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...