Friday, November 30, 2012

A Non-review of King Kelly (2012) or when found footage goes wrong


Just as I was about to descend into DOC NYC I was given the chance to see Andrew Neel's King Kelly. I accepted the invitation but deferred it until I was not in the middle of all of the documentary screenings

King Kelly is about a young woman who thinks she'll make it big as an on line porn model. Kelly feels her online masturbation and strip teases will lead to something bigger. Her world gets thrown upside down when her ex-boyfriend comes to reclaim his car. When she goes to reclaim the car, because of what is in the trunk, she is sent on a long adventure that is more black comedy than comedy.

Give Louisa Krause extra tokens; she gives a tour de force performance as Kelly. It’s a raw and literally naked performance that is the one redeeming factor in an otherwise largely mistaken film. If I made it in to the end it was because of her.

The problem with the film is, as so they trumpet proudly, shot on I-phones. This isn't Night Fishing Park Chan-wook's intriguing experimental short film, rather this is the annoying as all hell characters film every god damn moment of everything they do sort of film.

Why did they do this?

No wait, it's not why do they do this, the characters can feel free to film everything... no the real question is why the hell don't directors and editors chop the footage down to something that makes sense? The question is why does Neel, and other directors of similar films, choose to show us so much crap?

If you think about it, unless we are stuck watching someone’s home movies or raw footage, no one shows us everything they shoot. Anyone one with any sort of brain would chop the material down so we see just what we need to see. In a conventional narrative you can show some of the extraneous material to bridge getting from place to place, but in a found footage POV style film the walking and the running other stuff makes no sense since most people would never film that, they’d shut off the camera.

A semi-aside here, the script for King Kelly actually is a good one. Some of the twists and turns would work if this was a typical narrative film, however within the context of the found footage genre they don't. If this was a conventional narrative we'd know why we are seeing what we are seeing, but in the found footage, you have to ask why are they filming ALL of this? It’s a question that is never answered. Nor are the questions of if they really shot this much of their lives wouldn't their batteries and memories run out? These are all questions that make no sense.

Watching Barry Levinson's The Bay at the NYFF I had a wonderful discussion with Peter Gutierrez about what the rules of found footage films should be. I don't remember them all but there was a rule that there had to be a reason for the person to be filming what they were and there had to be a reason to show us what it was. There also had to be a reason why the film had to be found footage.

King Kelly doesn't have a reason why it all has to be “found footage”. Other than Kelly recording everything, there is no reason for this to be found footage. I'm trying to figure out how or why we are seeing the footage since the film makes no effort to explain it. This footage comes from where? Usually with found footage we told how this was found or at least put together, again there is no effort to explain it, this is just a film told with cell phones.

As you can tell I never could get past the story telling style. I was so bothered by the half-assed found footage nature that dominates the film I lost all patience with it. Everything after the constant filming, for the most part got lost. (I know that most of the characters, even Kelly herself, annoyed the piss out of me as a result)

Sadly I think this film probably would have been dynamite had it not been found footage. I think there is a good story here; the problem is the decision to tell this via found footage undermines everything. There is NO reason for this to be found footage, it adds nothing and subtracts from the film itself (and yes I understand that the film is this way because Kelly and friends film everything, but to me thats not enough reason)

I’m not going to say don’t see the film, some people have really liked it. For example Alec Kubas-Meyer, a friend of Unseen Films who writes for several outlets including Flixist and Indewire posted a rave review which can be found here.  My advise is simply look at some reviews and see what you think. Also think about how you feel about the found footage genre since this film is yet another in the growing line of entries in it.

Jimmy Buffett Live By The Bay (1985)


I am a parrothead.

I have seen Jimmy Buffett in concert more times than anyone else. While I have slackened off going to his concerts I still love much of his music. (And if you must know why I don't go to the concerts it’s purely because it’s become artificial and by rote. It all seems like it’s more about generating product to make the next million rather than not being a trained audio animatronic chimpanzee as Buffett walks through the performances, reading everything off Teleprompters to perform exactly the same concert night after night as can be heard by listening to their broadcasts on Radio Margaritaville)

Current reservations and disappointments aside, there was once the good old days. Long ago and far away going to a Buffett concert was an event where anything could happen and there was a real sense of real wonder instead of a processed cheese sort of thing.

Live by the Bay was made back at the peak of the fun days in Margaritaville. Filmed Miami's Marine Stadium which close to the water we get to watch as Buffett, his band and his fans (some in the water) sing dance and have a grand old time. It’s a perfect representation of what sort of a party Buffett’s concerts can be. While not high tech and flashy the film does what it has to do in order to make us feel like we are there with the crowd. Granted there is no splashing of water from the bay, but I suppose you can just mist yourself with a spray bottle.

The set list, which at the time had a good number of “new” songs, now seems like a greatest hits package. I don’t think I’ve seen or heard a Buffett concert from the last 10 or 15 years that has had a set list that wasn’t created using most of the songs performed here (Ragtop Day being a noticeable exception). As I said this is exactly what a Jimmy Concert frequently is.

I love this film.

How much? Years ago I ripped the audio onto an audio tape and played that in steady rotation with the rest of his albums.

Is it a great film? Hell no, but it is a fun party sort of one.

If you’ve ever wanted to see Buffett in concert this is the best way to do it. Its also the best way to find out if you’re going to like his music since, as I said this is the basis of every concert.

Recommended

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Death Riders (1976)



Summer on the road with The Death Riders, a group of motorcycle and car daredevils. The group is made up of guys in their late teens and early twenties. They travel around in vans and cars going from state fair to state fair and race track to race track. They jump motorcycles, jump and crash cars, drive through burning tunnels, blow themselves up with dynamite and do assorted other stunts.

This is an interesting look at a brand of entertainment thats pretty much gone the way of the wind. Not so long ago automotive thrill shows used to criss cross the US doing wild stunts and providing an evening or afternoons entertainment, usually in conjunction to the state fair or as part of an evenings program of races. But as safety and insurance concerns grew and the places where you could put on these type of shows diminished they disappeared or changed into something else. If you've ever wanted an idea of what it was like to barnstorm the country this film will give you some idea.

To be honest time has not been kind to this film. The one or two camera set ups used often miss a great deal, one crash in the hometown of one of the Riders is not caught on film because the camera was covering the crowd, in particular the grandmother of the one who crashed. We watch as she becomes so upset paramedics have to be called in. At other times the night time filming obscures a good deal of the action. Its as if the film makers were learning on the job, which is okay, because things do improve, however it makes some of the early part of this film slow going. There are other problems, the Riders tend to blend together and the music, while good, never allows for any excitement to creep into the proceedings.

Still this is an interesting time capsule of days "long" gone. Anyone interested in racing or motor sports will get a good look at how safety has changed over the years, and how there really was no safe distance between the track and the crowd.The safety equipment for the riders is non-existent. Many of the stunts, such as the people jump, will probably not be done again with such a care free attitude. Its amazing how times have changed.

No, this is not a great film, its probably only barely a good one. Certainly if you're looking for just spills and chills and stunts its very disappointing, however if you can accept that this is a time capsule of days gone by, made by guys who had nothing even remotely high tech or flashy, then you will probably enjoy yourself for the hour and a half or so that the film runs.

Donnie Yen's Dragon opens tomorrow


Donnie Yen’s Dragon opens tomorrow in select theaters. The film has been playing on VOD for a couple of weeks now, but if you can see it on the big screen you really should make the effort since it has some spectacular action scenes.

For those who don’t know Dragon is a slightly trimmed, retitled version of Wu Xia. This is a martial arts murder mystery that has Takeshi Kaneshiro coming to town to investigate the justifiable killing of a robber by Yen. As Kaneshiro investigates things don’t seem to add up and a dark back story is revealed.

We had extensive coverage of the film and Donnie's many appearances back in July when the film played the New York Asian Film Festival.

Here are links to our coverage of the film:
My review of Wu Xia (Dragon)
My Report on meeting Donnie Yen ( and see below)
Mr C on Wu Xia and Donnie's NYAFF award
Other Donnie Yen Coverage from NYAFF
Donnie Yen at the Secret Iron Monkey Screening
Mondocurry on Donnie Yen at SPL and on Lost Bladesman

As part of the coverage I got to spend a half an hour with Donnie Yen as part of a panel interview. I’m going to be lazy and link to the full interview over at Flixist. Good friend of Unseen Hubert Vigilla transcribed the interview and ran  it back in July and I can’t see the point of re-transcribing something I only asked one or two questions with. For those wanting to know my part in the interview here it is (With many thanks to Hubert):

Do you see a point where you give up action -- you were talking about comedies and stuff -- and say doing drama?

I wouldn't call it giving up. I would do non-action for just the sake of having the opportunity. I mean, not many action actors are being offered to play in non-action movies.

But just like watching you in Bodyguards and Assassins and Wu Xia...

Right.

