\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Avengers: Endgame!

In yet the latest feat of I-can’t-believe-they-did-it, Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel have stuck the landing.  Avengers: Endgame is a deeply satisfying, profoundly moving, and incredibly fun culmination to a decade-plus of movie-making.  They have woven together threads and characters from across an astonishing twenty-tone previous interconnected movies to create something which is oh-so-rare in entertainment: an ending.  Shall we dig in?  (My next several paragraphs will be free of any major spoilers, and I’ll indicate clearly when I start entering major spoiler territory.  But do yourself a favor: go see the film and then meet me back here, OK?)

I have always been impressed by the continuity between the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It’s at the core of why I love these films so much; why, in place of the usual franchise fatigue that sets in after multiple sequels, I only love these Marvel films more with each additional film.  Not only am I bowled over by the boldness of this enterprise, not only am I tickled by the incredible way in which these films emulate the interconnected feel of the Marvel comics I grew up reading (in which you’d often see, say, the FF’s Baxter Building HQ — or its later replacement, “Four Freedoms Plaza,” which was actually their HQ in the eighties when I fell in love with comics in general and Marvel in specific — in the background of a panel in a Spider-Man comic in which Spidey was web-swinging around NYC), but, as I have written about before, the cumulative power of these narratives build and build with each new film.  Because we have been following these characters across so many films across so many years, we invest more deeply in them and their struggles.  And so when we see heroes suffer and fall (as we did in Avengers: Infinity War and as we do again in this film), the impact of those moments is magnified immensely.

But, wow, this film took that continuity even more seriously than I’d ever dared to hope or expect!  Endgame is a love letter to the entire MCU, and the film is remarkable in the way it establishes that EVERY previous film in the MCU is important.  (Endgame is like The Wire: “All the pieces matter.”)  Holy cow, this film retroactively makes Thor: The Dark World — one of the MCU’s lesser entries (though I’ve always thought it’s a more enjoyable film than its reputation would suggest) — retroactively very important to the saga!  (I’ve had many delightful conversations recently with new Marvel fans, brought in by Black Panther or Captain Marvel, who wanted advice on what Marvel films they should watch to … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Isle of Dogs

I adored Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson’s first foray into stop-motion animation from back in 2010, and so for quite some time I have been anticipating the release of his follow-up, Isle of Dogs, which Mr. Anderson wrote and directed.  The film is set in Japan in the near future, when fears of a dog flu virus lead to all dogs being outlawed and sent to “trash island.”  When a young boy, Atari, journeys to trash island to search for his dog, Spots, he befriends a pack of dogs that includes Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray) King (Bob Balaban), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum).  Together, they seek to reunite Spots and Atari, and also, along the way, they just might wind up defeating the dog-hating Mayor Kobayashi and overturning the ban on man’s best friend.

There is a lot to love about Isle of Dogs, and I throughly enjoyed the experience of watching this beautifully-crafted fable-like story unfold.  The film is also, unfortunately, burdened by some issues of cultural appropriation and sensitivity which have weighed on me as I have considered the film after walking out of the theater.

Let’s start with what’s great.  Although many American audiences think of animation as being for kids only (and I was shocked that there were some families with very young kids who were in my screening — good lord, those kids/parents must have been horrified if they went in expecting a G-rated Disney-type story!!), Isle of Dogs is unabashedly aimed at adults.  I referred to the film, in the previous paragraph, as a “fable,” because, for me, the film had that feeling.  Even beyond the fact that most of the film’s characters are talking dogs, the film has an aspect of exaggeration that made it feel, to me, almost like a fairy tale.  And yet, beautifully combined with that structure to the story, was a film featuring many wonderfully nuanced and sophisticated characters and relationships.  Just as was the case in Fantastic Mr. Fox, here in Isle of Dogs the main focus of the story is on the journey of these characters.

