Daily Archives: December 13, 2007

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets

I haven’t seen the original, but the absurd high-concept of this sequel appears to be quite similar: it’s a Disney romp with several stars (Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, and Harvey Keitel from the first movie, plus Ed Harris and Helen Mirren) appearing in and around various international monuments as they pursue a centuries-old treasure with arcane clues and sliding panels. All this climaxes in an underground city of gold out of H. Rider Haggard, located close to Mount Rushmore. Leave it to coproducer Jerry Bruckheimer to revive the Indiana Jones cycle without the period setting, the camp elements, or Spielberg’s efficiency; director Jon Turteltaub just plods along, and the script by Marianne and Cormac Wibberley is equally poker-faced. With Justin Bartha and Bruce Greenwood, the latter playing the U.S. president. PG, 124 min. (JR) Read more


Oscar-nominated documentarian Immy Humes brings both intelligence and ambivalent affection to this fascinating portrait of her father, the largely forgotten but clearly remarkable H.L. Humes. He wrote two acclaimed novels (The Underground City and Men Die, both recently republished), cofounded the Paris Review, managed Norman Mailer’s campaign for mayor of New York, and shot an unfinished beat feature called Don Peyote (which his daughter has uncovered and samples here). He befriended everyone from William Styron to Timothy Leary to Paul Auster (all of whom are interviewed, along with Mailer, Peter Matthiesson, and Jonas Mekas). And though he was eventually institutionalized for paranoid behavior, it later emerged that he’d been under constant surveillance by the FBI and CIA. Humes eludes simple classificationhe was also an activist, inventor, scientist, and healerwhich may help explain why he’s been forgotten. 98 min. (JR) Read more

Starting Out In The Evening

Every film adapted from a novel paraphrases and abbreviates, but the remarkable thing about the second feature of Andrew Wagner (The Talent Given Us), adapted with Fred Parnes from Brian Morton’s lovely novel, is how faithfully it renders the main characters: a Jewish New York novelist in his 70s (Frank Langella), ailing and mainly forgotten; a grad student in her mid-20s (Lauren Ambrose) who’s inspired by his early work and writing a thesis about him; his daughter (Lili Taylor), a former dancer pushing 40 who wants to have a baby; and her former boyfriend (Adrian Lester), a black academic who has a son from a previous marriage and doesn’t want another child. Part of Morton’s achievement is to present all four people through the viewpoints of the other three; Wagner can’t do that, but the performances are so nuanced that the characters remain multilayered, and they’re not the sort of people we’re accustomed to finding in commercial films. PG-13, 111 min. (JR) Read more