A very bland beer that can be skipped.

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

Price: N/A


Pros: Not really bad as a social drink due to light ABV%

Cons: Nothing really stands out at all

This is a brew I tried out of pure curiosity and to say it did nothing for me at all would be a huge understatement. Brewed in Denver, Colorado, Breckenridge Brewery’s Vanilla Porter attempts to live up to its namesake even going so far to outright mention it’s made with real vanilla beans. Unfortunately, this porter simply comes up short and it’s nothing I would recommend to anyone outside of curiosity.

The beer pours into a dark body with an off white head that appears to be more beige. The carbonation is fairly soft, the head quickly disappears into a mild lace. While the beer looks nice it’s definitely prettier than it tastes. There’s a bit of a hoppy flavor, and even some chocolate along with roasted caramel that can be tasted; but it’s nothing truly memorable though. The sweetness is bland as hell and while there is some decent dryness in this porter, the after taste is pretty bitter and weak. Well rounded craft drinkers won’t be the least bit impressed I’m sure, and new craft drinkers would definitely wonder what the fuss is all about. The aroma really isn’t that inviting either with a faint smell of vanilla that did not rope me in at all.

I think some of the problem in this beer also lies into the near unnoticeable alcohol feel. This has nothing to do with it being at 4.7%; I think the alcohol was pretty weak in general, and simplly not as upfront as what I’m use to.  It’s no secret that stouts are my pride and joy, but even if this is compared to other low ABV drinks such as many of the Samuel Adams line of brews for example, it simply comes up way short because I don’t think it enhanced the taste enough.

In closing, this is definitely a beer I’m not bothering with again. The $11.99 price tag for this almost felt like high way robbery for me. To veteran craft drinkers I would recommend just about anything else besides this. To new craft drinkers looking for something with a taste that stands out but not too strong; Samuel Adams line of beers would be a great start: Cherry Wheat, Boston Lager, and even Irish Red. I would also recommend the hoppy, and rather strong Victory’s Hop Devil. Vanilla Porter is something that should be left alone. However, if this beer has any purpose at all; the ABV level makes it a change of pace from the Coor’s, Buds, etc. as a decent social drink.

Into the Dark – Rick Mofina – Where’s the surprise? Where’s the thrill?

Into the Dark by Rick Mofina




Pros: the book had some interesting characters

Cons: absolutely nothing thrilling about it

Bland.  No spark whatsoever.  Definitely not “thrilling”. Such is the case, with Rick Mofina’s Into The Dark.

Serial killer on the loose.  Cops haven’t a clue.  Yeah, Yeah, we’ve heard it all before. But normally these books keep something hidden from the reader, something that the reader can’t wait to be revealed. Something that will come as a very cool surprise, worth the wait.

But not this book.  Mofina lets us in on the secret almost from the very beginning. That’s right.  We know exactly who the bad guy is.  No hidden identity.  No false clues.  No red herrings.  Just a blatant, linear story about a serial killer, his clueless family, and the equally clueless cops.

You’ve got a wife with some past baggage trying to move on with her life and start a new family.  At least she was pretty cool… I liked her and really felt for her.  You have friends and co-workers who haven’t any idea.  And you have the serial killer who is well aware of the horror of his “secret life” but who doesn’t try all that hard to change it.  And his near-super-hero ability to thwart detection at every turn.  And, finally, you have the cops running around like chickens.

Until, finally, the cops start to get smart and piece things together. In fact, it was horrifying how many mistakes the cops made early on in the investigation.  Let’s hope this is truly a work of fiction!

In the end, there’s really not a whole lot here to recommend.  I like my thrillers to thrill.  I enjoy clever surprises.  But Into The Dark has none of that.  So beware going in – if you like a point A to point B story about a serial killer, go for it.  But if, like me, you like to zig and zag, give this one a pass.

I kept waiting for the exciting twist.  There wasn’t one.

