Movies »Timecrimes

directed by Nacho Vigalondo (2007)

Like anything dealing with the phenomena of time travel, Timecrimes is a bit of a conundrum. Rather than being frustrating though, the questions you’re left asking are part of the film’s appeal. Of course I can’t get into those questions here too specifically without giving away plot, so I’ll just have to find others who’ve seen it to debate.

A small film on a seemingly low budget (but not in a bad way) the movie focuses on one afternoon in the life of a normal, middle aged man named Hector. Through a series of unfortunate and unusual events, his calm life is suddenly disrupted by violence, shock and time travel.

Interesting and mind bending, the movie, which is directed by the charming guy playing the scientist is nearly completely satisfying though sadly there’s one point where I couldnt help asking in frustration “Why did he do that?”

Still it’s great to find a gem like this that raises all sorts of fun questions about the always fascinating theory of time travel.

Available on Netflix instant, this is a quick intriguing afternoon watch that will keep you thinking. Oh, and don’t let the poster scare you off, it’s not a Saw-like gore fest as it might suggest.

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Posted on March 23, 2012

Movies »Bridesmaids

directed by Paul Feig (2011)

Call me Katherine Hegel but with a couple exceptions (Anchorman and Step Brothers) I’ve never been fully satisfied with a Judd Apato film… but sometimes magic happens when he works with Paul Feig.

Now, there’s no way I’m going to compare Bridesmaids to Freaks and Geeks, one of life’s most perfect pleasures, but I was pleasantly surprised by what was touted as a raunchy chic comedy.

There is vomit, pooping, and farting none of which is my go to for laughs, but there’s also some really smart writing, female characters who feel genuine, a sweet romance, and Jon Hamm at his dickish best.

I don’t get the chance to watch movies as much as in my freewheeling days, but I’m glad we chose one that was so enjoyable.

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Posted on March 2, 2012

Movies »Bill Cunningham New York

directed by Richard Press (2010)

Bill Cunningham New York is not a “fashion” movie, per se, but a loving portrait of a man with integrity, individualism and passion.

As one of the original street style photographers – first for Details, then WWD, then the Times, he brought real women and the runway closer together, giving each equal spotlight with his camera.

Still using real (non-digital) film, riding a bike everywhere, refusing to be beholden to anyone, and living in a tiny, cluttered studio – the often cut throat, vain and bitchy world of high fashion has not changed him in the past several decades.

He’s a visual historian of New York and as a person, a true inspiration.

He shows the beauty of a life lived simply, with kindness and passion.

Available on netflix instant.

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Posted on January 30, 2012

Movies »A Chinese Ghost Story 1&3

directed by Siu-Tung Ching (1987 and 1991)

The East does weird in a way that the West simply can’t and the fun, crazy Chinese Ghost Story trilogy proves it.

I remember hearing about these films years ago as elusive, cult classics; and with demons, tongue battles (that would be battles fought with giant monster tongues), walking tree spirits, rapping warriors, slapstick beheadings and ghostly seductions, “cult” is the only way to effectively classify these unique films.

The plots are similar between the two: Beautiful ghost spirit is under the control of a tree demon. Kind, handsome traveler stays the night in her haunted temple and falls in love. Must defeat demons to save her.

The original is more romantic and serious, but both include a healthy dose of humor and slapstick–the third almost to the point of tedium. The second… well sadly I can’t tell you anything about it: see, Netflix instant issues dictated a strange viewing order. First I watched what I assumed was the first movie only to find out afterwards that Netflix had mislabeled it and I had actually watched the third. So, not wanting to forgo seeing the original I watched the first movie (which was labeled Part 2 on Netfilx). At that point I thought we might as well finish up the trilogy, but found all three movies were no longer available. So, only reviewing 1 and 3 and no screen captures from me.

It’s a shame they’ve been taken off Netflix because they’re not readily available in the US–but are worth seeking out for lovers of bizarre cinema. I hope to one day see the second installment and complete the trilogy.

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Posted on January 21, 2012

Movies »Best of 2011 – Movies

I saw many good movies this year (back when I was still able to while Van constantly napped). French children, child brides, vengeful children, children in danger – you’ll find all sorts of children in my short list. As well as charming hookers and wild insects. Have Fun!

1. Small Change

2. Nights of Cabiria

3. Bluebeard

4. White Ribbon

5. See the Sea

6. Microcosmos

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Posted on January 1, 2012

Movies »Perfect Blue

directed by by Satoshi Kon (1997)

The bizarre anime Perfect Blue just kind of explodes in front of you. It’s startling, disorienting and rapid. It never allows you to get too comfortable wrapping your head around it. Even the pop songs get truncated suddenly.

