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#FridayReads ‘The Collector of Dying Breaths’ by M.J. Rose

A mix of history, eroticism, thriller and supernatural mystery, the new M.J. Rose novel “The Collector of Dying Breaths” defies any easy categorization, but it’s a terrific piece of entertainment. Rose has been exploring the idea of reincarnation in a series of good novels, but the new book offers her sleekest narrative yet — serving […] [Read More]

‘Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1’: Lars von Trier on sex and love

The most interesting movie of the new year — Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1” — won’t be playing in theaters until tomorrow, but it has been available from the various video-on-demand services for the past two weeks. With an unusual two-part structure — “Vol. 2” arrives on VOD this week — and rapid release […] [Read More]

‘Jewish Cardinal’: inside the politics of The Vatican

The 18th Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Fest is opening Thursday night with the very provocative and very entertaining French drama “The Jewish Cardinal.” The film directed by Ilan Duran Cohen tells the story of the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants who never stopped thinking of himself as a Jew even after he converted to Catholicism, […] [Read More]

‘Take Me Back’: high quality theater, low prices

I get annoyed when I hear people complaining about the high price of theater in New York City because I see terrific stuff all the time for little more than the cost of a movie. Case in point: Saturday night for the grand total of $18.50 I caught one of the showcase performances of a […] [Read More]

Rent it now: getting lost in a Kubrick movie

The documentary “Room 237” is a very entertaining look at the borderline madness that has gripped obsessive fans of the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film “The Shining.” A movie that many of us remember as a really slow and really badly acted horror movie somehow became a touchstone for people who have watched it repeatedly on […] [Read More]

James Franco’s ‘Cruising’ film: 60 minutes of wheel spinning

It will be interesting to see how James Franco handles his Broadway debut in “Of Mice and Men” later this spring. Locked into eight performances a week for three months, the actor-director will have to slow down for the first time in a career which includes a staggering 95 film and TV acting credits on […] [Read More]

Netflix mining: Michael Haneke’s unbearable ‘Funny Games’

The German director Michael Haneke, who will be 72 on March 23, was showered with honors for his last two films. “Amour” (2012) won the Oscar for best foreign language film after taking the Palme D’or at Cannes, and “The White Ribbon” won the Palme D’or in 2009. Haneke is one of the great modern […] [Read More]

#FridayReads ‘Tempting Fate’ by Jane Green

An argument has raged online for months about how much we should ‘like’ the characters in the novels we read. Claire Messud got annoyed when an interviewer pointed out that her most recent protagonist was not the sort of person you would want to be friends with. Messud explained that she didn’t write or read […] [Read More]

‘Brother Rat’: when a president met his first wife

The indispensable Warner Archive DVD-on-demand program recently released a 1938 Warner Bros. hit — “Brother Rat” — that hasn’t aged all that well, but it affords us a glimpse at the early movie career of future president Ronald Reagan. Reagan is officially billed sixth in this comedy set at the Virginia Military Institute but his […] [Read More]

‘Miss Jones’: neglected romantic comedy classic

In all of the remake mania of the past few decades, I’ve been surprised that no one has ever taken a look at the wonderful 1942 RKO romantic comedy “The Devil and Miss Jones.” It’s funny and sexy and has a potent social issue aspect as well. Part of the problem might be that the […] [Read More]