July 11, 2010 |
Since his 2005 critical breakthrough "The Squid and the Whale," writer-director Noah Baumbach has specialized in protagonists who lack an internal censor, who veer between paralyzing self-consciousness and total self-absorption, whose general demeanor falls somewhere between unpleasant and insufferable. This seemingly perverse compulsion has made Baumbach something of an anomaly in the landscape of American cinema, where most movies, even if they don't trade on the charm of their heroes, at least count on their protagonists as easy points of identification.
November 4, 2011 |
"Tower Heist" is a modern comic fable about working stiffs (the serving class of a cushy NYC high-rise) stung by Wall Street excesses (the penthouse billionaire, the lost pension fund) trying to stick it to "the man" in some soul-satisfying ways. So a downer that is an upper in an "Upstairs Downstairs" kind of way. But hey, we'll take the laughs where we can get them in these bleak times, right? And with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy top-lining this high-gloss house of cards, sometimes it works.
March 21, 2010 |
For someone who is known for creating characters who are self-centered to the point of toxicity, in person Noah Baumbach comes across as pleasant enough. Polite, a little dry, slightly reserved, he seems like a student-friendly professor who writes, as Baumbach does, occasional humor pieces for the New Yorker. Although his 2005 film "The Squid and the Whale" -- which he describes as a "new beginning" for his career -- was tinged with just enough nostalgia to temper his more caustic impulses, his subsequent films "Margot at the Wedding" (2007)
May 3, 2009 |
The Washington Mall glistened in the romantic glow of hundreds of old-fashioned street lanterns on a cool May evening. The unusually serene ambience was courtesy of "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," which filmed a few days of exteriors in the nation's capital last year before moving on to shoot in Vancouver.
August 5, 2002 |
Ben Stiller has given us an exclusive quote that I pass on to all those who had been looking forward to his co-starring with Danny DeVito in David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Glengarry Glen Ross," on Broadway in January. "I've made the difficult decision to withdraw from 'Glengarry Glen Ross.' My priorities changed after the birth of my daughter, and the reality of being separated from my family for the better part of eight months caused me to rethink my commitment.
September 28, 2001 |
The call went out, not for a hero, but for someone "extremely dimwitted." For "a self-absorbed simpleton who can be manipulated." For "a shallow, dumb moron." In a word, for "Zoolander." Derek Zoolander is not a superhero but a supermodel; the only things even remotely larger than life about him are his self-absorption and his ego. "Vain, stupid, incredibly self-centered," he is, all unawares, the preposterous centerpiece of the exuberant and insidiously funny satire that bears his name.
August 29, 1999
I started reading the Ben Stiller article ("Acting Is Happening," by Hilary de Vries, Aug. 1), expecting hilarious sketch comedy and/or profound ruminations, but I ended up getting neither. Buttercup, baby! Is Ben margarine light? There was something about Mary, but there seems to be nothing about Ben. In the dull Q&A, Stiller came across as an unfocused doer, someone who "goes with the flow," anecdotal rather than conceptual. Stiller's challenge, like much of Hollywood's, is to be not just amusingly impressionistic but enlightening as well--and thereby enduring.
June 17, 2004 |
Ben Stiller, this is God speaking. In the last six years, you've appeared in 20 feature films and shown up in only-I-know-how-many TV shows. We've seen you play a brawny numskull in "Zoolander." A crime-fighting dork in "Starsky & Hutch." A loser assistant in "Zero Effect." You've got a gift, Ben, and you showed it to the world playing Mr. Uptight in "There's Something About Mary," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Meet the Parents" and "Flirting With Disaster."
June 12, 2005 |
Sometimes it's hard to distinguish Ben Stiller from his goofy alter egos Greg Focker and Derek Zoolander. But last week at the Hermes gallery on Rodeo Drive, he was in a serious role -- photography editor. Stiller and his wife, actress Christine Taylor, were there to celebrate the launch of "Looking at Los Angeles," a book of photographs he edited with curator and friend Marla Hamburg Kennedy. (See Christopher Knight's Critic's Notebook on Page E42.