Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Underworld

George Bancroft   d/ Josef von Sternberg

Restored silent from 1927. As always much of the acting was clownishly overdone but one character was subtle and well-written enough to work for me. I was detached for 45 minutes or so but as the drama went on I found myself engrossed and held on to see how the plot was resolved.

This film was written by Ben Hecht and it showed. It is said to have begun the gangster genre that was so prevalent in hollywood in the 30's.

Mostly historical value at this point.


Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt

I try to avoid cartoon material but this film was highly praised in many places so I gave it a go. I was not surprised to learn that my initial instincts were correct: this stuff is drivel intended for 8 year olds (who I'm sure saw it as wicked pissa) and I hereby resolve to sever a bodily appendage before watching another one of these in the future.

Dumb, loud, CGI nonsense on the Star Wars level.


The Babadook


Sharp, focused horror film which was more effective than any I've seen in a long time. We have two principal characters - the script gradually isolates them in their home...a frightened woman and a terrified face their demons.

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent who sets out the story with some clever misdirection then once the real premise kicks in provides the audience with ever-escalating chills. By the final scenes we appreciate just how knowing the film has been. It leaves us with a satisfying sense of having been given chills by someone who respects our intelligence and maturity.

The two leads were convincing; in particular the mother, played by Essie Davis enlisted our sympathies even as her character was going off the rails.

This was a rare treat.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Congress

Robin Wright   d/ Ari Folman

A truly mind-bending, original adaptation of a novel by Czech master Stanislaw Lem. The first half hour deals with the trials of an aging actress (called Robin Wright) and her decision to allow herself to be digitized...completely. Her body, emotions, gestures...all the things that make her what she is were reduced to code...available for use by the studio as they saw fit.

The next hour and a half is strikingly animated...very colorful, imaginative and serves as a blistering condemnation of the entertainment world and the role of fantasy and dreams induced by drugs (soma-like) to shield people from the harsh realities of the world in which they live.

Folman previously did Waltz With Bashir and with this as a follow-up he marks himself as one of the true originals in international cinema. Film is not for everyone but for a jaded buff like me it was manna from heaven.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Farewell My Lovely

Robert Mitchum, Charlotte Rampling

Interesting curio from 1976. The filmmakers attempted to reproduce the tone and look of a Raymond Chandler novel set in the 40's. They got the look right but this material is badly dated at this point and brought to life on screen makes it look and sound ridiculous.

The toughguy PI was an artifice of its time and watching one now makes this very evident. RM was a good choice for lead but he couldn't make it work. CR was gorgeous at that point but I never bought her femme fatale or, really, any of this.

Historical value only.


Friday, December 26, 2014



Slick, beautifully photographed caper/mystery thriller with several effective twists. The premise is a fake kidnapping meant to extract money from a ruthless industrialist which works, sort of...but he had his own tricks up his sleeve.

Nicely acted and paced. This was entertaining, engaging, complicated and blessedly free from violence (mostly).


Thursday, December 25, 2014


Peter Watkins

Another in his series of films which aim to bring historical events close to the viewer and make them real. This was the decisive battle between the Brit imperialists and the Scots in the early 1700's.

An offscreen interviewer asks named participants questions about strategy, the condition of their armies, tactics, etc. Because it's done in the current style of TV news this device works to bring this battle alive...and also gives us the thoughts, attitudes and fears which governed peoples' decisions.

Not as shocking as War Game nor as thorough as Le Commune (my favorite) but still very effective and engrossing. The best way to teach history I've seen on screen.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Gregory Peck, Frederick March, Jennifer Jones

A-list production from 1956. With its wide-screen technicolor look it came across as an update on the same issues William Wyler dealt with in The Best Years of our a traumatized war veteran makes the transition back to ordinary life.

Peck plays a man starting a new job on Madison Avenue whilst trying to maintain his sense of honor and integrity...not an easy task. We watch him wrestling with some difficult issues...some common, some not. Peck was a little stiff (duh) but brought his trademark gravitas to the role. Lavish production, a bit dated but still involving.

Stands up better than most films from that era.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Barbara Loden

This was a courageous, failed amerindie from 1970. BL wrote and starred in the story of a trashy woman from the coal-producing region of the western Appalachians who has made her life a mess: alcoholic, abandoned her two children, can't hold a job, sleeps with any man who'll buy her a beer...

We follow her around for an hour or so and whilst the tenor of the story changes I was so disgusted with this bozo I found it impossible to care for her fate. Sound and picture quality were very poor which didn't help.

This film has been heralded as an icon in independent filmmaking - on the order of Cassavetes - and it may have tackled topics outside mainstream cinema but that didn't make it good or worth watching.


Monday, December 22, 2014


Jackie Gleason

Film's a bit over-egged but stands as proof of Gleason's skill at 'acting-without-words.'


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wind Rises

Hayao Miyazaki

Typically first rate work - a fictionalized biopic of the Japanese aeronautical engineer who designed the Zero and other planes in WW2.

Drawings, colors, landscapes were superb, of course. The story was engaging, sometimes heartening, sometimes heartbreaking...just like real life. Strong depiction of the Tokyo 1923 earthquake and its aftermath.

Film skirted the issue of the rabid militarism Japan fell into during this period and indeed provided the money for this character's dream projects. Still, it was moving and a feast for the eyes. Possibly his last film.


Thursday, December 18, 2014


Maggie Gyllenhal

Oddball story, meant to be poignant, about a young frustrated musician who by chance hooks up with a band that plays really shitty punk/pop and launches his musical career. They are led by Frank, a weirdo who wears a fake head at all times. Several other members also exhibit strange behavior. One commits suicide.

The overall tone of this was mean, nasty...people loathed each other. They spent a year holed up in a remote cabin producing an album of music I thought was awful...and took turns spewing bile at our narrator.

There was nothing charming or endearing here...just a group of damaged people making lousy music. Who cares?


They Live by Night

Farley Granger, Cathy O'Donnell     d/ Nick Ray

One of the few films from the 40's that still holds up. Even though the script was hackneyed and several of the characters were crudely drawn I found it easy to submit to the story of these two young people on the run (very stupidly), hoping for a better life and flinching whenever there was a knock on the door.

FG had trouble maintaining the harsh edge his character needed...his persona was too soft for a comfortable fit. But she was perfect as the sheltered girl who grabbed the first chance life offered for love...even if her swain was a thief.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Letter to Three Wives

Jeanne Crain, Paul Douglas

Solid melodrama from the hollywood machine of 1949. A prosperous town's most appealing woman sends a letter to three of her former friends saying she has run off with one of their husbands.

This silly contrivance leads each of the women to search her memory to see if she might be the loser. The film is a series of flashbacks - one for each of them.

In spite of the creakiness of the plot the film still focusing on the internal dynamics of each woman's marriage we come to know these women as people, what's good about them, what's not so good. So we come to care about their fate. The eventual resolution is just right.


The Bridge


Devastating film from 1959. It's 1945, the Allied forces are sweeping into Germany from all sides, the Nazis are scuttling off to prepared hideaways, the country faces imminent destruction.

We follow a group of young male HS students who are typical in all respects. They are rambunctious, experimenting with girls, prone to pranks and infused with a lifetime of militarist propaganda. They all apply to fight to defend their country and are thrilled when they are accepted, ignoring the bereft expressions of the adults in their lives. They see war as glorious, etc.

The resolution of this film is truly heartbreaking. I first watched it decades ago and never forgot the impact it had on me. It did this time too. Unforgettable.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Biopic of Steven Hawking - genius physicist trapped in a body that gave up in his early 20's. The main focus was on the relationship between him and his loving, caretaker wife.

Very old-fashioned - carefully staged, beautifully shot and acted with swelling music etc...but...I couldn't help but be swept up in the power of the story. A three-hanky film which seemed like a modernized version of something Douglas Sirk would have done in the 50's.

Solid, professional, moving.


Snow Angels

Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell

I'm sure that some people involved in putting this film together had a notion that it had something valuable to say about modern life, sexual relationships, the universe or something. I was unable to discern them.

Coulda been me though...


Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Tale of Two Sisters


So-so attempt at contemporary horror. Lush looking film was oddly flat: long stretches went by when little or nothing was happening. Then something loud and shattering would appear...then back to auto-cruise.

Not engaging enough to make us care about the fate of the characters. Too studied...not humanistic enough.


Friday, December 12, 2014



Quite good low budget alien invasion film. With the rapid advances in CGI a small film like this was able to produce scenes that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. Film had a strong sense of tension, great monsters (sim to District 9).

The dialogue was pretty amateurish but the story was structured well enough, with plenty of escalating action scenes that it didn't matter. Nice job with limited resources.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman

Big budget epic about the torture of prisoners by France in early 20th century. We follow our protagonists to Devil's Island and watch them suffer and deteriorate physically and psychologically. SM makes several escape attempts which make him eligible for more torture. What fun.

Lavish production filmed in Jamaica...solid production values...a bit pat and creaky at times but still very engaging if you like this sort of thing. Should please sadists.

Note how far humanity has come since then!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Royal Affair

Denmark   Mads Mikkelsen

A young English princess marries the insane king of Denmark in the late 1700's, bears his child, falls in love with the King's physician who shares her Enlightenment ideas and together they try to drag Denmark out of the Middle Ages. They fail.

Sweeping historical drama. lush in look which romanticizes the story but still carries the core message: the forces of reaction will do anything to maintain their privileged status and wealth. Well done in all respects.


The Swimmer

Burt Lancaster    d/  Frank Perry

Fine adaptation of the Cheever short story. As Neddy makes his way across the valley in which he used to live his psyche, history and sense of self slowly come unraveled. By the end we see a lost, abandoned loser in the upper middle class wars of suburban Connecticut.