James Franco pretending to be Hart Crane

Broken TowerTheBrokenTower2011Poster


[Rating: 1.5/5]

Pros: some black-and-white images

Cons: concept of biopic, execution, long recitations of Crane poetry

As a commercial movie, “Broken Tower” (2011), written by, produced by, directed by, edited by, and starring James Franco, is untenable. As a master’s (MFA) thesis (at NYU), that is, as a “student film,” its amateurness and failure to reach out to potential audiences is more tenable, though IMO Franco the editor is a failure, and I’m none too sure about Franco as a writer.


Franco reportedly was inspired by Paul Mariani’s biography of Crane, also titled The Broken Tower, a line about language from Hart Crane (né Harold, 1899-1932). The succession of images, which seem mostly to be of Crane walking in NYC and Paris, is mostly chronological, with some foreshadowing images of the deep blue sea (dark gray on black-and-white stock), though there are several scenes of Crane being fired from jobs, one of him chopping wood, one of him performing fellatio (and I do mean “performing,” not “simulating performing,” though I am not entirely sure if he is fellating a prosthetic phallus (as Chloë Sevigny did in “The Brown Bunny”) or a human penis), simulating being anally penetrated by Michael Shannon (whose character’s name, Emil Opffer, a Danish merchant marine, only registers in the closing credits), runs into trouble in Marseilles for a bar tab he could not pay, is fagbashed by some of his desired sailors, and awkwardly reads “For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen” for eleven long minutes in a reenactment of a 1920s NYC poetry reading. (The notorious fellatio scene occurs fifteen minutes in, with 95 long minutes still ahead. There is, btw, no nudity, despite there being two sex scenes, one oral, one anal.)

hart-crane1Franco does not look at all like Crane (pictured above), not that very many people know what Crane looked like, …and fewer still understand his poetry. Through most of the movie, Franco sports a cropped mustache. Though there is a lot of Franco intoning Crane poetry (not just at the poetry reading), there is rather little dialogue. Nothing other than the Brooklyn Bridge that inspired his poetry appears and the movie cannot be a Bildungsroman, because there is no Bildung (growth). Crane is shown as an alienated aesthete as a youth in Cleveland, who continues to love and/or lust after men in New York City, Mexico City, Marseilles, and Paris, having difficulty making a living (though receiving formal and informal grants). Franco’s Crane is a type — the alienated homosexual aesthete who has a lot of sexual encounters, gets beaten up pursuing straight young men, and despairs (killing himself before he can get old in this case).

The handheld camerawork (credited to Christina Voros) is jerky in a pre-Stedicam way (say a 1960s Nouvelle Vague way; Franco is on record as admiring Godard’s cubist “Vivre sa vie”) that likely annoys mainstream audiences (including Franco fans) as much as the pretentious reading of difficult poetry does. There was much more entertainment and information in “Howl,” in which Franco played Allen Ginsberg. He definitely is into impersonating poets, planning to do Charles Bukowski next (I don’t see much similarity between Crane’s poetry and that of Ginsberg and Bukowski; Keats has recently been done, I guess, though Ginsberg has been done multiple times in recent years, as Capote writing In Cold Blood has).

Matt Dillon playing the young Charles Bukowski




Pros: Dillon

Cons: Bukowski

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) has admiring readers, though my low tolerance for drunks inoculates me from being one of their number who dote on him as “laureate of American lowlife”/“the bard of Skid Row.” I can enjoy some of his sardonic observations, and some of this style is preserved in voiceovers by Matt Dillon, who plays Bukowski’s surrogate Henry Chinaski, in the adaptation Bent  Hammer directed, of Bukowski’s second (1972) novel Factotum (with material from The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses over the Hills, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through Fire, and The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken over the Ship). And some more underlies the illustration of his series of unskilled jobs, soul-corroding jobs for a would-be poet (though the movie Henry Chinaski churns out short stories, not poem), that were available in the 1940s (when Bukowski came of age) or the early-1970s (when he wrote his autobiographical novel) than now. (Considering how high unemployment is for the young in the US and other western societies, I wonder what temporary jobs deadbeat, alcoholic would-be writers can get now! BTW, Bukowski held down a job as a letter file clerk for the US Post Office for more than ten years and was a letter carrier nearly three years.)


