Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Robert Mitchum

Solid wiseguy flick adapted from the novel by Denis Lehane. RM always delivers good value. The story was sleazy (what else?), the Boston area locations a minor thrill for me.

Character study of the lowlife underbelly of the Athens of America.


Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling     w/d Nicholas Winding Refn

Set in Bangkok film focuses on the criminal dealings of a truly repulsive family of vicious drug dealers. The pace is glacial, the doings horrific. Nothing here was engaging or even interesting. This turkey was brought to us from the maker of the demented Pusher trilogy, Valhalla Rising and Drive. He seems to be hooked on the old ultra-violence. Pity he can't create a drama about actual humans.

For ten minutes the production design intrigued but when the lack of drama or substance of any kind became clear I lost all interest.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Brad Pitt

Nicely done adaptation of the book about Billy Beane and the Oakland baseball team. Everything about this production was solid, engaging.


Monday, September 28, 2015


Denmark   d/ Carl Dreyer

Stark, spare film concerned with religion...specifically the enormous importance residents of a rural community place on which imaginary god is the correct one. And woe betide those who make the wrong choice.

Very hard for me to look upon idiotic behavior like this with anything but contempt. This centuries-old preoccupation with unprovable nonsense strikes me as the worst of human behavior. I found it impossible to care about any of this. A plague on all their houses.


The French Connection

Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey

Popeye Doyle again...borderline psychotic cop who uses violence with great relish to terrorize...just about everyone. This film made a big splash at the time. Now it looks to me like the fever dream of a closet warrior. Brutality, violence, murder without check or reason.

The central car/subway chase is still mind-bending and is probably the real reason for the film's original popularity. It still impresses as a technical achievement. But Doyle's crazed persona and behavior cast a very dark shadow on this story for me. This posits the law of the jungle as the only way. Really???


Friday, September 25, 2015



A secret clan of warriors try to remain hidden from the rest of society but...well...

Film features female warriors as principle characters; the lead looks around 22, gorgeous and deadly. Scant dialogue in the film which adds to the mysterious nature of the clan. A push-your buttons film that was beautifully enough shot to make it work.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Harrowing, well done thriller taken from the time of the Troubles in Belfast. A young soldier is left behind by his unit after a riot. He doesn't know where he is or how to get back to his barracks...must make his way through hostile territory.

Tight, taut drama with enough quiet moments to humanize some of the characters and provide relief from the non-stop tension. Mostly shot at night, this was a solid, effective film with no background or exposition at all; you had to know what the conflict was going in.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015



Surely one of the most irritating films ever made. And to what purpose? So we can pretend that a dead girl can infect the computers of her 'friends' to torment them and one by one somehow murder them in their homes.

Starting 20 min in the five teens on the single computer screen get hysterical and maintain that pitch the rest of the way, whilst they get picked off. It was impossible to read the text on the screen, which formed the major source of exposition, because of the poor resolution. So I couldn't tell what was being typed. But really I didn't care. There was no way to make this movie work. It stunk to high heaven.


Sunday, September 20, 2015



A four yo girl loses her mother in a car accident; we watch her trying to come to grips with the loss. She's not helped by adult religiosity. Her father leaves her in a boarding school, her classmates are uncomprehending, unhelpful and occasionally mean as hell. She seeks answers but they're not forthcoming, In fact not for any of us let alone for a four yo girl.

This is the most remarkable performance by a child actor I've seen. It's likely never to be matched let alone topped. Film should be watched by film students forever. If you can't do it this well, don't do it.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Miyamoto Musashi


Beautifully done story set in medieval times about the titular legendary swordsman. Very high quality production. remarkable since it was released in 1944, when Japan was being devastated by American bombs.

The samurai embodies the bushido code in every respect...his demeanor, art practices, all of it. This must have been an attempt to buck up the population in trying times. A look back to the legendary time when real warriors stalked the earth.

Lighting, cinematography, especially the music were superb. A lovely surprise.


Goebbel's Diaries


Nice production. Kenneth Branagh reads passages form guess what while archive footage plays on screen. For someone like me who has read vast amounts of material about WW2 this was catnip. I knew what was happening around each quoted passage; this enriched my understanding by cluing me in to the knife fighting going on among the Nazi leadership.

Good job.


Monday, September 14, 2015

The Accused

Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis

Powerhouse performance by Foster makes this a compelling watch. Film hasn't dated at all. Her oscar, well deserved.


Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Ellen Burstyn   d/ Martin Scorcese

From 1974 this was a significant film at the time: a single mother, recently widowed, sets out across country with her 10 yo son to start a new life. She meets the usual gang of creeps and weirdos before coming upon her dream prince (Kris Kristofferson) with whom she settle down and lived happily ever after.

Film still works because of EB's performance and the pervasive sense of grit in the way the story is told. Genuine populist entertainment...a film which closely reflects life the way it actually works.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

What Happened, Miss Simone?


Sharp, very sad account of the life and times of Nina Simone, musician, singer, civil rights activist. She started playing piano at her mother's church at age 4, got scholarships to study music at Juliard and was headed to become the first black concert pianist.