The story was an allegory meant to showcase the shallow, vacuous lifestyle and values of the strivers who had 'made it.' BL was superb...he managed to humanize the role and engage our sympathies as he struggled to make sense of his place among these people.

Imaginative camera work and the technicolor process gave the film visual interest. Film is a powerful, largely forgotten remnant of the last days of the studio era.


Saturday, December 6, 2014


Daniel Auteuil

Second entry in DA's project to produce modern versions of the classic melodramas written by Marcel Pagnol in the 1920's and 30's.

Like the previous The Well Diggers Daughter he brings all the skills of contemporary filmmaking to create a luscious-looking period piece. DA plays the central figure - Cesar - as a pig-headed bully which was quite different from the 1932 version which had him as a lovable lunkhead. Film featured lots of weeping, making it a 3-hankie show.

A dated French 1920's melodrama made passable if you were willing to give it a lot of slack. I found it fun to watch in a condescending way.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Reel Injun


Nice piece done by a native Cree dealing with the various images of indians portrayed by hollywood through the history of film. While this is material we all think we know it was interesting and informative to see it presented from this perspective.

His contention was that the most harmful film for natives was the 1939 film Stagecoach which established mindless stereotypes followed by filmmakers for 30 years. Much later he felt the most beneficial was The Fast Runner which was an ancient Inuit legend told entirely from within the native world.

Good stuff.


Thursday, December 4, 2014


Michael Winterbottom

Ironic title. We follow three working class sisters as they scramble their way through daily life in the crowded urban jungle of Southeast London. They are all in their 20's - one is a hairdresser, another works in a cafe the third is very pregnant, married to a guy who is having second thoughts on his life choices.

Modernization of the kitchen sink dramas which graced British cinema in the 60's. Camera work gave us a sense of peering unnoticed into the private lives of these rather ordinary women. Their wants, crises, relationships with lovers and family...the hectic, stressful pace of modern life for those in the lower ranks.

Intelligent, thoughtful...a solid film.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The End of August at the Hotel Ozone


Bleak curio from 1966. Some unnamed catastrophe has occurred killing almost all men worldwide. We follow a group of eight women as they trek through a deserted landscape scavenging, looking for other human settlements. Seven are in their 20's; they are led by a 60 yo who remembers the time before.

Her rein on the group is tight but we gradually come to see these women as brutal, uncivilized; having grown up without the influence of society, it's customs and leavening rules of behavior they do stupid, cruel things.

Extremely negative view of humanity and its future but not unusual for its time...the height of the so-called cold war. One minor flaw - the women were too pretty to be believable although their behavior eventually convinced us. Lean production that easily held my interest.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Michael Keaton

I had to see this one again. It was so rich, so dense with ideas and raced by so quickly it wasn't possible to see it just once. And like the very best films the second viewing was more satisfying and I have no doubt a third would unwrap even more.

This is a brilliant film, sui generis, dazzlingly assembled from the best steadicam work I've ever seen, great writing, outstanding acting by a superb ensemble, humor (!), pathos, family tensions, theater and all its self-important little rituals, fears and excesses, fine use of CGI and most of all - intelligence.

For me it almost rivals Boyhood for best film released this year. A triumph.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Sin City 2

Mickey Rourke

Another ultra-stylized trip through the lowest levels of the underworld...shot (mostly) in glorious solarized b/w. The effect was other-worldly but the theme was violence in all its forms. And double-dealing, corruption, tawdry sex...all the rot that makes up Frank Miller's brain.

This was better than the first...but still sick material rendered with loving care. Strictly for dipping into for a peek then quickly out.


Friday, November 28, 2014


Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen    w/d  John Carpenter

Sweet, charming story of an alien invasion of a different stripe. JB plays a visitor who takes on the form of KA's dead husband and shanghais her into taking him from Wisconsin to Arizona. So...a road movie of sorts.

Bridges was outstanding...creating a persona recognizable as human but off in subtle ways. The powers given him were designed to win over the audience (resurrecting the deer, 'fixing' Las Vegas slot machines) and they worked. Some good laughs, too much military stuff which came across as artificial conflict...but overall a wonderful, unusual romantic comedy.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stake Land

w/d  Jim Mickle

Well done low-budget horror film. The premise has been used many times - some unknown disease has ravaged the population rendering many hideous ghouls intent on killing the remaining normals. In addition, crackpot religious cults have emerged posing a further threat. Set in the US the 'New Eden' our characters seek is Canada.

Perfectly paced, good use of action (if brutal) scenes, strongly drawn characters...the film gave a good sense of what surviving day-by-day in the remnants of civilization would be like. Menace was everywhere and only the alert and merciless would live. Human kindness and mutual support were the key.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Black Robe

Quebec/Australia   d/ Bruce Beresford

Fine film set in the 1600's about a French Jesuit setting off into the interior of Canada to re-establish a mission whose purpose is to show the natives just how stupid they were and how the French imaginary friend is so much better.

Gorgeous scenery, fine performances (Lothaire Bluteau, Tantoo Cardinale) and an intelligent script helped nicely to disguise the fact that this bozo was determined to ruin the cultural practices and heritage of a people who had been living successfully in Quebec for millennia.

First class film about a form of behavior I despise.


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

Vincent Ward

This 1988 allegory from New Zealand stands as a unique contribution to literate film history. The notion that a seer, a young boy, could have visions in a time of extreme peril which were in some way accurate but jumbled up and difficult to decipher is novelistic and provokes a level of thinking uncommon in cinema.

This was startling when first released and it remains an intelligent, original film that will be cherished by aficioanados as long as cinema lasts.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dead Man's Shoes

Paddy Considine     w/d Shane Meadows

UK revenge thriller. A soldier comes back to his home town where his retarded brother had been harassed and tortured to death by a gang of local toughs.

Good locations, music was very well chosen, dialogue was mostly incomprehensible because of muttering and accents...should have included English subtitles! It easily held me...better that Meadows' other films.


Straight A's

Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin

Irresponsible 30 yo shows up at his estranged brother's house after 10 years and wreaks havoc. Good cast kept me interested in the story most of the way. Unfortunately the third act dove headfirst into mawkish sentimentally and ruined the set-up.

RP excelled in a difficult role...he had to hold our sympathy even while acting like a jerk. He was nicely supported by AP.  But the resolution turned a family melodrama into a groaner. Too bad.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

First Position


Another well done doc - this one on young dancers trying to make it in the world of ballet. Even if you don't care for ballet this easily pulls you into these kids' lives and the struggles they and their parents go through to succeed in this highly competitive world.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Angelina Jolie

Very fine re-telling of the Grimm Bros. story Snow White. The first half hour is an imaginary backstory which posits the evil queen as a winged fairy whose task it was to guard the fairy kingdom and whose wings were stolen by a wicked ambitious man she once loved.

The world created here in CGI is, at its best, equivalent to what James Cameron did with Avatar; a bright colorful place with outlandish foliage and fantastical creatures all living in harmony. The human world in contrast is made of stone...isolated from nature.

This story has been re-imagined several times recently - most notably in Pablo Berger's brilliant Blancanieves. This isn't at that level but is a wonderful example of what a creative team can do with a one-page folk tale.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring

Kim Ki-Duk

I wanted to revisit this film to see if my initial impression when seen ten years ago held up. It did, nicely and, if anything seemed even more masterfully done.

Quiet, scenic, minimal lessons imparted to youth - growth, lust, disillusionment, sacrifice, purpose, re-birth...time passes and the cycle repeats.

Very different in tone and theme from his other films...this one is the most accessible, particularly to those Westerners who glorify Eastern thought/philosophy, and the most likely to be remembered in the future.

A timeless masterpiece.



Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts   d/ Alejandro Inarritu

A cinematic tour de force. We follow the story of an actor who long ago had played a superhero in films trying desperately to revive his career by launching a Broadway play based on the stories of Raymond Carver.

There were many things to love here: superb acting by all hands with many showcase scenes, non-stop steadicam work gave the film a breathless quality perfectly appropriate to the tone; humor, suspense, verisimilitude (Keaton was 1989's Batman), poignancy...

This was like a carnival ride...carrying us up, down, throwing us sideways, upside down, slowing down once in a while for an emotional spritz, eventually spitting us out to the sidewalk dazzled, bewildered, wondering what the hell we had just seen but smiling all the way home.



Monday, November 17, 2014


Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman   d/ Chan-Wook Park

Interesting film with splendid cinematography, camera work and editing. The look and presentation were almost pure cinema at its best.

Unfortunately the human stuff was a bit weak. Lots of silent scenes with characters staring (meaningfully?) at each other. The revelations came slowly and by the time they did the detached, icy-cold mood diminished their emotional impact.

Still I found the film more intriguing as it went along and felt compelled to stick around for the eventual resolution. Stylish and slick this was a bit more art than film.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Moulin Rouge

Baz Luhrman

A really astonishing film. Wildly extravagant, rapid-fire cutting, great use of dance, color and spectacle to create a swirling phantasmagoria of salacious make-believe.

Luhrman grew up in the Outback, his parents owned a movie theater...from boyhood he was immersed in the magical world of cinema. This is the film he was destined to make...we people on the pavement get to watch.

A rollicking achievement.


Enough Said

James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus    w/d Nicole Holofcener

Weak comedy helped by a good cast but...the plot was based entirely on deception like some creaky French drawing room piece from 1910.

This filmmaker has done some fine films in the past - Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing - but this felt uninspired. Supporting cast included Catherine Keener and Toni Colette.

