Wednesday, December 1, 2010


5 out of 5. Harmony Korine broke cinema and put it back together in his own image with GUMMO. From its non-plot story to the fractured narrative as far as I'm concerned this was the most entertaining and fascinating bit of raw cinema. It's not shock or abstraction for abstractions sake. Theirs and underlying weight of truthful and honest humanity that pulls the viewer in to the lives of those living in a small post-tornado Ohio town. It's daring the viewer to identify with the any one of it's subjects and yet one is lucky they are far removed. What's beautiful is that it doesn't feel forced and leans toward documentary every so often. I'm not sure Harmony Korine has been this good since, though I did enjoy Julian Donkey-boy for its deconstructionist footage and assemblage. If you like your home-movies with the creepy feeling of Deliverance, then you will enjoy this.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

8 1/2

4 out 5. Federico Fellini can be a frustrating director at times. I just watched LA DOLCE VITA and by the end of it I rather preferred 8 1/2. It's clear I cannot stand SATYRICON and that's really the only thing that is clear to me about Fellini. His movies tend to float through scenes and ideas with the sharpest edge left for his characters who are clearly defined...mostly. I'm often left to interpret their real motivations as they all seem to move through a miasma of parties and debauchery that never seem to have any real affect on the story direction. His skill clearly lies in his directing and composition. The photography is beautiful and his actors are chic and interesting to look at. Part of you wants to inhabit that life and another is frustrated right along with the characters. Whatever the case if you can relax and let good cinema wash over you like an incoming tide you'll enjoy Fellini and be left picking sand out of your shorts for days to come.


Monday, September 27, 2010


4 out of 5. Patrice Leconte's RIDICULE takes this period piece game of wit and words and turns it into something quite intriguing. From the unforgettable opening shot to the satisfying conclusion you will delight in the rise of or poor French lord who rises to tear down the aristocrats. Might I say too, the woman in the diving bell is a honey...ahem. Anyway, if you like costume dramas and dig films like Amadeus you might like this.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


3 out of 5. Mario Bava is known for horror but DANGER DIABOLIK is a very cool flick. I don't know what to say, the color the production design, the soundtrack (Ennio Morricone) is all super-spy and even superhero. It's based on an Italian comic by two sisters. The lead, John Phillip Law is a great match for Marisa Mell...beautiful people doing extraordinary things. If you like James Bond and a little Euro-camp to wash it down with you will dig this groovy spectacle.


Saturday, September 11, 2010


5 out of 5. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN by Sergei Eisenstein was incredibly ahead of its time. It has such a contemporary feel to it I really thought it was filmed in the 40s, until I looked again at the release date. The message of course has its propaganda roots but the story is still universal. Eisenstein on images and Shostakovich on music is as close as you can get to a near perfect marriage...right up there with Hitchcock and Hermann. The imagery and cutting is really unique and beautiful, even reminiscent of Bergman at times in the languid interstitial shots that submerge the scene in symbolism. Anyone who enjoys silent movies will be blown away by this epic. Anyone who liked Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible shouldn't miss this either. Even if you don't like silent films...this will surprise you.


Friday, September 3, 2010


4 out of 5. Pietro Germi's DIVORCE-ITALIAN STYLE is a lot of fun! Marcello Mastroianni clearly enjoyed the role of the Sicilian Baron smitten with his cousin but to get rid of his overly loving wife made for an excellent obstacle. You find yourself rooting for the rapscallion. Germi's Seduced and Abandoned was a much harsher approach to comedy and I'm glad to see this has the smoothness of a great tiramisu. If you like screwball comedies played sincerely with real style and pouring over with Italian flavor then you'll dig the hell outta this.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


4 out 5. Michael Hoffman's THE LAST STATION overflows with excellent acting and a real solid story. It makes one wonder how this slipped by so easily without much notice. Maybe the subject of Tolstoy is over everyone's heads and seems daunting. But truth be told it's about the beginning and ending of love and relationships. I wouldn't call it a chick flick, but the subject matter contrasts nicely between serious drama and some rather amusing scenes. I'd call out Helen Mirren as having done an exceptional job but really everyone played with the perfect pitch of sincerity that I'd hate for her performance to shadow anyone else. If you like well-photographed, well-acted films that look like impressionist paintings at times, you should definitely check this one out.