The parts I remember are your scenes, you know, with your kids, not the fighting. One of the biggest parts in Bodyguards and Assassins is you breaking everybody's heart trying to do the right thing.

Well, maybe what I did in the last six years was working. [laughs]

[laughs] It's fantastic!

Thank you.

So I was wondering if you [had thoughts about purely dramatic roles]?

You know, I would try, but at the end of the day, I don't forget the business model of making a movie. At the end of the day, you're talking about reaching out to as many people in the audience as possible. People come to see a Donnie Yen film, they want to see action. You know, I understand that, I accept it, I respect it. So, if I'm being offered to play a non-action movie, yes, I'd take the opportunity. Why not? I just finished a romantic movie, right? I get paid, I don't sweat. [laughs]

[laughs]

It was a good experience for me, right, but I will never forget my roots and will continue to make action movies.


For those wanting to read the whole thing click here.

If you haven’t seen Dragon and you like action films its definitely worth the effort to track it down. Actually if its playing near you you really should make an effort to see it in a theater since it’s a spectacular film with some of Donnie’s best action set pieces.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Revisiting Yellowbrickroad (2009)


I recently saw the film Yellowbrickroad again on DVD. I had seen the film back in November of 2010 when in screened as part of the New York City Horror festival. At the time I loved the first two thirds of the film which created a terribly oppressive atmosphere. The film collapsed in the final third as the internal logic of the film imploded and the film became untethered.

After seeing the film I wondered how the film would play on home video for two reasons. First because much of the films power came from being trapped with it in the dark. Sitting in a theater you couldn’t escape it. At home you can just stop it (The film is playing on cable right now which forces stops and starts with commercials). The other second reason I was curious about the film was the films truly aggressive surround sound track. Seeing the film in the theater I quickly realized that until recently I had never seen a film that sonically was happening around me. It was scary. Would the fear it created carry over on a regular TV with no surround sound?

Before I talk about how the film plays on DVD I should probably tell you the plot. The film is set in New ENgland ,where in the early 40’s the whole town simply disappeared. They had somehow wandered off a mythical trail called the Yellowbrickroad. One man was eventually found and he simply spoke seeming nonsense (we see period footage retelling the tale as the film opens). As the film proper starts a group of modern day people return to the town and decide to set off on the same road. Things start okay, but it quickly deteriorates as the group quickly finds themselves lost. And then things get worse as some disappear and others become unhinged.

Watching the film on DVD I found that the opening credits/history was brilliantly done. It’s a perfect setting of mood and place and perfectly sets up the story. Then the film started and… well.. the film doesn’t hold up.

To be honest seeing the film again I quickly realized how little of the film doesn’t make sense. Seeing the film the first time when you don’t know what is going to happen next you hang in there more than when you know that the film is going to implode toward the end. Seeing it again I found that while there were a couple of instances where I picked up new things, but mostly I simply noticed how much was missing. There aren’t holes in the plot but chasms. Also watching the film again sans the surround sound I found that the film’s later portions weren’t all that interesting. Its simply just people wandering around in the wilderness. Yes it has moments, but mostly the complete lack of logic (internal) makes it more a laugher and something else you want to shrug off. What was a cool experience in the theater was a waste on an evening at home.

Unless you have a great sound system and big screen TV I'd take a pass, and I sure as hell would skip it if you catch one of the runs on one of the cable commercial stations.

A few brief words on Loco Fighters



If you like wrestling and have a soft spot for Luche Libre then you really should try and track this look at masked Mexican wrestling.

Filled with interviews and lots of clips from matches, the film is like a fans side view of the wrestlers and wrestling. To be certain the film is more than a little jagged, things just sort of seem to be thrown together at times with out rhyme or reason, but at the same time it has an immediacy and an intimacy that few documentaries ever achieve.

To be certain the subject is not for all tastes , but if you like masked wrestling this is a must see.

Check outlets like Oldies and such for cheap editions of the film.

What's bothered me about Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States

Forgive me for just slipping this in, but other than just posting it I don't know where to put it or when it would actually show up. It's also not a full post on it's own so I'm just going to throw this out there.

As Much as I really like the Untold History of the United States, at least whats run so far an what I've read in the book, something has bothered me. To the best of these historians eyes and ears I'm happy to say that Stone hasn't gotten anything wrong. Nothing is made up, all he's done is framed stuff that's out there slightly differently. There are no grand revelations.

That said there has been one thing that has bothered me about the series. Something has niggled at me since I saw the premiere at the New York Film Festival, but I could never put my finger on it. And finally after reading and pondering the article from the Sunday New York Times Magazine I realized whats wrong - The series is set up not only as a history lesson, but as a giant what if machine: What would have happened if the bomb wasn't dropped? What if the Allies had waded into the war with full force instead of dancing around the edges? And the biggest bugaboo What if Henry Wallace had become Vice President a second time instead of Truman? (Wallace is a god of this land of what might have been)

There is nothing wrong with the history it's just that a great deal of how he tells it infers if only certain things had been done differently the world would be a better place. There isn't anything wrong with that but if wishes were fishes we'd never go hungry and if Woody had gone to the police none of this would have happened, but it's not history. To run a second course through the series (or at least the three hours I've seen) of coulda woulda shoulda is waste. Its not history and endless supposition ultimately goes nowhere. Is this a history of what happened or what could have happened? I suspect it might have worked in a two hour film, but over ten hours?

I think what irks the historian in me is not that he supposes that if things had gone differently we'd be in a better place, it's that he's implying an long chain of if this had happened...and this... and this...we'd be okay but it's simply way too much, Stone is throwing out too many links in too long a chain. Tell me the damn history, don't give me what might have happened, because your idea of what might have happened may not have been true and and after a while it doesn't help me in the here and now unconnected to the might have been.

Its a great series, I will buy it on DVD, but I really wish Stone hadn't best guessed so damn much.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Romanian Cinema comes to New York and makes waves BEST INTENTIONS, 3 DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS and EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY

Lincoln Center's Romanian film series MAKING WAVES NEW ROMANIAN CINEMA opens Thursday and it's got some interesting films kicking around. I attended a couple of films last year and was impressed by the atypical, at least by Hollywood standards, way of telling a story so when they announced the series this year I decided to dive in.

I managed to see three films at press screening and  I'd like to tell you about  them now...


BEST INTENTIONS
Weakest of the three films I saw concerns a young man who gets the call that his mother has had what is believed to be a stroke. Packing a bag he rushes to the hospital where he finds his mother is recovering. Over the next four days he'll try to find out if his mother really is okay (she seems to have recovered) and whether or not she should be moved to a big city hospital.

A slice of life film where not a whole hell of alot happens, this is exactly precisely like watching what happens when you get the call that one of your parents has gone into the hospital. I say that it's exactly like it because I've gone through it with both my mom and my dad. The trouble is thats all it is. there is no grand revelation, no tragic turn, it's simply the course of a couple of days. I figured that when the film ended I would find some great revelation, nope. It's not bad but I don't have a clue as to why I'm being told this. However I can accept that it is just a slice of life.

The real problem with the film is how it's shot. Every shot, except the opening and closing sequences, are from some persons point of view. We watch the action from some character in the action. People walking in the hall of the hospital provide a vantage point, people in the other hospital beds (which requires a weird arrangement of beds) , people across a table or even someone in a train car. Nothing is seen that isn't seen by some on screen character. It's a clever idea for ten minutes bt then it gets tired fast. Actually by the time the film ends you're wondering who is witnessing the opening and closing sequences because our hero is all alone in his apartment. (Hubert Vigillia of Fliixist speculates, and I agree, that the scene is witnessed by a cat with a jet pack because there is some slight motion in the camera)

In writing the film up I did some reading on the film which talked about what the film is trying to do, about how the perspective of the film is supposed to highlight how everyone looks to Alex to do something but he never does and the notions of best intentions, but  quite frankly until I was told what the point of it all was I never saw it. Chaulk the film up to being a failure since the filmmaker has to explain it all for us.



3 DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS
The retelling of the final days of Nicholas Ceaușescu the leader of Romania from the moment he decides to flee the mobs 3 days before Christmas 1989.

Told via news footage, interviews and reconstruction the film is tense retelling of the final days of a tyrant. Yes you may know what happened but at the same time the film creates a genuine sense of suspense as you wait for the inevitable to happen.

This is riveting filmmaking...with an expected political statement at the end about what the revolution really brought. This is a fine example of how to blend documentary and recreation to make a film that keeps you riveted to your seat.

This is the best of the three films I saw so far and it's highly recommended.



EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY
Amazingly acted across the board (if there was an ensamble Oscar this would be in contention) this little slice of domestic discord flip flops all over the place and ends up keeping you off balance.

The film concerns Marius, a self centered bore,  who goes to pick up his daughter for a two day holiday out at the sea shore. Stopping off to see his dad and borrow his car, he instantly gets into a fight since its clear his dad doesn't approve of how he handled his divorce and, its implied, his lack of time with his granddaughter.

