Thursday, May 28, 2015


amerindie   Jason Bateman

Sharp, tight insightful film about the incredible complications universal computer use has brought 'civilization.' We follow two high school brats who play 'pranks' on line, one of which leads to a suicide attempt; a grieving couple whose info is hacked leaving them penniless and hungry for revenge; an ambitious TV reporter who wins acclaim for a piece on underage cyber sex workers.

All these stories lead to pain, suffering, dislocation, trauma. The film tries to end on a positive note which belies the first 90%. Stories were intercut with faster and faster edits coming at the end to real dramatic effect. Solid acting by an unfamiliar ensemble.

Works as a cautionary tale and dramatic thriller. Nice job,


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Straight To The Heart

Canada   Lea Pool

World-travelling news photographer, ensconced in a ten year trio comes home to find his partners have chosen each other and excluded him. This film traces the process he goes through to recover his self, value and purpose.

Strong lead (Matthew Habbich) carries the film. He finds escape in shooting the decay, rot in his home town - Montreal -seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go. He also hooks up with a non-demanding mute boyfriend for temporary succor, eventually entering an asylum.

Intelligent well-acted melodrama marred some by cheesy 80's synth music. Nice to see an adult topic treated maturely.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ballad of a Soldier


The heartbreaking story of a young soldier during WW2 who commits a heroic act, gets a 6 day leave and travels home to help his mother.

This classic film, from 1959, represents Russia attempting to come to grips with the enormous losses suffered during their Great Patriotic War. The boy, and his cherie-en-passant are highly idealized - the type of people Russians wish they were. Their story was representative and very sad. We know, as do they, that they will never meet again.

The final scene when he takes his leave from his mother is one of the most moving endings in film history. A great film.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Love is All You Need

Denmark   Pierce Brosnan   d/ Susanne Bier

Domestic difficulties come to a head when the marriage between two families who have traveled to scenic Italy for the event comes undone.

Although the film is bound by creaky convention (eg meeting cute) it's done lightly enough to be engaging and entertaining. The focus is on the relationship between the bride's mother and the groom's father, both of whom are suffering from fate's arrows. The development of their relationship is handled with sensitivity and intelligence - even in the muddled scrum of the wedding gathering their emerging light shines.

Charming, old-fashioned filmmaking.


Friday, May 22, 2015

The Better Angels


Really lovely film about the early, troubled years in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Film focuses on the hardships of being poor, on what was the frontier at that time...the ubiquitous presence of death and the role of the two extraordinary women in his life who loved him, fought for him, believed in him.

Very cinematic...reminiscent of Malick in its approach. Minimal dialogue. Impressionistic editing. Several scenes were genuinely touching. Some relied solely on facial expressions or body language. Remarkably intelligent, sensitive film. The best I've seen about the man and his time.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Blue Ruin


Action-packed revenge thriller. A derelict guy learns that the convict who murdered his parents is being released from prison. He determines to avenge his parents' death. Then his troubles begin.

Solid storytelling with lots of violence for those who seek such things. Camera work, pacing, acting were top notch. Good B film.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Drug War

China   d/ Johnnie To

Highly touted, slick police auctioneer. Extremely fast paced. None of this was believable though. It had a hollow core. It was all just surface flash.

I can see where there's an audience for this kind of film. It's eye candy for the popcorn set. But you've got to turn your brain off. I've never figured out how to do that.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ex Machina

Britain   Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

Another attempt to see how AI will develop.

Whilst the CGI here was first rate the set-up and scenario didn't work at all. We're presented with a giga-rich megalomaniac who concocts a female robot and shanghais a company nerd to his remote lab for a turing test. All the interactions between the mogul and the nerd clunk - badly. The bossman is crude, drunken, offensive, violent, macho. The kid is dazzled/bewildered...the foil for unknown nefarious schemes.

The robot, and her interactions with the nerd did work...that portion of the film held my interest. It was intriguing, even gripping. It was only at the very end that we understand what has actually been going on but by then it's too late.

Half good, half not so good. This topic will be in the forefront of tech development in the near future. I hope subsequent films do a better job parsing out the implications.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Salt of the Earth


Film examines the career of a Brazilian photographer named Salgados. A deeply engaged humanist he has travelled all over the world recording some of the very worst of humanity - Rwanda, Kuwait, The Sahel. His eye is excellent but the topics extremely grim. The cumulative effect of all these beautifully composed images of death and suffering crush the spirit.

There was an attempt late in the film to end on a high note but it was far tl/tl. I'm glad I saw this but I fear it will quickly fade from memory so I can retain my sanity.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Clouds of Sils Maria

France   Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart    w/d Olivier Assayas

Sharply written take on the life of an aging actress and her life with her PA. The dialogue between the two as they prepare her for a new stage role slides between the play and their real lives. The complete one-sidedness of their relationship gradually comes into focus; the PA sees her ideas continually rejected which forces her to consider her least insofar as this job is concerned.

