Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Nacho Libre


Let’s hope this is just a hiccup in Jack Black’s career, because it’s bloody awful. There is probably a funny movie in Mexican wrestling, but this ain’t it. It’s all over the place, slow-paced … frankly, pretty stupid. In fact, I can’t recall a good movie about wrestling at all, and there’s a billion about boxing. The only other one I recollect is … All the ... Read more »

The Naked City


This is a remarkable film for a variety of reasons. It’s the only movie I can recall with spoken opening credits. A narrator identifies himself as producer Mark Hellinger (he died just after seeing the final cut), and then names the writers (Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald) and the stars (Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, and Dorothy Hart). He probably named the director, Jules Dassin, but I ... Read more »

The Naked Jungle


A few years ago we visited the San Francisco Academy of Sciences in its temporary location on Howard Street while the quake-damaged old building was largely torn down and replaced by a new, modern facility that I hope to visit someday. (I spent many a happy hour in the old building with my family when we lived in The City. I hope they have preserved the old-fashioned dioramas with stuffed ... Read more »

The Nanny

(UK, 1965)

Joey is ten, and returning home after a two-year stay at a special school because he refused to sleep or eat after his toddler sister drowned in the bathtub. He feels his nanny, Bette Davis, killed the girl and now might kill him. Neither his oblivious father nor his emotionally shattered mother believe him. We are probably meant to wonder if he is nuts, if in fact it was him who killed ... Read more »

Nanny McPhee


The story works okay, though it’s pretty predictable. Emma Thompson morphs from “the ugliest woman in the world” (as described in the books) to … well, Emma Thompson, and it doesn’t get much better than that. I could listen to her voice all day long. The kids are bratty enough to scare the Addams Family, and it is fun to see them learn the error of their ways. ... Read more »

Naqoyqatsi: Life as War


The third in the Qatsi trilogy by Godfrey Reggio. The first two were all regular photography, of real things and places, doctored only by slow motion and time lapse here and there. This one is entirely different. Just about every frame is morphed some way or another, with fisheye lenses, solarization, slomo, multiple images, and most of all, acres and acres of ... Read more »



Robert Altman is one of my top ten directors. M*A*S*H is on my list of favorite films of all time. He made many great films (and a small number of stinkers), and this is one of those revolutionary ones that changed the shape of movies forever. His career had its ups and downs. He was in favor, then unpopular, then made a comeback. But Read more »

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation


Every once in a while a sequel turns out as good as, or almost as goods as, the original. I’d say that in this case, the original is better, but only by a little. The character of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is a bit more manic and his mean streak comes out a little more … and of course invariably gets him into trouble. Randy Quaid is the ultimate hillbilly moron, his every belch and ... Read more »

National Lampoon’s European Vacation


Pondering why this third movie in the Vacation franchise just didn’t work, I eventually found the main reason. In comedy, timing is everything. Nothing in this movie is timed well. Scenes go on too long, the punch lines get misplaced. Other reasons: the filming and editing is amateurish. You may not be aware of it, but your eyes are telling your subconscious that this thing just isn’t as ... Read more »

National Lampoon’s Lost Reality


Lord, how the mighty have fallen. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, National Lampoon magazine was the funniest thing going. I owned every issue, and read them from cover to cover. Remember the cover where a revolver was pointed at a dog’s head, with the line If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Shoot This Dog? Something to offend everybody, but with wit. Then they started ... Read more »