Arriving at his ex's home he's told that his daughter can't go because she's sick. Marius won't hear of it and begins to steer things so he can take the girl.  Circumstances begin to turn from dramatic to slightly uncomfotably comedic to frightening and by the time the police are called you won't know where this is going....probably not where you expect it to.(some of this will make you shift nervously in your seat)

By turns dramatic, funny, uncomfortable, down right scary and back again, this film's final hour or so had me unsure of where this was going or whether I wanted to be laughing at this or not. Some of this is dark, (some people walked out) but at the same time it's so absurd as to be funny. And when I say funny, I don't mean jokes and gags, I mean it's funny in the realistic way that people do some incredibly stupid things. Some of what happens runs kind of close to some of the stories I've heard from attorneys at the day job in the court system.

When the film ended and I walked out of the theater I was a bit disturbed, kind of rattled and unsure of what I just witnessed. I wanted to talk to some one about it becaue I was kind of ... off. While the film doesn't end horrifically, it's shifts in tones and it's unexpected ending left me off balance. To be certain I had seen a film like no other, but at the same time I didn't know what to really think. I'm still pondering it and whether I want to dive back in again when the film runs in a couple of days. My uncertainty about a repeat viewing aside I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to see a film that isn't remotely Hollywood.

For details on the Romanian series, with show times panel information and details on the multiple FREE screenings this weekend click here.

I should also mention that the very good documentary Turn the Lights Off which played at Tribeca and which I promised to review fully is also playing.  While I never wrote it up fully, my thoughts can be found here.

Year Zero (1979)


John Pilgar’s damning documentary on what happened in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge took over and almost wiped out the country is still a chilling affair. Also chilling is how, because of politics, aid was slow in getting to the survivors. It’s a sad comment on how doing the right thing morally gets cocked up because it may be the wrong thing politically.

Pilgar’s film originally aired on TV in 1979 not long after Pol Pot and his men were chased out of power. Pilgar was one of the first journalists into the country and what he saw sent shock waves through some circles.

The story goes that because of Nixon’s mad man policy of warfare which resulted in his bombing of neutral Cambodia to teach the Viet Cong a lesson by example, the country was destabilized. After the various factions had finished each other off the only ones left were Pol Pot and his psycho band. They then reset the clock to zero and marched everyone into the country for a forced return to the agrarian past. Families were split, any infraction met with horrific torture and death. The whole country was turned into a charnel house. When Pot’s nonsense threatened to spill over into Viet Nam, the Vietnamese marched in chased him out (kind of).

Pilgar’s documentary was very timely when it was new and it hasn’t really dated at all. Sure the events aren’t quite as fresh in the memory, but there are parallels in recent events else where in the world, one need only think of Rwanda to see some mass killings on a large scale.

Pilger pulls no punches, pointing out how and why bad things happened. He also clearly lays blame as to those responsible for millions more deaths after the fact thanks to a lack of humanitarian aid.

I’m old enough to have followed the events when they happened and while there was some memory of events, mostly I was moved simply by the tale told. This is a story of man kind at its darkest.

You owe it to yourself to track the film down and see how bad things happen…

(Reviews of Pilger's follow up documentaries will follow in 2013)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rules for Found Footage Films? Help come up with them.

I'm got some reviews in the cue involving found footage films (and specific almost found footage like POVs). Some I liked and some I didn't. In writing up the films, particularly the ones that don't completely work, I find I constantly keep saying to myself that "The films violate the rules of found footage films".

Rules?

I didn't know there are rules.. there must be since I keep refering to them...but I can't seem to find them anywhere...

Are there rules? I don't know if there are any rules. I know I've talked to a good number of people about the "rules" (pretty much everyone in the side bar) but I don't think that anyone has really seriously codified what a found footage film needs to do to be good. Actually I'm sure some people have written up their own rules, but I'm not too sure that people have taken the pulse of the people and come together to get a consensus as to what the rules are for a good found footage film. 

In order to find a consensus I'm throwing this out to all of you, what do you think are the things that found footage films must always do?How about not do? I know somethings are obvious, and other things are not...but what are these things?

I'm serious tell me what you think the rules should be. Obvious, not so obvious, seemingly off the deep end what do you think makes a good or bad film. I've thrown this out to the other writers here at Unseen as well as to some friends of Unseen Films and I've gotten some very interesting responses, including somethings I never really considered (you'll find out what they are as well as my rules once this project is done).

Tell me what you think, even if it's only to say that you think the whole genre should be flushed..

How can you tell me? Leave a comment below, email me at unseenfilmsinfo@gmail.com or tweet at me @unseenfilms .

Once you send me what you think  I'll compile what you tell me and I'll post it in one of my irregular Sunday Nightcap columns either next weekend or the weekend after.

Seriously I want to know, what are you're rules for found footage so the next time I complain about a film violating the rules I can actually refer to someting.

Poisoned by Polionium: The Litvinenko File (2007)


Very good, but very disheartening tale of Alexander Litvinenko who was a member of the Russian security force, who refused to go along with the orders he was given to kill enemies of the state. The enemies weren’t so much the enemies of the state, more the enemies of the people in power, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Litvinenko spoke out and it cost him his life, he was very publicly poisoned by polonium as the title says, dying a long painful death.

A sad disheartening dunk in the corrupt world of Russian politics and police procedure, this is a film that makes you wonder if the Russian people weren’t better off with the Communists in power, at least then there wasn’t a pretense of civility.

The film looks at Putin, his cronies and the history of their rise to power, as well as the story of Litvinenko and those who tried to put a stop to the criminality. It’s a story of how the KGB and upper echelon in the Soviet Union used their connections and brute force to seize power in a post Communist world. They then started to beat up and kill anyone who got in their way. They even staged terrorist bombings and started a war with Chechnya for ultimately no good reason.

In the middle of all of this came Litvinenko. Basically an honest man he was not happy with the way things were done. The system was set up so that one almost had to extort money just to get by. It was a system where the only difference between the cops and the crooks was who controlled the courts. (Its also a world where well over half the population in Russia spent time in prison, which no doubt makes them more accepting of the criminal nonsense). When he and his friends were asked to stop someone, even if it meant killing him, the group of friends made a video tape detailing all of the nonsense that was going on. The idea was protection if anything happened to them. (They didn’t want to kill anyone because they felt if they did then they then could be killed in return). Litvinenko released the tape on his own and set off a firestorm.

Watching the film I had to wonder, why are we in the West treat Putin and his cronies as anything other than the crooks they are. I suspect because they have nuclear weapons. However on any other level they appear to be completely corrupt and willing to sell anyone or anything (There is a story of an army officer selling two of his men into slavery- after selling all of his weapons and ammunition)

I’m aghast at what the film shows. Based on what we see in this film I’m left wondering why would anyone want to go to the country which seems more like a lawless border town rather than a real country.

That said, the film as a film, is good but not great. The problem is that it wanders all over the place a bit too much. Yes it gives us a clear depiction of the crimes that are being committed in the name of personal profit, but at the same time its 106 minute running time is a bit too long. Somewhere around the 80 minute mark I was checking my watch. I was horrified, but I was also getting bored. Had it been trimmed just a little bit more it would have been a great film.

Out on DVD, it’s definitely worth a look.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nightcap 11/25/ 12 Slices of life, Poppy Hill, Argo and links


Over the past week I cleaned up the back log of reviews and set everything up at Unseen until the Chinese New Year Posts at the start of February. I even have a few thing cued to go up then. I know it sounds mad, but I really do have to keep things cued way in advance since the post a day pledge takes a great deal of work, especially if I'm raiding old reviews less and less.

In going over and straightening out a large number of posts I was struck how I'm very incosistent I am with slice of life films. I seem to like some and hate others.  Then this this week I looked at two reviews for the next wek and I realized what I like and don't like about the genre.

This Tuesday I'm going to talk about a film running as part of the Romanian series at Lincoln Center called Best Intentions. Its about how one man deals with his mother's stroke. Its a good film, but not a great film, the problem is that for all that happens I don't know why we are being shown this slice of life. The film very clearly is about something more, but despite my own best intentions I can't figure out what it is.

On the other end of the spectrum next weekend I'm going to run a short review I did a long time ago for a film called Mother And Son. This is a slice of life dealing with a son who is caring for his dying mother. Almost nothing happens but the film is so incredibly moving that I was near tears through much of it. What is the film about? Life, nothing more or less. there is something so wonderful about the small moments in the film that make it about more than just being a slice of life.

Why is that? Why do some slice of life films move me more than others?

I suspect it's because the better films are the ones with no pretention, just life. The better films simply show us life with no attempt at loading it up with meaning and bells and whistles. They are truly slices of life.

Why am I telling you this? No reason I suppose, other than perhaps to explain my reactions to two films from the same genre that are in someways very similar in basic plot.