Sunday, August 22, 2010


4 out of 5. MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO is a very creative endeavor from Gus Van Sant. From what I've read about the film I'm kind of glad the investors made him pull back on the Shakespearean dialogue. It was mildly effective in some ways but pulled us away from the emotional state we experienced with the "real" dialogue. High marks for the look and feel of this film though. It was nearly perfect. You can see what a lot of people were talking about in regards to River Phoenix. He embodies his character wholly and always looks like he's having conversations in his head about his next move or motivation. Great if not a safe way to deal with the subject matter. If you liked the Basketball Diaries and Stanley Kubrick'll probably like this.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


4 out of 5. Marc Forster captured the ethereal in his FINDING NEVERLAND. This is probably the closest thing to Johnny Depp playing a fairly straight-forward character. Full of life and whimsy, this piece captures the imagination and pulls you in for a fun ride. I like how this really didn't get a lot of play; a real sleeper hit if there ever was one. Kate Winslet is particularly good as is always Julie Christie. If you want good-hearted film then this might be for you.


Thursday, August 5, 2010


4 out of 5. In Robinson Devor's THE WOMAN CHASER, Patrick Warburton tears up the screen in such an absurd role that you can't help but get sucked in. It has a similar degradation of humanity that Gummo displayed yet it's title character keeps it tongue-in-cheek. Stylized directing and great script make this a joy ride through a 50s era David Lynchian dark comedy. It's not your mainstream kind of's actually funny, sincere and clever without grabbing for the jokes or insulting your intelligence.


Sunday, August 1, 2010


 3 out of 5. Michelangelo Antonioni's first color feature, RED DESERT is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Often it reminded me of HERO in terms of shot choices and cinematography. It even felt a bit sci-fi like the ANDROMEDA STRAIN at times. A woman who suffers from PTSD is suppressed by an industrial environment that is a metaphor for her suffering. The sound design is intrinsic in this piece as well. Not for casual viewers as the abstraction of storyline does not feed the soul. It's an excellent study for those who love film, unbelievable color usage, and composition.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010


3 out 5. Ridley Scott's first feature, THE DUELLISTS was surprisingly entertaining and touched with an experienced hand. The cinematography and costumes really stand out as does the shooting style. Scott often opens up scenes with close-ups and then pulls back to reveal the scene creating a nice abstract tableau for the scene to build from. His compositions are graphically balanced and confident in their framing and blocking of actors. The story and script were interesting if a bit outlandish but I think people like Harvey Keitel's character kept it grounded. For me it fell down with Carradine's performance and character choices. I wasn't convinced what his character said or did until maybe the ending sequences which was really great. If you're a Ridley Scott fan or enjoy period pieces like Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON, you'll enjoy this mostly solid film.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010


3 out of 5. Sergey Bodrov's MONGOL harkens back to an era of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA but without the centerpiece ebullience of Peter O'Toole. Still the acting is quite good and the story is boundlessly epic and heartbreaking at times. This is the first part of a planned trilogy about Genghis Khan's rise to power. I hope they finish it because it's a terribly fascinating cultural and historical journey. If you like BRAVEHEART, CONAN, and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA this is definitely worth a look.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


4 out of 5. What's great about Alejandro González Iñárritu 21 GRAMS is that the rewiring of time was a great way to challenge our perception. Many films after this messed with the concept and many of them came off cheap and gimmicky. He wasn't the first but still it reminded us that editing is also the art of storytelling and that once you've done the artistry of writing and directing a story...that a story can be conceived at a whole other level. Would loved to have scene the shooting script for this.