Maybe next time.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Queen of the Gypsies


Solid piece tells the story of Carmen Amaya...the gypsy girl who was born to dance, grew up in the slums of Catalonia, changed flamenco from a mannered, safe form to a wild, exuberant celebration of movement and seduction...took her dance to the world when Franco's mudslide hit...played Paris, Buenos Aires, Carnegie Hall...dragged her extended family with her everywhere, married, loved and died at 50...completely played out.

She was one of the great Piaf, Marceau, Nureyev...who was seen by contemporaries as a great treasure, sui generis...someone who added a category to world culture and enriched the lives of millions.

Her name is unknown to most today but her legacy in the world of dance is there for all to see.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lomax the Songhunter


Fine doc on the man who traveled the world collecting the songs real people sang...the songs that reflected their history, their culture their humanity.

Singing, really music of all kinds has been commodified and that which couldn't be turned into money has been buried in the avalanche of Sinatra, Bieber et al. and is now being forgotten.

These songs were important to people for generations. They entertained, served as oral history and bound people to each other. Most importantly they wrote and sang them themselves. We have become a nation of spectators and are the poorer for it.

Much of this doc was very moving. Good job.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Matthew McConnaughey   w/d  Christopher Nolan

What to say?

I can't just say that this film is over-long, scientifically dubious, much too loud ( what in the world did Zimmer think he was doing?), too weepy, too shouty, too preposterous, poorly written, just not very good. At all.

Too bad. After a string of winners Nolan was atop the film world with legions of fans eagerly awaiting his next golden egg. He got a mega-budget, enough A-list stars to fill a cathedral, reams of advance hype...but...(important warning) - never worship a man who has made three batman movies. There's something wrong with his judgement. This film is cartoonish and annoying like the Tim Burton version of the caped crusader.

As the final insult...after enduring nearly three hours of this mess we are presented with a 'resolution' asinine enough to elicit groans from the average 10 year old.

Sorry Chris...your time is up. Take him away, men.


Monday, November 10, 2014

An Unmarried Woman

Jill Clayburgh     w/d Paul Mazursky

Fine film all around. I liked it when it came out (1978) - perhaps even more this time.

JC was superb...I'd forgotten how good. Turns out she won best actor at Cannes for this one. Great script by Mazursky. None of the dialogue clunked and some scenes were beautifully written. Well paced, some interesting camera work.

A winner.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Next Three Days

Russell Crowe

Action/suspense thriller. A married woman is thrown into jail for a murder she didn't commit; her appeals run out so in a last desperate move her loving husband decides to break her out of prison.

The first half hour was set-up; the rest a procedural thriller. Unfortunately the story was so preposterous in so many particulars that it lost me completely even as a diversion. This was 100% hollywood product written and directed by Paul Haggis...the moron who 'won' best picture several years ago for Crash. He's one of the hollywood scientology crowd which helps explain his complete misunderstanding of real life and how it actually works.

Thus guy has spent his entire life in la-la land. Spare me.


Thursday, November 6, 2014



A wonderful film fantasy.This nailed the relationships...instead of relying on the tried-and-true princess/prince meme they went with the power of love between sisters...and whaddya know? It worked.

Visuals were as good as one can squeeze from a computer these days, songs were broadway show tune lite and none were obnoxious...a recurring problem for Disney, camera work vertiginous of course...but, still the images were truly splendid. Best of all the timing throughout was spot on.

I'd heard that children loved this...more than other Disney offerings in recent years. So did I. An instant classic...up there with the very best this studio has done.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Save the Date

Amerindie   Melonie Diaz

Twenty-somethings frabbing around trying to figure it all out. They do dumb things, hurt each other... All this is pretty normal but these players were hampered by clumsy, awkwardly written dialogue and situations. It made it pretty hard to like them or care about what they did with each other. They were mildly annoying real life I would avoid them.

With little films like this I always hope for the best and sometimes I get it but not with this one.


Dear John

Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried   d/ Lasse Halstrom

I got this because of the director's name. Starting with My Life as a Dog LH has come up with some good work...his touch is subtle, his understanding of human nature complex and deep.

So I was dismayed when the opening credits showed that this film was adapted from a novel by Nicholas Sparks. I feared the film would be maudlin schmaltz...and I was right. Simple minded drivel intended as a weepie... I guess there's an audience for this stuff out there...just not in my house.

Good looking and well shot...but so what?


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dead of Night


Took another look at this fine horror film from 1945.

A group of strangers gather in a country house and, after a clever set up, recount to the others various psychic events they have experienced in the past. Several stories have a genuine chill about them.

This was a portmanteau film: four different directors did the stories. The cast and settings were well chosen...only one of the stories clunked.

This has been fun every time I watch it. Not many can say that.


Monday, November 3, 2014



Beautiful, artistically filmed chronicle of the final years of a woman with Alzheimer's. She had been a vibrant charismatic artist until this disease began ravaging her brain, her persona. This was done by her apparently loving son but...why would he have shot so many intense close-ups of this poor woman as she declined?

If the disease is degrading then so was this film. He has ensured that his mother will be remembered as this belligerent gibbering idiot with sagging flesh and an aggressive demeanor. I couldn't escape the idea that he took her painful decline as an opportunity to make a film. Is that an act of love?

Unpleasant to watch in spite of the many lyrical visual touches.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dear White People


Attempt to deal 'frankly' with race in America. Set in a mixed race college somewhere the film included a good cast, snappy pace, good production values...but...

I found this to be heavy-handed, shrill, not realistic at all. Every sentence, nearly every word centered on race in one sense or another. It reminded me of the first native American made/sponsored film back in the 80's - every single joke and reference there was about them. But nobody talks or lives like that.

The characters here were devices for mouthing the polemics. One character sort of had a back story but even that was distant, phone-only. The hook-ups, sexual relationships they managed to pack in were just confusing. We weren't given enough time with the characters to make us care who they were screwing.

Sheldon (Spike) Lee tried a similar thing in School Daze. He failed too. Maybe we should just calm down and try to talk this out...honestly but without all the shouting.


Friday, October 31, 2014

The Raid 2


They should've stopped at 1.


Somewhere Between


Well done examination of the lives of young women who have been adopted from China by American parents. They live uncertain of their identities, their place. All live with the knowledge that they were abandoned by their birth parents; many think they have no chance of finding their roots.

We follow four teenagers and their efforts to find others like themselves. One girl does locate her birth family and we follow along with that reunion. Most were victims of poverty, the one-child policy and the cultural need for sons.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dear Wendy

d/ Thomas Vinterberg   w/ Lars von Trier

In the wide world of oddball films this ranks among the oddest. Whilst the mechanics of the production (lighting, camera work, casting, etc) are first rate the scenario and perspective are so off the film seems like a expensive joke.

This is a view of the US written by someone who has seen American movies and assumes they represent the reality ordinary citizens deal with every day but has never actually been here or perhaps never even talked with someone who has. It is so simple-minded and idiotic that I found myself laughing out loud at times - not from intended humor, rather from watching someone make an utter ass of himself in public - and of which he is completely unaware.

This could have been written by a bright 12 year old who has been staring his whole life at the cave walls trying to interpret the meaning of the shadows projected upon it by persons he cannot see.

The above two clowns were the ones who issued the 'dogma' rules in 1995. Every one of these rules was broken here - thank god. That was the only good decision they made. Nice music by the Zombies...but they were British.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Conjuring

Vera Farmiga

I now realize that I'm unable to watch nonsense like this any more. Catholic priests, demonic spells, evil toys. It's just too stupid to bear.

Too bad. I like a good scare every once in a while. But not this way.

There's no faulting the cast or the production...all was well done. It's the script and the underlying assumptions.


The Temptation of St Tony


Baltic/Nordic deadpan satire/condemnation of modern life. Large influence of Roy Anderssen...a scene referencing Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut...generally an intelligent example of what we've come to expect from our friends from the lands of gray skies, cold, wet rainy lands, stoic, gray people confronting the elements with grim, subtle humor.

Nothing here will make you laugh out loud but if it doesn't tickle you you're the one missing out.


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Innocents

UK   Deborah Kerr   d/ Jack Clayton

I see this as the best horror film ever done. Every aspect of this production is as good as you'll ever see it...Kerr is outstanding, the cine by Freddie Francis equals or surpasses what he did in Lawrence of Arabia, the two children and the housekeeper were perfectly done.

Spooky, ambiguous, disturbing, beautiful, intelligent...haunting. A masterpiece.


The Warrior

India   Irrfan Khan

Minimalist story of a mercenary who tries to quit...but the price is higher than he reckoned. Khan is mostly mute with a fixed expression throughout. Still his presence is compelling and we are easily drawn into his trials.

Filmed in a near-desert landscape...but for the final scenes set in the foothills of the Himalayas.  Nice lean filmmaking far from the horror of Bollywood.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Flowers of War

China   Christian Bale   d/ Zhang Yimou

An extraordinary film set during the Japanese Rape of Nanking in 1937. CB plays a mortician come to a church to prepare a priest for burial and finds himself in the middle of the madness. He ends up as protector of a group of women and girls - half convent students, half prostitutes from a nearby brothel.

High budget film is based on a true story and features the very best production values Chinese cinema offers. Zhang proves that he still can produce world class work. The film is engaging, well-acted, a bit schmaltzy here and there but not enough to take away the emotional impact.

An overlooked treasure.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cold in July

Michael Hall, Sam Shepherd, Don Johnson

Tough, tight Texas thriller with enough twists and turns to easily hold my interest. The three leads were very good...pulled me into their characters' story in spite of their being unappealing individually. It helped that the bad guys were just about the worst type imaginable.