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An apology to anyone who is sick of documentaries, this week's theme is in fact more documentaries (and in a couple of weeks I'm doing it all over again). It was not my intention to program so mny of one genre so close together, but things just fell into my lap that way, first I had programmed several weeks of material over several months, but then I compressed things down and what would have been say five and six weeks apart became two.

Please don't let the documentaries turn you off, I have things counter programed such as coverage of the Romanian and Spanish film series at Lincoln Center and other events. I also have a great deal of other things planned over the next few weeks including some Eddie Constantine films, some On Further Review posts, 2012 films, horror films, animated films and other goodies. The documentaries are only a passing phase.

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A full review is coming but I do want to say that I finally have seen Goro Miyazaki's From Up on Poppy Hill, the latest Studio Ghibli film. I think it's a lovely film and one of the better films from the studio. My only real reservation about the film is that because it's Ghibli it looks like every other real world Ghibli film and has no way to stand out. Definitely worth seeing when the film is released next year by GKids (The New York International Children's Film Festival people)

I will add that this isn't a film for little kids, not because there is anyhing bad in it, rather they will be bored silly

Yesterday I saw Ben Affleck's film Argo.  Not sure it's one of the best films of the year, but it is a really good one.For those who don't know it's the true story of how the CIA got six peopleout of Iran after they managed to esacpe from the embassy when it was stormed in 1979.  The best part of the film is that it wratchets up the instenity even if you know how it all comes out, which my friends, is the hallmark of a wonderful film. See it when you get a chance. (Not sure if a full review will be coming  but just see it anyway)

I should also mention a film about the film used as cover in reality called Science Fiction Land was funded through Kickstarter and is coming your way. (and yes I did back it)

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I should also mention that  if you think I post about a lot of films, you should keep in mind just how many I actually watch that you never hear about . For example over the past couple of days I've seen about 12 films from Hong Kong of which you'll only hear about 3. I won't even talk about other films (You should follow me on Twitter @unseenfilms to see all I'm watching and other goodies I fail to mention here)
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Lastly I'll end with some links

Erick Oh's Heart I saw this at this years NYAFF and it was the one of the best shorts they showed.

A strange musical sequence from Hey Krishna

A bonus for one person seeing Paranorman- Harpo Marx treasures

Eric Idle, Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard on Dick

Alternate Movie Posters

On the Hollywood Black List

Decay

Thats it for this week. (And do comeback tomorrow evening when I throw out a question to all of you)

Join the Marines (1937)


Charming romantic comedy action film about a woman who keeps wanting to get away from her strict Marine officer father. She tries to run away and marry Reginald Denny on an ocean liner, but she crashes into a New York cop on his way to the Olympics. Her plans are scuttled and she ends up romantically attached to the cop. The cop, his Olympic dreams shot down, ends up joining the Marines to please her father but quickly finds he's not Marine material when everyone s shipped off to a South Seas island where there is local strife and plague.

There is enough plot in this film for ten current Hollywood movies. Watching the film on DVD I was shocked that the film was coming to what seemed like a conclusion (I'm trained that Hollywood movies today only cover so much ground) when in fact it was just getting started. Moving a long at a brisk pace this film just movie like the wind from place to place, situation to situation and turns everything upside down as our hero's New York sensibility turns everything sideways.

I really liked this film a great deal. Its a super little film that hit me completely unexpectedly. Frankly I'm upset I hadn't watched it sooner so I could have shown it to several friends who like these sort of action comedies.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Marines are Coming (1934)


Odd mix of action and comedy never completely works, but is till worth taking a look at.

The plot has a Marine Lieutenant assigned to a base in San Diego. He is pursued by a Latin singer who is love with him. Our hero also ends up wooing the fiancé of his former rival and winning her. He ends up disgraced when a fracas in a gambling den goes wrong and resigns his commission and starts over as a private. Eventually sent to South America he ends up fighting a bandit who seeks t kill the marine contingent sent to stop him.

First half comedy gives way to second half action and the two halves don't quite come together. The cast is game and manages to sell it as best they can but the shifting gears from one genre to another never quite works. What doesn't help the proceedings is the fact that the film is trapped in the weird warp between silent and sound films that many independent films got caught in where some of the actors seem overly made up, the sound track is free of a musical score and some of the performances are a bit over done. Its not a bad film, its just not a great one.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Doogal (2006)


Let me make this simple:This film should be avoided.

Go find the original version of this film called The Magic Roundabout that has a great collection of English actors doing voices. Here they've changed it all around so that its a bunch of American actors pretend to act for a pay check.

Its awful. Really it is, the difference is like night and day. This is just a good little film ruined by attempts to making it acceptable for American audiences. I have the original version and it's a damn fine animated film by any standard. This re-working is just plain bad.

Not only were the voices changed but  the script was reworded so that it was hip and happening and now. A few changes work but  you know you're in trouble  when you consider that they gave a voice to the moose, who's lips never move and never spoke in the original version. I know I've always wanted to hear Kevin Smith say with almost no emotion "oh look Blue Man Group is in town".

One of the worst films of 2006 or any year. (which is not the case of the original version)

For those who are curious (the vague, off the top of my head so I could have this wrong ) the history of  The Magic Roundabout is that it started life as a French TV series which was dubbed into English rather randomly, I believe, because the people involved didn't speak French. The series was a big hit and spawned a movie back in the 1960's which is quite good (It's out in the UK with both the original French versions and the English) I think the show went on for a long time in various incarnations before this movie- in it's original form, was done as a restart/throw back.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tuesday at the FREE Korean Cultural Serivce says MERRY CHRISTMAS, NORTH


The next FREEE film at the Korean Cultural Service series in Tribeca has a full title of Ryang-kang-do: Merry Christmas, North!

I have next to no information on this film (the Cultural Service hasn't updated their website with details) but Korean Film Biz has the following description:

In Ryangkang-do, a rural area in North Korea, Jong-Soo's dream is to go to Pyongyang, where the Great General KIM lives. To go to Pyongyang, he has to collect and donate as many coppers as he can for the Great General to beat his other friends. But, he's rejected en route to Pyongyang and wanders the woods in grief. Weeping under a tree, he finds a balloon, hanging over his head. Within are Christmas gifts and a toy robot from Seoul, South Korea. The toy robot makes Jong-Soo popular, who was once an outcast. Town kids bring Jong-Soo foods and other necessities in order to see and touch the robot. While the robot becomes a way to collect gasoline for his younger brother to visit a hospital in Pyongyang, there happens to be some childen who want to take the robot from Jong-Soo.

Their full report on the film can be found here.

I'm going to try and get out and see the film on Tuesday. A full report will follow if I do make it.

As always Tribeca Cinemas is located at 54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street.
FREE ADMISSION
All seating is first-come, first served. Doors open at 6:30pm. The movie is at 7

Some of the Conrad Brooks Jan-el Films

Jan-el Beast from East

Conrad Brooks, a decent actor has turned director and made an awful movie.

Jan-el some guy in a loin cloth wakes up after years in hibernation and goes on a rampage.

I thought that this would be a low budget schlock horror film in the style of an Ed Wood movie. Instead we have a shot on camcorder home movie that is worse than watching you aunt's home movies of her trip to the cribbage world tournament in Toledo. Scenes run on and on with nothing happen. We get people walking and walking and going nowhere. You could cut this movie down to fifteen minutes and odds are you'd have a watchable short, but at a hour or so its simply torture.

No offense to Mr Brooks, but the next time someone decides to make a movie with his camcorder they should either take it away or break his hands so he can't work the controls and inflict this sort of pain on an unsuspecting world

Jan-el 2
I misplaced the review of the second film. Its awful. I'm not going to rewatch it to write it up again

Jane-el 3 Hillbilly monster
The spawn of Jan-Gel has arrived in whats the third film of the series. Thats slightly better than whats gone before, but still is pretty crappy.

The plot has the supposed offspring of Jan-Gel breaking out of a carnival and heading off into the woods of Virginia. This is the third film in a series and its easily the best and a vast improvement of the first two films (Jan-Gel Beast From The East and The Beast Returns). Here you have a sense that had the film been paced better you'd have an okay grade Z flick (I discovered this by going backward and forward through the film at high speed because I thought I had missed something in the plot, I hadn't, but I did discover this actually plays better faster)

Brooks is a limited film maker of the point and shoot variety. He uses lots of sequences that have people walking or sitting or doing something to use up tape until a reasonable amount of time has passed so he can insert the next plot point. His films are extremely cheap and you can't really blame him for doing what he can with limited resources. However you can fault him for not learning to pace things better, he's made enough films to know better. Frankly, if he's going to continue to inflict his home movies on the world he should at least make something that people can actually sit through with out nodding off.

Despite being better than the first two films I can't recommend this to anyone other than those who've seen the first two Jan-Gel films and want to see Brook's improvement, however slight, as a film maker. I say this because the person I watched this with, and who didn't see the first two films, wanted to commit me for saying this was better a film than any any other, no matter how bad. (I think the statement was "Better? Are you crazy? How could anything be worse than this...")

