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Mississippi Grind Review

Good

As the story snakes south through the United States along the Mississippi River, this movie builds up a bleak, mopey vibe that's difficult to engage with. It's the story of two gambling addicts who think that the answer to all of their problems lies just around the next bend in the river, and it's sharply well written and directed, with astute performances from the lead actors. But it's also relentlessly grim and unsympathetic.

They start their journey in Iowa, where estate agent Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is at the end of his rope when he meets cocky gambler Curtis (Ryan Reynolds). There's a spark of recognition between them, as Gerry sees Curtis as himself 10 years younger, thinking maybe he can kickstart his life again. So they hit the road together, heading for a high-stakes poker game in New Orleans. Along the way, they stop to visit Curtis' favourite prostitute (Sienna Miller) in St. Louis and Gerry's bitter ex-wife (Robin Weigert) in Little Rock. And in between, they visit Memphis to win some extra cash. But by the time they reach New Orleans, things are starting to look desperate again.

 

Continue reading: Mississippi Grind Review

James Toback - Photo's from the American Film Institute's festival 2014 and the premiere screening of 'The Gambler' at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States - Monday 10th November 2014

James Toback
James Toback
James Toback
James Toback

James Toback, Douglas Brinkley, Hilaria Baldwin, Lawrence Schiller, Alec Baldwin and Guests - The Sixth Annual Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony Benefit Gala at the New York Public Library - New York City, United States - Monday 27th October 2014

James Toback, Douglas Brinkley, Hilaria Baldwin, Lawrence Schiller, Alec Baldwin and Guests
James Toback, Douglas Brinkley, Hilaria Baldwin, Lawrence Schiller, Alec Baldwin and Guests
James Toback

Seduced And Abandoned Review


Excellent

Anyone interested in how movies get made will love this feisty behind-the-scenes documentary, which uses sharp comedy to explore the messy business side of cinema. Both smart and very funny, it may not tell us much that we don't know (mainly that it's almost impossible to get a film financed unless it's a blockbuster with bankable stars), but it reveals things in ways that make us wonder about the future of the movies.

The film follows actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback as they head to the Cannes Film Festival to secure funding for their planned Iraq-set riff on Last Tango in Paris. They meet with a variety of experts who tell them that their hoped-for budget is three times too high for a movie starring Baldwin and Neve Campbell. So they talk to Chastain, Bejo and Kruger about taking over the lead role. They also consult with a range of prominent filmmakers including Scorsese, Coppola, Polanski and the Last Tango maestro himself, Bertolucci. But the more time they spend with the people who control the money, the more they wonder if their movie will ever get made.

It's fairly clear from the start that Last Tango in Tikrit is a joke project, but everyone takes it seriously. And as they talk to prospective investors, Baldwin and Toback consider adjusting the film to get more cash by, for example, shooting scenes in Russia or China. It's fascinating to hear these billionaires offer advice on how to get their movie made. And hilariously, no one worries about Baldwin's insistence that the story requires explicit sexual scenes.

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James Toback and Ziegfeld Theatre - James Toback, New York City, USA - at the 'Hugo' premiere shown at the Ziegfeld Theatre. Monday 21st November 2011

James Toback and Ziegfeld Theatre

James Toback Monday 11th January 2010 2009 New York Film Critics Circle Awards at Crimson - Inside Arrivals New York City, USA

James Toback

James Toback and Francis Ford Coppola - James Toback, Francis Ford Coppola, George Marcus San Francisco, California - 52nd San Francisco International film festival held at Westin St. Francis hotel Thursday 30th April 2009

James Toback and Francis Ford Coppola
James Toback
Sid Ganis and James Toback
James Toback and Maurice Kanbar

Tyson Review


Good
As James Toback's Tyson opens, what hits you first is the technique. The idea behind the project is pretty simple -- essentially, this is an extended interview with infamous boxer Mike Tyson as he reminiscences about his roots, and on the highs and lows of his career and private life. But in crafting what is otherwise a straightforward personal testimony by the former (and disgraced) heavyweight, Toback opts for a dynamic, eye-filling presentation: He employs split-screens that balance the interview with archival photos and video footage that together form a mosaic of one man's recollections. Sometimes the audio behind those recollections is layered together, one track echoing away, then replaced by another that offers a revised version in its place.

The overall effect is the cinematic equivalent of the vagaries of memory, less a conventional biography and more a scrapbook of sorts unfolding on the screen. The boxer often chokes back tears, acknowledging his mentors, or spews vitriol as he confronts unresolved resentments and bitterness towards those he feels wronged him. Tyson's most engrossing moments occur when Toback juxtaposes the boxer's own blow-by-blow of a fight in sync with the fight's actual footage -- it's a brilliant example of the subjective and the objective smashed together.

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Bugsy Review


Excellent
After writing, directing and starring in one of the most politically intriguing films of the 1990s, Bulworth, Warren Beatty vanished. He only resurfaced in 2001 in the deplorable Town & Country, which had been finished since 1999. There was no loud announcement of quitting Hollywood, he just stopped acting and started complaining about the Governator.

A consummate leftist, Beatty was always into politics and into political filmmaking, or films that took on big topics at least. So, the question must be asked why he would decide to star as one of the most flamboyant, vain gangsters of all time, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Not only did he act in the film, he was the reason it started. Beatty wrangled up James Toback to write the thing and then snagged Barry Levinson to direct the picture, and decided that the focus of the film should be the end of Siegel's career/life.