Just like Mr. Anderson’s live-action work, Isle of Dogs is filled to overflowing with a wonderful array of characters, played by extremely talented comedic and dramatic actors.  Bryan Cranston is magnificent as Chief, an angry, loner “stray” dog who, over the course of the story, gradually learns to open himself up to friendship and companionship.  This is a fantastic dramatic performance, full stop.  Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and the Jeff Goldblum are each fantastic as the members of the pack who follow (and often bicker with) Chief.  They’re each so funny, and they each … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Days of De Palma (Part 17): The Black Dahlia (2006)

I’m in the home stretch of my project to watch all the films directed by Brian De Palma!  Following 2002’s Femme Fatale, Mr. De Palma was off the scene for a while until 2006’s The Black Dahlia.  This noir murder-mystery was adapted by Josh Friedman from James Ellroy’s novel, which was itself inspired by the real-life murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947.  Ms. Short’s nude body was found mutilated, and her murder was never solved.

the-black-dahlia.cropped

In the film, set in 1947, L.A.P.D. partners Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) and the rookie Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) investigate the murder of Elizabeth Short, who the press soon nicknames “The Black Dahlia” (just as happened in real life).  In their own way, both Lee and Bucky become obsessed with solving Elizabeth Short’s murder.  Bucky learns that Elizabeth was a lesbian who was involved in a porno film.  He meets and then becomes involved himself with one of Elizabeth’s friends (maybe her girlfriend) Madeleine (Hilary Swank).  Meanwhile, Lee becomes increasingly unhinged, which drives a wedge between him and his girlfriend Kay (Scarlett Johanssen), while the sexual tension between Kay and Bucky begins to heat up.  The murder of one young woman threatens to uncover a much larger world of sex and crime in Los Angeles.

The Black Dahlia is probably the strongest film of the last almost-two-decades of Mr. De Palma’s career, his best since 1998’s Snake Eyes.  There’s a lot to enjoy in the film.  I loved the style and atmosphere of this 1947-set mystery.  This feels like a much tighter, focused film than some of the other late-career De Palma films (such as Femme Fatale, about which I recently wrote, and also Passion, about which I’ll be writing soon).  But it’s not perfect, and the film has some unfortunate weaknesses that keep it short of altogether working the way a great film does.

The film starts off strong.  I love the fast-paced opening sequence.  Right away this feels like a differently-styled film for Mr. De Palma.  It moves very quickly, with lots of short scenes.  There’s nothing overly flashy at first in this film, just a tight script, good actors, and solid directing.  Even when he’s restraining himself from his usual stylistic flourishes, Mr. De Palma’s master-level film-making skill is on clear display.  It’s a lot of fun to watch.  For these past several films (Snake Eyes, Femme Fatale) Mr. De Palma has been telling noir-type stories, and it seems right away here in The Black Dahlia that this will again be the case.  (Even though in the end the film turns out a lot different from how I’d expected — more on that later.)  This … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews The Jungle Book

When Jon Favreau shifted from directing smaller character-based films (like Made) to larger, more special-effects-driven films, he at first did so with a strong attachment to using traditional practical effects over CGI.  (I never saw 2005’s Zathura, but I well remember all of the pre-release interviews with Mr. Favreau in which he spoke of his love for the power of practical effects.)  Both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 featured some incredible CGI effects, but I think the effects in both films worked as well as they did because they were skillfully combined with many practical effects, thus creating an immersive illusion for the audience.  And so it’s fascinating now to see how Mr. Favreau approached the creation of The Jungle Book, a film that, other than the performance of one young boy, has been almost entirely created in the digital realm, including all the animal characters and all of the jungle settings.  This approach, overseen by Mr. Favreau and clearly involving the hard work of hundreds of artists and technicians, has resulted in an extraordinary achievement.

TheJungleBook.cropped

Just like the Disney animated version, this new The Jungle Book tells the story of the young boy Mowgli.  As a baby, he is orphaned in the jungle, but the panther Bagheera saves him and brings him to be raised by a pack of wolves led by Akela and Raksha.  This “man cub” grows up in the jungle.  But when the vicious tiger Shere Khan threatens the wolves for protecting him, Mowgli decides to leave the jungle and allows Bagheera to escort him to the nearby man village.  But Shere Khan will not give up his vendetta so easily.

