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Ricky Jay Friday 28th September 2012 New York Film Festival 2012 - Opening Night - 'Life of Pi' Presentation - Arrivals

Ricky Jay
Ricky Jay

The Great Buck Howard Review


OK
How can a film that features a lofty tribute to The Amazing Kreskin before the end credits go wrong? Well, in Sean McGinly's sweet and mushy comedy The Great Buck Howard, the film doesn't really go wrong... but then it doesn't really go right either.

The film celebrates the D-list world of third-rate celebrities, celebrities whose popularity has waned, whose 15 minutes of fame were over a long time ago, with one-night stands not in Vegas or L.A., but Bakersfield and Akron.

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Ricky Jay, Sean McGinty and Colin Hanks - Ricky Jay, Sean McGinty and Colin Hanks Las Vegas Nevada - Screening of 'The Great Buck Howard' hosted by Cinevegas Film Festival. Saturday 21st June 2008

Ricky Jay, Sean Mcginty and Colin Hanks

Redbelt Review


Excellent
David Mamet is a difficult guy to figure. His latest film, Redbelt, which he wrote and directed, is perhaps his most confounding project yet. That's not to say it's not enjoyable -- at its best, Redbelt is twisty, heady, butt-kicking fun -- but it's hard to recognize the writer of Glengarry Glen Ross as the man behind a film set in the mixed martial arts (MMA) subculture. Sure, the world of MMA fighting is fertile territory for Mamet's twin obsessions -- masculinity and domination -- but seriously... MMA? I've seen some MMA bouts in my day, and those guys don't look capable of speechifying the way Mamet's character's do. And yet somehow, in ways past reckoning, Redbelt manages to be pretty darn entertaining, even, in some parts, affecting.

Let me quickly establish some caveats. Redbelt is one of the most unapologetically macho movies made in the last several years, and the story ultimately buckles under the weight of its earnestness. The plot is constructed on the theme of warrior culture, personified by the lead character Mike Terry, played soulfully by Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, Dirty Pretty Things), who seems incapable of anything short of brilliance. Terry is a mixed martial arts instructor who lives his life by a code. His ethos is never really explained, but it clearly involves things like honor, integrity, and a bunch of other quiet, old-fashioned virtues most people don't think too much about. But Terry has a problem: Despite a loyal stable of disciples, his gym doesn't make any money and he has to do something to dig his way out of debt.

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Ricky Jay and Chrisann Verges - Ricky Jay, Chrisann Verges held at the Egyptian Theatre Hollywood, California - Los Angeles Special Screening of Redbelt Monday 7th April 2008

Ricky Jay and Chrisann Verges
Ricky Jay and Chrisann Verges

Tomorrow Never Dies Review


Bad
The arguable nadir of the Bond series, Tomorrow Never Dies finds a weary Brosnan battling, ahem, a Rupert Murdoch-like media mogul who uses mercenaries to start wars just so he can write about them in his newspapers first. Oh, the humanity. While there's a glimmer of sincerity in Tomorrow's notion of current events as media spectacle, the movie gets just about everything dead wrong, from its bad guy (Jonathan Pryce, who I love, is possible the worst villain ever) to its Bond girl (Michelle Yeoh). Even the evil henchman is badly picked: Ricky Jay is a lovable magician, not a hard-nosed killer. Need I mention director Roger Spottiswoode previously helmed Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! Maybe Bond could have taken her out too.

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Sink Or Swim Review


Good
Also known as Hacks, which I think is a much better name. This little number went practically straight to video, despite its star-studded cast (just take a look!). Why? Because movies about making movies practically never work, and even when they do, it's hard to make yourself care. Sink or Swim tweaks the genre a little -- with Rea as a haggard writer who can't get his arms around an enormous task facing him down. When his "friends" swoop in to stab him in the back... well, it's a curious little picture, like I said.

Mystery Men Review


Very Good
"Hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on, go play..." then sit back and watch America's newest superheroes screw up, in this summer's new comedy, Mystery Men. In this Tim Burtonesque film by Kinka Usher, a ragtag band of superheroes set out to rescue Captain Amazing (a Superman comparable played by Greg Kinear) from the evil clutches of the criminal mastermind, Cassanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush).

Mystery Men is one of the funniest films I've seen all year. It combines the hilarious randomness of films like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, with a satirical twist that today's audiences are sure to appreciate. Now don't get me wrong, Mystery Men is no masterpiece, but it made me laugh (a lot) and that's what the film is about. Mystery Men scores high in all areas. It has an entirely kooky and original plot fueled by crack up dialogue, mesmerizing scenery, (which is reminiscent of the Batman movies) and an awesome cast.

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Heartbreakers Review


Very Good
The problem with a movie like Heartbreakers is that as hard as you try to concentrate on the notable qualities of the film -- the clever camerawork, the strong ensemble acting, the deft script -- every time Jennifer Love Hewitt walks into a scene, her breasts take over. Even my date noticed the blatant attempts by the filmmakers in drawing all attention to the chests of both Sigourney Weaver and Hewitt. Alas, all those breasts are never fully revealed -- like some bad '80s teen horror film censored by Jerry Falwell.