The FIlm Society of Lincoln Center SEE IT IN 70MM


The Film Society of Lincoln Center is sending out 2012 and beginning 2013 in grand style with a series of screening where the films were originally released in 70MM. (70mm was the old school IMAX) Yea I know who cares, I mean they just released The Master that way and it didn't look like anything... well that's because it isn't one of these films....these films are huge scale epics and spectacles and the reason that one needs to go to the movies.

Its a great line up full of films that really MUST be seen big. It also has some real surprises, particularly TRON, which I never thought would be revived, much less in 70mm. The thought of being able to see the film again that way is making my mouth water.

Do yourself a favor, take a look at the list and make plans. If you don't live in New York make plans and fly in. Seriously this is a big to do. Not only are these films great but they are running them at one of the best movie houses in New York the Walter Reade Theater.

You want to do this, you really do and in order to push you into going I present the full line up and schedule...

FILMS, DESCRIPTIONS & SCHEDULE

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) 141m
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Countries: USA/UK
Mankind evolves from ape to astronaut to celestial being, while doing battle with artificial intelligence and trying to crack the mystery of some large black monoliths, in Stanley Kurbick and Arthur C. Clarke’s oft-imitated, never equaled sci-fi head trip. Praised and derided in nearly equal measure by critics at the time; now regularly cited as one of the greatest films ever made. Nominated for four 1969 Oscars (though not Best Picture) and a winner for Kubrick’s landmark visual effects—the only official Academy recognition he received in his career.
Friday, December 21, 6:30pm
Monday, December 24, 2:00pm

20th Anniversary screenings!
BARAKA (1992) 96m
Director: Ron Fricke
Country: USA
After cutting his teeth as a cameraman on director Godfrey Regio’s Koyaanisquatsi, Ron Fricke (Samsara) made his own feature directing debut with this breathtaking, wordless, one-of-a-kind travelogue film shot in 25 countries on six continents over the course of two years using a custom-designed 70mm camera. The result is a film unlike any other—a soaring, spiritual journey journey across disparate cultures and civilizations, juxtaposing ancient ritual against modern technology in a dazzling attempt to grasp the full, mysterious breadth of human experience. Featuring the music of Dead Can Dance.
Saturday, December 22, 8:30pm
Friday, December 28, 9:15pm

Archival 70mm print!
CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1964) 154m
Director: John Ford
Country: USA
John Ford’s epic was meant as a final statement of solidarity with American Indians, by turns sympathetic and villainous figures in his earlier movies. Although the studio imposed a questionable cast of non–native American stars in key roles (including Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, and Gilbert Roland) and forced Ford to use some ugly studio interiors, this is a deeply felt valedictory work from one of America’s greatest artists. Widmark is the cavalry captain charged with the sorry task of forcing the fleeing Cheyenne nation back to their barren reservation territory, selected for them by a duplicitous American government. With Carroll Baker as a Quaker teacher sympathetic to the Cheyennes, the beautiful Dolores del Rio as a Spanish woman, and James Stewart and Arthur Kennedy in cameo roles as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Print courtesy of Swedish Film Archive. In English with Swedish subtitles.
Sunday, December 30, 4:30pm
Tuesday, January 1, 6:30pm

GOYA: OR THE HARD WAY TO ENLIGHTENMENT (Goya - oder Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis) (1971) 136m
Director: Konrad Wolf
Countries: East Germany/USSR/Bulgaria/Yugoslavia
Screening supported by the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst
Unjustly overlooked today, director Konrad Wolf was a major figure of post-War East German cinema, and this provocative, brilliantly stylized bio-pic of the controversial Spanish painter is arguably his masterpiece. An epic coproduction of DEFA—the state-run, East German film studio—and the USSR’s famed Lenfilm studio, Wolf’s film (adapted from the historical novel by Lion Feuchtwanger) traces Goya’s evolution from bon vivant court painter for King Carl IV to an enlightened free-thinker whose socially and politically pointed work (including his satirical Caprichos etchings) earns the ire of the Inquisition. The great Lithuanian film star Donastas Banionis (Solaris) gives a towering performance as Goya, surrounded by meticulous period and artistic recreations (Goya’s paintings were reproduced for the film by actual master artists). The result is an altogether remarkable, fiercely anti-authoritarian film somehow made under the watchful eyes of not one but two Communist regimes! Screening supported by the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst
Sunday, December 30, 8:00pm
Tuesday, January 1, 3:00pm

HAMLET (1996) 242m
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Countries: UK/USA
Having established himself, with the Oscar-winning Henry V and Much Ado ABout Nothing, as the screen’s most consummate interpreter of the Bard after Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles, writer-director-actor Kenneth Branagh next decided to try for the heretofore unthinkable: a film version of Shakespeare’s longest—and arguably greatest—play, using the complete unabridged text as the source. The result is a glorious feast of a movie, updating the play’s setting to the 19th century and eschewing the dark, film noir look of previous Hamlet films in favor of bold, vibrant colors and visual pageantry. Branagh is superb as the troubled Danish prince, while the all-star supporting cast includes Julie Christie as Gertrude, Kate Winslet as Ophelia, Derek Jacobi as King Claudius, Robin Williams as Osric, and many more. Magnificently photographed in 70mm by the great Alex Thomson (Excalibur, Year of the Dragon), Hamlet was the last feature film shot entirely in that format until The Master in 2012. Nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design and Score.
Thursday, December 27, 6:30pm

Restored 70mm print!
IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1963) 197m
Director: Stanley Kramer
Country: USA
Made during the short-lived vogue for “epic” comedies featuring a who’s-who of special guest stars (see Around the World in 80 Days and Pepe), Stanley Kramer’s guiltily pleasurable madcap romp begins with a car accident in the Mojave Desert, in which the victim (Jimmy Durante) uses his dying breath to inform five passing motorists (played by legendary comics Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett and Milton Berle) of $350,000 in buried treasure that can be found under a “big W” in Santa Rosita State Park. Thus, the race is on, with grizzled police captain Spencer Tracy and an ever-increasing cavalcade of fortune hunters in hot pursuit. Featuring dozens of cameos by the likes of Jack Benny, Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis and even The Three Stooges, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World further enhanced its epic-ness by shooting in the ultra-wide Ultra Panavision 70 format, also known as single-camera Cinerama, yielding a 2.76:1 aspect ratio. Originally premiered at 210 minutes, then drastically cut to 154 minutes during its initial release, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is here presented in a beautifully restored Ultra Panavision 70 print running 197 minutes.
Saturday, December 22, 2:00pm
Friday, December 28, 5:15pm

Restored 70mm print!
KHARTOUM (1966) 134m
Director: Basil Dearden
Country: UK
Greenlit in the wake of Lawrence of Arabia, this “other” desert battle epic, directed by veteran British craftsman Basil Dearden and starring Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier is none too shabby itself. Nothing if not timely given the subject of foreign intervention in Africa and the Middle East, Khartoum recounts the historical campaign of British Major-General Charles Gordon (Heston), dispatched in 1883 to the titular Sudanese city to restore order following the slaughter of 10,000 British-led Egyptian forces by the self-proclaimed Muslim prophet Muhammad Ahmad (Olivier). Spectacular battle scenes ensue in this thrilling epic that more than delivers on its advertised promise: “Where The Nile Divides, The Great Cinerama Adventure Begins!”
Sunday, December 23, 4:45pm

Restored 70mm print!
LORD JIM (1965) 154m
Director: Richard Brooks
Countries: UK/USA, 70mm; 154m
Fresh from the back-to-back triumphs of Lawrence of Arabia and Becket, Peter O’Toole teamed with director Richard Brooks (In Cold Blood) for this impressive, handsomely mounted but rarely screened adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel about a disgraced merchant seaman’s quest for redemption. Stripped of his sailing papers following an act of cowardice, a former first officer (O’ Toole) slips into the dissolute life of a South Seas drifter, until the day he comes to the aid of a cargo ship in distress and impresses the owner as someone who could be helpful in a native uprising against a warlord known as “The General” (Eil Wallach). Jim soon becomes a hero to the natives, but when a mercenary pirate (James Mason) appears hellbent on stealing the natives’ valuable treasure, a new battle looms.
Wednesday, December 26, 6:30pm
Friday, December 28, 2:00pm

Restored 70mm print!
My Fair Lady (1964) 170m
Director: George Cukor
Country: USA
Winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director and Actor, George Cukor’s magnificent film version of Lerner and Lowe’s Broadway triumph may have made at the end of Hollywood’s golden age of musicals, but it certainly doesn’t lack luster. Controversially cast non-singer Audrey Hepburn gives a now-beloved performance as the Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle who becomes the pet project of highfalutin elocution professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison). The glorious song score—one of the best ever composed for Broadway— includes “The Rain in Spain,” “On the Street Where You Live” and the immortal “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Painstakingly restored in 1994 by film restoration wizards Robert Harris and James Katz (the team responsible for similar restorations of Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia and Vertigo), we are pleased to present this rare 70mm screening of My Fair Lady from Mr. Harris’ own personal restored 70mm print. Print courtesy of Academy Film Archive.
Saturday, December 29, 5:45pm