Locations looked realistic, a few questions I had went unanswered, some movie-reality scenes showed up and made me cringe, but overall this was well done. My main reservation was that once again we learned that the only realistic solution to a problem is the liberal use of force and violence. So it goes...


The Signal

Lawrence Fishburne

Nifty low budget sci-fi flick built around two MIT nerds tracking down a rival hacker. Their trip takes them to Nevada, places and scenes they never foresaw.

Suspenseful and intriguing but there were some serious lapses in logic sprinkled here and there which kept intruding on the mood. The actors were moderately skilled, the details of the plot left open-ended, the resolution neat and unexpected, sets good, locations nevadaish...

Good for the money. Just barely adequate as a film.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nobody Else But You


Clever well done suspenser. A writer from Paris comes to a small town in the Alps and stumbles on the death, perhaps murder, of a beautiful woman in a snowy field. He investigates her story...she's a local TV celebrity whose life has interesting parallels with Marilyn Monroe. The screenwriter makes great use of this idea.

Solid, well produced and structured...a compelling story with a wry sense of humor. Oh those French...


Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Robert Cummings   d/ Alfred Hitchcock

1942 'patriotic' actioner with both feet planted firmly in hollywood reality. Most of this was studio-bound but still the lighting and chosen (fake) locations looked great.

The human stuff bordered on idiotic. People said things and did things that simply weren't plausible. It was a simpler time I guess...when audiences swallowed guff like this without critical thinking. Sort of like today...

Regardless of the hokey bits this is still the mighty Hitch and way ahead of most of the forgotten rubbish studios pumped out at the time.


The Two Faces of January

Viggo Mortenson, Kirsten Dunst

Fine adaptation of a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Set in 1962 in Greece the story unfolds like something written at that time and looks for all the world like a recently discovered minor film by Hitchcock from the late 40's, early 50's.

Engaging, deeply flawed characters who nonetheless enlist our emotions but not our support. We mostly wonder if they are going to get caught and if they are, what happens then?  The story is fast-paced and held me in thrall until the final resolution. Nice use of the splendid locations.

Flaws? Viggo's character is a shit which kept me from feeling any sympathy for his plight. Plus he continually made things worse. Also when they were trying to escape every place they went was filled with police...increasing tension but...really? Ever try to find a cop when you needed one?

Still, this held me all the way. Slickly done.


Monday, October 20, 2014

The People

Kim Darby, William Shatner

Nice adaption of the alien-invasion novels written by Zenna Henderson in the 1960's. We follow a young female teacher who has been hired to teach all the children in a remote community. The people and the cultural practices there are quite odd: it takes her an hour or so to learn that they fled a dying planet and have been persecuted since arriving here on earth - hence their reclusiveness.

This sounds pretty hokey but the story is told with sensitivity...the aliens are presented as an oppressed minority who win our support. Made for American TV in 1972 the production values were primitive but overall the story worked. Poor Ms Darby was hampered by a 70's haircut and too-short skirts.

One commentator called this 'Waltons in Space' - pretty close to the truth.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Marie's Story


Beautifully told story of a nun who takes a blind/deaf girl under her wing and through incredible patience and determination teaches her words, ideas and gives her the ability to learn about her world and communicate with those around her.

Similar to the Helen Keller story...also set in the late 19th century.  Elegantly photographed, superbly acted by all hands. Done with intelligence and sensitivity. As good as one can tell a story like this.



Franchot Tone

Routine noir from 1949. The only thing interesting about the film was just how uncharismatic FT was. How the hell did this guy ever get to be the lead in a film? He came across as a bland nobody...someone you wouldn't notice on the street unless he bumped into you.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Rover

Australia   Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson.

Some unnamed bad thing has happened ten years ago. In this brave new world people are grubby and seem to shoot each other a lot with no apparent consequences. Our two leads are nearly inarticulate; there is no exposition. We are left to guess at what's happened, why. But the electrical grid seems to work, trains go by...the world of now continues in some way, in some where.

GP has his car stolen in the opening scene. He spends the entire movie chasing it and the three men down. We aren't told why until the final scene...even then it is unclear.

So the film asks us to endure nearly 2 hours following filthy, murderous, silent men around for an unspecified reason.

A very bleak view of humanity, the present and the future.


Late Spring

Japan   Setsuko Hara, Chishu Ryu  d/ Y. Ozu

The master at the peak of his powers. His two favorite players create an air of troubled domesticity; she is getting on, he is a widower...he knows she must marry and leave him, she wants to stay.

Simple story done with his trademark care and a deep insight into human behavior. Including ours. He withholds a key fact from everyone until the penultimate scene. We watch his sadness at the end with the knowledge of the sacrifice he has made for her. It is understated but one of the most poignant moments in Japanese cinema.

She has an unusual look for a Japanese...broad shoulders, large head, very expressive face. When she smiles there is always a hint of sadness in her eyes which gives us a peek at the depth within.

This is one of world cinema's great classics. I first saw it forty-four years ago...loved it then and loved it now.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hideko the Bus Conducter

Japan   d/ Mikio Naruse

Sweet little film from 1941...starring the incomparable Hideko Takamine. She plays a young woman working as a conductor on a rural bus route. The bus they use is old, rickety and dirty. She decides it would help their failing business if she delivered facts about things and places along their route.

She was radiant, the story light with a tincture of tragedy and knowingness. It left me with an ache for the type of world this film presented.


Gone Girl

Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike    d/ David Fincher

Mystery/thriller which was mysterious for a while (WTF is going on here?) but never thrilling. This had an overwhelming sense of screenwriter (or novelistic) contrivance: clever without being engaging.

Part of the problem was the pat nature of the drama. Part was the wooden performance by BA. At this point he is so bulked up and stiff he moves as if wearing a cervical collar...his hands held stiffly a foot away from his hips. But the major problem was that it took place firmly in the artificial reality that fiction has been forced into by the continual demand for ever-increasing complexity and thrills.

My personal reaction at the end was that I simply didn't give a shit about any of this. It completely failed to engage my emotions or intellect. Like watching an elaborate mechanical toy play out its program.

The only thing I liked was the supporting performance by Kim Dickens as the investigating detective. She managed to humanize her character and gave me the sense she actually had a life she would go home to outside this artificial terrarium everybody else was stuck in.


Sunday, October 12, 2014



Chop socky film. Even though this was lavishly and lovingly produced and shot I eventually found it unwatchable. Because of the continual need for spectacle creep this stuff has become so preposterous it will only amuse 7 year olds or their 'adult' equivalents.

I enjoyed the wire work stuff when I first saw was fresh and entertaining. Now the players are all superhuman and take multiple lethal blows in stride and just keep on truckin.

Juvenile and stupid.


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Joneses

David Duchovny, Demi Moore

Satire of the American consumerist lifestyle. A pretend family move into an upscale area and try to influence their neighbors and contacts to emulate them...endlessly buying, buying...useless shit no one really needs. Because they're all beautiful, charming and charismatic people follow.

This was a clever idea but fit for maybe 30-40 minutes of screen time. Everyone here did a good job with the premise but once it became clear what these people were doing it failed to hold my interest. There was no emotional connection with these characters at all. What they were doing was pretty slimy.

Still...a good idea...trapped in the requirements of the movie business.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Gift

Cate Blanchette   d/ Sam Raimi

ESP in the southern hinterlands. Beautiful hollywood stars ( Keanu, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes) become swamp people with crooked teeth and dumb expressions in a valiant effort to pull this overheated melodrama from the mud. They fail.

In typical Raimi fashion this was his eye nothing succeeds like excess. He should do a crash course in Val Lawton, Jacques Tourneur, Hitchcock... It's the power of suggestion, of subtly leading your audience in the direction you choose and to which they are unaware that makes a classic.

A-level production with C-minus sensibility.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Love is Strange

Alfred Molina, John Lithgow

Two aging queens marry which causes one to lose his job at a catholic school thus forcing them to give up their NYC coop and throw themselves on the mercy of their relatives and friends. The film deals with all the humiliation/inconvenience that brings.

Sad film for the most part but but the ending scenes take an unexpected turn, re-focus the film and make it a bit of a puzzlement. Both leads were fine, supporting characters also...sort of a kitchen sink drama...with the drama left out.


Mosquita Y Mari


Set in the Spanish/American culture we follow the development of the relationship between two high school girls. One is a serious student, the other a rebellious, immature brat. For reasons known only to the screenwriter they become lovers and face all the problems that come with that path.

Film was lovingly done - lots of nice cinematic interludes sprinkled here and there - but to my eye this hearkened back to the films that came out in the 80's where the entire point of the film was,,,hey we're gay! Who cares? That fact alone doesn't make a film. The culture has moved on.


Saturday, October 4, 2014


Patricia Gozzi, Melvyn Douglas, Dean Stockwell

An extraordinary of world cinema's lost treasures just cleaned up and released by Eureka Films.

It features an incredible performance by 15 yo Gozzi - one of the finest by a youth I've ever seen. Three years previous she had starred in her first film (Sundays and Cybele) in French; here she plays in English. What in the world ever happened to her? She was a giant talent.

The film also features spectacular B/W photography, imaginative camera work, solid supporting performances and a beautiful score by Georges Delerue.

This is a melodrama, hence a bit overcooked, but the overall excellence of the production puts it into the ranks of the great works of world cinema. From 1965.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Back to 1942


Lavish, big budget historical drama depicting the various torments visited upon the Chinese people during the war years. Famine and war.

Very impressive production...some CGI but still a lot of extras in costume. I admired it but never really engaged with it. It was perhaps on too grand a scale...the people got lost in the mix. Not much (any?) time spent on character development. It can be done - mix large-scale historical events with personal drama -The Inner Circle, for one - but not here.

