh seamlessly. So I promptly arranged to go to the show. What an evening it turned out to be. It began with the screening of rare clips and the video for “Ice Cream for Crow.” Then Lucas ruminated about various touch points in his career, launching into “Lady of Shalott”— a lush piece combining acoustic guitar and voice.

Combining moments of kinetics and contemplation, Lucas defies labels and expectations — and so does his show. While some of the music he makes could be described as Americana — depending on the guitar he slings on — other tunes range from bluesy (his dark original “Dance of Destiny”) to avant garde. Of course, having worked with such a boundary-busting band leader as Captain Beefheart, Lucas stands apart from most musicians. No one has tested accompanists like the late master of undefinable sounds. As Lucas described, Beefheart would put his musicians through rigors that no other band leader ever did. For all of the other complicated things on which Lucas has dibs — such as composing music for film and television, scoring classic silent films like “The Golem” and playing with various avant-garde artists — his stage performance alternates between dramatic and contemplative. These seamless shifts are evident in his covers of Nino Rota’s Theme from Fellini’s “La Strada” and Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows.”

After his term as Beefheart’s guitarist and manager, Lucas turned to forming his remarkable band, Gods and Monsters. Along the way, the late singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley became a part of the timeline, further demonstrating Lucas’ elasticity as both player and performer. In fact, as Gary described on stage, he was introduced to Jeff when Lucas was asked by late concept producer Hal Willner to work on a Tim Buckley tribute.
Tim, dad to Jeff, died way too young (at 28) but established a remarkable catalog. Lucas did a song and got a relationship with Jeff as part of the bargain. That turned into a collaboration which prompted a great song like “Grace” (co-composed with Lucas) and a moment when Buckley fronted Lucas’ band. Though that didn’t last long enough, it added a unique turn to Gary’s musical efforts.

All this combined to make for an evening rich in music ranging across all kinds of creative panoramas. Joined by singer/erhu player Feifei Yang, this evening’s show included versions out of Buckley’s catalog — “Grace” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Added to those were two Beefheart compositions, an original song or two from across Lucas’ landscape, and a Chinese pop tune from the ‘30s (as sung in Mandarin by Yang).

Ever clad in his signature fedora, Lucas shouldered most of the evening solo. But when Yang accompanied him, the tone changed and offered a joyful touch to an intimate and engaging evening. Hopefully there will be another occasion soon to be surprised by the veteran performer’s song choices and stylizations.

Broadway Musical Review—“Camelot” Revival

Music by Frederick Loewe; lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Book by Aaron Sorkin, based on Lerner’s original book
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Opened April 13, 2023
Vivian Beaumont Theatre, 150 West 65th Street, NYC
Phillipa Soo in Camelot (photo: Joan Marcus)
Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot has not been seen on Broadway in 30 years—I saw Robert Longbottom’s modestly silly staging at the 2012 Glimmerglass Festival, with a wondrous trio of leads: David Pittsinger’s King Arthur, Andriana Chuchman’s Guenevere and Nathan Gunn’s Lancelot—and Bartlett Sher’s uneven new staging, hampered by Aaron Sorkin’s new book, likely won’t help its cause. 
Despite being set in England during the Middle Ages when there was an obvious line of demarcation between exalted royals and plebian subjects, Camelot is not all earnest seriousness and masculine swordplay. Monty Python and the Holy Grail and its musical offspring Spamalot have made us think the original is eternally dated. Yet Lerner’s book and lyrics nicely balance drama, romance and humor, while Loewe’s songs are—as always—impossibly tuneful. But Sher and Sorkin, who have gone to great lengths to “improve” the show, only intermittently succeed. 
Sorkin has squeezed much of the juice out of a story that was simply, for all intents and purposes, a romantic triangle among Arthur, his queen Guenevere and the French Knight of the Round Table, Lancelot. Sorkin has also eliminated the magic, literally: old wise man Merlin is no longer a wizard, Morgan le Fay—the witch-like aunt of Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son—is now a scientist as well as Mordred’s mother, and Guenevere is a brash, enlightened heroine.  
Such “improvements” are often no worse than what’s in Lerner’s original book, but they’re not much better either. And Sorkin’s dialogue—which has the rat-a-tat rhythms of his TV and theater scripts—is too sitcomish, too crudely clever. In fact, swaths of this Camelot sound as if they were created by an Aaron Sorkin ChatBot.
Director Sher seems somewhat hamstrung by Sorkin’s book; interactions and conversations play out at the exaggerated pace of The West Wing or The Newsroom, which is at further odds with these characters. At least the sweep of Camelot’s setting remains, thanks to Michael Yeargan’s apt set design, Jennifer Moeller’s vibrant costumes, Lap Chi Chu’s expressive lighting and Marc Salzberg and Beth Lake’s imaginative sound design. 
Andrew Dunlap is a personable if somewhat callow Arthur and Philippa Soo is a beguiling and lovely-sounding Guenevere. As Lancelot—subbing for Tony-nominated Jordan Donica at the performance I saw—Christian Mark Gibbs has a muscular voice that’s appropriately reined in on the evergreen “If Ever I Would Leave You.” 
Too bad the show’s immortal title tune is made almost perfunctory by Sorkin and Sher at the beginning, as Guinevere rolls her eyes and complains while Arthur describes his kingdom’s metaphorical glories. But even they can’t “improve” it when it returns, battered but defiant, at the end.

