Reviews

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): Jubal 5/5 / 3:10 to Yuma 4.5/5

Like jazz, the Western is one of the few art forms America can proudly claim as her own. Also like jazz, the Western has deep roots in a broader tradition; its lineage can be traced back to the Greek epics, to biblical narratives, to folk legends of heroes battling demons – internal and external, literal and figurative. There’s a deceptive economy in the way Westerns are told: good guys versus bad guys, man’s futile encroachment on the barren landscape of time and nature, the barely noticeable speck of a cowboy on his horse swallowed up by the vastness of the surroundings.

Blog entry 07/01/2013 - 8:14pm

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): **** 1/2

What was I expecting from this Balkans movie? Something in the way of the infamous A Serbian Film: lots of transgression and sex, adding up to mostly slick/sick exploitation. There is a lot of transgression and sex in The Life and Death of a Porno Gang, the Serbian film from writer/director Mladen Djordjevic, but by the finale of this amazing movie, it has risen so far above mere exploitation that I think the word will no longer cross your mind.

Blog entry 11/12/2012 - 12:29am

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): ** 1/2

Soon after eschewing socialism in the early ‘90s, Albania was one of the first countries to re-form a representative government. However, many Albanians returned to an older form of self-governance: the Kanun.

A set of moral laws dating back at least to the fifteenth century, the Kanun is essentially a ratification of common courtesies and basic principles, transcending political or religious affiliation. One of its more aberrant tenets is the Gjakmarrja, or blood feud.

Blog entry 11/12/2012 - 12:12am

   

Lots to enjoy this week but first thing's first: get out and VOTE! 

Blog entry 11/06/2012 - 10:26am

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): **** 1/2

Was John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969) the most unlikely Hollywood film to ever be nominated for – let alone win – the Oscar for Best Picture? A cursory scroll through the Best Picture Wikipedia entry seems to make it a definite outlier (I don’t really care enough about the Oscars to dig too deep into proving this hypothesis).

Blog entry 11/05/2012 - 7:23pm

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): ****

Foreign Parts (directed by the team of Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki) has all the makings of a groan-inducing activist documentary along the lines of Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s The Garden or (worse) a ghoulish voyeur’s-eye-view of extreme poverty in America. Instead, Paravel/Sniadecki have pulled off the rare verite documentary that manages a formal grace and doesn’t patronize or fetishize its subjects.

Blog entry 10/26/2012 - 6:05pm

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): **** 1/2

This could be the most important documentary of the year. Forget that: of the decade. You might say that it goes against conventional wisdom, except that what it goes against isn't wisdom, really: just conventional, follow-the-leader, lemming-like behavior in the quest for a feel-good quick fix. In any case, the film is going to be extremely unpopular among the powers-that-be in the corporate and medical world.

Blog entry 10/02/2012 - 12:35pm

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): ***

What's in a name -- or more to the point, in a title? The original French title of Mia Hansen-Løve's third feature (after the OK All Is Forgiven and the much better Father of My Children), Goodbye First Love, is the much simpler Un amour de jeunesse, which translates to "Young Love," or maybe "A Love in Youth." The point of this talented writer/filmmaker's latest movie -- if I am anywhere close to understanding it -- concerns how difficult it is for her heroine, Camille, to actually bid good-bye to this first love. Instead she allows herself to become utterly obsessed with it and its vessel, the hunky young man named Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), who keeps telling her, by word and deed, to cool it. 

Blog entry 09/25/2012 - 4:31pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M Anderson
Ratings (out of five): *** 1/2

Movies about teachers can run the gamut from goopy to overly earnest, and even occasionally inspiring. Tony Kaye, the controversial director of American History X, gets credit for trying to explore the dark side of the genre, even darker than Half Nelson. In that movie, Ryan Gosling's history teacher wrestles his demons externally with drugs, but in the emotionally powerful, enlightening drama Detachment, the main character keeps everything inside.

Blog entry 09/17/2012 - 5:38pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M Anderson
Ratings (out of five): **

Fernando Di Leo was a kind of mad genius in the Italian sub-movie industry, starting as a writer for Spaghetti Westerns and moving up to directing a series of astounding crime movies. Raro Video has been slowly unleashing a good many of these in the past couple of years, and many of them are very much worth looking into, especially for exploitation fans. Sadly, Madness (1980) is not one of them.

Forgoing any of the twisty plots and unbelievable action of his earlier films, Madness focuses on a handful of characters and stays mostly in one place. Joe Dallesandro stars as "Joe," an escaped killer who runs around the countryside in a tank top. Apparently, he buried some stolen loot under a fireplace in a country house. 

Blog entry 09/10/2012 - 9:49pm

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