While the experience is jolting and one you just have to let take you with it, afterwards the effect is lasting and unsettling. I feel like I’m still not done thinking about it.

The story concerns a pop star turned actress who looses her innocence for stardom and perhaps attracts the murderous attentions of a distraught fan.

People around her start dying (and the movie takes on a Giallo sheen) But to say this is a serial killer movie about a pop star is like saying El Topo is a western.

After lots of twists, Things wrap up neater than expected, I had kind of hoped it would have retained its vagueness- still, this is a wild one and not for the kiddos!

A great companion to the similarly themed Black Swan.

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Posted on December 18, 2011

Movies »The Trip

directed by Michael Winterbottom (2011)

It’s a compliment to Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip that it reminds me of one of my most favorite movies of all time, Withnail and I – and not just because it features two long time friends from the city headed into England’s more rural areas.

There’s a very bittersweet poignancy that both films reveal about friendship, being stuck as the person you are and the simple pains that come with being alive. (Even if it gets a touch heavy handed at the end).

Steve Coogan is particularly and hilariously self effacing as himself (?) traveling on a wine and food tour that was originally meant to be taken with his young girlfriend.

Instead, after being told they are “taking a break” he reluctantly brings along Rob Brydon who, unlike Coogan seems perfectly content with his place in the world even if his goofy impersonations and happiness make him an annoyance to those around him.

The two bicker, joke, insult and chat through gourmet meals. At first, I couldn’t imagine how anyone that was not already a fan of these actors could take any interest in the film, but the beautifully photographed and well put together film transcends its seemingly dull plot to evoke a quiet swelling of emotions while also making you laugh out loud.

You’ve seen one of the funniest clips if you’ve watched “This is How Michael Caine Speaks” but there’s more to this gem of a movie.

It’s on Netflix instant, so do enjoy!

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Posted on November 14, 2011

Movies »The Servant

directed by Joseph Losey (1963)

The quietly strange film The Servant grabbed my attention with subtle and indefinable tension. For an hour or so, I couldn’t quite tell why I was so intrigued.

This complex take on class struggle based on the novel by Robin Maugham, written by Harold Pinter, concerns an oblivious upper class young man named tony who has vague plans to make lots of money clearing Brazilian rain forests but can’t pour his own brandy.

Enter Hugo Barrett, a seemingly devoted manservant who slowly becomes integral to Tony’s existence. Bogarde’s performance is key to the movies success. he plays a soft spoken servant hiding the cruelty of a master manipulator. He’s both creepy in his surprising viciousness and alluring in his brazenness. Even naked in silhouette he’s fascinating to watch.

Inventive Cinematography, great use of music (“All Gone”, sung by Cleo Laine), and constant visual and palpable tension make this movie more than a mere social class allegory. It’s also quite beautiful, quietly homoerotic (though this might only be my interpretation) and one of those films that really gets under your skin.

On Netflix instant.

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Posted on October 12, 2011

Movies »The Wild And Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

Directed by Julien Nitzberg (2009)

I started watching The Wild And Wonderful Whites of West Virginia only to turn it off when I started to feel like I was watching one of those A&E train wreck shows.

Then, the next day, I resumed play because it’s like one of those train wrecks you can’t help but look at.

The White family, made infamous in song and local lore by being generally nuts – dealing drugs, raising hell and shooting each other, make for an interesting hour (and might make you afraid to visit West Virginia).

One might call this to exploitative – the age old debate that comes with documentary, especially when the subjects are people whose lives are extreme and divisive and the Whites are surely both. But the Whites seem happy to be exposed raw and relish in their outlaw lifestyle.

Let’s face it, as a person about to write up two fancy French macaroon bakeries in a week, my life could not be more different than the women depicted, seen snorting coke in the hospital room after just giving birth. Yet, without being sentimental there are moments when you have sympathy for these outlaw misfits.

It’s not a wholly masterfully crafted portrait, one wonders what this would have been in the hands of someone like the Maysles, but it’s far more balanced than I expected from the producers of Jackass and the filmmakers don’t get in their own way.

On netflix instant.

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Posted on October 10, 2011

Movies »Exit Through the Gift Shop

directed by Banksy (2010)

Even though I trusted all the rave reviews from the press and friends, I wasn’t sure that Exit Through the Gift Shop would capture my interest as I am not a particular street art fanatic.

However, to my surprise, I was drawn into the film which is clever, humorous, and thought provoking and I walked away with a new found admiration for artist and filmmaker, Banksy.