Restored 70mm print!
Playtime (1967) 126m
Director: Jacques Tati
Countries: France/Italy
After the success of Mon Oncle in 1958, Jacques Tati had become fed up with his signature Monsieur Hulot character. Slowly, he inched his way toward a new kind of cinema—a supremely democratic film starring "everybody," in which the wonders of modern life would relinquish their functionality and become a ravishingly beautiful backdrop to pure human delirium. Tati's journey to Playtime was a long one, 10 years in all. The massive set known as Tativille was built in Saint-Meurice, at the southeast corner of Paris: 100 construction workers made two buildings out of 11,700 square feet of glass, 38,700 square feet of plastic, 31,500 square feet of timber, and 486,000 square feet of concrete. Tativille had its own power plant and approach road, and building number one had its own working escalator. At the end of the road, there was ignominy and bankruptcy. But Jacques Tati was secure in the knowledge that, with Playtime, he had made a masterpiece.
Saturday, December 22, 6:00pm
Thursday, December 27, 3:00pm

Archival 70mm print!
Ryan’s Daughter (1970) 195m
Director: David Lean
Country: UK
That undisputed master of the epic form, David Lean followed his 1965 Doctor Zhivago with another stab at sweeping tragic romance, loosely adapted by frequent Lean screenwriter Robert Bolt from Madame Bovary. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Sarah Miles (the then Mrs. Bolt) as a young lass in a coastal Irish town circa WWI, trapped in a loveless marriage (to schoolteacher Robert Mitchum, who reportedly grew his own marijuana on the set) and drawn into an affair with a shellshocked Major (Christopher Jones) from the occupying British army. Ravishingly photographed by the great Freddie Young (who won an Oscar for his work), Ryan’s Daughter proved a popular hit but a critical failure, and Lean wouldn’t direct again until A Passage to India 14 years later. Print courtesy of Swedish Film Archive. In English with Swedish subtitles.
Saturday, December 29, 1:45pm
Monday, December 31, 3:00pm

Restored 70mm print!
The Sound of Music (1965) 174m
Director: Robert Wise
County: USA
Simply one of the most beloved movies—musical or otherwise—of all time, director Robert Wise’s smashingly effective film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway hit offers a heavily fictionalized account of the real-life von Trapp family, a musically gifted Austrian brood whose lives are irrevocably altered when a young postulant from the local abbey comes to serve as governess to the seven von Trapp children. Immediately finding herself at odds with the widower patriarch Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) and his penchant for military-style discipline, the willful Maria (Julie Andrews) soon fills the air with do-rei-me cheer, before the Nazis annex Austria and everyone runs for the hills. (Climb every mountain, indeed!) Nominated for 10 Academy Awards and winner of five (including Best Picture, Director and Editing), if you’ve never seen The Sound of Music in 70mm, then you’ve never really seen it at all.
Sunday, December 23, 7:45pm
Tuesday, December 25, 3:00pm

Restored 70mm print!
Star! (1968) 176m
Director: Robert Wise
Country: USA
After the success of The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews and director Robert Wise reteamed for this even more lavish bio-pic of legendary actress Gertrude Lawrence, tracing Lawrence’s life from her early days as a chorus girl in a West End revue through her Broadway triumph in 1941’s Lady in the Dark. In between, there are ill-fated romances, an enduring friendship with childhood chum Noël Coward (Daniel Massey in a delicious, Oscar-nominated performance) and many spectacular, Michael Kidd-choreographed production numbers that rank among Andrews’ greatest moments on film. Sadly, many of them were cut from the film during its initial, unsuccessful “roadhsow” engagements in 1968, where it had the misfortune of opening just one month after the similar-themed Funny Girl. Wise removed his “film by” credit from the studio’s drastically trimmed two-hour version, retitled Those Were the Happy Days (which proved to be no more popular with audiences), but the untouched 70mm negative allowed for a full restoration of the original cut—which, if not quite a murdered masterpiece, is nevertheless a drastically underrated last hurrah for the glories of the old-fashioned Hollywood musical.
Sunday, December 23, 1:00pm

30th Anniversary screenings!
Tron (1982) 96m
Director: Steven Lisberger
Country: USA
In the same year as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner—and two before James Cameron prophecized a rise of the machines in The Terminator—writer-director Steven Lisberger delivered his own visionary piece of techno-futurism with this arcade-era classic about a software engineer doing battle with a rival’s malicious spyware...from inside the office mainframe. Jeff Bridges stars as Kevin Flynn, the programmer savant who, upon losing his job with nefarious computer giant ENCOM, makes a valiant late-night attempt to hack into the system, only to find himself a literal ghost in the machine, fighting for his life in a monochromatic olympiad where “identity discs” and “light cycles” are the primitive CGI weapons of choice. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore! A landmark in the combining of live-action and animation, cited by John Lasseter as a formative influence on the founding of Pixar, Tron remains as prescient as ever in its richly imagined blurring of the line between man and cyber avatar.
Saturday, December 29, 9:15pm
Sunday, December 30, 2:00pm

West Side Story (1961) 152m
Director: Robert Wise
Country: USA
Robert Wise’s cinematic landmark brings Shakespeare to Manhattan’s West Side, as Maria (Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) fall in love despite the racially driven gang warfare that threatens the peace in their neighborhood. Shot on the city blocks that would soon after become Lincoln Center and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, the most for any musical. It remains an almost unrivaled big-screen experience, especially in glorious 70mm!
Tuesday, December 25, 7:00pm
Wednesday, December 26, 3:00PM


Public Screening Schedule for SEE IT IN 70MM!
December 21 - January 1

Screening Venue:
The Film Society of Lincoln Center – Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th street, between Broadway & Amsterdam (upper level)

Friday, December 21st
6:30PM 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (141min)

Saturday, December 22nd
2:00 PM IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (197min)
6:00 PM PLAYTIME (126min)
8:30 PM BARAKA (96 min)

Sunday, December 23rd
1:00 PM STAR! (176min)
4:45 PM KHARTOUM (134min)
7:45 PM THE SOUND OF MUSIC (174min)

Monday, December 24th
2:00 PM 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (141min)

Tuesday, December 25th
3:00 PM THE SOUND OF MUSIC (174min)
7:00 PM WEST SIDE STORY (151min)

Wednesday, December 26th
3:00 PM WEST SIDE STORY (151min)
6:30 PM LORD JIM ( 154 min)

Thursday, December 27th
3:00 PM PLAYTIME ( 126min)
6:30 PM HAMLET (242min)

Friday, December 28th
2:00 PM LORD JIM (154min)
5:15 PM IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (197min)
9:15 PM BARAKA (96min)

Saturday, December 29th
1:45 PM RYAN’S DAUGHTER (195min)
5:45 PM MY FAIR LADY (170min)
9:15 PM TRON (96min)

Sunday, December 30th
2:00 PM TRON (96min)
4:30 PM CHEYENNE AUTUMN (154min)
8:00 PM GOYA: OR THE HARD WAY TO ENLIGHTENMENT (136min)

Monday, December 31st
3:00 PM RYAN’S DAUGHTER (195min)

Tuesday, January 1st
3:00 PM GOYA: OR THE HARD WAY TO ENLIGHTENMENT (136min)
6:30 PM CHEYENNE AUTUMN (154min)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The "banned" Miami Connection (1987) review from NYAFF 2012


What follows is the review I originally wrote up for Miami Connection in June. I was asked not to run a full length review until the film was re-released (it’s a 25 year old movie I had seen before) to theaters and DVD this fall by Draft House Films. I honored that and I now present he review I was intending on running, complete with references to a screening five months ago

From the man who gave us LA Street fighter and American Chinatown---

Oh wait better not mention that last one, that's one of the worst films ever made...then again the late director Ricard Park (Woo-sang Park), is one of the least talented directors I've run across. That isn't to say he hasn't made some enjoyable movies, he has, but always in a so awful they are fun, especially with a room full of friends who like to make fun of movies.

To that end I highly recommend you get yourself down to the Walter Reed theater for the screening because Miami Connection is a so bad it's good film that will have you laughing at it, especially if you can manage to get a group who is willing to talk back to the film.

The plot of the film has something to do with biker ninjas who steal drugs from the mafia to use the cash and drugs for their own ends. Add in a bad 1980's hair band called Dragon Sound, who play at a club operated by the evil brother of one of the band members. Put in a dash of action sequences that are likely to kill the audience from laughter.  Sprinkle in bad acting and ridiculous fashions that no one really wore in the 80's and you have one silly silly film. Its a gang film from people who don't understand gangs.

Rock bands are really gangs? who knew?

This is a movie that makes you want to scream "MOVIE SIGN!" and hope that Mike and the bots show up. It really is as close to the bottom of the barrel as you can get.