I don’t have any strong attachment to Disney’s animated The Jungle Book.  I remember liking it as a kid, but it’s not one of the Disney movies that I watched over and over, and it’s been well over twenty years since I have seen it last.  I remember the basic story and some of the songs and not much beyond that.  So while Disney studio’s modern desire to create live-action remakes of seemingly all of their classic animated films puzzles me, I was totally open to a new version of this story.

And to call this a live-action remake is somewhat disingenuous, because, as noted above, other than the real boy Neel Sethi as Mowgli, this is an almost entirely animated film.  It’s just that it has been animated using cutting-edge CGI techniques, rather than traditional hand-drawn animation.

The result is astounding.  Mr. Favreau and his team have crafted an almost perfectly photo-real creation.  You completely believe that you are in the jungles of India, not a studio in Hollywood.  And each and every … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers have made some dark, violent films, and they have made some light, funny films, and they have made some films that seem to fall somewhere in between.  Their latest, Hail, Caesar!, is for most of it’s run-time one of the Coen Brothers’ lighter, more farcical films, though periodically the movie reminds us that it has something more on its mind than simple silliness.  Hail, Caesar! might, upon some reflection, be considered one of the Coen Brothers’ more minor works, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this film doesn’t have a lot of fun to offer.

HailCaesar.cropped

Set in Hollywood in the 1950’s, the film stars Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, a studio exec and “fixer” who is trying to locate his kidnapped star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), before news of the star’s disappearance can make it into the papers.  Baird’s kidnapping, by a group of disgruntled Communist screenwriters, is only one of the many fires that Mannix has to try to put out as he tries to keep his studio afloat and all of his in-production pictures running smoothly.  The dim-witted Baird, meanwhile, finds himself somewhat taken in by his Communist kidnappers.

Hail, Caesar! is a very silly film.  “Silly” is a tone that is surprisingly difficult for many filmmakers to pull off, but the Coen Brothers have mastered the art of comedic goofiness.  They make it look so easy.  There are a lot of wonderfully funny moments in the film as the Coens gently skewer the art of making movies and the pomposity of Hollywood egos.  And say whatever you want about the film as a whole, but the fall-on-the-floor hysterical scene of effete director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) — whose very name is a subtle gag running throughout the film — trying to give a line reading to the dim-bulb cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is one of the greatest scenes they have ever created in any of their films.  I am not exaggerating.

One of my favorite aspects of Hail, Caesar is the way the film occasionally morphs into one of the popular styles of Hollywood films from the fifties, from Biblical epic to elaborate musical to peppy dance number.  Each one of these sequences is lovingly realized (Channing Tatum’s Gene Kelly-esque sailor song-and-dance number is particularly terrific) and they bring the film a great spark of energy each time they shift the movie into a different tone.  (Though I will say that while I loved Michael Gambon’s pompous narration at the start of the film, I could have done with a little less of it as the film progressed.)

Hail, Caesar!’s main film-within-a-film, the Roman epic in which Baird … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Chef

I’m a big fan of Jon Favreau the actor/performer, and I’ve also become a big fan of Jon Favreau the director.  It’s easy to forget, now that the Marvel movies have become such a successful juggernaut, just what a minor miracle the original Iron Man was.  That movie was far from a sure thing, and the reason it took off was mainly because of Mr. Favreau’s consummate skill at balancing the movie’s tone.  The story was exciting, with real dramatic and emotional stakes, while also being an unabashedly fun, funny romp that was a hugely enjoyable ride for the audience.  Few directors could have pulled that off, and I give all the credit in the word to Mr. Favreau for his accomplishment.  Every time you enjoy a new Marvel movie, you should thank Mr. Favreau for his work on the film that got the whole ball rolling.