June '23 Digital Week I

In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week 
Squaring the Circle 
(Raindog Films)
Probably the seminal rock music graphic design team, Hipgnosis—founded by Storm Thorgerson and Audrey Powell in the late ‘60s—designed some of the most famous album covers of all-time, like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here; Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Presence; and Wings’ Venus and Mars and Band on the Run.
Director Anton Corbijn’s loving reminiscence of the team features a poignant new interview with Powell and an archival one with Thorgerson, who died in 2013. Also along for the ride—which includes wondrous vintage video footage and photographs of their many collaborations, the most memorable of which may be the infamous Pink Floyd Animals cover shoot—are the surviving Floyd members (David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters), Led Zep’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and Paul McCartney, with many others, all paying homage to the team’s unique visual brilliance.
Now playing at Film Forum in Manhattan;
Anonymous Sister 
(Long Shot Factory)
In this intensely personal, harrowing documentary, director Jamie Boyle recounts the hell her family went through when her sister (a talented figure skater whose pain from performing made her get hooked on painkillers) and her mother (whose arthritis also caused overprescribing of pain meds) became hooked on OxyContin, the drug that the loathsome Sackler family parlayed into billions of dollars in profits for them and an untold number of Americans’ deaths in the past three decades.
Balancing plentiful home-movie footage the family took as she and her sister grew up with her difficult confessional interviews with sister, mom and dad (happily, all survived and are thriving), Boyle’s often moving and enraging chronicle shows how this epidemic surfaced among so many unsuspecting families and destroyed so many lives.
Blue Jean 
(Magnolia Pictures) 
It’s 1988, Margaret Thatcher’s awful conservatism is tightening its stranglehold over England, and closeted young Jean is teaching Phys Ed at a Newcastle school, frightfully (and rightfully) afraid of being outed. When a new student visits the local gay bar she herself frequents, Jean’s not-so-orderly world becomes even more disordered.
Director-writer Georgia Oakley’s exquisitely restrained drama, as much political as it is personal, is—despite being set 35 years ago—equally relevant today here, unfortunately. And it’s all centered by Rosy McEwen’s formidable but quiet  performance as Jean. 
Mending the Line 
(Blue Fox Entertainment) 
How vets deal with returning home from war when friends don’t is compellingly if conventionally dramatized by director Joshua Caldwell and writer Stephen Camelio, who create sympathetic portraits of two veterans—one who served in Vietnam and the other in Afghanistan—and the fiancée of a soldier who was KIA.
The fly-fishing metaphor, while initially effective, turns stilted, and the ending—while necessarily bittersweet—doesn’t really stick the landing. Still, the terrific acting by the great Brian Cox (Vietnam vet), Sinqua Walls (Afghanistan vet) and Perry Mattfeld (the widowed fiancée) provide more than enough reason to watch. 
(Paramount Global)
Luckily for the staff of a local hospital, when Irish gangsters take everyone hostage trying to get the patriarch’s wounded son out of there (it’s a long story), one of the doctors, Michelle, happens to be an Afghan war vet who can mow down the intruders with impunity.
Director Tony Dean Smith and writer Alex Wright know their premise is ridiculous, but they run with it, their 85-minute movie is just an excuse to cheer on the resourceful Michelle (played by the physically impressive Canadian actress Leah Gibson) as she outsmarts the bad guys, barely pausing even when they use her teenage son as bait.  