Soon forgotten.


Thursday, October 2, 2014


Mary Elizabeth Winstead   w/d  James Ponsoldt

Very nice indie effort. Kitchen sink drama done with intelligence and a good sense of the ways of human interaction. A 30ish couple both drink a lot. Every day. Some bad things happen and she decides to quit. He doesn't.

The story plays out with the unpredictability of real life. Great script, she shone. I didn't even mind the wandering camera - that was done with taste and restraint.

This is the kind of film I hope for when I sit down to watch.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Elizabeth Olsen   d/ Gareth Edwards

Damn mutos again...flying around, knocking shit over, stealing nukes, spawning... But, not to worry; the big guy will hunt them down and make it all right.

Unfortunately all the monster action takes place at we see almost nothing but hear a lot of howling, caterwauling, growling...which is OK but really...every scene? Lots of other stuff gets to happen in daylight. Was this a low-budget project?

As stupid movies go this wasn't terrible. Close though.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Young Victoria

Emily Blunt

Elegant, traditional treatment of the time Victoria became queen.

Incredibly lavish and beautiful production design, cine, sets, costumes, etc. This looks and feels like a major production. But it avoids being stuffy or formalistic...good script and fine performances by all hands.

If you're gonna do an historical can't do much better than this.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Brooklyn Castle


The focus is a school in Brooklyn which places heavy emphasis on mastering chess. Students (all poor, most minority) can study chess for one period every day. They have been very successful...the players are the jocks of the school.

During filming budget cuts threaten to undermine or eliminate after school programs, including chess. The film follows the story, and several of the students, for three years as even this esoteric avenue out is being closed.

So it goes...


Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Brass Teapot

amerindie   Juno Temple

A young impoverished couple come upon a magical teapot which spews money whenever they feel pain. This premise sets up a host of situations where these two people deliberately hurt themselves to generate cash...a pretty obvious metaphor for what the majority of people do with their lives. It also comes across as masochism, pure and simple.

Silly. Sort of played for laughs but nothing I saw was funny. There was an awful lot of hitting, cutting, bashing used here for 'humor'...which wasn't. They should have used some other gimmick for getting the thing to work. This forced too much mean-spiritedness on what should have been a satirical comedy.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Day of Wrath

Denmark   d/  Carl Dreyer

Witch trials, deep repression in the Denmark of the 1600's. A pastor's young wife falls tragically in love with her stepson when he returns from traveling. The culture is in a fearful, paranoid phase...seeing daemons everywhere. The two lovers get caught up in this madness.

Very intelligent treatment of all the themes presented. None of the characters is good, evil or simply hypocritical. These are decent, ignorant, benighted souls thrashing against imaginary unseen forces with imaginary gods...and the weakest among them pay the price. Twas ever thus.

Superbly shot, lit, staged...elegantly composed. Slow-paced, which has dramatic purpose but will be off-putting to bourne folk. Tough.

A masterpiece.


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Double

Jesse Eisenberg   w/d  Richard Aoyade

Pathetic attempt to make something odd, quirky or unusual. Brazil-like look but this guy's no Terry Gilliam. He got the look...with the retro-future schtick, cool lighting...but it was interesting for about five minutes...then slowly spiraled into annoying...then to aggravating...and finally it made me angry that I wasted this time.

I enjoyed wasn't great but a fun film. This one just sucked. The tone was way off. Said to be taken from a story by Dostoyevsky...poor man. I'm sure his reputation will recover.




Sad story of a young woman afflicted with epilepsy who wants to live as normal a life as possible. She is saddled with a hateful mother and a deep belief in catholicism...both of which contribute to her eventual, painful demise.

This was a hard movie to watch (too hard) as this decent, likeable 21 year old is battered by her twin nemeses. Very well acted (by actors who look like real people), shot and edited.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

African Cats


Superb, jaw-dropping nature footage coupled with dumbed-down disneyfied voiceover track.

Samuel Jackson reads the concocted 'story' which has been grafted on to make the film accessible to children. They also shied away from too much killing for the same reason. Even though that's how these animals live. But it didn't matter. The footage of these cats growing, playing, fending off threats and, yes, killing is the best I've ever seen and should be useful to parents with young children.

Good stuff


Thursday, September 18, 2014


Tom Hardy

Very powerful one-set film.

A construction foreman is driving to attend the birth of a child born to a woman with whom he had a one night fling. He also deals with a project happening the following day. And his wife and sons...

Intense pot-boiler. The in-car location forces us to focus on the character and the pressure he is under. Hardy is superb as a tightly controlled saririman keeping all the balls in the air.

Great script, execution. Kudos.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Nicholas Cage

Sometimes you're better off not knowing. Like, for instance, that this intriguing premise would be reduced to a pile of steaming poop by the moronic dictates of the hollywood production machine.

Note to filmmaker: it would have been better if all the day-to-day stuff in the set-up was plausible; that would have given the psychic stuff more punch. But if you have big nic as a professor of astrophysics at MIT you've already gone off the rails and lost anyone not drooling in the audience. Just a helpful tip.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Once Upon a Time Veronica


We follow a recently minted female psychiatrist as she frabs around in her job, her love (sex) life whilst her father, in whose house she lives, slowly dies. She is suffering from existential angst, disillusionment, fear of least as conventionally described. She is beautiful, lusty, thoughtful, lost.

Intelligent character study with copious sex/nudity. We watch her deal with fundamental issues - having achieved 'success'...what then? What's the purpose of all that effort...all that work? I dunno either.

Solid film...not for the mainstream.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

3 Iron

Korea   w/d  Kim Ki-Duk

Kim's amazing, enigmatic film never ceases to fascinate me. We follow an opaque, silent young man as he crashes in people's homes, fixing what needs to be fixed, doing the laundry, eating their food, sleeping in their beds, etc. He picks up a battered woman along the way and the two of them carry on.

A rich, symbolic film subject to many interpretations...a castigation of material wealth, a paean to living softly on the land, perhaps even a fever dream by the woman...who knows. Everyone responds to this one differently...which makes it a success for me.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Stop The Pounding Heart


Mildly interesting as anthropology. We follow a 14 year old girl as she does chores on her parent's goat farm, sells cheese at farmers' markets, tends to her many siblings, flirts (sort of) with the boy next door who is a neophyte bull rider. The family are rigid christian fundamentalists.

This girl seems to be having doubts accepting the extremely restricted role laid out for her in the magic book but I got no sense that she would be able to throw off this terrible yoke. A curse on true believers...they cause more suffering than any other human weakness.

Film was much too long for the point it made. Too much aimless mooching-around scenes. Might have worked at twenty minutes or so.


Thursday, September 11, 2014


Richard Linklater

I had to see it again...just to fix the details in my mind and to confirm that the transitions were as seamless as I thought. They were.

There's been a backlash against the film which I suppose was inevitable. The carping I've heard mostly misses the point. We see life going on here...not drama. All Linklater had to do was present us with a plausible, modern-day family. He wisely skips the 'important' moments, instead giving us the reality of change over time. This gives the film a depth, a resonance we've not seen before.

I see it as unique, a landmark film that likely will not be duplicated.


Red Road

Scotland   w/d Andrea Arnold

Her first film and it's a doozy. She combines the intricacies of the all-seeing surveillance state with a deep personal grudge and comes up with a thriller that makes us squirm, keeps us on edge, intrigues and, finally, satisfies.

Our protagonist works in Glasgow's surveillance headquarters. Her job is to find trouble in the city and direct police/medical units to wherever they're needed quickly. The man who killed her family in an accident has been released from prison; she tracks his movements obsessively, insinuates herself into his life...for what purpose?

Compelling in-your-face film that never lets up. Nice work.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Molly's Way


An Irish woman travels to rural Poland to try and track down a former lover who has left her pregnant. She encounters many obstacles, gets treated badly by nearly everyone she meets, doesn't speak the language, plugs on and eventually finds her man. Her journey is the film.

Quiet, powerful film which rests entirely on the shoulders of this one character. She is unassertive, strong and her preternatural persistence eventually makes her very endearing. A nice humanistic story filled with sad wisdom.


Thursday, September 4, 2014


Johnny Depp

I was with this one for an hour or so. An AI researcher is poisoned by Rooney Mara, forced to upload his consciousness to a computer program thereby initiating the Singularity...and then his troubles began.

This was pretty stupid but well enough done that I kept watching but at some point even I couldn't tolerate it. It seemed like it was written for 7 year olds. You've got your basic good guys and bad guys and the movie's 'arc' is watching the best good guy become a bad guy...until he repents at the very end and becomes a good guy again. And saves the world...from himself. Way to go MF!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mood Indigo

France   Michel Gondry

A marvelous, ferociously inventive little love story. This combined elements of Terry Gilliam, Jan Svankmeyer, Pee Wee Herman, Tex Avery and the wonderfully absurdist nonsense of Dada and surrealism.

But at its heart it's a simple little variation on Love Story...just done with a fertile imagination. This guy's music videos were a revelation and this is the first feature he's done that fully uses the promise seen there.

I loved made me laugh, tickled me, dazzled me and gave me heart...that it's still possible for a wildly creative artist to make and release a film that reflects his own, singular vision. And to top it off it actually moved me at the end. Kudos.


Monday, September 1, 2014

The Window


An elderly man, living on a remote estate in Patagonia spends the last day of his life. He mixes dreams with present-day reality, escapes his bedroom prison for a walk out onto the prairie, falls down, gets rescued, has all the proper moments before he dies.

Elegantly shot, minimal dialogue, contemplative, nice use of sun-drenched landscapes, strong supporting cast. Overall a lovely, quiet look at the kind of death we all wish we could have.