But ever since 2008’s Iron Man, I can’t saw that I’ve been bowled over by Mr. Favreau’s work.  Iron Man 2 was underwhelming, and it has aged particularly poorly.  Cowboys & Aliens was a mess, an enormous waste of a great premise and a stellar cast.  But I’ve remained a fan of Mr. Favreau, interested in his work.  I want to enjoy his films.  And so I was intrigued when I heard about Chef, which Mr. Favreau wrote and directed, in addition to starring in.  This seemed like an appealing step back into the type of film Mr. Favreau used to be involved in, a film more like Swingers — a smaller-scale, more personal story with humor and with heart.

I am pleased to report that Chef is exactly that.  This isn’t a film that is going to set the world on fire, and it’s a film that, in some ways, feels just a little bit retro. But it’s endearing in the good-natured way the film wears its heart on its sleeve.  It’s got a great cast and a strong premise, and while there are no big surprises in the film, that’s fine by me as I quite enjoyed the small tale being told.

In the film, Mr. Favreau plays Carl Casper, a talented chef working at a successful California restaurant.  He’s a workaholic, and his family life has suffered.  He is also starting to feel stymied by the business-oriented owner of his restaurant, Riva (Dustin Hoffman).  Carl prepares an elaborate menu for the evening when a well-read food blogger (played by Oliver Platt) is visiting the restaurant, but Riva insists that he serve their regular menu of old favorites.  Not surprisingly, this earns Carl a lousy review.  Carl responds poorly, starting a twitter war with the blogger and eventually getting … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Her

There’s no doubt in my mind that Spike Jonze is one of the very finest filmmakers working today.  Like most of the rest of the world, I was quite taken by his loopy first film, 1999’s Being John Malkovich (I can’t believe it came out so long ago — I need to find the time to see that great film again some-time soon!), and I loved Adaptation even more (click here for my review).  But it was his 2009 adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are that shot my appreciation of Mr. Jonze’s skills into the stratosphere.  I absolutely adored that film (click here for my review), and I named it as my very favorite film of the year.  I was so taken by Mr. Jonze’s singular vision in adapting that story.  I can’t imagine any other director creating such a remarkably tender, poignant piece of work.

So I’ve obviously been looking forward to Mr. Jonze’s next film for some time.  And while Her might not have been, for me, at the level of Where the Wild Things Are, I still found it to be a riveting piece of work, and another gorgeous, emotional film from this talented director.  (And writer.  Mr. Jonze also wrote the film, his first time as a solo-screenwriter.)

Set in the not-too-distant-future, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore.  Theodore seems a nice young man, and he is a talented writer who does well at his small-time job.  But he is lonely.  Taken by an advertisement he sees for a new operating system with an artificial intelligence, Theodore purchases the system and finds that his life quickly begins to be changed by the vivacious new personality in his life (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), who names herself Samantha.  Theodore and Samantha’s bond gradually becomes more intimate, and the film charts the course of the relationship between the two.

I was quite struck by the gentle love story Mr. Jonze has created with this film.  There’s a sci-fi hook (“Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his cell phone!”) and there is certainly some commentary in the film about the direction of our electronics-obsessed culture.  Will our technology help connect us to one another, or make us more distant from each other?  This is not a “message” film, but Theodore’s job (writing intimate letters to loved ones from people who can’t or won’t write them themselves) is a powerful statement as to where Mr. Jonze might stand on that particular debate.  Even more striking than that are several memorable long-shots, scattered throughout the film, in which we see crowds of people moving (down streets, through halls), with everyone’s eyes glued to their phone/mobile … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Don Jon