One of my problems with reading Bukowski (shown above) is believing that the surly drunk he portrays (as Henry Chinaski) is such a “chick magnet.” I am aware that alcoholic women make self-defeating choices of sexual companions. Casting the likeable Matt Dillon alleviates this problem of plausibility (or considering the sexploits to be fantasies rather than reportage from Bukowski). On the other hand, I find it difficult to credit the two outbreaks of violence from Chinaski as played by Dillon. They seem forced-even for someone whose judgment is impaired by booze and provoked by Lilli Taylor, who plays Jan, one of the two deeply debauched alcoholic women who takes Chinaski in (the other is Marisa Tomei, in a performance even more exposed than the ones she played in “The Perez Family” and “The Wrestler”).

Matt Dillon, who convincingly played a junkie in Gus Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy,” and a cocky gambler in “Big Town,” convinces me as an alcohol-abuser who manages to write a lot (slapdash and unedited as Bukowski’s writings seem to me to be; Bukowski is not an instance of a writer who drank to provide an excuse for being blocked/unable to get words down) and maintains some sense of irony about his work (his real work of writing as well as the jobs that provide money for booze). And is willing to exploit the women who are attracted to him… (Adrienne Shelly played another before being brutally murdered.)


Lilli Taylor seems easily to play raw needy women), so that Dillon does not need to take action, only to react (or ignore what she demands). Tomei plays a drunk only somewhat more vulnerable than Taylor’s herein. Is Dillon’s Chinaski “passive”? Well, he’s pretty “impassive.” And Dillon is much better, IMO, than Mickey Rourke’s as the Bukowski surrogate in “Barfly”, the overamplified 1987 movie directed by Barbet Schroeder from a script by Bukowski.

There are some moments of black comedy in the pickle factory and in Jan’s apartment, though I don’t think the movie in general is a “black comedy” (Norwegian director Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” is more prototypically one.) The absurdities are not exaggerated, though there is a vaguely nourish look provided by Norwegian Cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund that fits with the pulpy qualities of Bukowski’s writing, (His last novel was titled Pulp, btw.) And the already-mentioned voiceovers indicate something of what Chinaski is writing. For movies about writers, “show, don’t tell” is not applicable. There are scenes of Chinaski writing, but showing him reinforced by alcohol and cigarettes while writing longhand is not especially edifying. Reporting “”Even at my lowest times, I can feel the words bubbling inside of me,” is more illuminating, I think. The way his work scenes are shot are, however, successes of “show don’t tell.”

As with “Vereda Tropical,” that this character could write anything of interest is fairly mystifying. It’s easier to show the love lives and sexual discords of writers (On the Road, I Killed My Mother, Tom and Viv, Nora, etc.) or the workplace failures than to show creativity happening.

The DVD of “Factotum” includes a bonus feature on direcor/coproduer and coadapter Bent Hamer’s (Kitchen Stories) career in Norway and a trailer/music video of Kristin Asbjørnsen from the movie’s soundtrack.

Having played Allen Ginsberg and Hart Crane, James Franco has said that he is going to film an adaptation of Bukowski’s 1982 novel Ham on Rye. There is also an hour-long 1973 documentary about the considerably craggier-looking (than Dillon or Franco) Bukowski mostly in San Francisco, titled “Bukowski” and a four-hour Barbet Schroeder interview, “The Bukowski Tapes” (1987) for hardcore fans.

And, though I think a “factotum” is someone who does whatever is asked of him (many kinds of work for a master/employer) at the outset of the movie the word is defined as someone who takes a lot of jobs (that is, for a succession of employers). That definition fits what Bukowski portrayed for Henry Chinaski.


