In "Kin-Dza-Dza!" Vladimir(Stanislav Lyubshin) is on his way to the… MoreIn "Kin-Dza-Dza!" Vladimir(Stanislav Lyubshin) is on his way to the market when Gedevan(Levan Gabriadze) asks for his help in assisting a homeless person(Anatoli Serenko) who claims to be from another planet. And then to their dismay find out the hard way that he was nowhere near as crazy as he sounded when they materialize in an unfamiliar desert. Vladimir at least holds on to the hope that they are still on earth, at least until Be(Yury Yakoviev) and Uef(Yevgeny Leonov) show up in their flying contraption and are not able to understand a word they say.
"Kin-Dza-Dza1" is an entertaining and imaginative entry in the long list of speculative fiction going back to Jonathan Swift to satirize society through fantastical settings. In this case, it adds a distinctly late Soviet flavor to the recipe of its observations of social mores, with pretty good effects for the time. And even better is the fact that this movie comes with its very own on-screen glossary. Granted it comes halfway through, long after it would have been good to know what 'etsilop' means.
With his hybrid film "Level Five," Chris Marker rambles on more than… MoreWith his hybrid film "Level Five," Chris Marker rambles on more than usual, especially the segments involving Laura(Catherine Belkhodja).(If anyone can tell me what the toy parrot is supposed to symbolize, I would appreciate it.) But once he finds his focus, he really gets on a roll, even anticipating the rise of the internet and Clint Eastwood's masterful diptych "Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima," while warning about the temptation to rewrite history.
The particular bit of history that Marker is obsessed with here is the Battle of Okinawa, the last battle of World War II and one of the most fatal ever, especially as applied to civilian populations. As he points out, the Japanese military authorities sacrificed this distant province in the hope that it would deter the Americans from invading. Instead, Marker claims it led directly to the dropping of the first atomic bombs. I disagree. I think the Americans would have dropped them anyway on Japan as they felt they had to show off their shiny new toys to the Soviet Union.
In "Bachelorette," Regan(Kirsten Dunst) is initially taken aback when… MoreIn "Bachelorette," Regan(Kirsten Dunst) is initially taken aback when her friend Becky(Rebel Wilson) tells her she has gotten engaged to Dale(Hayes MacArthur). But she soon collects herself and rallies their friends Katie(Isla Fisher) and Gena(Lizzy Caplan) to be bridesmaids, even though Gena did not ever want to see her ex, Clyde(vodka spokesperson Adam Scott), again. But things do not go well with the obligatory male stripper and get even worse when they wreck the wedding dress the night before the wedding.
"Bachelorette" is a fast paced comedy with a talented cast, especially Lizzy Caplan who with the best moments in the film proves that 'Masters of Sex' is no fluke. That's not to mention the skinny women being the screwed-up ones for once. But then the movie takes this too far, not only in the department of why people write about characrers they have obvious disdain for, but also implies that the only reason the bridesmaids are not married yet is because they are so screwed up. Personally, movies have to do better than this and make more progressive statements than it is okay for women to behave badly. Because otherwise all you are left with here is a particularly vulgar afterschool special. And correct me if I'm wrong but that has to be the most demure New York City strip club.
In "A Simple Life," Ah Tao(Deannie Yip) has been employed by the… MoreIn "A Simple Life," Ah Tao(Deannie Yip) has been employed by the family of Roger(Andy Lau), a film producer, for decades. Then, one day she has a stroke. Roger pays for her care. With both sensing the end is near for her, he starts looking for a retirement home. Luckily, he knows the owner of one, and is able to cut a deal for a single room for her.
While it may not seem like much happens in "A Simple Life" with its deliberate and episodic approach, it is beneath the surface that it is mostly of interest. Namely, it is concerned with life in Hong Kong where as one character points out the population is getting older. On a general note, it is also about family and how it intersects with work, as Roger is about the only family Ah Tao has near her while Roger does seem a little spoiled for a man his age.
As an informative documentary about the Hollywood Blacklist, "Red… MoreAs an informative documentary about the Hollywood Blacklist, "Red Hollywood" is less interested in the martyrdom of those involved than it is in exploring the question of the work involved and any progressive issues raised in those movies. It also makes a great case for worshiping Susan Hayward, by the way.
But to me the most interesting thing about this cine-essay is not what it imparts directly, but the movies it references and how obscure they are, especially for Hollywood movies. I mean, yes, "Women of the Year" and "On the Waterfront" are mentioned here. But I did not see "Try and Get Me" until last year and the only reason I knew about the semi-clasic "Salt of the Earth" was because it was written about in 'Alternate Oscars' by Danny Peary who contrasted it with "On the Waterfront," released the same year. On the other hand, I have seen the minor red-baiting John Wayne movie "Big Jim McLain" which leads off "Red Hollywood."
As Jake Klein(Elias Koteas) tells it, he used to be a hotshot film… MoreAs Jake Klein(Elias Koteas) tells it, he used to be a hotshot film director in Hollywood. But that was a long time ago and now he makes a living selling real estate. However, he feels he is ripe for a comeback, so he is going to make a movie about his own experiences, having already cast an actor(Mike Vogel) in the lead. But then younger versions of Jake start putting in an appearance and hogging the hot tub, along with a mysterious woman(Jane Seymour) in blue. Otherwise, Jake just wants to sleep in late.
