Saturday, January 31, 2015



Unpleasant, squalid look at life in rural Siberia. The people were mean to each other, sometimes violent, the men drank a lot, even the animals (dogs) behaved like, well, animals - breaking into a barn and killing the one remaining goat left alive that was to serve as grandpa's sustenance for the winter.

Production values were very high which seemed anomalous given the content. No fun, no insight, just an ordeal to get through.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Grendel, Grendel, Grendel


Adaptation of the novel by John Irving which was a modern fictionalization of the old Norse mythology.

The drawings were too simplistic...the story was treated as a silly cartoon instead of a serious treatment of a legend. This one lost me...


The Woman in Green

Basil Rathbone

Post war Sherlock Holmes film. It's been decades since I saw one of these and was pleased to see that this one at least stood up very well. BR is perfect...not too superhuman like subsequent incarnations of the great detective...he's cool, logical...a Spock before his time.

The story was standard...Moriarty shows up...but watching it unfold was as fun as ever.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Five Centimeters Per Second

Japan   anime

Exceptionally beautiful film. We follow the love and separation of two young outcasts who never quite get over the bond they establish in junior high school. The film is in three segments - taking place in different stages of their lives. They maintain contact, share one visit early on but life keeps them their mutual detriment.

The drawings here were stunning...scene after scene dazzled me with the imagery, color, variety...just brilliant work. The Japanese are far ahead of the rest of the world creating animated films which fully satisfy an adult audience.

This is one I'll revisit often.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Steve Carell, Channing Tatum    d/ Bennett Miller

Fine film centering on the three-way relationship between an eccentric (mad) billionaire and two brothers, wrestling champions. He wants to belong to their team, reflect in their glory but he's never belonged and never will.

Subtly done...quiet, pensive...eerie or brooding in tone...I always felt unease, possibly menace when Dupont was on screen. He had a dead-eyed stare which was held too long for comfort.

Taken from a true case. Beautifully shot, framed. High order of skill on display. Class issues could we allow such wealth and power to fall to such a man? Carell was unforgettable. Just the memory of that face, cocked up, looking down past a prominent nose with his beady little black eyes gives me the creeps.

Good stuff.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Adventures of Mark Twain

Will Vinton

Wonderful film - a loving tribute to Twain and his characters (Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher) - done in some of the best claymation I've seen. Incredibly detailed and imaginative. There was a strong sense of delight that came through...humor, adventure, exotic travel, sci-fi-type artifacts., twisted bible stories which ended up quite poignant...even a trip to a comet...

A unique, interesting, fun project. Kudos.


The Return


Damn fine film. The intense relationship between a father and his two abandoned sons was riveting - well structured and shot. The climax was still shocking for me even though this was my third pass.

One of the great first films.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Captain Blood

Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHavilland

Classic swashbuckler from 1935. The story was preposterous, of course, but the sets, costumes and miniature work was first rate for the time.

Flynn was the peak of his physical prowess...charismatic, impossibly handsome...the object of desire for women, of envy, admiration for men.

A great example of the best of the 1930's movie entertainment.


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Snow Queen

Russia   anime

Beautifully hand-drawn version of the HC Andersen story. This was the English language dub which works fine with anime...especially when, as here, the actors used were first rate.

I watched this to compare it with Frozen: both versions took liberties with the original story but this one was much closer. The former focused on average children caught up in a nasty magical nightmare...the latter was all about royalty consistent with Disney's obsession with princess marketing possibilities.

But, really, to a child both versions would satisfy. Both have wonderful visuals, strongly drawn (pun) characters and plucky heroines who strive mightily against the odds to rescue someone they love.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

The One I Love

Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss

Clever, original film. A thirtyish couple are contemplating divorce. Their therapist suggests a vacation to a place he knows where they might reconcile. There they find something unexpected which changes their perspective on each other and makes our heads spin.

This film, done on a low budget, shows how far you can go with a good idea well executed. It was fun, intriguing, fresh and ultimately, satisfying...although not in the way we normally expect. Fine amerindie.


Osaka Elegy

Japan K. Mizoguchi

Lean, spare melodrama from 1936 which focuses on the plight of women in an absurdly patriarchal society...Japan pre-war.