(Blue Fox Entertainment) 
In Cédric Klapisch’s delicately told melodrama, real-life dancer Marion Barbeau plays ballerina Elise, whose serious injury while performing—as well as discovering that her boyfriend is cheating on her with a fellow dancer—throws her for a loop and makes her question her own relationships and goals, until she falls in with a group performing contemporary dance and discovers that new personal and professional paths are possible.
As usual, Klapisch effortlessly harnesses several story strands and multiple characters, but Rise—beautifully shot by Alexis Kavyrchine, especially the varied dance sequences both on- and offstage—might seem superfluous if not for the presence of Barbeau, a wonderfully lithe dancer who also proves herself a natural and engaging actress.
(Kino Lorber) 
As his followup to Martin Eden, the engrossing and richly nuanced adaptation of a Jack London story, Italian director Pietro Marcello tackles a 1923 Russian novella and conjures an often luminous, fantastical atmosphere in its chronicle of Juliette, a young French woman who has been alerted that she’ll fall for an aviator who falls from the sky—which promptly happens.
Not nearly as resonant as Martin Eden, Scarlet is shot through with Marcello’s painterly and idiosyncratic eye, abetted by Marco Graziaplena’s sumptuous cinematography (shot in Academy ratio) and the winning presence of Juliette Jouan, whose natural unaffectedness as her namesake transforms this into a beguiling fable. 
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
A Good Person 
(Warner Bros) 
Zach Braff wrote and directed this earnest, soggy melodrama about repentance, forgiveness and starting over about a young woman whose stupid act while driving causes the death of her future brother- and sister-in-laws and who afterward crosses paths with the dead woman’s father and her orphaned daughter.
It’s so cloying that if Braff’s name wasn’t attached, it probably wouldn’t have gotten made; it’s an OK 90-minute tearjerker padded to an unconscionable 128 minutes. Braff even wastes his excellent leads, Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman. The film looks fine on Blu.
Wherein Renfield (Nicolas Hoult), the ever-faithful companion of Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage) for the past few centuries, decides he needs to get out of a relationship that’s stifled him and made him codependent: Chris McKay’s wild ride blends vampires, rom-com, and ludicrous bloodletting into a fast-paced 90 minutes that doesn’t get the chance to wear out its welcome.
Acted with wink-wink knowingness by Hoult and Cage, both performers unafraid to go too far, the flick also has fun appearances by Awkwafina, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Ben Schwartz, along with some of the reddest fake gore I’ve seen in awhile, all tongue-in-cheek, of course. It all looks smashing in hi-def; extras comprise deleted/extended scenes as well as making-of featurettes. 
CD Release of the Week
Anne Akiko Meyers—Mysterium 
(Avie Records)
Although this EP contains only four works that clock in at a total of 19 minutes, it plays both to Anne Akiko Meyers’ considerable strengths as a virtuoso violinist and to the lilting, gorgeous sounds produced by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
The three arrangements of Bach works, beginning with Jesu, Joy of Man’s Suffering, are extraordinarily moving to hear when the chorale and Meyers combine forces, but it’s the world-premiere arrangement of Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium—an austere work about Christ’s birth that was premiered by the chorale in 1994—in which Meyers’ miraculous playing and the chorale’s sensational singing coalesce beautifully. It’s all sensitively led by the chorale’s artistic director Grant Gershon.  

Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

No Calendar Events Found or Calendar not set to Public.