Reviews

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

You may remember the series of short films that opened in limited release back in 2008 under the name of the longest short in the bunch: L’origine de la tendresse (previous coverage). This fine program of live action films was brought to theatrical fruition via a little company called The World According to Shorts and a fellow named Jonathan Howell. Established in 2000, its initial venture (The World According to Shorts) was released via New Yorker Films. That storied film distributor, after taking a hiatus for a year or two, is back in business again and is distributing The World’s… latest assemblage of animated shorts titled Nine Nation Animation. As expected, it’s a good one.

Blog entry 10/25/2011 - 1:32pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of five): *** 

It was quite a surprise to learn that, between Park Chan-wook's extraordinarily lithe, punchy Lady Vengeance (2005) -- the final entry in his equally extraordinary "vengeance" trilogy -- and the bizarre, acid vampire movie Thirst (2009), Park made this very broad, very odd comedy.

It looks as if I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK never saw an American theatrical release, or if it did, it was so small and localized that no critics knew of its existence. It apparently did middling box office in its native Korea as well. It's somewhat similar to Sion Sono's Love Exposure, from Japan, which was released in San Francisco this past summer. It features singularly love-struck characters with peculiar fates. It focuses on three or four specific, off-kilter jokes and runs with these jokes over and over until they connect and make some kind of sense.

Blog entry 10/14/2011 - 5:22pm

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Rating (out of five): *** 1/2

Ill Met By Moonlight (a.k.a. Night Ambush) is about the only Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger collaboration I'd never seen. Why this is important: they are among my favorite filmmakers of all time. At their creative peak, the fruitful collaboration in the 1940s and '50s -- Powell was generally the director/co-writer and Pressburger co-writer/producer, and they dubbed their team “The Archers” -- gave us such lovely gems as The Red Shoes, (my personal favorite) I Know Where I'm Going, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus and A Matter of Life and Death.

Blog entry 10/11/2011 - 12:22pm

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

About halfway through Carlos -- Olivier Assayas’s five-and-a-half hour masterpiece -- the title character (Edgar Ramirez) tells a journalist that “the only struggle that matters is the oppressed versus the imperialist.” Were it up to Carlos, this struggle would be the focal point of a film based on his life. By the time he delivers these words, however, they are a fatuous hot wind. The focus of the film is not the struggle of the oppressed, it’s Carlos’s actual obsession: himself.

Blog entry 10/11/2011 - 11:12am

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

Within a few years of its release in 1921, Victor Sjostrom’s The Phantom Carriage was considered a masterpiece of the cinema, alongside such canonical stalwarts as The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Charlie Chaplin thought The Phantom Carriage was the greatest film ever made. However, as the silent era ended and Carriage’s eye-popping-for-the-time special effects became outmoded, Sjostrom’s film fell out of favor and was soon regarded as more of a relic than a milestone. Fortunately, the Criterion Collection has deigned to restore The Phantom Carriage and bring it once again to the attention of discerning cinephiles.

Blog entry 10/10/2011 - 10:01pm

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

After an absence of ten years, master director John Carpenter's new film The Ward was treated as if it were suddenly deposited in a kitty litter box. It only opened in a couple of theaters, and after disastrous reviews and poor box office, a wider release never materialized. There were cries of Carpenter being "rusty" or "in decline," similar to claims made against Hitchcock, Hawks, Welles, and Chaplin during their later years. Perhaps worse, Carpenter chose to tell a rather old-fashioned ghost story, wherein a ghost sometimes pops out from the shadows. Additionally, the script has a twist ending that further irritated his detractors.

Blog entry 09/26/2011 - 9:28pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of five): *****

The National Film Preservation Foundation, located in San Francisco, has been quietly releasing extraordinary DVD box sets over the past ten years, entitled the "Treasures" series. There isn't a better word for it. These sets are packed with little gems that had to be dug up and assessed before it could be determined how valuable they were. The first set (Treasures from American Film Archives), from 2000, came with fifty comedies, dramas, experimental films, cartoons, newsreels, documentaries, and tons of other stuff, all historically valuable as well as entertaining. Volume Two, from 2004, had more just like it. Volume Three focused on Social Issues, and Volume Four looked at Avant-Garde Film.

Blog entry 09/26/2011 - 8:48pm

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

Michelangelo Frammartino's La Quattro Volte ("The Four Times") is about a goatherd who dies and is reborn as a goat. The goat briefly frolics before it loses its way in a forest and dies of starvation and exposure to the elements. However, the goat’s essence lives on; its being is assimilated into a tree, which is then cut down and converted into charcoal. The end, spoiler alert, etc.

Volte dares you to process it simply, even though it’s composed of eighty minutes of rather simple, wordless, shots. The plot and actors matter very little and are eclipsed by Frammartino’s impressive formal flexing. Volte is more of an installation piece or a moving monograph.

Blog entry 09/20/2011 - 2:09pm

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

The majestic forests of Turkey -- who knew? Sure, we've heard about minarets and the massacre of Armenians, but I, for one, certainly had never heard about all this lush greenery? I know now, thanks to filmmaker Semih Kaplanoglu and his "Yusuf" Trilogy, of which BAL (Honey) is the final film. And a beautiful, quiet, sad addition to the threesome it is. It is also an immensely educational movie -- from the forest that plays a big part in the riveting opening scene to the schooling of the leading character, who stutters (but without the royal pedigree of our Oscar-wining king and his speech). Bal is also, unfortunately, a rather slow movie.

Blog entry 09/20/2011 - 1:43pm

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

Yuen Woo-Ping began his career as an actor in martial arts movies in the 1960s. He rose to prominence when he directed the breakthrough Drunken Master (1978), one of Jackie Chan's greatest early roles. He began a multi-faceted career, involving acting, stunts, fight choreography, and occasional directing. His feats became known in America and he was hired to choreograph the exciting, fluid, fast-paced action sequences for movies like The Matrix series, the Kill Bill movies, and Unleashed as well as international productions like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Kung Fu Hustle, and Fearless. In 2001, Quentin Tarantino helped bring Yuen's dazzling Iron Monkey (1993) to American theaters. But despite all this notice, acclaim, and employment, he has not directed another movie in over ten years. Thankfully True Legend comes out on DVD this week, and it's a real stunner.

Blog entry 09/12/2011 - 5:55pm

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