Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Let Me In

Chloe Grace Moretz

Competent, nearly scene-for-scene re-make of the Swedish surprise hit - Let The Right One In - from a couple of years ago.

Every scene was well shot, the kids were great, for some reason every scene was yellow/orange in odd choice for a film set in a snowy landscape but it did work to create an eerie atmosphere.

The original was good and surprising...this was good and not surprising. Done for the droolers who can't/won't read subtitles.



Ralph Fiennes, Liv Tyler

Lush adaptation of the story by Pushkin.

We follow Onegin throughout but he is such an asshole it can't help but effect our reaction to the film. For the first half he is a disaffected, jaded spoiled brat who could use a good thrashing. Then he inexplicably falls in love with LT after rejecting her earlier. But there was nothing about her which would justify his dropping his entire personna.

There is a light dash of social consciousness but falls far short of the soul-searching we find in Tolstoy. The book is an indictment of the stratified, calcified society of 19th century Russia but in the film those ideas are kept in the background so we can focus entirely on this non-existent love story.

Well-crafted but unsatisfying.


Monday, July 29, 2013

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaucescu


This was a most unusual film. Over three hours long, it consisted almost exclusively of public appearances and speeches given by Mr. C. His speeches were uninspiring...usually read by him with eyes-down earnestness. But here and there we get a public glimpse of the steely hand operating behind the scenes...the unsettling groupthink that ruled Romania during his reign.

Also the film was sprinkled with some of the astounding large-scale spectacles arranged by and for him in Romania and other countries...particularly China. A real-life cast of thousands...all in costume doing choreographed routines celebrating the great leader. What a lot of effort, resources, time...and for what?

To appreciate this film you had to have some working knowledge of 20th century Romania. No narration or explanation was provided.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Cube

Jim Hensen

This isn't the Canadian sci-fi thriller from the 90's. This was a project Hensen put together in 1969 and apparently was intended for television.

It was intriguing and fun. An everyman is locked in a cube with no way out. Various people come in and out of the cube and subject him to various humiliations but he can't leave with them...those are their doors. He must find his own.

Obviously metaphorical it also was entertaining and consistently included things I didn't expect. This unpredictability kept me interested while I pondered the deeper ideas presented.

Nice work.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Seventh Seal

Sweden     Bergman

It's widely considered one of the greats and it is. Incredibly rich in thought and themes it's also lusciously filmed in glorious black and white. This brought film to a new level of sophistication - raised it to a legitimate art form -dealing with themes equal to anything ever produced in 'legitimate' theater.



Thursday, July 25, 2013


Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne

Sweetly done film about the love affair between a young man with pretty severe asberger's and his upstairs neighbor. Vaguely reminiscent of other such films...Niagara, Niagara, Benny and Joon...this worked for me because of the fine performance by Dancy. He was thoroughly believable and his disorder wasn't sugar-coated. He really did come across as an overgrown child...not very good boyfriend/husband material.

The resolution was realistic, perhaps a bit open-ended and gave a satisfying end to the story.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blade Runner

Ridley Scott

Intelligent, imaginative, splendidly atmospheric this is the only film to date which comes close to rivaling 2001 as the premier work of science fiction.

Stunning visuals, unmatched mise-en-scene and strong characters ensure the permanence of this film in the pantheon.



Ridley Scott

Distinguished by a superb visual sensibility, this horror/outer space drama looks as fresh today as it did 30 years ago. This is one film that will be seen and enjoyed(?) for as long as the concept of film exists.

Great work by all hands.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013



Nicely done adaptation of Neal Gabler's book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.

Deft mix of voiceover, talking heads and clips from old movies and newsreel footage.

Informative and interesting.


Double Suicide

Japan   M. Shinoda

Adaption of a 1720 kabuki drama, a variation on a Romeo and Juliet scenario where star-crossed lovers meet their inevitable demise. Beautifully staged. Since this was originally played as a puppet show Shinoda had 'puppeteers' clad in black who were always present and moved props, scenery, etc. This created a sense of the hand of fate, unseen forces, determining the direction and outcome of the characters' lives.

Cinematography was luscious black and white. All was not well though. Perhaps because this was a well-known story it was played with (to my eyes) extreme over-acting which I found distancing, annoying and kept me from caring for the characters.

Still I had to admire the skill on display here...I just wish they had toned it down a bit.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pacific Rim

Guillermo del Toro

Godzilla-like monsters come up from the ocean deep to destroy cities and pose a serious threat to mankind. So the humans build giant robots to fight them. If this was done with the right tone...snide perhaps or at least could've been a monster. But it wasn't.

The film consists of many (too many) loud, difficult-to-follow fights between the antagonists. Not much time spent developing characters we can care about. After a while it began to seem repetitive and, finally, uninteresting. I assumed from minute one that the humans would triumph. I mean they might get their hair mussed but really...who went into this film to root for the monsters?

I would have enjoyed this when I was ten but honestly I didn't see the level of suspense I remember in the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. Pretty disappointing.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Rust and Bone

France   Marion Cotillard

Really odd film. A 30ish woman gets her legs severed by an orca at a tank show. After recovering some she reaches out to a guy she met once...a cretin who seems to be totally oblivious to the feelings of others but loves to fight eat and fuck. In that order. Even after it becomes clear what he is she keeps coming back for more abuse. And I guess they live happily ever after.