Don Jon is written, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  It’s a great film and I love watching something that feels like a unique, singular voice (as opposed to the movie-by-committee sameness found in so much Hollywood product).  This has been a great season for debut films by actors who have taken it upon themselves to write and direct a film in which they would also star — just recently I was bowled over by Lake Bell’s film In a World… (click here for my review).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, a buff, confident young Italian-American stud who is so successful with the ladies that his buddies have nicknamed him the Don.  Jon and his pals have a regular routine of looking for women out at nightclubs, and the Don has a streak of successfully scoring with girls the guys rate to be an 8 or higher.  One night, they spy a fabled “dime” — the gorgeous Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) — and while Jon is able to flirt successfully with her, to his surprise she doesn’t let him take her home.  Not one to give up, Jon asks around and is able to figure out her last name, contact her via facebook, and ask her out on a date.  She agrees and the date goes well, but even then, again to his surprise, she won’t let him sleep with her.  The two begin seeing one another regularly, and it looks like for the first time Jon has found a girl he loves, one he’s even willing to bring home to meet his parents (Tony Danza and Glenne Headly).  Everything seems to be going great until Barbara discovers Jon watching porn, and realizes that he watches porn constantly.

There’s a scene about halfway through the film in which Barbara angrily confronts Jon about his porn watching, when he retorts to her that the porn he loves is no different than the Hollywood romantic films that she loves.  Both give the viewer an unrealistic, and perhaps unfair, set of expectations as to what love and relationships should ideally be.  Now, I don’t happen to agree with Jon’s perspective that porn and romantic comedies are the same thing, but the film has an interesting time exploring the ways in which there are similarities between the fantasies that both create.  Prior to their big argument, we have heard Jon lament, in voice-over earlier in the film, that even though he has a lot of sex — and always with absolutely beautiful girls — the sex is never as perfect as what he sees in his videos.  We have also seen Barbara walk out of a movie, on a date with Jon, awestruck by … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Well, here we are at last.  The brilliant post-credits scene of 2008’s Iron Man (click here for my original review) promised the beginning of a bold experiment by the fledgeling Marvel Studios — launching stand-alone films starring several of their major characters (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) which would then be followed by all of those characters teaming up in an Avengers movie.  It was a gloriously outrageous idea, one common to comic-books but never before seen in movies.  Marvel Studios was actually planning on making a super-hero crossover film, and one featuring all the same actors who starred in the individual films!  And not only that, but the individual films would actually connect, with story-points and characters overlapping to create a building momentum for the eventual climax in The Avengers.

It was a bold plan, and I am so happy and relieved to report that Marvel Studios has stuck the landing.  Not only does The Avengers work, it works crazily well, and I think it’s the strongest Marvel Studios film since 2008’s Iron Man (and I say that as a big fan of both Thorclick here for my review — and Captain America: The First Avengerclick here for my review).  It’s hard to believe that I live in a world in which a film version of The Avengers actually exists!!  And that it not only exists but that it kicks so much ass makes the whole thing the stuff of beautiful fantasy.

There is surely a huge list of people who must be given credit for the success of this enterprise, but at the top of the list is co-writer and director Joss Whedon.  I am a huge, huge, huge fan of his film Serenity (which he wrote and directed) and that film clearly showed that Mr. Whedon was the perfect man for the job of helming The Avengers. Serenity not only looks amazing, boasting some fantastic visual effects sequences and completely selling the reality of a futuristic, sci-fi world despite being made for a relatively small budget (FAR less than The Avengers).  But more importantly, in that film Mr. Whedon was able to balance nine main characters, giving depth and life to every one of them, presenting them as very different people with different goals and different attitudes and different ways of speaking, and also giving each one of them moments to shine in the course of the film, without one character overshadowing the others.

Mr. Whedon brings the same deft touch to The Avengers. The greatest pleasure of the film isn’t just that the characters are all appearing in the same film (though just the … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

“I’ve Just Privatized World Peace” — Josh Reviews Iron Man 2!

I’m always chasing after that perfect cinematic experience — the rare movie where everything just seems to magically click, and I walk out of the theatre totally jazzed by what just unspooled before my eyes.  I felt that way when I saw the first Iron Man. I was really blown away by the confidence with which director Jon Favreau and his team (headlined, of course, by the amazing Robert Downey Jr.) pulled off their exciting, engaging, and all-around FUN first installment.

