"All Superheroes Must Die" starts with Charge(Jason Trost, who also… More"All Superheroes Must Die" starts with Charge(Jason Trost, who also wrote and directed) waking up in the middle of a deserted street, battered and bruised. He is not alone, as he is also soon joined by his superhero comrades, Cutthroat(Lucas Till), Shadow(Sophie Merkley) and The Wall(Lee Valmassy). See, it seems their archenemy Rickshaw(James Remar) is tired of having his ass handed to him on a regular basis, so he has forced these heroes to play games in order to save the townspeople, on his own terms, of course. And if round one does not go well, then there is always the bonus round.
"All Superheroes Must Die" proves that sometimes low budget is the best way to go, even with superhero movies, as it allows the filmmakers to take risks with the characters that larger productions could not dream of making.(It is a neat idea to get around special effects by de-powering the characters.) Granted, it is does start out kind of nihilistic but eventually once the viewer learns more about this world and the characters, we come to care about them and get valuable insight about the nature of heroism. Plus, James Remar really seems to be enjoying himself.
In "Girls against Boys," college student Shae(Danielle Panabaker) is… MoreIn "Girls against Boys," college student Shae(Danielle Panabaker) is dumped by her older boyfriend Terry(Andrew Howard) when he returns to his wife. It is little consolation when he tells her that there are plenty of guys her age out there and plenty of anger when she finds out he also has a daughter. In order to cheer her up, her co-worker of two weeks, Lu(Nicole LaLiberte), takes her clubbing and drinking. But when Simon(Michael Stahl-David) takes Shae back to her place, he ends up brutally raping her.
"Girls against Boys" may have decent cinematography and a talented lead actress in Danielle Panabaker. But there is no disguising this run of the mill exploitation movie, and one that takes forever to get started, too. That's not to mention the lack of three dimensional characterization, especially regarding a lead character who comes off as feckless more than anything else, even with her travails. And as little a fan as I am of the police, it is hard to buy them as insensitive and incompetent as they are depicted here, especially once the bodies stop dropping.
If "Stray Dogs" is a challenging movie for some viewers, it might have… MoreIf "Stray Dogs" is a challenging movie for some viewers, it might have to do with more than just its deliberate pacing. In fact, director Tsai Ming Liang has structured this movie unlike most others in that it resembles a jigsaw puzzle more than anything else. So, what might seem confusing at first, soon clarifies to show a portait of a family in crisis living on the edge of starvation with the mother having just left because she can no longer stand it even before the opening credits. After which, her daughter and son hang around a supermarket all day, eating free samples and buying a cabbage. Whether this is because of the fractured family dynamic or the daughter just being one weird kid is up for debate.
In the meantime, the father works at a miserable low paying job holding a sign advertising apartments in a highway median in all sorts of weather which is certainly not for the faint of heart. What Tsai Ming Liang does well is use the irony of all of these luxury apartments being built and then left unoccupied and compare that to people like this family who are homeless and living in squalor in Taipei.
"The Green Prince" is an insightful, fascinating and suspenseful… More"The Green Prince" is an insightful, fascinating and suspenseful documentary about Mosab Hassan Yousef, who is not only the eldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas, but also was an informer for Shin Bet, Israeli internal intelligence. So, as you can imagine, this puts him in a great deal of danger, as his handlers weigh the possibility of blowing his cover versus saving lives. At the same time, this also allows for a unique perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that has been going on for decades with a personal angle.(If I have any trouble with "The Gatekeepers," it is its lack of one.)
As much as "The Green Prince" could stop with just Mosab and Gonen Ben Yitzhak, one of his handlers, talking about their unique experiences and still be highly satisfying, the documentary does not stop there, as it has a few visual cards up its sleeve. For example, Mosab is introduced with his face blacked out before being revealed to the audience. Plus, the documentary expertly uses archival material as a reminder of recent history and putting the subjects' story fully into context.
In "Bird People," Gary Newman(Josh Charles) arrives in Paris for a… MoreIn "Bird People," Gary Newman(Josh Charles) arrives in Paris for a meeting that goes well enough. It is that night when things start to not go so well for him. It turns out that his sleeplessness is not just jet lag, as it proceeds to anxiety. But he soon finds comfort in a cigarette with Simon(Roschdy Zem) who works the front desk. The following day Gary does not get on the plane for Dubai as originally planned, setting in motion a chain of events that includes his immediate resignation from his job. In the meantime, Audrey(Anais Demoustier) goes about her duties as a maid without any idea of this, after having left university.
There is a thin line between inspired and magical and just pure bonkers. With her film "Bird People," director Pascale Ferran manages to walk that line well enough, while also conveying multiple points of view. Those concern the various and sundry people at an airport hotel, especially those workers invisible even when in plain sight. It is only the lucky like Gary who are able to choose how long they stay or simply move on. To his credit, there may be more to Gary than just an empty suit, even if he drinks and smokes too much, as least judging by his reading material of JG Ballard who reportedly wrote about alienation not unlike some of which we see here. On the other hand, the movie does say it is okay to be alone, and that one cannot live on Toblerones alone.