A thoughtful artist so disinterested in the spotlight that he conducts his interviews in “crime witness” fashion – darkened silhouette and altered voice, Banksy is a foil to Thierry Guetta, a French obsessive who loves attention and doesn’t quite seem to “get” even his own art.

The film begins with Guetta shadowing the biggest names in street art but ends with him becoming the rather comical focus as he stumbles into art superstardom Himself (by basically ripping off the style of all the artists he’s met but ignoring the meaning).

There’s a theory going around that the whole thing is a hoax, that Guetta is Banksy’s own creation. While if anyone seems clever enough to pull off such a hoax it would probably be him, Guetta seems far human and real (honestly no one could fake his insane film within the film Life Remote Control). Banksy and Fairey genuinely seems regretful for their role in creating Mr. Brainwash.

Either way, this is a great watch and you can see on Netflix instant.

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Posted on August 29, 2011

Movies »Little Fugitive

directed by Morris Engel (1953)

Little Fugitive, to be honest, was forced on me by an old friend years ago, and I never fully thanked him. It’s a classic, simple film that effectively shows a day in the life of a little boy.

Forced into exile when he’s convinced by his older brother’s friends that he’s killed him (a plot point that’s not as grim as you might think), adorable Joey runs away to Coney Island until his brother finds him.

Despite being a non-actor, Richie Andrusco is fascinating to watch as he gathers bottle, eats watermelon, and makes friends. It’s just as fun to see the old fashions, signs and scenery of Coney Island circa 1953.

Available on netflix instant, this is a great find for lovers of old New York and anyone in the mood to feel like a child again.

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Posted on August 18, 2011

Movies »The Endless Summer

directed by Bruce Brown (1966)

During this heatwave, nothing has been better to have playing in the background than the 1960’s surfer documentary, The Endless Summer.

The narration is dated and has the innocence and tone of a Disney movie, but in that way it’s quite charming.

Filmmaker Bruce Brown follows two friendly, handsome surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August as they travel the globe in search of perfect waves. In one quite amazing scene, they teach local African villagers how to surf.

It’s goofy and far from modern, but Endless Summer does a great job of romantisicing the nomadic, amiable, and free life of a surfer.

The cinematography, of which Roger Ebert said “almost makes you wonder if Hollywood hasn’t been trying too hard” is often beautiful and it’s always a fun era to see footage of.

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Posted on July 24, 2011

Movies »See The Sea

directed by François Ozon (1997)

See the Sea is the only film in a while that has left me unsettled and jumping at noises in my apartment. Once you hear the premise, and learn that I am about to vacation on an island, you’ll know why.

A mother is left alone at an island vacation home with her ten month old baby. When a young backpacking woman arrives asking to set up camp in her yard, the mother relents looking for a bit of adult companionship, blind to the stranger’s strangeness. Things get creepy fast but subtly.

Marina de Van is amazing as the wanderer. Rarely do movies offer a villain so realistic and understated and they never cast someone that looks so right too. From her tongue ring, to her vacant stare, from her unkempt clothes, to her only smile in the movie (when she talks of her abortion), she embodies the women you see on true crime documentaries perfectly.

As the mother, Sasha Hails is equally interesting. We sympathize with the loneliness she feels with only an infant as company, (believe me!) but mother of the year she is not. There were so many times I was nervous for the child’s safety, whether left alone on a beach or crying in a bath tub, which only adds to the movie’s overall suspense.

Pretty much the worst thing you can imagine, and you begin worrying and imagining it right away, happens but that the conclusion is expected doesn’t make it any less shocking or the getting there any less tense.

A true gem of understated terror.

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Posted on June 28, 2011

Movies »I Start Counting

directed by David Greene (1969)

If I Start Counting were remade, I know exactly the kind of rote crap it would become: it would star some slutty looking not-quite teen and be slick, boring, and lifeless.

This largely forgotten original however, is none of these things. It’s a bit messy, sure, and definitely unpolished but features a great performance by its actual teen star (who you may recognize from An American Werewolf in London) and really effectively creates an eerie tone.

It might remind one of the tenser quiet moments of Black Swan meets a late 60’s after school movie.

When women are being murdered near an abandoned suburb, a young girl, hopelessly in love with her adopted much older brother begins to come to the chilling conclusion that he may be responsible. Hovering between a world of romantic innocence and the violent, dirty, and painful world of adults, she tries to come to terms with her sexuality and her emotions while trying to disprove her suspicions.

I pretty much live to find overlooked treasures like this and am thrilled that Netflix streaming has embraced the discarded films of the past as much as the newest releases.