Best of all, while that first movie was certainly a complete story all its own, it ended on a terrific high-note that promised fertile stories ahead — Tony’s spur-of-the-moment “I am Iron Man” admission in the final scene of the film, and the end-of-the-credits button that introduced Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (played by Sam Jackson, who was the visual model for the character in Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe created about a decade ago) and made mention of the “Avengers Initiative.”  I walked out of that theatre unbelievably pumped for the stories to come, and when Marvel announced, about a week after Iron Man‘s opening, their plans for future films based on Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man 2, all of which would build to a movie-version of Marvel’s super-hero team The Avengers, it was clear that an extraordinary venture was underway.

But that venture was fraught with risk.  Both Thor and Captain America seem like characters who work great in comic books but would be fiendishly difficult to pull off believably in a movie version.  And while most of the key creative players behind Iron Man were returning for the sequel, well, I probably don’t need to list for you the many, many sequels that have been colossal disappointments, unable to capture the magic of the first installment.

Alright, already, so what did I think of Iron Man 2?

Mr. Favreau and his team have crafted another fun, engaging installment of the adventures of Tony Stark.  They haven’t reinvented the wheel.  They haven’t turned over the apple-cart in the way that makes some of the truly great movie sequels so notable (The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, The Dark Knight…).  I didn’t walk out of the theatre with that same tingle that I had after seeing the first Iron Man.  But that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t very good.

Robert Downey Jr. proves that his perfection as Tony Stark in the first installment wasn’t a fluke.  He’s once again phenomenal, totally magnetic whenever he’s on screen.  I was pleased that the filmmakers resisted the temptation to trim any of Stark’s rough edges — Tony is just as much a … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

From Barcelona to Megiddo: Vicky Christina Barcelona, Towelhead, and Religulous reviewed!

Vicky Christina Barcelona — Yes, like most of you I prefer Woody Allen’s “earlier, funnier” works.  But this is, I think, one of the strongest movies that Woody has written & directed in the last decade and a half.  Vicky Christina Barcelona follows two girls, Vicky (Rebecca Hall, who must have felt bad at being left off all the posters) and Christina (Scarlett Johansson) on a summer holiday in Spain.  The girls are close friends but are very different in nature: Vicky is practical and responsible, while Christina is more spontaneous and emotional.  Their lives quickly become entwined with that of strapping Spanish artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) and his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz).

While Johansson has appeared in several recent Woody Allen films, Hall, Bardem and Cruz are all welcome additions to Woody’s repertoire of actors.  Bardem and Cruz, in particular, bring an energy that’s been missing from many of Mr. Allen’s recent works.  Indeed, they both play characters (and sympathetic characters, at that) that are quite different from the more intellectual romantic leads that characterize Woody Allen movies.  There isn’t really an Alvy Singer to be found here.  (The closest approximation would be Vicky’s fiancee Doug, who is depicted not as a hero but as someone rather boring and close-minded.)  While we’re blessed to have a new Woody Allen film almost once a year, sometimes his films can seem to blend together.  (For instance, while many loved Match Point, I couldn’t stop comparing it to what I saw as the similar but superior earlier film, Crimes and Misdemeanors.)  But Vicky Christina Barcelona is quite a unique creation, unlike any previous Woody Allen film, and I really enjoy it for that.

It’s not perfect.  I didn’t care too much for the use of narration throughout the film, which seemed in many cases to spell out for the audience events and motivations that could more easily and elegantly been shown to us through the action.  And as with most stories of love triangles (or, in this case, a love rectangle), I found the set-up to be of more interest than the resolution.  But still, this is a strong new work from Woody Allen that I recommend.

Towelhead — I adore American Beauty, so when I heard that Alan Ball (the author of that film), had a new movie that he was writing and, for the first time, directing, I was immediately interested.  Towelhead tells the story of Jasira (Summer Bishil), a 13 year-old Arab-American girl.  At the start of the film, Jasira’s mother (Maria Bello) sends her to Houston, Texas, to live with her father Rifat (Peter Marcdissi), a strict man of Lebanese descent.  With the … [continued]