Elizabeth Bowen Adaptation

The Last September



Pros: Gambon, Smith

Cons: see last paragraph

Once upon a time (whenever PBS broadcast the BBC movie), I was impressed by Harold Pinter’s adaptation of the 1949 novel The Heat of the Day by Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth (1899 -1973) starring Michael Gambon and Michael York. I found it considerably more difficult to “get into” John Banville’s (1999) adaptation of Bowen’s earlier (1929) novel The Last September, in which Gambon is also the top-billed male. The movie set in County Cork A.D. 1920 did not fully command my attention until the scene in which Maggie Smith (as the Anglo-Irish Lady Myra Naylor) explains to the British captain Gerald Colthurst (David Tennant) that there is no the remotest chance that her 19-year-old orphaned niece, Lois (Keeley Hawes) will marry him. (1) She does not love him. (2) His status is too low. (3) He has no money.*

Unbeknownst to Lady Myra, there is a fourth reason: Lois is keeping company of sorts (bringing him food and cigarettes) to IRA fugitive Peter Connolly (Gary Lydon) who is hiding in an out-building (a mill no longer in use) of the Naylor estate. Lois does not understand that she is playing with fire, even if she is not the one who gets burned (killed). Twice Capt. Coulhurst’s arrival keeps her from being raped by Connolly (that there is a second time shows how foolish the young woman is!).

DP Slawomir Idziak (Bleu, Gattaca, Black Hawk Down) starts in autumnal Masterpiece Theatery colors, but later provides some striking images (and angles) that are less conventional. Gambon’s character, Sir Richard Naylor, is dottier than Smith’s, though more aware that the time of Anglo-Irish ascendancy in Ireland is coming to an end, as she is not.

Also staying at the estate manor (Danielstown in the novel) are perennial houseguests Hugo and Francie Montmorency (Lambert Wilson and Jane Birkin), the voyeur (with a telescope) Laurence (Jonathan Slinger), an Oxford undergraduate who is Lady Myra’s nephew, and (most consequential in terms of plot) London sophisticate Marda Norton (Fiona Shaw).

“The Last September” remains the only feature film directed by stage (including opera) director Deborah Warner. IMHO the first half (-plus) is far too languid. Then things get very melodramatic (Marda has a history with Hugo, who continues to carry a torch for her). Most of the dialogue is insipid. And the people are types rather than characters (for which some of the blame may attach to Bowen, who may have imagined herself staying in Ireland through “the +troubles,” though she was removed to London in 1907).

* Capt. Colthurst is a reminder that officers in “the Black and Tans” or the regular British army were not landed gentry/aristocrats (as Bowen and the Naylors were), let alone the common soldiers.


Clive Owens vs. Juliette Binoche competing for students’ hearts and mind

Words and Pictures (2013)


[Rating: 4/5]

Pros: leads

Cons: effort required to suspend disbelief

I think that Julette Binoche, who is now 50 years old, is radiantly beautiful and palpably intelligent. Her performance —and/or her aura! — are the main reason to watch the 2013 romantic comedy in which she and Clive Owen play dueling teachers in a Maine prep school (not a residential one). She teaches honors art, he honors English (each teaches only one course a day?). The start of the movie has too much resemblance to “Dead Poets Society,” plus those of us who have seen many movies know that antagonism between the male lead and the female lead will metamorphose into love, or at least sex by the end.

Stimulating the student body into a confrontation of words an pictures strains my ability to suspend disbelief, though I have no difficult accepting Owen as an alcoholic blocked writer and Binoche as painter embittered by the betrayal of her body of rheumatoid arthritis (plus an unrelated knee problem). She has become unable to do what she wants (paint what she sees), but has not given up (seeing what she can paint), and is stimulated by the challenges of Owen’s arrogant Jack Marcus.

Accepting Binoche (whose English is faultless and has no French accent) as Italian American (her character is named Dina Delsanto) is made more difficult by the extremely, almost parodistically French scarf she wears in her first scene.


The school’s principal, Rashid (Navid Negahban) seems straight out of “Glee,” though there is no Coach Sue Sylvester anywhere around. Bruce Davison provides support to Jack in an understated way, and there are emotionally needy students, and lots of dialogue and monologue (some of it awful, some not), but the movie is mostly about the damaged adults zigzagging towards each other’s arms.

