Action/Adventure

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

The wonderful Raro Video is single-handedly reminding the world that the Italian crime director Fernando Di Leo once existed. Last year they released a wonderful four-disc box set of Di Leo films (with a Blu-Ray set added just a month ago). The company has also been releasing some of Di Leo's screenwriting efforts for other directors, notably the awesome Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976).

Now comes Young, Violent, Dangerous (Liberi Armati Pericolosi) (1976), directed by Romolo Guerrieri. Though it has an equally crazy title, it's distinctly different in tone. This one is more cautionary, and comes with a little bit of conscience.

Blog entry 03/20/2012 - 2:19pm

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

In one of the opening shots of Mikhail Kalatozov’s Letter Never Sent, four Soviet explorers struggle wordlessly through a throng of birch trees in the middle of a Siberian hinterland. The hand-held camera lurches along with the adventurers as they push on, hip-deep in water and dragging their gear behind them on rafts. There’s something about this scene – the close-up, shaky images of desperate characters fighting against a cold, indifferent nemesis – that instantly recalls George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. In fact, much of Letter Never Sent’s man-vs.-nature conflict plays like a horror film. Here the relentless boogeyman doesn’t wield an axe but fire and ice.

The bare-bones plot involves a geological expedition into Russia’s unforgiving taiga. A team of four surveyors has been sent on a third and final mission to find diamonds, in the hopes that the gems will spur an “industrial revolution” and revitalize the stagnating economy.

Blog entry 03/20/2012 - 1:41pm

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

Jerzy Skolimowski's Essential Killing placed on Cahiers du Cinema's ten best list for 2011, a not-too-shabby achievement. It says a great deal for the Polish-born director Skolimowski, who has been a favorite of that magazine for generations. But it also says something about the critics, who were given two big themes to think about: the primal theme of man-versus-nature, and the more newsworthy theme of Middle Eastern terrorists.

Blog entry 02/07/2012 - 4:20pm

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

Francesco Rosi’s The Moment of Truth is a blood-soaked poem observing (if not totally celebrating) the gory pageantry of the bullfighting circuit.

The film begins with an extended, dialogue-less trek through a religious festival in a Spanish city. Onlookers line the street while Catholic acolytes in Klan-like capirotes lumber through clouds of incense, holding grotesque statues of Jesus and the Virgin. The eerie, slow-paced ritual is suddenly interrupted by a group of manic bulls pushing and bucking their way through the crowd. The solemnity is shattered; people are trampled and tossed and one of the bulls is vanquished for the camera. This is the first of many unsimulated animal deaths in the film. The squeamish are hereby advised.

Blog entry 01/24/2012 - 4:42pm

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

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

While director Edgar Wright was working on his fake trailer for Grindhouse (2007), and preparing Hot Fuzz (2007), Quentin Tarantino screened a couple of cop films for him: Stuart Rosenberg's The Laughing Policeman (1973) and Ruggero Deodato's Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976).

Of the second film, Wright said it was "the most amazing title, ever, apart from Half Past Dead. It's probably the most homoerotic cop film I've ever seen. The cops in it share a bedroom. They have bunks, and they're both real lady killers, but the fact that they share a bedroom -- it's like Bert and Ernie from 'Sesame Street.'"

Blog entry 08/15/2011 - 5:36pm

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

In last year's Kick-Ass, an ordinary comic book nerd dons a costume and becomes a superhero. Despite his lack of superpowers, he eventually finds himself on a super adventure, with a big, spectacular showdown. James Gunn's Super starts out much the same way, except that this hero (played by Rainn Wilson) doesn't know much about comic books and he's a little less of a role model. In fact, comparisons to Travis Bickle are appropriate.

Frank D'Arbo (Wilson) is the ultimate in schlubby. His clothes and hair are schlubby, he lives in a schlubby town (actually Shreveport, Louisiana), and works as a cook in a schlubby little diner. He has somehow lucked into a beautiful wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), though she is on the verge of leaving him; she's a recovering addict and is falling off the wagon. When she finally does, it's for a slick, sleazy club owner/drug dealer, Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Frank feels a terrible sense of injustice; he wants to get his wife back, but he also wants to rescue her from that bad influence.

Blog entry 08/09/2011 - 11:54am

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (ouf of 5): ***1/2

Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) directs this ornate period costume movie, and though it's heavy on the history and may be a tad confusing to Westerners, it all becomes clear enough when Donnie Yen leaps into action. It begins with a flashback to the Sino-Japanese War (1937 to 1945), wherein the Chinese were nothing more than unarmed laborers sent to the front lines. Trapped and unwilling to let the Japanese mow down his colleagues and himself, Chen Zhen (Yen) decides to do something about it. Leaping over barricades and around walls, he takes out several Japanese, including a deadly sniper.

Returning home, he assumes the identity of one of his fallen comrades and joins an underground resistance movement. Undercover, he befriends a nightclub owner, Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong), whose club, the Casablanca, attracts many important dignitaries. Unfortunately, he also meets nightclub singer Kiki (Shu Qi), who may be more than just a nightclub singer.

Blog entry 06/14/2011 - 12:31pm

hannaposter Award-winning director Joe Wright creates a boldly original suspense thriller with Hanna, starring Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Atonement) in the title role. Raised by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna's upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. Sent on a mission by her father, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity. The film opens in select theaters Friday, April 8. And now you have a chance to win a cool Hanna prize package thanks to a giveaway sponsored by GreenCine and Focus Features.

Blog entry 04/05/2011 - 10:30am
Poll 03/16/2011 - 6:15pm

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