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.