"Jake Squared" gets off to a fine start with its unique take on a mid-life crisis. And it is fun watching Elias Koteas let his hair down for once(so to speak), along with a very fine cast that also includes Jennifer Jason Leigh and Virginia Madsen. But after a while, the movie is simply content to chase its metaphorical tail. Luckily enough, the movie does eventually catch its tail, allowing for one true bit of insightful wisdom to shine through in the end.
Meet John Wojtowicz.
If the name does not sound familiar(and no… MoreMeet John Wojtowicz.
If the name does not sound familiar(and no reason why it should), then it is definitely worth mentioning that he was the inspiration for the movie "Dog Day Afternoon." And he comes off as very much a character himself in this highly engaging documentary. But it was not always that way, as he started off as a Goldwater Republican and got married. Four years later, he campaigned for Eugene McCarthy.(Vietnam would do that to a guy.) At the same time, he was also becoming attracted to other men, involving himself in the nascent gay rights movement of the early 70's, partially just to get laid.(He describes himself as 'perverse.' I would amend that to 'polymorphously perverse.') By the way, some of those protests involve same sex marriage.
And that's where Liz Eden, nee Ernest Aron, comes into the picture, Joe's lover who he married in something of a mock ceremony. In fact, he robbed the bank to pay someone to break her out of a psych ward where she was being held on suicide watch. The demand to pay for her sex change operation would come out of the siege at the bank which is no longer there, nor is there any kind of plaque.
So, was Joe a revolutionary or just yet another garden variety common criminal? Depends on who you ask. In any case, he was definitely reckless and it was lucky more people were not killed, as the intense media coverage knocked the even more criminal Richard Nixon off the nightly news. In the end, Joe served his time and Liz got her operation. But since this is not a fairy tale, nobody lived happily ever after.
In "The Man with the Iron Fists," the governor of a province in China… MoreIn "The Man with the Iron Fists," the governor of a province in China assigns Gold Lion(Kuan Tai Chen) the business of transporting the emperor's gold. Except he is ambushed by his own men and killed. Seeking vengeange, Gold Lion's son Zen Yi(Rick Yune) is almost killed himself. Luckily for him, Thaddeus(RZA, who also directed and co-wrote with Eli Roth), a blacksmith, takes him and cares for him. Thaddeus' lady love, Lady Silk(Jamie Chung) works in a bordello run by Madam Blossom(Lucy Liu) whose most recent visitor is Jack Knife(Russell Crowe).
The best advice one can give to a neophyte director is to keep things simple and then move on to more complex scenarios down the line. It's advice that RZA ignores for his first film "The Man with the Iron Fists" and it shows, as the movie contains about 49 protagonists and borrows from just as many sources, making this something of a mess. And unlike many rappers, RZA has little screen presence. But all is not lost here, as the action scenes are well devised with a particular delight being the hall of mirrors sequence, even if the climactic sequence does raise a red flag or two. And then there is Russell Crowe having fun channeling his one-time co-star Oliver Reed.
In "The First Time," Dave(Dylan O'Brien) is working up the nerve to… MoreIn "The First Time," Dave(Dylan O'Brien) is working up the nerve to tell his friend Jane(Victoria Justice) his true feelings about her when he meets Aubrey(Britt Robertson) outside of a party. As they are getting to know each other, they are rudely interrupted by the police who show up to break up the party. Finding shelter at Aubrey's home, they fall asleep in her bedroom before Dave spills wine on her carpet in his hurried attempt to escape out of her second floor window the following morning. In the confusion, he does not get her phone number but rectifies that soon enough, as he arranges to meet Aubrey and her boyfriend Ronny(James Frecheville) at a local multiplex.
Starting with its ambitious and extended theatrical opening sequence, "The First Time" gets right the awkwardness of teenagers in all of its glory, expressed well by its likable cast. Plus, the vinyl is a nice touch.(And if there is not a band called "The Joan Cusack Experience," then there definitely should be.) But as many details as the movie gets right, others don't ring as true.(If in doubt, always go for the Almodovar movie, by the way.) Namely, the fact that Ronny is a few years older than Aubrey should be a matter of concern to someone.
A lot of families have skeletons in their closets. For Arnon… MoreA lot of families have skeletons in their closets. For Arnon Goldfinger(?!?), after his grandmother dies, he finds quite a few creepy looking mink stoles in her closet in her apartment in Israel. On a more metaphorical level, he discovers a friendship his grandparents had with a senior SS officer not only before World War II, but after.
To be honest, that's not as weird as it sounds. That's for the simple reason that emigrants tend to identify more with the country they came from, then the one they move to, as his grandparents continued to speak German after they arrived in Israel, never learning to speak Hebrew.(As he recalled in his autobiography, Kirk Douglas remembers hearing German songs when he was filming on location in Israel which made him very, very angry.) At least, Arnon is in the right neighborhood when he talks about generational differences, even as he cannot truly overcome the home movie aesthetics of his documentary "The Flat."