Sunday, May 23, 2010


3 out 5. ROAD TO PERDITION by Sam Mendes might be a movie you missed the first time around, but it's a real gem. What I liked about it was it's dark quality. For a color film to be a traditional noir that's tough to achieve, but I think it's pulled of well. Secondly the story by Max Allan Collins, based off his graphic novel series of the same name, is very well-grounded and doesn't have that inflated Hollywood-feel. Nothing is over-dramatized and what's there is pretty raw. If you like movies like Unforgiven or Miller's Crossing, this would suit your taste.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


3 out of 5. Alan Parker's THE COMMITMENTS comes to mind as one of the more solid music-based films. I loved the Buddy Holly Story and La Bamba when I was younger and this I think is the best combination of filmmaking and undiscovered musical talent. The energy and dynamics of this large cast is infectious. Maybe I'm a sucker for these types of films since I really can't stand musicals. But you could do worse with a 118 minutes.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


4 out of 5. While I"m at it Alejandro González Iñárritu's AMORES PERROS is worth mentioning as yet another film where he uses connectivity of circumstances to retool our perception of story. The acting is terrific in this and Gael García Bernal really stood out for me. At times it was quite hard to watch but as a whole I think it's visceral quality drew you into the characters state of mind, raising the stakes both internally and externally.


Friday, April 30, 2010


3 out 5. I saw Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger's  BLACK NARCISSUS the other night and the hero here, as with the film RED DESERT, is JACK CARDIFF's cinematography. So much so that the rest of the movie pales by comparison. The story is odd and interesting and some of the acting is pretty good. The directing and shot compositions were quite nice though. It's British so a lot rides on subtlety and melodrama. Unfortunately some of it was hard to agree with. This is one of those film school films that you should definitely watch. It's mildly entertaining, and the protagonist, Sister Rose has a moment that is really quite intriguing on the level of Medea.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


5 out of 5. Craig Gillespie's LARS AND THE REAL GIRL makes you see the good in humanity, especially in community. It forces one to look at how people have to grow beyond traumatic experiences in ways that make very little sense to most of us. The acting is first rate. Since HALF-NELSON I've been a fan of Ryan Gosling's work. He's an actor's actor and he's got my respect. If you like Edward Norton's early work you'll dig this guy. It's hard to compare this movie to anything. It's bittersweet and makes you work for it but by the end, you really get a satisfying pay-off.


Saturday, April 17, 2010


3 out of 5. Philip Ridley's THE REFLECTING SKIN is a richly textured piece of filmwork. There's a lot of metaphor running around in the barren fields of the young Seth Dove. There's a cruelty and the debauchery of childhood innocence that permeates throughout and feels right for some reason. The acting is just okay, but the photography and art direction is really great.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010


4 out of 5. After seeing BADLANDS and giving it a 5, I thought I'd chance DAYS OF HEAVEN to see what else Terrence Malick can do. Suffice it to say he has a style of space and time and poetry that I haven't seen in many directors. If there was a slow-cook movement in film he'd be the head chef. But not slow in the way that Kubrick plays, more like lets build up the slowness with cut-away close-ups of supporting imagery and create a textural piece. The story is well-done and the acting is superb. The cinematography is masterful and I love the ending. If you like Malick you know what you're getting...a film with ease...but not an easy film.


Thursday, April 1, 2010


3 out of 5. Alejandro Jodorworsky's SANTA SANGRE rewards those with thoughtful patience. Saw this again, which is rare for me, but I'm glad I did. Really challenging visuals and pacing that seem abstract and unconnected until the end. What a great third act. If you like bizarre foreign films that remind you of David Lynch...sort of...this is a good bet.



4 out of 5. Speaking of smart people, Miranda July's ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW is all about smart writing. Not the kind of writing like JUNO where everyone sounded witty and verbose but the kind of writing that plays eccentricities off each other but not superfluously. All the pieces fit together into a complex tapestry of character and story that actually mean something. She acts in it as well, which is yet another facet of her crazy abilities as an artist. I wished she'd do more. If you like Todd Solondz work, like Happiness or Palindromes you will most likely dig this.


