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‘Smoke’: flirting with sexual danger at a New York party

The already intimate basement space at the Flea Theater has been reconfigured to be even more up-close-and-personal for the new Kim Davies play “Smoke.” By clustering the seating around the small set — the kitchen of an apartment in Harlem — the audience is given a voyeuristic view of the action that is both exciting […] [Read More]

A still-daring film from the summer of Woodstock

  Haskell Wexler’s “Medium Cool” didn’t get nearly as much attention as some of the other daring major studio films of the summer of 1969 — it was up against “Midnight Cowboy” and “Easy Rider” among other zeitgeist-defining films that were playing in theaters then — but no other American film did a better job of […] [Read More]

‘Party Animals’: 1970s Hollywood decadence

If you’re looking for an especially juicy Hollywood biography you should check out then-Variety senior editor Robert Hofler’s 2009 book about the film and stage producer Allan Carr — “Party Animals” — which is available from  DaCapo Press. Carr has been largely forgotten in the 15 years since he died, but Hofler reminds us of […] [Read More]

Bad Movies We Love: the goofy & melancholy ‘Blood Beach’

There are bad movies we watch more than once because they are so over-the-top awful (“Valley of the Dolls”) or that capture a slice of society rarely seen on screen (the early 1980s Broadway of “The Fan”), and then there are true oddities like “Blood Beach.” A cable staple 30 years ago, the 1980 B-movie […] [Read More]

The Peter O’Toole movie that launched Woody Allen

When Peter O’Toole died last year, all of the obits of course referenced “Lawrence of Arabia,” the 1962 classic that introduced the Irish actor to movie audiences and made him an instant international star. O’Toole would go on to make other epic historical dramas, such as the marvelous “Becket” in 1964 and “The Lion in […] [Read More]

‘Mobile’: British TV thriller a perfect mini binge-watch

Acorn Media is one of the best sources of British TV programming, both on DVD and on the streaming TV system the company launched last year. I couldn’t find the 2007 ITV miniseries “Mobile” on the streaming site, but it is worth searching out on the Acorn DVD (I got it via Netflix). The four-episode […] [Read More]

‘Rogue Royale’: the James Bond film that might have been

Here’s another strong argument for having a Kindle — last year, British thriller writer Jeremy Duns published a short but fascinating e-Book, “Rogue Royale,” about the rocky history of making a film out of the first James Bond novel “Casino Royale” after it appeared in 1953. The book is an expansion of an article Duns […] [Read More]

‘Marlene’: a star’s petulance fuels classic documentary

Faced with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of a documentary subject who refused to appear on camera, Maximilian Schell managed to turn that crisis situation around in his 1984 film “Marlene.” Searching for something to watch one night, I spotted the movie on Amazon Prime and had a great time — “Marlene” is even better than I […] [Read More]

Music, sex & espionage power delightful ‘Joy of Singing’

You could go a little crazy trying to describe — or categorize — Ilan Duran Cohen’s 2008 “The Joy of Singing (Le plaisir de chanter)” which is available on most download platforms and on DVD from IFC Films. The best thing to do is just sit back and enjoy the very entertaining mix of comedy, eroticism […] [Read More]

Joan Crawford before her drag queen years

So much of the Joan Crawford image and mythology grows out of the pictures she made in the 1940s and 1950s — when she was almost scarily tough and mannish — that it’s always a shock to see one of the movies she made for MGM in the 1930s when she was a much fresher […] [Read More]