Despite the massive amounts of boob time in Heartbreakers, the film delivers all the goods of a solid comedic vehicle. Max (Weaver) and Page (Hewitt) are a mother/daughter team who swindle rich guys out of their dollars in a con involving matrimony vows, extramarital trysts, and divorce settlements. Sort of like a cross between Anywhere but Here and The Grifters. With the IRS hot on their proverbial tails, the duo team up for one last job, bilking cigarette tycoon William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman) out of his cash. Alas, during the con job, Page ends up falling in love with a local bar owner (Jason Lee), a dead body ends up in their trunk, Princess Leia shows up as a divorce attorney, and a jilted ex-husband (Ray Liotta) shows up waving a gun and advising group therapy for everyone.

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Last Days (2005) Review


Extraordinary
Completing a stylistic and thematic trilogy begun with 2003's Gerry and Elephant (and inspired by the work of Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr), Last Days finds director Gus Van Sant once again engaging in breathtaking experimentation with sound, image, and content. Just as Elephant was modeled after, but not a faithful depiction of, the Columbine high school shootings, so Van Sant's latest - charting the final hours of a reclusive, iconic rock star in his remote country mansion - is simultaneously about and not about Kurt Cobain, a hypothetical rumination on the deceased musician that shares with his preceding films a hypnotic sense of time and space, as well as a fascination with the prosaic moments proceeding death. Having turned his back on the staid narrative conventions of formulaic Hollywood dramas (including his own Finding Forrester and Good Will Hunting), Van Sant now embraces an avant-garde aesthetic concerned with finding truth through non-linear storytelling and a focus on environmental tone and texture, both of which are employed as a means of placing viewers in a particular physical and emotional "space." And with Last Days, this unorthodox filmmaking achieves a state of sublime cinematic nirvana.

"Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I'm bored and old," sang Cobain on Nirvana's Serve the Servants, and one can feel that infectious malaise throughout Van Sant's portrait of Blake (Michael Pitt), a grungy icon living out what a friend (Kim Gordon) dubs "a rock and roll cliché." Donning Cobain accoutrements such as a hunter's cap and a green-and-red sweater and sporting shoulder-length blond hair, Blake spends the film sleepwalking around his backwoods home and property with a mixture of drug-addled bewilderment and spiritual melancholy, and Pitt embodies this wayward soul - whose rambling exploits involve wearing a black spaghetti-strap dress and toting a rifle - with a hunched, drooping-to-the-floor sagginess (as if under tremendous strain) that's at odds with the actor's slender physique. His constantly incomprehensible muttering, such as during an amusing, chance encounter with a telephone book salesman (where the only audible Blake line is telling: "Success is subjective"), echoes Cobain's frequently indecipherable lyrics while also conveying a torturous emotional detachment. Trapped in Van Sant's constrictive full frame (employed to heighten the oppressive claustrophobia gripping the character), Pitt's Blake is a zombie who, as revealed by the film's opening scene - finding him symbolically baptizing himself in a tree-shrouded lake, and later whispering and then roaring "Home on the Range" to the empty nighttime forest - desperately seeks communion with the world around him.

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Grateful Dawg Review


Good
A loving and earnest ode to the departed Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dawg is part "Jerry being Jerry" and part a look at the titular musical style -- a cross between the Dead, bluegrass, and various other influences that comes off sounding kind of like jangly belly-dancing music, sans sitar. The footage is mostly archival concert video and rehearsal shots with a smattering of interviews with old friend David Grisman (the director's father) and a few others. Not a bad time, but you really need to be a Garcia fanatic to get into the movie.

Heist Review


Good
David Mamet is a good director. Mamet's an even better screenwriter and playwright. The guy's authored some of the best film and theatre works in the past decade -- The Verdict, House of Games, Wag the Dog, State and Main, and the guy even won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Glengarry Glen Ross. With that said, it's such a shame that his latest crime caper, Heist, falls apart by employing too many of the well-known devices of a Mamet production -- double-crossing femmes fatale, overtly memorable characters, and deceptive plot lines.

But movies like The Spanish Prisoner, Things Change, and The Winslow Boy display a roundness to Mamet's innate abilities. And it's almost a crime to witness how all of that goes awry in his latest film, Heist.

Continue reading: Heist Review

Magnolia Review


Extraordinary
Sooner or later, every director makes his Short Cuts.

Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) only waited until his third film to make his, an over-three-hour epic with at least 10 major characters in almost as many separate story lines. And thanks to those characters, every one a rich mystery burning with secrets, Magnolia is a smashing success.

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Ricky Jay Movies

Mystery Men Movie Review

Mystery Men Movie Review

"Hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on, go play..." then sit back and...

Heartbreakers Movie Review

Heartbreakers Movie Review

The problem with a movie like Heartbreakers is that as hard as you try to...

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Last Days (2005) Movie Review

Last Days (2005) Movie Review

Completing a stylistic and thematic trilogy begun with 2003's Gerry and Elephant (and inspired by...

Heist Movie Review

Heist Movie Review

David Mamet is a good director. Mamet's an even better screenwriter and playwright....

Magnolia Movie Review

Magnolia Movie Review

Sooner or later, every director makes his Short Cuts.Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) only waited...

The Spanish Prisoner Movie Review

The Spanish Prisoner Movie Review

"What I learned while watching The Spanish Prisoner," by Christopher Null.1. Don't trust nobody.2. If...

Magnolia Movie Review

Magnolia Movie Review

An intricate mosaic of emotional stories intertwined by coincidence, "Magnolia" is an elegant exposé of...

Heist Movie Review

Heist Movie Review

One would think there could be no way to freshen up a plot as shopworn...

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