Saturday, June 30, 2012

La Zona


Taut, engrossing thriller. A gated community in Mexico City, sealed off from the slums surrounding it, has three young men go over the fence to steal what they can from the richies. Things go badly...first for the teens, then for the vigilantes organized to hunt down the surviving kid...a 16 year old.

Moral questions abound here...not least of which is the gross disparity in resources in the two groups and the extremes the richies will go to to safeguard their privilege. Police corruption also rears its head...which makes a fair resolution impossible...for the poor at least.

The film brought home the savagery, the fear, the impunity of the privileged. Although the film doesn't come across as a polemic as it goes by you can't help but come to the conclusion that a society set up this way is guaranteeing trouble for itself. But nothing a little of the old ultra-violence can't cure.

Forceful, effective work.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Things We Lost in the Fire

Halle Berry, Benicio del Toro    d/ Susanne Bier

Excellent, intelligent weeper about a woman with two children whose husband is murdered in a samaritan act gone wrong. She turns to a drugged-out childhood friend of her late husband for solace and help getting through the hard time.

Directed with exquisite care and sensitivity by this outstanding Danish director. BDT gives one of his best performances as the confused, well-meaning but deeply conflicted junkie trying to help while clinging to his own sanity. Ms Berry also shines. All supporting characters come across as realistic and believable.

Good stuff...for those prepared for the emotional wrenching.


Sunday, June 24, 2012


France   Maria Schell   D/ Rene Clement

Extremely well done film from 1956. We follow the (mis)fortunes of a lovely working-class young woman with a bad limp who marries badly and suffers all sorts of disappointment and degradation.  MS does a masterful job of making her decisions seem believable even though they lead to her continual suffering. She was constrained by the retro attitudes toward women in 1850's Paris.

Fine window into the world of the ragged folk of the they lived day-to-day. This is a largely forgotten classic by the master director who gave us Forbidden Games.


Friday, June 22, 2012


Sean Connery, Tipi Hedron

This film was a flop for Hitchcock upon release in 1964. It followed a series of truly great films (Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho, The Birds) and seemed unimaginative, unoriginal in comparison. It also didn't startle or shock. My reaction at the time was was boring and fell far short of expectations.

I still see it as inferior Hitchcock but that's like saying a drawing is an inferior may be but it's still better than anyone else was producing at the time. It featured meticulous camera movement and framing...including one of the sexiest kisses ever...but also included rear projection shots and some really poor matte work.

The script didn't quite work. SC's character wasn't believable...either in his fascination for this obviously troubled woman or in his role as amateur shrink. But the man had such charisma and appeal that we are willing to overlook the flaws until we realize at the end we just didn't care about these folks' fate...a sure sign the writing failed.

Signature look, style, pacing. Came across as a last gasp of a dying form of old hollywood.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Grey

Liam Neeson

Arctic misadventure a couple of notches below good. Cardboard characters, artificially contrived conflicts, superbad wolves, implausible physical set-up.

This came across as crass hollywood junk aimed at ten year olds.


Monday, June 18, 2012

The Godfather

Marlon Brando, Al Pacino

The musical motif from this film was wafting through my brain for several days so I  watched it again. It was better than I remembered and my memory had it up near the top. Lots of little detail stood out this time...the procession in Italy, the autumn walk along the street in New Hampshire...many others.

This is widely seen as one of the best hollywood has ever produced. It is. Francis Coppola achieved magic here...timeless magic which serves as a history of the post-war US and a metaphor for what Michael Parenti has called the gangster nature of the state.

Brando was brilliant...subtle, intelligent...hyper-real almost. Nino Rota's music was some of the splendid glue holding it all together. A great American classic.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Murderous Maids


The class war...up close and personal. Two sisters, unloved and unwanted by their parents, get hired out as slaves to imperious bourgeoisie. They are treated badly, establish a sexual bond...more out of desperation for affection than anything...and end up killing two women who threatened to expose and separate them. Based on a true story that took place in the 1920's.

Powerfully played by Sylvie Testud...whose developing madness seems situational and to my eye wholly understandable. You can only crush a person so far before they feel cornered and strike back in rage, yearning to be free.

Nicely done in all respects. Film serves as a nice metaphor for the devolution of current society into a have, have-not mode and what the eventual consequences will be.


Friday, June 15, 2012

All Quiet on the Western Front

Lewis Milestone

Pretty creaky story of some young men who enlist together in WW1 and suffer its realities. Although they are ostensibly Germans all speak with British accents...which struck a false note that rang through the entire film.

But mostly this was much too obvious, too heavy-handed to reach a contemporary audience. Great historical value since it challenged the dominant lies about war but must be viewed with considerable care. Some of the battle scenes were well staged...the explosions gave a good sense of the ferocity of war.



Arch Oboler

Curious artifact from the early 50's. There's been a nuclear war and only five people survive. Will they survive and create a society that avoids the problems that wrecked the old one? Stay tuned.

Low budget film was actually not bad. Over-simplified some and not particularly believable but at least the film put the issues on the table and prompted thought. One of the characters was asinine, one died was up to the three remaining humans to carry on. Then two. Good thing one was a man and one wasn't...


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

John Carter


Cartoon/explosion CGI nonsense taken from the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs. This one stuffed in every Star-Wars level cliche that fit into two hours...and then some. Packed with scenes designed to rope in the ten year old in all of us.

I suppose it was well-intentioned...I suppose this wasn't just a cynical attempt to dazzle the droolers...but I'm not sure. The film lost jillions and I don't think that was was no worse than all the junk pumped out by George Lucas since the 70's. (!?) is a tricky business...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Great Directors


Nice project. Crew goes to Europe and US interviewing folks like Bertolucci, Varda, Brilliatt, Solondz...directors somewhat out of the mainstream who have produced high quality films in the past 50 years.