Sunday, August 31, 2014



A fictionalized account of the TV campaign mounted to get rid of Pinochet after 15 years of brutal dictatorship. While the film rightly celebrates the courage of the ad exec who orchestrated the style and tone of the ads used it was disconcerting for me to see him use the same mindless, happy-pictures nonsense used to sell hair coloring. With aggravating jingles.

So we end up with one brave, canny guy and a nation of imbeciles. Not very reassuring.



Sarah Polley, Adrien Brody    w/d  Vincent Natali

Nifty little biological thriller about a couple of rogue scientists who secretly graft human genes to various others and create...voila!...A sort of monster. Who looks like an exotic woman with improbable legs, wings (when she's excited), apparent superpowers and a tail with a lethal stinger at the end.

I've enjoyed this guy's work (Cube, Nothing) and here he doesn't disappoint. Most of what happens here has been done before but the tone and atmosphere he creates carries the story along...all the way to its harrowing conclusion.

I do wish he had cast someone other than SP. She has zero charisma and serves the world of Canadian film much better as a producer/director.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Cabin in the Woods

Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins

Post-modern horror film. We've got the usual group of promiscuous college students in an isolated cabin. But the twist is that the entire set-up is being run by some nefarious corporation for the salacious enjoyment of the kind of sick weirdos who would watch something like this...but in real life.

Mildly amusing as a concept. Stupid, shot-in-the-dark footage keeps everything kind of mysterious but they basically get picked off one by one until then there were none.

A sure sign of a decadent culture.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Subtitles Necessary


Fine piece on two Hungarian film students who escaped with footage they had shot during the Russian invasion of 1956, made their way to Hollywood and after serving as cinematographers in no-budget films for a decade for Roger Corman and others emerged as two of the finest ever to practice their profession. Their names were Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmund.

This film is a loving tribute to their work.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Richard Linklater

This immediately jumps into the rarefied category of the greatest films ever made. An unforgettable 12-year portrait of childhood, family captures the texture, the feel of young life as it develops. And sets it in our time, our place.

There are no big events...rather an accumulation of small things...the things that actually make up our lives. The performances were excellent, the script filled with believable moments. I found it emotionally, intellectually engaging and completely satisfying. A superb, courageous undertaking that has paid off beyond my wildest hopes.

A classic.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

22 Bullets

France   Jean Reno

Crackerjack action/thriller. It's got your basic bad guys in black cars, car chases, tons of shooting, revenge plot, imperiled children, drugs (it's set in Marseilles for god sake), fast pace, guns galore...and Jean Reno!

This is a pretty sick genre but if you're gonna do it at least do it right. These guys did it right.


Saturday, August 23, 2014



Only a Scandinavian could have produced this one. Extremely understated story of a retiring train engineer who is faced with his open-ended future and has a series of increasingly improbable adventures...all approached absolutely deadpan.

Done by the maker of Kitchen Stories, the film has the same wry tone. Having everybody under-react to apparently outrageous events is a form of humor mastered by these denizens of the dark north. May they flourish and continue.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Night and Fog

France   d/  Alain Renais

Re-visited this classic from 1955. This film is a case study in economical filmmaking: effectively telling the story of the Nazi madness in 36 minutes.

Written by a survivor of the camps, the voiceover is sometimes lyrical, many times pointed and, in it's world-weary resignation, deeply human, real. Add powerful, unforgettable visuals and you have a film which will be shown as long as people wish to remember their troubled past.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Guard

Ireland   Brendan Gleason, Don Cheadle

This was billed as a comedy but there wasn't even the slightest chuckle in it. instead there was a lot of hateful, mean-spirited, racist sarcasm which wasn't all. BG plays a foul-mouthed, extremely rude colossal asshole and his death at the end was a boon to civilization and humanity in general.

There were cartoon murders and a by-the-numbers shootout at the end and characters I didn't care at all about due to the anemic development. I guess BG having an equally pig-like mom (mum?) made his behavior OK.

Stupid garbage. A waste of two fine actors.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Lovely Bones

Saorsie Roman    d/ Peter Jackson

Jackson's treatment of the deeply flawed novel is a nice try but no cigar. The novel rested on the gimmick of murdered girl narrating her death and its aftermath. It was striking at first on the page...pretty creaky/squirmy on screen.

Lynne Ramsey was attached to this until the day before shooting started. She may have dodged a bullet...I don't think anyone could have made a plausible story out of this one.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

28 Weeks Later


Sequel to 28 Days Later...disease/zombie film from a few years back.

Being chased by ravenous people-eaters definitely sucks and I found the first one effective and scary. This one went too far with rapid edits, incessant shaky-cam and really annoying characters.

We follow two kids who create the problem shown here and...we're supposed to feel sympathy for these self-centered brats? Sorry... with no good guys to identify with we're left watching mindless slaughter of mindless human monsters which would have thrilled me when I was 8 but now? Not so much.



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hunky Dory

Minnie Driver

OK to just sort of OK. She plays a new teacher at a Welsh high school who is staging The Tempest with modern pop music interspersed. Not a stupid idea in theory but pretty silly when actually done.

She runs into the usual hs bullshit...violence by the boys, vapidity among the girls. There have been hundreds of hs movies...this one used all the standard elements but never coalesced into a satisfying whole. MD is no longer an ingenue and seemed to be searching for a persona during the film.


Friday, August 15, 2014


Michelle Pfeiffer

Interesting film taken from some writings by Colette.

An aging courtesan falls in love with a handsome, callow 19 year old...the son of another of her colleagues. She's about 50. They canoodle for six years but then outside forces conspire against their plan for eternal bliss.

Well shot and assembled. Nice performance by MP. The kid was sulky, whiny and a bit insufferable. It did provide a window into the life of this class of women at the turn of the last century. Easily held my interest.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Small Town Murder Songs

Peter Stormare, Martha Plimpton

Set among the rural Mennonites this was a lean, spare policier centering on a woman's murder, a policeman with a past, gossip in a small town, redemption. Interesting use of music. Religion floats by as a motif from time to time. Deliberate pacing which at first felt too slow but eventually worked.

My main problem was the lead performance. PS was inarticulate, dogged, spent most of the movie looking at the ground, seemed to be deeply repressed...a man filled with barely controlled anger. The character did pay off at the end but it made going through the story quite frustrating.

Imaginative filmmaking (framing, editing) on a very small budget.


Mean Girls

Lindsay Lohan

Someone was talking about this one memory of it was vague so I watched it to see if it held up. It did...but with caveats.

Firstly, it's very silly, dumbed down pretty close to moron level. Secondly, the scenario is moralism for dummies. There are a couple of laughs sprinkled throughout but are largely buried by the mean-spirited style of humor. LL is very charming, winsome even but as the calm center around whom the crazies hover she too gets buried in the mix.

I can see why kids would respond to does point out the hatefulness of high school behavior in this country...there's nothing really bad in's just pleasant fluff, with a dash of hate.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Waltzing With Regitze


Released in this country as Memories of a Marriage this traces the important events in the life of a couple from the 40's to the 80's.

Brilliant editing made this work and keep it timeless. The lead performances by Ghita Norby and Frits Helmuth were superb. Film was poignant, insightful, funny...enormously satisfying. One of those quiet gems that turn up every now and then that make all the film-watching I do worthwhile.


Le Deuxieme Souffle

d/ JP Melville

An examination of the workings of the world of professional criminals released in 1966. We see how they learn about jobs, how they recruit associates, divvy up the loot and, of course, end up ratting each other out and dying in a climactic hail of bullets.

Engaging enough to hold me for 2 1/2 hours even though I didn't care at all about the fate of any of the characters. Nice b/w photography, snappy editing pace...

Solid work.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Letter Never Sent


An extraordinary film. Possible the peak film of the Russian renaissance usually epitomized by The Cranes Are Flying.

A surveying crew seeking diamonds in the Siberian interior is dropped into the wild, they encounter harsh conditions, brutally hard work and each other. The lone female becomes a focus for conflict between two of the men but that becomes only one of the group's problems.

Stunning camera work, astonishing sequences...has there ever been a fire-in-the-forest scene that equals the one here? Incredible the best way imaginable. This film made my jaw drop...several times.

The only flaw I saw was the slide into melodrama at times...after all, this is a Russian film...but it was easy to overlook the occasional excess and thoroughly enjoy the spectacle. One of the great works of world cinema.


Prairie Love


No-budget attempt at understated deadpan comedy that was so undercooked and glacially paced it disappeared into the background static on my screen. Shot in North Dakota in winter this made Fargo look like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

The director successfully created scenes that were at the same time squirmy and boring...a rare feat. Somehow this guy sold this mess to Film Movement. Will wonders never cease?


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Planet of Snail

documentary   Japan

Sensitive doc on the small community of deaf-blind people. We learn how they live, communicate, love, cope with minor and major problems, etc.

We follow a couple, clearly in love: he is deaf-blind, she has a spinal disease which makes her very short, hunch-backed...but she can see so acts as their eyes and as a translator for her husband. Everything they do is a struggle but they radiate a sense of calm fortitude and get through whatever.

Interesting, in a there but for the grace of god sense...


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Wall


Intriguing, incredibly beautiful film. A middle-aged woman goes on vacation with several friends to a remote cabin in the Austrian mountains where, by a plot contrivance she ends up alone - trapped by an invisible barrier that appears in all access ways - preventing her escape.

Stunning use of landscape...she is imprisoned in beauty...surely part of the metaphor. Good use of voiceover, excellent editing choices throughout. Ditto the sound design/use of music. She gradually comes to see her fate as having been chosen by unseen others...and they've chosen isolation...perhaps for life.