The protagonist is forced by circumstances (family finances) to do things she found abhorrent and we watch her suffer humiliation, heartbreak and shame as a result. The unfairness of this woman's fate was painful enough to jolt even the most hard-headed msp.

Mizoguchi made films with these themes from the 20's to the 50's. As the decades passed he added color and exotic locations but none I've seen surpassed the short, sharp gut punch presented here.



Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey

Very charming modern-day fairy tale which should satisfy children of all ages. An animated princess is transported to 2007 NYC where the usual fish-out-of-water incongruities develop. She is impossibly delightful and naive...especially in that setting.

AA is, beautiful and pulls off the sweetness necessary for the character without being cloying. Film is packed with in-joke references...mostly to other disney films...which gives the adults watching chuckles of recognition the kids will miss.

Entertaining fun.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Red Lights


Pretty unpleasant but intriguing story adapted from a novel by Georges Simenon. A husband and wife take to the roads for their summer holiday; he is angry for reasons later made clear so he starts drinking...heavily. She leaves him at a bar to take a train...he keeps drinking and has increasingly nasty adventures. On the train she gets attacked.

Somehow, and improbably, they reconcile at the end but it was no fun getting there.

This guy sold a lot of books. If this is representative I'm glad I've never read one. Movie was well done but really...


The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

anime   Japan

So-so piece which relied too much on exaggerating the clumsy nature of the heroine. The device they use for her excursions through time (to fix or change minor personal problems) is her crashing into something, falling out a building, drowning, etc. This made the film loud and tiresome when it should have been subtle and clever.

Not interesting enough for an adult audience.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Once Brothers


Another winner from ESPN's 30 for 30 series. This doc focuses on two members of the Yugoslavia national basketball team who played together at home and became national heroes. They then both went to the US and became star players in the NBA.

But the civil war in the 1990's drove them apart and one died before they could reconcile. Sad, moving story told with his usual style and class by Gibney.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Edge of Tomorrow

Emily Blunt, Tom Cruise

Futuristic action/thriller with time travel added for a mind-bendingly complicated story. Aliens have invaded Earth (always a bad thing) and their ability to re-set time after a defeat makes them very hard to defeat because they'll just keep re-setting until they figure out how to overcome whatever obstacles we put in their way.

Lots of whiz-bang CGI but the premise had me constantly trying to understand where we were going and how we were going to get there. The last act took place entirely in the dark - the second film this year to do so - which came across as a cop out.

Still, this was intriguing and a bit above most action films.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Girl


A 9 year old girl is left in the care of her irresponsible aunt for the summer while her parents serve a humanitarian mission in Africa. The girl contrives a way to get rid of the aunt so we watch her deal with neighbors, bratty older girls, the boy next door...and mostly loneliness.

The film is evenly paced, music stood out; the lead, a skinny redhead, has a pensive air about her which suits the tone perfectly. Some bad stuff happens, some good...time goes by and when the parents come home she's older and wiser. Lovely looking movie.



Japan   H. Teshigahara

An early film in the Japanese new wave (1960 - 1970). This is experimental cinema at its best. Shot in stunning B/W, with imaginative camera moves; the film crackles on the screen with complicated, provocative perspectives that enrich the viewers' experience.

A poor miner is murdered in a case of mistaken identity...we follow his ghost as it (he?) searches in the land of the living for the reason he met such a cruel fate.

Film was stylish, gripping, emotionally resonant and innovative...the vanguard of many that emerged from Japan in the subsequent 10 of those periods when a nation's cinema exploded with creative advances. HT followed this a year later with his iconic Woman in the Dunes.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Sundays and Cybele

France   Hardy Kruger, Patricia Gozzi

One of the great works of world cinema...when it was released it was considered one of the jewels of the French New Wave. For reasons I don't understand it's been largely forgotten.

Performances by both leads were first rate...staging, cinematography, pacing were also world class. She was one of the best child actors ever...after Rapture two years later she retired from the screen and public life...watta loss.