Believable view of celebrity, its tensions, pressures and consequences. An arrangement where one of the parties holds all the power is inherently unstable. The play within has similar themes to All About Eve, minus the melodrama, to which this film compares favorably.

I continue to be baffled why KS keeps getting cast...she still projects nothing. She can read her lines but so what? She must have qualities that don't appear on screen.

This had the bonus of lovely Alpine scenery.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Even The Rain

Spain/Mexico  Luis Tosar, Gael Bernal

Each time I see this one it rises higher in my estimation. Incredibly rich, dense script by Paul Laverty which brings in a wealth of issues - exploitation of native peoples at the time of Columbus and by a movie company in the present; the role of multi-nationals who are privatizing the water supply of Bolivia, the place for resistance and its effectiveness.

And yet, none of this felt like a polemic. We get so involved in the lives and interactions of the characters that the issues become part of the background. Brilliant writing and well played by all hands.

Someone after the screening said this film should be shown in schools. She was right. It should.


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night


The thing is...the girl's a vampire. So she's not in danger...she is the danger.

Odd little film. Shot very artfully with lots of dark shadows and almost no people. Languid pace and tone enlivened occasionally with some discreet killing. She doesn't kill everyone she meets - some she scares and gives a pass. In fact it is fundamentally a love story.

Like Only Lovers Left Alive and What We Do in the Shadows this film is part of the post-modern take on the vamp trope...played for knowing laughs rather than scares or shock. This one ran out of ideas an hour in but not fatally.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ashes and Snow


An extraordinary film. A slow motion study of humans and animals interacting cooperatively. Many remarkable shots, tableaux. Like Samsara it was riveting but for a limited time. My attention began to wander at 45 min or so.

The soundtrack was perfect to my mind...slow drifty new age done well. This is a remarkable for its own sake...with no real commercial value. I would like to show this to children to see how they would react...perhaps to influence their thinking...seeing people and animals living in harmony, comfortable with each other.

A film done with great love and respect. It celebrates the oneness of life.


Blue Caprice


The factual, sordid story of the DC snipers, who brought terror to the burbs of Maryland in the early oughts.

The filmmakers give a social context to these two guys, their bitterness and alienation which helps us to understand their behavior. It's an unpleasant film to watch but points out that there will always be those who fall aside, and some will choose to fight back against the culture which has rejected them. The wonder is that this type of thing doesn't happen more often.

Film was believably written and acted...careful attention was given to cutting away so as not to sicken the audience whilst losing none of the emotional impact.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5 to 7

Anton Milchan

This one didn't work for me at all. It wasn't credible to me that this sophisticated, world-wise, beautiful, graceful, elegant woman would be interested in any way with some schlubby, uninteresting,  uncharismatic nebbish. Sorry, guys...not even in the movies.

I also didn't believe this character was a brilliant writer. Not one word of his dialogue was interesting or insightful. I normally stay with a film until I sense a clunk. In this one the clunks never stopped. The last 20 minutes were awash with schmaltzy music - a clear sign the filmmaker realized the film needed some help.

Close to an insult.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Jules and Jim

Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner

The original french manic pixie dream girl. This film was eye/mind-opening when it was released for depicting a plausible three-way relationship. When viewed through todays post sexual revolution, post feminism sensibilities the lovely Catherine is seen clearly as a sociopath, wildly irresponsible, erratic and eventually murderous and self-destructive.

Mixed feelings about the film. Some of the scenes, particularly the mobile camera shots still look sharp. The problem for me was the voiceover which kept showing up and each time took me out of the story. The actors were believable - more so than the characters' motivations.

This film has iconic status among people of my generation. It likely draws a 'huh?' from younger folks and that will likely grow worse as time goes on.


Friday, May 1, 2015


Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson

Lovely film. A young mulatto girl is grudgingly accepted into upper class society in the late 1700's. Intelligent script which was well shot and played by a first rate cast. The lead Gugu something was very good and easily carried the weight of the film.

Some of the music was over-egged...a shame. The story was plenty strong enough without it. Having the story end as the beginning step in the English abolition movement gave the film a nice after feel.


Peter and John

Jacqueline Bissett

Nice looking film shot on Nantucket. They made good use of the location...some beautiful footage shot on the moors that made me ache for that landscape.

But the drama, although interesting as a story, was woodenly written and played. It didn't really come to life...more like watching someone act out a play. JB was a treat to see. She looks great and has a gravitas the others lacked.

Done largely by college age people and it showed.