She married a NYC cop who managed her career (successfully) but who beat her, pushed her to work more and more so he could make more money. Meanwhile she became committed to the Black cause, advocating for violent overthrow of the US government. She became yet another prominent black leader crushed in the white backlash.

This film was done by her daughter who wanted her mother's genius to be remembered regardless of her personal shortcomings. Memorable doc.


Thursday, September 10, 2015



Mostly one set film. A man gets thrown into a walk-in  freezer at the beginning...some Russians come in to demand the money he supposedly stole, etc.

Tense, gripping drama woven around this scenario: how long can this guy hold out as he gradually freezes? Nothing particularly original or groundbreaking here...just a solid well made thriller. Sometimes that's plenty.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Diary of a Teenage Girl

Bel Pawley,  A. Skarsgard, Kristen Wiig

San Francisco 1976. A 15 yo girl seduces her mother's 35 yo boyfriend. Complications ensue.

Bel Pawley was outstanding. Her youth, her sensual face with big eyes and puffy lips perfectly captured a young girl teetering on the cusp of adolescence/womanhood. She was living in a licentious time and place, picked up the vibe and ran with it, not realizing the consequences she would necessarily pay for her acts.

Skarsgard also had a difficult role: he had to be likable enough for us not to feel revulsion toward him for what he was doing.

The film came across as frank, open and honest. I thought there were too many sex scenes but that was the pivot of the entire story. Strong stuff, done with clarity and courage.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mistress America

Greta Gerwig   d/ Noah Baumbach

Offbeat, very verbal chronicle of a madcap 20-something who caroms through her life in NYC sprinkling ideas, laughs and failure.

While the lead is a MPDG (manic pixie dream girl), a trope that has fallen into disfavor recently, the film does rocket along carrying us on a bewildering, fast-paced trip into a magical NYC where the neighbors are friendly and supportive and where things usually turn out well. I frequently found myself impatient with the contrivance and thought to turn it off...but...the next scene would pull me in...  I stayed till the very end, head scrambled but vaguely amused.

A successful effort that teetered on the edge of awful all the way...but squeaked by on sheer chutzpah and momentum.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Kiss the Water


Eric Steel's contemplative musing on the life, place and times of Megan Boyd, world-renowned tier of flies for catching salmon, cross-dresser, sometime recluse, staunch individualist, dancer and much talked-about woman in her small seaside Scottish town.

Film was enriched by oil-on-glass animation by EM Cooper, beautiful use of the spectacular Highlands terrain and the haunting remnants of Boyd's crumbling cottage.

Lovely artistic interpretation of one woman's life.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Yellow Handkerchief

William Hurt, Kristen Stewart, Eddie Redmayne

Surprisingly engaging traditional road movie. An unlikely trio set off for New Orleans to re-unite ex-con with his estranged wife, have adventures along the way, end up with a tie-a-yellow-ribbon finale.

Hurt carried the film. KS was actually OK, ER was not believable (not the actor's fault) as a native American weirdo. The pacing and spacing of incident gave the film a languorous air which helped me swallow the pill of cliche.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Reflections in a Golden Eye

Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor   d/ John Huston

Oddball curiosity adapted from a novel by Carson McCullers. The topic is life on a southern army base in the fifties, a time of ostensible peace. But things are not peaceful. We have a closeted major, his harridan wife, the woman neighbor whose fragility is slipping her into a life of darkness, enlisted man who likes to watch. And horses.

Steamy doins are enhanced by a yellow tint embedded in the film...making the whole thing look like it's buried in aspic. For a film seething with sexuality it's remarkably coy: the only nudity is Robert Forster riding a horse bareback and bare-assed. Film felt sordid, dirty with characters constantly picking scabs off old wounds. No fun to watch but it did hold me. Everyone was 'acting.'


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Search for General Tso


Lively, informative doc on the history and evolution of Chinese restaurants in the US. Hated, resented by locals they survived in two businesses outside the whites control - laundries and restaurants.

The sprinkling of Chinese restaurants throughout the country was done by the Chinese-American societies which organized the distribution of families so that no Chinese family would be competing with another Chinese. Wise policy.  That's why there's a Chinese place in nearly every town, no matter how small.

Good story well told.


How I Live Now

England    Saoirse Ronan

A troubled American teen gets shipped to relatives in England, soon after she arrives there's a nuclear explosion...which ruins everything. Especially her burgeoning romance with her cousin Eddy.

The kids get taken away. The bulk of the film is the two girls making their way back home, fighting capture, nature and predatory men. Engaging, if a bit simplistic. I heard this was taken from a YA novel...which seems about right. A little too dumbed down and obvious but a strong story nonetheless.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

White God


An extraordinary film featuring the best dog wrangling ever brought to film. Over 250 live dogs (not CGI) were used in some scenes.

A young girl is forced to give up her beloved dog which leads to incredible consequences for them and their entire city. Plot reminiscent of The Birds. Done in a you-are-there style. Irritating at first when the 12 yo is being treated badly by everyone, the story really cranks up when the mass of dogs escape and rampage through the city.

Oddball film, very effective, original, nicely interwoven parallel stories - truly one of a kind. Marred some by violent dogfight scenes which will keep many from watching it. Unforgettable. No clue on the title.