And even though (as noted) a remake would probably only be junk, if someone with a sense of mood and style were to remake it, Peter Sarsgaard would rule as the older creepy brother and like almost everything I re-cast in my mind, Juliette Lewis would find herself in the role of a mysterious lady he goes to visit. As for the teen, I’d cast an unknown.

Click here for the rest of I Start Counting

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Posted on June 26, 2011

Movies »Microcosmos

directed by Jacques Perrin (1996)

I tend to gravitate to movies and books that explore the darker side of life, but every once and a while I just want to relax with something that makes the world seem wonderful and awe inspiring. The French documentary MicroCosmos is such a film.

I remember the movie making quite a splash with it’s amazing technology that manages to capture the most intimate daily moments of insects and thier surroundings. We follow a bee as it polluantes, we are up close and personal with mating snails, we see a drop of rain bounce a lady bug from her leaf and we are mesmerized by it all.

It makes one see the world in a way we’ve never seen it before. We thought it was great that it was shot in what Jim called “just some French countryside” and not some totally exotic local, making the somewhat familiar magical.

The film is mostly set to music,  bookended with minimal narration. Funnily, and probably acurrately, the French felt this would be a tough sell with Americans and tried to tie it to Jurassic Park to gain an audience.

Like most things I watch these days, this is available streaming on netflix and looks amazing in HD.

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Posted on June 21, 2011

Movies »The Apple

directed by Menahem Golan (1980)

Trying to cash in on the success of Grease and Rocky Horror, the makers of The Apple weren’t terribly ambitious with production values. Their future is one of hologram stickers and aluminum foil but their expectations of how the world would change by 1994 (!) were ambitious indeed. Surprisingly, we are not all being controlled by the devil with holograms and pop music… or are we??

A totally eye popping crazy thing, The Apple is worth at least one viewing in your life. The Adam and Eve parable that could only be described as both dumb and fascinting has become a bit of a cult classic, though to be perfectly honest, it wears a little thin after about an hour.

But just know that between the seemingly unending weepy songs there is a simulated sex dance that looks like it takes place in a Sleepy’s in heaven and a floating car in the sky that abruptly ends everything (though not in quite as cool a way as it does in Repo Man).

The fact that this is a German made film is clear in a million little ways, but the leading lady is unmistakably Canadian, with the kind of slutty, round faced loveliness that I never fail to be charmed by.

Trashy fun, this gem can be seen on Netflix streaming and even if the plot lacks a bit, some of the songs are undeniably catchy. Plus there’s ton’s of latex jumpsuits, see through rain coats, studded everything, and diamond encrusted grills.

It has the dubious distinction of being one of the few movie musicals not made into a live musical. Seems about time to change that, no?

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Posted on June 7, 2011

Movies »Bluebeard

directed by Catherine Breillat (2009)

I have been curious about the work of controversial Frenchwoman Catherine Breillat for some time and was excited to find her Bluebeard available on Netflix. (This may be one of her less controversial films with none of the uncomfortable sex scenes I anticipated – but warning for the squeamish – there is a chicken with it’s head cut off scene).

As you can see by the stills, this film is gorgeous. Any fan of cinematography or photography will be smitten. And the costumes! If you’ve ever been to the Renaissance Faire and wondered what it would look like if everyone there was as fashionable as you, then you must see this movie. The many ways floor length can look incredible in the out of doors is alone worth a viewing.

But beyond the aesthetics, this is an interesting take on the traditional Bluebeard tale. With a stylized telling of the gory fairytale juxtaposed with two gingham pinafore dressed sisters in an attic reading the tale, Breillat is clearly but subtly capturing the uniquely female experience of being a young girl: When you are dimly aware of sexuality and adulthood, with impressions of love and death, but still a child at heart. A phenomenon described in the film as having the innocence of a dove but the pride of an eagle.

On the fairytale side, two striking young girls become fatherless and the younger one is married off the the ogre of a man, Bluebeard. Not since Lord of the Rings has desperate size been as effectively used on screen. The bride is as tiny as a bird, whereas Bluebeard, in a feat of perfect casting is hulking and gently monstrous.

The other narrative features bickering sisters who, as only sisters can, fight as they cuddle and scare themselves with the bloody story. Something surreal happens in this narrative, but without spoilers, I’d argue that is may not have really happened (if you watch it, maybe we can discuss.)

Between this and recent Brixpick, The White Ribbon, I sense there is something quite remarkable and fascinating going on with the period piece movie in global cinema. If only Hollywood could get so inventive and artistic with theirs – I can’t tell you how boring it all is to see the same corset blandness season after season.

Click here for the rest of Bluebeard

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Posted on May 27, 2011