Thursday, March 25, 2010


3 out of 5. Antonio Bird's RAVENOUS was a surprising treat if you like horror films. This was smart, darkly funny at times with great cast that included GUY PEARCE and ROBERT CARLYLE. I don't watch horror films like I used to but if they were as well done as this I would. The horror in this shifts from situational to one of acceptance by the characters. It's when they cross the line that things really get interesting. If you liked THE PROPOSITION for it's left of center western themes you'll like Ravenous just the same.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


4 out of 5. It's worth mentioning the terrific tale of TOGETHER WITH YOU by Kaige Chen as well. Again he cements relationships and characters with real purpose and heartbreak. The seemingly colorless despair of poverty just makes this piece shine even more as a father does everything he can to help his son survive.


Sunday, March 14, 2010


3 out of 5. Stacy Peralta's CRIPS AND BLOODS: MADE IN AMERICA is a tour-de-force of directing and editing. Beautifully shot and incredibly educational. If you like Gangland this is by far a slicker rendered version of L.A.'s gang history. The story is less shocking but really educational.



4 out of 5. Based on a Joseph March poem, THE SET UP is a film that could have easily been a play. It's one of those films whose narrative has a real earthy feel, much like High Noon, making it very original for its time. It's a simple story told really well, with compelling characters all in high stakes situations. Robert Ryan plays an over-the-hill boxer (35) at the end of his career. He's expected to fall and everyone bets against him. It's a simple story but a gem of a film with great performances and a really rough ending. Feels like something Hemingway might have written.


Monday, March 8, 2010


4 out of 5. Melville's ARMY OF SHADOWS is an intriguing approach to storytelling that challenges convention. The POVs shift from character to character as we become familiar with the ranks of the French Resistance. Melville uses a lot of push-in/pull back focusing which was prevalent for the time. The cinematography is stunning.


Friday, March 5, 2010


4 out of 5. Ted Demme's film, BLOW was a stylish and intriguing. It had the sass of Soderburgh but with a soft, less intrusive approach. Ted Demme's use of various film stock and processing along with a great costume designer really brought this intriguing story through the decades with an easy aesthetic. Johnny Depp does a great job for the most part too capturing the real life character of George Jung. Highly entertaining and highly recommended. If you liked Scarface but wouldn't mind a lot less violence or if you liked Donnie Brasco, you will not be disappointed with this.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


4 out of 5. ONIBABA by Kaneto Shindô was one of the first Japanese films I ever saw. I remember the photography and use of cutaways of the tall grass, luring you into a seduction of safety. It twists and turns and gets really creepy as samurai bodies pile up under the terrible hands of mother and daughter. This is the kind Japanese horror film that I like. Great execution!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010


4 out of 5. I'd never seen Almodóvar's work but since watching VOLVER, from now on I will continue to seek it out. To say that it has heart might sound a bit schmaltzy but his characters feel like you've known them for years. Regardless of language barriers you understand their plight even if it is as crazy and fun as Volver. He captures the sweet-sexy cuteness of Penelope Cruz that I've yet to see an American director bring out of her. If you like unpredictable funny mixed with a cocktail of crime and mystery and a dessert of great character development then this is the feast for you.


Sunday, February 7, 2010


3 out of 5. CUBE is a great example of how a smart director like Vincenzo Natali can make the best use of his art skills with so little. Like PRIMER the concept is deceptively simple and yet highly believable in the context we're given. It's a great little thriller/horror film that is clever and smart without being overly aware of itself. I like these kinds of films because when you pull back to see the larger picture there is an even bigger story at hand.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


4 out of 5. THE BIG HEAT blew me away. It's hard to say who the hero is FRITZ LANG or SYDNEY BOEHM. I'd have to go with Boehm I think. Every character is interesting and nuanced and not at all cliched. Clear specific relationships are established and the story takes twists and turns involving the audience to guess what happens next. The dialogue was superb and layered and some of the acting was quite excellent too. Fritz's directing was very subtle in this piece and it worked wonderfully. If you like NIGHT AND THE CITY or WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS you'll love this.