The performances were good, also staging, editing, camera. The problem was that she was movie-star beautiful and why she would cling to this moron was inexplicable. Because he was so stupid that he scarcely noticed her missing legs?

So the guy was a brute, a thug. She calls him an animal at one point. True enough. We get no backstory on her but have to assume she was crippled in more than one way. Which made for a strange story...two badly damaged humans staggering through life together...lurching from one crisis to another...into the sunset.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hands Over the City

Italy    Rod Steiger

Terrific expose of the inner workings of government in Naples, Italy. Pile drivers for a new building cause an adjacent one to collapse, killing several people. Public opinion demands an inquiry which gives the filmmaker Francesco Rosi the chance to show us how the sausage is made. And it isn't pretty.

But the film isn't about Naples or even Italy. It's about corruption and the manipulation of the populace by the ruling class...all geared to the latter's benefit.

Many outstanding scenes...the collapse, group scenes, parliament chaos. This is a study of human nature in a particular context but with universal application. A forgotten treasure.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Ali Zaoua


Beautifully done film about four street urchins living and dying on the hard streets of Casablanca. They steal, sell stuff, sniff glue, fight with each other and a bullying gang... When confronted with caring adults they revert to being shy children.

Similar to Pixote but the rough edges were tempered. Good not great performances from the kids. Unfortunately the best and most charismatic actor among them was killed early on. Still we got to know these kids and their world, saw their dreams (nice use of simple animation for that), and followed their story to its bittersweet end.

Sensitive and intelligent. A winner.


Teddy Bear


Sweet film about a 38 yo massive professional bodybuilder who is painfully shy and gentle, held in tight rein by a domineering mother and aches for love. In desperation he goes to Thailand, meets a lovely widow and brings her to Denmark...perhaps to start a new life together.

The film was above all a character study which explored the contrast between this man's imposing size and power and his relative helplessness in the face of a willful mother and the harsh demands of modern dating. He is enormously sympathetic as he lumbers his way through life searching for what he needs but remains so deferential to everyone he meets that he can't find it.

The film was quiet, sensitive and quite moving.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Upside Down

Kirsten Dunst

I see so many movies that it's exciting to come across a film based on an entirely original idea. Like this one...with its two worlds with opposing gravity so that to each the other is always upside down. And since they almost touch this creates some startling visual effects. It was preposterous but set us up for something totally new.

Unfortunately, perhaps to compensate for this originality the plot and storyline are hopelessly the point where I just couldn't stand it anymore. They played it as a love story...a groaner, like so many others. The players tried but it was no go.

Too bad...they could have done something really fresh here.


Visitor Q


Deliberately transgressive nonsense from Japan cinema's bad boy Takeshi Miike. We go from one scene to another watching behavior designed to offend a Japanese a sex scene between a young girl and her stepfather...for cash, a son beating his mother with a stick...apparently just for fun.

This just seemed idiotic to me. Offensive yes...but idiotic.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Enter the Void

Gaspar Noe

Fabulously inventive camera work can't save this film about some sleazy doings in even sleazier environs in Tokyo. This is as successful an attempt at re-creating the drugged up experience on film I've seen but that's not enough to hold interest. It quickly becomes repetitive and tedious.

Nice cigar.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Across 110th Street

Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto

Tough, gritty, violent, fast-paced cops vs. gangsters tale from 1972.

Three black guys rob the mob in Harlem of $300,000 and stir up one hell of a hornet's nest. This was a time of transitions...control of the rackets moving from Italians to blacks and control of the police from old-style beat em until they 'confess' to more sophisticated methods.

Many intense scenes with strong playing by all hands. I don't think I've ever seen a better performance by Quinn. This film wasn't a big hit at the time but holds up very well. It may rightly be considered a classic as time goes by.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Guy Maddin

Typical madness from the sage of Winnipeg. This one involves gangsters, ghosts (big time), memories, lots of nudity, violence, quick cuts, overlays, B/W compositions, Isabella Rossellini and Jason Patrick...all served up in an incoherent stew.

For those who appreciate this guy's's another. For the vast majority of the human race who look on his films with the same horror they feel when something crawls out of their bathroom's another.

I marvel at his weirdness.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013


France   Gerard Depardieu

GD retires from his job at a slaughterhouse and must get paperwork from previous employers to get a full pension. So he hits the road on a motorcycle.

This guy is morbidly obese at this point. Here he plays a very slow-witted dolt whose clumsiness is intended to be humorous but isn't at all funny. Maybe now that he's defected to Russia he'll not be embarrassing himself with shit like this anymore.


The East

Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgaard

Well done thriller about a corporate spy who infiltrates an eco-terrorist anarchist group whose specialty is carrying out dramatic pranks/terror acts. They are crunchy-feely, her employers are hateful automatons...guess which way she starts to lean?

Even though the overall arc is predictable there were many scenes in here that generated real suspense...the poisoning of the wine with a company's drugs at an executive gathering for example. Also, there was a crackerjack performance by Ellen Page who got to show off her chops.

And I have to hand it to BM who co-wrote and starred. She has stormed the hollywood scene and has been creating interesting provocative films unlike the usual fare...Another Earth, The Sound of My Voice. Each film has had a bigger budget and was more complex than the last. Let's hope she continues.