Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recent Film Reviews, and Warnings

Here are some of my recently reviewed films at 1000 DVDs to See (Updated: 4.23.09): A Wednesday (2008) India - terrific Indian thriller about terrorism, with bombs planted in various locations in Mumbai; premiered just before the attacks there last year; this deserves a worldwide audience Burden of Dreams (1982) - brilliant documentary of Werner Herzog's obsession to film his dangerous epic Fitzcarraldo Malena (2000) Italy - another beautifully shot nostalgic romance from the director of Cinema Paradiso. Fight Club (1999) - David Fincher's cult classic, entertaining and crazy, unexpected Ghajini (2008) India - overblown Bollywood crime epic based on Memento Grand Illusion (1937) France, bw - Renoir's anti-war classic Farewell My Concubine (1993) China - yet another epic Chinese historical drama House of Flying Daggers (2004) China - Zhang Yimou directs again, after Hero, in another exciting Chinese epic, this one about a league of female assassins opposing the emperor's wars Fallen Angels (1995) China - Wong Kar-Wai's hypnotic 'second half' of Chungking Express; together the films inspired Pulp Fiction, but are more artistic. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) Germany, bw - another Fritz Lang expressionist classic with some eerie special effects. Best in Show (2000) - Christopher Guest's best comedy, about the nations biggest dog show and its wacky contestants. The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) France, bw - dystopian SciFi tale of a pleasureless society run by fundamentalists, where nearly all women are sterile; the late Natasha Richardson's best film, also stars Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, and Aiden Quinn. Munich (2005) - overlooked, gripping crime epic from Spielberg, based on the true story of the Israeli agent who hunted down the planners of the 72 Munich Olympic massacre with a team of agents. Here are some I didn't review that I would warn people to avoid: The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia) - Bergmanesque film made in Sweden by Russian director (using Berman's cinematorgrapher) who proves he can be just as boring as the Swede he admires. Painful to watch as we descend into dementia with an aging patriarch. 3* (of 10) Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia) - this is science fiction based on "Roadside Picnic" by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. It's worse than slow, you have to watch this 150 minutes of men sleeping and water dripping at high speed or else tear your hair out. Terrible science fiction, yet #125 on the critics 1000 (how?). The high contrast film also hurt my eyes. 2* [Note: the two Tarkovksy films I'd recommend: Andrei Rublev, his masterpiece, and Ivan's Childhood, a good anti-war WW2 film] The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008 remake) - Not great in b&w in the 50's, still not great even with special effects. Good idea, just not much of a story to go with it. Mankind is so brutal and destructive that an advanced alien race wants to eradicate us to save the earth. This is sad whether true or not, because we are definitely killing the earth for our short-term profit. Canoe, er Piano, er Keanu Reeves is even blander in this than normal. 4* Sansho the Bailiff (Kenzi Mizoguchi, Japan) - #88 on the critics top 1000, this b&w 'classic' is a boring and painful look at slavery in ancient Japan. Well filmed, this is still a totally miserable expose to sit through, and we all know slavery is awful for slaves. Made in 1954, the film looks like early 30's western films, it's that primitive. Watch Seven Samurai again instead, same era, two years later. 5*

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