Interesting and informative.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy

This was the first time these guys broke out of the TV box. Turgid, stately, bloated, overdone to a one here acted like real humans act. Big emphasis on cheesy special effects which today look primitive. Bombastic music score didn't help.

Featured shaven-headed Persis Khambatta as a sort of wooden love interest. I wonder what ever happened to her?

The plot resolution was cool but tltl. Maybe if they had dialed down the reverence some and focused on a story we could care about they might have had a decent film. As it stands...a


Friday, June 8, 2012

Best Worst Movie


Mildly amusing piece of the cult revival of Troll 2 (1989)- one of the worst films ever made. The filmmaker was a child actor in the film and he follows the star around to special screenings where he gets acclamation to his hearts' content which to him beats the hell out of practicing dentistry.

Only interesting for a half hour or so. Stretching this into feature length broke its back. I got really sick of all these people and have zero interest in watching their movie.



Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender    d/ Ridley Scott

Not bad but not quite good enough either. A bit of a disappointment really.

The film has extremely imaginative visuals, great set design, some good thematic material...especially one scene where human forebears create virtual planets as an aesthetic exercise. But there are too many hackneyed scenes involving characters who are not sufficiently developed to make us care about their fate. Serious script flaws pull the film down. One very-difficult-to-watch scene. Charlize Theron's character didn't work at all.

By the end all but one character was dead and I didn't really give a shit. Not a good sign.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Woman in Black

Daniel Radcliff

By-the-numbers yarn about a guy wandering around a haunted house, in the dark, getting all sorts of scary noises, etc.

Elegant look/set design couldn't make up for the lameness of the material. DR had very few lines which made his performance an exercise in looking frightened whilst investigating improbable sounds.

There have been many, many of these over the years...this was just another one.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012



Great thriller. This just races along lickety split with the plot/misfortune landing on the protagonist's head getting more and more absurd as the film goes on. Played for deep black comedy which doesn't become apparent until you walk out and reflect back on the improbabilities stacked up to the ceiling.

Very violent...slick...razor sharp editing/timing...fine casting/acting, direction. World class entertainment for those so inclined.


Living in the Material World

documentary   d/ Martin Scorsese

Long but oddly superficial traipse through the life of George Harrison. He is portrayed as a nice man who spent much effort trying to figure out what it's all about. He doesn't find out of course but I give him credit for recognizing that the materialist culture we inhabit doesn't do it.

But because he appears to have been entirely uneducated he gets demerits for pushing the idea that bozos like the maharishi did have the answers and foisting that whole idea on the world. It's also noteworthy that in spite of his insight he spent the last decades of his life in baronial splendor...playing with his castle and producing forgettable music. Kudos for his support of films though.

The real story was missed...that is the phenomenon of the Beatles as a cultural it came about and what it signified about humanity then and now. Just showing clips of hysterical young girls isn't enough fifty years on.

After the break-up his star quickly faded...he and Ringo will always be seen as lesser lights, forced into the background by the transcendent competition between Lennon and McCartney.


Monday, June 4, 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Tilda Swinton   d/ Lynne Ramsey

Stylized modernistic take on the school shooting phenomenon. Told in jumbled-up time it takes quite a while to figure out what's going on. But it eventually becomes clear and ends up being very disturbing indeed.

Virtually a one-woman show...TS is on screen for every shot as she re-enacts the distressing experience of raising and trying to deal with a monster child and trying to cope with the aftermath of his mass murders. The kid is bewildering...what can you do with a bad seed?...but focusing entirely on her seemed wrong-headed to me. She was just one of his victims. But I recognize that most people question the role of the parents in these cases.

Ramsey's developed nicely since Ratcatcher and Morvern Caller. This film is provocative, stylish and much more intriguing than previous attempts (Elephant) at dealing with this issue.


Sunday, June 3, 2012



Lavishly beautiful study of a love that can't be named. Two young women living in contemporary Iran carry on a clandestine affair in the face of the severe repression that we all know will eventually condemn or even kill them.

Scenes were staged with a subtle touch - the director keeps us on tenterhooks waiting for the moment when it all comes crashing down on our protagonists. Nicely acted and assembled. A cut above the routine lesbian film


Saturday, June 2, 2012


Josh Trank

Three male teens get magical powers and mostly act like total assholes...eventually becoming like deranged supermen...killing, terrorizing, destroying, etc. Very crude thematically. Good special (read CGI) effects couldn't hide the simple-mindedness behind the keyboard/camera here.

The odd thing to me was that the film acted as a perfect metaphor of what would happen if you gave several immature teens enough money to make their very own feature. How old is Trank anyway?

I suppose there's an audience for this kind of can see them hanging out in front of the local convenience store on boring summer nights, hoping some adult will come along and buy them a six-pack.


Friday, June 1, 2012


Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan

This one made me wonder why I do this. Sick, depraved yuppie sort of guy who has a sex obsession and an apparently depraved history with his sister staggers his way from one degrading experience to another...and we get to watch. I suppose there's some value in knowing people like this exist out there but there's all sorts of sordid stuff that goes on that I don't particularly want to watch.

The director here - Steve McQueen - specializes in shoving the audience's face right in it...placing his metaphorical hand on the back of your head and forcing you to watch until he says it's all right to stop. re Hunger. Sorry, pal...this is the last time you do this to me.

I felt sorry that these two fine actors saw fit to beshit themselves for no real benefit. I hope they were well paid at least.

Perfect title...shame on everyone for producing this.