Under normal circumstances I would tell you to runaway from this film, But NYAFF is showing it at midnight where hopefully it will be full of crazy people looking for a good time. Assuming the audience is into riffing the film together the film should be a blast.

Anyone looking for anything remotely approaching a real good film should be looking elsewhere.

For the record this is not as good as LA Street Fighter, but it's much better than most of director Richard Park's films, but not by much.

If you must see it, see it at the NYAFF screening.


You'll notice I did not mention star and co-director YK Kim who seized control of the movie and tried to reshoot the film and save it from oblivion. Kim was become something of a minor celebrity thanks to his appearances with the film. That was not intentional, rather it was simply that I saw and reviewed the film well in advance of the YK Kim bandwagon showing up. I didn't know the story of his involvement with the behind the film drama, rather I simply took the film on face value... and based it in part on my having stumbled and restumbled upon this film over the year (Its is 25 years old and was out on VHS way back when). The YK Kim story really didn't start to circulate until near the beginning of NYAFF by which time this review was done and I had moved on to other films.

I do think that my view of the film has softened thanks to the stories from the midnight NYAFF screening and the stories told by friends who met YK Kim. I don't think the film is a complete stinker owing to my view of it becoming a party film that should be seen with lots of people rather than just film on it's own.

Detective Malone (1991)


The producers of the Black Cobra series created an odd patch work film out of out takes and reused footage because star Fred Williamson didn't want anything to do with another entry in the series (I wouldn't have wanted anything to do with it either). The resulting film is marginally okay film, at least by the low standard of the Black Cobra series.

This mess is about a gang of terrorists who kidnap an electronics engineer and hold him hostage and demand he create a security system for their compound, or something (I stopped paying attention after a certain point). Williamson's Malone is brought in in order to rescue the man and take out the bad guys.

The fact that this film is "okay" when compared to other films in the series tells you just how poor the rest of the series is. Actually the new footage concerning the bad guys isn't bad and is what keeps the film watchable in a good/bad sort of way. In a weird way it's bad enough to be good and off center enough to make you want to watch it in order to figure out what is going on.

The real problem here is the Williamson material, which is just awful. Much of Williamson's performance is shots of him standing against walls not saying anything while people talk to him or taking part in really bad action sequences. It's embarrassing and had this been a real performance and not one that was put together from clips I would have withdrawn my membership from the Fred Williamson Fan Club.

In all honesty this movie is a bad movie lovers dream, for anyone else this film is going to be a trial by fire. In a weird way I can completely understand why up until recently this film never got a release in the United States (it would be a losing proposition).

Even fans of the series can skip this one.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Scream Bloody Murder (1973 or 75)


Scream bloody laughter, or some such nonsense.

So bad its funny classic about a boy who runs his father over with a bull dozer. When he jumps off the machine it runs his arm over. The crippled boy goes away to the looney bin only to come back on the day his mother remarries. Having thought he'd have mom all alone to himself he sets off and kills his step dad. When mom objects he kills her too. He then heads off on the road where he continues to kill and be haunted by his dead mother. He meets up with an female artist and then things turn weird.

What can I say, this is a gory mess that's jaw droppingly awful. The performances are poor, the plot cock eyed, and amazingly its very similar to a movie made a year or two earlier with the exact same name. This is a movie to stare at in wide wonder, or better yet a movie to rip apart with a bunch of friends.

If you love bad movies seek this puppy out

(FYI- This film has numerous alternate titles so beware)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dead Talk Back (1957)

I'm coming late to the game on this one,and I'm so disappointed. It was shown as part of the sixth season of Mystery Science 3000 which how most people have run across it. The story is that Sinister Cinema discovered the film at the Headliner offices and promptly snapped up the rights to this 1957 horror/crime drama. Bad movie lovers have been feeling the pain ever since.

The plot concerns a woman living in a boarding house who is murdered. The subsequent police investigation includes a machine to talk to the dead. Everyone the woman lived and worked with are suspects.

What can I say about this movie? Its hysterical. I could almost believe that the film was a joke except that there is too much evidence to suggest otherwise. It opens with a nonsensical silent sequence of a man following a woman at night., It moves on to the criminologist explaining about his invention to talk to the dead. From there we get misplaced voice over narration, dialog sequences that seem to have been randomly cut together, a woman who inexplicably disrobes as she speaks to the police, The murder victim clearly holding the arrow to her chest differing murder weapons in different sequences, loopy dialog and some of the wildest hair on record. Its a bad movie lovers dream. I'm going to have to watch this again just to see all of the mistakes, miscues and oddball choices for myself.

This is a movie to get your hands on and pick apart. I know MST3K did just that but this movie is so ripe for destruction that odds are you and your friends and loved ones will come up with infinitely better lines. This is a classic bad movie.

If you want to have a good time with your friends find this movie and watch it, just go easy on the popcorn you might just choke to death when you're laughing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Nightcap 11/18/12 - random statements & Chuck Jones at BAM


My preferred night cap would be a cup of hot cocoa with some cookies.  I know you always wanted to know that...

This is not going to be much of a night cap. I'm working on several long posts for the next few weeks and I'm all tuckered out.

Actually I'm tuckered out because the festival season kicked my ass good. DOC NYC was a great way to end it. I had a great time and I can't thank everyone at the festival for everything. I really can't wait until next year.

Keep reading because I'll have a report on Lincoln Center's Romanian series next week and I'm trying to figure out how to see everything at their Spanish Cinema series. I also have seen the titles for their year ending "See it in 70mm" series and I'm trying to figure out how to camp out in the Walter Reede. (details will follow on that series when they put them up on the website and I can link to them)

Look for some reports over the next couple of weeks of new films that I've been asked to review. Some are good, some are not, but I've seen them and I'm awaiting the embargo dates to pass so I can share the reviews with you.

Speaking of BAD things. This Thursday being Thanksgiving, I've programmed a week of stinkers for you to avoid. None of them are worth your time, though hopefully my pieces will be.

I do want to say that next weekend the Brooklyn Academy of Music will be presenting a series of films by and  related to Chuck Jones. This will include three blocks of his Looney Tunes. Details can be found here.

In other news - I'm being strong armed into doing an Unseen Films Podcast. Not sure if it will happen but we're in negotiation for it to happen.

Lastly some recent or semi recent films you may or may not be reading about in the future:

Paranorman was a good animated film. Not quite the classic I've heard but enjoyable

Lawless kind of didn't interest me at the start but by the end I was hooked.

I finally saw the remake of Fright Night. I liked it but I don't know why anyone felt it was necessary.

I think that's it for now...until next time...

The Bow (2005)


Simply put one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. I adore the first three minutes of the film and have just watched them several times now. I adore the music and will have to see if I can run down a CD of it.

The plot concerns an old man who lives on a derelict boat in the middle of the sea. He ferries people to and from it so they can fish. Living with him is a young girl who came to the boat when she was seven. The old man intends to marry the young girl when she turns 17. All is fine until one day a young man the girls age shows up and begins to awaken her curiosity about the outside world.

Ultimately more fable than real life this is a very good film. The odd dynamic between the old man and the young girl may upset some people but it flows naturally out of the situation. Its also a film that doesn't play to expectations, so much so that when I first saw it  I felt I really had to sit down and watch the film again because there are a couple of things that happened early in the film that seem odd or out of place but are not  that way once you reach the end and I wanted to see  the film without the sense of it being off.

I've seen the film a couple of times now and I'm not sure what I make of it all, however I do know the film still haunts me and on some level colored everything I watched after that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hansel and Gretel (2007)


Korean fairy tale based in part on the Grimm's story only now things are reversed.

A man with a troubled life has a car accident and stumbles into the woods. found by a child he's brought home to recover with her mom, dad, sister and brother. However things transpire that quickly lead him to realize that all is not well and that he may never be able to leave.

If you suppress your desire to compare the film to other works of terror and fantasy in the early going you'll find that this is a pretty good and rather creepy story in the revised fairy tale genre. Its been compared to Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage and  I would say that this would make a hell of a double feature with either (and perhaps even People Under the Stairs). It is ultimately a fairy tale and not a horror movie (its very creepy and doesn't have really big scares) and on that level it scores big points.You can pretty much click off the typical fairy tale elements and see that they are all working here (and no you won't do it while you're watching-though you will be aware that this is not a typical horror film) To be certain it did remind me of other films, but at the same time it bends them to its own end. The film also has several really good characters that lift the film to a higher level. The performances are across the board excellent with any flaws the result of the writing.

I liked the film a great deal and I am both happy and unhappy that I was interrupted in my viewing by a friend because the end left me rocked in both a good way and a bad way. I can't imagine how I would have reacted had the call not come since as is I'm a tad unsettled (which should not imply anything either way since the impact was emotional I'm not sure which way it left me).