Because it deals with tabu subjects it would be impossible to release today. Intelligent, emotionally engaging, sharply critical of social mores, dramatically nuanced with a fitting, tragic resolution.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Berberian Sound Studio

England   Toby Jones

A sound engineer is hired by an Italian studio that produces giallo-type films. On arrival he is treated with discourtesy which just gets worse as the days go by. He's pretty mousy, his antagonists are inexplicably mean-spirited, the whole situation is ugly and unpleasant. And there's a lot of screaming.

I found myself wondering why I was subjecting myself to this nonsense...couldn't think of a good reason so I quit.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

We Are The Best!


Three disaffected 12 year old girls decide to form a punk band in 1982, even though they can't play any instruments and everyone tells them that at that point punk is dead. And here I thought it had never lived in the first place.

The lead girl is an androgyne, or perhaps pre-pubescent whilst the other two are social rejects. Together they behave as if no attempt had ever been made to socialize them: they are impulsive, rude, entirely self-centered, cruel...seemingly unaware that actions have consequences. They appear to be entirely natural in front of the camera which isn't necessarily a good thing.

The film would have been more effective if the kids hadn't been so annoying. Punkettes indeed...


Catching Hell

documentary   d/ Alex Gibney

Fascinating piece on an incident that happened to a Chicago Cubs fan several years ago: he interfered with a ball in play and was subsequently vilified in Chicago media as being responsible for the team losing their chance for a championship.

Revealing study of the role of ancient human practice as venerable as history itself, biblically sanctioned. The turning of the mob was caught on camera and if security hadn't scooted this guy out of the park toot sweet he would have been harmed, at least.

Nice job placing the incident in context. And we think we're so clever and classless and free...


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Captain America


Great junk. Indestructible character fighting for truth, justice and the American way vanquishes all foes...these particular nasties were paperclip leftovers who were trying to rule the world. Of course.

The only solution available was a bit of the old ultra-violence and by god it worked. It always does. Rest easy tonight citizens...the good guys are in control.



The Skeleton Twins


Fraternal twins consider suicide at the same moment. He tries, she stops when the phone rings announcing his.

Poor attempt at a black comedy. Lacked a deft touch. Clumsy, heavy-handed. It may be they were going for quirky but missed by so much it's hard to tell.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Found Memories

Argentina   w/d  Julia Murat

Had another go at this one and found it even more beautiful and much more moving this time. I struggle to find the reason for this emotional response: perhaps the combination of tone, sensitivity in the way she approaches her characters, the lushness and decrepitude of the location and, mostly,  the exquisite beauty of her images...

This film is a rare and precious I'll tuck away to bring out from time to time to immerse myself in its elixir.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Life With Father

William Powell, Irene Dunn

Perhaps I'm getting cranky in my old age but I found this to be insufferable. WP plays a wall street tycoon who is an overbearing tyrant at home...lording it over his wife, children, servants very much like Charles Laughton as Henry 8.

He is meant to be lovable, sort of, but I kept hoping someone would slap this jackass in the face and lock him in a room until he had been socialized. It was like watching an out-of-control 8 year old brat who sees himself as the center of the universe and woe betide anyone who sees reality differently.

Features an early role by Eliz. Taylor as an over-eager ingenue.


Kiss Me Deadly

Ralph Meeker    d/ Robert Aldrich

Still one of the best of the post-war PI films and one of the very few that hold up completely in spite of the fact that the final scene was ludicrous.

Meeker plays a human bludgeon...forcing his way past obstacle after obstacle to find the pot of gold he suspects to find at the end of his rainbow. In fact he gets a bullet in the belly and a front row seat to nuclear annihilation.

The pacing here was spot on which allowed some sketchy stuff to pass muster but easily held the audience until the end. A good example of sharp, pointed filmmaking.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Chalet Girl

Felicity Jones

Charming, formula film about a young working class woman who signs on to work the winter season at an exclusive Austrian resort home for richies. She is scorned at first but because of her overall excellence and skateboarding skills she learns snowboarding, becomes a champion in four months, is accepted and lives happily ever after.

I wanted to see this because of FJ and she doesn't disappoint: she easily commands the screen and proves as winning as she did in later roles.

The class issues which crowd the screen are dabbled with lightly (too lightly) but no one gets his hair mussed. Routine fantasy effort.