Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Big Screen | Three New Specialty Releases Provide Counterprogramming to Latest "Twilight"

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | feelingsoblahg.blogspot.com June 30, 2010 at 3:21AM

While the nation's "Twi-hards" continue to line up to see the latest Stephenie Meyer "Twilight" adaptation as they did last night for the midnight premiere of "Eclipse," three films open in limited theaters this week. Taylor Hackford's melodrama "Love Ranch" is likely to draw the biggest crowds of the three, with a cast lead by the director's wife Helen Mirren in the unusual role of brothel Madam. Nonetheless, it is the other openers, "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Phil Spector" and "Great Directors," both documentaries on masters of Twentieth Century media arts, that achieve the more positive acclaim of the small-release lot.
0

While the nation's "Twi-hards" continue to line up to see the latest Stephenie Meyer "Twilight" adaptation as they did last night for the midnight premiere of "Eclipse," three films open in limited theaters this week. Taylor Hackford's melodrama "Love Ranch" is likely to draw the biggest crowds of the three, with a cast lead by the director's wife Helen Mirren in the unusual role of brothel Madam. Nonetheless, it is the other openers, "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Phil Spector" and "Great Directors," both documentaries on masters of Twentieth Century media arts, that achieve the more positive acclaim of the small-release lot.

"Love Ranch" takes place outside of Reno just after the state's legalization of prostitution, and recounts the story of the first brothel and its sorry owners. Mirren plays the run-down-but-tough-as-nails wife of a violent cheater, played by Joe Pesci, who gets a second, albeit too late, chance for love with an up-and-coming boxer played by Sergio Peris-Mencheto. For all her impressive credentials, it appears that Helen Mirren can not save the movie from a critic's roast. Peter Debruge, writing for Variety, says "rather than try to downplay the laughable dialogue, overwrought events and twice-underlined symbolism of Mark Jacobson's hackneyed script, director Taylor Hackford embraces them, bringing a portentous reverence to the characters' clichéd declarations". Though Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter is slightly more complimentary, stating "the film does create a convincing portrait of a late-flourishing love that takes everyone by surprise," he also refers to the movie's overall tone as "anti-erotic."

"The Agony and The Ecstasy of Phil Spector," directed by Vikim Jayanti, fares slightly better in the reviewers arena. The film profiles music icon Phil Spector, and juxtaposes his legacy as the master behind artists like The Ronnettes, and Ike and Tina Turner, with his trial and conviction for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Reviewers Kevin Lally and Ella Taylor, writing for the Hollywood Reporter and NPR respectively, agree that the filmmaking itself is sloppy and unfocused, but the interview with Specter himself makes the lagubrious detour worth the trip. Lally writes, "It's frustrating not having more details about the night that ended Clarkson's life and destroyed this funny, egotistical, brilliant, volatile, cloistered and dangerous man. But it's a privilege to spend time with the influential artist behind the sensational tabloid headlines." Taylor concurs, "'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector' makes fascinating viewing despite its clumsy bombast."

Highlights of Angela Ismailos's film "Great Directors" is also rumored to be the candid interviews she achieves with some of the "greatest" artists of our time. The film consists of interviews with ten "great directors," as so named by Ismailos, such as David Lynch, Catherine Breillat, John Sayles, and Agnes Varda. Movie clips from each filmmakers respective works are interwoven with their testimonials. Ronnie Schieb for Variety writes, "Some viewers will doubtless argue over Ismailos' choices or balk at her adherence to a romantic single-vision theory of a highly collaborative art. Still, her eclectic pantheon weighs in with entertaining anecdotes and illuminating comments." Andrew Schenker for Slant Magazine also generally commends Ismailo's methods, and concludes "'Great Directors' [is] at the very least a breezy bit of cinephiliac entertainment."

The word on the latest edition of the "Twilight" series, "Eclipse" directed by David Slade, is upbeat. Kirk Honeycutt writes for The Hollywood Reporter, "Where the first film leaned heavily on camp and the second faltered through caution and slickness, 'Eclipse' moves confidently into the heart of the matter, and 'Eclipse' looks primed to be the most successful film yet in Summit Entertainment's franchise." Anne Thompson says, "All three actors are comfortable with their characters, and Slade finds the right balance of action and romance; the story feels organic."


criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Love Ranch (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: D+

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Great Directors (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C

criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Dogtooth (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Restrepo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Wild Grass (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

The Lottery (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Winter's Bone (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

I Am Love (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Cyrus (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Father of My Children (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Double Take (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Lovers of Hate (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Ondine (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Micmacs (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

8: The Mormon Proposition (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Let It Rain (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Solitary Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Killer Inside Me (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Stonewall Uprising (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Agora (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C





SnagFilms

Watch Over 10,000 Free Movies!

Ultimate Animal Countdown: Attack: This episode counts down the top ten ultimate animal attackers to find who creates the most carnage.