Worth a look if you get the chance and like dark fairy tale type stories.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Restless (2006)

Korean martial arts fantasy about a vagabond demon killer, who is actually a wanted royal demon killer, who is drugged by a village and flees before he can get caught and turned over to soldiers for the reward. Falling asleep in what appears to be a temple he crosses over to Mid-Heaven where he arrives just in time to help a higher soul on a special mission who is under attack. The higher soul looks exactly like his lost love, but she doesn't remember anything. The villains are his old friends in the royal demon slayers, now dead and seeking to cross back over into the world of humans.

Trust me its way better then that.

Grand romantic martial arts film is a visual treat. Better yet its really romantic as the notion of "I will remember you forever" is put to the test. And it raises the question of are we our memories, or are they simply the source of all our pain...and joy? There are times when this film just soars with emotion and ideas. Will you love some one forever for real? The film looks great. The world of Mid-Heaven is lush and magically alive. The action sequences, which do rely on CGI and wire work are impressive no matter how you slice them. I particularly liked the battle on the ropes holding up the lanterns which shouldn't work for any number of reasons but manages to actually be something special. Only the final battle to the bad guy a bit too CGI with the vast armies clearly make believe.

I really liked this film a great deal. I don't know if its one of the best (some of the plotting is unclear or takes an odd turn) but for the most part its a solid two hours enjoyment and entertainment.

8 out of 10.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eddie Adams: Saigon '68 (2012) DOCNYC 2012


Photographs do lie - Eddie Adams

My final night at the DOC NYC Film Festival was less film and more discussion. It was also one of the best and most thought provoking nights at the cinema all year.

The evening consisted of a short film called Saigon '68 which looks into the the iconic photograph, see above, that was taken during the Tet Offensive. The film, which had only been finished a day or two before, was made as a kind of trailer or show reel for a longer film on Adams, talks about Adams and then gives the back story concerning the photograph.

The photo, which galvanized many people shows General Loan shooting a prisoner, Nguyễn Văn Lém, on a street in Saigon. Without the back story, and even with it, it is a brutal act showing one man ending another's life. One would think that the dead man was innocent, the truth is another matter. The dead man was a known assassin who was caught in the act of disposing of 30 of his victims. He had earlier killed the family of one of the Generals very good friends. He was operating in a combat zone, in civilian clothes which made him immune to the rules of war. It was even by US standards okay to execute him. Ultimately the dead man was a bad man, as one person on the panel said, he was comparable to Osama bin Laden.

That's the simple version of the story, the full story of all of the parties is even more complex. And its a complexity that was given full reign in the film.

The heart of the evening was an hour plus long discussion of the film, the photograph and history.

The discussion began right at the top when Thom Powers had all of the panelists Hal Buell, former AP photographer and editor; Walter Anderson, former Parade magazine editor; Richard Pyle, former AP photographer; Bill Epperidge, former Life photographer; James S Robbins, author "This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive"; and the director Douglas Sloan, come to the stage to discuss photographer Eddie Adams. Each man talked a bit about their own background and their relationship with Adams, whom they all knew except Robbins, who was well versed on him having written an account of the Tet Offensive where Eddie figured prominently.

After the intros the film was shown before the guys were brought back on stage.

The discussion was incredible. I had thought that the film was going to be the listed 75 minutes so I didn’t bring my camera, figuring that the 10 or 15 minute discussion would be recorded and placed on the Internet. Sadly there was no recording so all that is left to record this monumental gathering of minds is my spotty notes and any memories of any one who was there. I’m going to try and relate what happened but you’ll forgive me when I don’t attribute who said what since I didn’t take complete notes (I was too busy listening and learning). Also keep in mind the order will also not be exactly as it happened rather as I remember it, or in the order I remembered it.

I believe the discussion began with one of the men relating how the first time he met Eddie was when the Beatles came to New York. He was assigned to try and get shots that no one else would and found Eddie in the same place. (In his diary Eddie commented that he considered letting the air out of the Beatles tires so that the fans would have time to break down the barrier and get to them) He then didn’t see Eddie for another year or so when he wandered into a brothel in Viet Nam and met Eddie there. The brothel had been bought out by the Air Force to be used as a press center.

The discussion shifted to how photos have more power than video. With photos the image is frozen in time and you can look at all of the details. With film the images, in the words of one panelist, go in one eye and out the other. To everyone on the panel photos are more powerful.

Will photos have a place without newspapers and magazines? Yes, they said, it will move to the Internet. They felt that there will always be a place for photos, however with the proliferation of everyone’s photos the truly great photos may get lost in the visual noise. (There was also the feeling that the mass population of photographers are no replacement for the trained photojournalist)

Most of the discussion centered on the context of the photo. Director Douglas Sloan asked everyone knowing the story behind the photo does that change how we see the picture. I think it did for most people.

He then asked knowing the background of the people involved, had we been the one with the option to shoot would we have executed the prisoner? I and just under half of the audience said we would. I think this kind of shocked some people, but context is everything and it’s one thing to be safe in a theater in NYC and another to be in a city and country under siege. As one of the panel said the execution is kind of like what happened to Osama bin Laden, and most people seem okay with that.

There was much discussion of Eddie’s feeling toward the picture. Eddie respected the General and kind of regretted taking the picture because it caused him so much trouble (Loan was hounded and branded a war criminal by some even though technically what he did was NOT a war crime). While Eddie didn’t condone what he did he did understand why he did it. Besides Eddie didn’t have any politics, he was there only to take pictures. (Everyone was pretty sure that had he known the impact of the photo in advance Eddie still would have taken it.) Eddie really didn’t want to talk about the photo and would not use it in a collection of his photos. (In the film actor Danny Burstein does quote Eddie talking about the shot)

There was a discussion of the cut throat nature of the photo game and how everyone fought to get the good stuff. Where movies were concerned there was a delay in it getting out since any film had to be flown to Tokyo for processing. The need for speed was such that NBC used a Grand Prix motorcycle rider to get the films to and from the lab.

The decision to use photos was discussed. Every photo used was always debated, even one such as this. Everyone knew it would go out, but it was still debated as a matter of formality. They said that once the photo went into the AP offices in New York the photo was looked at and then sent down the wire within an hour or so. Because of the lag time the explanation of the photo only followed a day later (the movie footage was released several days later and was heavily censored by TV networks)

As time was running out the floor was opened for discussion with the audience. It was an interesting event that resulted in a couple impassioned statements/questions.

One man railed about how it was not okay to execute anyone under any circumstances. He said that Americans should not behave like that. It was pointed out that this was not something that American troops did only something Americans witnessed. (You’ll forgive me I don’t fully remember everything he said). There was a discussion of the US policy that American troops are not to execute prisoners unless there is an absolutely good reason. An account of US troops killing Korean prisoners was related saying that the troops were evacuating and that had they let the prisoners go or left them they would have frozen to death before they could get anywhere.

Later another man, and forgive me for editorializing, who has spent way too long in academia and dealing with the intelligentsia in an ivory tower, asked two questions. The first asked in a condescending manner wondered if we really knew the man executed was bad guy and how? James Robbins, the author of the book on Tet, looked more than a little annoyed with the question and the tone since it was clearly something a person who was not paying attention would ask. He replied off handedly that we knew he as bad because he was caught with 30 bodies, we could track his deeds through pay and other records, past run ins with the man and because his widow said so.

The second question, equally disconnected to reality, he asked about whether Eddie, or any of the photographers ever wondered about the later contextualizing or use of the photos after they took them (Actually it was an incredibly long question full of large words and signified nothing unless you were an academic with no real world experience) . Everyone on the panel basically said you just take the picture,  you react and act you don’t think. There was never a thought about anything other than just capturing the moment.

At some point someone asked about other photographs particularly about one of Jane Fonda in tank. After one of the men quoted an American officer as saying “I wouldn’t cross the street to watch Jane Fonda hang herself” , at that point  the director seized control of the discussion and forced it back on track.

The panelists then discussed how at the same time as this picture appeared the picture of  South Vietnamese soldier carrying his dead daughter from his house was also released. Several places ran the two photos in tandem. The family of the soldier had been killed by an assassin of the sort that the executed Nguyễn Văn Lém was, operating off death lists and killing everyone they found at any target home.

The talk ended not long after that , however I do want to mention that there were two other comments worth noting.

First one of the panelists pondered what the reaction would have been had instead of General Loan, General Westmoreland had done the shooting. The reaction was first there would have been a congressional hearing and after that no one was sure.

There was also much discussion about ending the war and wars. No one on the panel really believed that the photo ended the war, since it was pointed out,  that US involvement lasted longer after it was taken then before.

They commented that ending any war will depend upon how much "skin" the average American would have to give up. With the draft in effect everyone had "skin" in the pot and it helped to end things. Today there is limited exposure and as such the wars drag on. If there was a draft things would be different.

And with that the discussion ended and we were hustled out.

To me it was one of the best and most thought provoking nights at the movies and a perfect way to close out DOC NYC. Honestly I don't think it could have been topped.