Binoche did not just play a painter, but did all of Dina’s artwork for the movie (not just what she is shown doing of it IN the movie). Though Binoche has been in many movies I don’t much like (plus some I do, such as “Le hussard sur le toit,” “The English Patient,” “Caché) I consider her a bona fide goddess.

The DVD includes a making-of featurette excessive even in the genre of “We all love and admire everyone else connected with the movie so much.” The movie was directed by veteran (born in 1939) Australian director Fred Schepisi (Roxanne, Six Degrees of Separation, Empire Falls, Iceman [whatever happened to John Lone, btw?]

Vienna bike-messenger go-between



$31.99 at Amazon 

[Rating :2.8/5]

Pros:Bernd and Clarissa

Cons: Jojo and his fantasy life

Despite what I consider excessive graphic violence, I thought that Stefan Ruzowitzky’s 2012 movie “Deadfall” starring Eric Bana was interesting. Among other facets, it includes the tensest “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever seen (onscreen or off). Ruzowitzky’s 2007 “The Counterfeiters” was much acclaimed and won the Oscar for best foreign-language film. His 1996 movie “Tempo,” which was his first feature-length film, focuses on Jojo, Xaver Hutter, a heavily fantasizing 17-year-old high school dropout who has moved to Vienna and become a bicycle messenger, rooming with another bicycle messenger not long out of reformatory, Bastian (Simon Schwarz).

A lot of screentime is occupied by Jojo’s fantasies about being interviewed on tv (MTV?) about his (s)exploits. He is, and, I think, remains a virgin, though fantasizing about being seduced by Clarissa (Nicolette Krebitz) to whom he delivers a rose and a package from Bernd (Dani Levy) most days. Jojo imagines Bernd and Clarissa have a grand passion. Eventually, he is shocked and disenchanted (as was “The Go-Between”). At the start of the movie, the distinction between what is his prosaic life and what is fantasy is clear (as in “Billy Liar”), but the line becomes blurrier and blurrier until what seems to be really happening is more surreal than his fantasies. I think that makes the movie sound more interesting than it is, alas.


Though tongue-tied around women, Jojo is positively garrulous in his fantasies, especially those involving tv interviews. I find Bernd more interesting than Jojo (or Bastian or Clarissa), though not interesting enough to carry the movie.





[Rating: 3.5/5]

Pros: eventually becomes interesting

Cons: slow and opaque start

Eighteen- (or nineteen-) year-old Roman Kogler (Thomas Schubert), the young Austrian protagonist of Karl Markovics’s 2011 “Atmen” (Breathing) is very close-mouthed, if not quite catatonic, through much of the movie. He is incarcerated for murder in a juvenile detention facility, shunned by the other young men for reasons I didn’t catch (if they were alluded to in the movie). The others wait for him to swim his laps before playing water polo in scenes that show off Schubert’s physique in a swimming suit.

Roman is not going to be paroled without having a job, and has failed to hold a series of placements. Despite the hostility of some coworkers and a repugnance for touching corpses, he gradually assimilates to a job picking up corpses for a funeral home.

The corpse of a woman in her late-30s named Kogler (and unclaimed by any relative) makes Roman curious about her mother, who gave him up to the first of the institutions in which he has spent almost all of his life when he was an infant. Being a movie, the viewer can be certain that he will find her (Karin Lischka plays the role quite well), though how she will react is less determine by the genre of searching for a parent.

The pace, especially during the first half hour, Atmen19 is a bit slow and Roman a bit affectless (for reasons that are easy to understand), but he engaged my interest more than Jojo did. Roman has a social worker (played by Gerhard Liebmann) determinedly on his side.