There is a school of thought amongst film critics that so-called… MoreThere is a school of thought amongst film critics that so-called visual poetry should be more the most important element of a documentary, even to the detriment of any information that could be imparted. The technical term for such is watching paint dry.
Case in point is "Samsara" which admittedly does have some beautiful imagery but for most of its length it seems spectacularly random. Some things do shine through such as a freakish sequence and a musical number that should also serve as a preview for the fifth season of 'Orange is the New Black.' Otherwise, there are messages I think about progress and overconsumption. But showing an overweight family at a fast food restaurant is such a cheap shot that it is definitely not the way to go.
In "Robot & Frank," Frank(Frank Langella), a retired second story man,… MoreIn "Robot & Frank," Frank(Frank Langella), a retired second story man, now spends his days walking to town where he visits Jennifer(Susan Sarandon), the librarian. Still, his son Hunter(James Marsden) worries about him. Not being able to make the five hour drive as often as he would like, he buys his father a robot helper. When the robot does not kill him in his sleep, Frank decides to bend the robot's morals a little...
"Robot & Frank" is a modest, unassuming and touching movie about friendship and family, along with the passing of an era as it relates to books. It also benefits greatly from a superb performance from Frank Langella and a nuanced one by Susan Sarandon. But the movie ducks out of a refreshingly straight ahead examination of Alzheimer's Disease by playing some tricky mind games of its own. Plus, the Don Quixote reference is a little too obvious.
Fedora(Marthe Keller), the great actress, is dead.
Presiding over… MoreFedora(Marthe Keller), the great actress, is dead.
Presiding over her spectacle of a funeral in Paris is Dr. Vando(Jose Ferrer), Countess Sobryanski(Hildegard Knef) and Miss Balfour(Frances Sternhagen). Independent film producer Barry Detwiler(William Holden) wonders if he perhaps indirectly caused her death when he arrived two weeks previously in Corfu to ask her to be in a new movie he was producing. Locating her is easy enough but meeting her is not. However, he does get through to her one day in the market in a camera store...
With all that it wants to say on the subjects of acting, aging and Hollywood, it is ironic that "Fedora" takes a long time to get where it wants to go. That holds true until a huge twist that not only turns everything on its head but also makes perfect sense. Even then, Billy Wilder for once in his long and storied career just seems satisfied to go through the motions. But at least there is an excellent performance from Marthe Keller and Michael York being such a good sport.
p.s. V, I read your online SOS. I should have known something was wrong here when I did not get any mass e-mails for about a month. Just a reminder. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children do not do this at home:
In 1971, Pittsburgh Pirates… MoreChildren do not do this at home:
In 1971, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter. While under the influence of LSD because he lost track of time and did not think he had to pitch on that day. To be honest, he was a little wild with eight walks and a hit batter which I don't think is a record, actually. What this documentary does in fine style is showing that there was much more to Dock Ellis than just that one event, warts and all, as he eventually gave up drugs to gain control of his life and became a counselor himself, advocating anonymous treatment for major league players.
At his athletic best, he was a very good pitcher with some excellent teams especially the Pirates of the early 70's. Along with Vida Blue, they became the first African American pitchers to face each other in the All Star Game in 1971. During that same game, Ellis was also the same pitcher who gave up the famed tape measure shot to Reggie Jackson which reportedly led to some bad blood between the two and might have caused the Yankees to trade Ellis, just as Jackson was about to be signed in 1977 because New York was just not big enough for the two of the them.
Ellis was also outspoken on such subjects as race just as the black liberation movement was becoming more visible to mainstream America. And this was also at a time unlike today when professional athletes could be interesting, have fun and share their opinions.
And now one of these days I am finally going to have to watch "Gung Ho" which Dock Ellis plays a small part in.
In "The Congress," the actress Robin Wright lives on the edge of… MoreIn "The Congress," the actress Robin Wright lives on the edge of nowhere and an airport with her two teenaged children, Sarah(Sami Gayle) and Aaron(Kodi Smit-McPhee). Excited to get an offer of any sort, she travels with her longtime agent, Al(Harvey Keitel), to meet with Jeff Green(Danny Huston), the chief of Miramount Studios. It turns out to be something totally different from what she was expecting. Namely, as Jeff puts it, it is to be scanned into a computer, and as he puts it the last deal she will ever make. She declines it flat. But then realizing how much care Aaron will require as he is slowly going deaf and blind, she agrees, with a few conditions.
"The Congress" is a movie about transitions, willing and not, that only begins with this possibly being a transition for director Ari Folman towards live action fiction movies. As far as this being about a transition for Robin Wright, this movie serves as a critical exploration of the difficulty actresses finding work as they get older.(Jeff Green scoffs as Robin's leaving porn off the list. "At her age?" You'd be surprised...)
That's only the beginning as "The Congress," criticizing other science fiction movies as dumb, does the one thing that all decent science fiction movies should be in being about ideas, namely how technology does not always spur on creativity, with hand drawn animation being a prime example used while never forgetting the human element involved. Yes, some of that can be filed under a narrative stretch, but the occasional spectacular imagery makes up for that, not only the animation but also the former hangar and the scanning scene.