|FRESH FROM THE THEATERS|
Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior. (2003).
"Action-movie stars have become geriatric lately," wrote Richard Corliss in Time back in January. "Arnold is Governor, Sly is about to become a reality-show host, Jean-Claude Van Damme toils in direct-to-video. Jackie Chan is almost a creaky 50, and Jet Li doesn't work much anymore. The genre needs another hero, and [Tony] Jaa (Thai name: Phanom Yeerum) is the fellow to fill the void. He's young - 28 - and good-looking, with a quiet élan to match his athletic skill. He's also a throwback to kung-fu film's early days, when stars and stunt men alike took a licking and kept on kicking. Ong Bak has no crouching, no hiding, no wires, no pixel-perfected stunts. Like Chan's early epics, it convinces you that the mayhem is real, that the star is enduring the pain for your pleasure."
The result? Eric Campos at Film Threat: "I really can't think of anything that hasn't already been said about this, possibly the best martial arts movie ever. Just know that everything you've heard is true. If you like this kind of stuff then this Thai action film is now on your high priority of films to see."
"Nimród Antal's first makes for an impressive debut," wrote Craig Phillips at his blog, Notes from Underdog. "The Hungarian film is set among hapless subway fare inspectors of Budapest (one of the world's oldest subway systems, which contributes to the film's haunting atmosphere), and fairly effortlessly shifts from dark comedy to mystery and, in the film's last section, pretty near horror. By mixing genres, the film teeters precariously on the verge of disjointedness, but is so consistent and strong on atmosphere and pacing that it scarcely matters."
Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany (1984).
"Heimat is many things," writes Gary Couzens at DVD Times. "It's a portrait of German life and the way it changes through much of the twentieth century. It's an epic soap opera, which is not an insult in my book as it has the narrative drive and indelible characters of the best soaps.... All human life is here: tragedy, comedy, love and death, and those simple epiphanic moments of everyday life. Inevitably much of the story deals with the war years, and its fascinating to see the way this develops. There are casual disparaging remarks against Jews and gypsies early on, talk of Hitler in Berlin as the sort of strong leader Germany needs... and before you know it, you see Nazi armbands everywhere you look. Watch this and ask yourself if this could ever happen again. It couldn't, could it...?"
MPD Psycho 2 (2000).
"The greatest strength of Japanese cult auteur Takashi Miike is his seemingly endless ability to transcend genre, to overcome his budgetary and physical limitations, and to produce films that are endlessly surprising," writes Todd at Twitch. MPD Psycho, a six-part mini-series coming out on three DVDs, "is a taut, complex, well written thriller with psychological horror undertones. The complex characters and layers of meaning guarantee that there is lots of material to work with throughout the entire run and the series is chock full of Miike's trademark visual flair. With its combination of police procedural and supernatural overtones comparisons to Twin Peaks are inevitable and while I would neither confuse Miike with Lynch nor say this quite reaches the same heights as Lynch's classic work, it will absolutely have a great deal of appeal to those with a taste for the surreal imaginings of the subconscious mind."
Go Tell the Spartans (1978).
Based on the novel, Incident at Muc Wa, Go Tell the Spartans looks back at the beginning of the war in Vietnam from the vantage point of just a few years after it ended. The message is clear: We should have seen then just how nasty this whole rotten affair was going to turn out. Contemporary relevance, anyone?
As Major Asa Barker, Burt Lancaster "brings a nice subtlety to his character," noted Roger Ebert.
Human Crossing. Volume 4: Instructor's Rain (2004).
"Where are the ninjas? The giant robots? The cute teenage schoolgirls? How do you cosplay for this show? You call this anime?" jokes Carlos Santos at the Anime News Network. "It's called honest, straightforward storytelling, and in an artform that often favors style over substance, it's definitely not a bad idea."