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The Maze Runner

What’s intriguing about “The Maze Runner”–for a long time, at least–is the way it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before…

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20,000 Days on Earth

In his music, he routinely celebrates/deconstructs his public persona: brutalizer, coward, agnostic, and wannabe deity. "20,000 Days on Earth" is accordingly not a biography, but…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

Six keys to "Cloud Atlas"

"Cloud Atlas" (2012), directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, is a thing of beauty, the likes of which I have not seen in American Cinema. While I regard Rian Johnson's "Looper" as easily the best film of the year thus far, this film might be the best film of the decade. Nevertheless, considering how many people walked out of the screening within the first hour, I suspect that this film will successfully alienate or confuse most of its viewers, earning more appreciation in the years to come, long after most of us have expired. If you have the patience, it might take forty minutes to begin to understand it, and to subsequently immerse yourself into it. In that way, it also reminded me of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" (2011). It is that good. It is so good that I can tell you everything about this movie, and I will still have told you nothing.

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#133 September 12, 2012

Marie writes: As TIFF 2012 enters its last week and the Grand Poobah nurses his shoulder in Chicago (having returned home early for that reason) the Newsletter presents the final installment of Festival trailers. There was a lot to chose from, so many in fact there was no room for theatrical releases; they'll return next week. Meanwhile, enjoy!

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#126 August 1, 2012

Marie writes: As I'm sure readers are aware, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are now underway!  Meanwhile, the opening ceremony by Danny Boyle continues to solicit comments; both for against. (Click image to enlarge.)

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Sleepless Night: Opening up a sixpack of Whup-Ass

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"Sleepless Night" (103 minutes) is available on demand through various cable systems, Vudu, iTunes and Amazon Instant, starting April 17th. It will be theatrically released in New York and Austin, Texas on May 11, 2012.

by Odie Henderson

A stolen bag of cocaine, a kidnapped kid, corrupt cops, a shaky camera and a dance club the size of a Super Walmart configure Frederic Jardin's "Sleepless Night," a frenetic French action film that will either get your heart or your head pounding. This is a relentless genre exercise, both exhilarating and exhausting. Its numerous showdown set pieces feature foes in gun battles, foot chases and fisticuffs. Our protagonist uses whatever's handy to subdue his opponents: People's noggins get hit with doors, bread, dishes, bullets and the cleanest part of the commode. Gendarmes go from corrupt to virtuous and vice versa, film speeds vary from slow motion to sped up, and narrow escapes coexist with near-misses. With this much activity, sensory overload is all but guaranteed.

Vincent (French comedian Tomer Sisley) is a corrupt cop who begins his day by robbing 10 kilos of cocaine from the henchmen of José Marciano (Serge Riaboukine). Marciano's godson is shot, but not before Vincent is stabbed and both he and his partner are seen by one of Marciano's men. Marciano knows who robbed him, and he also knows Vincent's son, Thomas, would make a great bargaining chip for the return of his yayo. The gangster kidnaps Vincent's son and demands the exchange be made at Marciano's restaurant-slash-dance club, Le Tarmac.

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TIFF 2007: Cronenberg's knockout punch

Armin Mueller-Stahl at the head of the table, head of the family

You are going to hear a lot about this, so I may as well begin with it: There's a fight scene in David Cronenberg's Russian mob thriller "Eastern Promises" that is sure to go down as a raw, brutal and pulse-pounding landmark in the history of fight scenes. It takes place in one room, with no props except for a couple knives. People in the audience at the Toronto screening I attended were flinching and gasping as if they were being punched in the face. Which, of course, is the idea. If a fight scene doesn't make you feel like you're part of it, so that it quickens your heartbeat and your breathing, then it's a failure. And Cronenberg's makes you realize how many movie fights are flops -- and how really hard it is to kill or immobilize a human being with your arms, legs, feet and hands.

Literally and figuratively, "Eastern Promises" has balls.

And in this sense, it reminds me of both the excruciatingly protracted struggle between Paul Newman and the Russian agent in "Torn Curtain," and the knock-down, drag-out fist-fest between Keith David and Rowdy Roddy Piper in John Carpenter's "They Live!

Lamppost-spined Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts.

Directed in a bold, graphic style similar to that of his previous film, "A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises" is shockingly gorgeous, for all the ugliness it portrays. The film is set in London, and the colors are dark and heavy: gray skies, slick black streets, brandy, absinthe, venous blood. A hospital midwife (Naomi Watts) finds a patient's diary that gets her involved with Russian gangsters -- in particular, a shrewd and ambitious chauffeur played by "History of Violence" star Viggo Mortensen, looking sharper and more angular and cooly abstract than ever. (Watch the way he props himself against a lamppost so that they become extensions of each other. How does he do that?)

It begins like a Cronenbergian horror movie, and becomes... a Cronenberg gangster movie -- an elemental struggle between good and evil, life and death, east and west, blood and money, trust and betrayal, commerce and morality, mind and body. Remember, that's "elemental," not "simplistic." There are... complications.

More when the movie opens.

NOTE: Watts' proud, abrasive, vodka-swilling Russian uncle is played by the great Polish director, Jerzy Skolimowski ("Deep End," "The Shout," "Moonlighting").

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