Reviews Archive for January, 2011

The DVD Wrap: Stone, Lebanon, Buried, Piranha 3-D, Death Race 2 … and more

Stone John Curran’s extremely creepy psycho-thriller, Stone, paints a portrait of a Middle America dominated by religious fanatics, talk-radio Cassandras, trailer trash, clandestine meth labs and two-bit criminals. Good people inhabit the same emotionally barren territory, but the potential for violence in their homes is as close as the nearest gun case, liquor cabinet or…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Lebanon, Shock Corridor, Dances with Wolves, Sherlock Jr. and more

We are inside an armored tank with four Israeli soldiers, in Beirut, in the throes of the Lebanon War. The battle is a raging hellfield punctuated with death, only barely comprehensible to the men or to us. Israelis battle Arabs battle Phalangists (Christian Arabs). The streets pop with gunfire. You can’t tell civilians from killers. The tank is hot and stinking and so small, the four can barely move around — tempers flaring, nerves frayed — as they roll though the streets, and peer through a periscope or gun sight seeking traps to avoid, enemies to kill.

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MW on Movies: The Green Hornet, The Dilemma, Another Year, The Illusionist, and Mon Oncle

The Green Hornet (Two Stars) U. S.: Michel Gondry, 2011 The Green Hornet is a comedy-action extravaganza done in a deliberate pop art/ironic style by director Michel Gondry — a pseudo-Marvel super-movie about a super-hero who’s also a rich little schmuck. It’s also about the schmuck’s super-talented Asian sidekick, their sexy Girl Friday, who has…

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MW on Movies: Army of Shadows, The Social Network, Hotel Terminus … and more

It doesn’t get your motor racing in the usual way. Army of Shadows transpires in a gray world, bleak, chilling, full of the shadows of the title, where night is often falling, or has already fallen. And it’s done in a manner that suggests men (and a woman) who know they will die, who are dead already, but still stubbornly refuse to submit.

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The DVD Wrap: The Social Network, Army of Shadows, Dances with Wolves, Raging Bull … and more

The Social Network: Blu-ray Depending upon whom one asks, Facebook is 1) 500 million friends and friends of friends who pretend to care desperately about their friends’ pets and bowel movements (or is that Twitter?), 2) a convenient way for parents to spy on their kids while they’re away at college, or 3) a massive…

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MW on Movies: Season of the Witch and Country Strong

How are we supposed to handle the idea that Cardinal D’Ambroise, faced with a decision that he thinks might actually end the Black Plague, recruits as the witch’s main guards to her trial, two deserters who don’t believe in witches? And then backs them up with a swindler, a wispy priest and an altar boy who wants to be a knight?

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MW on DVDs: Howl, Doctor Zhivago, Gone with the Wind, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, The Quintessential Guy Maddin

The movie is about art and society, but also about how the American justice system is supposed to work — how it’s meant to protect the rights of all, and to balance opposing claims: in this case, the rights of the public not to be disturbed, against the rights of a great poet to disturb them. One leaves Howl inspired by both the spectacle of the trial of the poet and the uncommon poetry of the trial.

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The DVD Wrap: Machete, Dinner for Schmucks, Easy A, Howl … and more

Machete In this insanely hyperactive action flick, Robert Rodriguez delivers on the promise made in the faux “Mexsploitation” trailer that accompanied Grindhouse. It would be folly to attempt any synopsis of Machete, except to recall that Danny Trejo’s character is a former Mexican federal agent, seeking to exact revenge on the American druglord (Steven Seagal)…

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Reviews

gary j dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Ballad of Lefty Brown, Wonder, Blades, Seijun Suzuki, Fellini, Hellraiser, Paradise and more

Yvan Prime on: The DVD Wrapup: Ballad of Lefty Brown, Wonder, Blades, Seijun Suzuki, Fellini, Hellraiser, Paradise and more

Antoine Ratliff on: The DVD Wrapup: Letter From An Unknown Woman, Despicable Me 3, Crucifixion, Maurizio Cattelan, A New Leaf, Silent Night and more

Fernando on: The DVD Wrapup: King George, Cars 3, Overdrive, Afterimage, Glass Castle, Whisky Galore, The Journey, Into the Night, Sissi, Stay Hungry and more

Woody on: The DVD Wrapup: ET, Vietnam, Big Sick, Glory, Certain Women, The Hero, Hana-Bi, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Prison, The Flesh, Moderns … More

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Ray Pride on: The DVD Wrapup: Founder, Punching Henry, Paris 05:59, Apocalypse Child, Donnie Darko, Woman of the Year, Tampopo, Handmaid’s Tale and more

RAY WEIKEL on: The DVD Wrapup: Founder, Punching Henry, Paris 05:59, Apocalypse Child, Donnie Darko, Woman of the Year, Tampopo, Handmaid’s Tale and more

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“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948

“Film festivals, for those who don’t know, are not exactly the glitzy red carpet affairs you see on TV. Those do happen, but they’re a tiny part of the festival. The main part of any film festival are the thousands of people with festival passes hanging on lanyards beneath their anoraks, carrying brochures for movies you have never and will never hear of, desperately scrabbling to sell whatever movie it is to buyers from all over the world. Every hotel bar, every cafe, every restaurant is filled to the brim with these people, talking loudly about non-existent deals. The Brits are the worst because most of the British film industry, with a few honourable exceptions, are scam artists and chancers who move around from company to company failing to get anything good made and trying to cast Danny Dyer in anything that moves. I’m seeing guys here who I first met twenty years ago and who are still wearing the same clothes, doing the same job (albeit for a different company) and spinning the same line of bullshit about how THIS movie has Al Pacino or Meryl Streep or George Clooney attached and, whilst that last one didn’t work out, THIS ONE is going to be HUGE. As the day goes on, they start drinking and it all gets ugly and, well, that’s why I’m the guy walking through the Tiergarten with a camera taking pictures of frozen lakes and pretending this isn’t happening.

“Berlin is cool, though and I’ve been lucky to be doing meetings with some people who want to actually get things done. We’ll see what comes of it.”
~ Julian Simpson