The tourist Vienna that I know is invisible in both movies, except for the skyline visible from a cemetery in the last scene of “Breathing,” and the light used by DP is quite cold (not at all gemütlich) and there are no pastry confections on view in either film. And most of the scenes are filmed from some distance (mid-shots rather than long-shots or closeups, for the most part). “Breathing” is not just devoid of violence (apart from what is recalled at the parole hearing in which a video of the numb boy at the time of his arrest is played) but very restrained as Roman submits to indignities about which he can do nothing. If he fantasizes about sex and popular acclaim, this is not visible in the film. (And there is no freeze-frame at the end, as in “400 Blows.”)

Bonus features on the Koch Lorber DVD of “Breathing” are limited to a theatrical trailer and a “stills gallery” (typically barebones for KL).




Lonely adults in the Kunsthistoriches

Museum Hours (2012)




Pros: art

Cons: pace, O’Hara’s character

I wanted to watch the 2012 movie written and directed by Jem Cohen, “Museum Hours,” because it was mostly shot in Vienna’s Kunsthistoriches Museum, which I had revisited a year ago. The movie made me glad that I have never visited Vienna in winter. The sky is gray in every scene shot outside the museum in the movie, and there is often haze/fog. rather than the golden light for which Vienna is famed.

Still, I was interested in the shots of Vienna as well as of art in the great museum that inherited the Hapsburg art collection, including a Vermeer and a whole room of Breughels. I was totally uninterested in what the Montréal visitor, Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara), sang, and, indeed in her character. She frequents the museum while ostensibly there to visit a cousin in a coma in St. Josef Hospital.


A sixty-something guard in the museum, Johann (Bobby Sommer). Is kind to her, and they have coffees and beers together in addition to his accompanying her to look at her inert cousin. The best part of the movie for me was docent Gerda Pachner (Ela Piplits) providing an unorthodox perspective on Pieter Breughel’s “The Conversion of Paul” (ca. 1567 [below]), though I have difficulty believing it would be delivered (in English) to a group of ordinary tourists. (I agree with her that the rear of a horse is an incongruous focus, both very large and close to the center of the painting, and that it is difficult to find Saul/Paul on a very un-Syrian road in the busy painting.)


There is very minimal development of the two main characters, neither of whom has much of a life, and no plot. Maybe the movie was too subtle for me, though I found the last part in which some scenes of the current city were analyzed as paintings are was very unsubtle in trying to relativize the notion of priceless masterpieces.

I felt that many shots (not those of artworks) were held too long and was bored by the 107-minute movie as a movie, though it supplemented my visit by showing stuff in the Egyptian collection (I skipped it, the movie skips the Roman sculpture that I did spend some time examining).


The Blu-Ray includes Cohen shorts, Amber City, Museum (Visiting the Unknown Ma), Anne Truitt, Working, and Museum (Visiting the Unknown Man), which run 48, 13, and 8 minutes, respectrively) and two trailers.


DIfficult coming-of-age in Southampton

Broken (2012)


[Rating: 2.4/5]

Pros: cast

Cons: editing


I think that there’s way too much going on in “Broken,” the 2012 feature film debut of stage director Rufus Norris. The total is far less than the sum of the parts (some of which go on too long, though many others are splinters).

I don’t buy that such disparate households —two of them motherless — exist in one cul-de-sac in Southampton. It’s the thuggish Oswalds (headed by Rory Kinnear) who seem from a different (lower in class) world. The plot involves many contrivances, though Eloise Laurence is very good as the diabetic daughter of Archie Cuningham (Tim Roth) (a lawyer not particularly like Atticus Finch, though Skunk is something of an innocent observer like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, which allegedly inspired Daniel Kay’s novel). Cillian Murphy is also on hand as a new teacher caught in cross-currents of the Oswalds and the Cunninghams (some the damage is visible in the following still).

Broken Movie Stills images Hollywood Film Broken Photos (1)

There’s some teenage sex , an auto-wrecking operation, and lots of senseless violence in what won the British Independent Spirit Award for best picture. (Kinnear also won one for best supporting actor in a British independent movie and there were seven other nominations, including acting ones for Roth and Murphy.)