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Phoenix

A film this satisfying on every level—one that can be enjoyed purely for its narrative while also providing material for hours of discussion on its…

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Staten Island Summer

They don’t make movies that seem to purposefully waste the talents of current “SNL” stars much any more. Well, except for this one.

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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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New English-Speaking Patriots

May Contain Spoilers

On a personal level, the most surprising aspect of Rashid Ghazi's new documentary, "Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football," is that he managed to keep it a secret and even managed the time to make it. An old friend, he personally funded and directed this portrait of a week in the life of a tightly-knit Detroit community at the beginning of their 2009 school year. A husband, a father, and tireless executive, he kept quiet about the film, even keeping his name off the original publicity. Simply: he did not want to get attacked by rampaging anti-Muslim zealots who seek to fake scandal where there is none.

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Those who monitor and those who fear being monitored

May Contain Spoilers

Even outside the U.S. it's common for movie-goers to avoid non-Hollywood films--not that subtitles are such a big deal to us, as we have no choice but to get accustomed to them since childhood. These feature's real problems are that they don't often receive much fanfare and their stars aren't always well known. We tend to stay away until we get one a "must see" recommendations and that was my case with the German film "The Lives of Others" (2006). It's a shame to think audiences will miss a story so gripping; this is one of the best films of its decade.

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The girlfriend who disappeared from the face of the earth

May Contain Spoilers

"'Will you walk into my parlor?' said the Spider to the Fly." - from the poem "The Spider and the Fly" by Mary Howitt.

The crucial moment in George Sluizer's chilling psychological thriller "The Vanishing"(1988) can be summarized with that quote. The Fly cannot resist the offer, simply because of his intense desire to know. The Spider cannot resist making an offer, only because of his cold curiosity about the result. He has a solid prediction based on his careful calculation, but he wants to know the result in his cruel experiment, like he previously tested himself before.

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A marriage made in Hell

May Contain Spoilers

I've had to defend myself for loving "The War of the Roses" so much. The majority of people I've discussed it with found it too mean-spirited. I realize it deals with an ugly subject but this is a prime example of a movie being great at how it is about its core subject, no matter how touchy. This is one of my all-time favorite films.

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Beautiful people staring at each other

May Contain Spoilers

Sometimes, I just want to stare at beautiful people, even if they spend most of the movie just staring at each other. I think it's in the eyes, especially when the eyes are smiling. Sometimes, I just want to sigh, watching them longing for each other. Ashutosh Gowariker's 2008 film, "Jodhaa Akbar" let me do so, for three hours.

This Indian film is an unabashed epic that targets that greatest of all Indian epics, K. Asif's 1960 film, "Mughal-e-Azam" ("The Greatest of Mughals"). It is a prequel of sorts: "Jodhaa Akbar" tells us the story of the Mughal Emperor Akbar and his wife Jodhaa; "Mughal-e-Azam" is about their son, Jehangir. Like any other man of withering virility and receded hairline, I like beautiful things and beautiful people, and "Jodhaa Akbar" is loaded with carved reddish palaces, golden decorations, and silk scarves of every color. And beautiful people.

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It's a man! It's an ant! It's a Mant!

May Contain Spoilers

When I went to the Jeonju International Film Festival in this April, I was reminded again that the old theaters at the downtown of my hometown are gone. Most of them are now replaced by a bunch of multiplexes, and I can't say the old theaters were better than their replacements. While there were the big theaters where I could enjoy movies like "Independence Day" or "Starship Troopers," I remember too well how shabby several theaters were in early 1990s, compared to the current standard; I am happy with the comfortable seats, nice bathrooms, and agreeable viewing condition in multiplex theaters.

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Somewhere between heaven and hell

May Contain Spoilers

When a great influential film comes out, we usually get a backlash of cheap knock-offs. After James Cameron's "Titanic" we suffered through Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor." When "Pulp Fiction" came out people praised its genius but its influence drove the genre to a creative blockage. Everybody wanted to be the next Tarantino. Directors probably asked themselves "What would Tarantino do?" before violating their own originality. Like most imitations, of Rolex watches or anything else, they look the same but don't work the same.

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Reaching for love above falling dominos

May Contain Spoilers

Nearly every frame in this movie is a low-angle shot, looking up in awe and curiosity. At times, we gasp at the complex beauty of galaxies and supernovas. At times we stare closely at expressions of children that seem no less complex, no less beautiful, and no less valuable. At times we look to the sky, hoping to see what our characters see. Terrence Malick's wondrously abstract "The Tree of Life" has very little dialogue, but is not at all a silent movie.

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A faceless corporate enemy

May Contain Spoilers

"The Insider" is one of Michael Mann's best films and it represents a departure from the usual themes. One constant in his other movies is the imposing, menacing but sympathetic villain figure. They may all be capable of great violence but the tragic side of their stories helps the audience identify. In contrast, "The Insider" gives us something completely different: a faceless and unsympathetic enemy that bends the will of those who get in its way without the need of doing anything particularly spectacular or even executing it on-screen: a villain aware that the fear of losing something like health insurance may be enough to shut its victims up. Its power comes from the income provided by the countless smokers unable to quit its product and its most important goal is to make sure that they never do.

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Would you like to see my tattoos?

May Contain Spoilers

Is it love at first sight? It's certainly lust at first sight between them in the beginning. Something clicks inside. They soon begin their secret affair, and then, motivated by their common desire to escape from the world they're stuck in, they hatch a scheme to solve their problems once for all. They have a good plan. They can succeed if they carefully tiptoe along the thin line they draw. However, in the world of film noir, it is usually easier said than done.

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