My interest flagged a bit in the second hour but there was one startling sequence which snapped me back. Overall this was thoughtful, provocative, intelligent, well-executed...a parable for our time.


Death and the Compass

w/d  Alex Cox

Psychedelic sliding toward experimental work from one of my favorite directors. Cox has given us Repo Man, Highway Patrolman and Sid and Nancy...all innovative, creative, original views of our complicated world.'s another.

Dazzling in places, not particularly emotionally engaging...this easily held my attention while I wondered where he was going with this story. Thank god for people like Alex Cox...he refills my perpetually emptying glass of cinematic hope.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beware of Mr Baker


Solid doc on Ginger Baker...drummer extraordinaire and madman of the first order. He worked in rock and jazz and excelled in both. Heavily drugged for most of his life he alienated most of the people with whom he worked, even bashing the filmmaker with his cane...breaking his nose.

A fascinating, repulsive man. A great drummer.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Land of Plenty

Michelle Williams    d/ Wim Wenders

This was Wenders at his most polemical. His two principle characters here were types, not people. As a result they didn't come to life on screen and I watched them dispassionately, not particularly caring about their fates. MW did her best but her character was underwritten.

I was also turned off by the unquestioning credulity Wenders gives to the Official Conspiracy Theory on 9/11. He should know better. This guy has been an outstanding filmmaker...he seems to have lost his way...all tangled up in intellectualism...


Thursday, July 31, 2014


Ethan Hawke

A true-crime writer moves into a house where ghastly murders took place to gather material for his new book...and there his troubles began.

Slick and generally satisfying thriller in the current mode BUT far too much use was made here of darkness. There were scenes 10 minutes long with minimal lighting (eg. a weak flashlight, distant lamps) which became aggravating. I know that scary happens better in the dark but this guy went overboard. 

Cast was good, the reveal standard-issue; there were a few creepy moments...this film delivered the goods teenagers desire.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Before Your Eyes


A good one. Two Kurdish parents are murdered by paramilitary forces in front of their children who are then left to fend for themselves in an unnamed city. Their lives are not as awful as they could have been as homeless street children...this seems a bit unrealistic. The girl is 10 her brother younger. She has a wide-eyed, knowing affect similar to Ana Torrent at her age which helps the film immensely.

The resolution is ambiguous but it's implied that they are clever and resourceful enough to survive this huge blow early in their lives. They even effect an appropriate revenge on their parent's killer.

Solid work.


Le Weekend

Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan

Well this was a surprise. An aging couple head for a Paris weekend, re-creating the time of their honeymoon. We learn that their life together hasn't been one of unalloyed joy. They are sexually dysfunctional, she seems deeply bitter about something (lost time, her life choices?) and subjects him to humiliating behaviors.

But after showing us all the crud we watch them come together - the last third has them a solid couple enjoying their time together.

This was quite jarring, several times. I'm not sure the two halves match up. The expressions of undying love seem hollow after the things we've been shown in the first half. And the American friend bit came across as wholly contrived...just there to make the dramatic revelation scene possible.

Overall a mixed bag. Helped by the consummate skill of the two main players.



Istvan Szabo

Really fine film from the early 60's. Set in the late 40's we follow a young boy whose father died during the war. For whatever reasons he fabricates a heroic image of da's exploits as a freedom fighter. His peers know he is lying but overlook it. He maintains these fictions even into adulthood.

The imaginary sequences were outstanding...lovely to look at and done with just the right tongue-in-cheek tone. Solid work which presages his brilliant films in the 80's.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Judi Dench, Maggie Smith

This was a big hit and it's easy to see why. Episodic tale of a bunch of retired Brits who move to India to stretch their retirement dollars. Great Cast, mostly plausible incidents. Some adapt, others don't. Dench glows throughout.

Decidedly sugar-coated - but so what? It raced by filling two hours effortlessly. Nice job by all hands.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Life Itself

Steve James loving tribute to Roger Ebert. Ebert had his flaws but at his death he was world renowned and recognized as the country's pre-eminent film critic of his time. And by all accounts he was congenial, generous with his time and a wonderful spokesman for those of us who are passionate about films.

He wrote well...and fast.  His thoughts on films and his deep love for film as an art form helped raise its value in the public's mind.

I didn't care for the hospital footage. I know why it was included but I found it too troubling to watch.

RIP Roger. We'll see you at the movies.


The Bay

Barry Levinson

Crackerjack horror/thriller, eco-nightmare. The mix of toxins in the Chesapeake Bay has mutated a sea worm into a piranha-like murderer. This is fiction but also a wake-up call.

Done with the same level of professional care he brings to all his projects. Easily held my interest - entertained and got the point across. Nice work.




As good a home movie as you'll ever find. Two middle-aged artists, husband and wife, embark on a tour of significant art sites in the US - Chadds Ford, spiral jetty, Maine coast. Along the way the man discovers he is going blind.

About half of this was interesting. The rest was watching them gurning at the camera and generally celebrating themselves and their wonderfulness.

Many lovely vistas...excellent music. Mixed.


Monday, July 21, 2014

In Search of Blind Joe Death


Nice doc on John Fahey. His music was a breath of fresh air for me for many years...his re-interpretation of American blues and folk and the melding of the two was instantly familiar and very satisfying.

Unfortunately he was quite a jerk...raped by his father multiple times he became a neurotic, frightened adult and ended up living in a filthy motel room making shitty music for bands like Sonic Youth.

But still...his early music lives on and will always sound good.




Extremely violent 'sci-fi' dystopian yarn. Someone tried to stop global warming by injecting bad stuff into the atmosphere and the world froze...completely. Bummer.

The only survivors ride around on this world-circling train. Why it moves isn't clear. Train is strictly stratified. The proles fight their way to the front, the engine, killing and getting killed in brutal ways. There they find Ed Harris. In the end almost everybody dies. The train crashes. A girl and a kid escape. The end.

Preposterous shading into idiotic. Cliches abound. Nice set design.


Sunday, July 20, 2014


France   Andre Dusollier

Fine adaptation of a play which centered around the cat and mouse game played by the ruling German general who had orders to destroy Paris in 1944 and a Swedish diplomat who tries to stop him.

Mostly played on one set the film worked because of the skill of the two aged actors...whose subtle looks, gestures and body language kept us on the edge of our seats.

Nice job.


Saturday, July 19, 2014


France    Isabel Huppert

A raucous, exuberant family lives right next to a highway that has apparently been abandoned. They play street hockey in the road, have easy chairs and portable pools out there...treat it as their front yard. But then the state opens the road and their troubles begin.

The now-busy highway changes their lives drastically. Their style of living collapses...they turn insular and against each other.

The film acts as a clumsy metaphor for the perils of modern life...forcing good people apart with its machines, noise and alienation. Would have been more effective as a 30 minute short. Stretched out to feature length it wore out its welcome.


Thursday, July 17, 2014


Jake Gyllenhaal

Mind-bending film adapted from a novel by Jose Saramago. We follow two men - both played by JG - who look, sound and think exactly alike. For some reason this bothers their wife/girlfriend who wonder what the hell's going on. So do we.

This intriguing premise is expertly handled, keeping us guessing and on the edge of our seats till the remarkable ending. JG does a nice job of creating two different personalities with body language and attitude.

Solid mystery/thriller. A nice surprise.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gore Vidal


Solid doc on a privileged man who spent his life writing about the lies being spread by the political class. He knew them well...he had been raised as one of them.

I agreed with all his views (save one) and was particularly glad he disowned Hitchens for supporting the neocons in their quest for world domination. He was a gay man in a time when that was a liability (to put it mildly) but he carried on with wit and panache...

Like the saying well is the best revenge.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014



Routine doc on Pina Bausch - practitioner of modern dance.

I know some people like this kind of thing but to me it's narcissism carried out to the nth degree. Look at me, ma...look at me!

Oh well.


Where's The Fair?


This dealt with world's fairs...which have been going on somewhere since the Crystal Exposition in 1851. In the early 90's the US leadership saw itself atop the world so they decided to not participate in them anymore. They held true to that resolution until China had one in Shanghai and forced the US in...even giving them the money.

While several people tried to make the case for their importance I couldn't help but wonder if the expense of these celebrations of self really added anything to the human condition. Remember Ota Benga.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Gary Oldman

Well done for a summer blockbuster. The CGI was spectacular and very convincing, characters (both ape and human) all had distinctive personalities and motivations. The lead character - Caesar - emitted command, strength.

The message was pretty bleak...wars are inevitable and violence is the ultimate arbiter - whatever the conflict. Apes had the high moral ground here but not by much.

In the end this was a well-dressed cartoon...sharply drawn good and bad guys. No one expects more from one of these...and here they got it.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Little Birds

amerindie   Juno Temple

Temple solidifies her role as troubled teen go-to with this film. After her performances in Dirty Girl and Killer Joe and now this she owns the part.

This story found her living at the Salton Sea, hating it and dying to get out. She and her buddy follow some nowhere skateboarders to LA...and there their troubles begin.

Well done but nothing particularly original here.


Sunday, July 13, 2014


amerindie   Robby Benson

Sweet little film from 1973. Once you get past the silly clothes and haircuts you are left with a first-love story that works. Two high school kids...he the nerdy jewish geek, she the new girl in school with no friends...come together and light a spark in each other's lives.

Nothing particularly original or profound here...just a focused teen love story with the usual sad ending. It helped enormously that they were both likable.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Terms and Conditions May Apply


The real story behind those pesky 10,000 word 'agreements' we all sign without reading that give huge companies the power to sell us and our data to anyone willing to pay the price.