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The Outsider Review


Weak
Everyone in Nicholas Jarecki's The Outsider is sure of one thing: James Toback is a genius. Some of the interviewees stray by talking about his gambling troubles, his womanizing and his profound stance on not selling out, but it always comes back to the fact that these things make him some sort of unrecognized genius. True, Toback has made good movies (Harvard Man, The Pick-Up Artist) and, yes, even great movies (Fingers), but here, it is presupposed that we should be diverting all Hollywood dollars to the man's doorstep.

Director Nicholas Jarecki, a relative of the genius documentary brothers Eugene and Andrew Jarecki, really loves Toback and his way of thinking. The heart of the film is following Toback while he is directing his 2004 dud When Will I Be Loved, which had to be filmed in 12 days on the behest of scheduling problems. A parade of friends as diverse as Robert Downey Jr., Woody Allen, and Brett Ratner talk about Toback's style and why his films, notoriously personal and unyielding to audience expectations, are so good but so unseen.

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Bugsy Review


Excellent
After writing, directing and starring in one of the most politically intriguing films of the 1990s, Bulworth, Warren Beatty vanished. He only resurfaced in 2001 in the deplorable Town & Country, which had been finished since 1999. There was no loud announcement of quitting Hollywood, he just stopped acting and started complaining about the Governator.

A consummate leftist, Beatty was always into politics and into political filmmaking, or films that took on big topics at least. So, the question must be asked why he would decide to star as one of the most flamboyant, vain gangsters of all time, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Not only did he act in the film, he was the reason it started. Beatty wrangled up James Toback to write the thing and then snagged Barry Levinson to direct the picture, and decided that the focus of the film should be the end of Siegel's career/life.

Continue reading: Bugsy Review

Black And White (1999) Review


Good
A very unique and brutal subculture exists in America these days. It's a strange juxtaposition of harsh street life and uber-materialistic greed tempered with a sense of justifiability from a code of unwritten ethics. The world is that of the gangsta rappers, the ghetto boys, and the thug-life advocators that dominate the world of hip-hop and rap music. Black and White, the latest film by James Toback, explores this subculture that grows stronger with every new generation it affects.

The hardest thing about an outsider trying to infiltrate a subculture and explain it to the masses is that the truth is often lost in the translation. Toback throws together a huge canvas of characters and actors in attempt to create a clear picture of why white kids are motivated to impersonate black rappers' lifestyles and why rich whit guys treat black rappers like Arnold and Willis from Diff'rent Strokes.

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The Gambler (1974) Review


Excellent
James Toback wrote this long-forgotten look at the gambling mind back in the early 1970s, but it remains one of the most accurate and stirring portraits of the betting mentality ever put to film.

James Caan owns the movie, as a vey charismatic English professor with a bad gambling addiction -- he borrows money from his girlfriend (Lauren Hutton), his mother, and the mob, and invariably he loses it all. Why play? Because of the thrill. In one scene, when he doubles down on 18 during a game of blackjack (for casino novices: this is absolute insanity), our antihero actually wins. Eventually, though, even the best streak goes bust, and it's in Caan's darkest hours that the movie shines the most.

Continue reading: The Gambler (1974) Review

Harvard Man Review


Very Good
James Toback's latest white-teens-in-trouble doesn't offer much we haven't seen in Cruel Intentions, Bully, or every one of Toback's prior films (Black and White, Two Girls and a Guy, etc., etc.). At the same time, it's a rowdy and fast-paced thrill ride that makes it hard not to enjoy.

A cast of excellent character actors doesn't hurt. Scruffy Adrian Grenier is the titular "man," a Harvard student, philosophy major, and basketball player (at what, 5'2"?), who tries to make a deal with his girlfriend's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) mobster father in order to throw the big Dartmouth game, thus ensuring a big gambling payoff so he can buy his folks a new house (theirs was conveniently whisked away by a tornado). Meanwhile, Grenier's Alan bangs his professor (Joey Lauren Adams), encounters an iffy bookie (Eric Stoltz) and his assistant (Rebecca Gayheart), all of whom might be mixed up in a group sex kinda thing. Put Alan in an LSD-infused mania for half the movie and you've got Harvard Man.

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Fingers Review


Very Good
Rarely has a crime/gangster movie been produced with such a sense of calmness. Fingers, a cult classic, is a real showpiece for Harvey Keitel, who plays the title of Jimmy Fingers, a low-level gangster working for his father as a bag man but dreaming of becoming -- of all things -- a concert pianist.

Jimmy divides his day among busting caps, piano practice, and auditions for Carnegie Hall. The comparison to Taxi Driver is obvious, but these are far different films (and that said, Taxi Driver is a far better one, too).

Continue reading: Fingers Review

James Toback

James Toback Quick Links

News Pictures Film RSS
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James Toback Movies

Mississippi Grind Movie Review

Mississippi Grind Movie Review

As the story snakes south through the United States along the Mississippi River, this movie...

Seduced and Abandoned Movie Review

Seduced and Abandoned Movie Review

Anyone interested in how movies get made will love this feisty behind-the-scenes documentary, which uses...

The Outsider Movie Review

The Outsider Movie Review

Everyone in Nicholas Jarecki's The Outsider is sure of one thing: James Toback is a...

Black And White (1999) Movie Review

Black And White (1999) Movie Review

A very unique and brutal subculture exists in America these days. It's a strange...

When Will I Be Loved Movie Review

When Will I Be Loved Movie Review

Neve Campbell's performance as Vera, a poor scheming rich girl, in When Will I Be...

WHEN WILL I BE LOVED Movie Review

WHEN WILL I BE LOVED Movie Review

No other filmmaker besides James Toback has such a perverted, cynical view of humankind. Even...

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