Nothing in here was very surprising or startling but it did bring the whole issue of internet privacy (sic) to the fore and for those not clued in already it could serve as a wake-up call. Solid and professional.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Immigrant

Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner

Set in 1921 the film takes us through the various humiliations suffered by a beautiful young Polish woman trying with her sister to enter the land of milk and honey. She is 'forced' to prostitute herself to pay for the bribes required to get her sister out of hospital where the latter is seemingly dying from TB.

The thee leads were good as always but something was missing here. I never cared about any of this. The sets were too perfect, too clean, too stage-lighted...the whole thing never seemed real to me. It was too hollywood, too fake.  MC chose to play her character as a near mute...watching, suffering in silence. That didn't help. Neither did the clumsy cue music.

A week from now I'll have trouble remembering anything about this lifeless movie.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lebanon, Pa


Raggedy-assed story of a 35 yo yuppie who goes back to his home town after his father's death and finds himself longing for a major life change. He starts chasing a married woman around and the usual bullshit follows.

OK film but, tell me my friend...hasn't that been done before...?




Very troubling piece on bullying in high school and jr hs. Somehow they managed to get footage on school buses and inside schools showing the kids they were following around getting pushed, poked, strangled, etc. The victims were either geeks or gays. No surprise there. Some victims end up committing suicide.

The really startling part was the indifference and total ineffectiveness of the school administrators. They knew what was going on but buried it in newagespeak...not much help to a 12 yo. When questioned after a suicide they denied anything was wrong....boys will be boys...

Kids that age are rotten...with no sense of empathy. the really bad ones become the next generation of sociopaths, military leaders, politicians, ceo's...

No fun to watch.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Ballad of Narayama


This was the highly stylized 1958 treatment of a traditional kabuki drama. Shot on a sound stage the colors were exaggerated as Coppola's One From the Heart.

At 70 people in this remote village get carried up a nearby mountain by a close relative and get left in a meadow to ensure that the younger folk have enough food to eat.

Story was re-done by Immamura in the 80's in a much more naturalistic version.

You're so lucky if it snows when you go to Narayama...


Saturday, July 5, 2014


Terry Gilliam     Jeff Bridges

Slightly toned-down Gilliam is still too much...way too much. Bridges has the good grace to die early on here but not before giving his most embarrassing, pointless imitation of a redneck pig...shooting up, farting, puking...all while 'caring' for a ten year old daughter.

After both her parents die the girl is stuck in an isolated, decrepit farmhouse somewhere where she lives in a dream world. Rather than using charm or faeries or somesuch Gilliam goes for full-on grotesque...and for me a little of that goes a long way. This constant hyper tone becomes wearying and forces mego.

Not worth it.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Shaolin Soccer

Hong Kong   Steven Chow

Sub-moronic junk suitable for children up to about 10. After that age if you weren't drooling when you sat will be by the end.


Is The Tall Man Happy?


An oddball project. A French animator secures interviews with Noam Chomsky and presents them overlaid with his childish doodles supposedly illustrating the points NC is making.

First of all NC is very articulate and makes his points clearly and patiently so it's unclear why this guy felt the anime was either necessary or beneficial. Secondly his own English is very poor and his understanding of NC's ideas is also very poor so the question arises...why didn't he get someone else to conduct the interviews?

Youtube has hundreds of interviews/talks by Chomsky...anyone can watch/listen and learn his ideas. What exactly did this guy think he was bringing to the table?

Ill conceived and executed.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Local Hero

Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert

Bill Forsythe's crowning achievement. A texas oilman/wage slave travels to northern Scotland to buy a strip of coastline for a refinery project. He finds himself charmed by the locals, their village and way of life. Will he ruin the place, stay? This being hollywood the resolution is as magical as the entire film.

Sprinkled with humor, likable characters, beautiful locations, a wry sensibility...this is as delightful a film as a studio has ever turned out.

Much loved and deservedly so.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Woman of the Lake


From 1966. A married woman having an affair allows her lover to take nude photos...they get in the hands of a blackmailer and this film unfolds.

Slow-paced, elegantly composed, heavily influenced by Antonioni and the 60's avant-garde. Interesting music, fine lead actress, surprising resolution.

This was a winner.


Monday, June 30, 2014

The Lego Movie


Very fast, colorful, loud, silly. Perfect for 8 year olds.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hard Candy

amerindie   Ellen Page

Another cinematic ordeal. This time a crazy teenage girl tortures a possible paedophile for 1 1/2 hours while we get to watch. They finesse the script toward the end to convince us that maybe he really did do a bad thing but what she did in this film was horrible so evaluating morality in this one is problematic.

Is there an audience for this kind of material? If there is we're in worse shape than I thought. Think I'll take a shower. EP was great. Small consolation.


The Snowtown Murders


Sleazy, extremely unpleasant tour through the places not recommended by the tourist bureau. We follow a psychotic homophobe as he recruits trailer trash into his vigilante scheme to kill all the undesirables in the area.

We even get to watch him chop off the limbs of a roo...not something you see every day. Why do I do these to myself?


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Post Mortem


Another misfire from the director of Tony Manero. This focused on a nearly mute mortuary assistant with a silly haircut who stalks his stripper neighbor and conducts one of the most ludicrous courtships ever put on screen. They meet for a meal, cry together for a really long time and then fuck, also for a really long time.

Meanwhile the country is undergoing the Allende murder and the establishment of Pinochet's military dictatorship.

Every scene, every reaction here was done very the point of being soporific. This guy needs to find another way to make a living. His films truly suck.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Black Moon

Louis Malle

Malle's venture into surrealistic filmmaking is, as usual, well produced and shot with his considerable skill...but...

It's impossible to care about characters who are treated as abstractions, as pawns moved around an eerie landscape filled with unexplained hazards. Once it is clear that these aren't meant to be real people they're no better than toons...and who cares if you hurt a toon?

I guess he felt he had to do this. Oh well...later in his sterling career he produced several first-class gems like Atlantic City, My Dinner with Andre, Au Revois, Mes we'll forgive him just this once.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Tales of the Night

France    Michel Ocelot

Portmanteau film consisting of six clever, original, shadow-drawn stories...all set in various exotic locations/times.

Remarkably effective animation. Each of the stories was immediately engaging and the look held my interest throughout. This guy is someone to watch.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Angel's Share

Scotland    d/ Ken Loach

Done with his signature charm, this was nonetheless another scathing examination of the incredibly violent milieu surrounding young males in Scotland. What in the world is wrong there? Constant threat of beatings or worse dog these characters. The reason given here is that their fathers fought each other so...   So what?

Loach did what he could to sweeten the story and even provided a hollywood ending but it came across as delusional. How many of these young men are going to live happily ever after?


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tales From Earthsea


Animated treatment of stories by Ursula K LeGuin.

For an hour or so the very high quality of the drawn animation was captivating...landscapes, gothic interiors, noirish touches, fabulous use of color in general. In particular the careful sound design was effective in creating the illusion of reality. But when the meat of the story kicked in it became just more children's cartoon crash-bang indistinguishable from saturday morning fare.

Too bad. For a while I thought this was going to be the breakthrough for animation I've been waiting for.


Friday, June 20, 2014

La Dolce Vita

Italy   d/ Fellini

His magnum opus from 1960. Marcello Mastroianni is a cynical, jaded reporter who hangs around with rich and nouveau riche fools and writes about them. We follow him from party to party whilst they all drink, fight and make disgusting fools of themselves...why?...because they can.

There were several sequences that shone...most notably the madonna scenes with the two small children...but mostly this was a good example of a wildly creative director at the peak of his abilities with no adult around to stop his excesses. At three hours this was an hour and a half too long and by the time it ended I was so sick of ALL these people I felt physically ill.

A grueling ordeal...much better done in last year's The Great Beauty.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Silent Running

Bruce Dern

I had remembered this as pretty silly...but that was mostly due to the Joan Baez warbling whilst watching camera pans of the world's last forest. The save-the-trees, save-the-whales message was front and center but other than those two musical interludes the film still worked well.

Dern gave a strong performance mostly talking to himself. The set design was wonderfully retro-futuristic. The project holds up, barely, as a relic of the time when the establishment of Earth Day was seen as evidence mankind could actually survive the fouling of its own nest. Yeah...right...


Friday, June 13, 2014

Escape From Tomorrow


This was the notorious opus filmed surreptitiously at Disney World in Florida. It looked it.

I was willing to go with the Iphone-level look but the story was asinine. Dad, fortyish, is fixated on two giggling 13 year old girls and contrives to follow them around...hoping for what? He gets a quick poke from a crazy woman while wifey is elsewhere but never stops chasing the teenies. At some point it became clear to me that this wasn't going to get any better...did I really care how this shithead's kiddie-fetish resolved?

Very poor.


The Rocket


Primitive film about a young boy, displaced with his family by a dam project, who lives in a temporary camp. He was born a twin (sibling died at birth) which meant he should have been killed too...a quaint, idiotic folk belief. But the people around him see him as an agent of the devil, etc etc.

This was meant to be charming but was too stupid to engage me...I gave up after an hour.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our Beloved Month of August

Portugal   d/ Miguel Gomes

Gomes and his film crew drive around a resort area in August and record what the people do there during their vacations. Sounds stupid (and some is) but there are moments in this film which were startling, brilliant, head-snapping...

Some scenes were was difficult telling which...but that didn't matter. Fascinating portrait of a people of a certain class at a certain time. Tons of banal pop/karaoke by a shifting, mind-bending cast of musicians who looked suspiciously alike. Also scenes which break the fourth wall showing the problems making a film in public, players grousing about the shoot, wannabees trying to join in...

Unique, oddly satisfying. This guy is someone to watch.